Tens of thousands of teachers walked out on their jobs in 2018 and 2019, on strike for higher wages and more benefits. Last year educators in Washington, North Carolina, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Oklahoma and New Jersey ditched their classrooms. As of Thursday, 3,000 teachers in Oakland, California were in the fifth day of striking.
Teachers go without pay during their strikes, and unless they negotiate for it, they don't get paid back when the strikes end. In order to prepare for a short-term lapse in earnings, here's how teachers can manage their money while on strike.
How strike funds can help teachers
The Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which represents 5,600 people working for Denver Public Schools, struck for three days in February. Teachers weren't paid during that time, said Henry Roman, president of the union. The DCTA has a strike fund with about $40,000, but it's not enough money to cover everyone's expenses. The union prioritizes workers with significant needs, Roman said.
"It's not intended to be a replacement of wages and income," he said. "It's to help them for groceries and bills and things like that."
During the strike, teachers in Denver kept benefits that are paid ahead of time like health insurance, but during longer strikes, workers might lose these benefits. In that case, workers may want to look at short-term health insurance plans, though they should consider their many limitations before buying. Learn more about short-term health plans here.
How to deal with bills
Teachers still have to pay bills while they're on strike. Strike funds may help a bit, but striking teachers can also negotiate with their landlord, mortgage company, utility company and other creditors to ask for delayed payment plans. You may be able to lower your home and auto insurance premiums by asking for a higher deductible. However, if you file a claim, you'll have to pay more out of pocket before insurance kicks in.
Cutting back on expenses
For those things you can't negotiate down, you may want to cut back. Your cable bill and dining out can be among the first expenses to get nixed during a strike. Subscription fees are another candidate for cutting. Want more ideas? Here's a list of 25 ways you can start saving now.
Another way to cover holes in your budget during a strike is to earn extra income. Striking teachers may want to take up driving for a ride-hailing company, dogsitting or babysitting. You can also sell off extraneous possessions like old clothing or appliances on websites like Facebook, Nextdoor, Poshmark or Craigslist. Here's a list of side hustles that cost nothing to start.
Some banks may offer low-interest loans to striking teachers, but be wary of borrowing more than you can pay back. Also avoid borrowing money against your home, as home equity loans sometimes have high interest and fees. Always read the fine print when borrowing money.
Preparing for the next strike
With teacher strikes becoming more common, it's a good idea to have three to six months of pay saved up in an emergency fund just in case. Learn what to look for when opening an emergency savings account of your own.
The strike might have been painful in the short term, but Roman said it was worth it. The Denver union negotiated a raise for the 2019-20 school year and a more generous salary schedule going forward.
"If you look at the big picture it was a huge win for all educators," Roman said.
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Image: Nam Hoang