Helping educators build financial security is a mission we are committed to here at Landed and that each member of our team contributes to on a daily basis. I am lucky enough to come to work and support that mission as a part of our Customer Experience team. This means I am often one of the first humans you will talk to at Landed if you are interested in working with us to purchase your next home or save for the future. Our team does a lot of different things to help educators buy their next home, regardless of where they are in the process. But we might do one thing more than anything else: listen. We often talk to hundreds of educators each week, and one of the most important things we do is listen to their stories and learn about their goals, challenges, and concerns around buying a home.
Listening has given me the opportunity to gain some amazing insight into what educators are going through and how Landed can support them. But one thing it’s helped me learn is that although we feel excited about the doors Landed support can open up for educators, we are just one piece of the puzzle for educators looking to build financial security. There are many other great programs available to educators all across the country, and when I speak with someone for the first time, my goal is to listen and help them figure out what programs and support could best help them. Initiatives like Landed can help make homeownership possible, but it’s clear to me that no program will be enough if educators aren’t able to collectively bargain for better wages and benefits. With recent teacher strikes taking place in areas we support educators – like Oakland, Los Angeles, and Denver – this feels like a good moment to reflect on why the right to strike is so important.
According to a recent article in Fortune, 2018 saw the largest number of strikes in the U.S. in the last 30 years. There were 20 major work stoppages in 2018 involving an estimated 485,000 people, of which 90% were workers in education, healthcare, and social assistance. Why are all these essential professionals striking more than they have in decades? One reason may be that between 1999-2017, educators in the majority of U.S. states have actually seen pay decreases when you adjust for inflation. Before going on strike last month, the average annual teacher salary in Oakland was $46,500, while the average annual rent for a one bedroom apartment in Oakland was $32,160 – an 86% increase from 10 years ago. But after going on strike, school employees in Oakland were able to earn an 11% base pay increase over four years and a 3% bonus. Similarly, employees in Denver Public Schools were able to earn an average salary increase of 11.7% after going on strike in early February. And in Los Angeles, 30,000 school employees went on strike and were able to earn an average 6% salary increase.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest wages and benefits for educators are directly impacted by whether or not they have the power to collectively bargain with their employer. A 2018 article in the Economic Policy Institute explained that while teachers have seen their pay lag behind private sector workers over the last few decades, whether or not they had the power to strike had a big impact on how far they were falling behind. Teachers who did not have the power to collectively bargain faced a wage gap of 25.5% compared to the private sector average, while those who could collectively bargain saw a gap 6% lower. Even with the ability to walk off the job, many people would agree that the wage gap for educators is still way too high – but a 6% increase in wages when your union can bargain is nothing to brush aside.
While gains won in recent educator strikes are meaningful in many communities, there are clearly long-term challenges to face in order to give our schools the resources they need to serve every student, regardless of where they live. How will school districts keep up with the rising cost of living in communities that are seeing an explosion of tech jobs, especially in states like California that severely limit what schools are able to collect in property taxes? But one incremental change I am glad to see is that – thanks to the power of collective bargaining – many educators are finally seeing an increase in their paychecks that at least acknowledges the massive increase in their rent and living expenses.
We’re proud to partner with educators, school districts, and stakeholders in the communities we serve to add Landed to a growing list of options for educators to access homeownership. Buying a home is a great way to find more stability and financial security, and we are grateful to have supported hundreds of educators in accomplishing that goal.
But we also realize that for so many educators, homeownership isn’t possible right now, and making ends meet is a daily challenge. That’s why we are proud to stand with educators in Oakland, Los Angeles, Denver, and across the country who are going on strike to bargain for better wages and benefits.