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With more than 2,900 positions at stake, the California School Employees Association (CSEA) recently met with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) negotiation team to try to work out a bargain they could bring back to their constituents. However, during negotiations the district team walked out.
“There are so many ways in which the district is not working with us at the negotiating table,” said Espie Medellin, CSEA Chapter 500 president. “We are trying to come up with a fair agreement for our members, but what we are getting is not a fair offer.”
Lydia Ramos, a spokesperson for LAUSD, said that while they were forced to leave the negotiating table because the CSEA took a hard-line on furloughs and now the union members will face receiving reduction in force (RIF) notices.
“The great recession is hitting all sectors, private industry, the public agencies and schools are victims as well, and we are doing our best to stabilize the district,” Ramos said. “It’s just a hard situation we are in. We do not have enough money to pay for the people that we need to provide services.”
On June 30, more than 100 CSEA members rallied at LAUSD headquarters at 333 S. Beaudry Ave. Between the chants of ‘They say cutbacks, we say fight back’, members of the union, made up primarily by women and people of color expressed their fear of receiving RIF notices the next day.
“I haven’t been with the district as long as others so I think I will be affected,” said Debra Brown, a single mother and office technician at Manual Arts Senior High School.
Sharing their fears, Tanya Jones and Thelma Monroy, who also work at Manual Arts, worried that, if they do keep their jobs with the district, their individual workload will spiral out of control.
“We don’t have a problem doing fair-share, just not four-share,” said Rita Jackson, CSEA labor representative. “We cannot allow this district or any district to balance the budget on our backs —working class families. We’re not idly standing by.”
The CSEA represents classified employees who perform a wide range of essential work for the district as bus drivers, food service workers, clerical workers and custodians.
Since 2008, as the district has been forced to make cuts, the CSEA, which once boasted more than 7,500 members, has been reduced 65 percent.
“Our salaries are not expensive enough to be contributing to these major cutbacks, but we are being hit the most severely,” Medellin said. “We are outraged about the seventeen hundred that will be going out the door to a job market that has no jobs for families, and most of our members are single-family mothers. We are just asking for fairness, something equivalent to what other units are getting.”
As the school’s budget is now, there will be two stages of layoff notices sent out to the classified workers in the CSEA, according to Connie Moreno, CSEA labor representative.
School based clerical staff has received notices that their positions will be reduced from a 12-month to a 10-month position, or roughly a 15 percent pay cut for the time lost. Additionally, the district is taking time to go through each position to determine how many jobs will actually be lost when layoff notices go out in the next few months, according to Ramos.
“We wanted to protect instruction at every turn, and even there we had to lay off 1,900 teachers,” Ramos said. “Unfortunately, the California budget doesn’t fund education at an appropriate level. We’re at the bottom of the list as far as all states in funding our classrooms.”
At the rally at district headquarters, members of the CSEA said they felt as if the LAUSD simply did not respect their positions, and that’s why they were going to be affected so dramatically by the layoffs.
“They are not valuing our work,” Medellin said. “Union members are not only undervalued, but asked many times to perform the duties of two sometimes three employees.”
“They are forced to stay late and they are being intimidated, because if they don’t do this work they are going to cut their jobs,” Medellin said.
But Ramos insists that the district is trying to do the best it can. Cuts began several years ago in California due to the bad state of economy before a national recession set in. Now, as the district loses federal funding, it is being forced to find ways to keep schools on track, Ramos added.
“Class sizes were supposed to go up, they didn’t, that’s what we saved,” said Ramos, in addition to a number of other positions that have been protected through union negotiations. “As far as we are concerned most of our employees came together to help us stabilize the district for our schools for our students, and for our employees.”
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