After acknowledging that Carl Williams, President of the CFT Council of Classified Employees, was a hard act to follow, Assemblymember Mia Bonta addressed the attendees of the Classified Council of Employees Conference on Saturday morning.
She told them she grew up in the Bronx, raised by activists— her mother was a member of the Young Lords, a community organization modeled after the Black Panthers — and her family moved 13 times in 16 years. Bonta says even with the chaos of her upbringing, her love of learning was constant, and she was able to stay at the same school for most of her elementary education.
The classified professionals at that school always showed her attention and caring, Bonta said, significantly improving her life.
“When I walked into the door, Mr. Leroy, the custodian, would look at me and he would say, ‘You okay, baby?’ Because maybe my shoes were a little not matching, or I looked a little rough that day.” Bonta said. She went on to say she was always late and stressed, traveling a long way to get to school. Then Miss Nancy in the front office would greet her, Bonta says, holding her hands, and encouraging her to work hard in the rigorous classes and to move forward.
Sometimes when the stress of school would get overwhelming, Bonta would raise her hand in class to say she didn’t feel well and ask to be excused.
“Miss Alice, the nurse, would be there, and she’d say, ‘You need to lay down for a little while?’ She knew my tummy didn’t hurt really. She just knew that I needed a place to be able to have a safe space in a place that felt a little hard for me that day,” Bonta told the attendees. “You are Miss Nancy, Miss Alice, and Mr. Leroy sitting here in front of me right now. So that’s why, CFT, you are right here with me every day. And you’re right there for your children and your schools every single day.”
Bonta pointed out that classified workers were on the front lines during the pandemic and daily they deal with the culture wars in the country. She said she, along with the CFT, was pushing for a bill to set staffing ratios and she would fight to implement the ratios once they passed.
Bonta told classified workers she will be there on the Capitol steps at the classified rally on May 21 and would continue working on legislation and political action to win power.
“My brothers and sisters and siblings in action, you know we’re going to fight,” Bonta said. “And what happens when we fight?”
“We win!” the crowd yelled back.
“When we fight, we win,” Bonta repeated. “It’s a pleasure to serve you.”