Lesa Estrada has been a noon duty aide at Lawndale’s Anderson Elementary since her son began kindergarten here more than 25 years ago. “All three of my children attended Anderson,” Estrada said. “I’ve seen kids grow up and bring us their children. Now some are bringing us their grandchildren.”

Estrada is one of about 60 playground aides who work two or three hours daily at the Lawndale elementary district’s nine campuses. Their jobs often mirror staff positions, but state law specifically excludes them from “the classified service.”

That barrier is falling. More than 40 part-time playground aides — “noon dutys” for short — recently signed AFT Local 4529 membership cards, and the Lawndale Federation of Classified Employees’ newest members sunshined their first contract proposals. Part-timers are predominantly women, and are often the lowest wage-earners on campus. The job draws on Estrada’s energy, diplomacy, creativity, tenderness and grit. She begins her mornings at Anderson’s front gate, making sure the 700 students enter safely and don’t leave campus after they arrive. After supervising recess she volunteers in classrooms, then she and the other aides monitor several shifts of children at lunch.

“I’m here for the kids,” Estrada said. “If you’re here for the money, you’re wasting your time. I’m embarrassed to even say what I’m paid.” Without union representation, part-timers are frequently short-changed and mistreated. The bill now before the Legislature opens the door to new benefits. Assemblyman Tony Thurmond’s AB 670 would remove the exemption that excludes part-time playground positions from classified service. “Playground employees deserve the same protection and benefits as classified employees,” Thurmond said.

Follow the legislation! AB 670 (Thurmond, D-Richmond) would remove the exemption that disallows noon duty aides and playground supervisors from being counted as classified employees.