Classified Insider

Overview

Classified Insider

Classified Insider advocates for the rights of classified employees and paraprofessionals by exploring the workplace issues of support staff in California schools, community colleges, and county offices of education. Classified members also receive regular news in the Classified section of the all-union newsletter, California Teacher. Browse by date below or by index here.​

Classified Insider is published twice a year, in the fall and in the spring. The newsletter is emailed to classified and paraprofessional members of the CFT. Please send letters, submissions, or other inquiries to Jane Hundertmark, Editor and Publications Director.

Article Privatization

Spotlight on transportation services
Jobs returned when contracting out fails, drivers get more training

A recent video that went viral on social media showed a bus driver being attacked by angry parents in St. Louis. Bernard Benson knows how parents can lose their tempers. He has been driving school buses in the San Joaquin Valley for six years.

“A detour makes a driver late and parents get mad because of the delay. It happens all the time. It goes with the territory,” he said, adding, “Most of the time we’re looked at like the good guys because we get kids to and from school.”

Article CFT Convention CFT Elections

Classified members share spotlight with teachers at Centennial Convention

Delegates had a lot to celebrate as they convened for the CFT’s 100th Anniversary celebration in March.

The state’s largest local union, United Teachers Los Angeles, had held a wildly successful strike less than two months earlier. And the union’s block of classified employee members were set to begin the CFT’s second century with their highest union profile yet.

Article Pesticide Use Environment

Lawsuit draws attention to hazardous chemicals on campus

When Susan Trask was 40, she went back to school and earned a degree in ornamental horticulture at Long Beach City College. Trask has since worked as a groundskeeper at the college district, and this year she was elected president of AFT Local 6108, the Long Beach Council of Classified Employees.

Article Labor Solidarity

We need you… to become a Unionist

Editor’s note: What follows is a condensed version of an inspired presentation from the CFT’s annual Classified Conference.

My name is Carl Williams and I am southern vice president of the CFT Council of Classified Employees, a CFT vice president, proud president of the Lawndale Federation of Classified Employees, a father, a husband… and a Unionist. Now don’t get me wrong, I have not always been a Unionist… the transition from union member is not instantaneous. 

Article Janus v. AFSCME Janus

Supreme Court’s Janus decision barely ripples through classified locals

No one was surprised when the Janus decision from the U.S. Supreme Court came down over the summer. In the months since then, however, locals across California have defied predictions of a mass exodus of dues-paying members. In fact, after two years of recruiting new employees and convincing agency fee payers to join, union ranks are growing.

AFT Local 1931: Framed on Instagram! 

According to Danielle Short, classified vice president for San Diego’s AFT Guild, the local was looking for ways to make campus tabling more dynamic and encourage more conversation with members. 

A brainstorming session led to the idea of a giant photo frame. Campus printing services helped create the frame and printed it. “We used it for our tabling,” Short said. “And then we just ran with it for other events and outreach. It definitely breaks the ice — and it’s a lot of fun.” 

Article Rank & Files

Lavalais named San Francisco paraeducator of the year

The mayor of San Francisco recently recognized 10 public school educators for their dedication and professionalism. Honorees were selected based on their ability to promote innovative learning, accountability, and equity and access in the classroom and school site.

The 2018 awards included the mayor’s first-ever Paraeducator of the Year. Mary Lavalais attended City College and earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and a graduate degree in marriage, family, and child counseling at San Francisco State University.

Article Gun Control

Common sense gun control: A school security guard lives with the loss of his son

A.J. Frazier is a familiar face around San Francisco’s Lowell High School. Frazier has helped guard the campus for the last 15 years, after patrolling Mission High for 15 years.

Few people knew about the pain the outgoing ex-Marine carried inside — until he shared it at a recent rally in Santa Ana’s Centennial Park responding to the deadly shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Article Representational Elections

Compton campus police choose AFT as their union

Generations of Compton rappers have created an indelible portrait of their city’s mean streets. Life in this Los Angeles suburb isn’t easy.

Jermaine Ford and the 17 members of the Compton Unified School District police are a “thin blue line” sworn to keep the 36 schools and additional dozen district facilities safe. Their job hasn’t gotten any easier, either.

Article Janus v. AFSCME

Workplace organizing: Facing new threat, members recommit to their unions

For years, the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court threatened to clip unions’ wings if the right case came before the bench.

Classified AFT locals across California have been preparing for the decision in Janus v. AFSCMEby asking agency fee payers to become full members, and recruiting at new employee orientations. The membership drives have meant an influx of new enthusiasm and a renewed sense of union pride.

Article Scholarships Member Benefits Local Action

3,000 reasons to appreciate her union

Monica Marlatt, a career development specialist for Santa Cruz city schools, has good cause to appreciate her membership in AFT Local 6084, the Santa Cruz Council of Classified Employees.

Marlatt’s daughter, Madeline, is studying nursing at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Books and nursing fees alone totaled $900 last semester, but help is on the way. This summer the CFT awarded Madeline, and eight more continuing college students, a Raoul Teilhet Scholarship for $3,000.

Article Local Action

Longevity awarded new respect

AFT Local 6142 members made two important gains at the bargaining table with front-loaded pay raises and a reworked system of longevity stipends. 

Chief Negotiator Luukia Smith said El Camino College staff will receive a 5 percent raise for 2017 retroactive to January 1, with at least 1.28 percent more in 2018 and a cost-of living increase the following year.

Article Family Leave

Know your rights: Family and medical leave

One CFT-sponsored bill in 2017 sought to provide women working in education up to six weeks of paid pregnancy disability leave without charging the woman’s sick leave bank. The Legislature passed AB 568, but the governor refused to sign it into law, saying other options were possible.

Family and medical leaves are defined in federal laws, state codes and individual collective bargaining agreements. Your union local may also bargain improvements.

Article Career Ladders Free College Noon Dutys

Legislature’s actions benefit classified
“Noon dutys” now part of the classified service

The job title varies from one school district to another, but most “Noon Dutys” — as part-time playground supervisors or noon duty aides are often called – are women working five days a week for two or three hours a day. They are often the lowest paid employees on campus.

Current law blocked most noon dutys from classified status, but that changes on January 1. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed AB 670 by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), giving a leg up to about 1,500 part-timers across the state.

Article Local Action

New holidays for Long Beach staff

The Long Beach Council of Classified Employees ratified a three-year agreement providing significant economic relief and longer holidays for about 425 members.

Pay will increase 3 percent the first year retroactive to this July 1, followed by cost-of-living increases of at least 2.1 percent and 2.35 percent the second and third years.

Article Local Action

San Francisco paras see pay increase

Facing a crisis of affordable housing that threatens to push educators out of the city, United Educators of San Francisco’s 6,200 teachers, early childhood educators, paraprofessionals, nurses and social workers negotiated an 11 percent pay increase over three years, as well as annual bonuses. The overall compensation package will grow to 16 percent if voters approve a parcel tax that city leaders hope to place on the ballot in 2018.

Article Union Fair Share Janus v. AFSCME

Delivering for the union: Signing up new members one stop at a time
Driver and local president Albert Lopez moves between 13 campuses

The Riverside County community of Menifee is on the upswing. More than 1,000 new homes are under construction, new businesses are opening their doors, and new families are moving in. The Menifee Union School District sees increased enrollment on the horizon. The Menifee Council of Classified Employees is also expanding. In fact, the CFT recently honored the local for placing second in two categories recognizing member growth: most new members (151) and highest rate of growth (42 percent).

Article CFT Elections

New CCE president: Meet Luukia Smith

I’m Luukia Smith and I’m an accounting technician at El Camino College, where I have worked as a classified employee for 30 years. For more than half that time I also led the El Camino Classified Employees, AFT Local 6142, but stepped down earlier this year after I was elected to head the CFT Council of Classified Employees.

My family is from Hawaii. I love the laid-back island culture, and my leadership style is pretty informal, but “laid back” and “informal” do not mean I’m a pushover. Far from it.

Article

Bringing playground aides into the classified service
AB 670 would give part-time “noon dutys” long overdue workplace rights

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.”

Article Educational Technology

Union success: Audit to analyze technology and training plans

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee recently approved a motion by state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, to review community college districts’ long-term strategic plans to upgrade instructional technology and training. The audit will include a large college district, a medium-sized one, and a small one as a cross-section of the state’s 72 districts.

Suleman Ishaque, chair of CFT’s Educational Technology Committee — who works for the Los Angeles Community College District — expects the auditor to find that districts have few, if any, plans for ongoing training, even for employees in charge of campus information technology networks.

Article Local Action

Local union contract gains

  • Tuolumne County Special Educators Federation and the Tuolumne Council of Classified Employees won 4 percent pay raises at the negotiating table.
  • Cuesta College Classified United Employees negotiated a 3 percent on-schedule raise for everyone and 1.8 percent off schedule.
  • Ventura County Federation of School Employees won back-to-back annual 3 percent raises.
  • Gilroy Federation of Paraeducators won a 3 percent pay raise retroactive to the b
Article Elections 2016

Propositions 55 and 58 sail to victory

In last month’s General Election, the CFT’s top priority – Proposition 55 – passed with a 24-point margin. Prop 55 will ensure continued funding to public education at the rate of roughly $8 billion a year by maintaining an existing income tax on the wealthiest Californians through 2030. A Prop 55 victory was critical to avert layoffs, program cuts or elimination, and increased student fees at community colleges.

Article Local Action

Pasadena College staff contribute to Top Ten ranking

Instructional support staff members of AFT Local 6525 were proud to learn that The Aspen Institute had named their school, Pasadena City College, one of the 10 best community colleges in the country. The institute bases its assessments on a rigorous analysis of student performance and achievement data.

Article Local Action

Staff take lead in disaster preparedness

Every fall, the College Staff Guild meets to address on-the-job and political issues in the Los Angeles community colleges. This year, more than 200 members of AFT Local 1521A took on another challenge: disaster preparedness.

Fifty survival packs were raffled, members heard from preparedness experts at the Red Cross and they committed to work with their campus emergency response committees as part of shared governance.

And what do the experts say? Being prepared when trouble hits greatly raises the odds of survival. Here are three easy steps to take now:

Article

AFT steps up support for Native American educators

Robert Chacanaca and about 20 other AFT members from Hawaii, Alaska, the Midwest and Southwest attended the recent National Indian Education Association convention and trade show in Reno, Nevada.

The convention included scores of professional development workshops, as well as a timely presentation on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s historic fight to stop construction of an oil pipeline across North Dakota.

Article Rank & Files

SanFrancisco paraprofessional named Member of the Year

Tom Harriman has been a special education paraprofessional for 30 years at Lowell High School, escorting students into the community to help them develop independence and effective work habits.

Harriman has represented paras on the executive board of United Educators of San Francisco for 15 years, and serves on the CFT Special Education Committee. He stays abreast of local union resolutions, city and state politics.

Classified win family sick leave and grants to become teachers

Classified employees took two giant steps forward in Sacramento during 2016 after the CFT shepherded four bills through the state Legislature that address staff priorities. Gov. Jerry Brown signed two of the bills.

AB 2122 appropriates $20 million over five years to encourage classified employees to return to school and become teachers. Grants from the California Classified School Employee Teacher Credentialing Program to districts and county offices of education will provide up to $4,000 annually to staff seeking a bachelor’s degree and credential.

Article Free College

Free community college: Support staff in higher education rise to the new challenge
Support staff in higher education rise to the new challenge

President Barack Obama started a movement when he announced America’s College Promise in his 2015 State of the Union address.

In the nearly two years since Obama called on Congress to make the first two years of higher education free, six states have enacted Promise programs and another 10 legislatures are moving in that direction.

No state has moved as aggressively as California. At least 20 programs throwing open community college doors were introduced in 2016, raising the state’s total to about 30.

Article Classified Conference

Classified Conference 2016: Black Lives Matter conversation engages, unites

“When we say Black Lives Matter, we’re saying that we need an agenda that puts our lives right up there with everyone else’s,” said Christopher Wilson, from Alliance San Diego, a group mobilizing for change in low-income communities and communities of color.

Wilson spoke at the Classified Conference on October 8, before attending the funeral for Alfredo Olango, a black man killed by police in nearby El Cajon.

Article Private Sector Local Action

Job Corps advisors win back positions

On May 17, the National Labor Relations Board ordered the Sacramento Job Corps to return four more residential advisors to their jobs with full pay and benefits. The NLRB decision makes nine AFT Local 4986 members who have been reinstated and made whole more than 26 months after their initial terminations.

The NLRB also ruled that six residential coordinators were unlawfully removed from the bargaining unit, and adopted an administrative law judge’s finding that the employers are liable for the unfair labor practices.

Article AFT Rank & Files

AFT Honors San Diego Organizer, Lawndale Federation

Tina Solórzano Fletcher of the AFT Guild, which represents nearly 6,000 employees at San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community Colleges, was honored with the Talking Union Award at the annual AFT Paraprofessional and School-Related Personnel conference in April. Fletcher is a member-organizer for AFT Local 1931.

This year, the local prioritized one-on-one contact with non-members, and from September 1 through May 31, signed up 506 new members.

Article LCFF LCAP

Local Control Accountability Plans create new classified jobs
Engaging families helps close student achievement gap

The first time most parents or guardians of a Berkeley student meet Jocelyn Foreman is soon after bad news has knocked on their door. Be it a death in the family, an eviction notice, a pink slip, or any crisis that throws a household into chaos, she is there to help.

Foreman belongs to a five-person team of family engagement coordinators whose academic mission is to close the achievement gap by ensuring that students have the resources they need to succeed. First things, however, must come first.

Article Lobby Days

How we made history at Classified Lobby Day: CFT champions bills for classified

April 20 was a historic day for us. We attended the Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security to speak in support of our sponsored death benefit equity bill, and we were there when the bill passed out of committee for the first time.

Raising the death benefit to parity with faculty has fallen short in nearly a dozen previous attempts. The increase contained in AB 1878 would provide survivors of classified staff more money for the funerals of their deceased loves ones by increasing the death benefit for classified employee members of CalPERS.

Right for the job: When classified and paras become teachers
CFT-sponsored AB 2122 helps staff transition to certificated status

Carlos Howe began working as a security officer for the Hawthorne School District in 2000, but he wanted more. After earning his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration, Howe joined the Santa Monica Police Department. It wasn’t a good fit.

“My hair was on fire everyday. I had recently married and was a brand new father, but it was dangerous and I was always gone, so I switched gears.”

Article Building Power COPE

Worksite organizing fires up classified local unions
Member-organizers motivate fee payers to become full members

Across the state, classified employees are convincing fee payers to upgrade to full union membership, and convincing coworkers to support the union’s Committee on Political Education, or COPE. 

The flurry of internal organizing falls under the twin banners of the Strategic Campaign Initiative and Building Our Power. Grants from the former help locals meet their political organizing goals, while the latter awards grants based on potential for member growth.

Article Classified Conference Rank & Files

Classified Conference highlights: Proud to be classified, three staff named Members of the Year

At the annual conference held October 9-11 in San Jose, there was a smorgasbord of learning opportunities for attendees. Classified staff and paraprofessionals took advantage of the offerings, which were both informational and social.

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, representing the East Bay’s 15th Assembly District described his hardscrabble upbringing and his path to becoming a state legislator. He also told how being a member of the West Contra Costa School Board helped him understand the essential work of classified employees.

Article Local Action Proposition 30

Local Action: Big Pay Raises

»Gilroy Federation of Paraeducators negotiated a 5.5 percent pay increase retroactive to December 1, a one-time 2 percent raise back to July 2014, adjustments of 3 percent for most job classes, increased 
stipends and out-of-class pay.

»Weaver Federation of Educational Employees will see a 5 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2014, and 1.1 percent off-schedule for the entire year; another 5 percent raise and one-time 1.1 percent lump sum on July 1, and a third 5 percent pay increase in July 2016. 

Article Rank & Files

Eberhardt wins national honor

Janet Eberhardt, a community relations specialist at Monroe Elementary and member of United Educators of San Francisco, was named the 2015 Education Support Professional of the Year by the National Education Association — an honor that came with $10,000.

In her 29 years with San Francisco Unified, Eberhardt has developed programs that engage and mentor students and families. She, like all UESF members, belongs to both the NEA and the AFT.

Article Private Sector Local Action

Private sector: A tale of two Job Corps

Only four of 125 Job Corps centers in the United States are unionized, and CFT members staff two of them. Adams & Associates is the private contractor managing both Job Corps centers — with very different results. 

In San Francisco, AFT Local 6319 represents 150 staff in the Treasure Island Job Corps Workers Union. Local President Emily Rapaport said the Department of Labor ranks centers on student job placement and a range of other metrics. “Since Adams came in about five years ago, we have been either number one or two in the country.”

Article

CFT bill calling for posting of HVAC reports moves to next house, safety door locks stalled

Santa Cruz’s Robert Chacanaca recently testified for CFT-sponsored AB1126 before the Assembly Education Committee. The legislation, carried by Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), would require public schools to post reports of annual heating, ventilation, and air conditioning inspections on the school’s website. AB1126 drew strong bipartisan support, as shown by unanimous approval. The bill passed the Assembly and moved to the Senate, where it awaits referral to committee.

Article Educational Technology

Three tips to avoid digital grief at work
Guardian of campus computer network offers advice

Greg Whaling isn’t the tech geek down the hall that everyone calls when the wifi goes south. Instead, the Data Communications Specialist is a guardian of a college computer network, protecting it against attacks by hackers and misuse by those on campus.

His duties at Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley include monitoring calls, emails, internet traffic, and surveillance video from the employer’s information systems. If it happens on campus, Whaling likely knows about it.

Article EpiPens

Staff pressured to administer EpiPens

Under a new law, public schools are required to stock emergency epinephrine auto injectors for students with severe allergies and volunteer staff are required to administer the EpiPens. This change came when the governor signed SB 1266 (Huff, R-Diamond Bar).

In July, the AFT Convention overwhelmingly approved a resolution introduced by CCE President Paula Phillips asking for federal regulation of medical procedures to protect members.

Article Representational Elections

“Unsung heroes” of schoolyard organize

Sixty unsung heroes flexed their union muscle and joined the Lawndale Federation of Classified Employees.

Noon duty supervisors serve as at-will employees and work only a few hours a day at the district’s six elementary and two middle schools, but the final straw, according to Local President Carl Williams, was not getting a 4 percent raise that faculty and classified received.

Article

Building a classified community

By Paula A. Phillips, President, Council of Classified Employees

What could a groundskeeper or a guard have in common with a bus driver or a computer technician? More than many people think.

As classified employees, we work with faculty to make schools and colleges the glue that holds our communities together. We helped lead the fight for Proposition 30 and now, two year later, new funding is arriving in districts across California.

Article Accreditation ACCJC

College classified are partners in accreditation process

The City of San Francisco went to court in October to stop the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges from effectively shutting its beloved City College and ending affordable higher education for 80,000 students. 

Statewide, community colleges are fighting for fair accreditation and one college that lost its accreditation is working to get it back. Classified staff are helping.

Article Classified Conference Rank & Files

Classified Conference: Support staff wear many hats…proudly

At the annual conference, the Council of Classified Employees celebrated the diverse work of support staff in a dazzling panoply showing the many hats they wear.

CCE Southern Vice President Carl Williams called out classified job titles one after another. Secretary, paraprofessional, groundskeeper, custodian and media technician. Admissions and records technician, safety officer, library technician, accounting coordinator, and bus driver.

Article Proposition 30

Prop. 30 delivers salary relief in recent contracts

After years of stagnant wages, classified employees are finally seeing long-overdue salary relief in recent months.

The raises largely result from the CFT campaign two years ago to pass Proposition 30. This year, the governor’s budget included $5.6 billion in additional funding for K-14 education. Prop. 30 will generate an average of about $6 billion per year for seven years.

Article Local Action

Local action around the state

Aromas-San Juan Federation of Classified Employees negotiated a 3 percent raise and 1 percent off-schedule, plus lowered health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

Gilroy Federation paraprofessionals will see a 4.5 percent salary increase and 1 percent off-schedule, as well as a reclassification study to compare the pay in surrounding districts.

Weaver Federation of Educational Employees negotiated a 6.5 percent raise for all workers and an additional 1 percent for some.

Article Local Action

San Francisco security aides fight for return of hour

Four years ago, school security aides in San Francisco gave up an hour from their eight-hour day when their supervisor told a roomful of the workers it would save the jobs of two young women. The hours were to be restored in two years.

Along with the hour-a-day layoff, the safety workers — known as “T-10s” for their job designation — also endured five furlough days per year.

Article Classified School Employees Week

Your local union values your work all year long

By Paula A. Phillips, President, Council of Classified Employees

Every May, districts from San Diego to Susanville take time to recognize the contributions of their staffs. Classified School Employees Week is the third week of the month and pays tribute to staff members who play key roles in creating environments that promote student achievement, safety and health.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson described classified employees as “hard-working and devoted school employees who exemplify what commitment to school and student really is,” and as workers “who make the extra effort to support their students, schools and communities.” Torlakson is right. Annual recognitions are wonderful.

Article AFT

Small AFT locals get big attention from new task force

By the Numbers | AFT local unions
3,370
 Number of locals chartered by the AFT
3,019: Locals with fewer than 600 members (90 percent)
1,819: Locals with fewer than 100 members (54 percent)

One in four of AFT’s 1.56 million members belong to a small local, and 90 percent of AFT local unions are considered small, defined as having fewer than 600 members.

While belonging to a small local can foster a sense of teamwork, small locals often come up short of the resources, training and volunteers to effectively represent members, according to a new AFT task force.

Article Pesticide Use
Mike O‘Connor, the lead custodian at Anzar High School in San Juan Bautista, monitors the campus for pest problems. O'Connor is a member of the Aromas-San Juan Federation of Classified Employees.

Legislation would bring reporting of pesticide use
Staff to receive training, schools to develop pest management plans

Legislators are debating measures to ensure that pesticides at California schools don’t become a bigger concern than the pests they are meant to exterminate.

Under Senate Bill 1405, schools that use pesticides must designate someone to maintain a complete record of all pesticide use at the site, and submit it to the Department of Pesticide Regulation at the end of each calendar year. Current law requires only professional exterminators to report their use.

Article Unemployment Insurance

Staff seek fair unemployment compensation
Bill to bring equity stalled in Legislature

Linnette Robinson has worked with special needs students at Berkeley High School for four years, after two years in the district’s elementary and junior high schools.

Yet every winter and summer, Robinson and tens of thousands of other classified employees across California scrape by during involuntary “vacations” the best they can. Because while other workers receive unemployment benefits during seasonal breaks, school staff do not.

Article Classified Conference Rank & Files

Annual conference salutes four classified heroes
From Pasadena to San Francisco, staff make a difference every day

Nothing better illustrates the theme of this fall’s Classified Conference, “Celebrating Our Role in Quality Education,” than the staff who go above and beyond the call of duty. 
The honorees were nominated by their unions and selected as Members of the Year because they are positive role models for workers and students, contribute to the success of the local, and are committed advocates of high-quality education.

Article Member Benefits

New booklet! Know Your Rights: A guide to workplace laws for classified employees and paraprofessionals

This new 40-page booklet provides a comprehensive analysis of the California Education Code as it relates to classified employees. It includes topics such as hours of employment, vacation and leaves, refusal to perform unsafe work, layoff and reemployment, collective bargaining rights and much more.The booklet also covers the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and contains the Weingarten Rights.

Article

2014 brings new professional opportunities

By Paula A. Phillips, President, CFT Council of Classified Employees

As 2013 winds to a close and we look back on the year, there are many reasons for classified employees to be thankful. After years of cuts, more resources are flowing into schools and colleges, thanks to our efforts to pass Prop. 30. K-12 education will see a more equitable funding formula and a new law requires more consideration of classified staff in district professional development plans.

Article Local Action

Palomar staff forge alliance with faculty, see major gains, doubling of membership

The Palomar College Council of Classified Employees and campus administrators in San Marcos settled a contract and memorandum of understanding that moved the staff forward by three major steps. 1) The 385 unit members received a $2,000 lump sum salary increase and 0.72 percent, plus a 3 percent raise that faculty also received. 2) This first contract replaced a 25-year-old employee handbook. 3) The local won binding arbitration for grievances.

Article Affordable Care Act Part-Time Employment

Affordable Care Act helps uninsured part-time workers

Lisa Agcaoili paces nervously as she waits to speak with a Covered California counselor in a West Los Angeles College cafeteria. Thousands of people have come to a Health and Enrollment Fair for solid information about their options under the Affordable Care Act.

Agcaoili hasn’t had insurance in the more than 20 years she has worked for the Lawndale Elementary School District. The part-time instructional assistant works fewer than 30 hours a week and isn’t eligible for district health plans. She is over 50 and suffers migraines daily.

Article Gun Control

Preventing violence on campus and preparing for disaster

Nothing inspires fear like the thought of a gunman on a rampage. There have been 115 “active shooter” incidents reported across the United States since July 2012 causing the tragic loss of 85 lives and hundreds of injuries.

Several of the deadliest incidents have been on campus. In June, a heavily armed gunman killed three people in the neighborhood surrounding Santa Monica College, then claimed three more victims on campus, including a custodian and his daughter.

Article Community Outreach Local Action

Unions partner with community allies, old and new

Classified are well outin front of the AFL-CIO’s new resolve to ramp up its partnering with community allies. Members are linking arms in efforts that especially resonate during the holidays.

Every child deserves Shoes that Fit
The College Staff Guild in Los Angeles is working with Shoes That Fit to help kids start their day on the right foot. The non-profit is dedicated to providing new shoes to needy children so they can attend school in comfort and with dignity.

Article Student Nutrition Local Action

Berkeley cooking and gardening program seeks funding

Community support saved an innovative cooking and gardening program that faced closure last spring, but only leftovers remain after the Berkeley Unified School District cut two-thirds of the budget. 

“Even the chickens in the garden were given away because no one was left to tend them,” said Daria Wrubel of the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees. Wrubel taught gardening to 450 students at Thousand Oaks Elementary before she and more than half the classified staff were cut.

Article Local Action

More local action from around the state

»Menifee Council of Classified Employees negotiated five bereavement leave days for members, matching the number district teachers have. 

»Tuolumne County Council of Classified Employees won a 3.15 percent increase in compensation for classified employees in the county office.

»United Educators of San Francisco published a booklet, Paraprofessionals and their Union, detailing the history of district paras and their union. 

Article

Our work contributes to quality of education

By Paula A. Phillips, President, Council of Classified Employees

Every CFT member can play a role in the CFT’s campaign for quality public education, which will identify problems that are holding back our schools and colleges and set goals to move California forward.

A quality public education starts with adequate funding to maintain staffing levels and professional development. That’s a tall order in times of budget cuts, but with the passage of Prop. 30, fair funding will be within reach if Sacramento shows some political courage.

Article Rank & Files

Congrats to classified employee of the year Rena Pheng

The California community colleges recently named Long Beach City College custodian Rena Pheng a Classified Employee of the Year. The honor caught Pheng by surprise.

“I’m not crazy about interviews and all this attention,” she said. “I never imagined receiving this award, especially since I do what I do because I love Long Beach City College, our students and staff — not for recognition.”

Article CFT Elections

Meet leaders of the CFT Council of Classified Employees

Paula Phillips is president of the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees. After earning a degree in human resource management and working in the private sector, she came to Berkeley Unified as an administrative assistant to the Personnel Commission. She saw the district grading internal job candidates harder than external applicants and didn’t think it was fair.

Article Professional Development

Unions find innovative solutions for staff development

Career development has been a convenient target of budget cuts, but locals unions have found creative approaches for investing in staff.

A sabbatical program the AFT Guild negotiated with the San Diego Community College District allows nine classified employees a year to take 16 weeks paid leave to study at an accredited college.

Nathan Talo used his leave to take a giant step toward his psychology degree. Talo began working at Mesa College as a part-time account clerk 15 years ago, and is now a senior account clerk.

Article

Federal cuts threaten cooking and gardening classes
Berkeley community rallies to save famous kids’ grow-it-yourself program

Facing a massive loss of federal funds, Berkeley Unified officials may yank an innovative gardening and cooking program up by the roots. The slash and burn tactics are drawing widespread community fire.

For about 15 years, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has taught low-income families about nutrition through school programs like the Network for a Healthy California. Congress, however, has revised its funding formula and California, which used to receive nearly a third of all USDA money, will lose about 40 percent of its grant. The funding for direct-to-kids programs like the NHC will be shifted to local health agencies to run publicity campaigns.

Article Labor Solidarity

When workers stand together, we can win!

By Velma J. Butler, President, CFT Council of Classified Employees

I spent the day after Thanksgiving with family and friends at Walmart. We weren’t in front of the largest — and richest — retailer in the world for Black Friday sales. We were there to support employees standing up for what every worker wants: dignity and respect on the job.

Walmart’s formula for “success” is no secret. They offer cheap prices by paying suppliers around the world like dirt, paying their 1.4 million employees like dirt, and driving smaller competitors out of business. If other “big box” stores try to play by the same rules, it touches off a race to the bottom that spreads the pain.

Article Local Action

Gilroy paras win email time, domestic partner coverage

The Gilroy Federation of Teachers and Paraprofessionals is breaking new ground in negotiations covering about 120 paraprofessionals in the Gilroy Unified School District. President Arcelia O’Connor said previous contracts had not addressed emails and granted only limited rights for domestic partners.

“But now we have time to check district communications online,” O’Connor said, “and we have added domestic partners to members of the immediate family for items like family illness and bereavement.”

Article Early Childhood Education

Classified Conference highlights staff as partners in student success
Attendees hear how co-workers educate, mentor kids

For Esmeralda Grubbs, success starts when a Local 1475 member takes a preschool boy or girl by the hand and begins to build a foundation for lifelong learning.

Grubbs works with the Early Childhood Federation, a Los Angeles County local representing preschool workers, from faculty and teaching assistants to custodians and kitchen staff. Challenges can be daunting, especially in low-income communities. In October, a drive-by shooting threatened a Head Start program in a Watts housing project.

Article PEPRA CalPERS

New law! Significant pension changes for CalPERS members start January 1

Classified employees with questions about the new Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 may find answers on the Frequently Asked Questions page of the CalPERS website. Here are some answers to common questions.

The new law requires that new employees of public schools and community colleges contribute at least 50 percent of the total normal cost or the same contribution rate as “similarly situated” employees, whichever is higher.

Article Proposition 30

Classified rise to the challenge of passing Prop. 30
Threat of more furlough days spurs community outreach and response

Classified employees had a lot to lose if voters rejected Prop. 30 on November 6. Staff swung into action across California, racking up victories in state and local campaigns that will go a long way toward saving public education.

Gilroy paraprofessionals in AFT Local 1921, for example, resisted pressure to take 10 furlough days until the need was clear, even though district teachers represented by CTA and classified employees represented by CSEA had agreed beforehand to give up the days.

Article Labor Solidarity

What labor lost and won in Wisconsin

By Velma J. Butler, President, CFT Council of Classified Employees

There is no denying or candy-coating it: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was not recalled in the June 5 special election. Progressive voters led by public sector employees fell short of that goal, beaten in large part by a 7-1 flood of anti-union money.

Article Local Action

CFT budget analysis saves classified jobs in Aromas

At the bargaining table June 8, administrators of the Aromas-San Juan Unified School District proposed layoffs, demotions, and reduced hours for a third of the 68 members of the Federation of Classified Employees. Most of the member negotiators would feel the cuts personally.

Two visitors saved the day: A sympathetic member of the school board joined the district team, and the CFT budget analyst joined the classified team.

Article

CFT fights for death benefit equity

To help cover the average funeral cost of $7,775, CalSTRS pays survivors $6,163 when a retired teacher dies.

But when a retired classified employee member of CalPERS dies, beneficiaries are paid only $2,000. To close that gap, CFT sponsored AB 2606, carried by Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, D-Norwalk, calling for an increase in the classified death benefit to $6,000 over four years. 

Article Representational Elections

Instructional support staff choose AFT as their union

An independent association, the Instructional Support Services Unit, has represented classified staff at Pasadena City College since 1991. Relations on the campus have been generally good, until about five years ago, when more than 200 employees took early retirement and the ongoing economic crisis brought staggering budget cuts.

“We needed to get stronger to protect our members,” said Association President Alice Araiza. “We wanted a union that was reputable, strong and nationally respected.”

Article Local Action

Extreme Makeover: Compton style

The building for rent on South Long Beach Avenue wasn’t much to look at, but officers of the Compton Council of Classified Employees could see exciting new possibilities for their union. First, though, AFT Local 6119 would need to move a wall, install a floor, and paint.

How could the union, which represents 540 employees of the Compton Unified School District, pay for that kind of remodeling? Sweat equity.

Article

Member Speak Out: Classified work makes a difference every day
Paraprofessionals matter more now than ever

FIRST PERSON |  Arti O’Connor

I know my workas a special education para makes a difference when I look into the faces of the children I teach. I know I matter when an excited child says, “Now I get it! I understand it now!” I know I touched a child’s heart when he or she tells me, “You’re a very nice person.” And when a child talks about something sad that has happened in their lives, it means he or she trusts me enough to share something meaningful.