Weaver Federation of Teachers, Local 3484
The Weaver Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 3484 was chartered in 1975. The charter president was Steve Becker; other charter members included Lou and Del Meyer, Dave Aubertin, Karen Patterson, Karen Green, Greg Bender, Emmett Mullen, Rose Valdez, and Margaret Phillips. The first AFT representative was Maurice Fitzpatrick, later followed by Marian Hull.
This was a group of teachers that did not wish to be controlled any longer by CTA and their Burlingame headquarters. It was also opposed to agency shop, and wanted to be represented by an organization that was affiliated with organized labor. Since these teachers knew that a collective bargaining law for teachers was about to take effect, they wanted the support and expertise of a real union – not an Association that had opposed collective bargaining for years. They wanted the democratic right to vote on ratification of contracts and bargaining power at the table. And dues for the AFT were considerably lower than dues for the CTA, too.
In May, 1976, before the election Raoul Teilhet came to visit teachers at the Weaver School lounge. During lunch he gave an inspiring talk, giving undecided teachers something to think about. One of the things he talked about was the need for teacher unity. Unfortunately the local CTA chapter wasn’t interested in merger proposals. The election was extremely close, but the Weaver Federation of Teachers lost by 2 votes.
This might have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t. Many teachers were dissatisfied with their representation by the Association. They weren’t alone. The Weaver classified employees were also dissatisfied with their representation, or rather lack of it. They had no contract and no power. The district had had the same board president and superintendent for almost 20 years. The District would tell classified employees, “You can have 2 or 3%”.
Finally, on one of the coldest, foggiest nights ever, the entire classified employees unit met at the home of Me1 Branco and all agreed that they weren’t feeling very good about the situation; in fact they weren’t feeling well at all. They felt so bad that the next day they all called in sick. There were no bus drivers, aides, janitors, or cafeteria workers at school. Radio station KYOS reported that there was a “strange illness” at Weaver School. Parents were calling because their children were not picked up. The District called for substitute drivers and a few showed up to drive. But most busses on the streets had principals and vice-principals directing substitute drivers at the wheel. They were not professionals, though. The way you could tell that was when busses passed busses on the same street in opposite directions, with confused looking drivers staring startled at one another. It was all a complete surprise to the classified employees, who didn’t really think that they could do it.
Dave Aubertin called California Federation of Teachers rep Marian Hull. She helped the Weaver classified run an election, and on March 16, 1981 they voted 46-3 to become affiliated with the AFT/CFT. A letter from first president Sherry Hymer announced the change on March 19. They were now to be called the Weaver Classified Employees Association of the Weaver Federation of Teachers, AFT, AFL-CIO, Local 3484. Hull gave assistance in negotiating the first contract, which included raises of 9, 9, and 9% over 3 years.
When Hymer resigned from the school, Me1 Branco was elected the new president. She is still serving. One of the major accomplishments of Local 3484 occurred in 1985. Neither teachers nor classified workers were satisfied with the performance of Superintendent Roy Ward and Board President Vanzile. Local 3484 found three candidates to run for the Weaver School Board election. All three had a reputation for fairness and possessed educational backgrounds. They included: Elizabeth McCabe, with a background in education and farming; Delores Cabezut-Ortiz, educator and author at Merced College; and Geri Procetto, Merced County Courts Recorder and active in community organizations.
These three individuals promised to support the classified workers in the District and the needs of education. The local produced many volunteers from its ranks. Members wrote and printed literature, went door to door, and held house meetings. In November all three candidates were elected members of the Weaver School Board.
The hiring practices were very poorly organized and arbitrary. The last bus driver that Ward hired was at step 7, top wage. No other employee had ever been hired at any step other than first, including one driver/custodian who had worked for fourteen years, left, and came back – to be hired at step one again! The classification system needed revision. By then our CFT rep was Bill Callahan. He got to work on designing a new system.
On December 12, 1986 the new board announced that Superintendent Roy Ward would be replaced by Principal Steve Becker (yes, the charter president of AFT Local 3484) on January 5, 1987. Callahan and Branco presented a proposal for a new classification system to Becker and the Board. They agreed the old system was unfair, changed it, and awarded compensation of advancement to the third step to 14-year employee Bill Buendia Jr. Money awards of $1000 each went to the three most senior drivers, Jean Souza, Mary Hernandez, and Grant Baker. Two other drivers, Willie Bledsoe and Lloyd Branco, and twenty year Custodian Frank Alonzo split $1000. These settlements were due to the ability of the local and the new board and superintendent to work together.
There are many changes at Weaver School: four new buses, computers in classrooms, newly constructed school offices, teachers lounge, workrooms and cafeteria additions. Student enrollment has enlarged from 500 to 1100. Thirteen new mobile units have been installed to accommodate enrollment. Plans to build another elementary school in Weaver District have been passed by the Board.
Our negotiations sessions have become more pleasant. The District and the Federation can trust each other to work to the advantage of employees, students and better education.
(Me1 Branco, contributor)