Classified staff, Hart locked in labor negotiations

A group of CSEA union members gathered Wednesday to inform the governing board of the William S. Hart Union High School District about the difficulties classified personnel are having with a rising cost of living and insurance.
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Citing “years” without a cost of living raise and that some employees have at least two jobs, Hart district’s classified staff organized a large gathering at the district office prior to Wednesday’s meeting of the governing board.

The move followed in the footsteps of their peers across the state and country as California School Employees Association union members seek better wages and health care benefits.

Schools across the SCV are celebrating office workers, interpreters, custodians and other classified staff employees while the William S. Hart Union High School District and its classified personnel work through labor negotiations.

Classified staff have been described as integral parts to the district’s community and a child’s learning, but the district has been unwilling to lessen its tough negotiation stance, Nicole Pollard said in an email. Despite the fact that “some employees make so little in their checks that they have to pay the district back for their benefits.”

Hart district officials responded that they have not yet declined a formal offer from district staff, adding, “Nothing has been brought to the board for a decision,” according to board President Steve Sturgeon.

A closed session discussion before Wednesday’s meeting was expected, according to officials, which is when the district planned to review points of contention.

A large group of classified personnel packed Wednesday’s meeting to show the board their dedication to students, CSEA president Kathy Hefferon said, “and to let them know the difficulties we are having with the rising cost of living, insurance and survival in general.”

The board passed a resolution Wednesday recognizing May 20-26 as Classified School Employee Week. “So this was a perfect night to come and let the board know how awesome we are,” Hefferon said.

A large group of classified personnel attended Wednesday’s meeting of the governing board. Members of the district’s custodial staff lined the walls as they waited their turn to address members of the board

Custodians, office workers and other stakeholders in the community filled every available seat in the Hart district’s board meeting, forcing many members of the district’s custodial staff to line the walls as they waited their turn to address members of the board.

At the podium, speakers shared stories about medical benefits costing as much as their mortgage, their experiences juggling three jobs and other premium problems they’ve encountered in their time with the district, which spans more than three decades for some.

One woman said she received a paycheck for zero dollars before receiving another that said she owed money to the district due to the cost of her health insurance. Another man added he finds himself stressed every day because of the fact he might not make enough to pay his mortgage, despite working 16 hours a day at two full-time jobs.

Thunderous applause echoed throughout the room after each speaker shared their personal stories with those in attendance.

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, board president Steve Sturgeon explained the district always attempts to allocate extra resources, but it can never assume that it will receive more money from California to do so.

“Everything we do is a function of the state revenue we receive. We are currently spending more than we are getting from the state,” Sturgeon said.

He reiterated the fact that the negotiation process is ongoing, and no formal offer has been presented for board approval.

“We appreciate you coming forward,” Sturgeon said before members of CSEA filed out of the meeting. “We will do all that we can.”

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