Demonstrating alongside the Hart District Teachers Association, members of the California School Employees Association Chapter 349 stood outside the district office last week in support of the ongoing negotiations concerning pay and benefits.
“We know that we are essential, we know that the district knows that we are essential,” said chapter President Kathy Hefferon. “But we do not feel recognized as essential.”
On Wednesday, in anticipation of that night’s upcoming board meeting — where their individual union representatives would make an argument before the board — a coalition of a few hundred members of both HDTA and the CSEA stood outside the office, waving signs that listed a number of phrases and slogans, such as “More than praise, we need a raise” and “It’s time.”
Much like the HDTA members, the CSEA president said she and her classified colleagues haven’t seen a scheduled salary increase since 2015.
“In 2015, minimum wage was $9 an hour and our lowest-paid employee made $14.23 an hour … so our lowest-paid employee was making 58% above minimum wage,” said Hefferon. “Every year since then the minimum wage has gone up, but our salary has not.”
“So, if I fast forward to 2018 minimum wage was $11 an hour and our lowest-paid employees still made $14.23 an hour,” said Hefferon. “And that is only a 29% difference. In January of 2021, minimum wage went up to $14 an hour. Our lowest-paid employee is still making $14.23 an hour.”
The difference, from 58% to 29% to 1.6% above minimum wage for the lowest-paid employee in the CSEA, is one example of why morale for CSEA is low, Hefferon said.
“We just feel that if the district wants to continue to attract qualified, hard-working, dedicated employees, we’re going to have to widen that gap between minimum wage and our lowest-paid employee,” she said.
Additionally, the classified employees are asking for the district to cover their dental and vision health benefits, something, Hefferon said, that was under the district’s cap — and therefore covered — for all other employee groups except for classified staff.
“Classified employees are looking for dental and vision to be paid for by the district just like it is for all other employee groups,” she said.
With regard to pay, Hefferon said she could not speak directly to what was going on in the negotiations, but Lee Schollnick, a Valencia resident and member of the CSEA, wrote in a letter to the editor published in The Signal on June 3 saying the union had sent in an initial proposal of the following on May 7:
- A 5% on-schedule salary increase and dental and vision benefits paid for by the district.
The district then presented two counter-proposals, Schollnick said, that were as follows:
- Option 1: 1% increase to the salary schedule effective June 1, plus a 1% off-schedule payment. No change to health benefits.
- Option 2: 0.5% (one-half percent) on-schedule salary increase effective June 1, plus a 1% off-schedule payment. Vision paid for by the district.
Dave Caldwell, a spokesman for the district, said the district would not be commenting on the negotiations, and governing board President Cherise Moore could not be reached for comment Monday.