The following letter is by Jennifer Thirkell, Health Technician, and LIUNA (Laborers International Union of North America) Chapter Board Member.
Times are tough and they are getting tougher. If the budget deficit is as bad as we are being told it is, it is time to get serious. We need our school board to get serious. LIUNA has been taking this budget crisis seriously for months now. We have been negotiating in good faith, bringing forth money saving ideas that would also allow us to save jobs for our members. While we have come to the negotiating table in good faith every time, our ideas have been rejected repeatedly and instead some of our members were laid off in February, while others were notified they will be out of a job at the end of this school year. LIUNA has been serious. We have been serious about saving money and saving jobs all along. So far it has gotten us precious little.
Now we are asking the district and the school board to get serious- it is YOUR turn to get serious. It is hard to fathom that you seriously want us to negotiate pay cuts while you continue to insist on spending, like opening the new high school. It is not even REASONABLE to expect to open a new high school on the backs of your employees! How can we be expected to volunteer to reduce our pay and/or benefits so that you can open a new school? A school that even you have told us you will not be able to afford in the years to come. Mrs. Tanner told us at the last meeting that there is, and I quote, “no money this year, no money next year, and there will be no money the year after that.” We need you, as the leaders of this district, to start being serious yourselves and to start making tough decisions; decisions that are not going to make everybody happy, even if it includes your constituents. With all due respect, some of us are also your constituents.
The brunt of this budget crisis cannot continue to fall solely on the backs of the employees and the students of this district. It is a well known fact that your classified employees are among the lowest paid in the county. That being said, we also have not had even a cost of living raise in 7 years. Our pay has remained the same. Unlike the teachers, once we’ve been here five years, we do NOT get a yearly pay increase. We HAVE, however, shared the yearly increase in the cost of health benefits. Our part time employees still pay an even larger portion of their insurance. As an example, a six hour employee pays over $530 per month for benefits. So speaking of being serious- IT IS VERY REAL AND VERY SERIOUS WHEN I SAY THAT YOUR CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEES HAVE HAD A STEADY DECREASE IN THEIR TAKE HOME PAY, IN THEIR ABILITY TO PROVIDE FOR THEIR FAMILIES, FOR THE PAST 7 YEARS.
It is hard to believe that we are in crisis mode when we examine the current spending habits of this district. While sweeping the school site budgets and taking their supply money, we find continued ridiculous spending at the district level.
PO# 200394 for $13,500 for Conference and Travel for the Superintendents office, including $2500 for refreshments and beverages for meetings.
$5000 for Dues and Membership fees for superintendent’s memberships to the Association of California School Administrators and other memberships.
Furthermore, Why would the district feel it necessary or reasonable to purchase TWO 40” televisions? One for the break-room in the back of the DO, and one for the superintendent’s office? Some indicate it is for emergencies, however there are/were older TVs around the district that could have been used. To give the district the benefit of the doubt, we’d like to assume they were donated. But even then, I am willing to bet there are classrooms or programs in the district that could have used new tvs.
We hear you repeatedly say you all want the cuts AS FAR AWAY FROM THE KIDS AS POSSIBLE. Conferences in Houston and memberships that have nothing to do with the kids are all pretty removed from the classroom. That would’ve been a great place to start cutting. Instead, the district took $5000 from an elementary site budget that buys pencils and paper.
We don’t like finger pointing. But the finger is being pointed at us now to start saving the district money. Whether it be on big items like opening a new school, using consultants for various projects rather than the very competent administrators you have on staff or small ticket items, like buying lunches and dinners for board meetings, or simply turning a blind eye to the numerous inter district transfer students accepted each year you are asking US to make even further concessions- to take home even less.
It doesn’t make sense. It just plain doesn’t. LIUNA knows that concessions will have to be made. We are willing to continue to work together to problem solve, to be a part of the solution. Again, we came to the table months ago, offering solutions and concessions that have been repeatedly rejected. If we are expected to make serious sacrifices, we need to be able to believe that you are taking this crisis as seriously as we are. And as of now, your actions are just not matching your words.