By Theresa Harrington
Budget cuts are causing union negotiations to go sour quickly in the Mt. Diablo school district, according to some employee representatives.
Members of the Calfornia School Employees Association and Local One say they plan to rally before the board meeting tomorrow to express their frustrations over proposals they find unacceptable.
“The district is looking to make permanent concessions, which would be devastating to our membership,” said James Jones, who represents members of Local One. “They just want to tear out of the collective bargaining agreement all the things we’ve worked for and basically not even try to work together. We think the community needs to know that.”
Jones said the union is willing to make temporary concessions for three years or less to help the district get through the current state budget crisis. Members plan an “informational picket” at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday outside the district office, he said.
Annie Nolen, who represents members of the Calfornia School Employees Association, said negotiations came to an impasse quickly, when the district refused to increase benefits workers rely on.
“What is getting ready to happen is going to be so bad,” she said. “We figure some of the members may not bring home a paycheck.”
This is because most members of the union, which includes campus supervisors and other non-teaching positions, work six hours a day or less. Nolen estimates most of their paychecks would be eaten up by benefits contributions under the district’s proposal.
Nolen said the statewide union president plans to attend the Mt. Diablo rally.
“We’ve been planning this for quite a while,” she said. “They’re getting ready to layoff and reduce hours, which will hurt my people even more. Most of them are poverty level anyway, especially my single women. They’re already working more than one job.”
Fiscal services director Bryan Richards said the board has to cut somewhere. It could try to push through cuts to employee salaries and benefits.
“Absent getting those, we’re going to have to be able to make cuts to make up the difference,” Richards said. “I anticipate that we are going to have to have a plan. We should have direction on how that plan’s going to take shape after tomorrow night’s board meeting.”
A list of possible budget reductions was not included in the agenda. But the board expects to discuss union negotiations during closed session and may report its decisions during the public portion of the meeting, which starts at 7:30 p.m. at the district office.
Meanwhile, the teachers’ union doesn’t anticipate coming to the negotiating table until September, said president-elect Michael Langley. Union members are voting today on a new vice president to fill Langley’s previous position.
Former union president Mike Noce will return to teaching at Foothill Middle School. Three members seeking the vice presidency were narrowed to two after the first vote was taken.
Today, members are choosing between Northgate teacher Guy Moore and librarian Jo Carlson. Moore received 237 votes in the first election and Carlston received 347.
El Monte Elementary teacher Linda Ortega received 116 votes and didn’t qualify for the runoff.
The new union officer would be part of the executive board, which doesn’t plan to meet again until August, due to summer vacation, Langley said.
Do you think the district should agree to temporary concessions, instead of permanent ones? Do you think the district should make other cuts to prevent employees from taking deep reductions?
By Theresa Harrington