Classified employees ask Trustees for wage increase

Tawnya Martin, California School Employee Association Chapter 694 Treasurer, spoke on behalf of the the CSEA Chapter members requesting Trustees to consider an increase in wages and benefits. (Crystal Apilado/Winters Express)

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The Winters California School Employees Association (CSEA) Chapter 694 submitted a letter and asked the Superintendent and Trustees to consider approving their request for an increase in their wages at the Jan. 19 Winters Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting.

During the Employee Organization session of the agenda, CSEA Chapter 694 Treasurer Tawnya Martin took to the podium on behalf of the Winters CSEA members. Martin has worked as an Administrative Assistant for Education Services at Winters JUSD for six years. The board room was packed with staff members there in support of the request being made.

In her speech, Martin noted that practices have changed in how classified staff members function in the school district, notably during the pandemic when they served on the front lines helping to care for students as they waited for a family member to pick them up, deliver food to families, and managed contact tracing communications.

“We have rolled with every change because the students and staff are a priority for all CSEA members. Unfortunately, with more work and high expectations of classified staff our pay and benefits do not reflect that,” Martin said.

She listed off the types of tasks and duties classified staff members regularly do under their “generic job descriptions” which included cleaning toilets, working after hours to tend to school facilities damaged by storms, changing diapers of special education students, caring for any student showing signs of illness and helping the grounds crew to prepare the football field for events and games.

Martin presented Trustees and Superintendent Rody Boonchouy with a letter signed by the CSEA Chapter 694 members, asking them to support their need for a fair and competitive wage and benefit increase.

We would like to present a letter signed by CSEA staff requesting the Board of Trust to consider our proposal

“As essential workers, we strive in our efforts to support all (of) Winters JUSD. We are concerned about the lack of competitive wages to attract and retain quality employees,” Martin said. “The salaries in the surrounding districts have increased while ours have remained stagnant. WinterJUSD salaries are well below industry standards and the cost of living.”

Martin noted the school district would face a “devastating impact” without classified employees on staff and asked Trustees “to recognize the value of classified employees and ask the superintendent to negotiate a competitive wage and benefits increase that reflects our commitment to the students, staff and community.”

Martin also presented Trustees with a separation list of 21 classified employees who resigned from their positions over the last year. According to Martin, CSEA Chapter 694 members reached out to former employees and identified that 11 of them resigned due to the workload or the job not being worth the pay. Martin shared two instances – one was from a former employee who resigned because she and her spouse were unable to make their budget work. The other was of a former employee who resigned and took a job in a neighboring school district and now made more than when she worked in Winters.

The final example Martin shared was the comparison of when an unnamed Trustee validated a $40K raise for a staff member in November 2021 so they wouldn’t “lose the staff member” to an unnamed special education instructional aide, who has 30 years of service at Winters JUSD, currently making $27399.78 annually.

“(The total) doesn’t include the benefits the district offers because that same educational instructional aide who has been a loyal employee for 30 years cannot afford the insurance on the pay they currently receive from the district. The board approves a raise even after many comments of staff, not in agreeance,” Martin said.

“Here we are negotiating for better wages and benefits for staff members. So we don’t lose any more classified staff,” Martin concluded before leaving the podium.

President Carrie Green clarified that Trustees were unable to respond since the issue was not an agenda topic (in accordance with the Brown Act).

The Express reached out to the school district for insight into the letter from CSEA Chapter 694. Lisa Dennis, Human Resources Director, responded that Winters JUSD negotiates with each of the school district’s bargaining units on an annual basis.

“In the spring of 2022, with the knowledge that the Governor’s budget would include additional funding for schools, Winters JUSD and California School Employees Association agreed to a 3 percent increase for 2022-2023 with the commitment to return to the table to bargain for additional compensation in the fall,” Dennis said in an email.

Dennis confirmed Winters JUSD met with CSEA Chapter 694 on Nov. 3, Nov. 4, Dec. 6 and Jan. 12. They have two additional dates scheduled for bargaining representatives to negotiate.

“We are committed to working with our CSEA partners towards a solution for a compensation package,” Dennis said.

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