LAS VEGAS—After five full days of charting a course for the coming year, electing new leaders, taking action on resolutions and other business, and honoring our union’s most outstanding members, the 91st Annual Conference of the California School Employees Association has come to a close.
Delegates elected Ben Valdepeña as Association President. A member of Yucaipa-Calimesa Chapter 209, Valdepeña said he is ready to lead the fight against the threats that we face and continue to build our great union’s strength and power.
“I’m going to build a team that’s going to move this Association forward,” he said, asking that all of our 238,000 members submit volunteer applications and join our fight for our shared values.
Matthew “Shane” Dishman, a member of Kern High Chapter 81, was elected Association First Vice President; Adam Weinberger, a member of Perris Valley Chapter 469, was elected Second Vice President; and Elizabeth “Beth” Saldaña, a member of Sweetwater Operations Chapter 258, was elected Association Secretary.
A packed business agenda awaited the 1,600 member-delegates, who put in long hours debating and discussing the 18 resolutions before them, as well as the Association budgets. Delegates approved Resolutions 1, 4, 6 and 18, Resolutions 2, 3, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 15 were defeated, Resolutions 7 and 16 were referred to the CSEA Board of Directors for further study, and Resolutions 5, 10, 14 and 17 were withdrawn.
Association President Ben Valdepeña reported in his State of the Union address that CSEA is strong and getting stronger every day. He said that while we face many serious challenges, he is confident in our ability to overcome them.
“It’s thanks to people in this room, and thousands of staff and member activists who aren’t here today, that we will withstand all challenges and come out stronger,” Valdepeña said. “I’m proud to know that our board, together with our member-leaders and our staff have built a team able to not only withstand some tremendous challenges, but also have the skill and determination to become stronger.”
During his report to delegates, CSEA Executive Director Dave Low updated delegates about the current political atmosphere under the new presidential administration and outlined the threats facing working people and unions. While the Friedrichs Supreme Court case ended in a 4-4 deadlock last year, Low said there is another case—Janus v. AFSCME—that will likely reach conclusion within the next year. Low said that with the appointment earlier this year of ultra-conservative Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, unions are expected to be on the losing side of the case and the collection of fair share service fees will cease.
Low said we have overcome many major challenges during our 91 years, and we are ready to fight to defend the values we hold dear.
“Your leadership is needed now more than ever,” Low said.
In addition to CalPERS Board of Administration President Rob Feckner’s address about the health of our pension system, both of CSEA’s endorsed candidates—current board member and former Association President Michael Bilbrey for Member-At-Large Position B and David Miller for Member-At-Large Position A—for the CalPERS Board election next month spoke to delegates about the need to maintain strong, experienced voices for working people on the board.
For the first time, CalPERS members will have three ways to vote: by phone, paper ballot or online. During the last Board of Administration election, only 7 percent of eligible CalPERS members voted. Every CSEA member is urged to vote in this important election for Bilbrey and Miller.
“Make your voice heard,” Bilbrey said. “We are classified employees. Together, we can do anything!”
Please contact your field office to find out how you can support Bilbrey’s campaign.
Delegates also took some time in between the lengthy business discussion to honor some of CSEA’s most outstanding members. Delegates posthumously bestowed Life Membership—the highest honor awarded by our union—to former Association Secretary and Area C Director Donna D’Arcy. Mrs. D’Arcy was a longtime member of Union Chapter 704, and tirelessly gave of herself to CSEA.
Four amazing CSEA retirees were added to the Association’s Honor Roll: Roxie Allen, member of Napa/Solano Retiree Council 5029; Jeanne Foster, a member of Rio Chapter 329 and Ventura County Retiree Council 5007; Arlina Montez, retiree from Montebello Chapter 505; and Rowena Smith, member of Santa Clara County Retiree Council 5005.
Delia Alvarado from Retiree Council 5008 was named the 2017 William P. Schwartz Humanitarian of the Year. Her story of recovery following the death of her son moved delegates to tears. Peggy Wray, member of Lakeside Chapter 240, was named the 2017 Richard C. Bartlett Activist of the Year. Wray is an inspiration to her members, helping them to build power in the school district.
Delegates honored CSEA’s five Members of the Year during special presentations at Conference. The Members of the Year are: Lisa Montelli, a media specialist with Saint Helena Chapter 287; Kim Richins, a pareducator with Simi Valley Chapter 310; Sue Studer, an account tech with Lucia Mar Chapter 275; Maria Tapia, a librarian with Ocean View Chapter 599; and Ron Walker, a bus driver/custodian with Orland Chapter 456.
Three new Area Directors were sworn into office at the close of conference. Wayne Harris, a member of Woodland Chapter 118, is the new Area A Director; Machelle Kessinger, a member of Milpitas Chapter 281, is the new Area C Director; and Ivan Pastrano, a member of East Whittier Chapter 87 is the new Area G Director.
Delegates bid farewell to five members of the CSEA Board of Directors: Association 2nd Vice President Delores Burke, Association Secretary Kerry Woods, Area A Director Martha Penry, Area C Director Marcos Gonzales and Area G Director John Nieto.
With the bang of the gavel, President Valdepeña brought the 91st Annual Conference to a close. Mark your calendars for the 92nd Annual Conference, which will be held July 29-Aug. 2, 2018 at the Sacramento Convention Center.