While the previous year was challenging to say the least, Association President Ben Valdepeña said the state of our union is strong, and CSEA members showed that we are up to the task of fighting for our members, our students and our shared values.
“CSEA is strong, and we are getting stronger every day,” Valdepeña said.
Valdepeña outlined the many successes we accomplished since our last conference. We were successful in our work to pass Proposition 55, we elected pro-education and pro-worker candidates to the California Legislature, and we successfully implemented a comprehensive service-fee payer conversion program. Additionally, we continued CSEA’s focus on training and development to better advocate and fight for our members and our values. President Valdepeña thanked our member-activists for their work to build our union and maintain our strength.
“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. “Standing together, as a united union, we are stronger.”
CSEA has stood tall to defend our members and our students in the face of threats launched by the new presidential administration. The CSEA Board of Directors adopted a resolution earlier this year designating public schools as safe zones, and vowing to do all in our power to protect students from aggressive immigration policies and making sure that schools are positive, nurturing environments for learning.
Valdepeña also recounted our union’s campaign to oppose Betsy DeVos’ nomination as Secretary of Education. We launched an aggressive campaign to pressure U.S. senators to reject DeVos, who has no educational experience and has a lengthy history of opposing public education. While DeVos was ultimately confirmed by a single vote, Valdepeña said he was proud of the way CSEA and our friends in the education community mobilized for the fight.
“All over our great state, classified employees joined our colleagues and friends of education in solidarity with our schools and the students we serve,” Valdepeña said. “We will continue to fight Secretary DeVos, and anyone like her.”
To develop more labor relations representatives out of our membership, Valdepeña directed staff to hold two rounds of the Member Intern Program this year. Not only have member-interns from the first round already been hired onto staff, but Valdepeña said the three interns from the second round also have great potential to be hired. He said this is what the program is all about.
“We are strong when our staff shares our values and starts their time with our organization with a belief in our work,” Valdepeña said. “We are strong when our Member Intern Program is strong.”
As we move into the next year, Valdepeña said he is confident in our ability to continue fighting for our members, defending our students and fighting for the association we hold dear.
“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,” he said.