Fridays with Ben: CSEA protecting you, on and off the job

Dear fellow brothers and sisters,

As your union, each day provides us different opportunities to advocate for you, the more than 250,000 classified employees we represent. Sometimes, this takes the form of working at the statewide level, while others occur at the local, chapter level or even down to individual members. Regardless of what goal we are trying to accomplish, at our core is our singular mission of looking out for you, both on and off the job.

Groundbreaking budget news

Earlier this week, I sent a special message about the budget deal. For those of you who missed it, I want to share a few highlights:

  • First and foremost, the budget maintains the same funding level for K-12 and community college for next year as it was in this previous year.

  • It includes groundbreaking, historic “legislative intent language”, which states that by funding schools at the same level as last year, the legislature expects that all existing classified staff remain fully employed. There has never before been language like this in the state budget, and we will be using this to protect our members during these unprecedented times if and when layoffs are attempted.

  • The budget prevents districts from laying off ANY employee who works in transportation, nutrition or custodial services. We fought for protection of ALL classifications, but this was the compromise that legislators made with the governor. The selection of these three classifications was their decision alone, not ours. Classified staff have never enjoyed any protections from layoffs, so that shows you just how historic this budget is. While it may not be exactly what we wanted, it is still reason for celebration – not only for the protections, but because WE did this. From the beginning of budget negotiations, our dedicated and experienced Governmental Relations team in Sacramento fought to earn layoff protections for ALL of us, not just these three classifications, up until the bitter end. This is our union protecting our members and I’m so proud of this accomplishment.

While there is much cause for celebration this week, on the other hand, there is the need to make sure we are conducting our union business safely and responsibly.

STOP in-person gatherings

A couple of months ago, the board passed resolutions stating members are NOT to meet in person in order to keep you, your colleagues and your families safe. We even authorized funding for video-conference platforms like Zoom to ensure you can safely continue meeting. Even so, in the last two months we have seen chapters conduct drive-through voting and other CSEA business in person. Recently, I even heard of an Executive Board meeting that was held in person and last week, I spent a good chunk of my video expressing my extreme displeasure with members planning to gather at resorts, Las Vegas and elsewhere to “attend” conference together. I want to emphasize that this behavior is unacceptable and against everything CSEA expects from its member leaders because by doing so you are endangering not only your health, but the health of your brothers and sisters as well as their families. If necessary, I will elevate this issue to the Board of Directors to discuss whether charges should be filed against leaders who continue these unsafe practices.

As a member of CSEA, it is important to understand that no matter what we face, we are all in this TOGETHER. We will always come out stronger when we bridge our barriers with a road paved in compassion and understanding. Please be safe and take care of yourself, your brothers and sisters and your loved ones.

In Solidarity,