CSEA member delegates got a lot done in a week. They voted on resolutions, approved the annual budget, elected Association officers, raised a record amount for the Assistance Fund, honored outstanding members and welcomed several special guests – and that was just during the business sessions. Delegates also attended educational workshops, gathered valuable benefits information, and networked with other members to help bring new ideas back to their chapters.
Association President Ben Valdepeña started out the conference with his State of the Union address. He credited the thousands of member activists and staff for helping CSEA continue to thrive in the aftermath of last year's anti-union Supreme Court ruling. Valdepeña did caution that anti-worker organizations such as the Freedom Foundation have not relented and are continuing their efforts to weaken unions and take away workers’ rights and pensions.
“We must stand together, united in solidarity, knowing we are stronger when our collective voices are heard,” he said.
On the last day of the conference, Ben Valdepeña was re-elected as Association President, Matthew “Shane” Dishman was re-elected as First Vice President, Adam Weinberger was re-elected Second Vice President and Monica Han was elected Secretary.
CSEA prides itself on its democracy, where every member has a voice. In addition to voting for officers, delegates representing the members of their local chapters debated and voted to approve four resolutions. Usually written and submitted by local CSEA chapters well in advance of conference, each resolution proposes changes to CSEA's policies, constitution and bylaws. Some resolutions propose that CSEA sponsor legislation that will improve conditions for CSEA members and California's public schools.
Former Association President and longtime CalPERS Board member Rob Feckner provided delegates with a detailed report on their pension system. He also offered a strong endorsement of CalPERS President Henry Jones, who CSEA supports for re-election to the CalPERS Board. Ballots for the election will be mailed to retirees on Aug. 30.
“It is paramount to re-elect CSEA’s endorsed candidate to the CalPERS Board,” Feckner said. “We simply cannot afford to lose this election. Henry Jones not only deserves your support, but frankly, he has earned your vote!”
Last year was a particularly difficult time for many CSEA families, who were impacted by horrific wildfires and other disasters. Conference attendees watched a video about the devastating fire that affected over 200 members in the 2018 fire in Paradise Valley.
When they passed a bucket around for donations, it came back with a record of $57,593 to help the Dorothy Bjork Assistance Fund. An additional $14,000 was raised at booths in the Provider Area. The Assistance Fund, which relies solely on donations, provides emergency and humanitarian assistance to CSEA members and staff.
Special guests at this year's conference offered praise and kind words for the hard work that classified employees do and the contribution they make to our schools and students.
Special guests who addressed this year's delegates included: Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, CalPERS Board President and candidate Henry Jones, Keynote Speaker Jonathan Mooney, State Senator Connie Leyva, Assemblymember Patrick O'Donnell, Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul Chavez and California Governor Gavin Newsom—who addressed the delegates via video.
“I just want to express a deep appreciation on this 93rd anniversary of this convention of the work that you do,” Governor Newsom told delegates via video. “It’s not just the teachers that we need to celebrate, but it’s all of you that are shaping all of our children every day by your example.”
Several Awards and recognitions were presented at this year's conference.
Delegates voted to place Isa Wiechmann, who retired from Sylvan Chapter 73 and currently belongs to Retiree Council 5010, on the CSEA Honor Roll, which is one of CSEA’s most distinguished recognitions.
CSEA also named five "everyday heroes" to be Member of the Year: Ingrid Crews: Secretary, San Bernardino Chapter 183; Sandy Jenkins-Bennett: EOPS/Care Program Coordinator, Ohlone Chapter 490; Debbie Narvaes: Retired Paraeducator-II, Berryessa Chapter 364; Ruben Santos: Electrician, Victor Elementary Chapter 236; and Tina Switzer: Bus Driver, Victor Valley High Chapter 243.
David Kong of Monterey COE Chapter 35 was presented with the Richard C. Bartlett Activist of the Year Award. Kerry Woods of Fullerton High Chapter 82 received the William P. Schwartz Humanitarian of the Year Award. And Area C Director Machelle Kessinger was given the Laurence Twoaxe Unity Award.
CSEA recognizes the importance of helping its members grow both personally and professionally. That's why one of the highlights of the conference is Education Days—a series of workshops, seminars and symposiums designed to inform members as well as give them a forum to exchange ideas.
After a week of hard work and accomplishments, delegates returned to their chapters energized and ready to Face the Future Together.
“We need to make sure that each and every one of us understands that we are all brothers and sisters in this room,” Association President Ben Valdepeña said. “You don’t have to love each other but respect goes a long, long way.”