Thursday, May 25, 2017

No Choice But to Unionize: Loss of Health Benefits Spurs ESPs to Organize

No Choice But to Unionize: Loss of Health Benefits Spurs ESPs to Organize:

No Choice But to Unionize: Loss of Health Benefits Spurs ESPs to Organize

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It was two days before Thanksgiving Day in 2015. Without warning or provocation, 27 education support professionals (ESPs) in the affluent Solana Beach School District in California were blindsided by an email from the district’s director of human resources.
The surprise blast stated in stark terms that their health benefits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were being cancelled in a month.
“It was a sad day in our district,” says Robin Park, an instructional aide for special education at Solana Vista School and one of the email recipients. “It showed there was nothing we could do when something like this happens to us (ESPs).”
Surprisingly, the email sparked a heated conversation among ESPs in the district that wound up inspiring an activist movement in this upscale community popularly known as the “Beverly Hills of San Diego.”
After returning from the holiday break and contacting the California Teachers Association (CTA), Park, CTA staff, and other educators organized a community petition drive and public rally at the next school board meeting December 14. Park says it was the first time that board members learned about the classified workers losing health benefits.
“They were shocked, just stunned,” he says. “Administrators apparently had not felt like they needed to tell the board about cancelling our health coverage.”
Since the medical coverage issue was not on the board’s agenda, they decided to call an emergency meeting to address the matter on December 18. Workers at nine job sites were affected, including those in almost every classified job category, from custodians and paraeducators to technical, maintenance and food service employees. A significant number of clerical service employees at schools and the district’s Child Development Center were particularly affected.
“We knew it was time that classified and certificated employees be treated equally and fairly,” says Park, who graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in elementary and special education. “We’re on the same team.”
At the emergency meeting, board members voted unanimously to offer benefits to the affected workers through the district’s plan, which would no longer depend on ACA-dictated policies.

Looking Forward

With support from CTA and members of the Solana Beach Teachers Association (SBTA), classified workers continued their fight for workers’ rights by establishing the Solana Beach Association of Support Professionals (SBASP) in March 2016.
“We hadn’t realized that we could overwhelmingly unionize across the district,” says No Choice But to Unionize: Loss of Health Benefits Spurs ESPs to Organize:

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