Classified Employees Approve Health Care

Classified employees announced at this week's Board of Education meeting that they have completed negotiations and reached a tentative bargaining agreement with the district. CSEA members supported the agreement with a 91 percent yes vote in Unit A and an 86 percent yes vote in Unit B. Board ratification of the amended agreement -- including important revisions to health care plans that will control runaway costs while preserving high quality district-paid health care for employees -- is expected at the Board's regular meeting on December 16. In addition to 3,400 classified employees, approximately 350 managers, 230 counselors and psychologists and 525 non-represented employees are expected to receive the same health benefits at that meeting, bringing the total number of district employees receiving these benefits to more than 4,500. Classified employees typically perform non-teaching jobs, such as secretary and school maintenance worker, in support of the district's teaching staff. "Placing student achievement first makes you change the way that you think," said Val Pharr, CSEA Long Beach Chapter 2 President. "I've never been in a negotiation session that went so smoothly... We got through the tough issues keeping people in mind... with dignity and respect. I'm extremely touched by the things that happened to keep our benefits as excellent as they are. We have some of the best benefits in the State of California. I'm looking forward to another stellar year in the nation's best urban school district." Joe Schessler, CSEA's Unit B Vice President, described his bargaining team's change of strategy once they realized the district's tough budget challenges this year. "I told my negotiating team that we needed to work as a family, just like we've been treated," Schessler said, thanking Board President Bobbie Smith. "Bobbie, you spoke to me at the Classified Employees Barbecue and told me, 'we were very generous with you in good years, and in bad times please remember that we need your help.' We did remember, and we're doing what we have to do to make our sacrifices, and when things get good again, we know you'll take care of us." "Normally when a CSEA labor relations rep is here, it's not a good thing," said Vern Gates, CSEA labor relations representative and chief negotiator. "I'm here tonight for a good thing. I've been through a lot of negotiations, a lot of tough ones. This was the best I've ever been in."