In Partnership with 74

Union protests 10,000 LA Unified workers shut out of health care benefits

Mike Szymanski | June 14, 2016

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SEIU Local 99 President Barbara Torres leads protest outside school board meeting.

Before today’s afternoon school board meeting, the union representing teachers assistants, after-school workers and playground supervisors protested outside the LA Unified headquarters asking that the board reconsider health care benefits for 10,264 employees now shut out of those benefits. The union representatives plan to speak at the afternoon session of the school board.

The district is now in negotiations with the various unions involved with the school district, and SEIU Local 99 said the superintendent’s office told them there wasn’t enough money to include their numbers in the health care program. The union got a permit to close off the street in front of the Beaudry headquarters and set up a 90-foot wall of names across the street from the board meeting.

“These are the mothers and fathers of district students, educators committed to keeping our children safe and learning, LAUSD graduates, future teachers, members of our Latino and African American communities who have historically suffered from unequal access to quality health care,” said Max Arias, executive director of SEIU Local 99. He said they are posting the names on the fence to show “these are not just numbers on a spreadsheet, but real people.”

About 200 union members, along with some wearing the UTLA teachers union T-shirts, marched around the front door banging cans and containers and chanting as well as carrying signs calling for equal health care.

“There are so many families who find the health care plan completely unaffordable,” said union spokeswoman Blanca Gallegos, adding that the union represents about 35,000 LA Unified employees. “I hope the school board is listening.”

SEIU Local 99 union protest

Union President Barbara Torres said that for some of the people they represent, health care costs make up about 20 percent of their salaries, and for two or more dependents it could cost nearly 90 percent of an average teachers assistant’s salary. “We have started negotiations and they say they don’t have the budget, but what we are asking for is a few million. We hope the board will direct the superintendent to consider our request.”

The union estimated the cost to be about $20 million to get the remaining members into the health care program.

David Castro, a three-year teachers assistant, said, “Families should not have to decide between food and health care. We hope they will fix this problem.”

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