For the second time in as many months, loud honks of protest filled the air during a Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education meeting. More than 150 LBUSD classified staff participated in a caravan protest outside of the meeting Wednesday evening, demanding the same workplace flexibility that the district’s teachers received.

The district’s agreement with the Teachers Association of Long Beach for 2020-21 allowed the more than 3,000 teachers in the district to choose whether they would work from home or from the classroom while they taught virtual classes during the coronavirus pandemic. But the rest of the district’s 10,000-employee workforce is currently reporting for duty in-person, something their union—the California School Employees Association—is upset about.

The CSEA Long Beach chapter represents over 2,100 classified employees in the LBUSD. It’s the oldest active CSEA chapter and represents employees such as maintenance workers, instructional aides, bus drivers, nutrition workers and others.

Chet Davidson, a locksmith in the LBUSD and a member of the CSEA negotiating team, spoke forcefully during the school board meeting.

“Fortunately the teachers that have kids in the district have that option, and we need to have that option,” he said about working from home.

He told the story of one of his union’s members, a single mother taking care of four kids who reportedly asked him, “‘How am I supposed to do this when I have to be at work?’ I didn’t have an answer other than, ‘We’re working on it.’ We have story after story. People who have to be at work and they have little kids who have to be at home learning. They need help and they’re desperate.”

Viola Mae Bledsoe, a longtime instructional aide in the district, said, “We deserve the same respect the teachers get.”

The district and the Long Beach CSEA chapter continue to negotiate with the goal of a contract for 2020-21, and classified employees are continuing to work in the absence of a deal. The next negotiating date between the union and the district is Friday, Sept. 4.

The next meeting of the LBUSD Board of Education will be Sept. 16.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct Viola Mae Bledsoe’s last name.