Statewide union for school classified workers removes LB chapter leaders after they called for a strike
The entire executive board of a union chapter that represents classified employees at Long Beach Unified was removed from office this month by its statewide parent organization, in part because some of the leaders failed to consult with union members in calling for a strike, the Post has learned.
An Oct. 21 letter sent to the California School Employees Association’s Long Beach chapter—which was embroiled in tense contract negotiations with the district last year—said leadership failed to seek approval from members on key decisions, and also alleged that the local chapter was planning to break away from the state organization.
Neither the former president, Gilbert Bonilla Jr., nor the former vice president, Enrique Chavez, responded to requests for comment.
During a rally at a Board of Education meeting in January, Chavez addressed the five school board members, asking, “Do you want a walkout or a strike on your record?”
Control of the union, which represents 2,100 workers in the district, has been placed under the care of the statewide organization as it seeks nominations for new Executive Board members. Elections are expected to happen in December.
Kellyanna Miller, who is now listed as the administrator for the local chapter of CSEA, did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the emailed letter to union membership, the state office took action for four reasons:
- Chapter leadership “without the input, consent, or education for the membership publicly announced that the unit was willing to strike.”
- “Chapter leadership infighting disrupted and delayed vital chapter functions” including negotiations and communication with union membership.
- Failing to seek membership input on “vital negotiation decisions.”
- And chapter leaders were apparently threatening to disassociate from the CSEA state office.
The letter said some members of the leadership had been unwilling to “learn and follow CSEA policy.
“If these Executive Board members were allowed to continue engaging in this behavior, the members of Long Beach Chapter 2 would suffer,” according to the letter, obtained by the Post. “These chapter leaders impaired the strength, trust, and professionalism of the chapter, which is why CSEA has removed the local leadership.”
The letter went on to say that the state organization regretted “having to take this step, but rest assured that the health of your chapter is of the utmost importance to your Association Board of Directors.”
The move comes after a year of strife between the Long Beach CSEA chapter and the district during the pandemic.
Last April, the two sides reached an agreement on a new contract after a months-long impasse over pay and other benefits. The agreement included a 3% raise, with 1% retroactive to July 2019 and 2% retroactive to July 2020, as well as a 2% one-time payment based on earnings from 2020-21. The compensation package is what the district had previously offered CSEA, an offer that the union leaders at the time said didn’t recognize their front-line efforts to implement COVID-19 safety measures and to help re-open schools.
The union represents more than 2,100 non-teacher district employees, ranging from nutrition workers to bus drivers to custodians and maintenance staff. Unlike the district’s teachers, many CSEA employees make minimum wage.
The letter from the state organization stated that all ongoing negotiations between the chapter and the LBUSD would continue as scheduled.
A spokesman for the district, Chris Eftychiou, said LBUSD is aware of the letter and has been in touch with the state organization on next steps for negotiations.
“We look forward to working with the state organization to resolve any outstanding issues,” he said.
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