Shoreline chides union for alleged strike

11/09/2017

Shoreline Unified School District’s administration is hoping to put last Monday’s apparent strike—in which 20 of the district’s 50 classified staff phoned in sick—in the rearview, but it has yet to make any headway with the California School Employees Association, the union that represents 48 of the 50 classified staff.

Markey Lees, the union representative, did not respond to requests for comment, but last week said the one-day strike was not authorized by the union. 

The district has nevertheless implicated it. “The district is disappointed that the association would support a little job action like this,” Bob Raines, the district superintendent, told the Light. “The participation of union leadership, from local officers, indicates some level of support. I would expect the union understands that this type of action is illegal and is only protected by a number of steps built into the law that are there to protect students.”

Mr. Raines added that the district will not pursue any punishment for staff who were absent last week. “I don’t think we should discipline employees because they had incomplete or inaccurate information from their association,” he said.

The alleged wildcat strike—a term indicating it was done without union authorization—occurred on Monday Oct. 30. Among the classified employees who called in sick were six of the district’s seven bus drivers; just the special needs driver came to work. According to Mr. Raines, some classified staff were absent due to legitimate illnesses. 

Eighty students were absent that day, or 16 percent of the student body, some of whom stayed home because they couldn’t find a way to school. “That’s a bit higher than the usual eight to 10 percent [absentee rate],” Mr. Raines said. 

The district and the union have been at loggerheads since the spring over negotiations related to health care benefits. The district is proposing to swap out current health insurance plans for health savings accounts and stipends for premiums, along with an incremental pay raise. 

“I’d like for us to sit down and bargain in good faith,” Mr. Raines said. “The board and district have been clear all along that we want some predictability in the cost of health care. People believe we’ve put something competitive on the table.”

For their part, Shoreline transportation staff have lodged various complaints to the district regarding antiquated buses without functioning defrosters and heaters. Recently, staff were acutely frustrated after one bus broke down during a weekend trip to the South Bay and there was little support for the driver. 

Mr. Raines said any malfunctions are reported to George Borges, the district’s director of transportation. He also said all 10 buses are inspected annually by the California Highway Patrol and, “if they pull a bus, it’s out.”

Mr. Borges and his mechanics oversee the bus fleet for Bolinas-Stinson Union School District as well, and two drivers from that district praised the team in a letter to the editor that will be published next week. 

“While we stand in solidarity with our C.S.E.A. sisters and brothers as they struggle to save their health care, we also share the frustration a broken-down bus may create,” Bolinas-Stinson bus drivers Marty Brendel and Ben Lowrance wrote. “Bolinas-Stinson Union School District has long depended on the steady expertise and efficiency of George Borges and Shoreline mechanics Bob Damazio and Les Fernandes. We know them as kind and competent public servants and are forever grateful to them for keeping our most precious cargo safely rolling down the road.”

The district will hold its next monthly meeting with the classified union leaders on Nov. 14. The next negotiating meeting between the parties will take place on Dec. 5.