Thousands of SEIU 99 Members Win Access to LAUSD Health Benefits

“As a mother, quality health care is very important to me. It’s why I choose to purchase LAUSD’s healthcare plan. However, the cost is extremely high. I often have to make tough decisions to either pay for coverage, eat, or pay the rent … No dedicated worker in LAUSD should have to make these hard choices.” —

Andrea Weathersby, Teacher Assistant


“I love what I do for the District. But for 35 years, I’ve only received medical attention from the Free Clinic in my neighborhood. My three children attended LAUSD schools. I was never able to provide health insurance for them … I urge (LAUSD) to stop discriminating by job title … Often, I’m working with the same kids as someone with a different title who has all the benefits I’m denied.”  Maggie Estell, Teacher Assistant


“When I get sick, I don’t have any affordable way to get the care I need. After several years of working hard for the District, I deserve to get health insurance through LAUSD.”
Bless Harrell
Out-of-School Program Worker

 

 Oh yes we did! Agreement to Expand Access to Health Care Reached with LAUSD

After months of bargaining, members speaking out at LAUSD Board meetings, thousands of petitions signed, a holiday vigil last December and a spirited rally in front of LAUSD headquarters, our bargaining team reached an agreement with LAUSD on June 16, 2016 that will ensure thousands of SEIU 99 members in Units F & G can finally access District health care benefits.

This agreement breaks down barriers that have been holding workers back. Just like we lifted the minimum wage to $15/hour starting on July 1 of this year, this health care agreement tears down the wall that was dividing employees and ensures that we’re on a path to continue to expand and improve wages and benefits for all. This agreement does not impact the wage and benefits gains we’ve already made. SEIU Local 99 members will still see their wages increase to $15/hour or 2.5% on July 1, 2016. Additionally, members in Units B & C will continue to receive their same health benefits.

Here’s a summary of the new health care agreement:

SEIU 99 Members in Unit F (Teacher Assistants) who work 800 hours or more in a year in any one assignment in the previous school year, will receive individual health care benefits fully paid by the District, including vision and dental benefits. This is a significant victory because the cost of health care for Teacher Assistants was so outrageously high that most were locked-out of coverage.

SEIU 99 Members in Unit G (After School Program Workers, Community Representatives, School Supervision Aides) will finally be included in the District’s health care plan. Previously, they were completely denied District health coverage. Under our new agreement, LAUSD will pay half of the cost of benefits for workers in this unit who work 1000 hours or more in a year in any one assignment in the previous school year. It’s a big step forward that sets us on a path to continue to make gains for a group of dedicated school workers who have been unfairly excluded from benefits.

The School Board voted to approve this agreement on August 23, 2016.  Benefits will go into effect in the 2017-18 school year. Read our Press Release. Read an LA Times Story.

The agreement not only marks a win for members who will finally have access to benefits, it also signals to LAUSD that we’re standing strong and gearing-up for our full contract negotiations next year. Together, we can win.

We lovingly dedicate this health care win to the memory of Maggie Estell, a 35-year Teacher Assistant at LAUSD who served on the bargaining team for this agreement and on Local 99’s Executive Board. Maggie passed away on August 3, 2016. During her more than three decades at LAUSD she never had access to District benefits. Thanks to her and to the members who stood up for equity and justice, future TA’s will not have to endure this same hardship.

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Rally for Health Care!

On June 14, 2016, SEIU Local 99 members rallied in front of LAUSD Headquarters and set up a 100 foot “Wall of Names” listing all 10, 264 workers who are currently shut-out of health care benefits.

Rallying for Health Care Justice at LAUSD - June 14
“We’re naming each worker by name because as the District review its budget, they need to understand that dedicated school workers are not just numbers on a spreadsheet. They are mothers and fathers of District students, educators committed to keeping our children safe and learning, LAUSD graduates, future teachers, and members of our Latino and African American communities who have historically suffered from unequal access to quality health care,” said SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias. “LAUSD must do the right thing and ensure that these workers who help teach our children can also provide a safe and healthy environment for their own families.”

Read our press release Here.

Read a story on LA School Report Here.

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Bargaining Updates:

May 12, 2016

Our Bargaining Team met with LAUSD to continue negotiations on ensuring equal access to health care benefits for thousands of members in Units F & G who are currently shut out of the District’s health plan. We had a productive discussion and the District made some movement – but we’re not there yet. Let’s take action to bring it home! Join the Rally for Health Care Justice at LAUSD on June 14. Click here to sign-up.

Make no mistake – the District is paying attention. Over the past few months, members have been sharing their health care stories during LAUSD School Board meetings. At the last Board meeting on May 10, Bargaining Team Member and Teacher Assistant Andrea Weathersby spoke out honestly and powerfully about what lack of access to benefits means to her family:

“Health care is very important to me. That is why I chose to purchase the District’s current health benefits plan. But the cost is so high that I’m constantly forced to make difficult choices … Unfortunately, there have been times when (my children) have had to skip the arts classes they love because I needed to pay for their health care instead … How can you tell a child ‘you can’t’? … As an LAUSD mom, I urge you to work with us to ensure that dedicated school workers have equal access to health care benefits.”

Our voices are making a difference. We’re moving closer. Let’s bring it home!

May 10, 2016 

Local 99 member Andrea Weathersby, a Teacher Assistant and a member of the Bargaining Team negotiating for access to health care benefits, spoke courageously before the school board on May 10 about what it means to be an LAUSD Mom struggling with health care for her family:

“My daughter Kennedy just made the Hamilton High School Cheer Squad. I’m excited for her. But I must admit that when she first told me she was trying out for the squad, I hoped she wouldn’t make it. I worried about how I could afford to pay for the extra costs.

And my 8-year old son Cameron loves music. He’s already taking piano, dance, and drum classes. He recently told me he wants to take violin classes. My first thought was — another expense.

But how can I tell them “no”? How can you tell a child “you can’t?”

Unfortunately, there have been times when they’ve had to skip the arts classes they love because I needed to pay for their health care instead.

Health care is very important to me. That is why I chose to purchase the District’s current health benefits plan. But the cost is so high that I’m constantly forced to make difficult choices … As an LAUSD mom, I urge you to work with us to ensure that dedicated school workers have equal access to health care benefits. Our families are depending on it.”

Our next bargaining session is scheduled for May 12, 2016

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April 12, 2016

Members of our SEIU Local 99 Health Care Access Bargaining Team spoke out at the LAUSD School Board Meeting on April 12. We shared our stories as dedicated employees, as parents, and as individuals concerned about our health — and we had an impact. We let the District know that as long as Teacher Assistants, Out-of-School Program Workers, School Supervision Aides, Community Representatives and others don’t have access to affordable health coverage, there is a great injustice that impacts students and families. Here are some of the words we shared at the podium:

“As a mother, quality health care is also very important to me. It’s why I choose to purchase LAUSD’s healthcare plan. However, the cost is extremely high. I often have to make tough decisions to either pay for coverage, eat, or pay the rent … No dedicated worker in LAUSD should have to make these hard choices.” –Andrea Weathersby, Teacher Assistant, Purche Elementary

“This District often says it is committed to the health and wellness of students and their families. As a dedicated LAUSD employee and as a proud LAUSD graduate, I don’t see that commitment.” –Bless Harrell, Out-of-School Program Worker, LA’s Best Hooper St. Elementary

“I love what I do for the District. But for all of those 35 years, I’ve only received medical attention from the Free Clinic in my neighborhood. My three children attended LAUSD schools. I was never able to provide health insurance for them … I urge (LAUSD) to stop discriminating simply by job title. I have the same boss. I work the same hours. Often, I’m working with the same kids as someone with a different title who has all the benefits I’m denied.” –Maggie Estell, Teacher’s Assistant, Angeles Mesa Elementary and SEIU99 Executive Board Member

March 8, 2016

The District continues to drag its feet on expanding health care coverage to eligible members in Units F & G.  In our last session, the District’s bargaining team couldn’t even respond to basic questions.

So on March 8 we went straight to the School Board. Local 99 members told the Board that we expect more from a District that claims to value wellness and community.

“I think we all work in the field of education because we care about kids,” said Local 99 Member and Special Education Assistant Enrique Hernandez.  “For me, working in a school is the best job. When I was a student, I had teachers and others who made a difference to me. They inspired me to work in education because you can help a lot of people. I want to continue to do the same for others. But working in something you are passionate about should not mean giving up health care or other benefits to support our families. School jobs should be good jobs.”

January 15, 2016

Our Bargaining Team met with the District on January 15, 2016 to continue negotiations on expanding health care access to more SEIU Local 99 members. Our Candlelight Vigil during winter break clearly moved them to begin engaging in a conversation – which is a lot more than they’d been willing to do in previous sessions.
The District said the School Board had not authorized them to spend additional money to expand health care benefits but they were willing to discuss options for covering more eligible members. We listened, and while the meeting was more productive than usual, it’s clear we still have a long way to go.

What’s Next?
Our next bargaining session is scheduled for Tuesday, February 2, 2016. Stay tuned for more information about how you can support our Bargaining Team.

Sign our petition urging the District to do the right thing and expand health care access to all LAUSD employees

SIGN THE PETITION

 

 

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