Just a few weeks ago, we headed up to Sacramento to make sure our legislators support a Summer Bridge Fund for Classified Employees. We now have a state budget with $50 million dollars to support our summer fund.
Together, we made politics work for us! The landmark Janus vs AFSCME decision today is a move made to divide us. Right-to-work billionaires are going to try and get us to opt-out of our union saying “the union” supports political causes you don’t believe in. But, we know the truth! The Summer Bridge Fund for Classified Employees was a dream made into reality by our efforts, our blood, our sweat, and our tears. This is what political causes look like, this is what we can win together in our union!
What the Summer Bridge fund will do:
- Creates a summer fund matched by the state – this means for every $1 you place into the fund the state will match your contribution.
- When summer arrives, classified employees will be able to access the funds they set aside, plus state matching funds.
Our union will now be involved in the implementation process so as many members as possible can participate. Stay tuned as details become available we will let you know as soon as possible. Many of our brave brothers and sisters fighting hard for this fund because it has a massive impact on the quality of our lives. These are some of their stories –
Kirsten Shaw, Teaching Assistant and Yard Supervisor, Leapwood Elementary School
“I tell everyone I get paid to play. I love my work because of the kids. Sometimes, I work past my paid hours or dip into my own my pocket to help the children buy lunch because I care so much for my students.”
Kirsten is a dedicated education worker who has given 17 years of service to the Los Angeles Unified School District. But, like many of the 30,000 Classified Employees at LAUSD, she struggles to provide for her family in the summer.
“Every summer, I have to try and make ends meet when I don’t have work. I have to take little side jobs doing hair and sometimes that’s not enough. I have to max out credit cards to pay for my life necessities – rent, utilities, and my car. It’s hard for me to find a summer job because employers know I can only be there for two months and I’m also disabled.”
“I’m advocating for a Summer Fund for my 11-year-old daughter. Without work in the summer impacts her the most and it hurts me to have to tell her no when she wants to do things. There’s simply no money or I have no time when I have to go out looking for work wherever I can.”
Kat Hamm, Special Education Assistant, Fulton College Prep School
“Ever since I was young, I knew I knew wanted to work with children. I love to nurture kids. Most children at my worksite and in the community call me ‘Mama Hamm’.”
But, when Kat’s checks end during the summer she has a different role.
“Do you know what dumpster diving is? When most people are sleeping, I’m out collecting glass bottles, cans and whatever else is recyclable. It’s dangerous for a single woman to be doing this in the middle of the night. But, by the grace of God, I’ve kept safe and it’s helped me pay some bills. I’ve done this during the summer for as long as I’ve worked for LAUSD.”
Now, Kat is now fighting to keep her housing. In the past, her son was able to assist her with his income but this summer he is also struggling to find work.
Marisol Aguilar, Special Education Assistant, Frost Middle School
“I started as Teaching Assistant with LAUSD over 20 years ago and then became a Special Education Assistant. I like helping children learn especially those with disabilities. Most people try not to see them, or they stare but students with learning disabilities simply want to be treated like any other child. Every child learns in their own way and I am helping my kids learn using personalized strategies. Not only do I provide academic support but I teach my students how to communicate and develop life skills everyone needs. I am able to give them more opportunities in life with the work I do every day.”
Special Education Assistants like Marisol Aguilar are vital educators for some of Los Angeles’ most vulnerable students. Their guidance allows children to develop the confidence to learn and then take on the world. But, while Marisol is providing a rich learning environment to her students she has the constant worry of the summer on her mind. That’s when her wages stop.
“Usually people look forward to summer and their vacations. Not us. To us, it’s like a dungeon. It’s when we have to keep our kids at home and tighten the belt to make it through the months without work. Right now, my husband and I live paycheck to paycheck. We have a kid in college and we have to cover tuition, books, and other expenses. While I’m taking care of my students I worry about who’s looking out for my child. It’s not right. No employee of California who teaches kids should have to deal with that. This is why I’m fighting alongside my coworkers for a summer fund. It’s time California step up.”
Thresa Thomas, Senior Cafeteria Worker, Salvin Special Education Center
“I love making nutritious food for students. I know my work helps kids stay focused and allows them to learn more. I like watching the children come into the lunch room excited because they smell our food wafting down the halls. It’s an incredible feeling.”
Thresa has provided meals for school children for over two decades and followed in the legacy of her father, Matthew Thomas, who worked with LAUSD for more than 40 years.
“When the summer comes around it’s tough. It’s struggle. We have to make difficult decisions about what bill we’re going to pay and which one we’re going to let wait. I have to use coupons for food or look for recycling on the streets. I visit my local church for free food and get food bank recommendations from my union. There is no summer fun. You have to wait until family and friends offer to take you somewhere to do anything in the summer.”
Lilia Garcia, Community Representative, Norwood Elementary School
“I help parents place their kids in summer programs. When their children are out of school parents struggle to find childcare. I like helping my communities’ families and seeing how thankful they are when I can help them make sure their children are taken care of.”
“I love my job but in the summer it’s difficult to keep up with my expenses. I have to charge up my credit cards to have enough to live. This impacted my children a lot because it is impossible to have summer vacations without wages. I’ve also had to seek summer jobs in factories and that is exhausting work. It’s time California appreciates education workers like myself and support a Summer Fund for Classified Employee that can help alleviate some of these hardships.”