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By Julian Peeples

Members of the Association of Educational Office and Technical Employees (AEOTE) rallied last week as they continue to fight for a monthly stipend to help offset the cost of Hayward Unified School District’s expensive healthcare plan.

Along with paraeducators and maintenance & operations workers represented by SEIU 1021, AEOTE members showed that education support professionals in Hayward are united for the affordable health benefits they deserve.

AEOTE President Deisy Bates

“What we’re asking for is fair and reasonable, when our members’ struggle just to make ends meet is exacerbated by district healthcare costs passed on to them and their families,” said AEOTE president Deisy Bates. “The classified employee units in this district are united in standing up for what is right.”

In Hayward, employee benefits were placed on the salary schedule many years ago. With the skyrocketing cost of healthcare in recent years, premiums rose faster than the salary increases AEOTE members were receiving – meaning they would have make up the difference themselves.

AEOTE members are paying exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for health benefits. Library media tech Ailssa Pigman pays $1,025 a month to insure herself, but her husband and daughter go uninsured because the total cost of a whopping $3,700 is unaffordable for her family. Office manager Martha Castro pays $900 a month out of pocket every month.

“When there’s only one income, it hurts you really bad,” she says. “After rent and insurance, your paycheck is gone.”

Presidents of the three education support professional units at Hayward Unified: (from left) AEOTE President Bates, SEIU 1021 M&O and Safeco President Lanell Johnigan and SEIU 1021 Paraeducators President Khadijah Abdulhaqq.

Both AEOTE and the SEIU units have declared impasse. AEOTE continues to organize to build power and demand the relief their members need.

“I would like the district to show respect to classified employees by providing us with benefits similar to what employees in other districts receive,” says office specialist Andy Gross, an AEOTE member. “It’s difficult to make ends meet.”

Office specialist Andy Gross and his wife both work as ESPs at Hayward Unified, meaning the high benefit costs hit them twice as hard.

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