By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Linda Omansky, Beverly Hills Education Association member and president of the ESP Bargaining unit, speaks about outsourcing in her district.
Many who belong to the Beverly Hills Education Association ESP unit work part time and have been hoping for increased hours. But instead of offering these support professionals more hours, the school district has been "outsourcing" classified positions and hiring nonunion employees with employment agencies. Adding insult to injury is the fact that outsourced, nonunion employees have been given full-time positions — at twice the hourly rate of union members.
Most union employees are paid approximately $15 an hour while the nonunion equivalents are earning about $30 an hour.
"They never even asked us if we would like to work more hours," says Linda Omansky, president of the ESP bargaining unit consisting of approximately 100 classroom aides and nurse's assistants. "Our members are hardworking, and they come back year after year making very little. We have been treated like second-class citizens."
The district neglected to fly the positions so that members could apply for them. According to Omansky, the contract states that "even though the district has the right to outsource jobs, administrators are still supposed to come to us first and fly the available positions."
Outsourcing classroom aides isn't even saving the district money, argues Omansky, a general education paraprofessional for 30 years who works at El Rodeo Elementary School. She calculates that it costs the Beverly Hills Unified School District a quarter of a million dollars more per year for the outsourced employees — even when taking into account that outsourced employees receive no benefits from the district while union members who work a minimum of 20 hours a week do receive them.
Most BHEA-ESP members are special education classroom aides working with special-needs students who are extremely challenging. Many don't work enough hours to receive benefits. In some cases, says Omansky, a few extra hours could greatly improve their quality of life.
"Some members have been asking for years to have their time increased and get more hours," says Omansky. "Many of them can't use their jobs as their main livelihood and need other sources of income. What the district has been doing is a slap in the face, and makes no sense when it's not saving the district any money."
For nearly a year, Omansky talked with the assistant superintendent of human resources in hope of resolving the situation. But that person left the district just when the union and the school district were close to an agreement. Now bargaining members are worried that they'll have to start all over with a new administrator who recently came on board. Members have appeared at numerous school board meetings to express their unhappiness.
"It's very frustrating," says Omansky. "Most of my bargaining unit members are very upset. But I will continue fighting for them until this injustice is resolved."