By Serran Soledad & Scarlett Maroney
Employees at the Oxnard School District (OSD) held a rally outside an OSD Board meeting on June 2 to demand increased compensation for time worked during the COVID-19 pandemic. The rally took place in the midst of negotiations between the OSD Board and the California School Employees Association (CSEA), a union that claims to represent around 800 classified employees, a category that refers to non-credentialed workers such as custodians, cafeteria, and yard duty staff.
Classified employees are frustrated with the lack of results from the negotiation process. “We just have to sit and play the waiting game,” a worker told Tribune. “I’m frustrated ’cause I have a family and I feel like I’m getting nowhere.”
Not only have classified employees gone underpaid through the pandemic, but they’ve worked a year without renewing their contracts with the district. Every three years classified employees with the CSEA renew their contracts and make proposals for amenities such as pay raises. No one has provided the workers with a reason as to why this is happening or when it will be resolved.
The district gave an off-schedule, one-time stipend to all employee groups, with the amount varying by group. Classified employees received a significantly lower compensation compared to teachers and other credentialed staff, and felt underappreciated and underpaid by the district after a year of risking their lives.
“The teachers got a certified 2.5% raise—to me that’s really unfair. [Classified employees] are the first ones who say hi to kids, and they feel comfortable with us, they talk to us. Sometimes we have to be the therapist because they feel very comfortable with us. That’s something that people don’t understand in general.”
The worker described heavy workloads and unstable work schedules during the pandemic, with the district assigning employees duties that were not in their job descriptions. For example, employees were often ordered to help staff in departments they would otherwise not work in.
Classified employees were not informed by the district about precautions they could take to stay safe from the virus. When employees contracted COVID-19, little was done to ensure others were not exposed, and lists of who contracted the virus were not provided upon request.
Assistant Superintendent Victor M. Torres lied to the entire staff about the specific date at least one classified employee tested positive for COVID-19 so that he would be cleared to return to work sooner. As the classified employee was sick at home, the district hassled him to come back before he could fully recover. At least ten classified employees are known by the worker interviewed to have contracted the virus while at work.
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