Natomas School Union Pickets to Restore Work Days


THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Classified employees staged an informational picket before a Natomas Unified school board meeting Wednesday night in Natomas.

Passersby honked and cheered as secretaries, custodians, librarians, bus drivers and others marched, chanted and carried signs with messages such as “custodians clean your schools,” “furloughs hurt students,” and “teachers have no furloughs.”

All district employees agreed to take unpaid furlough days five years ago when the Natomas Unified School District faced a financial crisis and was forced to trim its budget by millions of dollars.

Over the past two years, however, furlough days have been restored for both administrators and teachers.

California School Employee Association Chapter 745 union members are the only ones left in the district with unpaid furlough days, according to chapter vice president Larry Windermuller.

“I don’t think (parents are) fully aware of what’s going on, it’s good for them to find out,” said Cindy Mulligan, a 22-year district employee. “I hope the district does right by us.”

Mulligan works as instructional assistant in a special day class at Bannon Creek Elementary School. She said the picket on Wednesday, Oct. 9, was meant to provide information for parents in the community.

The school board meeting was well attended by parents and others while the district recognized more than 140 students who scored perfect marks on the California Standardized Test in 2013.

As meeting attendees arrived, classified union members handed out informational flyers. District employees were joined on the picket line by classified union members from neighboring school districts as far as Galt and Grass Valley.

Union president Talitha Blizzeard said the district has money, but wants unfair labor practice complaints dropped in exchange for restoring classified workers’ furlough days.

“It’s bad-faith bargaining,” she said. “They’re holding (classified) employees hostage because of lawsuits.”

Spokesman Jim Sanders said the school district wants to reinstate furloughs, but mounting legal costs from unfair labor practice complaints could prevent it.

“The more money spent on litigation, means less money for reinstating furloughs,” Sanders said. “There isn’t a bottomless pit of funds.”

Sanders said “we want peace” with the union.

“Let’s move forward for the kids,” he added.

Kristen Rocha, president of the Natomas Teachers Association, said the classified furloughs impact students because there are no substitutes for workers such as librarians and food service workers when they are not at work.

The teachers union would like to see classified employees made whole to “restore the learning environment as it should and can be,” said Rocha.

“We’re all working together,” she added. “(The picket) is an awareness campaign.”

Classified employees on the picket line like Mark Trujillo, who has worked in the Natomas school district’s central kitchen for six years, and Lauri Kinne, a librarian at Witter Ranch Elementary for eight years, said they want to see their unpaid days back.

“We’re doing the same job in less time,” Kinne said. “We don’t get to serve kids as we like.”

Natomas Unified has declared an impasse in its contract talks with the classified union, according to a press release issued on Wednesday. District officials said they hope to reach an agreement with help from a mediator later this month.

“We will continue to make efforts with our classified leaders to develop a culture of give and take,” Superintendent Chris Evans said in the press release. “We still have a strong desire to end furlough days, which would both support our employees and provide increased support for our school communities.”

Photos by Marc Laver/



  1. Cynthia Connell says

    Jim Sanders perpetuates NUSD admin’s doublespeak.: the district’s spending on, among other things, private consultants, retention bonuses, down payments on houses and legal fees for things other than CSEA ULP’s, sure indicates a ‘bottomless pit of funds’ to me.

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