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Bellflower USD ‘Contract Drivers’ Broke Laws, Used Drugs, Union Leaders Claim

By Tammye McDuff

A powerful school employee group blasted members of the Bellflower Unified School District Board of Education this past week claiming that independent, non-school district employees working as school bus drivers are directly placing students in danger on a daily basis. Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper has been told that one outside contract worker was detained after cocaine was found in his vehicle. The California School Employees Association brought a list of grievances to the Bellflower Unified School Districts regular Board of Education meeting held on July 17 in which they claim to have documented serious misconduct cases.

Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper held an exclusive interview with Donald Lockwood, Labor Relations Representative and Diane St. Clare, President of Bellflower CSEA Chapter 32 to discuss their allegations. The interview lasted nearly two hours. Lockwood and St. Clare claim that 340 part time employees are not paid enough to afford healthcare and the Board is not willing to negotiate, and that they have been ignoring their concerns.​ Many union members have been working for BUSD for numerous years and HMG-CN have been told that many outside “contract” drivers have not been given criminal background checks.

They are claiming that these contract drivers are picking up students near smoke shops, in front of liquor stores, as well as in front of other “non-authorized” areas. It is being claimed that students missed school while contract drivers were under examination only to discover some had prior felony and misdemeanor convictions. Other infractions include civil rights violations against students of color and against handicapped and special education students. Lockwood told HMG that the District is contracting out transportation of school-aged children and that full time employees are being laid off in order to “hire out” for the contract services.

When asked why the District was continuing this outside hiring practice, Lockwood responded, “That is the question of the day. “To lay off an employee of a school district, under the law, it has to be for lack of work or lack of funds. Because the District is contracting these services out, there is no lack of work and with the new local control funding that went into place this year, there is no lack of funds.

We don’t understand why the District is in favor of these layoffs,” Lockwood adds. According to Lockwood, the District claims that union employees are not honest, that buses are being parked and time cards padded; the District also claims that there is an excess of sick days where substitutes have to be hired. Lockwood also stated that the District declares it should not have to “protect people from themselves.”  She added that the District did not see the benefit in disciplining those drivers that are not compliant with employee standards, and that “the few are dictating the actions of the many,” and the District would “rather not deal with it,” thus allowing the contract drivers to be hired. Notice was given regarding layoffs in February of 2014, with the action going into effect June 2014. In accordance with EdCode 45103 to contract out work it clearly states, “

The contract does not cause the displacement of school district employees. The term displacement includes layoff, demotion, or involuntary transfer.” Yet this is exactly what is happening. Many union members believe this action taken by the BUSD is retaliatory. Lockwood confirms that there is a ‘laundry list’ of items where the District has been breaking the law, and not upholding contractual agreements. Union members have taken legal actions, taking the District to court and winning. St. Clair stated that she is not only President of the union but also a classified employee.

“As for me, being a classified employee of campus security I have lost, from February to June, almost $300 per paycheck.” St. Clair is a single parent and states “It has affected me so badly that I still have not been able to catch up with my bills. There have been times when I don’t know if I will be able to make my mortgage payment.” Currently in the BUSD, with contract drivers, children are being picked up not in district approved buses, but rather in vans, often times personal vehicles, with pick up points being in unsafe and questionable areas. Parents do not know who is picking up their children or in what type of vehicle they will be traveling in. St Clair said,

“This situation has become very unsafe for our students. The BUSD has clearly become irresponsible with our children’s safety.” BUSD and CSEA will be sitting down in negotiations the week of July 21st. HMG will continue to follow this controversy. The CSEA is the largest classified school employees union in the United States, representing more than 210,000 school support staff throughout California. CSEA represents K-12, Community College and County Office of Education classified school employees, who perform a wide range of essential work, including: security, food services, office and clerical work, school maintenance and operations, transportation, academic assistance and paraeducator services, library and media assistance, computer services.

 

Response from CSEA: Dear Editor:

In its July 25, 2014 issue, HMG-CN reported on the treatment by the Bellflower Unified School District of its classified (non-teacher) employees. California School Employees Association appreciates the fact that HMG-CN has reported on these issues. However, CSEA feels it is necessary to clarify some statements made in that article regarding the District’s use of school bus drivers, as well as the headline (“Bellflower USD ‘Contract Drivers’ Broke Laws, Used Drugs, Union Leaders Claim”). The District has taken action to lay off its own District bus drivers, and has threatened to contract out the bus driving work to private companies. The article reported that the District was currently contracting with private transportation companies that were placing students in danger or whose practices made students miss school, using drivers who, for example, had criminal convictions or had not passed background checks, or who picked students up at unauthorized areas. For the record, CSEA did not state that the District was currently contracting out its bus services to private companies who engage in such practices. Rather, CSEA was addressing the layoff of the District’s own bus drivers, who are conscientious, long standing District employees, based in the community and loyal to the District and its students. In so doing, CSEA pointed out potential problems which could arise with the use of private companies, with references to newspaper and media accounts of issues related to private companies, which the District would avoid by using its own bus driver employees. CSEA wishes to clear up any misunderstanding regarding CSEA’ s statements and to make clear to the public that none of the incidents reported in the article involved the District or the students of the District.

Donald Lockwood

El Monte, Ca

 

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