UPDATED: BC classified employees picket for pay raise amid contract negotiations

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UPDATE: Following negotiation talks with district earlier today, the CSEA said it is declaring an impasse after the district didn’t budge on its previous offer. A mediator can now be brought in to help resolve the negotiations.

A group of classified Bakersfield College employees took to the streets on Thursday morning calling for better pay. 

Amid negotiations with the Kern Community College District over a new contract, BC employees picketed outside the Weill Institute downtown, chanting phrases such as “pay us for our work” and carry signs with messages such as “Chancellor Burke pay us our worth” and “stop treating classified like we don’t matter.”

The district and classified staff from Bakersfield, Cerro Coso and Porterville colleges have been in negotiations for most of the year over a new contract after the previous one expired 15 months ago. The district is currently offering a one-time 2.5 percent retroactive payment, but classified employees feel that isn’t enough.

“We all love our jobs. We all love working with the district and Bakersfield College, but unfortunately our board doesn’t feel they need to give us a raise of any sort,” said Bernadette Martinez, vice president of the Bakersfield chapter of the California School Employees Association. “I don’t think they really see our value and our worth.”

Martinez said the district’s classified employees are hoping for a 4 percent raise under the new contract. However, she said the district has not given any indication that it wants to provide such a pay increase.  

“Most of us are really hopeful. We have the support of the faculty and administrators at our campuses, but the board doesn’t seem like they’re ready to give,” Martinez said. “We just want a fair and equal increase.”

The district said in a statement that it is “diligently working to negotiate an agreement with CSEA that will be a fair and equitable solution for all involved. Because negotiations are ongoing, comments or statements regarding the issues on the table or the personnel involved will not be made at this time.”

 Martinez, an office supervisor for BC’s counseling department, said Thursday was the second time BC employees have picketed for the pay increase. Bakersfield employees joined classified workers from Cerro Coso and Porterville in picketing in front of KCCD Chancellor Thomas Burke’s home earlier this month. 

“It feels good to have the unity, but in a sense it’s kind of depressing, the fact that we even have to do this,” she said. 

Mary Webb has worked at BC for the past 11 years as an executive secretary and participated in Thursday’s picketing. While she said she would like to see a 4 percent pay increase, she wants to see the situation resolved, even if that means less of an increase.

“We’re looking for a compromise,” she said. “We’re not willing to go as low as the district wants, but we’re willing to meet them half-way. We have to do something.” 

Martinez said she hopes the picketing efforts will get through to the district that they need to improve their offer to its classified employees. 

“We’re a lot of the nuts and bolts of what makes a college work,” she said. “Without our classified employees, students wouldn’t get their food served, their toilets cleaned or have a nice campus. It takes all of us to create a good environment for students.”

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