Hayward Unified Schools classified workers protest district’s failure to provide affordable healthcare at school board meeting
The district’s failure to make health insurance affordable for its lowest-paid employees is driving a staffing crisis that endangers students and staff alike
Hayward Unified Schools District (HUSD) classified workers – members of SEIU 1021 and AEOTE — rallied again ahead of last Wednesday’s school board meeting demanding affordable healthcare.
Despite keeping Hayward schools clean, safe, and running smoothly and providing the individualized assistance and support students with disabilities need, HUSD classified workers are struggling to provide for their own health and safety and for their families. That’s because the district does not provide affordable healthcare options for its staff – a problem that has contributed to a staffing crisis that jeopardizes the safety, well-being, and learning environment of HUSD students, especially the most vulnerable.
HUSD classified staff have been in contract negotiations with the district for months, with a top priority being to secure a monthly stipend that would help them afford the plans the district offers. Yet the district has so far refused to budge, claiming that they cannot afford to do better for its lowest-paid employees, even as short staffing interferes with the district’s ability to meet its students’ needs. Workers are not ready to give up the fight for affordable healthcare and rallied once again outside the school board meeting Wednesday afternoon.
“I pay $1085 a month for the district’s healthcare plan – and that’s just for me alone,” said SEIU 1021 HUSD Instructional Aide Chapter President Khadijah Abdulhaqq. “A family plan would consume my entire paycheck. This is the reason only about five percent of all HUSD classified staff use the district’s healthcare plan. It’s completely unsustainable for employees and it makes it very hard to recruit and retain staff, meaning our schools don’t have the personnel they need to take care of our most vulnerable students, keep our offices running smoothly, and keep up with the maintenance and cleanliness of our schools.”
The average salary for a HUSD classified employee represented by SEIU 1021 – positions that include instructional aides, custodians, and maintenance workers – is $47,763. So if an employee earning that average salary purchases an individual healthcare plan through the district, their gross pay drops to $33,363 – $37,563. And if they purchase a family plan, their gross pay drops to $10,323 – $22,563. Those rates are clearly unsustainable in a housing market where the average rent is $2400 a month, leading many classified staff to take second or third jobs in order to cover their healthcare; to live as far away as Modesto to save on housing costs; and to leave the district for jobs that offer healthcare benefits.