Sacramento cafeteria workers, bus drivers seek equity in pay

Staff like cafeteria workers and school bus drivers are among the lowest paid in the district.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The battle between the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) and employees over staffing, pay, and benefits is nearing day five of picket lines in the historic strike.

The district’s 2,800 educators, represented by the Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA), have taken center stage during the events of the past week. Also at odds with their employer are the 1,800 classified staff which make up cafeteria workers, custodians and bus drivers who are being represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021.

“We can barely make ends meet right now,” said Kim Ritcheson-Fischer, a bus driver of 22 years.

She plans to withdraw this April following her frustrations over what her colleagues called a “stripped down to bones” department. Employees said the transportation department has lost 52 of its 125 employees over the past 18 months.

Workers are quitting for better paying jobs or retiring, said Olivia Minor, a bus driver and dispatcher.

The fights are both similar and distinct at the same time, with both honed in on three key issues: staffing, pay and benefits, like health insurance.

However, staff are paid the least and are facing the greatest staffing shortage amid what SCUSD officials themselves have called a staffing crisis.

Some classified workers, like cafeteria workers, might start at minimum wage and only be able to make a few dollars more per hour, based on the latest salary schedule.

SEIU officials are seeking equity during negotiations in a district that needs to hire an additional 400 staff. The SCTA estimates there is a need for an additional 250 teachers and 100 substitutes.

“We are eager to go back to work taking care of Sacramento City students. Right now, we are still waiting on the District to respond to our counterproposals,” said SEIU 1021 SCUSD Chapter President Karla Faucett in a Monday news release. “We have requested the District come to bargaining with us at 10 am tomorrow, and we are ready to keep working until we have a fair deal that will help us retain and recruit the staff our students so desperately need.”

On Sunday, following negotiations, the SCUSD offered 2% raises, up to $1,500 stipends and up to $5,000 signing bonuses specifically for bus drivers.

Monday marks fourth day of SCUSD school closures over strike

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