First published in the May 7 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Burbank Unified School District Board of Education approved a 5% salary increase for local members of two workers’ unions this week.
The board passed negotiated agreements with the Burbank chapters of both the California School Employees Association and Association of School Administrators. The pay bumps are retroactive to July 1, 2021, and are supplemented by increases in health plans and other benefits.
The CSEA, which has a Burbank chapter, represents classified employees who are not teachers or administrators. The Burbank Association of School Administrators represents principals, assistant superintendents and department managers.
District staff said BUSD negotiators also recently reached an agreement with the Burbank Teachers Association and would soon bring it before the board for approval.
BUSD submitted a budget forecast to the Los Angeles County Office of Education showing it could afford the pay raises, according to district Superintendent Matt Hill, who said the agency passed the analysis.
Not everyone was satisfied with the agreement, however. Senior grounds technician and former president of the Burbank CSEA Louis Ayala expressed disappointment that his fellow custodians did not receive more of a pay increase. Burbank custodial workers have spent months campaigning for a major raise, with some referencing hours-long commutes and low pay that will see relatively little change with the percentage increase compared to higher-paid employees.
“The financial gains are not equal,” Ayala said Thursday, calling on the board to delay approving the agreement until it received more information on its impact to the BUSD’s general fund. “Some employees are set to receive thousands of dollars, while their colleagues who work side by side with them will receive nothing.”
School board members acknowledged the concerns raised by custodial workers, but said they did not want to override the positions of other CSEA members.
“There are very strong feelings around this, and my vote tonight, frankly, is about honoring what the membership has voted,” board Vice President Steve Ferguson said. “I still have very significant concerns around our custodial teams and specific roles that I want to be competitive. … I want for those employees not to live sacrificing constantly.”
Board member Emily Weisberg also said that disputes over equitable pay — something Ayala had argued the agreement didn’t achieve — had caused friction between some of CSEA’s own members. Nonetheless, she added, voting against the will of the union majority would be disrespectful.
“Some people are happy about this, and some people feel betrayed,” Weisberg said. “There’s a lot of healing to do, and that’s something that has to happen within CSEA.”
The school district negotiates with labor unions annually, Hill said.
The board also planned to discuss the renewal of Hill’s employment contract, which would involve its own 5% pay raise, on Thursday. But board President Charlene Tabet announced at the beginning of the meeting that the board would move the item to a later date “to allow completion of the annual evaluation process.” The board aims to discuss the item by its July meeting.