Chanting protesters shut down school board meeting

Nearly 200 union workers from the Berkeley schools shut down the school board meeting temporarily Wednesday night. The group declined to stop their impassioned chanting, forcing the board members to go into closed session for about 15 minutes. (The video, above, by Mary Flaherty, shows members leaving their posts.)

District spokesman Mark Coplan said he’d never seen a Berkeley school board shut down in 20 years of service.

The Berkeley Council of Classified Employees union represents about 570 office staffers, custodians, food service workers, instructional assistants, school safety officers, secretaries, librarians, bus drivers and others.

The union is has been negotiating a new contract for three years, and is currently working under an old one.

“We’re not asking for new rights,” said union organizer Daria Wrubel. “We’re asking to keep the rights we’ve had for years.”

The union objects to the current changes in the new proposal:

  • Workers can be transferred between sites involuntarily.
  • Part-time workers lose family medical leave.
  • More cost for healthcare is passed on to the workers.
  • It also objects to lower salaries.

In remarks to the board, union President Paula Phillips said, “We absorb the costs while administrators (get raises).”

At the end of the remarks she started a round of chanting, “No contract, no peace,” and other slogans that went on for at least 15 minutes. (The allotted time for public comment is five minutes.)

Board president Josh Daniels tried to talk over the chanting but could not be heard. He told the protesters he “appreciated their passion,” and wanted a fair contract, but that the board had several other issues they needed to move on to. Eventually, the board members and administrators left the room and a sign said the board had gone into closed session.

The group’s goal, was in fact, to shut the meeting down.

“Now that the board knows what it feels like to shut down a single meeting, imagine if we had to shut all the schools,” Wrubel said.

Members of the same group staged a demonstration outside BUSD’s offices at 2020 Bonar St. earlier this year, shortly after the Berkeley Federation of Teachers reached agreement on their 2013-2015 contract.

About 30 minutes after the chanting ended and the union members left, around 9:15 p.m., the board meeting resumed.

Contract negotiations are due to begin again on June 11, Phillips said.

Read the text of Paula Phillips’ speech.

Berkeley school employees demonstrate for new contract (03.31.14)
Berkeley teachers, district reach tentative contract agreement (03.26.14) 
Berkeley teachers, district agree on 2.5% wage increase (05.31.13)
Berkeley teachers’ bonus plan rebuffed by district (03.07.13)
Portraits: Berkeley school gardening and cooking educators (05.29.13)
Berkeley appoints Donald Evans as new Schools Superintendent (05.22.13)

Do you rely on Berkeleyside for your local news? You can support independent local journalism by becoming a Berkeleyside Member. You can choose either a monthly payment or a one-time contribution.

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , , , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • guest

    I’m looking forward to the many people who show up advocating that their friends, family and neighbors make less money and receive less health care.

  • Just Sayin’

    When entitled, reactionary malcontents like Yvette Felarca and Andrea Prichett are allowed to teach in our schools it shouldn’t be a surprise when BUSD employees pull anti-democratic stunts like this.

  • Doc

    It truly is time Berkeley consider very alternative models of public schooling, like all online education through the state’s charter program. Too many groups simply see schools as another way to take advantage of Berkeley’s generosity.

  • DisGuested

    Thugs will be thugs. Wish Berkeleyside would show more backbone when covering these types of extortion rackets.

  • southberkeleyres

    I wonder what kind of behavior and communication skills these workers pass on to students?

  • Guest

    If BUSD workers were willing to do something about the rampant enrollment fraud I might feel more sympathy for their plight.

  • Marcel Marx

    If you’re suggesting it’s the responsibility of office staffers, custodians, food service workers, instructional assistants, school safety officers, secretaries, librarians and bus drivers to monitor enrollment fraud you have no clue what you’re talking about.

  • bgal4

    Can we hear from the Classified Union leadership about how they view this tactic and where they are going from here.

  • BUSD parent

    I see each day the dedication and attention that the school secretary, custodian, library staff and others provide to make sure that my daughter and her peers have a beautiful, caring, supportive environment in which to learn. BUSD should be ashamed at how it is treating its lowest paid staff, many of whom are women and people of color. It’s way past time for the BUSD elected Board Members to show some real leadership and negotiate with Berkeley values of equity and respect. That’s what I expect for my child’s education, my taxes, and my vote.

  • bgal4

    Of course they share responsibility to report to the district and site admin, particularly school secretaries, safety officers and Instructional Assistants. IA typically provide the most expensive services for those enrolled in special education and have a duty to ensure that district resources are not exploited.
    You can’t have it both ways, demand higher pay and benefits and give away resources knowingly to those enrolling fraudulently.

  • guest

    BUSD should be ashamed about the way they are harming our children by supporting a system that enables rampant enrollment fraud.

  • Guest

    They don’t need to monitor the fraud themselves – speaking out about it and changing the culture that aids and abets it would be good enough.

  • sprmcandy

    The workers get pay cuts while the administrators get pay raises.

  • EastBayParent

    The teachers were able to negotiate a 3.5% increase for 13-14, so it appears they can negotiate with the School Board/administration. Believe all the unions have “me too’s” with the teachers, so they must want more than the teachers got. Full-time staff have a 37.5-hour work week and 17 paid holidays plus vacation. Not to say that it is easy to get by in the Bay Area with the salaries of the lower-wage positions (or on a teacher salary, especially in the first few years).

  • Guest

    So have them arrested and carried out and proceed with the meeting. We all have work to do. This is BS.

  • Guest

    Workers can be transferred between sites involuntarily.
    Don’t they work for the school DISTRICT? The district encompasses many schools.

    More cost for healthcare is passed on to the workers.

    Let’s separate health insurance from our jobs. Simple as that. As it stands, my own company asked us to contribute more towards our healthcare benefits… so it goes.

    It also objects to lower salaries.
    Did they really lower salaries? That’s hard to imagine? If so, for all currently employed or just for those starting going forward?

  • Berkeley Citizen and Parent

    It’s way past time for the BUSD elected Board Members to show some real leadership and negotiate with Berkeley values of equity and respect AND a balanced budget that enables Berkeley to thrive long into the future.

    That’s what I expect for my child’s education, my taxes, and my vote.

  • Josh Danny

    Until the School Board starts respecting community and employees, it should not only be shut down, but thrown out. Vote against all of these members when they come up for election. They do not represent our community.

  • Guest2

    Yes, we do all have work to do. And should be respected for the work we do.

  • Thomas Thecontrarian

    God forbid Berkeley citizens discuss ongoing problems with our schools in the comments on an article about schools!

  • BillTC

    Way more than 6 there last night Mr. TheCrank. Take off your blinders and take a second look.

  • BillKK2

    Communication? When students communicate, we listen. When the community speaks, the Board ignores them. It’s a good education for students to learn how to protest.

  • Guest3

    Yeah, those Board members are certainly thugs, no doubt.

  • guest

    Uh, yeh right. If any of the Enrollment Fraud Half Dozen actually had the courage to show up represent their position in public, the world would stop.

  • guest

    The sentiments they express have widespread support among parents of BUSD children. My kids’ school is bursting at the seams (they hold music rehearsal in the teachers’ lounge, the office meeting room, and the hallway!). It affects us and our children, not to mention the Berkeley taxpayers, and it hurts the districts from which they flee. It’s really completely unjustifiable.

  • Pragmatic Sharko

    “they” = “you”

    And if you’re wondering why the “enrollment fraud” issue has gained no traction at all in the 10 years or so that BAS has been griping about it, it’s because it has _no_ support among parents of BUSD children.

    Speaking of blinders….

  • John Freeman

    It’s true that they seem to attract some support from people who have not or are not able to critically evaluate their “evidence”.

  • Thomas Thecontrarian

    They’re currently engaged in a circular firing squad trying to decide which of them is going to run for school board.

    “You do it”

    “No, you do it.”

    “No, you do it”

  • Prep School Radical

    Do you have a point to make or just ad hominems?

  • Prep School Radical

    Your point here is, what, exactly? That people should just embrace systemic fraud? That some ideas do not deserve to be expressed?

  • Bruce Lovelord

    Yes, clearly BUSD’s decades-long history of trying to cover up the issue and bury any evidence of the problem has nothing at all to do with it.

  • guest

    Well I suppose copying the screen name of someone you disagree with is one way to confuse the issue. How very BUSD-employee-tactics of you.

  • guest

    BUSD is filled with thugs top to bottom. No accountability, no justice.

  • guest

    Regardless of evidence, why not enact simple common sense enrollment checks used in neighboring communities?

    What possible benefit is it for Berkeley schools to have the most lax enrollment verification of any of our neighbors?

  • Whoa Mule

    It may be true that the BUSD is top heavy with highly paid administrators. We don’t know because the district refuses to comply with the CCT public records request for salary information. The district needs to be more transparent with its financial information.

  • Hypocrisy hippo

    Do I have this right?

    Children involuntarily assigned to specific facilities to satisfy district goals is a Good Thing.

    Adults involuntarily assigned to specific facilities to satisfy district goals is a Bad Thing.


  • deirdre


  • Andrea Prichett

    FYI- I was nowhere near the protest. I had no role in organizing it and I have no idea who you are or why you are randomly associating me with anything you don’t seem to like. I mean, just sayin, Just Sayin! Don’t be a hater. Ask what you can do to help our schools.

  • busd parent too

    The classified union is run by bullies and thugs. Members work hard and are dedicated professionals; they deserve a fair contract, but the union needs new leadership.