Marshalling the Union Forces

GUSD school bus driver Rebecca Scheel.

Gilroy Unified School District bus driver Rebecca Scheel rallies
the troops to fight propositions she believes would hurt classified
Gilroy – They’re the ones that turn on the lights, clean the bathrooms, cut the grass and drive the kids home.

They’re who Rebecca Scheel calls “everybody else.”

Since many seem to forget who runs the public school show, Scheel is using her rank as vice president of the Gilroy chapter of the California School Employees Association to spread the word about Propositions 75 and 76.

The Gilroy High School bus driver has visited local newspapers and by this afternoon every school site in Gilroy. During her school visits she tells classified workers that if Proposition 75 passes it will be “a paper nightmare” and if voters approve Proposition 76, all of California’s schools will lose money.

Proposition 75 would give union members the option of not contributing to political causes. Proposition 76 would overturn Proposition 98, which provides a minimum level of school funding that increases annually, limit state spending to the prior year’s level plus three previous years’ average revenue growth. It would also allow California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, under certain circumstances, to reduce budget appropriations.

During Scheel’s visits she passes out information and registers employees to vote. Since beginning her rounds in September, the CSEA member has already registered about 25 classified workers, teachers and even a principal to vote.

“The best feeling I get is when someone registers to vote,” she said.

Scheel and CSEA member Rita Delgado have also been phone banking since August three times a week at the San Jose chapter.

The majority of CSEA members the women have spoken to are familiar with the propositions and said they will vote against them.

In Gilroy, a vocal CSEA member is something new.

While who comprises the Gilroy Teacher’s Association is obvious, many locals are not familiar with the acronym CSEA. And saying they’re classified workers might even be more confusing.

“I think it’s our union, our organization hasn’t promoted itself,” Scheel said. “We haven’t got that information out to the public.”

Delgado, a retired GUSD classified worker and former CSEA president, thinks there are many ways to spread the word that haven’t been tapped.

She would like to see more coverage in the media highlighting the duties of classified workers and more recognition overall.

Delgado started working with GUSD at 19. During her years with the district she served in various positions at the district office, South Valley Middle, El Roble and Glen View elementary schools. She retired in 2002, at the age of 52.

After 10 years as CSEA president it’s difficult for Delgado to step away from the union.

“I still care for the employees that are working,” she said. “If I didn’t care I wouldn’t be involved.”

When she calls members she lets them know that Schwarzenegger’s propositions will also effect the retired workers.

“If we give the governor power he will try to come back after our retirement like before,” she said.

And “the retirees say ‘oh, absolutely we’re voting no all the way …”

For Scheel, activism has also become second-nature.

The mother of two adult children is taking classes at San Jose City College in labor studies. And when the special election is over her face will still be seen and her voice heard.

“I strongly believe in justice,” she said. “I believe in all people making a livable wage.”

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