For too long, classified school employees across California have endured a cruel cycle of financial hardship. When school is out for summer recess, many of us go without work and without income. How can we move forward when anything we save for our family’s future is lost over the summer?
We’ve argued that when there’s no work to be found, we need a safety net. Yet, we’re barred from accessing state unemployment benefits because we aren’t considered seasonal employees.
So we said “no more” to this cycle of poverty. Through years of putting forth legislative bills, telling our stories of struggle to state legislators, and raising public awareness of our plight, SEIU Local 99 members led the way to move legislators and then-Governor Jerry Brown to finally recognize the cruel summer for what it is—a crisis and an injustice that calls for a solution.
In June 2018, Governor Brown signed the 2018-2019 State Budget with $50 million in funding for a summer relief fund matched by the state. The following year, Governor Gavin Newsom included an additional $36 million for the program in the state budget. This state funding established the Classified School Employee Summer Assistance Program, which allows eligible classified school employees to save money during the school year and receive up to a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution from the state during the summer when school work is not available.
We now have the safety net we need and deserve and we won it through union power.