LaborFamily News & Views

Fostering Parental Participation in Schools

Parental Participation
Children join their parents at the SEIU Local 1877 Justice for Janitors rally.

By Aida Cardenas

BEGINNINGS

In an effort to understand the participation of SEIU Local 1877 members in their children’s education, we surveyed hundreds of members with assistance from the UCLA Institute for Democracy in Education Access. A significant amount of our members work evenings and nights, maintaining and cleaning offices and other properties.  Not surprisingly, we found that many members found it difficult to participate in afternoon and evening school activities because of their work schedule.  We also found that many encountered tensions or problems getting time off work to attend their children’s school, while most were not aware of the Family School Partnership Act (a California law that allows parents, grandparents, and guardians to take unpaid time off from work to participate in their children's school or child care activities).

BUILDING SUPPORT

Many of the workers had an opportunity to engage in discussions with other 1877 members about their need for information and protection to help them participate in their children’s schools. Some of the workers who were surveyed joined the union’s Bargaining Committee.  The Bargaining Committee and 1877’s Chief Negotiator for Southern California, David Huerta, strongly supported the worker’s issues and quickly integrated the Family School Partnership Act into their bargaining proposals.

BARGAINING VICTORIES

Contract Language on the Family School Partnership Act
Including contract language on the rights of workers under the Family School Partnership Act in the master collective bargaining agreement for janitors in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego has helped workers and supervisors become better informed about the existing rights of workers as parents. We believe that this will also encourage more 1877 members to take the necessary time off from work to attend parent-teacher conferences and other school related activities.

Support to Develop Parent Universities
The collective bargaining agreement also includes a training fund to support the work of Building Skills Partnership (a statewide non-profit collaboration between SEIU Local 1877, community leaders, janitorial contractors and the Building Owners and Managers Association) to provide vocational and life skills training for janitors and their families. Local 1877’s contract provides three cents per hour worked to BSP for the development various education programs including Parent Universities – a project to help parents improve their capacity to work with their children’s local schools. The Parent Universities include workshops on:

LESSONS LEARNED

Work family issues such as parental participation in schools can easily fall through the cracks when you are bargaining for big issues such as health care, job protection and wage increases. Having the data to support the need for contract language on the Family School Partnership Act helped get the issue on the table quickly. The fact that this was already a state law meant that we got little resistance at the bargaining table to include the language. 

Master Contractors Agreement (SEIU Local 1877). Expires May 1, 2012.

Aida Cardenas is the Executive Director of Building Skills Partnership (BSP), a statewide non-profit collaboration between the California janitors’ union SEIU Local 1877, community leaders, and responsible businesses to build a strong future for building service workers, their families, and communities by advancing skills, opportunities, and self-sufficiency. For more information, please email aida@buildingskills.org

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