The district has more money than it claims, according to the executive committee of the Service Employees International Union Local 790. It's the same argument made by the teachers' union.
Using an independent report aimed at solving the teachers' union contract battle, the SEIU Local 790 is calling for restoration of 2003 pay levels before they took a cut to help the district out of a budget crisis. They also are asking for a health benefit package that does not include caps on how much the district will pay in the future.
The announcement thwarts the district's efforts to secure contracts with all of its unions - in an attempt to pressure teachers to also sign a deal.
And it comes just two weeks after the district heralded the tentative pact as an example of how the teachers' union should accept cuts in its contract for the betterment of the organization.
The deal had been offered to about 1,500 security guards, secretaries and classroom aides. Its rejection sends the union and district back to the negotiation table just as teachers are pushing for public support in their two-year battle with the district.
``We care about the schools. We understand the financial position of the district, but enough is enough,'' said Larry Hendel, staff director for the union. ``This is a unit where we have had no raises since 2002, a unit that gave back 1 percent to help the district and now, they want to take away the medical. That is unconscionable.''
Under the tentative deal, which was signed last month, the district offered to restore the 1 percent pay cut, but in return wanted to place caps on the amount of money it would pay toward union members' health insurance.
Hendel said the deal was signed before the union saw the independent fact-finders report or was informed that the state was planning to give school districts more money this year.
The union, half of which are part-time workers who earn less than $30,000 a year, said the new information prompted them to ask for more.
They also were ``offended'' the district used their tentative agreement for ``public relations purposes even before members knew what the agreement was,'' Hendel said.
District Attorney Roy Combs, the district's lead negotiator, would not comment on the timing of the earlier release.
But Combs said the district's offer to SEIU was ``consistent'' with other offers made to unions working in the district and said offering any more would put the district into a budget crisis.
Though the fact-finder reported that the district had extra cash to spend, Combs said that may not be entirely true, especially in future years when projections are not as clear.
``We have to get a handle on the most significant variant and that is health care,'' Combs said. ``We have been consistent with what the district needs to do.''
Combs said the offer made to SEIU included a restoration of the 1 percent pay cut. It also included free health care for union members who choose Kaiser as their health care provider.
The deal would last for three years, Combs said and in the third year both pay and health care would have to be renegotiated.
``We have to reach closure on these contracts,'' Combs said. ``The district is seeking to have a fair and reasonable sharing of health care costs.''
Hendel agreed but said facts show the district can afford to help employees pay for rising health care costs. He said the union wants a health care package similar to what the teachers are asking for. That proposal calls for employees to pay .5 percent of their salaries toward a yearly health care premium.
``The district wants the employees to bear the risk of increases in health care and that is unacceptable,'' Hendel said. ``For people who are earning so little and who are not getting raises either, we cannot agree to that.''
Hendel said the group will meet with the district and a mediator on Wednesday. If no agreement is made, both the union and the district will have to undergo fact-finding.
During that process, an independent state arbitrator will listen to both sides of the argument and come up with recommendations.