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Friday, December 18, 2009

Much Ado About 'Bumping'? Only One School Affected So Far by Controversial Union Rules, District Officials Say

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 7:00 AM

Despite -- or perhaps because of -- loud lamentations about bizarre union work rules that promised to displace secretaries at San Francisco schools, only one school site has so far been affected by the regulations, school-district officials say.

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Earlier this month we told the story of Sandra Rios, the beloved secretary at Longfellow Elementary School in the Outer Mission. Rios, like her counterparts at other San Francisco schools, believed she was on the verge of becoming an indirect casualty of massive layoffs in the ranks of the city's public employees. Those layoffs were aimed at clerical workers in the Department of Public Health. But because of Service Employees International Union seniority rules, the health department secretaries would be allowed to "bump" school secretaries -- who share the same job classification -- from their positions.

This has caused considerable ire at San Francisco Unified School District, where officials claim that health workers don't necessarily have the skills or desire to work with children in a school setting. In particular, the prospect of losing bilingual secretaries in schools with large numbers of families who don't speak English well is problematic. (Rios, a Spanish speaker, is one such secretary.) However, SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe told us this week that only one school thus far -- Thurgood Marshall High School in the Bayview -- has had a worker bumped.

The district's success in holding off the anticipated tide of bumps is in part the result of an important concession from the city's Department of Human Resources -- Schools were allowed to refuse secretarial replacements who didn't have the required language skills. Some 16 schools were spared bumping in this way.

Blythe noted that with more layoffs coming to the ranks of city workers, the effects of bumping could still be felt at San Francisco schools in the future: "This isn't over yet." But for now, as the holidays approach, it appears that many school secretaries will continue in their jobs, including Rios, who tells us she's happy to be keeping her job, though still concerned about the future. "I'm sure there will be [more rounds of bumps]," she says. "But hopefully it's not for a while."

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Peter Jamison

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