Teachers claim intimidation, terminations and demotions during Neighborhood House Association contract negotiations for fair wages and benefits.
By Rebecca Garcia / SEIU Local 221
On Friday, July 25, Head Start teachers represented by SEIU Local 221 and community supporters joined together to protest the unfair treatment by Neighborhood Housing Association (NHA) CEO Rudolph A. Johnson.
NHA hosted the 2014 NHA Golf Gathering to celebrate 100 years of service. It was a star studded affair, including guest appearances by Steadman Graham, actor Chris Tucker and former Charger Pete Shaw. Celebrities and NHA donors played golf at the Rancho Bernardo Inn to celebrate the services that NHA has provided for several generations of San Diegans.
While wealthy donors paid upwards of $7,500 to attend the event, many NHA Head Start teachers are embroiled in a serious battle to advocate for fair wages and benefits for their families. Several of those Head Start teachers went to the fundraiser Friday to ask that they not face retaliation for exercising their right to negotiate a new contract with the goal of improvements in compensation and working conditions for employees.
Who are Headstart workers? They are the men and women who perform a wide range of jobs, including teaching, providing assistance to Head Start families, transporting and feeding Head Start children and keeping Head Start centers clean and safe. Each Head Start employee provides a vital service to economically disadvantaged families in San Diego.
Over the last several months, NHA managers have developed a pattern of intimidation and threats to Head Start teachers. Since contract negotiations began this year, the number of terminations, suspensions and demotions have tripled. These disciplinary actions have coincided with Head Start teachers requesting to reopen their contract. These retributions are attacks on workers who are exercising their right to collectively bargain a fair contract.
“As Head Start teachers, we are the front-lines in creating a safe, productive learning environment for the next generation of children. It is shocking that an organization celebrating 100 years of service to the community would attempt to punish teachers simply for wanting to negotiate a fair contract,” said Belvia Gipson, a Head Start teacher for over 15 years.
The group has called upon Johnson and those who attended Friday’s event to stop intimidation tactics and negotiate in good faith. They peacefully distributed leaflets to attendees with the hope that they would ask CEO Rudolph Johnson to stop unfair treatment and retaliation.
Their trip was brief, but effective. Belvia Gipson, who has been a Head Start teacher for over 15 years and an employee of NHA for over 19, was confronted by a NHA staffer who told her she had no right to be at the event, “I work for NHA” she stated calmly, leaving the NHA staffer baffled before he quickly escorted the protestors off the premises.
Correction: This original post incorrectly implied that only Belva Gipson was escorted from the premises. All of the protestors were escorted from the premises.