Hayward Unified schools staff rally for affordable health care plans

Staff members rallied outside Hayward Unified School District this afternoon calling on the district to provide better healthcare plans. Right now, employees say the plans are just too expensive and employees are struggling to make ends meet.

The union reps say their members cannot sustain the high cost of medical care on their own anymore, and they want the district to help with some of those costs.

"Some classified workers have to work two jobs. One for benefits and one to sustain the rest of their household, and it’s just not fair," said Khadija Abdul Haqq, SEIU 1021 President. 

Dozens of classified employees working for Hayward Unified School District rallied at the district headquarters Wednesday. They say the HUSD doesn’t offer an affordable healthcare plan for staff.  

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"I personally pay about $1,085 a month out of my paycheck. If I wanted to add another person, I can’t because I wouldn’t see my paycheck," said Abdul Haqq.

SEIU Local 1021 and the Association of Educational Office and Technical Employees have partnered to negotiate benefits with the district. The group says the average yearly salary for members is about $48,000 but most private healthcare plans start at around $10,000 per year.

"The plans here at Hayward are not affordable, which essentially means we are not meeting [Affordable Care Act]. So employees have no other choice but to turn to Covered California and those plans don’t offer all of what we need," said Lisa-Marie Cuspard, HUSD employee benefits specialist. 

Cuspard says she had to spend $1600 on her mobile chair because it isn’t included in Covered California plans. Union members and their families also voiced their frustrations and concerns to the board.   

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"My mom works two jobs just because she can’t afford health benefits for me and my sister. She can’t hang out with me because she works like a lot of jobs," said Micah Graham, whose mother is a classified worker for HUSD. 

The unions say they’ve been negotiating with the district for the last few weeks but for the first time, they’re prepared to strike if they can’t reach an agreement.

"What we want is some sort of stipend that support the healthcare costs for us. It’s impossible for us to get pay for it completely. We want some help in order to keep our families protected," said Deisy Bates, AEOTE President. 

We reached out to Hayward Schools for comment, but they didn’t respond in time for this report.