Classified Employees Prepare for Cuts

Julian Martin started working as a groundskeeper at Santa Monica College more than 30 years ago. In 1982, the gas he put in his hedge trimmer cost $1.25 per gallon, there was no Bundy campus and Ronald Reagan was the President.

Thirty years later, Martin, who has been tending to plants at the school longer than most of its students have been alive, still arrives on campus early and stays late.

Martin is but one of hundreds of employees who perform the non-teaching and non-administrative functions of the school. From building technicians, to office staff, to parking attendants, together they are the “classified employees.”

But their livelihoods could soon be in jeopardy, as the college predicts furloughs and layoffs for classified employees if Proposition 30, a tax-initiative set to increase funding to California schools, fails in November.

“It’s unfortunate that the timing is what it is. We are all waiting on pins and needles for Prop 30,” says Bruce Smith, SMC public information officer, adding that no decisions would be made until then.

Building technician Kevin McAllister, 55, says a reduced classified work force at the school could have a big impact on the already stressed staff.

“We have one certified plumber, one carpenter, two electricians and three HVAC technicians [who] are responsible for the maintenance of the over nine million square feet covered by 27 buildings,” McAllister says.

“[SMC] is my home. I feel confident that they can’t let the groundskeepers go,” he says. “But if Prop 30 fails right now, things are different, I’ve been doing this work for over 32 years and it would be very challenging to find a new job.”

Fred Zimmerman, 70, who has has been an electrician at SMC for over 17 years, claims that attempts toward the privatization of the school system actually began in the 1970s.

“It’s wealthy corporations who wanted to make public sector employees villains by saying that we are lazy and don’t do our jobs,” Zimmerman says. “We are going to keep fighting!”

Even with a bleak future, some employees are still optimistic. Audrey Steele, an 11-year SMC parking enforcement officer says, “I’m not going to cry ‘doomsday’ yet. I am going to be positive.”

For 11-year custodian Pam Carter, 53, the future is dependent upon Proposition 30.

“If it doesn’t pass, I’m losing a few months out of the year, and it will be hard on my family,” Carter says. “That is why I am going to vote for Prop 30.”

Though classified employee Sergio Cardenas has worked at SMC for only a year, his sentiments are the same. “The way I feel is there is always a way and a solution,” says Cardenas. “We need to mediate things.

This is my livelihood and I hope we can sit down at the table.” The college is set to begin talks with the union in the next few weeks, according to Smith.

The Classified Employees Union could not be reached despite several calls from The Corsair.