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Does SEIU 99 Think That Voters Are Stupid?

With Graciela Ortiz’s campaign collapsing under an avalanche of ethical complaints, her desperate supporters go negative in an ironic way.

By Carl J. PetersenPublished 3 months ago 3 min read
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Gallardo and Ortiz from their websites

“OUR STUDENTS DESERVE A LEADER ON THE SCHOOL BOARD,

NOT A SELF-SERVING POLITICIAN.”

– SEIU 99 Mailing

Last March, I called out the LAUSD Board for not doing enough to reign in Superintendent Carvalho, leading to a three-day strike led by SEIU-99. I warned the pro-public education majority that they had been elected with a mandate for substantial and immediate change and that the failed contract talks with the union representing some of the District’s lowest-paid workers betrayed that trust.

One year later the members of SEIU-99 have the opportunity to hold two LAUSD Board Members, Scott Schmerelson and Tanya Ortiz Franklin, accountable for their part in allowing the strike to happen. Instead, they have endorsed Franklin and spent almost $650,000 in the race that will determine the successor for the retiring Board President, Jackie Goldberg. That is a lot of money for the workers represented by SEIU (playground workers, bus drivers, and Special Education aides) to be spending on an election.

Up until last weekend, the union had been spending all of its money promoting the candidacy of Graciela Ortiz, who is also the favorite of the Charter School Industry. However, a lawsuit filed against her by a former LAUSD student and allegations of improper campaign donations have severely damaged her prospects. Instead of following the lead of CSEA 500 and abandoning Ortiz before she damages their reputation, SEIU doubled down this weekend by spending $22,339.95 distributing a negative mailing against one of her opponents.

Fidencio Gallardo is currently Goldberg’s Education Innovation Deputy drawing on his 27 years of experience as a classroom teacher, a job SEIU derisively describes as a “district bureaucrat.” The union claims that Gallardo “crossed the school worker picket line,” but classes were canceled during the three-day strike. Did they expect him to not keep working for Goldberg, whom the union supported during her last campaign, as the District negotiated with them to end the impasse?

The first page of this mailing says that Gallardo makes $150,000 working for Goldberg. However, according to the source that it provides, his total salary in 2022 was actually $111,352.00. If the value of benefits is added in, his pay rises to $146,489.00.

Ironically, it is Ortiz who is the true “district bureaucrat.” While the campaign literature claims that she is a “student counselor and teacher,” until her reported suspension by the District she was a “School Support Administrator.” She makes more than Gallardo, receiving a $134,694.00 salary in 2022. Adding in benefits, this rises to $159,181.00.

The second side of the flyer makes the allegation that Gallardo is only “Standing Up for Himself” citing “three government jobs that pay him a total of $174k a year in pay and benefits.” As Gallardo states on his website, for the past 23 years he has been an adjunct professor of education at Cal State L.A. (CSULA), hardly a self-serving job. This job earns him $14,741.80 per year plus $28.40 in benefits, for a total of $14,770.20. He is also elected to the City of Bell’s City Council, earning him a whopping $8,076.00 a year or $12,903.8 when benefits and pension costs are added in.

What the flyer does not mention is that Ortiz serves on the City Council in the City of Huntington Park. For some reason, the salary that she received for this position last year is not listed on the Transparent California website. However, it does show that in 2021 she was paid $14,744.00 as the Mayor of Huntington Park. Benefits and pension costs increased this to $27,607.89, almost the same amount that Gallardo made in his two non-LAUSD jobs.

What was the thinking behind this campaign by SEIU-99? Did they find research that showed this kind of information would be damaging to a candidate and figure that the voters would be too stupid to look too deeply to see if it also applied to Ortiz? Did they consider the cost to their reputation if their hypocrisy was discovered? In any case, the ad does nothing to advance the dialog around education and further calls into question the motivation of the union’s leadership.

___________________________

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for public education, particularly for students with special education needs, who serves as the Education Chair for the Northridge East Neighborhood Council. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him “a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.

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About the Creator

Carl J. Petersen

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with SpEd needs and public education. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Opinions are his own.

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