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photo credit: Courtesy of Liz/Wikimedia Commons
Sonoma County’s cost of living is near the highest in the state, and many educators struggle to make ends meet. In a bid for higher wages, another strike is looming - but this time it isn’t teachers at this West County School district.
 
In the tiny two school Gravenstein Union School District outside Sebastopol, classified employees - the teacher’s aides, custodians, school chefs - have been working for over two years to unionize and bargain for a first contract.
 
33 of 36 members of GUCE - the Gravenstein Union Classified Employees, recently authorized a strike.
 
Union president Meggan Young said the focus is clear.
 
"Most important is obviously a fair living wage," Young said.
 
Gravenstein Superintendent Dave Rose said the district aims to remain an attractive place to work.
 
"We're ready to do a parity study of all of the districts in Sonoma County to ensure that our classified employees are paid at the top five level in the county," Rose said.
 
Young said the starting wage of the teachers' aides is $16.88 an hour.
 
"A lot of our classified employees are not able to live on the wage that we're making," Young said. "We are single parents. We are working two jobs. We are on county assistance. Our employees aren't even able to afford the healthcare that's provided."
 
Rose said the district hopes to address those classified employees healthcare concerns.
 
"We're increasing health and welfare benefits by $300 a month for an eight hour employee," Rose said. "If the employee works less than eight hours a day, that increases pro-rated."
 
As GUCE and the district head for fact finding Wednesday with a raise offer of up to 10% on the table, Young feels GUCE is taking a stand for classified employees around the county’s schools.
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