CSO: A Union that Supports Your Union

CSO members walk the picket line with CTA members at the recent New Haven TA strike.

Being a member of CTA is a mark of distinction. Being an active member or a leader even more so. It shows a passion for the profession, an understanding of the value of a strong union and what it takes to keep it thriving.

More than money or slogans or mission statements, it takes people—like you. Did you know there is a union within your union? One comprised of people just as dedicated and hardworking as you who heard the call, and made it a profession?

For certain you know us…we work behind the scenes, beside the leaders, building and advancing the cause of public education. We are at your bargaining tables and training your members at every conference.  We are in the state capitol. On every State Council committee. At every Service Center and Regional Resource Center. When your members run afoul, we are there. You see us getting after it at every NEA RA. We are the 275-strong California Staff Organization.

Our union is much like your local chapter. We have a governing structure, rep council, bargaining team, committees, and a contract with CTA that we negotiate with management just like you do with your districts.

There are a few differences between our union and yours: While CTA chapters are recognized under the state Educational Employment Relations Act, CSO is recognized under the federal National Labor Relations Act. While most California educational employers have separate unions for certificated and classified employees, we have a sister union called the California Associate Staff.

Your local Primary Contact Staff person who is always just a call or text away, the C4OB staff who prep you for bargaining, the regional organizers who swoop in for a crisis, the political organizers who help you flip your school boards when they do you wrong, the Human Rights, Governmental Relations, Legal, Communications, Member Benefits, ISSD, TID, Instruction and Professional Development staff who work tirelessly to bring value to membership…we are CSO. Even some of your associate staff in your local office are CSO members!

We are proud of the work we do on behalf of our members, leaders, and the students of this state. Say “hi” to one of us and ask us about our union!



Our Annual Meeting 2018

March 23-25, 2018

Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach

300 North Harbor Drive

Redondo Beach, CA


The Annual Meeting room block is open. Please make your reservations!

Reservation options are as follows:

Online reservations;

Online link:  CSO General Membership Mtg

  1. Enter information such as check-in date, check-out date, # of Adults
  1. The negotiated rate is $170.
  2. Our rate code will appear and you can proceed to finalize your reservation.

Phone Reservation;

  1. Call the Reservations Department at 310-318-8888 or 800-368-9760
  2. Ask for the rate
    1. by name,CSO General Membership Mtg or group code “CSG”

Parking:  Self-parking (per night): $13, valet parking (per night): $32

Cancellation:  Individual reservation must be cancelled by 6:00PM 24 hours prior the day of arrival.



CSO and teachers “Stand Up For Students” around state

The Bay Area may be one of the most developed places on Earth, yet there is still an undiscovered frontier in California.

Real justice in education for all students as yet to be discovered here, yet some CSO staff are working hard to help Region 1 CTA members and residents decide what it looks like and, ultimately, find it.

About 40 CTA members and CSO staff met at Westlake Middle School in Oakland Feb. 27 to become Partners in Advocacy in the form of a movement they call “Stand Up For All Students.”

CSO staff Katherine Clarke, Dawn Cova, Larry Spotts, Kathlene Beebe and Becky Flanigan developed and are leading the plan to put the people at the forefront to educational decision-making. They prepared a grant application and a plan to empower CTA members to protect their students’ rights.

And CTA members and the community are rising to the challenge.

“Members came to discuss their ideas for ensuring quality public education for all students and they worked together to develop strategies to help meet their goal ,” said Katherine Clarke, Primary Contact Staff in the Salinas Regional Resource Center. She said that many of the CTA member activists at the meeting have been working for years for educational justice, they simply needed a forum to come together and the coaching required to develop a well-organized “plan to win.”

Their goal is lofty: To Create a Movement to Build a Stronger Union to strengthen Free, Safe, and Quality Public Education for all Students based on Social, Economic and Political Justice. One of the first steps is reaching out to other organizations to build effective alliances in the community.

“Our attitude is “Si Se Puede,’” said Larry Spotts, PCS at the Concord RRC. “Our job as organizers is to empower our members to make change based on their values and priorities. It’s fabulous working with like-minded colleagues who want the same thing, because it made for a fantastic kickoff.”

Another next step are two forums for educators to learn about their rights and how to protect their immigrant students.

In southern California, CSO staff Helen Farias and Lian Shoemake, CSO Retired staff Steve Pulkinnen, and  Region 4 Organizer David Partida are working on a project in South County Teachers United.

South County Teachers United Social Justice Corps, also funded by a CTA Community Engagement Grant, kicked off this past Martin Luther King Holiday. That event brought together about 200 teachers and community partner organizations, ranging from immigrant rights groups to those supporting LGBTQ+ students.

“Several teachers have since partnered with these groups to host workshops on their campuses,” Farias said. “We are currently planning another forum focusing exclusively on immigrant rights, as well as developing an action plan for the May 1 Day of Action.”

Farias, in her first year as CSO staff at the South County UniServ, is leading the project. The goal is to engage members and to increase capacity and parent support, to increase the capacity of the union and involve members who are not typically involved in other union functions.

“There are a lot of new teachers who are passionate about improving public schools, but there is no vacancy for them to get involved in their union,” Partida said. “This is a place for them to get involved.”

There is also some excitement in Orange County – last year they formed a countywide PAC to run a countywide campaign for two County Office of Education Board members. They won one, and they lost one.

“That was ground-breaking and that progressed into what we are doing right now,” Partida said. He said the Orange County Service Center’s Organizing Committee has launched a promising organizing project. The goal is to identify new leaders. Partida conducted a training with about 40 organizing team members from several chapters who role-played one-on-one dialogues and built local plans for organizing.

“They have never been connected in this way,” Partida said. “They usually focus on their chapter’s issues and have not worked together. It’s a new opportunity with potential.”



CSO Members Lead Battle Against Racism

Aim to Have Union Members, Educators Recognize Impact of Bias on Students

More than 40 participants – ranging from CTA members to staff for lawmakers – took part in a May 13 forum at CTA’s Natomas office designed to help educators shrink the “discipline gap” that has seen disproportionate numbers of children of color facing suspension or expulsion.

Among the alternative methods of discipline delved into at the forum is “restorative justice,” which requires students to take responsibility for their actions and make appropriate restitution for misbehaviors.

CSO has been at the cutting edge of training its own members, educators, and CTA leaders about the dire effects of both conscious and “unconscious bias” – through which even well-meaning persons can wind up treating adults and children from different backgrounds in ways that may be harmful.


Rosemary Louissaint – A Passion for Advocacy

CSO has a new bargaining chair, Rosemary Louissaint, from CTA’s Concord RRC. Rosemary is no stranger to union work.  She comes from a unionist family where union work has always been held in high esteem.  Her Mom was a dedicated shop steward for Kaiser and her Dad, who is now deceased, was part of the Vallejo Unified School District’s classified union.  Rosemary grew up with four sisters, so her bargaining skills began to sharpen at an early age!

Rosemary learned about advocacy at her mother’s knee and recalls their many phone conversations over the years. She learned how to represent those who could not advocate for themselves.  Rosemary quickly realized that fighting for workers’ rights is about having working conditions that provide opportunities to maximize professional and personal excellence.

In addition to what she gleaned from her mom, Rosemary affectionately re

Rosemary wearing her CSO red!

Rosemary wearing her CSO red!

members the many conversations with her mentor, Ted Bynum. Ted showed her how important it is to take care of the whole person. He taught her to be ever-mindful of those who are beneficiaries of every hard-fought collective bargaining agreement won.

Rosemary finds great joy in working with her five local chapters.  She believes that within the brother and sisterhood of the union, each person has value; the union is made more successful by the contributions each member makes. Recognizing the importance of supporting her members in many innovative ways, Rosemary makes certain that they have opportunities for enhanced and meaningful membership engagement.

As the CSO Bargaining Chair, Rosemary wants to ensure that the best bargaining agreement is negotiated. She leads a team who aspires to reach an agreement that provides for members’ needs through a process that is transparent, accessible and promotes unity.  Rosemary believes that the best bargaining year is not only when we gain and improve working conditions, but when we build stronger internal relationships amongst ourselves.

Away from the office Rosemary enjoys reading, traveling, spending time with her family, and sharing a great meal with friends.  Rosemary is married to her wonderful husband, Rosemond and they have a 13-year-old daughter, Rosie. Rosemary and Rosemond have been dedicated to their transformative Haiti Mission, Brother Helping Brother (www.brotherhelpingbrother.org).  They are doing their best to help impoverished children of Haiti become educated in hopes of building a better and stronger Haiti.

Rosemary is very pleased and excited to be working with her new team:  Penny Upton, Frank Wells, Susan Midori-Jones, Norma Ortiz, and Jane Robb.  Together they plan to do their best for CSO!


Music strikes chord with CSO staff

Chuck making joyful noise with some friends.

Chuck making joyful noise with some friends.

Creativity is an integral part of the job as staff for CTA and its affiliates. CSO members have unique talents that are on display every day. Whether primary contact staff, regional organizers, or department staff our members spend a good portion of their waking hours using their skills to help CTA members be the best they can be while securing fair wages and benefits. Outside of work, many CSO staffers hit just the right note making music with friends and family while reducing stress and staying connected with their communities.
On any given Sunday when CSO president, Chuck King isn’t on CSO or CTA business, you can hear him making joyful noises with his church band where he plays drums and hand percussion. Having taught music throughout his 12-year teaching career, Chuck also proudly exclaims that he learned to play from California public school teachers. A ringing endorsement for the restoration of music programs throughout the State.

CTA organizer and CSO brother, Bobby Yates has played the fiddle for the last 12 years. He and his wife, a guitarist, enjoy taking lessons and playing together. Bobby has also played Irish tenor banjo for 4 years. His daughter, Shawna plays the mandolin and the trio often play traditional and Irish music together.

While a Hawkeye at the University of Iowa, Kim Mina was a saxophone and piano major. She’s played piano for nearly 46 years and the saxophone for almost as long. Kim remembers her mom, a pianist, getting all five of her children started on piano lessons while they were very young. Sister Kim started lessons as a 3rd grader in an Iowa public school. She also sang in the church choir for many years.

Kim taught music in California for 14 years. She taught band and choir at the secondary level and can still hear when notes are wrong or when instruments are out of tune.

San Jose staffer, Brother Bruce Berg doesn’t just play the bass, guitar, keyboards, arrange music, and sing, he co-founded “ShaBoom,” a 50s cover band. He has performed onstage with Chuck Berry, Jan and Dean, The Righteous Brothers and many others. He was even a passing acquaintance of 60s icon, Janis Joplin.
In addition to his work on stage, Bruce was a recording engineer on a few CDs. Bruce says, “I have played or performed since high school. I took lessons and classes in college, but was mostly self-taught.”

CSO brother and CTA staff attorney, Michael Hersh says his first banjo lesson was from a Philadelphia mummer and while he has taken lessons on occasion over the last 45 years, he is largely self-taught. In addition to the banjo, he plays guitar, trumpet and autoharp. His trumpet skills being the most recently acquired over the last five years.

Brother Michael plays Klezmer music with a small group. They’ve performed at the LA Central Public Library, Grand Performances, and a few weddings and bar mitzvahs. Michael says, “In my youth I played old time Southern, blues, Irish, union, country and jug band music. Currently I’m working on jazz to fend off dementia, with mixed results.” Michael sometimes does open mic nights to keep active and from time to time he practices in front of mirrors. He also occasionally makes recordings for sharing on social media. He explains, “I find more pleasure in music than law”.

Elisa finds making music a great stress relief.

Elisa finds making music a great stress relief.

The youngest of four musically-inclined siblings, CTA staffer, Sister Elisa Gusdal took her first piano lesson at age five. “That was the rule in our family, when you are five you can have lessons” Elisa recalls. Her older brothers did not always appreciate their lessons, since lessons meant practice, but she couldn’t wait to learn to play.

Classically trained, Elisa picked up her studies again as an adult to learn music theory; playing by ear; and the creative end of making music. She says, “I was in a band for half a second, but was terribly shy” Nowadays, she prefers banging away on the keyboards with her headphones on and nobody listening, but her. “I could do it for hours”, she exclaims. “It’s great stress relief.”

As Primary Contact Staff working out of the San Bernardino RRC, Elisa’s work is varied and often fast-paced. She thinks there’s a place for creativity—whether musical or creativity in other forms—in advocacy work and the two can be a powerful mix. She is interested in sharing ideas with other CSO members on how to integrate them .

Frank Wells has been a member of “The Vaccines” for over twenty-five years. Our CSO brother and CTA Communications Specialist has played piano, guitar and sang since he was a kid. Frank took a couple of years of piano lessons starting at the age of nine then as a pre-teen, he started teaching himself the guitar. Brother Frank says, “I learned by mimicking acoustic singer songwriters like James Taylor, Paul Simon, Cat Stevens. I don’t really read music well so most of what I do is by ear.”

While students at a Long Beach junior high school, Frank, together with some classmates and friends formed The Vaccines. They were the house band at a bar in Venice for many years, but their drummer moved out of state.

Frank injured his hand and voice a year ago which has interfered with his playing, but he’s looking forward to getting back to making music soon.

Sister Cyndi Menzel picked up the hammered dulcimer mostly on her own. She doodles around on the guitar, mountain dulcimer and piano as well. A communications consultant for CTA, Cyndi took piano lessons and sang in choirs as a kid. Later on she was in a band called, “Driving Keith Crazy.” About that time Cyndi admits, “It was usually me driving the guitar player (Keith) crazy changing keys and tempo.” Since that time, she’s played in a few bands, singing and playing dulcimer. Cyndi says, “I like to get hammered, musically of course.” She enjoys jams with other musicians locally and regionally. She says she may join a band again if she can find the time.

Not too long ago Cyndi played for two ballet dancers from the San Jose Metropolitan Ballet for a concert series downtown. “I’ve never played for dancers before and, after our performance, the audience threw flowers. At first I ducked because I’ve never had anyone throw things at me after a performance! It was a lovely evening and the dancers were amazing.”

If you enjoy musical theater, CSO brother Bruce Saathoff would love for you to come see him in a performance of Anything Goes. The show runs through the end of July and tickets are available at www.bmtstars.com.
Bruce’s day job is to serve as staff in the Bakersfield RRC, but after work he sings, acts and directs—even serving as artistic director for the Bakersfield Music Theatre. Bruce got his start with a solo in school. Recalling fondly, Brother Bruce says, “I had my first solo in Kindergarten when my fellow clown freaked out with major stage fright and wouldn’t go on.” A “triple threat,” Bruce also plays a little piano.

Describing his involvement in the arts, Bruce asserts, “I consider my involvement in musical theatre like free therapy. It totally helps me to separate from the stresses and worries of our work.”