SANTA PAULA : No-Banner Ruling Angers Union

Union leaders are angry that the Santa Paula City Council turned down as too political their request to hang a banner on Main Street honoring school employees.

The council narrowly defeated the bid Monday after a heated discussion about the political content of a request from the 160-member Santa Paula chapter of the California School Employees Assn.

The chapter represents the Santa Paula Elementary School District's non-teaching employees, including food servers, custodians, secretaries and librarians.

Union member Maria Saiz said the banner was meant to salute Classified School Employee Week, a designation approved annually by the state Legislature since 1986.

"I think it is a real slap in the face to our members," Saiz said.

Rey Frutos, the union's chapter president, said Tuesday the union will ask the city's school districts to help lobby to reverse the decision.

"I was upset because I figured this was something positive for the city of Santa Paula and for the classified employees," Frutos said. "We haven't had a pay raise since 1989, and this would have been a big boost to our morale."

Councilman John A.F. Melton opposed the request, citing a city policy that bars the use of banners on Main Street "for political, religious or for-profit purposes."

"If we allow this, then the Ku Klux Klan could come in here tomorrow and want to put something up and we wouldn't be able to do anything about it," Melton said.

Councilman Alfonso C. Urias suggested that a reference to the local union chapter could be dropped from the banner to avoid the appearance of a political message, and Frutos agreed with Urias' proposal.

But the council rejected the compromise on a 3-2 vote, with Urias and Councilman Wayne D. Johnson supporting the union's request.

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