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California School Employees Association Is Making Health a Union Issue

Catherine is a senior communications professional helping social change organizations tell their story in powerful ways. She has expertise in public health, environmental stewardship, philanthropy and education. Follow her on Twitter @CatBrozena

“Wellness is union business.”

That’s the message that the California School Employees Association (CSEA) wants to convey to their members and to the wider public.

“We want school support staff to work wellness into their daily work life,” explains Debb Jachens, a CSEA representative who, together with her colleagues, helped launch the CSEA Wellness Champions program. Jachens and her fellow union staffer, Jody Bell, were recently recognized for their wellness leadership by being inducted into the inaugural Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools Honor Roll.

“If we can encourage our members to take a contractual break – leave their chair or workstation and get some physical activity, such as a walk, it’s going to benefit them and the school community as a whole. It keeps workers sharp, healthy and ultimately happier.”

With more than 215,000 members, CSEA is the largest union of classified or hourly school employees in the country. They represent school support staff – food services staff, maintenance and operations personnel, office and clerical workers, instructional assistants, bus drives and others – who serve a critical role in school communities.

The CSEA Wellness Champions program was begun in 2014, in partnership with Kaiser Permanente, and has quickly garnered an enthusiastic following. The group took on walking as their signature initiative, and with the leadership of Arlene Cristobal, CSEA chapter president for the Castro Valley Unified School District, created the video below to show others just how easy it can be to work wellness into the work day. They also created a CSEA Wellness Champions Start-Up Kit to encourage other members to join the effort.

The CSEA Wellness Champions are planning to expand their messaging in the months ahead to encourage healthier eating habits, stretching and breathing exercises and other simple changes that can lead to healthier lives.

Check out their video and visit the CSEA Wellness Champions web page to learn more about CSEA’s efforts and find out for yourself how easy it can be to work walking into your daily routine.

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