Local 856 helps save WCCUSD Teamster’s job

When an incident took place at work that could have resulted in his transfer from his current worksite, Ambika “Raj” Maharaj, didn’t know his union would be there to advocate on his behalf, but Local 856 successfully helped him save his job.

Ambika “Raj” Maharaj has worked for West Contra Costa Unified School District for nearly 10 years

Raj is a Campus Security Officer at Hercules High School — part of the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD). He’s worked for WCCUSD for nine and a half years. Raj and his coworkers in the District voted to become Teamsters earlier this year.

Not too long ago, Raj was accused of hitting a student with the golf cart he uses for work. There were no witnesses or evidence the incident took place, and it would soon be discovered that the accusation was unfounded.

After being arrested and questioned by local police the next day, Raj returned to work the following day only to be approached by Human Resources (HR) on campus and told to report to the office the next day for an investigation.

“Before I went into the HR office, I saw Jeanette Bradfield [Local 856 representative] in the parking lot,” said Raj. “I had not called her, so I was surprised to see her. We spoke and she told me she wanted to be sure he had union representation in his meeting with HR. I was happy because my union rep was there.”

During the meeting, Raj — who had no prior complaints and a spotless record — was placed on paid administrative leave for two weeks while the school looked into the situation. Raj would eventually be told that he could return to work, but it would have to be at a different school in the District.

“They wanted to transfer him,” said Jeanette. “But when I spoke to Raj, he said he’d been at that school for a while, loved it, and wanted to go back.”

Rather than accepting the transfer, Jeanette told the District to keep him on leave while they sorted things out further.

“While I was out, I received so many emails and calls from my coworkers offering to help me and giving me support,” said Raj.

“We insisted on meeting with the associate superintendent, so that we could clean Raj’s record,” said Jeanette. “After the District saw the support of the membership and considered Raj’s service record, he was returned to his original worksite. The solidarity of his colleagues made a difference.”

Raj said that when he started work again, everyone was happy to have him back. “Everyone knew that without the Teamsters, I would have been gone,” he said. “I am very happy we are Teamsters now.”