More than 1,200 secretaries, clerical workers and paraprofessionals in Osceola County, Fla., will be represented by the AFT after a union election victory announced July 13. The school employees have joined forces with teachers in a local that will now represent almost 4,300 workers in the eastern Florida school district.
Osceola school support staff had started their push for a union in February 2009, meeting every week for a year and a half and never wavering. At an AFT conference this past spring, support staff from around the country met some of the Osceola employees who, at that point, had been dug in for a year, fighting for the right to organize.
Watch the video of the Florida employees' march, and hear profound words
of encouragement from AFT members nationwide.
"My dad was a custodian," said Kathy Donato, president of the Osceola Classroom Teachers Association, "and it was always my dream that the [support staff] would be joining us."
AFT members covered a huge banner with praise and support for the Osceola workers, and AFT secretary-treasurer Antonia Cortese noted that members needed no prompting to jump to their feet and cheer for them. "We are a union, all of us, brothers and sisters," she said, "and as long as we stay together, we'll be strong."
With this huge win under their belts, members of the NEA/AFT merged local union plan to rename themselves the Osceola County Education Association. They're ready to start building membership and to reach that first contract.