Head Start employees in New York say 'yes' to unionizing

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More than 260 Head Start and Early Head Start workers at numerous sites across Erie County, N.Y, have voted overwhelmingly to organize and affiliate with New York State United Teachers and the AFT.

Employees of the Community Action Organization of Erie County Inc. voted to unionize Oct. 29, capping a months-long campaign that began in April.

Members of Early Childhood Staff Union

The new collective-bargaining unit—to be known as the Early Childhood Staff Union—will represent 263 members at 14 facilities across Erie County. Those represented include teachers and substitute teachers, family partners, home visitors, nutrition associates and maintenance personnel.

During the organizing campaign, members filed to be covered by one wall-to-wall bargaining unit—a move initially opposed by their employer, which instead maintained the union should consist of three separate units. 

"We immediately talked with our co-workers and it was clear everyone wanted to be in one union together," says Jamar Clark, a member of the organizing team. "Many of us signed a 'We Are One' petition and made phone calls directly to the CEO, stating our desires. Within a few days, the employer agreed to one bargaining unit."

The union will now focus on working toward its first contract.

"As professionals, we deserve not only respect, but a right to be heard at the bargaining table," says organizing team member Malikah Ramadan. "We look forward to working collaboratively with management to develop policies that will both enhance the education of our students and strengthen our professions." [NYSUT press release and photo]

November 7, 2013