The organizing wave continues among early childhood education workers in Newark and beyond as the staff at The Leaguers, Inc. voted overwhelmingly to join the Communications Workers of America Local 1037, AFL-CIO today. After enduring a roller coaster week which began with the signing of a recognition agreement by the employer and ended with an aggressive anti-union campaign, the agency’s 225 workers voted 161 to 18 in an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
This newest organizing effort brings to 400 the number of early childhood education workers who have organized with CWA in New Jersey since January.
The 225 workers at The Leaguers who are now a part of CWA include teachers, lead teachers, associate teachers, EHS teachers, EHS teacher assistants, EHS child care providers, assistants/aides, child care providers, family advocates, receptionists, home visitor specialists, health/nutrition specialists, EHS/CCP clerks, floaters, substitutes, cooks, food service workers, maintenance workers, and custodians. They work at various sites throughout Essex and Union counties.
Workers at The Leaguers will join the 175 workers at Unified Vailsburg Services Organization and La Casa de Don Pedro in Newark who have organized with CWA since January as well as the 1,000 child care providers and 10,000 workers all together who are already part of CWA Local 1037.
“We’re excited to be a part of this movement bringing positive changes to the child care industry,” said Elba Robles, an Associate Teacher at The Leaguers. “And it’s not just fighting in solidarity with other child care workers, but it’s also the support and engagement by parents who understand that this fight is about improving our working conditions and improving the learning conditions for their children in our classrooms.”
A strong internal committee led the organizing effort from the start. On May 18th, workers presented management with a mission statement signed by a strong majority of the workforce and made a demand for recognition of their Union. They moved forward with solidarity actions at their worksites, continued talking to co-workers about their organizing efforts, and – with only a few days’ notice – put forward a strong “We’re Voting Yes” leaflet before the election with a majority of their co-workers indicating public support for CWA. When management closed the centers early in order to hold captive audience meetings, not only did workers organize within the meetings, they also engaged parents to sign a petition to the Executive Director expressing their outrage about closing the centers on short notice for such a purpose.
“This was a hard won fight,” said Marlon Benjamin, a Head Teacher. “Despite intimidation from management, we stood strong. And it’s made us even more ready to charge ahead with contract negotiations…especially knowing that we have parents standing with us in solidarity.”
The Union organizing effort at The Leaguers grew out of the Better Beginnings campaign – a partnership between New Jersey Communities United and CWA – which seeks to organize child care professionals, working parents, and early childhood development specialists around fights for expanded resources and increased funding for early childhood development.