Meet our Shop Steward: Zoila Irizarry

(Para leer en español, continúe hacia abajo)

Zoila Irizarry is a Teacher and a CWA Local 1037 Shop Steward at La Casa de Don Pedro in Newark. Zoila has worked as a teacher at La Casa for 16 years educating young children of working families in the community.  

Tell us about your job and what you do?

[ZI] – I am a teacher at La Casa de Don Pedro, and I work with 4-year-old children of which 99% of them are Hispanic. Spanish is their mother tongue, and I am very proud to be able to speak Spanish and be able to communicate with them and with their families.

How many years have you worked there?

[ZI] – I have worked at La Casa de Don Pedro for 16 years. I started out as a volunteer, then worked as a Flotter, and later as a Teacher’s Assistant while I did my P3 studies at the Montclair State University. I am currently working as a teacher for the past 13 years.

The childcare industry is undervalued and underinvested, but we know care is valuable. How do you think childcare benefits families and communities?

[ZI] – The work of teaching is definitely undervalued by members of the State and the Education Authorities, even by parents who think our job is only to babysit. But really, the work of a teacher is a job with utmost responsibility, since we teachers are assisting in the child’s emotional, physical and cognitive development for their future prosperity.

What do you like about your work?

[MB] – I really like working with children. I like to observe how they develop gradually in each area, and I like using strategies to help children to socialize, share, and respect their teachers and classmates in the classroom.

What kind of challenges do you and your colleagues face on the job? How has staying united and being in a Union helped to work through them?

[ZI] – We really have faced many challenges such as the fear of demanding our rights; such as taking our sick days, our personal days, which we couldn’t take even when we really needed them, only when those in charge approved them. We didn’t even have the right to take days off before or after a vacation day, we couldn’t place any complaints out of the fear of being fired. We had to do work that was not in our job description such as cleaning the classrooms, even the bathrooms. Honestly belonging to a Union has helped me feel secure in my job, especially now that I’ve learned to DEMAND and CLAIM my rights.

What have you learned during your time as a Shop Steward?

[ZI] – It’s a great experience as it is a learning experience of all things labor. I’ve also learned to motivate my colleagues in not being afraid as we are only asking for them to respect our rights because we are human beings, and we have a voice and a vote.

Do you have any advice for union members who may be considering becoming a Shop Steward?

[ZI] – I definitely think it’s a great experience, a learning experience, but I think those considering becoming a Shop Steward should have a conviction to help, support, and motivate their colleagues to always be united so to achieve the objectives and the rights that are ours.


Zoila Irizarry es maestra y delegada sindical local 1037 de CWA en La Casa de Don Pedro en Newark. Zoila ha trabajado como maestra en La Casa durante 16 años educando a niños pequeños de familias trabajadoras en la comunidad. 

¿Cuéntanos sobre su trabajo? Que hace?

Yo soy una maestra de un salon de clases en la Casa de Don Pedro de la 75 Park Av, y trabajo con ninos de 4 anos, el 99% de ellos son ninos Hispanos, esta es su lengua materna, me siento muy orgullosa de hablar Espanol para poderme comunicar con ellos al inicio del ano escolar, y especialmente con los padres de familia.

¿Cuantos años tiene trabajando ahí?

Trabajo en la Casa de Don Pedro por 16 anos, empece como voluntaria, luego trabaje como Flotter, y luego como asistente de maestra mientras hacia mi programa de P3 en la Universidad de Montclair, y hace 13 anos trabajo como maestra de esta institucion.

¿La industria del cuidado infantil está menospreciada, pero sabemos que la atención que prestan las provedoras es valiosa. ¿Cómo cree que el cuidado infantil beneficia a las familias y las comunidades?

Definitivamente el trabajo de maestra es menospresiado por miembros del Estado y Autoridades Educativas, incluso por padres de familia que piensas que nuestro trabajo es solo cuidar a los ninos. Pero realmente el trabajo de maestro es uno de los trabajos con mas responsabilidad que cualquier otro, ya que los maestros estamos ayudando en el desarrollo en muchas areas importantes para un futuro prospero de los ninos tal como es el Area Emocional, el Area Fisica, el Area Cognitiva.

¿Qué le gusta de su trabajo?

Realmente me gusta trabajar mucho con ninos, me gusta observar como ellos empiezan y como paulatinamente  ellos van desarrollandoce en cada una de las Areas y tambien me gusta utilizer muchas estrategias para ayudar a los ninos a Socializar, compartir, y respetar a las maestras y  sus companeros de clase.

¿Qué tipo de problemas enfrentan usted y sus colegas en el trabajo? ¿Cómo les ha ayudado mantenerse unidas y estar en un sindical?

Realmente hemos enfrentado muchos problemas, como el temor a exigir nuestros derechos; como tomar nustros dias de enfermedad, nuestros dias personales, los cuales no los podiamos tomar cuando realmente los necesitavamos, sino cuando las autoridades lo aprueven,  incluso no teneiamos el derecho a tomarnos dias antes o despues de un dia de vacaciones, tambien no podiamos hacer reclamos de ninguna clase por el temor a ser despedidas, teniamos que hacer trabajos que no estan dentro de nuestra descripcion de trabajo como la limpieza de los salones inclusive de los banos. Realmente pertenecer a una Union me ha ayudado a sentirme mas segura en mi trabajo, especialmente he aprendido que debo EXIGIR y RECLAMAR mis derechos.

¿Qué has aprendido durante tu tiempo como delegado sindical?

Es una gran experiencia ya que es un gran aprendizaje en todo el campo laboral, tambien he aprendido a motivar a mis companeras de que no debemos tener temor que solo estamos pidiendo que se respeten nuestros derechos porque somos seres humanos y detemos voz y voto.

¿Tiene algún consejo para los miembros que estan pensando convertirse en delegados sindicales?

Definitivamente pienso que es una gran experiencia, es un gran aprendizaje, pero se debe tener la conviccion de ayudar, apoyar, compartir y motivar a sus companeros de estar siempre unidos para alcanzar los objetivos y lograr los derechos que nos corresponden.

CWA 1037 Childcare Workers Union Ratify Contract!

The CWA Local 1037 Childcare Workers Union (CCWU) has ratified a new contract with the State of New Jersey! CCWU workers voted a resounding ‘YES’ to the tentative agreement with 98.7% members voting yes. (Total vote results were 393-to-1.) The new contract, which is effective retroactively beginning December 1, 2021 through December 31, 2024, includes significant raises for Childcare Providers ranging from 23.4% to 63.6%. The contract also includes additional benefits and new language that protects Providers.

This is a victory for childcare workers who are integral to our communities, and often undervalued for the important work they provide. It is also a victory for our communities as this will stabilize the childcare industry for working families. The decades’ long organizing movement of primarily women of color prove that workers are powerful enough to demand and secure the resources our communities need and deserve. CWA 1037 members and our community organizing partner, NJ Communities United congratulate our sisters and brothers in CCWU on this victory!

2022 Scholarship Opportunities for CWA Members

Are you or a family member attending college next Fall? If so, you don’t want to miss out on any of these scholarship opportunities offered by our partners in the Labor Movement! If you or one of your children are attending or planning to attend a college, a university or a technical school, you may be eligible for one of these scholarships.

Please check back here as we will add more scholarship opportunities as they become available.