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Head Start Workers
Win Fairness on the Job


Contract Settled ...

Over a year after they first organized, Head Start workers in three counties in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont have won a contract that ensures fairness on the job, a process for dealing with overwork, and increases in paid leave.

Scattered over three counties and ten worksites, home visitors, teachers, food service managers and janitors who work for Northeast Kingdom Community Action (NEKCA) joined together because they believe in helping the families they work with, but don’t believe that help should come at the expense of their own families. Prior to joining UE, workers at NEKCA Head Start were routinely asked to work unpaid hours in order to complete their job duties. Workers who refused were harassed and even fired.

Although the NEKCA workers won their union election in July 1999, delays and unfair labor practices by management meant that the contract was not finished until August this year. By mobilizing union and community members, the union was finally able to win a fair contract. Members in the shop wrote letters and made phone calls to the executive director and the agency’s board of directors. The Vermont Workers Center and the teachers’ union in the Northeast Kingdom (Vt-NEA) mobilized many community members in support of the new UE members.


The contract includes the basic union protections of a fair grievance procedure with binding arbitration, just cause for discipline and discharge, and protections for employees with regard to what management can place in their files. NEKCA Head Start workers also achieved the following contract wins:

An increase in the number of hours food service workers and janitors are paid per week (without an increase in job duties); restoration of a paid holiday for all employees; a new personal day for home visitors, who previously had none, as well as prorated paid holidays, vacation, sick days and bereavement leave for janitors. Also, automatic five days of bereavement leave for close family members.

Employees are no longer required to work split shifts. There are now checks on the addition of new job requirements and a process for reducing workload the ability to negotiate as equals over the distribution of federal funds into employees’ wages. (Prior to the union, management-dominated committees made these decisions.)

NEKCA Head Start workers are members of amalgamated UE Local 221.

The negotiating committee consisted of Lesa Cathcart, Diane Essaff, Kathy Karlen, Marie Norton-McNeal and Wendy Wright and was assisted by UE Field Org. Heather Riemer and Intl. Rep. Kimberly Lawson.

UE News - 11/00

Home -> UE News -> 2000 Archives -> Article

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