In an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today, the workers at Unified Vailsburg Services Organization (UVSO) in Newark voted overwhelmingly to join the Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO. The 113 workers in UVSO’s child development centers, after school programs, and teen center voted 77 to 6 to join Local 1037.
The newly-organized group includes teachers, teacher assistants, maintenance workers, food service workers, administrative assistants, family workers, floaters, wraparound substitutes, wraparound staff, after school workers, and teen counselors.
Workers at UVSO will join those at La Casa de Don Pedro in Newark who organized with CWA last month as well as the 1,000 child care providers and 10,000 workers all together who are already members of CWA Local 1037.
A strong internal committee led the organizing effort from the start. They withstood an aggressive anti-union campaign early on, but stuck together and filed for their Union election with a public mission statement signed by a majority of the workgroup. Their display of solidarity paired with support from the UVSO Board and local politicians resulted in agreement from Management to remain neutral in the final weeks leading up to the election.
“We never knew the power we had to make change in our workplace until we started organizing,” said Sharita Benoit, a teacher at UVSO’s Ivy Hill location. “In a few short months, we have transformed from being frustrated and scared to feeling hopeful and powerful. Today’s election to join CWA 1037 is just the beginning of what we can accomplish.”
“What we’ve done today by forming a union will have a lasting impact for our work and the children we care for,” said Natayia McCray, a teacher’s assistant at UVSO. “This election is not the end result of our organizing, it’s just the beginning. We’re excited to begin contract negotiations and we’re excited for what the future holds.”
The Union organizing effort at UVSO 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. The lead organizers on the UVSO organizing and the Better Beginnings campaign are Fareeda Mabry, CWA and Leah Owens, NJCU.
Also working on the organizing are: Anne Luck-Deak, CWA District Organizing Coordinator, Trina Scordo, Executive Director, NJCU, Paul Karr, Communications Director, CWA Local 1037/NJCU, Roberto Cabanas, Lead Organizer, NJCU, Ken McNamara, President, CWA Local 1037, and Hetty Rosenstein, CWA NJ Area Director.
CWA represents 700,000 workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, including 70,000 workers throughout New Jersey.
NJCU is a progressive, grassroots community organization committed to building power for low and moderate income people, predominantly in Newark.