Preschool teachers, counselors, custodians and cafeteria workers at Gateway Head Start in New Jersey and Pennsylvania recently ratified their first contract with Local 929 in Philadelphia. The 156-member unit voted for Teamster representation in December 2015 and the local union and rank and file members on the negotiating committee have been bargaining for the contract since then.
“This was a tough fight, but we won!” said Rocky Bryan, principal officer of Local 929. “Our business agents and staff worked with the unit for over a year – and there were times when we had to do some leafleting in order to make sure that the union’s perspective was communicated. Many after-work hours were spent going over company proposals and meeting with the rest of the members. I want to thank everyone who worked on this first contract.”
Gateway Head Start operates numerous early-learning facilities across the state of New Jersey and in Philadelphia. Head Start is federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development.
Dionne Pitts, the head teacher at the Pennsgrove Head Start, and an elected steward, said that since voting for the Teamsters, “Now I am an active part of the union and I am proud to represent other workers so that we are treated equally and fairly. Our local union is fighting for us and standing up for equal rights for everybody.”
“We were able to gain improvements in paid time off, the disciplinary system and other points in this contract – its another example of Teamster strength,” Bryan said. “We succeeded with this first contract due in large part to all the work our local union staff and the negotiating committee put in. International Vice President Bill Hamilton assisted us, too, and was able to guide us during negotiations.”
The Teamster Public Services Division represents workers at Head Start programs throughout the United States. Local 1932 in San Bernardino, California, for example, organized more than 500 Head Start workers late last year and are currently negotiating their first contract.