Teamsters 856 members at Edgewood Center for Children and Families overwhelmingly ratified their first Teamster agreement last month — an especially remarkable feat, as only 25% of newly organized private sector groups ever achieve a first contract.
The new agreement, ratified and signed in September, covers roughly 140 counselors at the agency and includes an immediate average increase of 15 percent in wages, (with starting salaries going from $13 to $18 an hour), tuition reimbursement, education incentives, and a fair and transparent wage scale, among other benefits.
Local 856 members at the San Francisco non-profit work with emotionally and psychologically traumatized children. Workers began their campaign to form a union with Teamsters 856 in June of 2014, with a goal of improving working conditions to stem the agency’s notorious turnover rates and improve client care. However, the employees were met with a hostile, anti-worker, anti-union tactics by the agency’s then-management to prevent workers from unionizing.
But when negotiations for a contract began last November, the agency had new leadership, and the tone took a dramatic shift. Management was ready to hear employee concerns and worked with Local 856 to secure funding, fix pay inequities, improve working conditions, and provide longevity incentives.
“The workers’ perseverance in their goal to have a Union at Edgewood was rewarded with new leadership at the agency who actually listened to and acted upon employee concerns,” said Tim Jenkins, who served as lead negotiator. “This is a direct result of workers standing together to stand up for what was right for their clients.”
“The Edgewood story is exemplary of what can happen when workers are willing to stand together and persist against tremendous odds,”said Teamsters 856 Principal Officer Peter Finn. “Through forming union, the workers who care for the most vulnerable members of our community now have a real voice on the job, incentive to create career at Edgewood, and have the ability advocate for their clients without fear,” Finn said.