On May 20, after a hard-fought 11-month campaign, direct care staff at Edgewood Center for Children and Families in San Francisco finally got the news they’ve been waiting for — they are officially Teamsters.
“It feels so incredible to finally be able to call ourselves Teamsters,” said Residential Counselor Ashley Nims. “We’ve been working for this for almost a year so that we can continue working with the kids we care about so much,” she said.
In June of 2014, residential counselors at the non-profit facility started the process of forming a union with Teamsters Local 856 in an effort to stem the agency’s notoriously high turnover rate and bring wages and benefits on par with comparable non-profits in San Francisco.
The more than 150 residential counselors and direct care staff at the level-14 treatment center located in the City’s Sunset District, work with some of the most emotionally challenged children in the City. Staff work up to 16-hour days with no overtime, unaffordable healthcare options and meager wages.
“We put our hearts and souls into our work and put our bodies on the line with low pay and poor benefits,” Nims said.
In response to the workers’ efforts to unionize, Edgewood, which receives much of its funding from public sources, launched an aggressive and hostile anti-worker campaign that included multiple violations of the National Labor Relations Act.
After the National Labor Relations Board investigated the agency’s misconduct surrounding the workers’ first election attempt last October, Edgewood agreed to a settlement and the workers won a new election, which was held yesterday.
“Now that we have a union at Edgewood, we will be able to more effectively advocate for the best interests of our clients,” said Cory Henning, a residential counselor with 3 years’ experience at the agency.
Henning hopes that having a union will lower the constant turnover, directly impacting the children by providing stability and a consistent therapeutic presence.
“Instead of being forced to leave Edgewood because of the poor working conditions, staff will be able to create a career here,” said Henning.
“When line staff have a process to talk about working conditions free from fear of retaliation, clients benefit,” said Teamsters 856 Vice President Rudy Gonzalez.
“Our union will continue to stand with these workers and we look forward to negotiating a strong contract that brings dignity and respect to their work,” said Teamsters 856 Principal Officer Peter Finn.
“It’s amazing to be a part of a bigger movement to create change from the ground up,” Nims said.
Founded in 1949, Teamsters Local 856 represents more than 8,000 hardworking members in the San Francisco Bay Area, North Bay, Sacramento, and Central Valley communities.