In 2016, the staff at Edgewood Center for Children and Families in San Francisco were brand new Teamsters who had just ratified their first union contract. The contract and all the improvements that came with it were a huge victory after an arduous organizing campaign.
Last month, Edgewood Teamsters approved their second contract, building upon the improvements secured in their first.
Local 856 members at Edgewood are counselors, specialists, team leads, and more who work with and provide services to children with emotional and behavioral issues.
Although they do stressful and important work, the jobs of non-profit employees like those at Edgewood are often thankless and underpaid. However, when they became members of Local 856 in 2015, Edgewood members evened the playing field and secured their seat at the table to negotiate wage increases, and improve benefits and working conditions.
“At Edgewood, if the staff are treated fairly, we are better able to serve the kids,” explained Andy Esparza, a Teamsters 856 shop steward and member of the contract negotiations team at Edgewood.
During this round of negotiations, the bargaining team stood strong and successfully negotiated fair wage increases as well as contract language improvements. Their new three-year contract also creates a Joint Labor Management Committee that will meet every other month to discuss and address workplace issues.
“It was definitely a team effort between the stewards and our Local 856 representative, Corey Hallman,” said Jose Cruz. Jose is a shop steward and member of the negotiations team. “It was inspiring to see the team process membership input and talk through potential plans of action.”
Participating in negotiations was new to both Jose and Andy. For both, sitting across the negotiations table from their employer and advocating for their co-workers made them feel stronger.
“The fact that I can speak up without fear of retaliation is empowering,” remarked Andy. “If it wasn’t for us collectively coming together to say ‘hey, that’s not okay,’ we wouldn’t have gotten our raises.”
With their second contract now finalized, Edgewood Teamsters have an even deeper understanding of the importance of having a union in their workplace.
“Unions allow for a unified employee front in which co-workers can help keep management accountable and support one another,” said Jose. “I am proud to be a member of Teamsters 856 because as a member I feel heard and validated and ultimately never alone.”