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Showing Members “How We are Here to Help”

Professional classroom instructors employed by EASTCONN in late November made history when they ratified their first-ever collective bargaining agreement. The settlement followed lengthy negotiations that began after the non-certified educators in early 2017 moved the Regional Educational Service Center (RESC)’s board of directors to voluntarily recognize their union.
 
For Brianna Keegan (front row, third from left in photo above), an applied behavior analysis (ABA) instructor with EASTCONN, the new agreement creates a “community that we can turn to” for issues on the job. She added that their contract establishes due process rights for the first time, as well as “support in taking action to uphold them.”
 
Adam Coley (back row, third from right), also an ABA instructor with the RESC, agreed, saying an instituted grievance procedure was among their most significant wins. “We now have an organized and focused line of defense to protect ourselves,” added Coley, who serves as interim president of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated EASTCONN Federation of Instructors.
 
Members of the local union’s bargaining team, which included both Keegan and Coley, also won annual pay raises for each of the four years covered by the new contract. They also established protections for employees’ health insurance and retirement benefits that had previously been controlled exclusively by management.
 
Keegan said that lengthy contract negotiations and the ratification vote have had the added benefit of creating cohesion among their colleagues, adding, “this has really started pulling us together.”
 
“We’ve all learned that no worksite is an island,” said Coley, adding that “there’s a new understanding that you are not alone in your struggles here at EASTCONN.”
 
Click here for additional photos from the instructors’ contract ratification vote.
 
At a special executive committee meeting late last month, EASTCONN’s board of directors voted to approve the new agreement, which is retroactive to July of 2017.
 
Certified educators in Middletown Public Schools in early December ratified a new contract with district officials that continues steady progress on financial issues and working conditions. A positive, collaborative relationship between labor and management was among the principle factors contributing to their many wins at the bargaining table. 
 
“The whole process was very collegial and respectful on both sides,” said Janice Pawlak, a third grade teacher at the district’s Wesley Elementary School. The president of our Middletown Federation of Teachers added that district officials treated the local’s bargaining team as “partners,” not adversaries, in contract negotiations.
 
Pawlak and her colleagues were successful in harnessing that partnership to make significant economic gains and protect vital benefits for over 400 local educators. Annual general wage increases totaling 10 percent over the life of the three-year agreement are chief among them.
 
The bargaining team also won longevity payments of $2,000.00 each for union members with 12 or more years of service in the district. As Pawlak explained, the benefit makes up for “step” advancement freezes previously agreed to that produced savings during difficult school budget climates.
 
A positive working relationship also helped Pawlak and fellow bargaining team members win new language securing early access for local leaders to recently-hired educators. The provision codifies past practice and broadens the opportunity to hold union orientation sessions beyond the start of the school year. 
 
Pawlak credited the district’s superintendent as being “completely supportive of the language” for the benefit. She added that the expanded access will enable the union’s building representatives to “discuss how we are here to help” with all new educators, regardless of when they are hired.
 
Click here for photos of Middletown teachers casting their ballots on the agreement.
 
The local school board earlier this month approved the ratified contract, which is now scheduled to take effect July 1.
 
Together, our members at EASTCONN and in Middletown have demonstrated that “U and I in Union” is the key to successfully exercise our collective bargaining rights. Whether the goal is securing protections for new employees or acquiring benefits for those with seniority, the path forward is clearest where there is engagement and unity.
 
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