Tentative agreement reached under increasing pressure on the agency to avoid strike
LAWRENCE — In a major step toward addressing the low wages and staff turnover plaguing CLASS, Inc., staff at the agency who directly care for individuals with disabilities reached a settlement late Friday evening with CLASS management. Facing a strike that was set to begin Monday, management at CLASS, Inc. returned to the table late Friday for a negotiation session overseen by a federal mediator and convened by Massachusetts Senator Barbara L’Italien. The resulting settlement is subject to a ratification vote next week by affected CLASS, Inc. workers, who will return to work on Monday.
Tonight’s settlement marks an inflection point in a years-long campaign by CLASS workers, organized through SEIU Local 509, to address the crisis in caregiving created by low wages at the agency. The one-year tentative agreement is a critical step towards reducing staff turnover and improving the standard of care for individuals with disabilities in the Merrimack Valley.
The tentative agreement will result in a $.75/hour raise for direct care staff over the course of the one year contract, a significant raise for workers at CLASS, Inc. who are among the lowest paid at peer agencies across the Commonwealth.
“I do this work because I love the individuals I care for — it’s my passion,” said Krystina Castillo, a day habilitation worker at CLASS. “I’m happy that after many hours of negotiating we get to go back to work on Monday with a better contract.”
“At the end of the day, we won a better contract,” continued Thomas Baca, a driver at CLASS. “But the fight continues to make sure the individuals we care for can access the care they deserve.”
Workers had provided CLASS, Inc. management with the legally required 10-day strike notice on June 29, while continuing to try to bargain in good faith with management in the days leading up to the strike. Tonight’s settlement comes after an outpouring of support for quality care and good jobs at CLASS from community groups and elected officials, including Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera and Representatives DiZoglio, Matias, and Moran.
For interviews with workers leading the bargaining process, contact Christie Stephenson: firstname.lastname@example.org / (413) 374-6370.