After a long night of bargaining on Friday, SEIU Local 509 members at CLASS, Inc. have reached a settlement with management to raise wages at the Lawrence-based human services agency, and avoid an open-ended strike that was scheduled to begin Monday.
Under the proposed one-year contract, workers will receive a 60-cent wage increase and other contract improvements.
“CLASS, Inc. workers fought hard and won a short-term contract with significant pay increases. We’re glad that we were able to avoid a strike so we can continue to care for the people we serve, but we’re not done organizing for higher wages to address the high staff turnover that impacts their care,” said Tom Baca of Lawrence, who has worked at CLASS, Inc. for six years, currently as a driver. “Since we formed a union in 2014, we’ve shown that every time workers stand together, we win higher wages and better care for the people we serve. This was a win for us and we will continue to be victorious, as we stand united and undeterred.”
“This was a deal worth working late into the night for. I was proud to join SEIU Local 509 members and negotiators last night at the bargaining table with CLASS Inc., and I think the agreement we hashed out as a group after six hours is a victory for both the workers and the people they serve. It’s the product of everyone coming together and having a respectful discussion where all could be heard,” said State Senator Barbara L’Italien, who attended Friday night’s bargaining session. “This is the second year in a row where we have sat down and found a way to produce a deal that increases wages for workers. There is, however, more work to be done, and I look forward to continuing the effort to make sure both workers’ and clients’ needs are met.”
During the week of July 9-13, CLASS, Inc. workers held a five-day strike, with incredibly strong support from the Lawrence community. Throughout the week, Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera; State Senator Barbara L’Italien; State Representatives Diana DiZoglio, Juana Matias and Frank Moran; candidates for Governor Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie; congressional candidates Jeffrey Ballinger, Alexandra Chandler, Beej Das, Rufus Gifford, Dan Koh, Bopha Malone, and Lori Trahan; State Senate candidates Mike Amano, John Drinkwater, Joe Espinola, and Barry Finegold; State Representative candidate Marcos Devers; and dozens of community, faith, and labor allies joined workers on the picket line and called on CLASS, Inc. management to continue bargaining with workers and pay them a fair wage.
SEIU Local 509 members at CLASS, Inc. care directly for clients of the agency, coming into work every day to care for people with disabilities and help them live with dignity. CLASS, Inc. workers formed a union with SEIU Local 509 in 2014 and won an initial contract that included essential workplace protections and significant raises for workers, who were then earning wages as low as $8 an hour. Last year, after a strike vote, workers won a 1-year contract that included an average 5% wage increase. Workers at CLASS, Inc. will continue fighting for a living wage that addresses the high turnover and constant staffing issues that impact the quality of care available to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable.