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Connecticut Para-Professionals ‘Vote To Build Power Through’ AFSCME Council 4

Published Sunday, June 28, 2020
by Renee Hamel/AFSCME News
Connecticut Para-Professionals ‘Vote To Build Power Through’ AFSCME Council 4

(LEDYARD, CONNECTICUT) – Para-Professionals in a Connecticut School District have not let the COVID-19 crisis prevent them from gaining a voice on the job as Ledyard Public Schools’ Para-Professionals have voted decisively to join American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 4 - which represents 30,000 State Workers.

The Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations certified the election results in mid-June, with an overwhelming majority of Workers voting to Unionize.

The new Bargaining Unit is made up of 130 Para-Professionals who primarily work with students with special needs, but also Assist School Librarians, Guidance Counselors and Teachers across five Ledyard Public Schools.  The vast majority of them are women.

Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the election marked the first for Council 4 that was conducted entirely through mail-in ballots.

It was an overwhelming success.

“I have ‘goosebumps,’” said Denise Dittrich, a Gallup Hill School Special Education Para-Professional. “I ‘am so excited that we, as Ledyard Para-Professionals, can feel like part of a team instead of feeling separated.’  ‘It is not one school that did this - it is a whole group of people.’  ‘Everybody worked together.’”

Ledyard Para-Professionals began organizing for a Union in January – but when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit and schools closed, they communicated via digital means and continued encouraging colleagues to sign cards indicating support for Collective Bargaining Rights.

Once the Unit collected enough cards required by the state to file a Union Petition, they got creative to keep people involved.

Para-Professionals also “flocked” each other’s yards with flamingos painted in the AFSCME color green as a symbol of unity and solidarity.

In addition, two automobile parades were arranged from the high school to the local post office so the Para-Professionals could mail their ballots together.

"We’re ‘thrilled to welcome’ Ledyard School Para-Professionals into our AFSCME Union Family," said Jody Barr, Council 4’s Executive Director and an AFSCME Vice President. "They ‘are standing for a real voice on the job at a time when the COVID-19 Pandemic threatens vital public services that keep our communities strong’."

According to Council 4 Organizing Director Kelly Martinez, this particular campaign was a reflection of the Ledyard Para-Professionals’ determination and dedication

When the 2020-21 school year begins later this Summer, they expect to find a changed school environment, not just due to challenges presented by COVID-19, but because they have emerged as a more cohesive group who believe in their worth.

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