Springfield Urban League Head Start Employees Picket For Higher Wages, Better Benefits

By Benjamin Cox on October 16, 2019 at 10:36pm

A Jacksonville school may be effected soon about potential labor issues. Several employees of the Springfield Urban League’s Head Start spent yesterday picketing outside their employer’s office in an attempt to obtain better wages and benefits. The organization provides early education services to more than 600 Central Illinois children. The picket group consisted of teachers, teacher assistants, bus drivers, maintenance workers and food service staff. The Urban League Head Start located at 3001 West Lafayette is affiliated with the Springfield office.

The biggest concern by employees, according to WAND-TV, is a pay increase. The employees told WAND they make less than $13 an hour on average, and that they’re being offered just a 1% raise every 3 years.

Springfield Head Start has responded to the picketing. In a statement, the organization said:

“The Springfield Urban League values our Head Start & Early Head Start employees, working daily to ensure a culture and work environment that supports fair and high-quality services. We have witnessed the dedication of the Head Start staff and have in-turn provided opportunities internally for their professional and personal growth and development, such as:

1.    Participation in market compensation review to ensure fair and competitive pay,

2.    Paying for higher education,

3.    Ensuring full and fair benefit packages including short- and long-term disability,

4.    Employer contribution retirement plan,

5.    14 holidays plus benefit leave accrual, and

6.    Employer-sponsored health insurance that requires a less than 10% employee contribution.

There has been no exchange of dialogue relative to negotiating wages nor health insurance premium costs to date.  Unlike many entities, for years, there has not been an increase in the employees’ contribution toward health insurance premium costs.  We do not understand how this display supports our shared agreement to negotiate in fairness, respect, and dignity for both parties.  This action is unfortunate and we perceive it as the Union’s attempt to justify its existence by making false claims.  We are in the midst of an unprecedented move to consolidate two facilities, moving children and staff from a site that did not have air conditioning, into a state-of-the-art facility that will house 17 classrooms.  Additionally, while preparing for this transition, rather than staff continue on lay-off status from the summer, for those who no longer qualify for their positions, according to state and federal regulation, we afforded staff the opportunity to participate in certification classes that increases their skill level, both professionally and personally.  The Union, at the direction of AFSCME representative, Erik Hostetter is misleading staff in hopes that the false claims will overshadow all of the good work that continues to be performed by the Springfield Urban League on behalf of low-income families and the hundreds of staff we employ here.  These actions are unfortunate and disingenuous.

There hasn’t been any information about a picket in Jacksonville at this time. WLDS/WEAI will pass along more information about any local developments as they become available.