East Lyme Paras Build Bargaining Power By Joining Council 4

East Lyme, CT – There are nearly 120 public school paraprofessionals in the East Lyme who touch the lives of students in countless ways and help raise their system to Blue Ribbon levels of achievement.

Recognizing a need for greater respect and a seat at the table when it comes to protecting the quality of their jobs, these unsung heroes of the classroom, who had been without union representation, recently voted by an overwhelming margin to join Council 4.

“Joining Council 4 gives us a stronger voice to advocate for ourselves and our students,” Chris Majchrzak, a paraprofessional at East Lyme Middle School, said.

“For us, unionizing came down to family values,” added Maria Gonzalez, who works at East Lyme High School. “We want to be valued for our work.”

Majchrzak and Gonzalez are, respectively, the newly elected President and Vice President of their bargaining unit. At a June 17 meeting, union members also voted for Jen Adanti as Treasurer, Bethany Perry as Recording Secretary, and Ermine Dowd, Deb Marshall, and Lori Shedd Nickerson as Executive Board members.

“We are proud to welcome East Lyme paraprofessionals to our union family,” said Council 4 Executive Director Jody. Barr. “They have come together seeking respect and a seat at the table.”

Union members are now preparing to bargain their first contract with the East Lyme Board of Education. Council 4 Staff Representative Tricia Santos will serve as spokesperson for the local during negotiations.

“We anticipate a respectful process. Our goal is to reach a fair and reasonable agreement that demonstrates respect for East Lyme paraprofessionals and protects the great work they do for the student community,” Santos said.

According to Council 4 Organizing Coordinator Kelly Martinez, East Lyme paraprofessionals are among the more than 300 workers who have joined Council 4 this year, including New London Board of Education Secretaries, Manchester Board of Education Behaviorists/Security Officers, Manchester Utilities, Groton City Police and Groton Town Employees.

Not only that, two recently organized groups of state employees within Council 4 –- public defenders and judicial support staff –- had their collective bargaining agreements approved during the 2019 legislative session. 

Nationwide, AFSCME gained more than 9,000 dues-paying members in the last year. Since 2016, AFSCME has won 245 organizing campaigns and has ramped up those efforts across the country in both the public and private sectors.

Successful organizing drives, such as the one in East Lyme, also come at a time when unions are experiencing their highest level of public support in more than a decade.

“A union is important for every group of employees to have,” Perry, a paraprofessional at East Lyme Middle School, observed.