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There is a new union bargaining unit in Tompkins County. District Council 4 Painters and Allied Trades worked successfully with an Organizing Committee at Tompkins Community Action (TCA), a nonprofit in Ithaca, to assist with making the workplace a little better. On November 24th, 2020, the votes for the election were tallied and the union was victorious.

District Council 4 currently represents 45 “non-professionals” members at TCA and the election was for the 48 “professionals” that end up being added to the unit. These classifications are designated by the National Labor Relations Board to separate groups and ensure that their community of interest is parallel. The 48 person ‘professionals’ unit is comprised primarily of Head Start Teachers, Early Head Start Teachers, Specialists, and Coordinators that support the mission to assist local people with education, housing, and energy services among other forms of assistance.

Here are some of the issues that the campaign was organized around:

  • To have a structured grievance process to protect us from irrational disciplinary measures;
  • To have adequate staffing to allow us to offer the best to our clients;
  • To ensure that we are compensated or given time for new responsibilities/expectations that is passed down from management;
  • To have union representation in meetings that could lead to disciplinary measures;
  • To have protections from arbitrary reassignments of work locations;
  • To ensure that health and safety standards are met in all workplaces at TCA;
  • To ensure that hours that are unpaid are respected as time off;
  • To ensure a reasonable workload so it does not cause unpaid work time to meet expectations.

Says Laura Cain, longtime Home Visiting Teacher with TCA, and a Member of the Organizing Committee: "I feel the union certification is a win-win event. When workers feel heard and valued, when they have a place at the table to have their needs met, when they feel safe, they are able to focus on their jobs. The agency gets workers who are working hard and less likely to leave. It's important for workers to have clear cut and across the board expectations for both us and for our agency. I am very proud to have been in on the organizing of this event and believe our agency will benefit from workers who are United.”

Says Jackie Moore, also a Home Visiting Teacher and Member of the Organizing Committee: “Our recent Union certification victory provides hope that the future brings strengthened trust and security within TCA between management and employees, improving communication to create a cohesive work environment.”

DC4 Organizer Travis Nevins says: “District Council 4 is very excited about the new addition of members to Local 11 at Tompkins Community Action. We look forward to developing a contract that is good for management and the employees to further support the important mission of helping the community members that have been impacted directly or indirectly by poverty!”

Pete Meyers, Coordinator of the TC Workers’ Center, says: “Having worked in very strong support of the non-professionals successfully organizing a union in 2013, we at the TCWC are very happy that the professionals have also decided to organize in their workplace. As well, the affiliation with DC4 is a boon to the workers organizing efforts as well as future contract negotiations.”

The new bargaining unit will join an existing Local Union, Local 11, which is currently right around 45 members. After the new unit is able to secure a contract with management, there will be just under 100 Local 11 union members employed at Tompkins Community Action.

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