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Rhode Island School Employees Join AFSCME

December 21, 2010

Cherie Nickerson, President of WISE
Cherie Nickerson, President of WISE, speaking at the Solidarity Rally. (Photo credit: Susan Petersen)

Warwick Independent School Employees (WISE) – a 450-member union representing school support staff – is now affiliated with AFSCME Council 94, the state’s largest public employee union.

In an election held recently, the members affirmed their affiliation in a secret ballot by a vote of 357 to 5.

“I am delighted that the membership of WISE voted overwhelmingly to join,” says Cherie Nickerson, president of WISE. “We need the knowledge, experience and strength of AFSCME as we face difficult contract and workplace issues,”

WISE members include custodians, maintenance workers, bus drivers, bus aides, teacher assistants and administrative support staff. They have been working without a contract for more than four years. Two months ago, they fought a School Committeeprivatization proposal that threatened the jobs of 60 bus drivers and 100 custodians. AFSCME Local 1651 (Council 94) helped WISE organize a Solidarity Rally in October by mobilizing 400 union members and community activists, forcing the school superintendent to table the plan.

The affiliation was the successful culmination of several steps required by the Rhode Island Labor Relations Board, which includes securing support cards from 30 percent of the membership and holding a secret ballot election.

In welcoming the newest members to AFSCME, Council 94 President J. Michael Downey says that “the combination of WISE and the Council will give our two unions a stronger voice in the workplace, in the State house and in municipalities. We look forward to working with our brothers and sisters in WISE as we confront the challenges of being public workers in a society that increasingly devalues the services we provide and the members who work very hard to fulfill their responsibilities to our communities.”

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