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First contract for paraprofessionals at Connecticut school district

Photo credit: AFSCME Local 784.
By Renee Hamel, AFSCME Council 4 ·

A year after forming a union, Ledyard Public School paraprofessionals in Connecticut have secured their first collective bargaining agreement.

Members of AFSCME Local 784 (Council 4), consisting of roughly 100 paraprofessionals, voted 52-1 in favor of the four-year agreement reached with the Ledyard Board of Education. The new contract, which went into effect July 1, 2021, provides annual general wage increases of 50 cents an hour, and includes retroactive pay, additional sick days and paid holidays.

Additionally, the contract also allows paraprofessionals with serious health conditions or their family members up to 55 days of unpaid leave. Before the contract, it was common for paraprofessionals who did not qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act and exhausted their sick time to quit and reapply for their jobs.

Members of the bargaining unit, most of them women, assist students with special needs, and support librarians, guidance counselors and teachers across five schools in Ledyard.

Since reaching out to Council 4 and forming their union during the height of the pandemic last year, Ledyard paraprofessionals have been cohesive and unified in their pursuit of being recognized as valued workers who are essential to the success of their students and school communities.

Local 784 President Kim Hope sees the transition from being a nonunion paraprofessional to a union paraprofessional with a contract as a positive development.

“We came together to show our strength,” she said. “Realizing our old ways were not opening any new doors, we chose to be a family and with the help of Council 4 and our new contract, Ledyard paraprofessionals are now a ‘we’ and stronger for it.”

Liz Malone, a 15-year paraprofessional and a member of the negotiations committee, is pleased with the accompanying benefits and sees this contract as a first step in a journey for respect.

“I’m excited about us getting our pay increase and two paid holidays,” she said. “We’ve never had paid holidays before. Since this is our first contract, it is a stepping stone for more things to come.”

She added, “I’m grateful we have greater protections and that the younger paras have some things that we didn’t have before.”

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