December 19, 2008 Volume 109 Number 24

Third group of child care workers joins Laborers Local 320

A third group of child care workers from the Oregon Child Development Coalition (OCDC) have voted to join Laborers Local 320.

Workers at the Marion County facility voted 68-9 on Dec. 3 for union representation.

“Sí se pudo! (Yes we could!),” said Valentina Espinoza, a teacher who, along with Juan Pablo Contreras and Salvador Pantoja, helped lead the organizing campaign. “There’s is a lot of work ahead (negotiations), but I know we will make it happen because we are united.”

The new bargaining unit joins another 240 workers from two other OCDC districts. In October the union organized 70 workers at the Multnomah County unit in Gresham, and in July, 170 workers from Washington County’s Cornelius and Forest Grove units signed up.

None of the elections have been close.

“All of the employees have the same issues. These are people who truly need the protection of a union,” said Laborers organizer Ben Guzman. “Management has been taking care of themselves very well.”

Statewide, OCDC employs about 1,100 workers at operations in 12 counties, servicing about 3,000 children and families.

The bargaining units consist of teachers, teacher assistants, cooks, bus drivers, custodians, and other workers.

Guzman is hopeful that the margins of victory and the increased market share will make securing a first contract a bit easier.

Only two rounds of bargaining have taken place in Washington County. Now, the union wants to combine the talks for all three units.

“Issues are the same at all the locations,” Guzman said. “We hope OCDC will come forward and negotiate in good faith.”

OCDC operates on a budget of almost $35 million a year. It gets funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oregon Department of Education, Oregon Child Care Division, various school districts, and private donations.

Local 320 is headquartered in Portland. The union represents 1,250 workers in heavy and highway construction, at industrial plants, as well as in the public sector.

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