More than 260 workers at Head Start and Early Head Start sites across Erie County have voted overwhelmingly to organize and affiliate with NYSUT.
The vote by employees of the Community Action Organization of Erie County Inc. capped a months-long campaign that began in April.
The new collective bargaining unit - to be known as the Early Childhood Staff Union - will represent 263 members at 14 facilities across Erie County. Those represented include teachers and substitute teachers, family partners, home visitors, nutrition associates and maintenance personnel.
During the organizing campaign, members filed to be covered by one wall-to-wall bargaining unit - a move initially opposed by their employer, which maintained the union should consist of three separate units.
"We immediately talked with our co-workers and it was clear everyone wanted to be in one union together," said Jamar Clark, a member of the organizing team. "Many of us signed a 'We Are One' petition and made phone calls directly to the CEO, stating our desires. Within a few days, the employer agreed to one bargaining unit."
The Early Childhood Staff Union will also be represented by NYSUT affiliates: the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the New York State AFL-CIO.
The union will now focus on working toward its first contract.
"As professionals, we deserve not only respect, but a right to be heard at the bargaining table," said organizing team member Malikah Ramadan.
"We look forward to working collaboratively with management to develop policies that will both enhance the education of our students and strengthen our professions."