After nine years, or 3,267 days, the Buffalo Educational Support Team has succeeded in ratifying a contract that its local president calls a “great achievement.”
Jo Ann Sweat, president of the 900-member local unit of teacher aides, teaching assistants and health care aides, said the union workers will see raises of 10.5 percent the first year, and then have three years of 2.25 percent.
The agreement also includes signing bonuses, longevity bonuses, additional training and professional development.
Solidarity and a plan of action helped the NYSUT local achieve the long-awaited contract. Sweat said members went to board meetings – once showing up 300 strong – and took pledges to attend rallies and send postcards to board members, which they did.
Teacher aides in the first year of service will go from $13.81 per hour to $15.26. Teaching assistants in their first year will get an increase from $14.49 to $20.00. Health care aides will move from $15.11 to $16.70.
Changes were made in health insurance coverage calling for employee contribution.
“By no means is it everything we were seeking,” Sweat said. “Overall we did a great job for our membership.”
She said her members are often the first person a child sees in the morning when they say hello to their bus aide. The majority of students are bused, she said, since many neighborhood schools were closed. Aides take them to class, to the bathroom, to the cafeteria and to their specials classes. Teaching assistants help with instruction, and health care aides help with medical and hygiene needs.
During the pandemic, the responsibilities of many of these employees increased significantly.
“BEST members never stopped their hard work throughout the past year and a half of the pandemic, and this agreement, nearly a decade in the making, fairly recognizes their dedication to Buffalo students,” Sweat said.