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Early Childhood Staff Union seeks first contract

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

A group of newly-unionized early childhood workers will be staging an informational picket Monday night in Buffalo. As WBFO's Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley reports, the workers are seeking their first ever union contract with the Community Action Organization.

"It seems like we are being left out. We're doing the work, but we are not being recognized for it," said Jamar Clark, who works at Family Partner at Drexel Academy of the CAO Head Start in Buffalo's Lovejoy neighborhood.  

Clark is one of about 350 union members working at 19 different CAO Head Starts in Erie County.  The workers  formed the Early Childhood Staff Union a year ago.  Their informational picket will be held outside of 70 Harvard Place in Buffalo at 6 p.m. Monday where inside the CAO board holds its meeting.  The union members are seeking job security, fair workplace rules and a living wage. 

Clark said it's time early childhood employees are noticed for their work.

"We're the ones -- we're helping get prepared for that next step -- helping the parents prepared their child for the elementary level," stated Clark. "I take the applications when parents come in from the community.  They come in and see me. I take all their information. I'm the one that they talk to."

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Inside one of the CAO Head Start at True Bethel in Buffalo.

Union members cannot offer details of their workplace rules or how much wage increase they are seeking.

The union represents teachers, family partners, and maintenance and nutrition associates providing services at CAO. Clark and other union members have been engaging with parents and community members encouraging them to join them in tonight’s picket.  

CAO stands for Community Action Organization. It helps "families improve the quality of their lives and achieve self-sufficiency." CAO also provides comprehensive services to families, children, and individuals throughout the county. 

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