Workers at disability services nonprofit in Lawrence plan to strike, citing low wages
More than 100 workers who provide care for people with disabilities at a Lawrence nonprofit plan to strike this week, amid negotiations for higher salaries and lower staff turnover.
Care staff and case workers at CLASS Inc. are set to strike Monday morning and plan to rally outside of the building, according to a statement from the SEIU Local 509 union.
The strike follows contract bargaining sessions with the company that involved a federal mediator, the union said.
The group totals about 115 people who care for people with disabilities through the agency’s programs, according to a union spokesman.
Most of the staff members are paid less than $15 an hour, which leads to “high turnover and constant staffing issues that impact the quality of care available to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable,” the union said in a statement.
Forty percent of union staff members have worked there for less than two years, the SEIU said.
CLASS could not be reached for comment Sunday afternoon. A voice mail message on its main line said it will not be open for services on “at least” Monday or Tuesday, due to the strike.
“We voted to strike because the low pay at CLASS Inc. hurts us and the individuals we take care of every day,” said Krystina Castillo, who has worked at the organization for three years, in a statement.
“Management needs to address our low wages so the people we care for can get the care they deserve.”
Union members said the company has spent a lot of money to hire temporary workers who are not properly trained or familiar with the people they serve.
Last week, several politicians and candidates, including Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera met with CLASS staff to discuss the issues, according to the statement.
The workers unionized in 2014; last year, they secured a one-year contract that included an average 5 percent wage increase, according to the SEIU.
“Despite these wins, workers at CLASS Inc. are still among the lowest paid at peer agencies across the Commonwealth,” the union statement said.
Most of the striking staff members work directly with clients on a wide variety of programming to “increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, address issues of health and wellness, and promote social and recreational activities,” according to the agency’s website.
The strike begins at 8 a.m. Monday, and the rally is at noon at the CLASS building on Parker Street.