But management is more interested in upper execs than rank-and-file workers who make the organization tick
A non-profit organization designed to help families and children whose website says it’s to help people “living in the crisis of poverty,” pays its chief executive almost $200,000 while paying struggling employees $12-$17 an hour and receives millions in federal funding, is refusing to re-negotiate a reasonable contract for its union workers, many who have college degrees.
“It’s an outrage,” says Teamsters Local 610 President Jeff Hall, describing their efforts to win a new contract for their 11 members at the Jefferson-Franklin Community Action Corporation (JFCAC) Gray Summit Head Start Center whose contract expired in May 2021.
“They talk a good game of ‘embracing the spirit of hope’ when outlining their values but dash all hope for the very people who make their great services to the community possible,” Hall said.
“Frankly, the current leadership is more about rewarding upper management than they are helping the people in need and their own employees.”
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF EMPLOYEES
While complimenting JFCAC for the wide variety of positive programs they provide for the communities, Hall pointed out that they take advantage of some 80 employees in the 14 Head Start facilities they operate, with only the Gray Summit Center being organized by the Teamsters.
Including a raise effective June 1, 2022, the non-teacher employees at Gray Summit average $13.67 an hour. Noting that many of the JFCAC employees have college degrees that are vital in their work with children, those teachers have recently been raised to average hourly pay of only $18.54 an hour.
One employee, a part-time cook with 26 years’ service, who had been earning $12.82 an hour, was recently raised to $13.66. She was offered full-time work, but toilet cleaning would be added to the job description. (She refused.) Tragically, this cook is the only part-time Head Start employee in the entire JFCAC organization.
Compare that with CEO Jill Lombardo, earning more than $165,000 (per JFCAC reporting for 2019) and four other JFCAC executives each earning over $100,000 (in 2019).
Another point of contention is the support the JFCAC gives its employees.
As an example of their callousness, Hall said, the JFCAC sent a letter in December 2021 to all employees telling them they would get increased to Missouri’s 2022 minimum wage of $11.15, if they were not already earning it. Subsequently, JFCAC “realigned” wages effective June 1, 2022, with the lowest paid employees getting a raise to $12 an hour, which is the Missouri minimum wage for 2023.
The majority of the Head Start employees did not receive any wage increase as a result of the realignment.
“It’s a sad commentary on how badly they are paying their workers now and in the future with this ‘increase’,” said Hall.
In stark contrast, the starting rate for workers at an unrelated St. Charles Head Start earn at least $15.50 an hour and get $2,000 retention bonuses to keep staff, a critical issue for every center.
10 YEARS = 5¢ WAGE BOOST
Even more degrading is the recent offer of a “wage realignment” of a half-cent more for every year of service, said Shop Steward Amy Bennett,who has worked there almost 10 years. Do the math: work there for 10 years, you’re worth a nickel more an hour.
“In all my years of negotiating contracts, I’ve never dealt with anyone like this,” Hall said, “It’s disgusting!”
Added Bennett: “It’s a slap in the face.”
REFUSED BETTER TEAMSTER INSURANCE
Negotiations for the first contract focused on intangible issues like insurance, stability, consistency of working hours, benefits and lastly, wages.
Health insurance premiums for the company’s best insurance had been $2,000/month for the family plan, the vast majority of which would be borne by the employee. No one took the insurance, because it wasn’t affordable.
So in the first contract, Teamsters 610 recommended JFCAC accept a higher-quality but less expensive union-backed insurance, which included benefits JFCAC’s medical insurance did not provide. JFCAC rejected this, but the effort forced it to finally broker the health insurance, which negligently had not been done in years. As a result, premiums decreased significantly and now employees can afford insurance.
TURNOVER OUT OF SIGHT
Historically, the turnover rate for all JFCAC Head Start employees has been greater than 60 percent! Such turnover is extremely expensive.
The unionized Gray Summit workforce has been the most stable, and has no current openings. The non-unionized facilities have numerous openings.
DELAY COULD LEAD TO A STRIKE
This time around, therefore, the focus of negotiations has been increasing wages for all employees, adding paid short-term disability leave and increasing the cook’s hours to full-time (without having to clean toilets).
But after more than 12 negotiating sessions, all the JFCAC wants to do is delay, delay, delay, Hall said.
“They feel like if they delay it long enough, we will go away. We won’t,” Bennett stressed. “In fact, everyone is so frustrated they would consider striking, but it would be a last resort.
“Hopefully it won’t come to that, but JFCAC is pushing people to their limit. The employees are losing faith in JFCAC.”
Hall said it would be to JFCAC’s advantage to begin honest negotiations and settle a good union contract with Teamsters 610 at all Head Start programs company-wide, which could substantially improve working conditions, pay and benefits making employees happy workers and thus stopping its outrageous, expensive turnover.
Who is the JFCAC?
The Jefferson-Franklin County Community Action Corporation (JFCAC) provides a wide variety of positive programs for the Jefferson and Franklin counties for education, employment, nutrition, health, housing and income and emergency aid. The majority of its funding is from the federal government though a variety of programs.
It’s part of a nationwide network of Community Action Agencies committed to fight the war on poverty by empowering families and improving the quality of life for those living in the crisis of poverty.
“It’s an organization designed to do good for the communities they serve,” said Teamsters Local 610 President Jeff Hall. “No doubt about it. The problem is they don’t treat their own employees like the essential cog in their efforts that they are. Without them, none of the good they do gets done. It’s outrageous. Employees should not be in the position of qualifying for the benefits they are providing to the community!”
A second JFCAC Head Start center is now trying to organize, realizing that it’s only through a union contract that they will have any ability to improve their livelihoods. JFCAC Is fighting this, despite 100 percent interest by the employees.