I’m happy to say, we’re all back to work and focused on our primary goal of redefining what’s possible.
At the 11th hour on the last Friday in July, we reached an agreement with the Service Industries International Union Local 509 and employees’ bargaining committee which represents the direct-care staff at CLASS. They had intended to strike until they reached an agreement for higher wages. Fortunately, a strike did not occur.
Some parents contacted us, naturally concerned about the negotiations. The idea of a pending strike was agonizing for our families – as well as our employees and nonprofit partners – but a strike would have had the greatest effect on the individuals we serve.
Nothing is more important to us than the positive support and safety for sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, entrusted to our care. Our dedicated and passionate staff creates singular experiences for individuals in programs, in the community and with each social interaction.
CLASS is 99 percent funded by state contracts. Over the last four years, the rate provided for individuals requiring the highest level of support, those in our Day Habilitation program, has increased only 1.2 percent. In that same time the minimum wage has increased 37 percent. Janitors and File Clerks, two positions that require only a high school education and limited responsibility, are paid higher on average than the rates allow for our direct care staff, who are responsible for providing care and ensuring safety for our most vulnerable citizens, to be paid.
And the minimum wage will continue to increase over the next several years when, in 2023, it will be set at $15 an hour, further complicating the financial positions of all private-sector human services agencies.
We agree that our hard-working staff deserves to be compensated appropriately for their important work. It is more important than ever for our voices to be heard. We need all of us, including families, employers, community partners, our employees, and individuals we support to join us as we urge state legislators, the Governor, the Department of Developmental Services and MassHealth to support human service providers with rate increases proportional to the increase in minimum wage. I will be reaching out over the next year to inform you of opportunities where you can help us advocate for increases in our rates. Your voice is important and needed!
Despite the workforce challenges we face, we are committed to the safety and comfort of our individuals and staff, and to providing high quality services in a high quality environment. We continue to work very hard on both of these commitments. Over the last year, we have done a significant renovation of our Lawrence facility: a new roof, HVAC systems, accessible ramps, new floors, new paint schemes, and other improvements. Thanks to a tax-exempt bond issued by MassDevelopment, we were able to make these critical upgrades to our 130-year-old mill building.
Our programming continues to create meaningful days for every individual and upgrades to our facility will invigorate everything that happens under our new roof. We’re grateful for our parents, family members, guardians, employees, and community partners who support CLASS and care about its future.
President & CEO