Months of forced anti-union meetings and the hiring of an out-of-state union-busting firm on taxpayers’ dime was not enough to break workers desire to form a union. Yesterday, workers from Chester County Human Services department voted 96-56 to form a union and affiliate with Teamsters Local 384.
As Rich Eline – a social worker in the Human Services department – reported in Raging Chicken Press earlier this month, the 163 caseworkers from departments including Aging, Children and Youth, Drug & Alcohol, Mental Health/IDD and the Youth Center grew increasingly frustrated by their working conditions.
The caseworkers are charged with working with the most needy and vulnerable of the county’s citizens, in many cases those unable to care for themselves. Despite the wealth all around them, these employees are frustrated by increasing workloads and budget cutbacks. They are constantly being asked to do more with less. They have not received a raise in four years and many feel they can no longer afford to live in the county they serve. They remain the lowest paid in the 5-county Philadelphia area.
Chester County is the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania and ranks 24th on Forbes Magazine’s “25 Richest Counties” list.
Now that the votes have been counted and workers have spoken clearly in favor of unionizing, they will begin the process of negotiating their first contract. Chester County Commissioner Terence Farrell’s initial response to the union victory was encouraging, stating that he “respected the outcome of the vote.” In the next several months we will see if that respect will mean bargaining in good faith with workers who provide vital services to residents of Chester County.