Fed up with high turnover, unsafe staffing, and low wages, educators who work with students with autism at the Groden Center went on a 1-day strike today in Providence. This is an unfair labor practice strike.
After months of negotiations, management still refuses to raise starting rate for staff to a living wage, says SEIU 1199. The union says that failure to pay a living wage to staff has resulted in the following:
- 30 percent staff turnover
- Dozens of unfilled classroom positions covered daily by less trained, inconsistent, temporary workers
- Daily, unnecessary injuries and unsafe situations for staff and students
- Inconsistent IEP implementation and data tracking
“We are out here because it is not safe for us at work,” said behavioral specialist Samantha Lozeau, as seen in the video below. “We have constant staff turnover[and] temporary staff being used. All of us here today have gone through extensive training. We continue to go through training to make sure that we can give our students what they need – and this new staff coming in just doesn’t have that.
The students served at the Groden Center have autism and other behavioral disorders. “In their diagnosis they need consistency, and they’re not getting that,” said Lozeau. “One way that they can get that is if [the Groden Center] raises wages to a livable wage, and they’re not willing to do that.”
The constant turn-over and overuse of temporary less trained staff not only deprives students of a quality education, it has resulted in increased occurrences of injuries and unsafe situations for students and staff.
While Behavior Specialists start at just $11.70/hr ($21,294 per year), managers make six-figure salaries and Groden has given out million-dollar retirement packages, says SEIU. The union estimates that Groden currently pays hundreds of thousands per year on temporary staff. This is an estimate because the Groden Center is currently charged with an Unfair Labor Practice by the National Labor Relations Board for failure to share information regarding resources spent on temporary staff.
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