Head Start Narrowly Averts Strike
By Luke Tracy
minute contract vote last Friday by the employees of Lorain County
Community Action Agency, represented by the Service Employees International
Union Local 1199, narrowly avoided a strike that could have potentially
disrupted services to low-income residents of Lorain County.
Seven Oberlin College students work at the Oberlin LCCAA Head Start
site located on Rt. 58, just past Drug Mart through the America
Reads program, coordinated by the Center for Service and Learning.
While contract negotiations had been ongoing since June, management
and employees had long been at an impasse over key issues. The old
contract, set to expire July 30th, had been temporarily extended
three times since then.
At issue were wages, health care costs, employee transfers within
the agency and absenteeism. The new contract was approved 85-25
by the union and will be in effect for the next three years.
LCCAA is a publicly funded anti-poverty agency that provides such
services for low-income residents of Lorain County as Meals on Wheels
and low-cost housing.
The new contract guarantees employees a 3.5 percent salary increase
for this year; retroactive to August 1, when the contract had been
originally scheduled to take effect.
Currently, a Head Start teacher starts at $10.18 per hour with an
associates degree to and $11.45 per hour with a bachelor’s
degree. After this year, salaries will increase according to the
federal Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) and what funds are available
for additional increases.
Another point of contention had been the employee contribution to
health care costs. Management wanted to increase the percentage
of the premium paid by employees to 15 percent with the remaining
85 percent paid by the employer from ten percent by employees and
the remaining 90 percent paid by the organization in the old contract.
The union prevailed to keep the employee contribution at 10 percent,
arguing that the already low salaries, combined with an increased
healthcare cost would lock employees into the kind of grinding poverty
that the agency is supposed to be working against.
The agency, meanwhile, remains in a bit of a financial bind. Traditionally,
the federal government provided a “Quality Improvement Grant”
to augment salaries of agency employees and supervisors among other
For the past fiscal year, that grant was in the neighborhood of
$300,000. For the upcoming year, that grant was cut to $41,000.
This means that the organization will have to look elsewhere for
the funds for the 3.5 percent salary increase for all employees
Compounding the agency’s workforce and financial issues, LCCAA
President Anna Taylor-Carter has come under fire for misusing agency
funds and buildings for her own purposes.
Taylor-Carter had the agency’s catering service cater her
wedding for which she was charged what some felt was an overly discounted
rate and did not pay the bill until nine months after the event.
She also paid for airline tickets for her husband, a minister who
is not an employee of the agency using an agency credit card, another
charge she took quite some time to pay back and allowed him to use
an LCCAA leased building for his religious services free of charge.
In spite of these allegations, the LCCAA Board of Trustees plans
to renew Taylor-Carter’s contract.
President Taylor-Carter’s salary has also rubbed many in the
union the wrong way. They contend that her salary of $100,118 per
year is too high, especially in light of her misuses of agency resources.
The president of the community action agency serving the Youngstown
area, which has a similarly sized program and budget is paid only
$73,387 per year, which the Union contended would be more appropriate.
Taylor-Carter has also traveled to Hawaii for a conference with
the agency’s money which although, not unethical, has made
for bad blood between the union and management.
Chief union organizer and negotiator, Maria Kawentel of SEIU didn’t
that contract negotiations are behind us, its the Union’s
hope that the employer quit fiddling with the financial records
to make it look as though Anna Taylor Carter is Snow White when
she is in fact Cruella Deville,” she said.
did not return calls seeking comment.