Wilmington Educational Assistants Ask For A “Living Wage” In Contract Negotiations With School Committee, Currently Make $16K-$27K Per Year

WILMINGTON, MA — Members of the Wilmington Educational Assistants Union, along with many supporters, packed the Wilmington School Committee meeting on Wednesday night as the union increases public pressure on the committee during contract negotiations.

“The educational assistants of Wilmington are currently involved in a living wage campaign. The campaign is to inform our community about a serious injustice that continues to take place within our school district,” said Jane Woods, a 20-year veteran educational assistant and lifelong Wilmington resident, during the meeting’s Public Comments section. “The compensation that our educational assistants receive is at or below today’s poverty level. Our lowest educational assistant receives $16,000 per year in wages, and our highest educational assistant receives approximately $27,000 in wages. I ask you — could YOU live on these wages?”

“We, the Educational Assistants, are a fiercely dedicated and loyal group that nurtures the souls and minds of our school children. While supporting Wilmington’s children, we’ve fallen victim to the notion that we don’t deserve a living wage because we’re just educational assistants,” continued Woods. “Working as an educational assistant not only consists of supporting children with their academic journey, but also with their emotional journey…. I’m a mother. A teacher. A social worker. A nurse. An ear that listens. A heart that cares and loves. I’m so much more than my Educational Assistant title, yet my compensation tells me I’m worth very little.”

“Many of the educational assistants who work in Wilmington also live in Wilmington. We’ve dedicated our lives to a school system that doesn’t seem dedicated to us,” observed Woods. “Wilmington is currently in the planning stages of a combined School Administration Building/Town Hall, a state-of-the-art building will be another tax burden placed on the tax people. How can our school officials except the lowest paid officials to absorb yet another tax increase when the practice of not paying the educational assistants a livable wage continues year after year.”

“A good business practice is to always invest in your most loyal employees. I respectfully ask the Wilmington School Committee to once again consider the needs of their Education Assistants and pay us a livable wage so we can continue to educate and care for the children of Wilmington,” concluded Woods.

Linda Scifo, a retired educational assistant and 60-year resident, also spoke in support of the union’s “living wage” campaign. She recounted the disrespect she was shown and frustration she felt when part of negotiations in the late 90’s.

“This unit of hard working professionals needs to be paid and treated as the heroes they are,” urged Scifo.

The Vice President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Deb McCarthy, was the evening’s final speaker.

“A budget is a value statement. I was so moved by both people who spoke tonight. You really do have a responsibility to have your values reflected in your budget,” she stressed.

McCarthy also criticized the School Committee for not taking public comments earlier in their meeting, necessitating union member and their supporters to wait for 90 minutes.

“I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but you should have allowed them to speak. They’ve been working all day, and to sit here for an hour and a half, to then have the opportunity to speak their truths, seemed disrespectful. I know it wasn’t meant that way,” said McCarthy.

The School Committee did not provide a response at the meeting, as it typically does not offer public comments during ongoing contract negotiations.

The Wilmington Educational Assistants Union and supporters held a standout outside the High School, prior to the Meeting, and lined the hallway outside the Committee’s meeting room. Many were wearing red and and holding signs that read “Fighting For A Living Wage.”

The Union has also been conducting standouts in front of schools and collecting petition signatures outside of Market Basket. Their online petition currently has over 1,400 signatures.

The petition calls for “respectful wages of at least $30,000 a year, more stability at work, and more professional opportunities for growth.”

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Linda Scifo

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