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‘Big victory’ at Head Start

December 10, 2019


Management for the Community Action Agency of Somerville was looking to cut costs by making Local 888 members pay more for a new health insurance plan with less-comprehensive coverage. The negotiation team held firm — and won the day.

“This was a big victory for us,” said Carla Elder, who was on the negotiating team. “Health insurance is a major concern for our members.” Most get their health insurance through CAAS, which runs Head Start in Cambridge and Somerville.

Having their own health care expert at the negotiating table allowed union members to have an independent evaluation of management’s proposals.

Under the chapter’s new contract, CAAS will continue to pay 89 percent toward workers’ health insurance. Management had sought to lower that percentage to 80 percent — and have members pay for the increases retroactively for six months.

Instead, the 45 Head Start teachers and family advocates will be able to stay on their existing health insurance plan, offered through Local 888. They won’t owe retroactive insurance payments.

“It was a huge win,” said Linda DeLuca, director of the SEIU Local 888’s Affiliated Funds. Overall, the insurance premium is set to go up by 4 percent.

Elder praised Local 888 staff who took part in negotiations: DeLuca, internal organizer Madeline Soto and chief of staff Rand Wilson. “Everybody did their part and they executed well,” said Elder, a family advocate at CAAS for more than 10 years. She recently joined the Local 888 Executive Board.

CAAS and Montachusetts Opportunity Council Head Start workers are united in SEIU Local 888. But thousands of other Head Start workers in Massachusetts don't have the benefits of a union contract and a voice at work. Do you know someone in a Head Start program interested in the benefits of collective bargaining? Contact or call (617) 241-3300.