Elevating Education Support Professionals Through Union Power
Are you an Education Support Professional (ESP) at Jeffco Public Schools, searching for a way to enhance your career and contribute to a better future? Look no further – joining the Jeffco Education Support Professionals Association (JESPA) is the key to unlocking your potential and driving positive change in your workplace! Here are the top 10 reasons why becoming a JESPA member isn’t just beneficial for you, but for the broader workforce, your students, and our community!
- Empowerment Through Collective Action
Becoming a JESPA member means uniting with colleagues to strengthen your collective voice. For instance, JESPA’s organizing efforts have led to holding our district officials accountable, securing a $18.40 minimum wage for all bargaining unit employees, a 47% increase to the wage schedule, plus 4 step increases, improved benefits, improved leave policies, fairer hiring practices, and MORE in just the last two years – a significant step in improving compensation and ensuring fairness.
JESPA Members stand with our community partners and our organization is a member of Coloradoans for the Common Good. Together, we have taken collective action to increase school funding at the state level, passed legislation to ensure all students have access to free school meals, and stood with our community allies on issues like housing, community health, safe working conditions, internet access, and so much more.
- Secure Fair Compensation and Benefits
JESPA is committed to ensuring Education Support Professionals receive equitable compensation and comprehensive benefits. Nationwide data consistently reveals that unionized workers enjoy better wages and benefits compared to their non-union counterparts.
In 2021, In Jeffco, JESPA’s bargaining prowess resulted in raising starting pay by $2.50/hour to $15 for the lowest-paid workers and, with steps, an overall increase of $3.70/hour, a remarkable 30% raise for the lowest-paid workers.
Now, we have secured $18.40 minimum wage, a 47% increase to the wage schedule since 2021, plus 4-step increases, and improved benefits contributions from $515 to $579 per month.
- Improved Job Security
Union membership correlates with enhanced job security. With JESPA leaders by your side, you’re better positioned to navigate workplace changes, ensuring your career stability and well-being. JESPA members’ tireless advocacy contributed to language in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that protect members against arbitrary layoffs and unjust dismissals.
When the district violates our member’s rights to due process and just cause, there is recourse. Through grievances, members have overturned unjust terminations and returned to their jobs with full backpay.
- Access to Skill Enhancement
JESPA membership provides access to targeted professional development and training opportunities specifically designed for ESPs. Continuous improvement through skill enhancement sets you up for career advancement and personal growth. JESPA’s training programs have empowered members to become leaders, and lead to networking and skill building collaboratively, fostering upward mobility.
JESPA has long advocated for increased professional development in the district for ESPs. Just last year, Jeffco added ESP professional learning staff. Prior this department was only focused on administrators and teachers! Now we are seeing departments offering professional learning opportunities for staff before school starts and throughout the school year.
JESPA members are also members of the Colorado Education Association (CEA) and the National Education Association (NEA). Through our state and national affiliates, there are opportunities for professional learning through our member benefits!
- Shape Your Working Conditions and Learning Conditions for Students
By participating in collective bargaining through JESPA, you can actively shape your work environment. From optimal staffing levels to improved classroom resources, your input influences policies that directly impact your professional life and the experiences of students!
For example, JESPA’s successful negotiations last year led to the introduction of a pilot program for healthy, local food options in schools, promoting healthier learning conditions for students and increased staffing levels in our school kitchens! We plan to stand with our community and continue to expand this healthy food pilot!
JESPA members have held district administrators accountable for negative workplace culture and disrespect toward support staff, as well as questionable financial practices, favoritism, and more. This has led to the termination of administrators who were once deemed “untouchable.” We now have a new Chief Operations Officer and other cabinet level officials who we will to work with to shift culture in Jeffco.
JESPA has pushed to shift treatment toward ESPs from punitive to supportive and a change to the approach of Employee Relations. Any mistake used to lead to a legal investigation, as Employee Relations was also the Legal Services department. Now, Employee Relations is in the HR department. We went from several arbitrations per year, lawsuits, and complaints to zero arbitrations this year. For the most part, grievances were acknowledged and settled without legal intervention.
- Thrive in a Supportive Network
JESPA members welcome you into a supportive community of fellow ESPs who share your passion and dedication. This network fosters meaningful connections, the exchange of experiences, and valuable insights for your personal and professional growth. Regular JESPA events, gatherings, and workshops provide opportunities to build camaraderie and share best practices.
- Equal and Fair Treatment over Favoritism and Nepotism
JESPA champions systemic changes within the education system, combating issues such as corruption, harassment, and discrimination. Your membership contributes to a broader movement toward a more accountable and inclusive educational environment. JESPA’s efforts against public school administrator corruption and mistreatment of ESPs has led to the retrieval of nearly $2 million in backpay and settlements the past couple of years, highlighting our commitment to justice.
- Tailored Support and Resources
Facing workplace challenges is more manageable with JESPA’s personalized assistance, resources, and guidance. You’ll have the support you need to navigate through issues effectively. JESPA’s dedicated building reps, local leadership, and organizing staff ensure that your concerns are heard and welcomed. In the event you need further support in a workplace challenge, JESPA’s collective advocacy provides and outlet for demanding change together, instead of alone. Our grievance work ensures that if your rights have been violated, we can enforce the contract and work toward a fair outcome.
9. Influence Policy and Legislation
As a JESPA member, you become part of a formidable advocacy force that shapes policies and legislation affecting education and workers’ rights. Unions consistently contribute to positive societal changes. JESPA’s involvement in lobbying and engaging with lawmakers has directly impacted policy decisions that affect education support professionals.
For example, this past legislative session, JESPA advocated for
JESPA fights against unsafe working conditions and by filing a grievance when some employees and not others were forced to work in extremely cold temperatures (30 below), JESPA was able to win an extra personal day for all operations employees that worked, as well as a seat at the table to update and clarify inclement weather policy to better protect workers.
10. Contributing to Community Progress
Joining JESPA isn’t just about your personal growth – it’s about contributing to a broader movement. Unions have a proven track record of elevating workers’ rights, wages, and working conditions, leading to better lives for all.
By embracing JESPA, you’re not just investing in your future; you’re joining a nationwide movement dedicated to transforming the education landscape and enhancing the lives of workers everywhere. Take the step today, and together, let’s shape a brighter future for all.