Wellesley’s Union & Labor Advocacy Taskforce, UniLAd, is planning to collaborate with the Wellesley Educators Association, the largest union in the town of Wellesley. Educators who work in the Wellesley public school district have been without a contract since July 1, 2022. The WEA aims to secure a contract that guarantees five things: proper time for lesson planning; pay increases; the right to due process; full-time arts, music, physical education and library educators; and paid parental leave.
The average teacher in the Wellesley public school district makes $63,453 annually, with some Educational Support Professionals making less than $25,000 a year. WEA president Kyle Gekopi said the majority of educators often have to find housing in towns about an hour outside of Wellesley since the cost of living in Wellesley is 98% higher than the national average.
“Most of our educators are priced out of not just Wellesley, but all of the towns surrounding Wellesley,” said Gekopi. “Right now, we’re looking at an 11% increase over four years and the current inflation rate is 11% over four years, which means we’ll be making the same money we made in 2021.”
In March, the WEA passed a vote of no confidence against the Wellesley school committee and the superintendent of the Wellesley public school district. The vote of no confidence came after the School Committee’s choice to communicate with the WEA through a mediator instead of opening up a discussion about the contract demands with the WEA directly.
“We went to the school committee to say ‘let’s work together’ and they turned us away,” said Gekopi. “We’re making no progress because the process of having a mediator is entrenching both sides, so there’s no back and forth discussion.”
At their last mediation session on April 9, the School Committee bargaining team anticipated a counter to their proposed package that was introduced in March to the WEA in an attempt to meet their contract demands. Members of the bargaining committee, Linda Chow and Catherine Mirick, reported that the WEA did not come with a counteroffer.
“The WEA team worked on a package while at the session and, more than two hours later, presented the School Committee with a document that included minimal movement and little sign of compromise,” said Chow and Mirick.
Recently, the WEA’s activity grabbed the attention of UniLAd. President of UniLAd Hannah Grimmett ’25 said she sees a connection with WEA as an opportunity to build a connection with the town of Wellesley and with other union workers.
“I think that a major component of labor organizing is coalition building and solidarity, not just within your own union, but across different groups within a community because it’s really about how it’s impacting the community, especially when it comes to educators,” said Grimmett. “Everyone has a vested interest in making sure that public schools and the educators that make them run succeed in any community. Since we are in a college town, and I know that people in Wellesley care deeply about education, specifically public education.”
UniLAd wishes to support the WEA with any rallies, petitions or efforts to ensure that their five demands are met in their contracts. Grimmet believes one way Wellesley students and Wellesley educators can build a strong alliance is through the shared struggle that educators and college students face of affording Wellesley.
“Definitely for me, and any student I’ve talked to, we don’t feel like we’re a part of the town,” said Grimmet. “We’re students at Wellesley College, but there’s a very distinct disconnect, and there’s obviously a lot of reasons for that. Wellesley as a town is not a place where you can go and get fast food or get groceries because everything is pretty expensive. I know that a lot of teachers, especially paraprofessionals and support staff in those schools are in that same situation.”
The WEA will meet with the School Committee for their next mediation about educator contracts on April 25.
“We need to keep the pressure on the school committee,” said Gekopi. “We need to keep showing and taking actions to show the town that there’s an injustice present.”