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Easterseals paraprofessionals hold picket amid union contract negotiations


ROCKFORD (WREX) — Several paraprofessionals come together to demand better pay, enough staffing and safer working conditions.

Paraprofessionals with Easterseals held a picket outside of the company's building in Rockford Wednesday. The group is represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

According to AFSCME Council 31 Staff Representative Sara Dorner, workers have been in negotiations for their first union contract since June of 2020. She says workers proposed increased wages because they can't put enough staff at the facility, making it more dangerous for workers.

"The workers experience significant violence on a daily basis," said Dorner. "And we believe that we can get a strong union contract with living wages and safety conditions. They can recruit and retain quality crisis-informed, trauma-informed paraprofessionals that the students so deserve."

13 News reached out to Easterseals Serving Chicagoland and Greater Rockford for a response. They sent this statement from President and CEO Sara Ray Stoelinga.

"We trust that both Management and the Easterseals Union care deeply for our students with Autism and other behavioral disorders; students are at the center of our discussions. We continue to bargain in good faith. Equity analysis demonstrates that we provide competitive wages with the surrounding school districts and safety is an important priority. We look forward to continued discussions with the Easterseals Union."

Sara Ray Stoelinga, Easterseals Serving Chicagoland
and Greater Rockford President and CEO

Nick Landi

Nick Landi is a News Producer at 13 WREX. He has worked at WREX in that role since joining the station in 2018. He is a graduate of Illinois State University.

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