Negotiation Update: May 2020

We have been negotiating our first contract with ESS since the fall of 2019. The company stalled on scheduling bargaining sessions throughout the process. However, after many bargaining sessions we finally have tentative agreements on many issues. But our negotiations have hit a new obstacle because ESS insists that it will only agree to economic proposals if the school district pays for the cost. At the same time, the Winslow School District won’t talk to the union because they say that they aren’t the direct employer.

We are tired of ESS and the school district both passing the buck and keeping us in poverty! We have low wages, no health care, no paid days off, no retirement funding, and no respect. It is time for both ESS and the Winslow School District to pay us living wages and provide us with fair benefits. The school district direct hire staff have good wages and benefits, and we want to be brought closer to parity with them. The ESS staff used to be school district employees before the district contracted out our work. When we got contracted out, our wages were slashed, our benefits were taken away, and we lost our pensions. It is unjust that we are treated like second class citizens by the Winslow School District.

Children in the Winslow School District would benefit from paraprofessionals who were paid living wages. We are in the classrooms, buses, and lunch rooms alongside school district staff every day. But most of us have to work second jobs to be able to pay our bills, and we are exhausted and stressed out. Support Winslow children by supporting the paraprofessionals’ fight for fairness!

Bargaining Press Release


Winslow Township School District Exploits Paraprofessionals through Private Contractor

The contractor, ESS, and the School District both claim they are not accountable for Winslow paraprofessional wage increases and benefits

Winslow Township, NJ – The paraprofessionals who work for the Winslow Township School District organized a union in the fall of 2019 because they are paid low wages, have no benefits, and are not treated with respect.  The Winslow Teacher Assistants, Non-Instructional Assistants, Bus Aides, and Before and After School Program Attendants work for a contractor named ESS Support Services.  The newly-organized paraprofessional union local has been in negotiations with the school district contractor since October 2019, but both the contractor and the school district insist that the other party is responsible for the paraprofessionals’ wages and benefits. 

The Winslow Township School District contracted out its paraprofessionals approximately ten years ago.  When they were privatized, the staff immediately lost their benefits, pensions, paid time off, and their wages were slashed.  After ten years of poverty wages and no benefits, the paraprofessionals decided to organize a union with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) last year.  The paraprofessionals, who are now UE Local 119, have been in negotiations with the Winslow contractor for six months. 

On April 1st, the paraprofessionals believed that they had finally come to a union contract settlement with ESS.  However, the contractor subsequently insisted that most of the financial agreements were dependent upon the Winslow School District providing the funding for the union’s contract with ESS.  Yet, at the same time, the Winslow School District claims that it is not the employer of the subcontracted paraprofessionals, and so it refuses to discuss negotiations with the union. 

Winslow ESS Teacher Assistant and UE Local 119 bargaining committee member Sheila Wanzer said, “ESS and Winslow Township School District are partners in paying slave wages to their paraprofessionals.  They force the workers into poverty and do everything to keep us in poverty.  The actions of ESS and the school district towards the workers are shameful.  We work in the classrooms alongside Winslow teachers every day, but we are treated like second class citizens.  We have no health insurance or paid time off, while the other school staff have better pay and good benefits.  We work with students with disabilities and behavior disorders, and our jobs can often be stressful and dangerous.  The buck passing between Winslow and ESS needs to stop.”

About the UE

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) is a national labor union with tens of thousands of members.  UE members work in a number of different industries, including manufacturing, machining, driving, service industries, and government.  UE Local 119 represents approximately 200 paraprofessionals working for ESS at the Winslow School District. 

Help Winslow Township Children


The Winslow School District paraprofessionals (Teacher Assistants, Non-Instructional Assistants, Bus Aides, and Before and After School Program Attendants) work for a contractor named ESS Support Services. 

The contractor pays the TAs and other support staff low wages and provides no benefits.  ESS also keeps 26% of the money the school district pays for each contracted support staff member.

Before 2010, Winslow TAs and other paraprofessionals were direct Winslow School District employees.  When we worked directly for the district, we had better wages, benefits, and pensions.  The school district contracted us out to save money, and our wages and benefits were immediately slashed. 

COMPARISON Winslow School District Employees Winslow ESS Contracted School District Employees
Health Insurance Employer-paid, comprehensive Completely employee paid, very little coverage
Pay Clerical Assistant – $25,103-$43,766 annual Teacher Assistant – $16,560 annual*
Vacation 10 paid days Unpaid
Holidays 14 paid days Unpaid
Inclement Weather Paid any time school is closed Unpaid
Jury Leave Paid Unpaid
Sick Days 10 paid days 5 paid (Required by NJ law)
Bereavement Leave 5 paid days Unpaid
Personal Days 3 paid days Unpaid
Retirement Pension Unfunded 401K

*Teacher Assistant (TA) annual mean wages are $29,180 nationally, $29,150 in New Jersey, and $27,630 in Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington.  Winslow TAs are paid far below these levels.   Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

We care about our students, but we need living wages and benefits just like the rest of the Winslow School District employees.  ESS claims that they need more funding in their contract with Winslow School District in order to provide better wages and benefits to the TAs and other paraprofessionals.  Winslow School District is financially healthy – it can afford to provide wages for its TAs and other paraprofessionals that don’t keep us in poverty. 

Please join us in asking the Winslow School District to provide more funding in the ESS paraprofessional contract for better wages and benefits!  Email Winslow Superintendent H. Major Poteat ( and Winslow Board of Education President Cheryl Pitts ( to tell them that you support fair wages for the paraprofessionals.  Better staff treatment creates a better education environment for our community’s children.

Bargaining Update: December 2019

Our union negotiating committee met with ESS management on December 3rd, 4th, 9th, and 10th.  The company was represented by two corporate human resources representatives.

We came to tentative agreements on many non-economic proposals, including Hours of Work (we will now get 2 additional 10 minute paid breaks, and a 15 minute paid break if we work more than 8 hours), Fair Discipline, Union Administration, Seniority and Layoffs, Job Openings, Grievance Procedure, Temporary Assignments/Transfers (if union members work in a higher paid job, they will receive higher pay), Safety and Health (including reimbursement up to $20 for TB tests), Leaves of Absence, Badges, Successor Employers, No Discrimination, and Paychecks.  Tentative agreements become final when we vote on our full contract.

The union presented our economic proposals on December 10th.  The management representatives said that our proposal was too expensive, and then they said that they were too angry to continue to negotiate because our proposal for wage increases, paid time off, and benefits was ridiculous.  They said that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to the Winslow Teachers’ contract.  Then management left in the middle of the day and said that they would be in touch.

It is not ridiculous to expect decent wages and benefits for the work that we do!  ESS should come back to the negotiating table and treat us with the respect that we deserve.

We also discussed the recent emails from Kersteen regarding attendance discipline, etc.  The company agreed that no more such emails will be sent during bargaining, because we are negotiating over these issues.

If your school hasn’t chosen stewards yet, we encourage you to select them.  In the meantime, you can contact stewards from the other schools.

Union Update: October 2019

We finally have a voice! 

Now that we have a union, ESS has to bargain with us before making any changes in our wages, hours, or working conditions, including any major discipline of our members. 

If any managers try to discipline you, let us know so that we can help.  You have the right to a union representative if you are called in for a meeting that could lead to discipline. 

Our union has already been hard at work to make positive changes for ESS staff.

On October 21st, the members elected our bargaining committee:  Brookli Potts (School 1), Sheila Wanzer (School 1), Susan Madden (School 5), Marilyn Blaney (School 6), and Teresa Francesconi (School 6).

We created bargaining priorities based on the bargaining surveys we collected, and the members ratified our bargaining proposals at our October 21st meeting as well.  Wage increases, better benefits, and paid holidays were at the top of the priority list.  We are still collecting bargaining surveys, if you haven’t turned one in yet.

The bargaining committee will be meeting soon to work further on proposals and get prepared for meeting with the company.

We are circulating steward petitions in the schools.  We encourage each school and the bus aides to select at least two stewards.  Stewards help with communication, solving problems, and representing people facing discipline, among other things.

Join a committee to support our contract negotiations! 

We are all the union, and all of us have a role to play in improving our jobs.

We are forming a contract support committee, a communications committee, and parent, teacher, community, and labor outreach committees.