Organizing Works

ESPs’ big gains on the Eastern Shore mean more power and influence at the bargaining table and beyond

Members from the four counties are networking and learning from one another at events like the recent ESP Eastern Shore Leadership Training.

When education support profession­als on the Eastern Shore won a long, hard-fought battle for collective bar­gaining rights in 2003, it was the very last group of public school education employees in the state to do so. Old habits and ways of thinking died hard on the shore at the time, and the win, five years after ESPs in the western part of the state won their right to bargain, was one MSEA knew it would need to be vigilantly protected.

Five years ago, MSEA again took action to strengthen ESP locals across the state. On the Eastern Shore, special attention was paid this past year to Caroline, Cecil, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties and the result is a newly invigo­rated — and growing — ESP member­ship. “We targeted the locals most vulnerable to outside anti-union attacks and supplied resources, staff, support, and training to our mem­bers there,” said President Cheryl Bost. “We focused on the power of building level member-to-member recruitment, local organizing events, and MSEA and NEA training events.

“This infusion strengthened the locals and our success, and confi­dence, is snowballing,” Bost added.

“The growth of education support professionals’ membership on the Eastern Shore shows us that focused grassroots member organizing works,” said Karen Fields, president of the merged Queen Anne’s County Education Association. “I’m proud to see our membership grow — it means better contracts and work­ing conditions, more influence and power with decision-makers, and continued excellence in the services our dedicated support professionals provide to every school and worksite.”