The Literacy Project’s Journey to Unionization

A Western Massachusetts program chooses to organize.

Part of our series of articles about unionized adult education programs in Massachusetts.


The Literacy Project, a community-based organization comprised of about 20 staff working at nine sites in Western Mass., has been a unionized program for the past decade. Workers organized there after a newly-hired director transformed their democratically run, supportive workplace into a strict hierarchy, where information was not shared and long-term staff were written up for asking questions.

After a series of unsuccessful efforts to meet with the director, staff began talking to various unions about organizing and also went to their Board of Directors to express both their concerns and their interest in unionizing. The Board supported their efforts to unionize and eventually the director left.

The Literacy Project staff chose the United Electrical Workers (UE) to represent them because they liked UE’s approach, which is to offer the support that’s needed but not impose a structure or process that every workplace has to follow. With UE’s help, the staff negotiated a contract that secured their pay and benefits and won them the right to lay-off over the summer (which previously had gone unpaid).

The relationship between staff, management, and the Board has been amicable and  cooperative under this system. The Board works hard to fundraise so that employees can maintain a living wage, benefits, and job security. Labor-management teams resolve issues that arise and problem-solve fair ways to apportion scarce resources during contract negotiations.

For more information about the U.E.,
visit or contact:
United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE), Northeast Region
5 Hill Street
Taunton, MA 02780
(774) 264-0110

The Literacy Project offers classes in Amherst, North Quabbin, Ware, Northampton, and Greenfield.
(413) 774-3934

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