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St. Coletta’s workers protest for pay raise

Uniemployees St. Coletta's Illinois Tinley Park protested Wednesday demanding living wage new unicontract they are negotiating. The workers said they

Union employees at St. Coletta's of Illinois in Tinley Park protested Wednesday, demanding a living wage in the new union contract they are negotiating. The workers said they have not received a raise in more than 10 years. | Nick Swedberg ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 10, 2014 6:36AM



Caregivers and teachers with St. Coletta’s of Illinois demonstrated Wednesday afternoon outside the agency’s building in Tinley Park, demanding a living wage in their new contract after going without a pay raise for more than 10 years.

The more than 270 union employees of St. Coletta’s, which provides vocational training and housing for those with developmental and physical disabilities, are seeking a $1 an hour pay hike in the new contract, while St. Coletta’s has offered an increase of 10 cents per hour, according to Jeff Dexter, staff representative for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.

About 70 percent of the union employees work in 27 group homes operated by St. Coletta’s in the Southland, while the rest are based at the main office in Tinley Park.

Employees have not received a direct raise from St. Coletta’s in more than 10 years, Dexter said.

“Some folks who have worked there for 25 years are barely making over $11 an hour,” he said.

The workers did get a 3 percent, end-of-year bonus under their old contract that expired at the end of 2013.

A message left with St. Coletta’s on Wednesday evening was not immediately returned. The SouthtownStar also attempted to get comment about the planned protest from the nonprofit agency earlier in the afternoon.

Some of the workers work two or three jobs just to get by, Dexter said.

Pam Ellis, 51, of Chicago Heights, works as residential aide and training specialist at St. Coletta’s. She has been there for four years and never has received a pay raise, she said.

St. Coletta’s receives funding from the state of Illinois and its foundation. In the past, employees have received pay hikes when they were mandated by the state.

Employees said they also have concerns about safety, specifically attacks from some of the residents of the group homes.

Mary Feaster, 62, of Tinley Park, has been with St. Coletta’s for six years after teaching in public schools for 20 years. Feaster said she has suffered multiple work-related injuries at the agency, including a broken wrist after being attacked by one of the residents.

“We’re getting more and more students that are difficult to handle,” she said.

Another protest is planned this month over alleged safety violations by St. Coletta’s, Dexter said. He said the workers also plan to travel May 31 to Milwaukee to speak with officials of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, the order of nuns that operates the Illinois and Wisconsin branches of St. Coletta’s.



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