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Lawrence Community Shelter staff members are unionizing, they announce

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Staff members of the Lawrence Community Shelter are unionizing with CWA Local 6400.

They have asked shelter management to voluntarily recognize their union, according to a news release from the union Monday evening.

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The low-barrier emergency shelter serves people experiencing homelessness.

“We must ensure that we as workers are able to adequately and effectively provide care for the unhoused people of Lawrence,” shelter staff member Jacob Schmill said in the release. “That means ensuring that staff feel safe and supported in their role, and that the shelter will continue to provide essential services in the years to come.”

The City of Lawrence, Douglas County and the shelter recently announced that the shelter is moving to a system of shared governance. We have reached out to all parties seeking comment for this article but did not immediately hear back Monday night.

“I’m excited to see the direction this takes us. I hope that we are able to negotiate a contract that allows for us to properly serve our community,” shelter staff member Dean Robinson said in the release. “This is a significant step in building worker power and empowering those experiencing homelessness.” 

Staff member Maisie Hotvedt said in the release that everyone who rents property and even those who own it are at risk of becoming unhoused because that can come without warning, and “if the safety net we’ve built is dysfunctional and ineffective, something must change.”

“By forming a union of shelter workers we may be able to better serve those that have fallen through that net and eventually be more prepared to support them before they fall,” Hotvedt said in the release.

Hannah Allison-Natale, president of CWA Local 6400, said they are building a powerful union of public sector and nonprofit workers who support and care for the poor and vulnerable in our society.

The union also represents hourly staff at Lawrence Public Schools, workers at Kansas Action for Children and more.

“We are excited to welcome the workers of Lawrence Community Shelter into our union local,” Allison-Natale said in the release. “We are ready to fight together for good working conditions for all workers and high quality public services for all!”

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