Lawrence Community Shelter board votes to ratify collective bargaining agreement with staff union

Share this post or save for later

The Lawrence Community Shelter board of directors on Thursday evening voted to ratify the first collective bargaining agreement with the unionized staff. 

“This agreement symbolizes not only a written document, but also the strength of collective action and the belief and a brighter future for everyone involved,” said Bella Kurtz, LCS staff member and union member. 

Kurtz said the new contract includes pay raises starting at $20 per hour for all staff members, flexible holidays to accommodate diverse traditions, paid FMLA and parental leave, and a combined PTO rule and employer contributions to the retirement fund. 

The board moved into executive session to discuss the proposed collective bargaining agreement for a little more than an hour before coming back and making a motion to approve the CBA. 

LCS staff members announced in October that they were unionizing with CWA Local 6400. The move came right around the same time the City of Lawrence, Douglas County and the shelter announced that the shelter was moving to a system of shared governance. 

In December, the union announced that 21 staff members had voted unanimously to unionize. Six eligible staff members did not cast ballots. 

“This vote was not merely a call for change. It was a declaration of unity and dedication to the well-being of both staff and guests,” Kurtz said.

Staff members and union supporters attended a Lawrence City Commission meeting in March to push commissioners to increase funding to the shelter in order to increase staff wages. 

Jake Miller is a Kansas City-based labor attorney who typically represents unions but has occasionally represented management for progressive organizations that unionize. He has represented the shelter board through contract negotiations. He also addressed commissioners in March on behalf of the board and LCS management to show support for the workers. 

“These workers are the backbone of LCS, and LCS wouldn’t be able to work without them,” Miller said. “And so the importance of being able to give them a living wage and better benefits is highly important to the board and LCS management.”

Board President Charlie Bryan said Thursday that he appreciated the collaboration that the board and employees have had together to get to this point. Board Treasurer Rebekah Gaston echoed his sentiments. 

Kurtz said the contract “will improve staff retention strengthen our relationships with those we serve and provide consistent support to individuals experiencing homelessness.”

“Today we celebrate a triumph of solidarity and compassion,” Kurtz said. “Together we will continue to serve as a beacon of hope, empowering others to rebuild their lives.”

If our local journalism matters to you, please help us keep doing this work.
Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters

Click here to learn more about our newsletters first

Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

Latest Lawrence news:


Previous Article

Jury acquits man charged in beating death of Lawrence man

Next Article

Lawrence police to conduct DUI saturation patrol