Workers at Child Development Services demand respect for essential services they provide


CDS workers rally May 2 for quality services and a fair contract outside CDS Reach on Forest Avenue in Portland.

Workers for the publicly funded agency known as Child Development Services rallied Monday, May 2, outside the CDS Reach office in Portland to demand respect for the essential services they provide. They called on management to address key issues impacting CDS services and their pay and working conditions.

Over 360 CDS workers provide essential services to children with developmental disabilities throughout Maine. Represented by the Maine Service Employees Association, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, they have been working without contracts since Dec. 31 even though negotiations have been under way since last fall. They work in professional- and support-level positions at multiple CDS sites statewide, including nine regional offices and numerous childcare facilities serving Maine’s youngest children and their families in every corner of Maine.

“CDS workers see their value in their efforts to address challenges for our youngest population, yet management doesn’t value the young families of our workers,” MSEA-SEIU Member Erin Leaman-Farley, Case Manager CDS Reach, Portland, said in support of her coworkers’ demand for paid parental leave in the contract negotiations. “We are educators supporting children and families every day, yet we cannot support our own families! We demand the respect and professionalism that we give every day. We deserve the right to bond with our own children, especially during the critical time after childbirth. CDS employees work endlessly despite oversized caseloads, poor compensation and harassment and retaliation. We are ready for a fair contract. We are ready for management to see our value and give us more than the bare minimum!”

Another key issue for the CDS workers in the contract negotiations is remote work.

“When the pandemic hit, most of the CDS staff was accustomed to working in homes, childcares and preschools,” explained MSEA-SEIU Member Laurie Brown, service coordinator for CDS York. “We adjusted and adapted as educators do, developing options for remote services, then to in-person and now a hybrid option. We are able to accommodate families much better with options. We are asking to continue the good work we have been doing in the manner families have found successful.”

The CDS workers also cited recruitment and retention issues at CDS worksites driven largely by low pay.

“The people who do this job do it because they love it, but we’re losing people rapidly because they’re finding jobs with better pay and better benefits. We’re losing families because we just don’t have enough staff,” said MSEA-SEIU Member Tammy Talbot, Service Coordinator at CDS First Steps in Lewiston.

Meg Sigovich, early intervention provider at CDS  Reach, Portland, added, “I have a lot of colleagues who have left, because they didn’t have a parental leave policy. A lot of my colleagues haven’t had fair raises for a long time, which has created a high turnover rate, which means our clients aren’t getting experienced people who have been here for a long time. It also makes the work that much harder for the people who are here, when we constantly are losing valuable employees to other positions with the same benefits. It’s going to take all of us at CDS coming together to stand united in solidarity and fight for the fair contract and fair working conditions that we deserve.”

The CDS workers have started an online petition in which Maine people can show their support for the CDS workers and demand management negotiate contracts that address key issues like paid parental leave, remote work and fair compensation.


Updated: May 5, 2022 — 12:29 PM