YWCA signs first community benefit agreement in Worcester history

Originally posted on Worcester Magazine.

As organizers continue to pursue a community benefit agreement for the Worcester Red Sox ballpark project, the YWCA of Central Massachusetts has signed on to the city’s first-ever community benefit agreement for a $24-million renovation of the organization’s Salem Square building.

The benefits agreement dictates a 100-percent women-led construction management team, 100-percent living wage jobs for construction workers with benefits, and diversity guidelines for who the construction company hires and brings on as apprentices.

“How great is this,” said Frank T. Kartheiser, a member of the Worcester Community Labor Coalition, to cheers at the announcement Friday afternoon. “This is the way you do business. This is 21st-century business. This is how it works. People say ‘why would you have a CBA?’ Well, why wouldn’t you.”

Community benefits agreements have emerged in the past few years as effective tools for securing local benefits for economic development projects, like local hiring and purchasing, protections against gentrification, and built in benefit for nearby residents once the project comes online.

The agreement comes as organizers with the Community Labor Coalition continue to pursue a community benefit agreement with the city and the Pawtucket Red Sox organization for the ballpark set to go in the Canal District by 2021. While the city and the CLA have entered negotiations, there has been no news on what might be in any possible agreement.

At an announcement Friday afternoon, Mayor Joe Petty and others alluded to a possible CBA for the ballpark.

“We also have this coming hopefully with the Red Sox and the stadium,” he said.

Linda Cavaioli, YWCA director, cut him off.

“But we’re first” she said, to laughter from the room.

The YWCA renovations will be carried out by an all-woman construction management team put together by Milford-based Consigli Construction. Per the agreement the company will set preferences for hiring women construction workers and apprenticeships.

As for the push for a Worcester Red Sox CBA, labor coalition organizers are hosting a community forum Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the PNI Club, starting at 5:30 p.m. The event will feature speakers from other cities which saw successful CBA agreements, like Odessa Kelly from Stand Up Nashville. Last year, the organization secured a robust CBA attached to a professional soccer stadium development.