Sign on to the English Works Campaign

agrees to support and participate in the English Works Campaign.
As a signatory to English Works, our organization agrees to be listed on English Works materials and will have a seat on the Campaign Committee.
We enter into this voluntary agreement with English Works in a spirit of partnership and collaboration, and with a vision of a Commonwealth that provides all residents with a pathway to economic self-sufficiency; ensures a stable, skilled workforce for Massachusetts businesses today and in the future; and integrates immigrants into the fabric of our economy, communities and shared civic life.

Human Services

When Odette Guillaume arrived in the United States from Haiti in 1976, she needed a job badly, but could barely speak English. Guillaume eventually found work at a laundromat, where she was able to pick up some words and phrases. Later on, the mother of four signed up for English classes at a community learning center, but found she was stretched too thin to attend regularly. “I dropped it,” she recalls, “because it was too hard for me to take care of my family and go to school.”

Guillaume would remain at her next job as a Mental Retardation Worker 1 (MRW1) at the Fernald Development Center (FDC) in Waltham, MA, a state-run residential facility for persons with severe disabilities, for the next three decades. Guillaume is finally attending English classes again, this time at her workplace. Through a partnership between her union, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 402, and FDC, Guillaume takes English and computer classes twice each week. FDC is one of the state’s few remaining residential care facilities for persons with severe disabilities.

“We are a human service provider, and you have to be able to process information and relay information effectively to get promoted beyond the direct care level,” says Jack Spillane, an executive board member of Local 402 and a supervising MRW4.

With management’s support, The Worker Education Program (WEP) and the union received a three-year grant from the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The program has been so successful that the union and FDC administrators are hoping to extend the grant another two years. Administration provides employees release time to go to the two-hour class twice per week. Employees are paid in full for the first hour of class. Attendance is nearly perfect and not one student has dropped the class.

The WEP helped Local 402 and FDC design an English curriculum that would help participants pass a medical certification test, which is required for administering medication and gaining employment at most community-based care facilities. The teacher includes elements of the test’s difficult word problems and the daily responsibilities of an MRW in her lessons. Employees who were once unable to pass or even attempt the test have become certified.

Improvements in English proficiency have enabled the staff to use “daybooks” more effectively to log client activities. Other notable improvements include an increase in participation from newly proficient English speakers at union meetings and functions. Outside of Fernald, the English classes have had a tremendous impact on the lives of participating

“I think everybody genuinely believes this is positive
…I haven’t heard one negative comment about it.”

— Jack Spillane, Executive Board Member of Local 402 and MRW4

employees, many of whom came to the U.S. from Haiti during the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier.

The investment made by Local 402 and FDC prepares the workers as they face an uncertain future in jobs that already have many built-in challenges. The program serves 24 students each year.


Fernald Development Center
Linda Montminy
200 Trapelo Road
Waltham, MA 02452
Phone: 781-894-3600

AFSCME Local 402
Guy Raphael
Phone: 781-894-3600 x2456

Worker Education Program
Esther Leonelli
150 Mount Vernon Street, Suite 300
Dorchester, MA 02125
Phone: 617-284-1228

MA Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education
Adult and Community Learning Services
Phone: 781-338-3858