SEIU Local 888 leaders continued to press their campaign to improve working conditions at the Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers Homes during a second meeting with a top state official.
And they called the meeting with Marylou Sudders, the state’s secretary of health and human services, a success.
“I can tell you that Sudders is listening – especially with Brenda (Local 888 President Rodrigues) there, they’re all listening,” said Kwesi Ablordeppey, a CNA and the Holyoke Home’s Local 888 chapter chair. “We’re making progress.”
Sudders had the superintendents from both Soldiers Homes attend the March meeting. Also there: Francisco Urena, state secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Services.
“Sudders has a problem-solving attitude,” said Joe Montagna, Local 888 internal organizer. “And it’s been great for members to talk together, share their experiences and, collectively, bring their issues forward.”
Rodrigues said, “It was phenomenal to see Secretary Sudders listen to our members and say to the Soldiers Homes’ management: ‘You’ll take care of this at the local level, right?’ ”
Union members blame Holyoke Home management for causing high turnover. The causes include: understaffing, excessive forced overtime and a hostile work environment generating a pileup of grievances.
Sudders said that the state now has a contractor to perform separate staffing studies for each Soldiers Home.
The Holyoke Home, which of course operates around the clock, has hired more staff. But, Ablordeppey said, there are still vacancies for 19 CNA positions and 8 LPNs there.
The meeting with state officials is part of a campaign by Holyoke Local 888 members to seek improvements. They have organized T-shirt protests and delivered a petition to management saying they had no confidence in either the director or assistant director of nursing.