Pulling together in COVID-19 times

NASCIMENTO

KEVIN NASCIMENTO: Local 888 secretary-treasurer.

“During the global pandemic, our union’s top priority has been protecting the health of our members and getting them the safety equipment that they need,” said Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues. “Nowhere was this more evident than at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.”

Rodrigues said: “I’ve never been so proud of our union, our staff and our members as I was during the crisis there. I’m proud of how our leaders stood up for the vets and for their co-workers.”

The local’s president spoke about Holyoke and the state of the union during the recent Local 888 Convention. Over 150 members participated in the online event.

In contrast to the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Rodrigues said, “management at most employers has been a good partner — working with our chapter leaders to ensure access to PPE and safe workplaces.”

In fact, the two top officials in charge of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home during the COVID-19 outbreak have been arraigned on criminal neglect charges related to the deaths of at least 76 veterans. (See related article, below.)

“It was Local 888 that gathered the evidence of gross mismanagement and first brought it to the attention of the governor,” added Rodrigues.

Ultimately, the state took a number of measures to stabilize the situation, including bringing in the National Guard (For a full report, see http://www.seiu888.org/2020/07/16/weve-been-vindicated/.)

Fittingly for the COVID-19 era, the convention keynote speaker was Carlene Pavlos, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association.

Local 888 Executive Board member and Emerson College chapter leader Shaylin Walsh-Hogan introduced Pavlos, who promoted the State Action for Public Health Excellence bill in the Legislature. It would reform the state’s fragmented public health system.

Executive board member and Holyoke Soldiers’ Home chapter leader Kwesi Ablordeppey introduced a resolution in support of the legislation that members voted to adopt overwhelmingly.

That was the first of three convention resolutions, which were all supported by the executive board and the convention as a whole. (For the full text of the resolutions adopted by the convention, see http://www.seiu888.org/convention.)

Jonathan Dudley, chapter member at the Montachusett Opportunity Council, introduced a resolution to “Protect the Vote, Protect the Results.” The measure was in support of members taking action should one of the presidential candidates refuse “to concede if the results are clear.”

On behalf of the Latino Caucus, Boston Public School’s member Jorge Vargas introduced a resolution calling on Local 888 to draw up a “Membership Bill of Health Rights” necessitated by the pandemic.

Seven elected leaders and candidates for state office briefly attended the convention to recite a pledge to support Local 888 members and working families.

In addition, Local 888’s new secretary-treasurer, Kevin Nascimento, gave his first report on the union’s budget.

While much of the convention’s work was serious, there was time for levity. Executive board member and town of Harwich chapter leader Carolyn Carey was the MC for rolling out door prizes and calling the names of raffle winners. She also served as parliamentarian.

The new chapter for Local 888 retirees had its public unveiling with a workshop, with its executive board member, Susan Winning, as host.

Conference workshops were geared to Local 888’s key industry sectors and job categories, covering: early childhood education, higher ed, school employees, as well as state and municipal workers. There was a separate session for the city of Boston, which has 1,800 Local 888 members covered by 12 contracts.

Workshop leaders were:

  • School employees: Rebecca Blackand Diana Umina, Hopkinton paraprofessionals chapter.
  • Early childhood: Jonathan Dudley, Montachusett Opportunity Council.
  • Higher education: Shaylin Walsh-Hogan, Emerson College, and Esther Brandon, Brandeis University library professionals chapter shop steward.
  • Municipal: Chris Dery, president, Tyngsboro mid-managers chapter.
  • City of Boston: Sean Murphy, Boston Police Department (BPD)
  • State Workers (Unit 2): Michael Slaterand Butch Polarra.

For a convention slide show and the updated resolutions, see http://www.seiu888.org/convention/.

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