Union Updates

For press inquires or to share your story please contact media@seiu888.org

Record snow-related worker deaths and injuries prompt immediate calls for employer precautions

MassCOSH Logo

This article reprinted from MassCOSH

With over 100 inches of snow falling in parts of Massachusetts in less than a month, companies and state and local government employers have been racing to clear snow from roads and roofs, and in the process, requiring employees to complete extremely dangerous tasks with fatal results. Two workers died this past week in Canton and two more were hospitalized in Avon and Burlington in separate incidents from falls while clearing snow from roofs. Two weeks prior, 60-year-old Cesar Moya, a Whole Foods employee, was hit and killed by a snow plow that was clearing the Medford supermarket parking lot.

Click here to read the Department of Labor Standards “SAFETY REQUIREMENTS for Removing Snow from Rooftops on Municipal and State Property.”

In the Canton incidents, one man reportedly fell through a skylight while assessing snow removal operations, and another fell from a roof while clearing the snow. The worker in Avon also fell 35 feet through a skylight while clearing snow from a roof.


“Behind each one of these worker deaths is a devastated family,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH). “Given the enormous hazards that are present with snow removal, it is imperative that employers identify all potential hazards before sending workers to work on a roof or in an area where they are exposed to plows or other vehicles.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has investigated 16 such serious injuries or deaths in the past 10 years, all of which could have been prevented.

“Often workers climb directly onto the roofs or structures and use equipment such as shovels, snow rakes, snow blowers and ladders to access roofs and apply de-icing materials,” said Rick Rabin, a Technical Assistance and Training Associate at MassCOSH. “Workers who perform these activities have little experience or training on the hazards they may encounter. It is incumbent upon the employer to evaluate the hazards and provide the necessary training before workers begin the work.”

Based on findings of OSHA worksite investigations, falls cause the most worker fatalities and injuries during rooftop snow removal. Workers may fall off roof edges, through skylights, and from ladders and aerial lifts. Workers may also be injured or killed by a roof collapse.

snow roof


In order to prevent worker injury when removing snow from roofs, OSHA requires employers to take the following precautions:

  • Use snow removal methods that do not involve workers going onto roofs, when possible.
  • Provide fall protection equipment to workers who go onto roofs.
  • Guard skylights so workers do not fall through.
  • Mark skylights, roof drains, vents that might be hidden by the snow.
  • Avoid contact with electrical power lines. Keep ladders, aerial lifts and workers at least 10 feet away from power lines.
  • Evaluate weight load exerted on roof to ensure that the roof can hold the snow plus workers and equipment. Do not pile snow on roof.
  • Train workers to recognize fall hazards, use fall protection harnesses and anchor points correctly, use aerial lifts safely, use ladders safely, and avoid electrical power lines.
  • Protect people on the ground from snow and ice falling off the roof during removal operations.
Leave a comment

Fight for $15: Valentine’s Day Visibility Action at South Bay Shopping Center

This Valentine’s Day, join workers and advocates to promote the Fight for $15 and show our appreciation for retail and restaurant workers.

Valentine's Day action for $15The minimum wage in Massachusetts just went up to $9/hour, but there is still more work to do before we reach a real living wage. 

So let’s stand together for $15/hour! Join us for a stand-out/speak-out action in front of South Bay to raise awareness of the Fight for $15 among workers and shoppers.

Our movement is gaining momentum. Just this month, legislation was filed requiring corporate “big box” retailers with more than 200 employees in Massachusetts to pay a $15 living wage to workers! 

When? Valentine’s Day! Saturday, February 14th, 1:30PM – 2:30PM

Where? South Bay Center (in front of Bank of America/Massachusetts Ave. entrance)
8 Allstate Road, Dorchester, Massachusetts 02118

Hosted by the #WageAction Coalition. To see a full list of coalition members, visit http://wageaction.org/coalition/

Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WageActionMA
Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/wageaction
Find us on Instagram: @WageAction
Visit our website: www.wageaction.org
Stay in the loop: Text #WageAction to 30644

Download and print a flyer for the action here.

Leave a comment

Boston members lock in comprehensive health benefits with new agreement

With little fanfare, City of Boston Local 888 members and all of the other municipal unions reached an agreement last December that will allow members to continue to get the care they need while also holding down the city’s health insurance costs.

Health insurance costs have far exceeded other costs for the city. Source: Power Point COB FY2015 Recommended Budget.

Health insurance costs have far exceeded other costs for the city. Source: Power Point COB FY2015 Recommended Budget.

The accord reduces the number of plans offered from six to three, potentially saving on administration costs. While it raises copays by $5 per office visit, it keeps members’ share of premium contributions much lower than most other municipal employees.

The agreement was reached because of the strong union coalition in the Public Employee Committee (PEC) that that builds on the success of the previous PEC agreement.

“We’ve managed to keep out-of-pocket costs way below what many other municipal employees are paying,” said Local 888′s Jen Springer who serves on the PEC committee.  “Not moving to coverage by the state’s GIC (Group Insurance Commission) plan has worked to our advantage.”

A 2011 state law gave cities and towns the ability to move municipal employees into the GIC that is generally less expensive than municipal plans.  Now that the GIC is running huge deficits and considering major plan design changes, Boston’s decision not to go to the state system is looking better than ever.

The new agreement extends members’ ability to collectively negotiate health insurance with the City until 2020.  It is expected to achieve approximately $45 million in new savings.  It will also consolidate and modify existing non-Medicare and Medicare plan options and avoid potential costs associated with the Affordable Care Act Excise Tax.

Springer added that, “Locking in these benefits for five more years may turn out to be a godsend.”

“Individual workers and their families are in no position to solve the problem of sky rocketing health insurance costs,” said Local 888 President Mark DelloRusso.  “Through the PEC, the City’s workers have done their part.  Now government — at all levels — must take responsibility to address the problem of rising costs.”

With rising health care costs crowding out wage increases, Boston workers’ success at holding down costs while maintaining quality services is part of a national union trend to pursue cost-saving strategies that shield workers from higher out-of-pocket costs, according to a new qualitative study from the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Institute for Health Care Reform (NIHCR).

Examples of union cost-saving strategies include reducing unit prices by negotiating volume discounts or limiting provider networks; attempting to reduce utilization through improved care coordination, especially for patients with multiple, complex chronic conditions; and using wellness programs aimed at improving workers’ health and controlling longer-term costs.

Boston has the advantage being an insurance purchaser with a large number of workers that can leverage better discounts.

“City employees deserve competitive health care benefits, as they keep Boston running smoothly and ensure that constituents are getting the services they need,” said Mayor Walsh in a prepared statement. “This agreement strikes a balance between cost savings for taxpayers, and access to the best employee health benefit options.”

 

Plan Feature

GIC Tufts Navigator PPO “Benchmark Plan”

(For FY2015; subject to change)

City of Boston Negotiated
Standard HMO Plan(effective July 2015 to June 2020)
Annual Deductible

$250 Individual

$500 Family

No Annual Deductible

Premium Contribution

 

 

 

Hired before 7-1-03 = 20%

Hired after 7-1-03 = 25%

Effective:

July 1, 2015 = 18.5%

July 1, 2016 = 19%

July 1, 2017 = 19.5%

Annual Out of Pocket Maximum

$5,000 Per Person

$10,000 Per Family

$4,500 Per Person

$9,000 Per Family

Office Visit Copay

$20 copay

 

$20 copay
Specialist Office Visit Copay

Tier 1   $25 copay

Tier 2   $35 copay

Tier 3   $45 copay

$30 copay
Emergency Room Copay

$100 copay

 

$100 copay
Hospital Copay

Tier 1   $300 copay

Tier 2   $700 copay

No Hospital copay
High Tech radiology Copay (MRI, CAT Scan) $100 copay No High Tech Radiology copay

Prescription Drugs (retail)

30 day supply

Tier 1   $10 copay

Tier 2   $25 copay

Tier 3   $50 copay

Tier 1   $10 copay

Tier 2   $25 copay

Tier 3   $45 copay

Under the agreement, standardize the Medicare and non-Medicare plans offered by the City. Employees and non-Medicare retirees will have now have access to three non-Medicare plans, as opposed to six under previous agreements, and Medicare retirees will have access to three Medicare Supplement plans. These changes are expected to reduce the costs of administering the City’s health insurance plans and to encourage vendors to offer the most competitive pricing, all while preserving meaningful choice in coverage options for members.

As a way to further contain costs, the City will now offer a Value HMO plan designed to generate cost savings through a limited network, deeper provider discounts, and/or alternative payment arrangements. Recognizing the growing costs of prescription drugs, the City and PEC will issue an RFP to explore the option of carving out Prescription Drug benefits to promote transparency and to lower costs through competitive pricing terms rather than restricted coverage.

The new agreement is responsive to impacts of the Affordable Care Act. For non-Medicare plans, the City and PEC worked together to make plan design changes and introduce an out-of-pocket maximum lower than the Affordable Care Act limit. These measures will reduce potential impact of the excise tax through increased employee co-pays, but still protect employees from financial risk caused by major illness or injury. In addition, if a health plan is at risk of hitting the excise tax threshold, the City and PEC have agreed to make further plan design changes to avoid triggering the excise tax.

The agreement accepts the extension of MGL Chapter 32B Section 19 through June 30, 2020, which allows the City to negotiate health insurance with the unions collectively and to continue building on the cooperative relationship that developed by working closely with the unions under the previous PEC agreement.

Leave a comment

For Snow Plow Drivers, These are Busy Days

Local 888 member Josh Clancy, who plows roads for the town of Tyngsborough, with three-year-old Lydia.

Local 888 member Josh Clancy, who plows roads for the town of Tyngsborough, with three-year-old Lydia.

When blizzards occur (like the two that we just experienced in late January and early February), snowplow drivers have to leave their families and travel in some terrible conditions. We count on state DOT and local DPW workers to clear over 36,000 miles of roads in Massachusetts. On a single day, there can be up to 5 million vehicles traveling over 150 million miles on the Commonwealth’s roads.

While snowplow drivers – most of whom are members of Local 888 or other public service unions like AFSCME and the Teamsters – often go unheralded, they deserve a huge “thank you” from all of us for their work during these two back-to-back blizzards.

Let’s face it, if they didn’t do their job, people wouldn’t get out of their driveways.

Josh Clancy has been with the Town of Tyngsborough’s DPW for six years. He and eight other Local 888 members plow over 100 miles of town roads. The Spark asked Clancy to tell us a little about the work so we can better appreciate what all snow plow drivers do…

“The public has no idea what we do or the sacrifices we make to keep the roads clear,” said Clancy. “My guys and I just wrapped up roughly 100 hours each. We aren’t subject to the hours of service rules. So in snow storms we often work for 30 hours straight.

“If you’ve ever worked a double shift, imagine doing that three or four times over. We’re not just sitting in a truck…you’re living on the end of that plow. One slip up in that huge truck and you could really wreck something.

“We aren’t just plowing. Our old trucks often break down in these extreme temperatures — then you’re lying in a snow bank to make repairs.

“Our families have to accept the fact that when winter comes, everything stops. You can’t plan anything, including weekends or holidays. None of us can go because if you miss your shift, you’re screwing the other guys.

“A lot of times I’ll go home after work, take a shower, eat something and laydown to catch some sleep. Then just when I finally fall asleep, bingo — I get called back. It can be a bit heartbreaking.

“I’m proud to work for the town and also to be a Local 888 steward. When I’m working, the security of the union and our benefits is always in the back of my head.”

Have a story to submit? Send it to rwilson@seiu888.org.

Leave a comment

City of Boston members benefit from Housing Trust Fund, you could too!

“With the cost of housing so high I was struggling to pay for my home improvements. If it wasn’t for the Housing Trust I would not have been able to make much needed repairs,” said Dominic DiMare, a steward at the Boston Police Department.

Dominic DiMare Boston Police Dept.

Dominic DiMare
Boston Police Dept.

“I’d suggest that if you are experiencing problems, before you do anything, make your first call to the Housing Trust.  It’s a shame that more members don’t take advantage of it.  There’s no catch to it.  You’ve earned it by working for the City.”

The Housing Trust
SEIU Local 888 members who work for the City of Boston Admin Guild, BCYF, BPD, BPHC, DND, Elderly or P&E are eligible to receive benefits from the City of Boston – SEIU Local 888 Housing Trust.  The Housing Trust was negotiated through collective bargaining to assist SEIU Local 888 members with the cost of housing in Boston by providing them with grants and interest free loans.

The assistance programs have been updated and some new benefits have been added.  Most grant amounts have been substantially increased to $2,500 (except for the home ownership benefit which has been increased to $15,000).

The Housing Trust provides eligible members with grants and loans to make it more affordable for city employees.  Check out these five programs:

  • Fuel Assistance: The City of Boston-SEIU Local 888 Housing Trust will provide 100 members who’s yearly income is less than or equal to $47,450 with a grant of $750 to help alleviate heating costs during the months of November 1, 2014 – March 31, 2015.
  • Emergency Assistance: Aids members for up to $5,000 for a housing-related emergency such as loss of income because of unemployment of a spouse/partner, illness, death of a spouse/partner wage earner, or an unanticipated home repair.
  • Rental Assistance: Alleviates the cost of maintaining residence for up to $5,000 within the City of Boston.
  • Home Improvement: Pays for housing related home improvements up to $7,500.
  • Homeownership Benefit: Supports members with $15,000 to purchase a home within the City of Boston.

If you have a need for the program, please apply using our more user friendly website.  Check it out at www.seiu888.org/htf

Leave a comment

Local 888 officer election coming up soon

The Local 888 members will elect a President, Secretary-Treasurer, Recording Secretary, eighteen Executive Board Members and Election noticethree Trustees this year.  Ballots will be mailed March 16 and are due back April 14, 2015.

Nominating petitions and candidate statements must be received at the union hall by February 20, 2015.

A three person Election Committee will oversee the election.  Click here for more info.

Leave a comment

Local 888 Hockey Night

More than 300 members at UMass Lowell and throughout the Merrimack Valley turned out for the River Hawks hockey game with Merrimack College on January 31. There was a pre-game reception at the Tsongas Center followed by the game.

Local 888 Hockey NightUMass Lowell leaders Janet King and Penny Donoghue (pictured upper left) worked hard on all of the details to make the evening
a big success. More pictures from Hockey Night are below.

Mark DelloRusso, Janet King, Kelly Shay

Mark DelloRusso, Janet King, Kelly Shay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penny Donoghue and young friend

Penny Donoghue and young friend

Score board show's Local 888's message: "Stronger Together"

Score board show’s Local 888′s message: “Stronger Together”

Leave a comment

Vote McGoldrick for State Retirement Board

Vote for Theresa McGoldrick

 

Attention State Workers: Please vote for Theresa McGoldrick, President of SEIU/NAGE Unit 6, Local 207 and attorney for the Department of Revenue Child Support Enforcement Division. “I am running for reelection to the State Retirement Board to continue being “your” representative on the board. I have fought to protect your pension by working to defeat pension reform legislation filed to destroy our pension benefits. I recently worked to defeat House Bill 59 that would have added 10 years to vest and increased the age to retire. I ask for your vote to continue to be “your” voice and to fight to protect your pension.”

Leave a comment

Your Union, Your Voice

Local 888 members vote for a resolution in support of the the “Fight for $15 and a Union” at the 2014 convention. See more pictures from the 2014 Members’ Convention by clicking here.

DSC_0214

Leave a comment

Do you want to be a better steward? 

Get “The Stewards Manual!” This 78 page illustrated manual covers: “Your Role as a Steward,” “Problem Solving 101,” “Dealing Stewards manual coverwith Management,” and many other important topics.

Want a copy? Send an email requesting it with your home mailing address to: myunion<at> seiu888.org.

Leave a comment

Scholarship winners

graduation-cap-diplomaThe winners for Local 888′s 2015 scholarship awards are: member: Dana Drury, UMass Lowell for applicant: Emily Drury; member: Laurie Rocco, Unit 2 DAR for applicant: Angelica Rocco; and member: Maryanne Carty, Westwood Town Hall for applicant: Patrick Scannell.

Leave a comment

Coming Attractions

Labor, Racism & Justice in the 21st Century

When: Thursday, Feb. 19, 4-6PM
Where: Harvard Law School, Ames Court, Austin Hall
Rev. James M. Lawson Jr. Pastor Emeritus, Holman United Methodist Church, Los Angeles, CA

calendarRev. James Lawson played a crucial role in the U.S. civil rights movement and waging labor struggles including during the fateful Memphis sanitation strike in which Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Today Lawson continues to lecture on principles of nonviolence, while giving support to the peace movement and campaigns for a living wage.

AFRAM Black History Celebration

When: Saturday, February 21at 7:00pm
Where: Kays Oasis, 1125 Blue Hill Avenue, Boston

Dancing, refreshments, a little bit of history and a whole lot of fun! Dress to impress! Note: Adults only event.  Tickets: $8 for AFRAM members, $10 for non-members and general public, $12 at the door for everyone. Buy tickets from AFRAM members or stop by 1199’s Boston office. For more information, contact Teia at 617-284- 1121.

Organizing Our Future 2015 Conference

10923613_336312633229579_3782704674092469025_nWhen: Saturday, February 28,10AM – 2PM.
Where: 1199 SEIU, 150 Mt. Vernon St., Dorchester

The annual Greater Boston Labor Council’s ‘Organizing our Future’ conference brings together young workers to look at lessons they can learn from our labor move­ment’s history, discuss the future of our labor movement, and learn more about your rights at work. Note: there is no cost to attend. For more information, contact Lindsay McCluskey at lmccluskey@gblc.us or 617-723-2370.

Western Mass JWJ Educational, Organizing & Membership Conference
Step It Up. We Won’t Back Down!

client_logoWhen: Saturday, February 28, 2015. 10AM-4:15PM (in­cludes lunch)
Where: Trinity United Methodist Church, 361 Sumner Avenue, Springfield MA

Sliding scale donation of $5 to $25 to cover costs. No one will be turned away for lack of a donation. Keynote Speaker: Sarita Gupta, Executive Director, Jobs with Jus­tice. Music by Ben Grosscup & Roxanne Langevine.

 *Labor Guild Spring ‘15 Term starts March 9 — Registration opens February 14.*

 

 

Leave a comment