Union Updates

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Pictures from Local 888 Membership Convention 2014

Local 888 members met on Oct. 4 for their biannual convention.  Read the earlier Spark story about the convention by clicking here.  See more pictures from the convention by clicking here.

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Local 888 members active in statewide and local elections, ballot questions

Despite a tough night with many close races, the key takeaway from Election Day was the progress made on earned sick time and the continuing importance of good jobs and the economy to voters.

SEIU members and staff gathered in the Brockton campaign office before hitting the doors and phones to support our endorsed candidates and "Yes on Question 4" a few days before the election.

SEIU members and staff gathered in the Brockton campaign office before hitting the doors and phones to support our endorsed candidates and “Yes on Question 4″ a few days before the election.

Local 888 members — librarians, DPW workers, state workers, school custodians, early childhood teachers, and many, many others — want to see real progress on the issues they care about by electing leaders who will maintain services and improve our communities.

That’s why members are investing in political work like never before. Over 140 new members have joined the over 400 existing members who voluntarily contribute to the Committee on Political Action (COPA) fund just this year.

COPA funds Local 888′s political and electoral operations. Our efforts included an eight week field canvass in Brockton with six member political organizers talking to members and voters about their choices in the election. The canvass knocked on over 9,000 doors to educate voters on our agenda and motivate them to vote. The SEIU Massachusetts State Council knocked on over 162,000 doors statewide.

At the doors, on the phones, online and in the mail, Local 888 connected with members to inform them of the issues and candidates who support quality services and our communities.

While it was a hard fought race on both sides, Charlie Baker will be our next governor. Has the balance of power shifted to the Republicans? Not really. While the Massachusetts GOP did take several new House seats and some Senate seats, they don’t have enough votes in either chamber to sustain a veto for Baker. Baker will have to work closely with the legislature to pass the state budget and any new legislation.

Public employees be forewarned: One of Baker’s top priorities will likely be to cut retiree health care benefits.

The ballot question to provide earned sick time for all Massachusetts workers passed 60 – 40. Many members and staff spent countless hours gathering signatures, knocking doors and making phone calls to help ensure this victory. Read more about the victory for Earned Sick Time here.

SEIU Massachusetts State Council Endorsements:

Martha Coakley for Governor                                  Loss

Steve Kerrigan for Lt. Governor                              Loss

Maura Healey for Attorney General                        Win

Suzanne Bump for Auditor                                       Win

Deborah Goldberg for Treasurer                            Win

SEIU Local 888 COPA Legislative Endorsements:

In addition to re-electing many of our allies in the House and Senate, Local 888 helped elect a few additional candidates who will be strong allies for the labor movement. Michelle Dubois, a former Local 888 member, was one of our top election priorities. Local 888 members were heavily involved in her GOTV effort on Election Day and she defeated her opponent by just 445 votes! In addition, Local 888 won six of seven races picked by the Committee on Political Action as our top priorities, including Steve Ultrino who helped save 28 school custodians jobs in Malden this year.

The full list of COPA endorsements and the outcomes are below. To see in-depth results, please visit: http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/11/massachusetts_election_results_2014.html#governor

Wins:

Michelle Dubois for State Representative, District: 10th Plymouth
Website: http://www.electmichelledubois.com/
 

Steve Ultrino for State Representative, District: 33rd Middlesex
Website: http://www.ultrinoforrep.com/

Barbara L’Italian for State Senate, District: 2nd Essex & Middlesex
Website: http://teambarbara.com/

Mike Day for State Representative, District: 31st Middlesex, Stoneham and Winchester
Website:http://electmikeday.com/

Jason Lewis for State Senator, District: 5th Middlesex
Website: www.electjasonlewis.com

Mary Keefe for State Representative, District: 15th Worcester

Frank Smizik for State Representative, District: 15th Norfolk
Website: www.facebook.com/repfrankismizik

Tim Toomey for State Representative, District: 26th Middlesex
Website: http://www.timtoomey.org/

Marjori Decker for State Representative, District: 25th Middlesex
Website: www.decker4rep.com

James Miceli for State Representative, District: 19th Middlesex

Dan Donahue for State Representative, District: 16th Worcester
Website: http://dandonahue.org/

Ken Gordon for State Representative, District: 21st Middlesex
Website: https://www.facebook.com/KenForStateRep

Marcos Devers for State Representative, District: 16th Essex
Website: http://marcosdevers.com/

Dan Cullinane for State Representative, District: 12th Suffolk
Website: http://www.dancullinane.com/

Dan Ryan for State Representative, District: 2nd Suffolk
Website: http://www.danryanforrep.com/

Stephen Kulik for State Representative, District: 1st Franklin
Website: stevekulik.org/

Evandro Carvalho for State Representative, District: Fifth Suffolk
Website: www.evandrocarvalho.com/

Losses:

Matt Patrick for State Senate, District: Plymouth & Barnstable
Website: http://www.electmattpatrick.org/

Doug Belanger for State Representative, District: 17th Worcester
Website: http://belangerstaterep.com/

Denise Andrews for State Representative, District: 2nd Franklin
Website: http://www.deniseandrews.org/home.html

Joe Pacheco for State Representative, District: 8th Plymouth
Website: www.joepacheco.net/

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City of Boston workers take up fight over family medical leave – and win!

Over the past few months, Local 888 members at Boston City Hall and other Boston bargaining units have been very upset about how the Human Resources (HR) department was handling their applications for leave they were entitled to under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Local 888 Field Rep. Mari Cooney attempted to resolve the issue by pointing out that the city was violating the FMLA statute.

Arthenesis Sneed was told she wasn’t eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for her father who has advanced MS.

Arthenesis Sneed was told she wasn’t eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for her
father who has advanced MS.

Yet HR stubbornly insisted their interpretations of the law were correct.  Many of these cases were straightforward, such as parental leave for a newborn, cancer treatment for a spouse, recovery from knee surgery, gravely ill parents having surgery, etc.

Rather than being approved, HR instituted its own interpretations of the law, saying for example, that the requested leave was “excessive.”  Members were given contradictory reasons for their denial or delay in approval, and were pressured to sign medical releases to a third party medical claims company.

Arthenenis Sneed’s father has advanced MS and needs her help.  She was told that she wasn’t eligible for FMLA.  As a result she couldn’t leave work to care for him.  Her case was sent to MES Solutions.  “I’m just sick of the delays and denials.”

Jennifer Twomey was told she would need to take personal days to care for her mother.

Jennifer Twomey was told she would need to take personal days to care for her mother.

Jennifer Twomey requested FMLA leave to take care of her mother.  She was told that it had expired and she had to take a personal day.  Then she discovered that her leave had not expired and that HR was possibly violating her legal privacy.

“This isn’t just about me,” said Twomey. “I don’t want any of my co-workers to encounter similar roadblocks.”

Richard Morrison has 22 years with the city and has never been out sick.  His doctor told him he was entitled to FMLA leave. He applied for it and believed it was approved, only to then be told by HR that he didn’t have it. “Now I’ve lost six or seven days that should have been covered.”

Tammy Sutton had knee surgery and put in for FMLA and it was approved.  Then she needed her other knee done, but that leave was denied.  “The city didn’t believe my doctor’s letters were authentic.  But

Richard Morrison

Richard Morrison

Tammy Sutton

Tammy Sutton

I’m not abusing my time.  This leave is a right that I have to use when I need it.”

Jen Springer, General Counsel for Local 888, investigated these and over a dozen other cases and found they had all been mishandled by the city’s HR department.

“It’s understandable that so many members were distraught to the point of tears,” said Springer. “Situations like this are when it really matters that workers have a union.  It’s very upsetting to be seriously ill or have a gravely ill loved one.  But then to get the runaround, red tape and just plain wrong answers from HR was demoralizing and paralyzing.  Backed up by the union, the members were able to take up the fight and win.”

Springer reported that HR staff seemed to believe they could determine whether requested leave was “excessive” and that it could require employees to sign a release for review by MES Solutions.  “It was inappropriate for HR to be routinely second guessing members’ medical professionals,” said Springer.  “It was causing undue stress and delays in otherwise routine FMLA requests. Cases requiring outside review should be limited in scope and should be the exception, not the rule.”

Springer also found that the city was inappropriately examining employees’ usage of other leave time (sick, vacation, personal, etc.) when determining FMLA approvals and accusing members of “excessive use of FMLA” or a “pattern of FMLA usage.”  Further, some employees were being required to use more hours than they needed, even though FMLA is clear about taking hourly increments. “For example, an employee only needed two hours leave, but he was told it was his only approved “instance of FMLA,” and to use a full seven hours.”​

The city was also denying FMLA when a loved one was primarily cared for by someone else (ie. another sibling or in an inpatient situation) when the law is clear: FMLA leave can be for in or out-patient care; for care primarily provided by others; and for psychological support, to attend care conferences, and provide transport to appointments etc.

Do you have FMLA issues where you work? Get the "FMLA Handbook: A Union Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act." This union guide by Robert Schwartz provides a practical explanation of the rights of workers under the Family and Medical Leave Act.  This handbook is easy to read and well-illustrated.  It costs $20 retail, but you can get it from Local 888 for $16! Buy it online at 888 Deals!   http://www.seiu888.org/888deals/  Or stop by the union hall to get a copy.

Do you have FMLA issues where you work?
Get the “FMLA Handbook: A Union Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act.” This union guide by Robert Schwartz provides a practical explanation of the rights of workers under the Family and Medical Leave Act. This handbook is easy to read and well-illustrated. It costs $20 retail, but you can get it from Local 888 for $16!




Or stop by the union hall to get a copy.

“Our members felt harassed, belittled and powerless against management at a time when they were struggling with a serious medical issue of their own or of a family member,” said Kelly Shay, who is a Chapter Chair at the Department of Neighborhood Development and a member of the Local 888 Executive Board.  “Collectively, we were able to change the outcome of several pending member applications and the entire city of Boston FMLA review and approval process moving forward.”

Now HR has committed to no longer routinely hold up and question leave requests in large numbers.  HR will follow the statute and only question requests for the specific statuary reasons such as if the handwriting is illegible or there is a specific contradiction within the form or if there is a reason to question if the form was signed by a medical provider, to verify the authenticity of the form.  Forms cannot and will not be questioned or delayed going forward just because HR thinks the amount of leave is “excessive.”

“This is an example of how chapter leaders and Local 888 staff worked together and were able to affect positive changes that has an enormous impact on members,” Shay continued.  “Thanks to help from Mari Cooney and Jen Springer, we were able to correct egregious errors by management around FMLA approvals. We were able to prove that the union’s interpretation of FMLA were correct in every instance.”

The only other situation that should result in a delay is if the form is missing an essential element needed to warrant the FMLA leave.  In any case, employees will be questioned only in these very limited circumstances.  Then if there is a need, they will be given specific instruction and an opportunity to supply the needed information.

“We expect to see a dramatic decrease in denials, delays and the use of medical releases,” said Springer.

“I’m so proud of the members who stepped up to the plate to say this wasn’t fair,” said Lorna Heron, another Chapter Chair in Boston and member of the Local 888 Executive Board.  “This is a huge win! Not only for us but for everyone in the City of Boston that will use the Family Medical Leave Act. Without the guidance and dedication of the staff at the local, we would not have achieved this outcome.”

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Local 888 members backed Sick Time Victory

Local 888 was an active member in Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of more than 100 community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions, which organized a grassroots campaign to win earned sick time for hundreds of thousands of WebsiteHeader21Massachusetts families.

“No one should have to choose between the job they need and the family they love,” said Mark DelloRusso.  “With passage of earned sick time, no parent in Massachusetts will be forced to choose between going to work to put food on the table and staying home to take care of a sick child.  No worker will risk losing their job because they need to see a doctor.”

This vote shows that the people of Massachusetts fundamentally believe that the ability to care and provide for themselves and family members is a right, not a privilege. Earned sick time will help small businesses succeed by making employees healthier and more productive, and will keep money in the hands of consumers who spend it in their neighborhoods, helping grow our local economies. For the almost one million workers in Massachusetts who today can’t take a single day of paid sick time, this vote was a major victory.

When it takes effect on July 1, 2015, Question 4 will guarantee every worker in Massachusetts access to the benefit of earned sick time, and prohibit employer retaliation against workers who take time off due to illness. At companies with 10 or fewer employees, workers will earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time to visit the doctor or take care of a sick family member. At companies with 11 or more employees, workers will earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time.

In June, the Legislature passed and Governor Patrick signed legislation giving Massachusetts the highest minimum wage in the country. Raise Up Massachusetts then led the campaign to ensure access to earned sick time for all workers in the Commonwealth by passing Question 4.

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Guild Classes give Local 888 members new skills, confidence

Three members of Local 888 and two staffers are taking classes at the Labor Guild this semester.  Classes were taught at the SEIU 1199 union hall.

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Mike Kelly, Tom McKeever and Teresa Riordan

“It’s important for our members to find out what the union stands for and what they can do to help it,” said Mike Kelly, who has worked at Lottery for 40 years, is currently a steward there and serves on the Local 888 Executive Board. “Educating our members is one of the most important tasks.”

“What I like about the Guild is that you hear about new ideas and get to speak up for or against them,” Kelly continued. “While we don’t always agree, everyone is respectful without being disrespecting.”

Kelly recruited Tom McKeever to also attend classes this semester.  McKeever, from Hanover MA,has worked at the Lottery for 14 years and now is interested in becoming a union steward.

“By taking classes at the Guild I am hoping to be able to speak with my co-workers with more authority on union issues,” said McKeever.  “The teachers at the Guild are excellent and they bring real world experience to the table.  This semester I took a class on being a steward and a second class on organizing.  I’m probably coming back next year to take more classes.”

A third student, Teresa Riordan, works at the Westwood Town Hall as an Assistant Town Clerk.

“Although I have 15 years with the town and have been in the union for seven years, I was only recently elected steward,” said Riordan.  “I want to be sure that I am representing my members fairly and with strong knowledge of union matters. Taking classes at the Guild has taught me how much I don’t know, which makes me want to take more classes.  I definitely plan to come back.”

Guild classes will start up again in Spring, 2015. Classes are just $100. Local 888 has a scholarship program to assist members with tuition costs if they need it.  For more information about the Labor Guild click here. 

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Save money with Local 888 “Deals”

Boston CelticsMembership in a union gives workers more bargaining power, not only on-the job, but in the community too.  Because of our collective purchasing power, SEIU Local 888 members can receive discounts on many goods and services.

888 Deals T-shirtsFeatured on the website now are discount Celtics and movie tickets and new Local 888 T-shirts and hoodies.

You can order everything online by visiting www.seiu888.org/888deals

If you know of a business or service where Local 888 members could get a better deal, please contact myunion@seiu888.org or call (617) 241-3300.

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Ask Sparky

SparkyDear Sparky: I’m not gonna lie. I’m feeling seriously bummed about the election. Is there anything to feel good about?  Please Sparky—can you throw me a bone?
Signed, Bummed in Boston

Dear Bummed: Happy to be of service. Speaking of bones, that’s what I reach for whenever I’m feeling down—works like a charm! If that’s not an option for you, why don’t you take a gander at the cover story, about how Local 888 members helped deliver a big win for workers in Massachusetts who had no sick time. In fact, there are similar stories all over the country.

You might not know it from the headlines, but virtually everytime voters had the opportunity to raise wages for the kind of people who don’t pal around with billionaires, they did. In fact, even voters in states that are as red as a fire hydrant (tee hee!), like South Dakota and Arkansas, gave a big paws up to raising wages. Here in Massachusetts, 1 million workers now have access to earned sick time thanks to voters who approved the strongest requirement in the country.

So enjoy that bone, then go for a long walk and take a nap. You’ll feel better in no time.
Sparky

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Chapter Reports

State Contracts Settled
The long wait for approval of the state contracts is over. Governor Patrick signed the FY2014 Supplemental
Budget on Oct. 31. Local 888’s Unit 2 state contracts were approved which includes UMass Lowell, the Soldiers Homes, State Police Dispatchers, and other agencies under the Alliance, the Lottery, the Registries of Deeds and the MassDOT.

As most members know, the contracts lingered in the legislature for several months due to differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget. While the disputes between the House and Senate were unrelated to our contracts, the budget was the only vehicle for the approval of the contracts.

“Thanks to intense pressure from our union and other public sector unions, we were finally able to get these contracts done for our members,” said Lisa Field, Director of Field Operations “It was a long and often frustrating process.”

Got questions? Email Lisa at lfield<at>seiu888.org.

Orange Maintenance Members Ratify New Contract
Orange Maintenance unit recently reached a four-year agreement after going through mediation with a one year extension for 2013. “It was quite a battle for a while going back and forth,” said Chapter Chair Dick Matthews.

“Management wanted concessions on longevity, while we felt that longer service members should be rewarded. We eventually compromised with no longevity for new hires.”

The contract also establishes new joint Labor-Management committee as well as a process for requesting a flexible work schedule in hardship situations. Members will receive wage increases equal to 5% over three years.

Boston Schools ULPBoston School Dept. ULP
Last year the Boston School Dept. transferred Clerk Typist bargaining unit work from Local 888 members to a manger.  The union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Department of Labor Relations saying that management had a obligation to give the union notice and bargain over the decision and its impact.

In August, the DLR ruled in favor of Local 888 (see DLR posting at right).  Now management must return the position to the bargaining unit and properly post the job which will be filled by a union member!

Custodians’ ratify new agreement with Malden School Committee that will improve school cleanliness and preserve local jobs
After several months of negotiations, custodians voted 18 to 3 on Oct. 25 to ratify a new agreement with the Malden School Committee.  The hard-fought agreement comes after a high profile campaign by the custodians and their union to stop the city from outsourcing their jobs and to address persistent concerns about school cleanliness.

Last April, the Mayor and the School Committee proposed outsourcing the custodian’s jobs to a private cleaning company where employees would have lower pay and no job rights.

Faced with the prospect of losing their jobs, the custodians reached out to the community and to their elected officials to stop the plan.  As a result, the City Council voted last June to provide an additional $2,226,293 to the School Dept. to keep all 28 custodians working at the Malden Schools.  The funding also provided for hiring a much needed custodial supervisor to ensure improvement in school cleanliness.

The new contract requires more accountability from both employer and employees regarding evaluations of the custodians work and features an entirely new “performance evaluation” form. The custodians also agreed to some alterations in the provisions that allow management to discipline workers for poor performance.

Union members will receive 2% pay increases each year of the two year contract.

“I think we found the right balance to improve school cleanliness and keeping local jobs in Malden,” said Rich Cutone, a school custodian for 27 years and union vice-president.  “We are glad it’s finally come to a conclusion and we’re moving forward.  We deeply appreciate the support we received from so many parents, students and elected officials.”

The Malden School Committee still needs to approve the contract before it can be implemented.

 

 

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Coming Attractions

calendarMarch and Rally for Good Security Jobs
Join the fight for good jobs at Boston area colleges and universities and help send a message to nonunion contractors on area campuses that we “Stand with Security.”
When: Wed., Nov.12, 4PM-5:30PM
Where: Meet at Ruggles St. & Huntington Ave. near Wentworth Institute of Technology

Just Cause: A Union Guide to Winning Discipline Cases
When: Wed., Nov. 19, 6-9PM
Where: UMass Lowell, Alumni Hall, 1 University Avenue, North Campus, Cost: $20.00
A workshop on just cause with labor attorney Robert M. Schwartz. For more information, or to register for this training, contact Susan Winning (978) 934-3127 or email: Susan_Winning@uml.edu or Sue D’Amore (978) 934-3256 or email: Susan_Damore@uml.edu

SEIU Local 888 Executive Board meeting
When: Wednesday, November 19, 10AM-5pm
Where: 52 Roland Street, Charlestown

Celebrating MassCOSH – 38 years!
When: Wednesday, December 3, 6PM–8pm
Where: 1199 SEIU, 150 Mt. Vernon St., Dorchester
MassCOSH will recognize the allies who are changing our workplaces for the better. Celebrate with awardees: Senator Daniel Wolf and Representative Thomas Conroy, Co-chairs, Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Representative Development Jamie Tessler and Local 888’s Field Director, Lisa Field!

Holiday Party for 888 Members on the Cape
Join your union brothers and sisters for a little holiday cheer!
When: Thursday, December 4, 4-9PM
Where: Bayberry Hills Golf Course, 635 West Yarmouth Road, Yarmouth
Feel free to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots!

Boston Labor Guild Cushing-Gavin Awards Dinner
When: Fri., Dec. 5, 6-8:30pm
Where: Sheraton Boston Hotel, 39 Dalton St, Boston
For tickets and more information visit the Guild website here. 

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Not famous, but worth remembering

David reno

David Reno

By David Reno, Public Relations Rep., Boston Police Dept.

The media has noted the passing of Benjamin Bradlee, The Washington Post editor whose coverage of Watergate won his newspaper a Pulitzer Prize, and immortality by being played by Jason Robarts in an Oscar winning performance in the film “All the President’s Men.”

Now, let us remember a not so famous man.

Frank Willis was the security guard who found tape on the door of the Watergate. Thinking a construction crew left it, he removed it and continued his rounds.  When he found the doors taped again a half hour later, he called the Washington Police. The Police plainclothes anti-crime division took the call because the patrol car had broken down.

Frank Willis died at age 52.  He had the unique honor of being the only person in the film All the President’s Men who played himself. Reporter Bob Woodward paid a tribute by saying “He’s the only one in Watergate who did his job perfectly.”

If Frank Willis had not done his duty, the Watergate would be one more expensive building in Washington rather than a metaphor.

Do you have a story to submit? Send it to rwilson<at>seiu888.org.

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Vote YES on Question 4 for Earned Sick Time

SEIU Local 888 is part of a coalition of more than 100 community, faith and labor organizations supporting Question 4, which would guarantee every worker in Massachusetts access to earned sick time.

Make a plan to vote for Q4Local 888 members voted unanimously to support Yes on Question 4 at our Oct. 4 convention, reaffirming our previous commitment to stand behind the sick-time initiative.

The ballot question would require companies with 11 or more employees to allow workers to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year to visit the doctor or take care of a sick family member. At companies with 10 or fewer workers, employees would earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time.

Local 888 President Mark DelloRusso said this initiative is important as a matter of social justice. “More than 1 million working people in Massachusetts lack sick days, paid or unpaid, and they are often among the lowest-paid workers. How can we claim to care about children, families and communities when staying home with a sick child could cost you your job? We must fight for policies that support people being able to care for themselves, have full lives, and not be subject solely to the whims of their employers.”

To learn more about earned sick-time initiative and get involved, visit YesOn4.org.

To see the rest of Local 888′s political endorsements visit: http://www.seiu888.org/copa/2014-general-election-endorsements/

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Lowell Office Hours

Sue ChaseLocal 888 Field Rep. Sue Chase will be in the Lowell office and available to meet with members every Wednesday from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM.  Sue is the union rep for the Lowell area including UML.

All Local 888 members are welcome to stop by to discuss questions or concerns they may have.

Merrimack Valley Office, 104 University Ave. Lowell, MA 01854

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