Union Updates

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

Urge Congress to lift the cap and strengthen Social Security for all Americans

scrap-cap-petitionOn April 17, most of America’s wealthiest citizens will stop paying Social Security taxes. Once the payroll contribution cap of $117,000 is reached, millionaires and billionaires stop paying into the system, while the vast majority of Americans pay on all of their salary – all year long.

The American people know that Social Security benefits are earned through hard work no matter what their income bracket. These benefits provide financial stability for individuals, families, and communities during times of transition starting at retirement, the onset of a disability, or the loss of a spouse.

It is time for the 1% to pay the same rate as the rest of us. Click here to sign the petition urging Congress to lift the cap and increase Social Security benefits for all Americans!

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Moment of silence today at 2:49 PM

Please join us in a moment of silence today at 2:49 PM, in order to remember those lost in the tragic events of April 15, Boston Strong2013; to pay tribute to the survivors and all they have overcome over the past year; and to give thanks to our brave first responders.

Watch the Ceremony starting at 12:00 PM.

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Join team “SEIU Local 888″ for this year’s Walk for Hunger!

Project Bread - The Walk for Hunger 2013On Sunday, May 4th, our team is proud to be joining in Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger.

Every May, over 40,000 people walk all or part of a 20-mile course through Greater Boston, earning the pledges they’ve collected to support Project Bread’s fresh approach to ending hunger in our state. Together, we raise awareness of the reality of hunger in our state, make a powerful statement about our shared commitment to help people in need, and, importantly, raise funds that make it possible to develop, fund, and facilitate much-needed programs—programs that interrupt the cycle of food insecurity in our communities, programs that provide hope.

By sponsoring our Walk, you help change thousands of lives across our state.

For many individuals and families across the state, hunger is a very real part of their daily lives. In fact, food insecurity affects the lives of over 700,000 people in the Commonwealth—almost 40% more than before the recession began. Project Bread responds to those in need in both immediate and longer-term ways: last year, over 400 community food programs funded by Project Bread provided more than 60 million meals to those in need; Project’s Bread Chefs in Schools program works to ensure that vulnerable children get the nutrition they need where they go to school; an innovative program connects farmers to urban families so that they can get affordable fresh food. All solutions are focused on strengthening individuals, families, communities—and our state as a whole.

Donate today!



This is YOUR Walk too. Please donate to support our efforts, or join us by walking and raising money yourself: either way you are making a real difference in the lives of people across Massachusetts.

•    Donate to my Walk now by clicking the “Donate Now” button
•    Register to walk or volunteer yourself at www.projectbread.org/register

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Highlights from the March 2014 Executive Board meeting

The Local 888 Executive Board met on March 19 at the union hall in Charlestown.  Local president Mark DelloRusso reported on the SEIU public service division meeting he attended and the recent Governor’s Election Forum.

March 2014 Local 888 Executive Board meeting

March 2014 Local 888 Executive Board meeting

Secretary-Treasurer Brenda Rodrigues provided the board with an overview comparing Local 888′s projected budget with actual revenue and expenses for 2013.  For the first time in several years, the local ended the year in the black.  Total expenditures were $4,291,000 with a balance carried forward of $36,000.  Members interested in learning more about Local 888′s finances should email myunion@seiu888.org for more detailed information.

Brenda also reported that Local 888 was recently awarded $8,000 by the International Union for our membership leadership development program that will strengthen our caucuses and regional committees.  Local 888 will also have a national Occupational Health Internship Program student intern working with Lisa Field to assist with the development of a new Safety Council for Local 888 members.

The Executive Board approved up to 10 scholarships for members to attend the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) June 20 – 22.  Members interested in a scholarship should call the union at 617 241-3300 or email myunion@seiu888.org.  The deadline for registration is June 6.  For more info about WILD call 617 825-0520 or visit www.wildlabor.org

The Executive Board also voted to contribute $5,000 to the Raise Up Massachusetts campaign.

During the lunch break, Board members and former co-workers held a ceremony to appreciate long-time member Greg King for his dedication and service to the membership of SEIU Local 888 and the labor movement.

 SEIU’s Maureen Ridge who is spearheading the effort to win $15 an hour and collective bargaining rights for fast food workers in Massachusetts, tells the Local 888 Executive Board about the campaign. Members with family or friends working in the fast food industry are urged to contact the campaign at maureen.ridge@gmail.com.

SEIU’s Maureen Ridge who is spearheading the effort to win $15 an hour and collective bargaining rights for fast food workers in Massachusetts, tells the Local 888 Executive Board about the campaign. Members with family or friends working in the fast food industry are urged to contact the campaign at maureen.ridge@gmail.com.

The featured speaker at the meeting was SEIU’s Maureen Ridge who is spearheading the campaign to win $15 an hour and collective bargaining rights for fast food workers in Massachusetts.  Local 888 members with family or friends working in the fast food industry are urged to contact the campaign at maureen.ridge@gmail.com.

A second speaker, James Razsa, made a presentation on a campaign to require the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust to divest its holdings from fossil fuels.  The Fossil Fuel Divest campaign supports efforts to remove fossil fuel companies from institutional endowments, organizational investments, and public employee retirement trust funds. They are seeking to pass state legislation (S.1225) to divest the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Trust of fossil fuel assets. Sign the petition here!

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State House rally for a raise in the minimum wage

Local 888 Executive Board member Fred Simmons joined nearly 400 other workers on March 26 at a Raise Up Massachusetts rally for a raise in the minimum wage.

Greg Gigg (Teamsters Local 25), Fred Simmons Haverhill School Custodians and Local 888 Executive Board with Local 888 Secretary Treasurer Brenda Rodrigues at a rally to raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts.

Greg Gigg (Teamsters Local 25), Fred Simmons Haverhill School Custodians and Local 888 Executive Board with Local 888 Secretary Treasurer Brenda Rodrigues at a rally to raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts.

After coming together to share their stories, everyone headed into the State House to lobby their representatives.

The House recently announced a bill that would also raise the minimum wage to $10.50 without including cuts or eligibility restrictions to unemployment insurance benefits.

“The House proposal could make a significant difference in the lives of low wage workers,” said Simmons.  “But the campaign is urging our reps to also include a higher wage for tipped workers and indexing the minimum wage to the cost of living.”

The tipped minimum wage has been stuck at $2.63 since 1999. Over 70% of tipped workers are women and 77% are adults. Living on tipped wages is difficult because workers’ income is not guaranteed. The unpredictability of tipped wages make it very hard for workers to budget their finances and pay for rent, health care and other expenses. Tipped workers deserve more stability for their efforts, and should not live in poverty while working full-time. Raising the tipped minimum wage to 60% of the regular minimum wage helps give more predictability and dignity to tipped workers.

Indexing is crucial to ensuring wages keep up with the cost of the living. The cost of living is constantly on the rise, but historically, wages have not kept up with that pace. Just since 2008, the last time Massachusetts increased the minimum wage, minimum wage workers have lost nearly $1,500 per year, because wages were not indexed to inflation.

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Building a Strong Union Takes Leaders—Lots of Them

Ask Rick Moffat, the chapter chair at the Chelsea Soldiers Home, to explain the secret to the high level of member involvement in the union there, and he’s quick to credit others—lots of others. Moffat, an LPN who began working at the Chelsea Soldiers Home in 1996, presides over a deep bench that in­cludes nine stewards and a full Executive Board.

“We really try to reflect all of the different kinds of workers at the Chelsea Soldiers Home in our steward structure,” says Moffat. “Male, female, bilingual, every department. We’re a diverse workplace and that is represented in our union.”

Rick Moffat, chapter chair at the Chelsea Soldiers Home, relies on a team of union stewards and other leaders to help run the 280 member unit.

Rick Moffat, chapter chair at the Chelsea Soldiers
Home, relies on a team of union stewards and other leaders to help run the 280 member unit.

This year marked something of a milestone for the 280-member unit. At the first-ever Chelsea Soldiers Home Christmas party, for example, mem­bers celebrated a growing sense that their union is making the home a better place to work. “People are more willing to call and ask for help because they believe that the union can actually have an impact,” says Moffat.

Case in point: a dispute that erupted when kitch­en workers were suddenly denied what had been a long-standing practice: the ability to eat meals from the line. When attempts to negotiate with manage­ment failed to bring about a solution, Moffat and his team sprang into action, including filing nearly 50 grievances in five days on behalf of the kitchen work­ers. Their efforts paid off for the workers. “It was a col­lective win,” says Moffat.

Best of all: the more effective and organized the unit is, the less it has to resort to such tactics. When kitchen workers complained recently about bullying treatment at the hands of superiors, stewards sprang into action. With the assistance of Local 888’s Latino Caucus, they convened a meeting of nearly 30 work­ers in order to document the abuse. “Management took immediate action,” says Moffat. “When people see action, they start to understand that the union is a place they can go when they need help.”

Key to the unit’s success has been an emphasis on building a network of active, trained union stewards. Existing stewards are asked to identify others who, with plenty of training, support and nurturing, emerge to become leaders in their own right. Constant contact is another key. The Chelsea Soldiers Home is a vast, sprawling place, and Moffat and his team go to great lengths to ensure that everyone is kept in the loop about what’s happening there.

Moffat concedes that there’s still plenty of work to do. The goal of 100% membership involvement remains just that—a goal. “We’re nowhere near where we want to be in five or ten years,” says Moffat. “I hope we just get stronger. Unions are a good thing.”

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Ask Sparky

SparkyDear Sparky: I keep hearing all this talk about raising the mini­mum wage, then last week I read somewhere else about McDon­ald’s workers wanting $15 an hour. Well I’d like to make $45 an hour! I’m pulling your tail, but you get my point, right? Where does it end?
Signed, Just Another Working Slob

Dear Slob: Thanks for the question. I’m guessing that I don’t have to tell you that it’s a “dog-eat-dog” world out there (horrors!), and that all too often where it ends is a race to the bottom. The good news is that a growing number of people—including those fast-food workers you’ve been hearing about—have decided that enough’s enough. And your elected officials (sadly, I can’t vote…) seem to be getting the message.

As I write this, the Massachusetts legislature is poised to raise the state minimum wage up from a paltry $8 an hour to somewhere around $11 over the next few years. It’s a start but we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. I like to use the analogy of a hand­some Dalmation chasing after a squirrel. He starts slow but starts to pick up steam until he’s moving so fast that he’s a sleek, spotted streak. It’s called momentum, and my point is that we’re finally get­ting somewhere when it comes to raising the wages of the people in this state who earn the least. That includes some members of Local 888 who are barely getting by.

Now we need to take that momentum and put it to work for the people on the next rung, and the next rung, until its your turn. That’s why you’ll see me at the National Day of Action for Low Wage Workers on June 12th. (Check www.seiu888.org for details). I’ll be the good looking fellow on the leash…
Sparky

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UMass Lowell Update

Professionals at UMass Lowell had four membership meetings across campus in varied locations in recent weeks.  Over 125 Local 888 members participated.

The meetings were led by the chapter leader Janet King with support from Local 888 staff.

“These meetings were very positive and focused on key issues as we prepare for upcoming contract negotiations,” said Janet King.  “Members shared their ideas about priorities for the next contract and ways that they can show solidarity with the bargaining team throughout the process.”

If any UMass Lowell members have more ideas or questions about the bargaining process, please contact one of the following team members:
Penny Donoghue       Pamela_Donoghue@uml.edu
Sandy Dubuc               Sandra_Dubuc@uml.edu
Rick Harvey                 Richard_Harvey@uml.edu
Janet King                     Janet_King@uml.edu
Al Sacco                         Albert_Sacco@uml.edu
Heather Spyrakis       Heather_Spyrakis@uml.edu

Additional follow-up meetings for members will be in scheduled in the coming months.

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Chapter Reports from Ashburnham, CAAS and Swampscott

Ashburnham DPW Workers Ratify First Contract
Congratulations to members of the Ashburnham Department of Public Works on winning their very first contract. The 12 member unit was officially created last August.
Members ratified the new two-year deal, which includes raises of 2% for this year and 3% for next and puts them on the same cycle as the police. Most significantly, members now have just cause and layoff language. Next up: the new unit will be holding elections to choose chapter leaders and union stewards.
Community Action Agency of Somerville Sees Gains
Local 888 members at the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) have ratified a one year contract, effective December 1, 2013 through November 30, 2014. The agreement includes a 1.3% salary increase as well as paid snow days for members who work as family advocates. CAAS members say that the contract represents a victory given that the nonprofit, which operates the Head Start program in Cambridge and Somerville, has weathered budget cuts.
CERTIFICATE OF APPRECIATION
Maureen McCarthy (left) presenting Dorothy Forman with a certificate of appreciation upon her retirement from the town of Swampscott. Forman served on for the negotiation team as well as a steward in the Swampscott Library. Thanks for your many years of service, Dorothy.

Maureen McCarthy (left) presenting Dorothy Forman with a certificate of appreciation upon her retirement from the town of Swampscott. Forman served on for the negotiation team as well as a steward in the Swampscott Library. Thanks for your many years of service, Dorothy. 

Maureen McCarthy (left) presenting Dorothy Forman with a certificate of appreciation upon her retirement from the town of Swampscott. Forman served on for the negotiation team as well as a steward in the Swampscott Library. Thanks for your many years of service, Dorothy.
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Members grill candidates for state constitutional offices

Local 888 leaders and staff joined other Massachusetts SEIU locals on April 3 for candidate interviews for the offices of Attorney General, State Treasurer and Lieutenant Governor.

Jonathan Stroud (Brockton) stood to ask a candidate a question.  With him at the Local 888 table was Mike Kelly (Lottery), Lorna  Heron (Boston DND), Jorge Vargas (Boston Public Schools), Kwesi Ablordeppey (Holyoke Soldiers Home), and Margarita Franco (Chelsea).

Jonathan Stroud (Brockton) stood to ask a candidate a question. With him at the Local 888 table was Mike Kelly (Lottery), Lorna Heron (Boston DND), Jorge Vargas (Boston Public Schools), Kwesi Ablordeppey (Holyoke Soldiers Home), and Margarita Franco (Chelsea).

About 50 members attended the interviews which were held at the SEIU Local 32BJ, District 615 union hall in Boston.

Each candidate made an opening statement followed by questions from a member of each local union.  When time permitted additional questions were allowed and the candidates could make a closing statement as well.

“Similar to the Governor’s Forum on March 15, this process gave all of us a chance to meet each candidate and hear their positions on the issues that matter most to our members,” said Mark DelloRusso, President of SEIU Local 888.  “While we did not make any endorsements, what we learned from these interviews will be a major factor in guiding our endorsement decisions at the SEIU State Council.”

The following candidates participated in the interviews:

Attorney General
Warren Tolman, Maura Healey

State Treasurer
Deb Goldberg, Barry Finegold, Tom Conroy

Lieutenant Governor
Steve Kerrigan, James Arena-DeRosa, Mike Lake, Leland Cheung

Members filled out score cards on each candidate after the interviews to guide SEIU State Council decision making on any future SEIU endorsements.

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Drive for improved health and safety standards for state employees gaining momentum

An Advisory Committee created by Governor Deval Patrick to study state work-place risks and dangers, released a landmark report with key recommendations to reduce injury, illness and deaths for state employees.  During a State House briefing on March 24, state labor unions, safety advocates and members of the Patrick Administration applauded the work of the Advisory Committee and pledged support for a permanent framework of health and safety protections for state employees.

Rachel Kaprielian, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development

Rachel Kaprielian, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development

“The Patrick Administration’s goal is to reduce the potential for workplace injuries and illnesses and the associated costs the Commonwealth has to pay to deal with these risks,” said Rachel Kaprielian, Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development. “Through the work of the Advisory Committee, we found that one of the best ways to do that is by ensuring that nationally-recognized worker protection standards become minimum standards of practice for state workers.”

Mark DelloRusso, president of SEIU Local 888

Mark DelloRusso, president of SEIU Local 888

“Local 888 members who are state employees work every day to provide quality services at the Soldiers’ homes, on our highways, in higher education, and many other jobs,” said Mark DelloRusso, president of SEIU Local 888.  “Yet, these dedicated workers do not have the equivalent job safety protections as private workers.”

Major findings of the new report include:

  • Between FY’10 and FY’12, 3,000 state workers experienced job related injuries series enough to require time off from work and four workers lost their lives.  The hazards causing the greatest number of these injuries included violent assaults, falls from heights, and lifting injuries.
  • The top three contributors to lost time claims, consistent with the significant level of hazard associated with jobs workers perform were:
    • Health and human service workers are at high risk for assaults by patients/clients and for ergonomic injuries from lifting/moving patients or clients.
    • Correction officers are also at high risk of assault by inmates.
    • MassDOT employees and state police officers are at high risk of being struck by motor vehicles while working on roadways.
    • Maintenance personnel and equipment operators at MassDOT have many serious risks including electrocution, falls from heights and usage of heavy equipment.

Among the most significant recommendations in the report is the creation of an OSHA-type program of training and technical assistance enforcement for state government using federal standards and making permanent the work of agency health and safety coordinators and committees.  Representative Thomas P. Conroy, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development has filed legislation that would codify many of the recommendations in the report.

Representative Thomas Conroy, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development

Representative Thomas Conroy, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development

“Protecting the health and safety of our public employees is a top priority for me,” said Rep Conroy.  “I am proud to support the efforts of Governor Patrick, the state’s labor unions, and safety advocacy groups, and I will work hard to ensure this important piece of legislation is signed into law soon.”  The Committee passed the bill in March and it has moved for consideration by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health pictured with a copy of the Advisory Committee's new report

Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health pictured with a copy of the Advisory Committee’s new report

“The Governor’s Advisory Committee was a groundbreaking first step to identify the serious hazards that state employees face and documenting the safety measures needed to address them,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health and a member of the Advisory Committee.  “Through legislation, we can make sure that these safety measures are institutionalized across state agencies to prevent needless injuries, illness and death.”

Members interested in getting a copy of the 51 page report, “State Employee Health and Safety Achievements and Recommendations,” should email myunion@seiu888.org or call 617-241-3300.

 

 

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Greg King: “Stand up and fight!”

Greg King, Mark DelloRusso and Greg's partner Yupin.

Greg King, Mark DelloRusso and Greg’s partner Yupin.

Local 888 held a special luncheon and appreciation for long time union member and labor activist Greg King, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.  Greg worked for the City of Boston for many years and has contributed many articles to the Local 888 “Spark.”

The ceremony was held during a break in the Local 888 Executive Board meeting and was attended by many former coworkers from the City of Boston.

Pictures from the event may be viewed online here.

The plaque says, "Greg King: In appreciation for the articles you have contributed to the Local 888 "Spark" and for the dedication and service you have given to the membership of SEIU Local 888."

The plaque says, “Greg King: In appreciation for the articles you have contributed to the Local 888 “Spark” and for the dedication and service you have given to the membership of SEIU Local 888.”

Local 888 President Mark DelloRusso presented Greg with a special plaque of appreciation from Local 888.  “Greg has been an outstanding member and on behalf of everyone at Local 888, we thank him for his years of service,” said DelloRusso.  “His dedication to the members of SEIU Local 888 and our predecessor Local 285 has been unparalleled.”

Accompanied by his partner Yupin, Greg received many warm wishes and shared reminisces with his former coworkers of their many years of contract struggles, grievances and member advocacy.

“I want to thank all of you folks for being my friends and for standing up for working people for the years you’ve each done so,” said King.  “Each individual person is worthy of respect and dignity by virtue of being a person and union member.  Every member has a right to make their viewpoints known without intimidation or fear.  While there are time limits, everyone should have the opportunity to speak and no one should be silenced until they have said what they wish to say.

“Every member should stand on their own two feet and fight back against oppression and foolishness alongside their sisters and brothers.  Acting alone is ineffective, but when we are joined together our voices are multiplied.

Some of the coworkers and friends who gathered to honor Greg King

Some of the coworkers and friends who gathered to honor Greg King

“When a member has approached me with a problem at work — big or small — if they’re not already doing so, I have given them an ever-so-slight nudge toward standing on their own two feet and fighting for themselves.  Lots of people have no need of me to do that, they do it naturally.  But for those who needed that slight nudge, I have been so proud of them and happy to see them, in most cases, find their voice, stand up and fight for themselves.  Why?  Because I believe everyone should do that.  They should find the ability to fight for themselves within themselves and let it blossom forth.

“I do not like at all to see members led around by the nose by a union rep, letting everything be done for them.  Those members should, and they often do if encouraged, fight for themselves.  It builds their confidence in their own abilities and their example encourages others to do the same.

“This event was truly an honor for me.  It also honors the hard work of every union member and staffer here.  I applaud everyone for all that they do alongside their sisters and brothers.  However, staff should always remember that it is union members’ dues which pay their salaries.  There would be no union without the members.  It is our union and we should have a vital say in running it.

King concluded, “I will soon pass from the scene happy to have played a role in many extraordinary working people’s lives.”

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