Union Updates

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Bylaw changes OK’d in mail-in ballot

BRENDA RODRIGUES

BRENDA RODRIGUES

It’s gratifying that the proposed bylaw changes were approved by such an overwhelming majority of our members,” said Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues. “Executive board members and staff worked long and hard on drafting these changes, which will help us build a stronger union.”

Local 888 members voted 85 percent to 15 percent to approve revisions to the union’s bylaws. The mail ballot vote concluded on Dec. 20. The ballot count was overseen by the union’s legal department. The goals of the bylaw changes are to increase participation and promote greater democracy in the union and to strengthen members’ rights to a safe and fair work environment. Before the changes were sent to the ballot box, the board approved them unanimously.

The changes were based on the need for clarification of existing language and to create more opportunities for member involvement. The overall goal was to establish more democracy in our union.

One change has a “back to the future” look: the creation of a chapter for Local 888 retirees that will have a seat on the executive board.

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‘Voter Choice’ set for ballot

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The Local 888 Executive Board voted to support “ranked choice” voting in state elections. This would mean that voters could weigh in on more than just their first choice. The Massachusetts attorney general recently OK’d putting this initiative on the 2020 ballot.

Last March, Fall River voted overwhelmingly to toss out the city’s mayor in a recall vote. Then-Mayor Jasiel Correia was facing federal tax evasion and fraud charges.

The will of the people, however, was ignored.

That’s because Correia was still listed on the same ballot as other candidates for mayor. And although he did not come near getting a majority of the vote, in a crowded field of candidates he still topped the ticket — with only 35 percent.

Voter Choice Massachusetts is leading the charge for ranked-choice voting, which likely would have prevented the Fall River election debacle.

For starters, voters would be allowed, if they chose, to rank their choices of candidates.

In this scenario, those who cast No. 1 votes for the least-popular candidate would see their No. 2 votes doled out to the remaining candidates. This process would continue until one candidate received a majority of the vote.

The measure is set to appear on the ballot next November.

In the meantime, there are bills up on Beacon Hill that would make ranked-choice voting into law. The lead sponsors are state Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Rep. Andres X. Vargas (D-Haverhill) and Rep. Adrian Madaro (D-Boston).

For its part, Maine recently adopted ranked-choice voting after the notorious Paul LePage was elected governor twice with less than a majority of the vote. The first time, in 2010, the Republican only got 38 percent of the vote.

In 2018, neither the U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a two-term Republican incumbent, not Jared Golden, a Democratic state lawmaker, originally gained a majority. The Republican candidate had a slight edge in votes.

But due to ranked-choice voting, ballots cast for two independent candidates were eliminated in the first round. Those votes were then distributed to the two main candidates. The result: Golden got a majority and won the race for U.S. Congress.

For more info, visit https://www.voterchoicema.org/

 

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Leaders lay out strategic plan

TIME TO PARTY: Local 888 members in Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development celebrated the season while looking ahead to contract negotiations. The chapter is one of 12 city contracts expiring this year.

TIME TO PARTY: Local 888 members in Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development celebrated the season while looking ahead to contract negotiations. The chapter is one of 12 city contracts expiring this year.

The Local 888 Executive Board has approved a new strategic plan for 2020 that will build on what the union accomplished this past year. A key part of the plan: Gear up to negotiate 83 contracts.

The strategic plan calls for a continued focus on pay equity for cafeteria workers. Eight Local 888 food service contracts will expire in both 2020 and 2021. One goal for next year is to organize another “Food Service Workers’ Recognition Week,” a major part of this past year’s successful “Food Is Love” campaign.

That effort was part of Local 888’s commitment to setting contract standards. City of Boston contracts covering 12 chapters, about 1,800 members, will expire this year. Chapter leaders are ramping up efforts with the goals of recruiting new leaders and winning good contracts.

Also, leaders of Unit 2 will come together to plan for 2020 contract campaigns covering more than 1,200 members. These chapters for state workers include the Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers’ Homes, the State Lottery and UMass Lowell .

For a copy of Local 888’s 2020 strategic plan, email rwilson@seiu888.org.

 

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A year marked by big campaigns

SHOWING SOLIDARITY: Members of the Brandeis Labor Coalition support the Local 888 librarians.

SHOWING SOLIDARITY: Members of the Brandeis Labor Coalition support the Local 888 librarians.

2019 was a milestone year for Local 888 in terms of strengthening the union to help members win better contracts, benefits and working conditions. The union conducted winning contract campaigns, led the fight to improve the standing of cafeteria workers, made legislative gains and extended Local 888 dental and vision plans to more members.

Librarians at Brandeis and Boston universities led very successful contract campaigns with support from students and other campus unions. (See related article page 4.).

Last March, Local 888 members were facing the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee’s plan to outsource their jobs. With support from Local 888 staff and leaders, the members fought back — waving signs, organizing a rally and harnessing community support. The 20 jobs were saved.

In fact, cafeteria workers are one of the 10 largest occupations in Local 888. To recognize cafeteria workers and highlight their low pay and apparent gender discrimination, the union organized “Food Service Workers’ Recognition Week.” Members across the state celebrated, putting up “Food is Love” banners and lawn signs, and Gov. Charlie Baker signed a proclamation. And the local held a public hearing with elected officials in Brockton. (For more information, email lhiggins@seiu888.org.)

At the State House, SEIU Local 888 and other labor unions won a major political victory. A new Massachusetts law aims to limit the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which undermined public workers’ collective bargaining rights.

This Janus-Fix legislation requires public employers to give chapter leaders time to provide orientation to new hires, during work hours and in the workplace. This is crucial for keeping Local 888 strong, with about one-fifth of the membership turning over every year.

Local 888 continues to push for legislation that would improve many members’ pensions and that would allow the MassDefenders to organize for their collective bargaining rights. (For more information, email tmckeever@seiu888.org.)

In addition, SEIU Local 888’s affiliated health plans continued to sign up new members. Seven new chapters joined the dental and vision plans: Blue Hills Regional Vocational, Lowell Day Nursery, the Woburn clerical and cafeteria chapters and the towns of Arlington, Norwell and Westwood .

For more information on Local 888’s affiliated health funds, contact Linda DeLuca at 617-241-3367 or ldeluca.funds@seiu888.org.

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Executive Board votes to bring on 2 new members

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JOHN KALLMERTEN

SHAYLIN HOGAN

SHAYLIN HOGAN

The Local 888 Executive Board has voted to appoint two new members, Shaylin Hogan from Emerson College and John Kallmerten from the State Lottery. Both those chapters are part of the local’s 10 largest bargaining units with expiring contracts in 2020.

“Emerson is a great school that delivers fantastic value to students,” said Hogan, a leader in the union drive there. “But that value was not trickling down to the staff.”

After she met with her fellow staffers who wanted to unionize, she was excited about the cause — and eager to get going. It was a hard-fought struggle.

A key turning point was a 2018 May Day rally at the Emerson administration building. Hogan, graduate studies program coordinator, told the crowd: “We’re only looking for fairness, job security, a livable wage and a decent contract.”

The rally got the college president’s attention, and he came down from his office to speak. Soon after, Emerson dropped its demand for “merit” pay and the Local 888 members won their first contract.

The contract covers about 150 clerical, technical and professional employees at Emerson. Hogan says that other workers with similar jobs deserve the benefits of a union contract, too.

Kallmerten, chapter president at the Lottery, is a 25-year veteran of the state agency. Over the past six years, he has been an active chapter leader.

He said that a “philosophy of life” pushed him to get more involved. “I don’t like it when people just sit back and complain — and don’t step up and take responsibility,” Kallmerten said. “So I stepped up. I wanted to make a difference.”

The chapter recently reached an agreement that means the state agency will fully cover the payroll tax that will fund the new Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act. “I’m excited that our members are not going to have to pay any additional money for the new law,” said Kallmerten.

The state’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave Act took effect Oct. 1. SEIU locals in Massachusetts helped pass the new law as part of the Raise Up Coalition.

Under the law, companies with more than 25 workers are charged a payroll tax, and its employees may have to pay a portion of that. With the new agreement, Lottery workers won’t have to do that.

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Librarians vote for Local 888

SOME THINGS TO CELEBRATE: Boston University Librarians are pictured (from left): Sean Smith, Kara Jackman, chapter leader Kate Sifron, Naseem Parveem and chapter leader Ann Seskin.

SOME THINGS TO CELEBRATE: Boston University Librarians are pictured (from left): Sean Smith, Kara Jackman, chapter leader Kate Sifron, Naseem Parveem and chapter leader Ann Seskin.

Boston University librarians at the theology school and archivists at the Mugar Memorial Library have voted to join Local 888. They had petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for an election to unite with existing BU bargaining unit members.

The vote could result in 14 new Local 888 members. The NLRB-supervised election comes on the heels of a successful contract campaign this fall by the BU librarians.

“The contract was a momentous achievement,” said Ann Seskin, a BU librarian who served on the negotiating team. The new contract paves the way for a fairer, more just workplace.

Up until now, the librarians’ yearly salary raises have been completely based on “merit.” That meant if one member received extra merit pay, it came at the expense of another. After a majority of the members attended a negotiating session, they persuaded BU to provide a 2 percent guaranteed across-the-board increases, with a separate fund for additional merit increases.

BU had also pushed to weaken “just cause” job security protections for discipline or discharge. But after Local 888 members protested at the bargaining table, the university backed down.

In addition to BU staff, Local 888 also unites higher education staff at Brandeis University, Emerson College and UMass Lowell. For more information on uniting higher education workers, call 617-241-3317 or email iadelman@seiu888.org.

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Dispatchers pension debate

SPEAKING UP: At a State House hearing, Local 888 Secretary-Treasurer Tom McKeever and state dispatchers Nicole Annunziata and Michael Slater called for Improved  pensions for dispatchers.

SPEAKING UP: At a State House hearing, Local 888 Secretary-Treasurer Tom McKeever and state dispatchers Nicole Annunziata and Michael Slater called for Improved pensions for dispatchers.

Leaders of the chapter for the Massachusetts 911 dispatchers went to the State House in a bid to get improved pension benefits. They said that the state pension Group 2 language already covers some municipal dispatchers — and should cover state 911 workers as well.

“A dispatcher’s work shift can start with two fatal crashes, an overdose or even an active shooter,” said Local 888 Secretary-Treasurer Tom McKeever, testifying before the Public Safety Committee. “Nothing is routine or the same.”

In part, he said, that’s because dispatchers have taken on more duties that, in the past, were covered by “fire or police signal operators.” State workers with that job title were, by law, put in Group 2, which affords more generous terms for pension benefits.

However, despite their new roles using advanced technology, state dispatchers continue to be classified as Group 1.

“State police dispatchers must react quickly during high-pressure situations,” he added. “Some dispatchers deploy to the field in mobile command centers during major events along the Esplanade, at various parades or festivals or for the Boston Marathon. These conditions add a level of anxiety and stress to employees.”

In addition, McKeever said, “As with law enforcement personnel, the dispatchers provide emergency medical advice, are considered ‘essential personnel’ during storms and public safety emergencies and, as such, are subject to mandatory overtime.”

They must take a basic telecommunications course after getting hired. In addition, they train in various other aspects of the job. “Most dispatchers are certified to provide crucial medical advice on calls,” McKeever said.

For more information on Local 888’s campaign to improve pension benefits for state dispatchers, email tmckeever@seiu888.org.

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Coming Attractions

Coming up

BOSTON CLERKS & TECHS HOLIDAY PARTY: Thurs., Jan. 16, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., The Bell in Hand Tavern, Upstairs Function Room, 45 Union St. Boston. Fun socializing with Local 888 members and union stewards. Prizes to be given away. Please RSVP to Keturah Trusty at 617-635-1462, 857-312-1933 (text), or email

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Vote yes on bylaw reform; ballots due Dec. 20

FIGHTING FOR THEIR RIGHTS: Massachusetts public defenders attended a board meeting of their employer, the Committee for Public Counsel Services. A proposed bylaw change would welcome them as associate members of Local 888, as they are not yet union members, but are seeking their collective bargaining rights.

FIGHTING FOR THEIR RIGHTS: Massachusetts public defenders attended a board meeting of their employer, the Committee for Public Counsel Services. A proposed bylaw change would welcome them as associate members of Local 888, as they are not yet union members, but are seeking their collective bargaining rights.

“All members are urged to vote yes on the proposed bylaw reforms,” said Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues. “We worked very hard on drafting these changes, which were unanimously approved by the executive board.”

The goals of the bylaw changes are to increase participation and promote greater democracy in the union and to strengthen members’ rights to a safe and fair work environment. The changes are based on the executive board’s experience with the current bylaws.

The deadline for voting on changes to the Local 888 bylaws is Dec. 20. The proposed changes would:

  • Create a chapter for Local 888 retirees.
  • Call on the local’s elected president, secretary-treasurer and recording secretary to lead and work collaboratively.
  • Allow for the use of electronic voting as allowed under federal labor law.
  • Welcome associate members into the Local 888 fold. One example: workers who have not yet gotten their first collective bargaining agreement.

For more on the proposed Local 888 bylaw changes, see: www.seiu888.org/bylaws/. If you have not received a ballot in the mail, call the union at 617-241-3300 for more information or email myunion@seiu888.org.

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‘Unions For All’ looks at presidential race

BERNIE SANDERS: Told SEIU members that his overall goal 'is to bring people together by the millions to demand a government and an economy that works for all of us.'

BERNIE SANDERS: Told SEIU members that his overall goal ‘is to bring people together by the millions to demand a government and an economy that works for all of us.’

Local 888 members and leaders took part in a live streaming-video interview with presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The U.S. senator said his overall goal “is to bring people together by the millions to demand a government and an economy that works for all of us.”

The national event was emceed by Valarie Long, an SEIU executive vice president. Affordable health care was the No. 1 issue for members in an informal live poll; retirement security was No. 2. Sanders answered questions on topics ranging from racism to health care.

More than 7,000 SEIU members and organizing leaders across the country took part in the digital town hall. Long said that the power of SEIU was demonstrated by having nine presidential candidates come before our members to seek their votes and the union’s endorsement.

The event was a follow-up to the grilling of candidates that took place at SEIU’s recent Unions for All Summit. SEIU wants all candidates to endorse the platform.

Sanders was unable to attend the summit due to an illness, but was able to address members and answer their questions via the November streaming-video event. “We need an unprecedented grassroots movement of working people to defeat President Trump,” Sanders said.

Several Local 888 Executive Board members and President Brenda Rodrigues were among the 1,000 SEIU members — and workers fighting for a union — who attended the summit.

Rodrigues said the goal of the summit was “to inspire attendees to work together and turn this country around.

All people should have the opportunity to join in a union, no matter where they are from, what color they are, or where they work.” To download or print a copy of SEIU’s “Unions For All: Building Power To Win”
booklet, in English or in Spanish,
click here.

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A move to right Supreme Court’s wrongs

LABOR SAVORS VICTORY: Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues, at far right, was on hand to celebrate a new law that will require employers to allow union leaders to give an orientation to new hires.

LABOR SAVORS VICTORY: Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues, at far right, was on hand to celebrate a new law that will require employers to allow union leaders to give an orientation to new hires.

A new Massachusetts law could blunt the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which undermined public workers’ right to collective bargaining.

The official bill-signing marked a major legislative achievement for Local 888 and the labor movement. The new law requires public employers to give union leaders time to provide orientation to new hires, during work hours and in the workplace.

In addition, the law shields public employees’ contact information, such as emails and home addresses, from the general public. This will curb groups backed by corporations and wealthy donors, such as the Koch brothers, from launching campaigns that attack public sector unions.

The law maintains unions’ access to members’ contact information. In addition, unions will be given the option of charging fees for services to those who aren’t paying dues. This includes grievances and arbitrations.

The Massachusetts law comes in a response to the Supreme Court decision that overturned  decades of legal precedence. The court ruled that public unions could not require those who opt out of joining to pay “fair share” or agency fees.

For more info on the new law, contact Tom McKeever at tmckever@seiu888.org.

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‘Big victory’ at Head Start

888-FundsLogo

Management for the Community Action Agency of Somerville was looking to cut costs by making Local 888 members pay more for a new health insurance plan with less-comprehensive coverage. The negotiation team held firm — and won the day.

“This was a big victory for us,” said Carla Elder, who was on the negotiating team. “Health insurance is a major concern for our members.” Most get their health insurance through CAAS, which runs Head Start in Cambridge and Somerville.

Having their own health care expert at the negotiating table allowed union members to have an independent evaluation of management’s proposals.

Under the chapter’s new contract, CAAS will continue to pay 89 percent toward workers’ health insurance. Management had sought to lower that percentage to 80 percent — and have members pay for the increases retroactively for six months.

Instead, the 45 Head Start teachers and family advocates will be able to stay on their existing health insurance plan, offered through Local 888. They won’t owe retroactive insurance payments.

“It was a huge win,” said Linda DeLuca, director of the SEIU Local 888’s Affiliated Funds. Overall, the insurance premium is set to go up by 4 percent.

Elder praised Local 888 staff who took part in negotiations: DeLuca, internal organizer Madeline Soto and chief of staff Rand Wilson. “Everybody did their part and they executed well,” said Elder, a family advocate at CAAS for more than 10 years. She recently joined the Local 888 Executive Board.

CAAS and Montachusetts Opportunity Council Head Start workers are united in SEIU Local 888. But thousands of other Head Start workers in Massachusetts don’t have the benefits of a union contract and a voice at work. Do you know someone in a Head Start program interested in the benefits of collective bargaining? Contact rwilson@seiu888.org or call (617) 241-3300.

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