Union Updates

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A strong union takes strong leaders. Are you interested?

There are new leadership opportunities at SEIU Local 888

Nomination form for SEIU Local 888 Executive Board

Union Executive Board Vacancies
Due to some recent retirements, there are several Executive Board vacancies. Between local wide elections (held every 3 years), the Local 888 president appoints member leaders to fill vacancies. If you are interested in serving on the Executive Board — or nominating a coworker — please read instructions below.
Here’s what you need to know:

  • All nominations are due by Friday, March 27, 2020 at 5 PM. No exceptions will be made.
  • Only members in good standing are eligible for nomination. Members may nominate themselves or be nominated by fellow SEIU Local 888 members. The member doing the nominating also needs to be a member in good standing.
  •  If you are interested in serving on the Executive Board or nominating a coworker to serve, please submit nominations for vacancies by using this online google doc form.
  • For a paper copy of the nomination form, email: myunion@seiu888.org (please put “Nomination Form Request” in the subject line).

The Executive Board usually meets once every other month for a day long session.  Executive Board members must not miss more than three meetings. All Executive Board members are expected to participate on a committee and do additional work in their region or industry sector.

Our union is stronger when our members get involved. We hope you’ll join us in shaping the future of our Local. If you have questions about the nominating process, please email myunion@seiu888.org.

For additional details on the role of the Executive Board, please see the SEIU Local 888 bylaws and read this summary of Executive Board responsibilities and standing committees.

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888 will serve members during coronavirus outbreak

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During the COVID-19 crisis, SEIU Local 888 will operate with minimal staffing at the office — while ensuring that members have access to staff for the support they need for grievances, bargaining and any other urgent labor/management issues.

“The majority of our members work in jobs that provide critical services to the public,” said union President Brenda Rodrigues. “Consequently, we can’t close our operations, but must take steps to serve the union’s membership — while following public health officials’ advice.”

Consistent with CDC and state Department of Public Health recommendations, we are discouraging face-to-face membership meetings, trainings, ratification votes and collective bargaining.

Chapter leaders are encouraged to meet all timelines and get any postponements or cancellations with management documented in writing.

Local 888 has created a new page on our website for updates. http://www.seiu888.org/coronavirus-covid-19/

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Boston will adopt the requirements in DOI Bulletin

The MA Division of Insurance Bulletin Addressing COVID-19

The MA Division of Insurance issued a Bulletin addressing COVID-19 testing and treatment. A copy of the Bulletin is attached. The Bulletin imposes requirements on insurers that are focused on (1) ensuring that members can obtain all medically necessary and appropriate testing and treatment for COVID-19 and (2) fighting the spread of COVID-19.

The Bulletin is mandatory for fully-insured groups but optional for self-insured groups like the City. To protect the health and wellness of our employees and their dependents, the City will adopt the requirements in the Bulletin. The City will take direction from the Division of Insurance as to the expiration of the requirements in the Bulletin.

In accord with the Bulletin, on a non-precedent setting basis, during the effective dates of the Bulletin, the City will:

  • Remove co-pay, co-insurance, or deductibles for medically necessary testing, counseling, and vaccination (once available) for COVID-19 provided at in-network doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers for all members. This also applies to out-of-network doctors’ offices, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms when access to urgent in-network testing and treatment in accord with Massachusetts Department of Public Health (“MDPH”) and Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) requirements is not available from in-network providers.
  • Remove co-pay for medically necessary COVID-19 treatment, in accord with MDPH and CDC guidelines, at in-network doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers. This also applies to out-of-network doctors’ offices, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms when access to in-network alternatives is not available.
  • Eliminate cost-sharing for Telemedicine.

Further, for the duration of the effective dates of the Bulletin, our insurance carriers will remove administrative barriers, such as prior authorizations and referrals, for medically appropriate care for COVID-19. They will also, for the duration of the effective dates of the Bulletin, establish a dedicated Coronavirus helpline, advise members of their benefits, and encourage members to use Telemedicine.

Please share this information with your members as soon as possible.

If you have any questions or concerns or need any additional information, please contact Marianna Gil at 617-635-4570 or each respective carrier as follows:

AllWays Member Services: 1-866-567-9175
BCBS Member Services: 1-800-262-2583
HPHC Member Services: 1-888-333-4742

Sincerely,

Marianna Gil
Director, Health Benefits & Insurance Division
Boston City Hall | Room 807
617-635-2597 (w), 617-635-3932 (f)

 

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Climate change bill aimed at pension funds wins round

BRENDA RODRIGUES

BRENDA RODRIGUES

A state bill targeting the fossil fuel industry, and backed by Local 888’s executive board, has cleared a major hurdle in the Massachusetts Legislature. The divestment legislation is part of the growing worldwide support for battling the oil industry to curb the damage caused by climate change.

“The struggle for environmental justice is tied to the fights for economic and racial justice,” said Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues. “Climate change affects impoverished and marginalized communities far more than the wealthy.”

At the national level, the Service Employees International Union has voted climate change a key part of its political agenda. The international’s executive board has also passed a resolution in support of a U.S. Green New Deal, a proposal that aims to address climate change and the need for high-quality union jobs at the same time.

In Massachusetts, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Service has approved a bill that would allow local communities to divest their pension funds from the fossil fuel industry. The local-option bill, put forward by the MassDivest coalition, was recently endorsed unanimously by the Boston City Council. State SEIU Locals 888, 509 and 1199 all belong to MassDivest.

Right now, communities’ retirement systems are barred from divesting their fossil fuel assets, due to a ruling by the state’s Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission. The bill would allow those communities that want to divest — including Boston, Cambridge and Somerville — to sell off such stocks and bonds.

In fact, Somerville’s retirement system had divested in 2017. But the state’s retirement commission overruled the move.

According to a MassDivest study, Somerville would have made a significantly better return on its pension funds had the city stuck with fossil fuel divestment.

For more information on MassDivest and its investment study, see https://massdivest.org/somerville-retirement-system-case-study/.

For more on the Green New Deal bill, see https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hres109/BILLS-116hres109ih.pdf.

For more on the Labor, Climate Change and Political Power conference set for Sat., March 28, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Massachusetts Archives in Boston, see: http://umasslep.org/event/2020-boston-labor-conference-labor-climate-change-and-political-power

 

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Big gains from tough talks with transit agency

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Local 888 members in the Massachusetts Department of Transportation have overwhelmingly approved a new contract, which runs through June 30.

“Monetary issues were the main thing that held up negotiations,” said Larry Higgins, Local 888 internal organizer. Ultimately, many Local 888 members got substantial increases.

Cost-of-living raises were 2 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent over the three-year contract. Since most of the contract has elapsed, most of the raises will be retroactive.

However, $700 was added to the highest step (No. 12) as well. Also, about 40 percent of Local 888 members will be getting upgrades, which are retroactive to July 2016. As a result of these moves, many Local 888 members will get big increases amounting to an additional several
several thousand dollars.

The upgrades are part of a MassDOT classification study as provided under a previous contract. These changes include the creation of new job classifications.

Local 888 has about 50 members at the MassDOT. The Coalition of MassDOT Unions that bargained the contract included the teamsters, steelworkers and AFSCME locals.

Some of what made negotiations complicated is that there were classification issues dating back to 2009 — when the MassDOT was formed. That year, the state Legislature voted to merge what had been MassHighway with the Mass Pike, which had been a separate agency. Those were then combined into the state’s highway division.

Other MassDOT divisions include the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the mass transit division. Local 888 members work in the highway division and the RMV; some are dispatchers, bridge operators and storekeepers.

For more on the new MassDOT contract, see: http://www.seiu888.org/2020/01/27/dot2020/.

 

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Members place pay equity on menu in Malden schools

COOKIN’ UP A BETTER CONTRACT: The Malden cafeteria workers gather to toast to their hard-won gains. The bargaining committee was made up of Local 888 internal organizer Joe Montagna, right rear, chapter president Nicole Jones, vice president Debbie Arbing, Bonnie MacEachern and Paul Romano.

COOKIN’ UP A BETTER CONTRACT: The Malden cafeteria workers gather to toast to their hard-won gains. The bargaining committee was made up of Local 888 internal organizer Joe Montagna, right rear, chapter president Nicole Jones, vice president Debbie Arbing, Bonnie MacEachern and Paul Romano.

Local 888 members in the Malden cafeteria workers chapter have a lot to celebrate. They recently ratified a new contract that will boost wages for cafeteria workers between 20 percent and 30 percent by its last year.

The Malden School Committee and school superintendent John Oteri were responsive to the union’s position that the gap between the predominantly female cafeteria workers and the predominantly male custodial workers was an equal pay issue that needed to be remedied. Working together, Local 888 leaders and staff arrived at a series of wage increases that will bring the lowest paid workers up to a $15/hour rate — several years ahead of the state minimum wage.

In addition, longevity was increased by $100 at each stage, meaning at 10, 15, and 20 years. The new rates will be $500, $575, and $675 respectively.

Also, utility workers and drivers, will get increases of 2 percent, 2 percent and 3 percent. The contract runs from 2018 to 2021.

For more information on Local 888’s campaigns on behalf of cafeteria workers, see: http://www.seiu888.org/cafe/.

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Holyoke pushes pension upgrades

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DRESSING UP FOR MARDI GRAS! Local 888 members
at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home held their annual party last month.
The popular event attracted union President Brenda Rodrigues,
fourth from left.

Local 888 leaders are pushing to ensure that more members at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home get the higher pensions that come with Group 2 retirement classification. This would apply to LPNs and nursing assistants.

Right now, the situation is unfair and open to bias, said Kwesi Ablordeppey, the chapter president. “We take care of patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s and post-traumatic stress disorder, some of who can even be violent.”

To build a case for the better pensions, Ablordeppey found the names of retirees who had been given Group 2 status. These retirees set a precedent, then, for caregivers to get the higher status — a very significant development.

The Group 2 category allows workers to retire at a higher rate of pay earlier than otherwise. Many caregivers are being classified at the Group 1 level, or general state employee, for retirement.

However, the higher category covers positions that “provide direct care, custody, instruction or supervision of persons with mental illness or developmental disabilities.”

The unfairness of the current situation is that caregivers move back and forth to the various wards, which also have patients with similar issues. In Ablordeppey’s case, he worked for years in a locked ward. Now he mostly works on other kinds of wards at the veterans facility — but works in the locked ward if there is a need, such as due to vacations or illness.

Local 888 members have called on the Legislature to correct this unjust situation. Both Ablordeppey and Local 888 elected officials have testified at the State House in favor of a bill that would do just that.

Now both are asking Soldiers’ Home caregivers who are eyeing retirement to contact the union, which will help them fill out the paperwork with an eye toward getting Group 2 pensions.

If Soldiers Home LPNs and nursing assistants are considering retirement, contact internal organizer Cory Bombredi for help in filing retirement papers at cbombredi@seiu888.org or 617-241-3319.

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Younger workers big winners with Amherst contract

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REYNOLDS

Members of the town of Amherst chapter voted unanimously for a new contract that significantly boosts base pay for young workers — to the tune of $5,800 to $8,700 for all new employees.

Just before the vote, a new employee signed her union card. She’ll get a big raise as part of the labor agreement. Now that’s a warm welcome!

Jennifer Reynolds, longtime chapter president, praised the contract and her union members for sticking together. “Our members wanted to fight — and wanted to go to mediation if they had to.”

She added that there had been “a lot of new hires,” who will particularly benefit from the contract.

Another “big victory” for the chapter, she said, was that members will, for the first time, be eligible for an educational benefit. That’s good for up to $1,000 per member, and a total of $1,500 for emergency dispatchers.

Reynolds said a new town human resources manual noted the educational benefit was going to nonunion employees. “I marched right up to the town manager and told him how wrong that was. I told him I thought it was classism at its worst.”

Another improvement in the contract is an increase in bereavement leave to five days for a spouse, children or domestic partners.

Local 888 members will be getting retroactive pay, since the contract ran out last year. The cost-of-living raises for the three-year contract will be 2.5 percent, 2 percent and 2 percent.

A 12-year town employee, Reynolds started out as a parking supervisor and is now the administrative assistant for the senior center. She has served on Local 888’s executive board.

The new Amherst contract covers 60 members, who work in such posts as clerk/receptionists, library assistants, parking enforcement officers, building maintenance, animal welfare, emergency dispatchers and building inspectors.

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State GIC health costs steady

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When it comes to health insurance, out-of-pocket expenses can be a real curve ball. Local 888, other unions and retirees have been working to rein in out-of-pocket expenses for members covered under the state’s Group Insurance Commission.

For fiscal year 2018-2019, out-of-pocket expenses for GIC enrollees held roughly steady. Here’s the roundup:

  • For the top-paying 5 percent of enrollees, those hit with the most out-of-pocket expenses, these costs rose somewhat — from about $3,429 to $3,502.
  • For those in the top 10 percent of enrollees, out-of-pocket charges actually went down over 2018-2019 — from $2,968 to $2,752.
  • The median out-of-pocket charges for GIC enrollees that year went down by a dollar, from $914 to $913.

Local 888 chapters in these communities are covered under the state’s GIC: Arlington, Framingham, Gloucester, Groveland, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lexington, Lowell, Medford, Millis, Norwood, Randolph, Somerville, Springfield, Watertown, Westwood, Weymouth

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Time to ‘Know Your Rights’

SEIU Local 888 logo

Local 888 will offer a series of trainings for members and leaders this spring. The essential one, “Know Your Rights Training,” shows how members can exercise their workplace rights and support each other on the shop floor.

The “Leadership Training” workshop will cover, in depth, a leader’s role and the grievance procedure. A combined class puts them together.

  • A combined “Leadership & Know Your Rights Training” will be: Sat., March 21, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., SEIU Local 888 office, 25 Braintree Hill Park, No. 306, Braintree.
  • A “Leadership Training” workshop will be: Wed., March 25, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., SEIU Local 509, 293 Boston Post Road West, Marlborough.
  • The first “Know Your Rights Training” will take place: , April 15, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Scituate Library, 85 Branch St., Scituate.

To sign up for a training, go to https://forms.gle/UCqC1EdiSzzZ5eno7.

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Coming Attractions

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LABOR, CLIMATE CHANGE AND POLITICAL POWER: Conference set for Sat., March 28, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Massachusetts Archives in Boston. Sponsor: UMass Boston Labor Center. For more info: https://tinyurl.com/888Climate.

LOCAL 888 LEADERS MEET: The SEIU Local 888 Executive Board meets Wed, April 8, 10 a.m. at the union’s conference room at 25 Braintree Hill Office Park, in Braintree. The executive board is the governing body of SEIU Local 888.

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Moments of Silence

888 In Memory

The officers and staff of Local 888 extend our deepest sympathies to the families of:

  • Mary Cirone, president of the Woburn cafeteria workers chapter, whose mother died.
  • Kathleen Webber-Lewis, also a Woburn cafeteria worker, whose brother died.
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