Union Updates

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Healthy effort nets legislative victory for public worker safety

workers

The hard work of Massachusetts labor unions has paid off with a new law ensuring that all public workers are covered under the same safety standards as the state’s private sector ones.

The new law will make federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations the minimum safety standard for all municipal, public authority, higher education and state employees. It was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker last month after passage by the Legislature.

“I was excited when I heard the news about OSHA protection for public employees,” said Brenda Rodrigues, president-elect of Local 888. “Working as a public employee, there were times I saw violations in the work site, but there was no reporting or protections for the employees.”

The new law is “a historic victory for workers in the state,” said Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health. “Over the coming years, untold number of lives will be saved because OSHA protections will now cover thousands more workers.”

The law will apply the enhanced safety standards for 428,510 public sector workers. Between 2005 and 2016, 52 municipal workers were fatally injured at work in Massachusetts, according to MassCOSH.

MassCOSH, a union-backed worker safety advocacy group, is a sponsor of the Workers’ Memorial Day planned for the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

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Congressional candidates grilled

Members put their issues front and center at forum

LAWRENCE FORUM: Susana Veras and Antonio Bueno of Local 888 were glad to hear from the congressional candidates.

LAWRENCE FORUM: Susana Veras and Antonio Bueno of Local 888 were glad to hear from the congressional candidates.

SEIU members packed the auditorium at the Lawrence Public Library for an April 3rd Congressional District forum. Candidates kicked off the event with short statements, and then were grilled individually by union members sitting at cafeteria-size tables.

“I thought it was a fantastic event, and the candidates seemed to think so, too,” said Tom McKeever, Local 888’s new political director and secretary-treasurer-elect. “With the round robin setup, they got to talk for a time to one group of SEIU members and then move on to next.”

“The forum was a good way to try to find out what candidate the union should support,” said Antonio Bueno, of Local 888’s city of Lawrence unit.

The SEIU State Council sponsored the forum in partnership with Local 888 and other Massachusetts SEIU locals along with the SEIU community action program. Numerous Local 888 members from the Lawrence City Hall unit attended the event. Spanish translators were on hand.

Banners in the auditorium featured campaigns such as “Lawrence: Lucha for $15.” And raising the minimum wage to $15 was a top issue for SEIU members there. Attendees asked the seven candidates about issues ranging from climate change, to the opioid crisis, gun control and immigration reform.

“Some of the candidates had some really impressive backgrounds, and it was great to meet them,” said McKeever.

The 3rd congressional seat is open because U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) is retiring. Seven Democrats attended the SEIU forum:

  • Alexandra Chandler, a former U.S. national security analyst
  • Abhijit “Beej” Das, a small business owner
  • Rufus Gifford, a former U.S. ambassador to Denmark
  • Dan Koh, ex-chief of staff for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh
  • Barbara L’Italien, state senator from the 2nd Essex and Middlesex District
  • Juana Matias, state rep from Lawrence
  • Lori Trahan, small business owner.

 

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Interview with political director Tom McKeever

McKEEVER: Newly elected secretary-treasurer.

McKEEVER: Newly elected secretary-treasurer.

Q: Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues has appointed you political director. And you were recently elected secretary-treasurer on her Leadership for Changing Times slate. How will that inform your new roles?

 

Brenda’s philosophy is getting the membership more involved with their co-workers and the union. There wasn’t a focus on that in the past. So that’s a major goal. We’d like to see the membership come out and get more involved and take more leadership roles.

In addition, we want to be very visible; we want to have more transparency, and to be accountable. And we certainly want to make sure that if a phonecall is placed to the office, that someone returns that call to the member. That was one of the biggest complaints from members that we heard during the campaign.

Q: What attracted you to the position of political director?

I’m a graduate of UMass Boston. My focus was political science. I’ve always had an interest in political debates, the political climate and elections. So, when the post was offered to me,
I gladly accepted. I’m sure there’ll be a learning curve for me, but I look forward to doing the job.

Q: What changes would you like to make to improve Local 888’s effectiveness?

Our main concern is to boost our COPA (Committee on Political Action) funds. Our union dues do not cover our needs for political action. If our members are willing to give additional money, then we could support the campaigns of candidates who share our ideology. We have a lot of work to do in that regard.

COPA funds allow us to endorse candidates who will really work with us to support our agenda and help us overcome roadblocks. Looking ahead, the Janus case, specifically, is a major concern

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Emerson Staff Union files charges against college

SUNNY SOLIDARITY: Members of SEIU Local 721 in Los Angeles stand with Emerson College workers in their fight for a fair contract.

SUNNY SOLIDARITY: Members of SEIU Local 721 in Los Angeles stand with Emerson College workers in their fight for a fair contract.

The staff union at Emerson College has filed unfair labor practice charges against the school for changing SEIU Local 888 members’ jobs and working conditions without negotiating first with their union.

The Emerson College staff has been bargaining for 18 months for a first contract.

John-Albert Mosley, program coordinator in the Visual & Media Arts department and member of the Emerson Staff Union said, “I love working at Emerson, but we refuse to accept the administration’s consistent attempts to undermine union support. We come to the bargaining table in good faith and we expect the administration to do the same.”

The charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board included complaints that the college’s representatives have failed to bargain in good faith by making unilateral changes. Also, workers charged that Emerson has violated their federally protected rights to engage in concerted collective activity to improve wages and working conditions.

Management insists that Emerson cannot raise union members’ pay because it is a nonprofit. In the meantime, the college continues with expansion plans, including the purchase of a $24 million building. And its own wage-comparison studies show staff is paid well below market rate.

“Although negotiations have been lengthy, this first contract will lay the foundation for the future,” said Hersch Rothmel, Local 888 organizer. With charges filed and an active membership ready to fight, he said, “the Emerson Staff Union is confident about the outcome.”

The 140 members of SEIU Local 888’s Emerson Staff Union provide critical administrative services and support to students and faculty in the information technology, registration, television, radio, film, library, clinical and academic departments.

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Wins in Somerville, Belmont

NEGOTIATING PARTNERS: David Nagle and Terry Medeiros, in front, and Christine Cornelio, left rear, and Susan DeSousa

NEGOTIATING PARTNERS: David Nagle and Terry Medeiros, in front, and Christine Cornelio, left rear, and Susan DeSousa

 

 

The Somerville Dispatchers Unit has a new three-year contract that has a total value of slightly over 10 percent in monetary benefits, including an increase in pay for longevity on the job. Because the contract is retroactive to last July 1, members will get retro checks.

Among other things, every employee gets a $500 pay increase, a hike in shift differential pay, an additional holiday, a 2 percent cost-of-living increase and a guarantee of four hours pay for court time.

The Belmont Clerical Unit ratified a new contract. The 44-member union covers clerical and librarian workers and building inspectors. The contract includes a bump in longevity pay, additional step raises, improved eyeglass benefit and 2 percent cost-of-living increases.

“Both of these were very dedicated negotiation teams, very focused on getting what they wanted,” said field representative David Nagle. “They dug in their heels and were very resilient.”

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Wachusett shows way

BARGAINING TEAM: From left, Kate Trombley, Michelle Dumas, Beth Woodward and Chapter Chair Jen Fiddler (not pictured, Bryan McMaster).

BARGAINING TEAM: From left, Kate Trombley, Michelle Dumas, Beth Woodward and Chapter Chair Jen Fiddler (not pictured, Bryan McMaster).

 

The 60 Wachusett paraprofessionals represented by Local 888 have a new contract. Members won their key goal of addressing the school board’s moves to cut workers’ pay by both trimming the number of hours and the number of days worked over the course of the year.

The agreement means the committee will make the cuts in hours more gradually, even as members’ hourly pay rises somewhat. The contract includes 2 percent cost-of-living raises, an increase in pay for longevity and a first-time commitment to covering some costs of professional training.

The Wachusett Regional School District Committee has approved the new contract.

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Coming Attractions

coming up

Boston Labor Conference: Labor Organizing, Political Power & the Trump Effect
Saturday, April 14, 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
UMass Boston Labor Resource Center
Register here: http://conta.cc/2FOrsO
For more information, see: http://umasslep.prometheuslabor.com/event/boston-labor-conference-labor-organizing-political-power-and-trump-effect i

Labor Guild classes
Monday, April 16, 6:30– 9:00 p.m.
http://laborguild.com/product/spring-2018-school-labor-management-relations/

Workers’ Memorial Day
Friday, Apr 27, 12:00-1:15 p.m.
Massachusetts State House
24 Beacon St., Boston
https://www.massaflcio.org/calendar/worker-s-memorial-day-state-house

 Swearing-in ceremony for Officers and Executive Board members
Tuesday, May 1, 6-8 p.m.
SEIU Local 888, 25 Braintree Hill Park, No. 306, conference room, Braintree
For more information, visit: http://www.seiu888.org/888members/elections/

Raise Up Congress for Paid Family and Medical Leave and a $15 Minimum Wage
Tuesday, May 8, 1-3 p.m.
Massachusetts State House, 24 Beacon St, Boston,
www.raiseupma.org/congress

 Gubernatorial Candidates Forum
Saturday, June 16, Location TBA

coming up

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Data Entry Clerk

SEIU Local 888 logo

$15 / hour

Contract

Looking for a temporary part-time Data Entry Clerk for a project.

This position requires that the applicant be able to take information and enter into online program using a computer, and Microsoft Excel. This requires reading information to make sure it is accurate, and make corrections as needed. The hours and days are flexible. Pay rate is $15.00 a hour

Skills:
Computer skills: Typing skills, using a keyboard and be able to use Microsoft Office Word and Advanced (V-Lookups, Macros and formulas) Excel.
Good Vision: Be able to see well and read information that may be hand written.
Time Management: Speed is of the essence, be able to manage time efficiently to meet deadlines is essential.
Education: High school diploma or GED

Please email humanresources@seiu888.org
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U.S. 3rd Congressional District Candidate Forum

SEIU State Council (in partnership with Locals 509, 32BJ, 1199 UHE, 888, 3FO, and CIR, and SEIU Community Action), will be holding a Candidates Forum.
This is your chance to meet the candidates running for U.S. Congress.
When: Saturday, April 7, 2018
Where: Lawrence Public Library
51 Lawrence Street, Lawrence, MA
When: 1:00—3:30
Snacks and soft drinks will be available
Meet Candidates Dan Koh, Lori Trahan, Rufus Gifford, Barbara L’Italien, Juana Matias, Beej Das, and Alexandra Chandler!
We encourage all our members to attend — Let your voices be heard!
The U.S. Senate Special Election Forum is open to members only.
Link to a map of the Third District: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/MA/3
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West Virginia Teachers are an inspiration for action in Massachusetts

As public-sector workers and union activists rallied to preserve labor rights across the state of Massachusetts on February 26, some looked to teachers in West Virginia for inspiration. Although it was once a strong pro-union state because of courageous organizing by coal miners, state employees have never had the right to collective bargaining. And in 2017, so-called “right to work” legislation eliminated “fair share” dues contributions in the private sector. West Virginia teachers don’t have union contracts and it is “unlawful” for them to strike according to the state attorney general.

Apparently more than 34,000 teachers in West Virginia didn’t “get the memo” that they weren’t supposed to band together and act collectively. On February 22, after years of stagnant wages and a slap in the face 2% raise for 2018 and 1% raises for the next two years, teachers in West Virginia stopped work shutting down every single school district in the state.

At first union leaders encouraged teachers to pursue a strategy of rolling strikes, targeting a few schools at a time. Given that teachers and other state employees in West Virginia lack basic labor rights and that a strike by teachers would be technically illegal, the caution by union leaders was understandable. However, rank and file teachers meeting in local union halls (and sometimes even in shopping centers) declared “55 Strong”– a rallying cry to stop work in all 55 school districts across the state. Teachers and other school employees from three different unions and many who are not part of any labor organization, shut down all the public schools in West Virginia.

Teachers rallying at the West Virginia State Capitol.

Teachers rallying at the West Virginia State Capitol.

The Teachers strike lasted 9 days and included a constant presence of red clad strikers and supporters at the state capitol building in Charleston. (The capitol occupation was reminiscent of the Badger Revolution in Wisconsin, when public sector workers and allies occupied the capital in Madison after then Gov. Scott Walker pushed through right to work legislation. In West Virginia, striking teachers wore red, invoking the red bandanas of striking miners at Blair Mountain in 1921.) After 9 days the legislature relented, passing a 5% pay raise — not only for teachers, but for all West Virginia state employees. Strikers also succeeded in stemming cuts to health insurance for state employees and got a commitment from the Governor to veto anti-union legislation.

Jonathan Dudley, a Head Start teacher and member of Local 888’s MOC Chapter is thinking about what we can learn from teachers in West Virginia. “I was really inspired by how West Virginia Teachers organized at the grassroots,” he explained. “They built solidarity across the whole state, across different school districts, across unions that didn’t even have contracts.”

Dudley has begun attending meetings of the North Central Mass Solidarity Committee – which is organized by Jobs with Justice. “I met Natalia last fall when a co-worker and I agreed to gather signatures for Raise Up Massachusetts,” continued Dudley. “She is from Leominster and thought maybe there was an opportunity to have a group in this part of the state where union members and community members could work together on economic justice issues.” Natalia Berthet Garcia is an organizer with Mass Jobs with Justice, which has built similar solidarity committees in other parts of the state.

“Right now it is a small group, but I noticed there are several of us that work in school settings,” says Dudley. “While we are often in different unions, I wonder if there might be some common issues we could work together on.” Among other issues the Solidarity Committee is looking at building local support for the Fair Share Amendment, which would provide needed revenue for schools and public infrastructure. “Maybe we can learn from West Virginia,” says Jonathan. “We don’t have to limit ourselves to prescribed activities like grievances and contract fights. Maybe we can work together at a grassroots level and win something big for our schools and communities. While I’d never underestimate the power of committed union members from the coal field state of West Virginia, the teacher’s strike there took me by complete surprise. I don’t know, maybe we are a lot stronger than we think.”

Dudley isn’t the only one taking inspiration from West Virginia. In Oklahoma where short sighted tax policy has crippled public education, school weeks have been cut to four days. Teachers there have started to suggest that they should follow the lead of their colleagues in West Virginia.

If you live or work in North Central Massachusetts and would be interested in joining the Jobs with Justice Solidarity Committee contact Natalia at: Natalia@massjwj.net

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New Leadership for Local 888

Anita Christon, Recording Secretary; Brenda Rodrigues President; Tom McKeever, Secretary-Treasurer.

Anita Christon, Recording Secretary; Brenda Rodrigues President; Tom McKeever, Secretary-Treasurer.

Members elect leadership for changing times

Local 888’s officer election has concluded 1,698 ballots cast to elect new leadership.

Brenda Rodrigues was elected President, Tom McKeever was elected Secretary-Treasurer, Anita Christon was re-elected Recording Secretary. These candidates were all part of the Leadership for Changing Times slate.

Brenda and her team ran on the slogan “No chapter too small, no problem too big.” In a message to members she stated, “SEIU Local 888 needs new leadership who will be more aggressive in defending our contracts, more responsive to our members and willing to provide staff with the resources they need to accomplish our goals.”

Local 888 would like to thank the Election Committee for their work overseeing the process. Thank you to Gordan Luciano (chair), Meta Jones, Lenny DiBartolomeao and alternate Kathleen Porrazzo.

New leadership and unity moving forward

“I have authorized Secretary-Treasurer and President-elect Brenda Rodrigues to begin leading the local immediately,” said President Mark DelloRusso. “We are working cooperatively to make decisions in the best interests of our members to keep Local 888 moving forward.”

Local 888’s field reps and staff will remain on the job and continue their work as assigned. President-elect Rodrigues has appointed Rand Wilson (former Organizing and Communications Director) to lead the transition for the new administration and assume the role of Chief of Staff effective immediately.

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An interview with President-elect Brenda Rodrigues

BrendaQ: Your slate was called Leadership for Changing Times. Members voted for a change in leadership. What are the first steps you will take to usher in change for the membership?

I am beginning a listening tour to hear from our members across the state. I want to visit members in small and large groups and learn about their jobs, what they do every day, and what issues we can work on together to improve worker power. I hope this listening tour will open the doors to better communication between rank-and-file members and union leadership. One of the biggest things we have to address is the changing environment for unions, which will require better listening and improved communications.

In the upcoming months we will focus on staff and member training, reorganizing our office to allow staff to more efficiently and effectively do their daily jobs. One good sign: we’ve recently had staff and members sign up for Labor Guild classes.

Q: Change won’t happen overnight. What can members do to help you achieve the vision that they voted for?

My big focus is listening and building relationships. Members can help their union by building stronger relationships with their co-workers, and backing each other up on the job. Our union is facing huge challenges. For one, we have more than 200 chapters from the Cape to Springfield. It’s a lot of ground to cover, so I want to enlist the Executive Board and other members to help. Another major challenge is the nationwide effort to decimate unions and to take away people’s benefits. The Janus v. AFSCME case is one example. If we don’t start building stronger relationships between ourselves now, it’s going to be too late.

Q: What changes will you make that will impact members’ day to day lives?

I plan to take a hard look at the current staff set up. I want to find out, do we need more organizers or field staff? If someone isn’t getting their phone call answered I will find out why. Last week I talked to a member who told me of not being able to find out how many bereavement days he was entitled to after his father passed away. He didn’t know his staff representative, steward, or chapter chair and couldn’t find this information anywhere. I plan to set up a member “hotline” where members can call in and get questions answered quickly.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Throughout my campaign, I met so many members across the state who inspired me with their commitment to their jobs and our union. Our members are working so hard to provide quality public services, to do their jobs well and to maintain fair working conditions for each other.

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