Union Updates

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Executive Board outraged by IU proposal to dissolve SEIU Local 888

Heather Conroy, an International Executive VP for the Public Sector Division of SEIU informed Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues that the International Union has proposed dissolving Local 888 and holding a jurisdictional hearing to merge all of our bargaining units into the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) and SEIU Local 509.

The IU based it’s decision on an assessment of Local 888’s Janus readiness.  It made some projections based on our income and expenses that the local would not be viable in 2020.

SEIU Local 888 Executive Board

SEIU Local 888 Executive Board

The Local 888 Executive Board held an emergency meeting on July 10 about the IU proposal and unanimously rejected the proposal. The board is committed to the rights of our members and continuing to lead our union in challenging times. Click here to see a statement of unity by the Executive Board: SEIU Local 888 Executive Board is united behind our officers.

The board passed a resolution affirming that only SEIU Local 888 members have the right to determine the future of their union.

With the full board’s support, Brenda and Secretary-Treasurer Tom McKeever have sent an appeal to reverse the decision to VP Conroy and to President Mary Kay Henry.  No response to the appeal has been received as of July 18.

The Board’s resolution is copied below and can also be downloaded by clicking here: SEIU Local 888 members have the right to determine the future of their union.

Local 888’s officers and staff will make every effort to keep members informed.

SEIU Local 888 members have the right to determine the future of their union

SEIU Local 888’s officers were recently informed that the International Union (IU) is threatening to initiate a jurisdictional hearing to disband our local and merge our bargaining units into two other SEIU public service unions: the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) and SEIU Local 509.

Whereas: This decision is premature, not based on any post-Janus membership data, and totally undemocratic; and

Whereas: This decision will alienate our members at the exact moment when — because of the Janus decision — we need to be in better harmony with them; and

Whereas: The membership alienation caused by this top down, undemocratic decision risks losing more members while not solving the very real problems our union must tackle; and

Whereas: This decision will be used by our enemies to illustrate how SEIU is not an organization of, by and for the members, but instead is behaving just like any other corporation.

Now therefore be it resolved that: SEIU Local 888’s Executive Board and officers are united in opposition to dissolving Local 888 and instead wish to provide a constructive alternative by pursuing a strategic partnership with SEIU Local 509 to:

  • Bring 25,000 SEIU members together in a Massachusetts collaboration resulting in new synergies and administrative cost savings. This collaboration will strengthen our members –white, black and brown – to fight for the good, union jobs our communities need.
  • Through collaboration, explore opportunities for improved member representation, more aggressive organizing and a stronger political action program necessitated by an open shop (post-Janus decision) environment.
  • Appoint leaders from each local to a joint Local 509-888 committee to oversee these objectives and establish benchmarks that — if necessary — could lead to a merger plan to be decided on democratically by the memberships of both unions.

And be it further resolved that: Should the IU insist on proceeding with a jurisdictional hearing, Local 888 leaders will take all necessary steps to persuade the IU to reverse its decision.

Adopted by the SEIU Local 888 Executive Board, July 10, 2018


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Sticking with the union

SOLIDARITY: Local 888 members Rosa Matías, Mirna Polanco and Suze St.Val at the Chelsea Soldiers Home show which side they’re on after the Supreme Court’s Janus decision.

SOLIDARITY: Local 888 members Rosa Matías, Mirna Polanco and Suze St.Val at the Chelsea Soldiers Home show which side they’re on after the Supreme Court’s Janus decision.

We must stay united, we must stay strong,” said Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against government workers and their unions in the Janus vs AFSCME case. The court reversed a 41-year-old precedent that said all public workers represented by a union could be required to pay “fair share” fees. This ensured that everyone who benefits from union contracts – including wages, benefits and on-the-job protections – has to pay their fair share for their representation.

The new ruling will allow employees to be free riders by refusing to pay their way.

“This Supreme Court decision is yet another example of how billionaires have rigged the system against working people,” said Rodrigues. “But we are not going to allow a court case to stand in our way. Instead, we will redouble our efforts to build unity on the job.”

To begin the fight needed to move forward:

  • Visit https://americaneedsunions.org/ to show support for America’s working families by posting photos holding “UNION” signs on social media using #Union!
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Wage hike, family leave ‘Raise Up’ Mass.

Damali Simmonds

Damali Simmonds

Following a campaign by the Raise Up coalition, the governor signed legislation that will increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour and create a Paid Family and Medical Leave program. These victories were only possible because union members and community activists gathered 350,000 signatures to get both proposals on the ballot, while at the same time organizing around the state to get the Legislature to enact these new laws. With these victories in hand Raise Up – a coalition of labor, religious and community groups – has agreed to drop its ballot initiatives.

Local 888 Executive Board member Damali Simmonds said “it’s exciting” to have the medical leave act approved. “This means people can breathe a sigh of relief. They won’t have to worry about paying their bills” if they take time off.

Simmonds – who testified at the State House for the legislation – learned first-hand about the need for such a program when she gave birth to her daughter Malia three years ago. Not long after she was born, her daughter became seriously ill.” And I didn’t have any paid time off on the books,” said Simmonds, who works for the Boston Water and Sewer Commission.

The new Paid Family and Medical Leave program will make the state a national leader in support of working families. The legislation would allow Massachusetts’ workers to take paid time off to take care of themselves or a family member after a medical emergency or the birth or adoption of a new child.

The bill would provide more job-protected paid leave than any other state – 12 weeks of family leave and 20 weeks of medical leave. The costs will be split 50-50 between employers and employees.

In addition, the minimum wage will rise to $15 by 2023. Raise Up strongly criticized some of the legislation’s provisions – including the elimination of time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays, something sought by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

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Candidates spar ahead of Sept. 4 primary

MERRIMACK VALLEY FORUM: Local 888 member Pedro Ayala, left, speaks up as legislative candidates listen. Seated in front, from left, are Local 888 leaders Fred Simmons, Mike Kelly, Tom McKeever and Darcie Boyer.

MERRIMACK VALLEY FORUM: Local 888 member Pedro Ayala, left, speaks up as legislative candidates listen. Seated in front, from left, are Local 888 leaders Fred Simmons, Mike Kelly, Tom McKeever and Darcie Boyer.

As the countdown to the Sept. 4 primary begins, Local 888 leaders are sizing up the candidates and issues.

State representative candidate Darrin Howell has been endorsed in the Fifth Suffolk District by SEIU Locals 888 and 1199, where he previously worked as a political organizer. The seat is being vacated by Evandro Carvalho.

The district covers parts of Dorchester and Roxbury.

While with SEIU 1199, Howell advocated for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and establishing a paid family and medical leave policy statewide.

Howell, 36, has also campaigned for criminal justice reform. While a young man he served time in jail, and later experienced the difficulties of finding work in the outside world.

Fortunately, he found work as a staffer for then-Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner. For more information on candidate Howell, see: http://darrinhowell.com/

In other election news, a Merrimack Valley State Legislative Candidates Forum sponsored by the SEIU State Council spotlighted candidates in that area. Local 888 member Pedro Ayala was the moderator at the forum,


Local 888 member Alexcy Vega (See http://www.seiu888.org/2018/06/08/throwing-hat-in-ring/) has launched a Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Northern Essex Register of Deeds Paul Iannuccillo.

Longtime Local 888 member Deborah Moran of Adams is running as an independent in the race for the Northern Berkshire District Register of Deeds. Another longtime member, Maria Ziemba, also of Adams, is running for the same post in the Democratic primary. (See: http://www.seiu888.org/2018/06/11/local-888s-big-role-in-berkshire-race/)

Local 888 has helped spotlight the top congressional races slated for the Sept. 4 primary election.

A 3rd Congressional District forum, sponsored by the SEIU State Council in Lawrence, gave Local 888 members a chance to grill a field of seven Democratic candidates in a round-robin setup. The seat is open because U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) is retiring.

In addition, a 7th Congressional District forum, held at the SEIU 1199 offices in Quincy, highlighted the race between U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano and his challenger, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley.

Local 888 does not plan to endorse a congressional candidate in either race until after the primary.

According to the secretary of state, the deadline to register to vote in any election is 20 days prior to voting, so this year it will be August 15. See: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleifv/howreg.htm

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Getting Head Start on pay

MEETING OF THE MINDS: Local 888 field rep Madeline Soto, teacher and shop steward Jonathan Dudley and teacher Paula Mulligan talk shop at the Leominster Head Start Center.

MEETING OF THE MINDS: Local 888 field rep Madeline Soto, teacher and shop steward Jonathan Dudley and teacher Paula Mulligan talk shop at the Leominster Head Start Center.

Local 888’s nearly 100 members at Montachusett Head Start have approved a three-year contract that includes guaranteed 3 percent-per-year raises.

Other major gains included that some workers got pay upgrades or had their hours increased from 37½ to 40, said Local 888 field rep Madeline Soto.

In addition, teachers who work year-round will be paid overtime to work a couple Saturdays in order to work on curriculum and lesson planning. Some people who are employed on a school-calendar basis already had this time built into their schedules. In addition, more workers are now eligible for mileage reimbursement and improved time-off provisions.

The Head Start teachers along with family services coordinators and family development coordinators work in centers in Clinton, Leominster, Fitchburg, Gardner and Athol.

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Healthy staffing for nurses


At its monthly meeting on June 13, Local 888’s Executive Board voted to support the Patient Safety Act, a ballot initiative that will be on the November ballot. If enacted, this law would require hospitals to have minimum staffing levels, depending on the type of unit.

For example, emergency room nurses would be allowed to care for between one and five patients, depending on the patients’ condition.

The ballot question has been put forward by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) and the Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care.

A recent survey of registered nurses in Massachusetts performed by the MNA said that 77 percent said unsafe patient assignments are a problem. In addition, nearly two-thirds reported injury and harm to patients due to staffing levels.

“Every patient has a right to safe and effective nursing care,” said MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams. “Unfortunately, outside of intensive care units, there is no law limiting the number of patients who can be assigned to a nurse at one time in Massachusetts hospitals.”

Members who would like to support the campaign by displaying a lawn sign or bumper sticker should contact Local 888’s political director Tom McKeever at tmckeever@seiu888.org

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Marlborough techs on move


The Marlborough Public Schools behavioral techs approved their proposed contract with a 92 percent vote – cementing into place the big gains they had made last year. These 50-plus paraprofessionals are crucial to the city’s special education program.

The new agreement builds on their one-year contract extension last year, which had raises of 8 to 12 percent. “That one-year extension formed the basis for these paraprofessionals to be treated on par with the others in the school system,” said Ronald Patenaude, Local 888 field representative.

The new, three-year agreement boosts the behavioral techs’ pay by an additional 2 percent per year. Longevity payments, which had been discontinued, are again included in the new pact.

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Coming Attractions

888-calendar logo

Workers with the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services seek the right to unionize. Demonstration at 1 p.m., Thurs., July 26, State House steps, Boston. For more info, email D.J. Cronin at dcronin@seiu888.org

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Moment of Silence

888 In Memory

The officers of Local 888 extend our deepest sympathies to the family of member Anthony Buonomo, who worked at the Chelsea Soldiers Home and to his partner, Lyneth Martin, who works at the home.


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Want to meet your union president?

Brenda Rodrigues

Brenda Rodrigues

Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues would love to meet the members of your chapter. To schedule a visit with her, contact your field representative or chapter chair.

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Local 888’s big role in Berkshire race

Deborah Moran

Deborah Moran

Maria Ziemba

Maria Ziemba

Local 888 will be well-represented in the race that is heating up for the Northern Berkshire District Register of Deeds. This fall’s general election could feature two candidates with Local 888 ties facing off against each other.

Longtime union member Deborah Moran of Adams is running for register as an independent. Moran has worked at the Registry of Deeds since 1992 – starting out as a junior clerk and ultimately getting promoted to head administrative clerk.

Two years ago, current Register of Deeds Frances Brooks named Moran first assistant register. Brooks is now retiring.

Longtime Local 888 member Maria Ziemba, also of Adams, is running for register as a Democrat, so far unopposed. Similarly to her potential opponent, Ziemba has worked her way up from being hired as a junior clerk more than 20 years ago.

“This is my time” to run for the register post, Ziemba said.

Both candidates said that, if elected, they would continue computerization projects the office has already begun. After 1985, the registry put its data onto computers. But the office, located in Adams, has about 220,000 index cards with the records of property sales, one set for sellers and the other for buyers. Completing this project would, for the first time, make these sales searchable by computer.

The office, which only has six employees, has so far processed about 10,000 file cards.

The modernization project would bring convenience, but also offer up a bit of history: Some of the records date back to the 1700s.

One goal, Moran said, would be to take some older, deteriorated land surveys to a company that can “repair them” using more high-tech equipment. “There’s a lot of history in the office that I’d like to see preserved.”

Ziemba said that having a few more workers would help speed up the process of scanning and indexing the paper file cards.




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Emerson staff net first pact

GETTING AN EARFUL: Emerson President Lee Pelton, left, and staff member Anna Feder, with sign, listen as staffer Pierre Huberson talks to a luncheon rally for equal pay and a fair wage.

GETTING AN EARFUL: Emerson President Lee Pelton, left, and staff member Anna Feder, with sign, listen as staffer Pierre Huberson talks to a luncheon rally for equal pay and a fair wage.

Members of the Emerson Staff Union voted unanimously to ratify their first collective bargaining agreement with the college—a four-year pact that guarantees across-the-board raises of 14.5 percent over the life of the contract, new commuter benefits, strong “just cause” job protections, a sick bank and a broad parental leave policy.

“I’m proud of the agreement we reached,” said Jacqueline Holland, assistant director of Academic Support, with 18 years of service. “We worked hard to end the favoritism and inequities created by a merit pay system. Instead, we established across-the-board raises that are fair and commensurate with the work we do.”

The contract covers about 170 clerical, technical and professional employees at Emerson College who perform a variety of jobs critical to the success of the college. The Emerson Staff Union was formed with support from SEIU Local 888 in 2015. Workers won an NLRB-supervised union representation election in April 2016.

The contract creates stability, predictability and a new standard for employee relations at Emerson College.

During the organizing campaign, staff found that requests for parental leave were being treated on a case-by-case manner that often didn’t cover adoptive parents. “Now we have a fair parental leave policy that covers all parents for 12 weeks, no matter their situation,” said Richelle Devereaux-Murray, Costume Shop supervisor, with 14 years of service. “This allows all staff to focus on big changes in their family life without stressing over how HR will respond to their request for leave.”

Even before the contract was ratified, the staff union won important improvements to their working conditions. When the union exposed that women were paid less to do the same jobs as men in the same department, administrators raised the women’s salaries. At the bargaining table, the union insisted management fulfill its promise to raise pay to the 40th percentile. And it did, for all staff at Emerson, union or not. The administration also moved everyone up from the lowest pay grade and then eliminated it.

“Our members showed their determination to win long-overdue job improvements by protesting at college events, circulating petitions, and staying united on the job,” said Estelle Ticktin, administrative assistant to the chair of Communication Sciences and Disorders, with five years of service. “We enlisted support from our students, other Emerson campus unions, other higher-ed unions, and members of SEIU. That support and solidarity was essential to winning a good contract.”

“Our top college administrators have often said they want to make Emerson the best college to work at,” said Dennis Levine, System Security administrator, with four and a half years of service. “We think this contract is the first tangible step in that direction.”

In addition to staff at Emerson, Local 888 unites higher education employees at Boston University, Brandeis University and UMass Lowell.



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