Union Updates

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SEIU Local 888 officer and executive board election info

electionnoticeFor information about the SEIU Local 888 officer and executive board election, please visit the Elections Page.

Members interested in obtaining candidate nomination petitions or signing candidate petition forms must log into the Local 888 Member Portal:
https://seiu888portal.membership.winmill.net/Election-Nominees

 

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SEIU wants you for quick survey

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These are unprecedented times. Now, members can give valuable feedback to SEIU on how the pandemic has affected their workplaces. To take the survey, go to: https://tinyurl.com/SEIU2020survey.

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Executive board approves new officers

STEPPING UP: Elmer Arriaza, chapter vice president at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, takes the oath of office on Zoom for the executive board.

STEPPING UP: Elmer Arriaza, chapter vice president at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, takes the oath of office on Zoom for the executive board.

The Local 888 Executive Board has ratified the nominations of new officials, electing one new member to the board and one trustee. They are:

  • Elmer Arriaza, chapter vice president at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, to the board.
  • Justin Lawler, who has served as vice president of the chapter at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, as a trustee.

Also in recent months, the Local 888 board approved the nominations of:

  • Kevin Nascimento, who has served as treasurer of the Brockton Public Library chapter, as the local’s secretary-treasurer.
  • Susan Winning, a former UMass Lowell leader and Local 888 trustee, to the board as the representative of the new retirees chapter.
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Campaign: Respect Us, Protect Us, Pay Us

20_888-SEIU Local logo2

The international union is taking the next step in its Respect Us. Protect Us. Pay Us campaign.

In the November election, SEIU members voted for health care and long-term care that everyone can afford — along with:

  • Changing policies and systems that can make it harder for people of color and working families to thrive.
  • Providing frontline workers with protective gear, hazard pay, and paid sick leave.
  • Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
  • Tackling the COVID-19 crisis in a clear, science-based way.
  • Supporting essential workers and their right to collective bargaining.

SEIU members voted for leaders who will support them. Now, the International Union said, it’s time for officials at all levels of governance to “do what we elected them to do.”

To sign the pledge. Go to: https://secure.everyaction.com/dfab1X7d_UWSTvWcPRR8oQ2.

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Gearing up for Local 888 election

BRENDA RODRIGUES

BRENDA RODRIGUES

The union’s 2021 election was at the top of everybody’s mind at the Local 888 Executive Board meeting this month — as its members made plans and President Brenda Rodrigues officially announced that she would not be a candidate for re-election.

The union has made “incredible strides in the past few years, providing greater accountability and overcoming major obstacles,” said Rodrigues, 67. “After working hard for some 52 years, it’s time for me to give some time to my family.”

Since the 2018 vote, Local 888 has weathered the setbacks posed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s anti-union Janus case, persevered during the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, and moved forward by rallying the membership and organizing the not-yet organized.

This January, Local 888 members voted overwhelmingly to approve revisions of the bylaws — aimed at increasing participation, promoting greater union democracy and strengthening members’ rights to a fair work environment. One change included the creation of a chapter for Local 888 retirees. Susan Winning is now the new chapter’s executive board member.

At its December meeting, the board approved four impartial Local 888 members to serve on the Election Committee overseeing the 2021 Officer and Executive Board election. They are:

  • James Harrington, Lottery Commission
  • Kathleen Porrazzo, Quincy Housing Authority Professionals
  • William Bonnetti, Town of Yarmouth, Unit A
  • Marcelina Johnson, Boston Centers for Youth & Families

The board also adopted an updated “General Election Policies and Procedures” to guide the group’s work.

The last election, in February 2018, featured a competitive race that brought in new officers as part of the Leadership for Changing Times slate, which included Rodrigues as president along with Local 888 trustees and board members.

When she was elected, Rodrigues said that “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.”

In an interview with The Spark at the time, she urged unity, saying that “Members can help their union by building stronger relationships with their co-workers, and backing each other up on the job.” For the full report, see: http://www.seiu888.org/files/2013/05/march-2018-spark-3.pdf.

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Local 888’s 2021 strategic plan sets high goals

READY TO LEAD: Justin Lawler, from the UMass Lowell chapter, takes the oath of office at a recent executive board meeting on Zoom.

READY TO LEAD: Justin Lawler, from the UMass Lowell chapter, takes the oath of office at a recent executive board meeting on Zoom.

Local 888’s strategic plan for 2021 calls for leaders, staff and members to commit themselves to upping their game from this year’s efforts. In addition, it calls for the union to win standards-setting contracts in Local 888’s six industry sectors, create model contract language for those sectors and help build a broader movement by bargaining for “the common good.”

The plan, approved by the Local 888 Executive

Board says that, in 2021, the union will “set standards with contract campaigns.” To make that possible, the union will:

  • “Invest in research, provide communications support, and strengthen chapter internal organization” wherever necessary to win.
  • “Continue to coordinate a campaign with the 12 bargaining teams in the city of Boston where contracts expired in 2020.”
  • Bring leaders together and support the union’s negotiators for the state’s Unit 2 — which includes both Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers’ Homes, the Massachusetts State Lottery and the University of Massachusetts Lowell, which will be negotiating their contracts in 2021.

The 2021 strategic plan calls for convening chapter leaders in each industry sector to compare contracts and arrive at model contract language. This would cover such issues as union orientation for new hires, and strengthening health and safety committees.

In addition, the strategic plan urges chapters to “Bargain for the Common Good.” This means linking chapters’ bargaining goals with improving the quality and dependability of the services members provide. It also means aggressively opposing “austerity” moves that result in cuts in essential public services and the good jobs of those who provide them.

All told, Local 888 has 8,500 members united in 200 collective bargaining agreements.

In 2021, 43 of Local 888’s contracts will expire. Due to the disruption from the COVID-19 virus, another 24 contracts will also need to be completed that were extended for one year or postponed from 2020.

Local 888’s membership falls into six key industry sectors: schools, early education and  higher ed along with municipal, state and public authorities workers. In turn, the union has 12 key occupational job titles that make up the vast majority of its membership: cafeteria, clerical, library, transportation and parking, maintenance, engineering and DPW workers along with paraprofessionals, custodians, dispatchers, managers and professionals.

For more on new member orientation, see http://www.seiu888.org/2020/10/07/taking-on-a-new-way-for-member-orientation/.

For more on Local 888’s new chapter for retirees, Forever Union, see http://www.seiu888.org/2020/09/16/retirees-chapter-set-for-takeoff/.

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Holyoke Soldiers’ Home moves toward restoration

TRYING TIMES: Local 888 leader Kwesi Ablordeppey testifies at Holyoke Community College for the Legislature’s special committee on the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home outbreak.

TRYING TIMES: Local 888 leader Kwesi Ablordeppey testifies at Holyoke Community College for the Legislature’s special committee on the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home outbreak.

Last spring, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home achieved notoriety for having one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the U.S. New management has been working closely with Local 888 to set things right.

“Local 888 and management, under acting superintendent Val Liptak, have had a cordial relationship,” said Kwesi Ablordeppey, Holyoke chapter president. “Management has been working well with the union to hire more staff.” He said he would have to wait and see how things go under the newly appointed acting superintendent, Michael Lazo.

Management has been hiring needed staff before reopening areas closed due to the outbreak — which killed at least 76 residents. Ablordeppey said that only six units at the

Holyoke Home are operating, while there used to 10.

Under the ousted management, the facility had been understaffed for years. Members had launched campaigns demanding the facility increase staffing levels — out of fairness to both the vets and Local 888 members.

At the beginning of the outbreak, managers reprimanded Ablordeppey — in writing — for using personal protective equipment (PPE), such as a gown and the proper mask, an N95. In contrast, the new management has turned that around, he said, so there is sufficient PPE .

“They have done an excellent job,” he said. Local 888 represents such workers as nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses.

An independent investigation conducted for the governor, after the Holyoke disaster, backed up Local 888 members. It concluded that understaffing and poor management had been a problem there for years.

The old management’s negligent understaffing left it thoroughly unprepared to deal with the pandemic, as staffers became ill and stayed out sick. The superintendent’s authoritarian style meant that such issues were ignored until the wolf was at the door.

At least 84 Soldiers’ Home employees, of the over 300 employees there during the outbreak, tested positive for the virus.

The Local 888 leader said there is one major obstacle to hiring: The pay for CNAs and LPNs is too low. He said that, when he was hired at the Holyoke Home, the pay was competitive. Now, he said, CNAs and LPNs can pull in more at outside facilities.

Now, a recruiting firm is looking to fill another Holyoke post: that of superintendent, the top job. When the state stepped in take over the Holyoke Home, Western Massachusetts Hospital CEO Val Liptak was made the interim superintendent.

The former superintendent, Bennett Walsh, along with the former medical director, David Clinton were arraigned last month in Hampden County Superior Court on charges on criminal neglect charges stemming from the Holyoke Homes deaths. They pled not guilty and were released without bail.

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Members eye retirement with COVID-style event

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In a pandemic triumph, about 200 members attended the Social Security 101 workshops this month on Zoom.

“I was really excited about how many people attended,” said Teresa Riordan, an organizer of the event. “This showed that a lot of people are looking to retire, but don’t know how to go about doing it — especially given the complicated details surrounding Social Security.”

She said that most attendees stayed on past the presentation for the question-and-answer session, which pushed the online events out to a remarkable two hours. Local 888’s hosting of the event fits in with its new strategic plan, which calls for providing more programs and services to members beyond their labor contracts.

The union’s new chapter — SEIU Local 888 Union Forever — sponsored the event. If you are retired or about to retire, the Union Forever chapter invites you to become a member.

In addition, becoming a Union Forever member is a good way to get involved with advocating for retirement legislation that helps seniors.

For example, federal, state and local government workers could be affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision regarding Social Security. In general, these rules can apply if you are eligible for a monthly pension based on work where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes. The pension can result in a reduction in your Social Security benefits.

The event covered the basics on Social Security — including questions of when a person born in a certain year can collect 100 percent of benefits, or “full retirement age.” The presentation also looked at early retirement, at age 62, and estimating potential benefits. This would include the extra boost gained by retiring at age 70.

At this time, the cost to join the Local 888 retiree chapter is $40 annually. For an application form, click this link. For more info, contact Lidia Calvo at lcalvo@seiu888.org.

In addition, Local 888 has begun offering a BCBS Dental Insurance Plan for members of the retiree chapter. For more info, email Linda Deluca at ldeluca.funds@seiu888.org.

For more information on Social Security and Medicare, see the workshop slides at http://www.seiu888.org/2020/12/02/social-security-101-turns-out-250/.

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Winchester pact edges by Town Meeting

WinchesterMA-seal

While vast amounts of wealth have been created at tech companies and in downtown Boston, getting raises can still be an uphill climb for those who work for local governments.

In Winchester, a proposed contract for the Local 888 clerical workers chapter had to face Town Meeting, which allows everyone to get their two cents in. The town’s Finance Committee opposed the proposal. The Town Meeting was held via Zoom, due to the pandemic.

Of note: Winchester is one of the wealthiest communities in the state.

The Daily Times Chronicle reported that the contract drew support from the Personnel Board and the town manager. The added cost to the town of Winchester, the Personnel Board said, would be $22,774 for the first year of the contract and then $70,864 and an additional $70,314 for the other two.

Town Meeting passed the chapter’s contract by one vote. Still opponents called for yet another vote, but failed to overturn the original vote.

The three-year contract included cost-of-living raises of 2 percent (retroactive) in the past fiscal year and again in the second year, partially retroactive. The contract, which runs through June 30, 2020, has a 2.5 percent COLA in the third year.

The contract drew fire over:

  • An increase in the technology stipend from 1 percent to 2 percent, retroactive to July 1.
  • The potential for higher raises, given the customary step scale.
  • The impact on the town budget

The contract also includes a longevity clause that gives workers an extra $100 after the first five years, $150 after 10 years, $200 after 15 years, $400 after 20 years, and $400 after 25 years. In addition: a boost to hourly pay if a worker fills in for someone in a higher pay grade.

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Zoom event to examine health care reform

Medicare for All hirez

The need to reform the U.S. healthcare system has become even more pressing an issue due to the pandemic and record levels of unemployment. To address that problem, SEIU Local 888 supports setting up a Medicare for All, or single-payer, system. One way Local 888 leaders can get more involved in the movement for reform is to attend the 2021 Medicare for All Strategy Conference in January.

As many as 12 million Americans may have lost their health insurance when the COVID-19 economic crisis hit, a study from the Economic Policy Institute concludes.

The 2021 Medicare for All Strategy Conference, co-sponsored by the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, will be held online on Sat. and Sun., Jan. 23 and 24. “Single payer” means that the government will pay the bills, as insurance companies do now.

The aim of the conference is to meet with other labor and healthcare activists to strategize how to win this fight under a new administration and a new Congress.

The organizers’ goal is to make this online event as participatory and interactive as possible. Workshops will consist of short presentations, with most of the hour dedicated to breakout sessions for discussion.

Some workshops will be geared to those who are fairly new to the issue while others will target seasoned activists. There will also be opportunities to talk with participants during caucuses, workshop breakouts — even “Happy Hours” hosted on the social networking platform Gather.

To register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2021-medicare-for-all-strategy-conference-tickets-127486594837

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2020 convention hosts college scholarship raffle

JOHN DEVANE, left, and his mom Tracey Monti.

JOHN DEVANE, left, and his mom Tracey Monti.

ABIGAIL LEIGH SOUKUP, left, and her mom, Lynne.

ABIGAIL LEIGH SOUKUP, left, and her mom, Lynne.

JAMEEKA SULPH, right, and her father, Lenroy.

JAMEEKA SULPH, right, and her father, Lenroy.

PALESA COCHRAN-ALLEN

PALESA COCHRAN-ALLEN

BOUND FOR COLLEGE: Local 888 held a raffle for college scholarships at its recent online convention on Zoom. The $1,000 award went to John Devane  and his mother, Tracey Monti, Blue Hills Regional clerical chapter. $500 awards went to: Abigail Leigh Soukup and her mother, Lynne, Westborough town clerical chapter; and Lenroy Sulph, Boston Centers for Youth & Families chapter, and his daughter Jameeka; and Palesa Cochran-Allen, of the Boston Admin Guild.

 

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Pulling together in COVID-19 times

NASCIMENTO

KEVIN NASCIMENTO: Local 888 secretary-treasurer.

“During the global pandemic, our union’s top priority has been protecting the health of our members and getting them the safety equipment that they need,” said Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues. “Nowhere was this more evident than at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.”

Rodrigues said: “I’ve never been so proud of our union, our staff and our members as I was during the crisis there. I’m proud of how our leaders stood up for the vets and for their co-workers.”

The local’s president spoke about Holyoke and the state of the union during the recent Local 888 Convention. Over 150 members participated in the online event.

In contrast to the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Rodrigues said, “management at most employers has been a good partner — working with our chapter leaders to ensure access to PPE and safe workplaces.”

In fact, the two top officials in charge of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home during the COVID-19 outbreak have been arraigned on criminal neglect charges related to the deaths of at least 76 veterans. (See related article, below.)

“It was Local 888 that gathered the evidence of gross mismanagement and first brought it to the attention of the governor,” added Rodrigues.

Ultimately, the state took a number of measures to stabilize the situation, including bringing in the National Guard (For a full report, see http://www.seiu888.org/2020/07/16/weve-been-vindicated/.)

Fittingly for the COVID-19 era, the convention keynote speaker was Carlene Pavlos, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association.

Local 888 Executive Board member and Emerson College chapter leader Shaylin Walsh-Hogan introduced Pavlos, who promoted the State Action for Public Health Excellence bill in the Legislature. It would reform the state’s fragmented public health system.

Executive board member and Holyoke Soldiers’ Home chapter leader Kwesi Ablordeppey introduced a resolution in support of the legislation that members voted to adopt overwhelmingly.

That was the first of three convention resolutions, which were all supported by the executive board and the convention as a whole. (For the full text of the resolutions adopted by the convention, see http://www.seiu888.org/convention.)

Jonathan Dudley, chapter member at the Montachusett Opportunity Council, introduced a resolution to “Protect the Vote, Protect the Results.” The measure was in support of members taking action should one of the presidential candidates refuse “to concede if the results are clear.”

On behalf of the Latino Caucus, Boston Public School’s member Jorge Vargas introduced a resolution calling on Local 888 to draw up a “Membership Bill of Health Rights” necessitated by the pandemic.

Seven elected leaders and candidates for state office briefly attended the convention to recite a pledge to support Local 888 members and working families.

In addition, Local 888’s new secretary-treasurer, Kevin Nascimento, gave his first report on the union’s budget.

While much of the convention’s work was serious, there was time for levity. Executive board member and town of Harwich chapter leader Carolyn Carey was the MC for rolling out door prizes and calling the names of raffle winners. She also served as parliamentarian.

The new chapter for Local 888 retirees had its public unveiling with a workshop, with its executive board member, Susan Winning, as host.

Conference workshops were geared to Local 888’s key industry sectors and job categories, covering: early childhood education, higher ed, school employees, as well as state and municipal workers. There was a separate session for the city of Boston, which has 1,800 Local 888 members covered by 12 contracts.

Workshop leaders were:

  • School employees: Rebecca Blackand Diana Umina, Hopkinton paraprofessionals chapter.
  • Early childhood: Jonathan Dudley, Montachusett Opportunity Council.
  • Higher education: Shaylin Walsh-Hogan, Emerson College, and Esther Brandon, Brandeis University library professionals chapter shop steward.
  • Municipal: Chris Dery, president, Tyngsboro mid-managers chapter.
  • City of Boston: Sean Murphy, Boston Police Department (BPD)
  • State Workers (Unit 2): Michael Slaterand Butch Polarra.

For a convention slide show and the updated resolutions, see http://www.seiu888.org/convention/.

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