Union Updates

For press inquires or to share your story please contact media@seiu888.org

Your email to Local 888 did not “fail”

SEIU Local 888 is experiencing a small glitch in our email system.  When someone sends an email message to @seiu888.org they will receive this message:

Email glitch“Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:”

If fact, the email message is being delivered.  Please be patient while we get this problem fixed.   Thank you.

Leave a comment

Wanted: Your Stories About Importance of Paid Family Leave

Local 888 is looking for stories from City of Boston members about why they would need the new paid family leave benefit or how beginning a family without the benefit has been a hardship.

City of Boston employee William Epperson has twins on the way, and says that a paid family leave policy would be a huge benefit for him and his growing family.

City of Boston employee William Epperson has twins on the way, and says that a paid family leave policy would be a huge benefit for him and his growing family.

Local 888 members who work for the City of Boston are understandably outraged by the Walsh administration’s decision not to extend the new paid family leave benefit to all city employees. Which is why Local 888 leaders are not going to stand by idly while members justifiably need this benefit now. The union’s political department is working with members of the City Council to prepare a new city ordinance to extend the benefit. Local 888 has also retained a benefits consultant to calculate the anticipated costs of extending the benefit to all city employees based on the utilization experience of workers in California and New Jersey who already have paid family leave. (Hint: very preliminary estimates show that it is not going to be a high cost item.) Finally, we are preparing to build a pro-family, pro-health care coalition to broaden public support for extending the benefit to all employees. Do you have a story to tell? Please contact Rand Wilson 617 398-7102 or rwilson@seiu888.org.

Leave a comment

Apply Now for Education Scholarships

The deadline to apply for fall 2015 education scholarships is July 6.

Patrick Scannell with his mother Maryanne Carty, who works at Westwood Town Hall. The deadline to apply for fall scholarships is July 6.

Local 888 scholarship recipient Patrick Scannell with his mother Maryanne Carty, who works at Westwood Town Hall. The deadline to apply for fall scholarships is July 6.

Local 888 will award three scholarships of up to $500 (by lottery) to enable members or their immediate family to attend any post-secondary school of their choosing, including community college, university or vocational training. Also available: scholarships of up to $500 for approved labor study programs or courses.

Applications will be screened by the Scholarship Committee and the winner will be picked by lottery by July 31, 2015. Scholarship winners are required to submit a picture of the Local 888 member with their family member to receive their award. Scholarship applications are available at the Local 888 union hall or online at: www.seiu888.org/888members/benefits/scholarships.

Leave a comment

Public Defenders Tell State: We Want a Union

A strong majority of public defenders have petitioned the state, asking that their union be recognized. The defenders—who work for the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS)—have been working for more than two years to gain a meaningful voice in their wages and working conditions.

Public defender Lily Lockhart urges lawmakers to include the agency in the state collective bargaining law and help them gain a voice at work. Public defenders have been working for more than two years to gain a meaningful voice in their wages and working conditions.

Public defender Lily Lockhart urges lawmakers to include the agency in the state collective bargaining law and help them gain a voice at work. Public defenders have been working for more than two years to gain a meaningful voice in their wages and working conditions.

A glitch inadvertently left hundreds of public defenders and CPCS staff out of the state’s collective bargaining law. Working with SEIU Local 888, the defenders have sought to remedy that by passing legislation that would provide a path for them to choose collective bargaining. They filed a bill in the House last year and refiled their bill in both the House and Senate this year. On June 3, 2015 the proposed legislation was reported favorably by Joint Committee on Public Service and referred to the House Committee on Ways & Means.

On Tuesday, May 12, Lilly Lockhart, a staff attorney with CPCS in Lowell, testified before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Service about how collective bargaining could help resolve many long-standing problems at CPCS.

“Over the last two years, our records indicate over 19% of the non-management workforce has left or been replaced,” said Lockhart. “In 2011, I was hired with 35 other attorneys for the Children and Family Law Division. Today, there are only 9 of the [original] 35 still working for CPCS.”

The low salaries and the high turnover of staff at CPCS has been well documented in studies by the Mass Bar Association. For copies of “Doing Right by Those Who Labor for Justice: Fair and Equitable Compensation for Attorneys Serving the Commonwealth in its Criminal Courts” and the report of the Commission to Study Compensation of Assistant District Attorneys and Staff Attorneys for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, contact SEIU Local 888.

“By advocating for ourselves as employees of a state agency, we are also fighting for our clients,” said Benjamin Evans, Supervising Staff Attorney with CPCS in Fall River. “We hope to reduce turnover by collectively bargaining for a contract which makes our work sustainable, so our clients can benefit from having experienced advocates.”

More information about the campaign is at www.seiu888.org/massdefenders.

Leave a comment

For New Mom, Lack of Paid Leave Makes a Hard Job Even Harder

It would be hard to find a better example of the need for paid family leave for City of Boston employees than Damali Simmonds. The new mom, who gave birth to a baby girl on April 11, says that the first months are essential bonding time between parent and child, but that current city policy makes that difficult, if not impossible.

New mom and City of Boston employee Damali Simmonds says that the absence of a paid family leave policy adds more stress to an already stressful situation. “You don’t have to be a psychologist to figure that out.”

New mom and City of Boston employee Damali Simmonds says that the absence of a paid family leave policy adds more stress to an already stressful situation. “You don’t have to be a psychologist to figure that out.”

“These first months are so important,” says Simmonds, who works in the mailroom at the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC). “This is not the time that you want to be worrying about how you’re going to pay the bills, or how you’re going to find daycare for a newborn, when most places won’t even provide care for a baby under three months old.”

Simmonds told Boston City Councilors about her situation in April, and urged them to approve a paid family leave policy that applies to all city workers. A new ordinance passed by the Council extends paid leave to just 635 city employees, none of whom are covered by collective bargaining agreements. The new policy excludes 7,152 union members who work for the city and 6,721 members who work for the Boston Public Schools. Simmonds points out that four of her co-workers at the BWSC either recently became parents or are about to. “It’s a slap in the face that the only people who are eligible for paid family leave are either managers or directors. That’s unacceptable. We work just as hard as they do.”

Simmonds is currently on unpaid leave from her job; she’ll return to work on July 11. And while she says that she’s grateful to have time with her daughter Malia, the fact that her leave is unpaid has made an already stressful time even more so.

“It’s a very emotional and physically stressful period, because you have to adapt to be able to take care of a small person and take care of yourself at the same time,” says Simmonds. “Part of the stress is not having the finances. If you’re spending all your time thinking about money, you can fall into post-partum depression. You don’t have to be a psychologist to figure that out.”

Do you have a story about the need for Paid family Leave to tell? Please contact Rand Wilson 617 398-7102 or rwilson@seiu888.org.

Leave a comment

Brockton Librarians Turn Page on Vacant Jobs Problem

Staff at the Brockton Public Library have been stretched thin due to unfilled positions and knew they had to do something. So they made their case in a letter to the mayor, explaining that having so many vacancies was making it hard for them to serve the public.

stretched thin“Due to these unfilled positions, staffing levels have been at an all-time low,” the librarians wrote. “Employees are spread thin and are being asked to perform many tasks that are outside of their normal job descriptions. We perform above and beyond normal expectations and feel the lack of staffing is having a direct impact on the services we provide for our patrons on a daily basis.”

The mayor apparently got their message, loud and clear. He has indicated that the vacant positions, which include two library pages, a library clerk and a branch assistant supervisor, will be filled as part of the city’s 2016 budget. The mayor’s decision will hopefully bring to a close a tumultuous period at the library that saw the exit of a controversial library director, and the shrinking of library staff. In addition to writing the mayor, library staff also lobbied city administrators and the library Board of Trustees, urging them to remedy the library’s staffing problems.

Brockton Public Library chapter chair Jen Belcher says that while it’s too soon to celebrate just yet, she and her co-workers are eager to return to the days when the library was adequately staffed. “We’ve pretty much been doing everything,” says Belcher, whose official title is head of circulation, but wears multiple library hats these days. “We’re just glad that the
mayor seems to have heard our message.”

Does your chapter have a story to share in The Spark? Please contact Rand Wilson 617 398-7102 or rwilson@seiu888.org

Leave a comment

Lawrence Parking Lot Attendants Join Local 888

A group of 15 parking lot attendants who work for the City of Lawrence got fed up with favoritism and wanted job security. They used “majority signup” to gain recognition for their union on May 26. Left to right in the picture are Roman Brito, Jose Luis Santiago, Carlos Morel, Pedro Ayala, and Dario Made. Under Massachusetts law, if a majority of employees sign cards to demonstrate their desire to form a union, the union can quickly win legal recognition.

A group of 15 parking lot attendants who work for the City of Lawrence got fed up with favoritism and
wanted job security. They used “majority signup” to gain recognition for their union on May 26. Left
to right in the picture are Roman Brito, Jose Luis Santiago, Carlos Morel, Pedro Ayala, and Dario Made. Under Massachusetts law, if a majority of employees sign cards to demonstrate their desire to form a union, the union can quickly win legal recognition.

Leave a comment

New Campaign for Increased Investment in Mass.

Did you know that Massachusetts has one of the largest income inequality problems in the country? And that our highest income residents pay the smallest share of their income in state taxes?

A tax system typically is composed of a variety of different types of taxes. Usually, the system will include some taxes that are progressive and some that are regressive.  Regressive taxes sometimes meet other criteria of a good tax, such as enhancing stability of the overall tax system, and thus may be a valuable part of the overall system.  When considering progressivity and regressivity, it therefore is important to examine not just individual taxes, but rather the overall tax system in a state. As the chart below shows, overall, the Massachusetts tax system is regressive, collecting a larger share of household income from lower-income households than it does from upper-income households.  This is primarily due to the property tax and the sales tax, each of which has the effect of taxing lower-income people at significantly higher rates than higher income people.  (For more information on the property tax, see the property tax chapter of MassBudget’s tax primer. For more information on the sales tax see MassBudget’s Sales Tax Fact Sheet.)

A tax system typically is composed of a variety of different types of taxes. Usually, the system will include some taxes that are progressive and some that are regressive. Regressive taxes sometimes meet other criteria of a good tax, such as enhancing stability of the overall tax system, and thus may be a valuable part of the overall system. When considering progressivity and regressivity, it therefore is important to examine not just individual taxes, but rather the overall tax system in a state.
As the chart below shows, overall, the Massachusetts tax system is regressive, collecting a larger share of household income from lower-income households than it does from upper-income households. This is primarily due to the property tax and the sales tax, each of which has the effect of taxing lower-income people at significantly higher rates than higher income people. (For more information on the property tax, see the property tax chapter of MassBudget’s tax primer. For more information on the sales tax see MassBudget’s Sales Tax Fact Sheet.)

That’s why the Raise Up Coalition (strongly supported by all of the SEIU locals in Massachusetts) is planning a campaign to create a tax rate of 9 percent on incomes over $500,000 to raise new revenues that could allow for increased investments in education, child care and transportation.

There’s just one catch: Enacting a higher tax rate would require changing our state constitution, which unlike most state constitutions, only allows one tax rate on each type of income.

Changing our state constitution will require a massive grassroots effort to gather 120,000 signatures of registered voters in the fall of 2015. Then supporters will have to convince 50 of 200 state legislators in two special meetings held during 2016-2018 to approve the change. Finally, voters would have to approve the change by a majority vote in the fall of 2018 election.

What do you think of this campaign for a more fair tax system? Do you think it will be worth the expense and cost of a three year effort? Do you disagree with the idea? Send your views and opinions to media@seiu888.org.

Learn more about Tax Fairness in Massachusetts by reading from the Mass Budget and Policy Center’s research report.

Leave a comment

New Local 888 Board Members Sworn In

Nine board members were sworn in at the Local 888 Executive Board meeting on May 20. Shown in the picture above taking the oath of office are Fred Simmons, Haverhill School Custodians; Charlie Mays, Boston Public Health Commission; Susan Winning, UMass Lowell; and Gail Silva, Westborough Town Hall.

Nine board members were sworn in at the Local 888 Executive Board meeting on May 20. Shown in the picture above taking the oath of office are Fred Simmons, Haverhill School Custodians; Charlie Mays, Boston Public Health Commission; Susan Winning, UMass Lowell; and Gail Silva, Westborough Town Hall.

Leave a comment

Coming Attractions

COPA Committee Meeting
When: June 18, 6PM
Where: Local 888 union hall
calendarThis meeting will cover our first round of municipal endorsements, so come and have your voice heard! All members are welcome.

Coalition for Social Justice 20th Annual Banquet and Awards Celebration
When: Friday, June 19, 6-9PM.
Empire Grille at the Venus de Milo, 75 Grand Army
Highway, Swansea, MA 02777
Tickets are $30 each.

Fight for $15 – #WageAction Coalition Meeting
Tuesday, July 7: 12PM – 1:30pm
Where: SEIU Local 888 union hall

Building Our Chapters
Local 888 South East/Cape Regional Meeting
Saturday, July 18, 9:30am – 2PM
Where: Wareham Library, 59 Marion Road, Wareham
Register online at www.seiu888/rsvp

Leave a comment

Too Many Families Left Out of New Boston Family Leave Policy

When City of Boston employee Damali Simmonds encouraged city councilors to extend paid family leave to more city workers, she offered her own story as proof of why such a policy is needed. Simmonds, who gave birth to a baby girl in April, told councilors at their April 22 meeting that she’d already exhausted her paid time off and has only six unpaid weeks of leave left under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Local 888 member Damali Simmonds urges Boston City Councilors to extend paid leave to additional city work-ers like her. Simmonds recently had a baby and has already exhausted her paid leave.

Local 888 member Damali Simmonds urges Boston City Councilors to extend paid leave to additional city work-ers like her. Simmonds recently had a baby and has already exhausted her paid leave.

Despite strong support for extending the family leave benefit to Simmonds and all members from city councilors, the ordinance passed at the April 29 City Council meeting will only apply to 635 city employees who are currently not covered by collective bargaining agreements. The new policy excludes 7,152 union members who work for the city and 6,721 members who work for the Boston Public Schools. According to a doctor who testified, the new policy could end up widening disparities between classes of city workers.

Local 888 union leaders applauded the new policy, however the union has asserted that, “with regard to parental leave, our contract with the city simply indicates that the parties will follow whatever the city policy is” and “should apply immediately to all of our members…consistent with the language and intent of our contract.” If the city disagrees with that interpretation, “then we respectfully request to meet immediately to execute a Memorandum of Understanding” so that “paid parental leave can be implemented for the members of SEIU Local 888 upon its passage by the City Council.”

The city’s Office of Labor Relations responded to union concerns by asserting that “municipal ordinances do not supersede conflicting provisions in collective bargaining agreements.  …Therefore, to the extent there are differences or conflicts between the ordinance and the collective bargaining agreement, the City will continue to comply with the negotiated provisions in the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.”

Strong support from the Boston City Council
At the City Council vote, Councilor Tito Jackson rose to remind the council that the new policy did not cover unionized workers saying, “This inequity should be short lived.”

Councilor Michelle Wu reminded the council of Damali Simmonds situation and said, “It’s our time and our challenge to do the right thing and cover all of the city’s employees.”

Councilor Ayana Presley said, “We need to quickly revisit [this policy] to extend it to all employees in order to make it equitable.”

Councilor Charles Yancey also weighed in to say that he, “Hoped the city and the unions could come together to make it a reality for all city employees. ”

Local 888 General Council Jen Springer said, “City personnel officials have used our union contracts as a shield with statements like, ‘We will negotiate the family leave benefit when union contracts expire.’ However, waiting for expiration would delay implementation of the benefit by several years while women like Damali Simmonds and many other city workers need it now.”

“We are ready to pursue any and every available means to achieve a quick resolution to this problem and equal treatment for our members,” Springer added.

Leave a comment

Three Bargaining Units, All Standing Together

Local 888 members in Tyngsborough faced a challenge. Divided between three different units, and covered by three different collective bargaining agreements, clerical, highway and mid-managers seemed to have little in common. But Chris Dery, who heads the mid-managers unit, and his fellow chairs, Gloria Clancy, clerical, and Josh Clancy, town highway department, have been working to change that.

Chris Dery, Tyngsborough Town Middle Management, and the leaders of the town’s two other Local 888 chapters have been working together to build solidarity.

Chris Dery, Tyngsborough Town Middle Management, and the leaders of the town’s two other Local 888 chapters have been working together to build solidarity.

“We’ve been trying to identify common interests and really hang together as a group,” says Dery. “That’s not the easiest thing in the world.” After bargaining wrapped up for the three units last year, the leaders resolved to stand together if town administrators made unilateral changes to any of their contracts. They soon had an opportunity when the town attempted to impose a new vehicle use policy. “It was a really poorly thought out change, and by working together we were able to make the town revisit the issue and bargain with us over it,” says Dery.

The experience confirmed what the three leaders believed: that if they join forces, they have far more power than if each unit deals with town administrators on its own. “What happens to any of our bargaining units will eventually happen to all of them,” says Dery. “If everyone sticks together, we can help each other out regardless of the immediate benefit. Eventually it will benefit you.”

Leave a comment