Union Updates

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

Retired Member – Dental Annual Open Enrollment Notice

Massachusetts Employers/SEIU Local 888 Health and Welfare Fund is excited to announce that we will be offering dental coverage for Retiree’s effective 7/1/2020. This is to notify you that the Annual Open Enrollment period for the BCBS Dental Plan will run from July 1, 2020 through July 31, 2020. Open Enrollment is the only opportunity to enroll in coverage or make a change to your current coverage without a qualifying event for 2020. Click here for more details

Dental Blue Freedom – Plan B
No Deductible
$1,250 Calendar Year Max (in & out of network combined)
In-Network

Out of Network

Preventive 100% Coverage 80% Coverage
Basic 80% Coverage 65% Coverage
Major 80% Coverage 65% Coverage
Ortho Not Covered Not Covered

 

Retiree Monthly Rates

Employee

$36.16

Employee + One

$74.16

Family

$88.75

Click here for more details

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SEIU Local 888 Executive Board calls for justice and an end to police brutality

The following statement was adopted by a majority vote of the SEIU Local 888 Executive Board on June 19, 2020:

InvoiceLogo100x100Statement by SEIU Local 888 calling for justice and an end to police brutality

The members of SEIU Local 888 join working people across the country to demand change.

We condemn police brutality, and the murder of Black, indigenous, and people of color. We call for justice. For George Floyd, for Ahmaud Arbery, and for Breonna Taylor—for the innumerable black and brown people who have died at the hands of racists, and due to racist policies—we call for justice. To the loved ones whose lives have been stolen: we grieve with you.

In recent weeks, several tragic, criminal incidents have been perpetrated against people of color due to their race. These events are outward, visible examples of the systemic racism that is deeply embedded in the fabric of our society and economic system.

COVID19 has shone a spotlight on many of the inequities in our nation: black people are dying of the pandemic at more than twice the rate of white people, “essential workers” are being treated as disposable while suffering the greatest economic devastation, and black, brown, and working people are being sacrificed as “stock” in the name of “reopening the economy.”

We can’t seem to escape these horrors, and averting our eyes only makes it worse. Staying silent is compliance and solidarity with the wrong side of the fight for equity. Recent events show us that our uncollected voices of despair are not enough. We need our collected voices to scream with outrage at injustice, and we need action. As a union, that means fighting for strong anti-racist language in our contracts and taking action to oppose racism in our workplace and our union.  An injury to one is an injury to all!

Unions lift up the oppressed and exploited and bring about equity through meaningful and positive change in the world around us. Unions are not meant to be a protective shield to keep crimes hidden. Our union is united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and is dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just, economically prosperous and humane society.

We call on law enforcement agencies and their workers’ unions, to take positive action. We call on them to stop being bystanders when they see injustice. We remind them of their oaths: to serve and protect, without qualification. We ask law enforcement officers and their unions to pledge to serve with honor and impartiality; to never betray their badges, integrity, character, or the public trust; to do the right thing in the face of wrongdoing; to be accountable and responsible for their actions and to hold other officers accountable for their actions; to vow to serve their community by never allowing injustice.

For current and future generations, we demand better. We do not want to return to what we had before this week or before this pandemic—we seek to change. We commit ourselves to work against injustice and for a more equitable social and economic commonwealth. We will partner with community organizations and allies to press for accountability and systemic changes across the criminal justice system, as well as living wage work, universal and affordable healthcare, the right to join together in a union, and the dignity and respect that we all deserve, no matter the color of our skin or where we are from.

 More information about SEIU’s support for the Black Lives Matter movement and increased police accountabilit, visit SEIU’s page: https://www.seiu.org/blacklivesmatter

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Boston’s Most Affordable Mortgage Program

Boston’s Most Affordable Mortgage Program

ONE+Boston_Borrower Flyer_05.28.2020 Absolute Final (1)

 

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Frontline worker demands Congress to prioritize people over corporations

By Kwesi Ablordeppey, a CNA at Holyoke Soldiers Home and member of SEIU Local 888.

Kwesi Ablordeppey, Holyoke Soldiers Home

Kwesi Ablordeppey, Holyoke Soldiers Home

The disastrous impact of the pandemic has been unfolding in Massachusetts for weeks, with daily stories of the toll it’s taking on working people, our families and services we provide in our communities. As a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and member of SEIU Local 888, working at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home for 20 years–where at least 76 veterans have died of COVID-19 –I have never seen anything like this.

The demands of caring for hundreds of veterans who are either sick with coronavirus–or vulnerable to it–have often pushed staff beyond our limits. Mandatory overtime has meant that many staff members get little to no sleep between shifts. The resulting exhaustion puts staff members–many of whom are also vulnerable to the virus–and the veterans we care for at greater risk. Already, 83 staff members have tested positive and the possibility of contracting COVID-19 is a nightmare because, as a single parent, I’m the only one my three children have.

Although I’m putting my family at risk, I show up everyday because I love what I do, despite the fact that I’ve already had to put two of the veterans I care for in a body bag. And I’m not alone. My coworkers are making the same tough decisions because we know that we will only get through this if we all pull together. Now we need Congress and the President to do their part to protect all workers so we can continue to do our jobs. Congress passed the CARES Act and it did some good but it’s nowhere near enough.

If coronavirus is exposing anything, it’s that we’re all in this together. Black, brown, Asian, or white. Rich or poor. Protecting everyone’s health requires protecting the health of each of us. But we aren’t as prepared as we should be–and that’s been a long time coming.

It’s true that the Trump administration has been perilously slow to act to help states respond to the coronavirus. But the fact of the matter is that the healthcare providers I work with and veterans I care for have been deprived of the resources we need for decades because of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. At the Soldiers’ Home we were already working with the bare minimum before coronavirus struck–we didn’t even have enough PPE to protect ourselves.

It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to win increased staffing and pay for people like me who care for our veterans–and we still don’t have enough. The reality is, public employees across the country are doing the best we can with what we have. We do incredibly important work–though many of us work behind the scenes without recognition.

Without federal aid, states will have to start cutting this work–even services like healthcare and public safety–or increase taxes. Cuts like these add more people to the ranks of the unemployed and make it harder for the people in Massachusetts to recover–physically and economically–from the coronavirus. We have to do better by our communities and the people who are putting our lives on the line. That means protecting all workers affected by this crisis with universal healthcare, paid sick days, clean water and air–and good union jobs.

We also need the private sector to step up and support the people on the frontlines and the communities whose work they depend upon. Corporations need to pay their employees and ensure they have healthcare and paid leave. At the same time, they should pay their fair share for the critical services that are getting our communities through this.

This pandemic should serve as a stark reminder that failing to invest in the services we need has dire consequences when disaster strikes. Working people on the frontlines are doing our part. Many state and local government leaders have moved into action. Now Congress and President Trump need to do their parts by passing the HEROES Act and injecting $1 trillion into state and local governments so our communities can provide essential services and protect all workers affected by this pandemic.

As a nation, we must pay for—and protect—the things we value so they are there for all of us, all the time. That’s how we’ll get through this and get our economy going again.

 

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Contracts OK’d with OpaVote

20_888-SEIU Local logo2

The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped Local 888’s essential work of pursuing collective bargaining agreements and having them voted on. The union has been forging ahead with the help of technology.

Local 888 members in both the Grafton Public Schools and Lawrence Public Library have ratified new agreements using OpaVote, an online voting system.

In addition, Local 888 members at Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development voted for bargaining committee members using OpaVote.

OpaVote’s website says the company maintains voter privacy: “Voter emails are using only for your election.” The company says it uses encryption to “provide top-notch security and reliability.”

For more info, go to https://www.opavote.com/.

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Firing must have ‘Just Cause’

"Just Cause: A Union Guide to Winning Discipline Cases."

“Just Cause: A Union Guide to Winning Discipline Cases.”

Abusive bosses, arbitrary discipline and unjust firings are all-too common in American workplaces. On the other hand, union agreements typically contain contract language that calls for “just cause” in workplace disciplinary actions. So, how do you get justice in the context of a workplace, which after all is not a democracy?

Well-known labor lawyer Bob Schwartz recently gave a 30-minute “Know Your Rights” talk for Local 888 members that focused on one of his books, Just Cause: A Union Guide to Winning Discipline Cases.” He told the Local 888 leaders and staff in attendance (via Zoom) that “there’s probably been about 100,000 printed labor arbitrations over the years, and gradually there’s been a consensus around certain principles, that unions have fought for, on the issue of ‘just cause’.”

One of those, he said, is that — when it comes to employee discipline — the “employer has an obligation to point out a rule, along with the possible penalties for disobeying the rule.”

Schwartz warned: “If a member has not read the handbook or read the contract, that’s not going to work as a defense.” A valid defense, he said, could be to show that a rule has not been enforced for months — or even years. In that case, he said, “an employee may reasonably conclude that the rule no longer applies.”

Writing for Labor Notes, Charles Borchert said that “Just Cause,” like all of Schwartz’s books, “is easy to read and understand. He writes not in the tone or language of an attorney (which he is), but with an easy writing style (https://labornotes.org/blogs/2012/10/just-cause-union-guide-winning-discipline-cases).”

“Before reading this book,” added Borchert, “I thought that I knew all about “just cause” for discipline. … I quickly saw that I still had much to learn from the specific examples Schwartz gave.”

In addition to “Fair Notice,” Schwartz’s talk for Local 888 also covered:

  • Active enforcement: Punishment may not be imposed for alleged misconduct that the employer has tolerated for a prolonged period.
  • Due Process: There should be a fair procedure, and management must conduct an interview or a hearing before issuing discipline.
  • Substantial Proof: Discipline should not be based rumors.
  • Equal Treatment: Those committing the same offense should have fair, comparable outcomes.
  • Progressive Discipline: If the conduct in question is not extreme, the employer should start with lesser penalties rather than moving immediately to suspension or firing.
  • Mitigating and Extenuating Circumstances: Discipline must be proportional to the gravity of the offense, taking circumstances into account.

Schwartz advised that the best time to intervene in a case is before the employer is “locked into” a decision.

Members can request a summary of Schwartz’s, “Seven Basic Principles of Just Cause” by emailing myunion@seiu888.org

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Member aids ‘dreamers’

JONATHAN DUDLEY

JONATHAN DUDLEY

Local 888 activist Jonathan Dudley is taking action to help DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers,” who President Trump is threatening with deportation. One of them, Jonathan Vargas, is Dudley’s brother-in-law — an intensive-care nurse who works with COVID-19 patients in Winston-Salem, N.C.

President Obama set up DACA — the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program — in 2012 as Congress failed to act on immigration reform. These “Dreamers” were brought up in the U.S., and have known no other home. DACA allowed young adults like Vargas to get work papers and attend college, while shielding them from deportation if they had a clean criminal record.

Dudley, a Head Start teacher with Montachusetts Opportunity Council, urges people to sign a petition calling on Congress to OK the Dream Act (https://tinyurl.com/888Dreamer). Also: Call congressmen to ask them to vote for the Dream Act.

He allowed that the Massachusetts congressional delegation is on board with the Dreamers. Nonetheless, Dudley said, “it’s a good time to remind members of Congress that this issue is important to us.”

In addition, the presidential race may ultimately decide the issue, given Trump’s previous actions.

Vargas came to this country with his family from a small town in Mexico when he as 12. He has worked in intensive care for four years — along with his wife, who is Dudley’s sister, and a brother.

DACA targets hard-working young adults who were, through no fault of their own, brought to the country as children. Nearly 800,000 people are in the program.

In 2017, Trump decided to end DACA, pulling the rug out from under people who had signed up for the program in good faith, while revealing they were undocumented. Trump’s decision was appealed on various grounds, including that it was unlawful. U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing several such cases and is expected to issue rulings next month.

Vargas told the BBC: “”I try not to think about it, because if I think about it for too long I get tired … I’ve basically had to zone it out for my own health.”

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Hope rises as recovery takes hold in Holyoke

AIDING FRONTLINE HOLYOKE WORKERS: National Guard troops — including medics, nurses and nurse practitioners — have joined Local 888 members and other workers at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, which is operated by the state.

AIDING FRONTLINE HOLYOKE WORKERS: National Guard troops — including medics, nurses and nurse practitioners — have joined Local 888 members and other workers at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, which is operated by the state.

While U.S. nursing homes have been hard hit by the coronavirus, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home disaster remains one of the worst cases in the nation. The situation has stabilized now that there are fewer patients and new staff, along with National Guard members, to handle the high number of infected patients.

“Things are getting better; there’s been a lot of progress,” said Kwesi Ablordeppey, Local 888 chapter president. “But sometimes I feel that, I don’t know how we are going to live through this.”

At least 84 Soldiers’ Home employees, out of more than 300, have tested positive for the coronavirus. “It’s like the whole place is infected,” said Ablordeppey, who so far has avoided getting the virus.

The Baker administration has removed the facility’s superintendent, Bennett Walsh, as multiple investigations look into the Soldiers’ Home disaster. Several other members of Walsh’s management team have been placed on paid administrative leave.

Under interim leadership, the overall situation has improved significantly. However, some of that is simply due to having fewer patients. At the start of the pandemic, the facility had over 200 residents.

The state’s department of health and human services said that, as of May 26, 92 residents have died since the pandemic hit, with 76 of them testing positive for the coronavirus.

Of the remaining 132 Holyoke residents, 29 are at a hospital, Holyoke Medical Center.

As reported by WBUR, a state official told a meeting of the home’s trustees that Holyoke will operate with fewer residents and new safety protocols in the future. About $2 million in improvements is being spent on renovating part of the hospital to create more-private rooms.

Ablordeppey said it looks like the facility will house 160 to 170 residents.

A recent national report on veterans’ homes spotlighted the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. Among the issues noted: The facility and the state had failed to address the problems of understaffing and harsh working conditions that Local 888 leaders and members had warned about — for years — before the COVID-19 crisis hit (https://www.propublica.org/article/superintendent-bragged-about-va-review-of-short-staffed-soldiers-home-two-months-later-73-veterans-are-dead).

For more on the facility, see http://www.seiu888.org/2020/04/17/members-seek-to-protect-vets/.

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Higher ed workers gain voice in ‘Uncertain Times’

ZOOMING IN ON HIGHER EDUCATION: Local 888 leaders, staff and not-yet-union workers took part in ‘Working in Higher Ed in Uncertain Times.’ The event was a prelude to the second annual Higher Education Labor Summit set for June 20, 9 to 11 a.m. Higher ed workers can sign up here: http://www.tinyurl.com/higheredlaborsummit.

ZOOMING IN ON HIGHER EDUCATION: Local 888 leaders, staff and not-yet-union workers took part in ‘Working in Higher Ed in Uncertain Times.’ The event was a prelude to the second annual Higher Education Labor Summit set for June 20, 9 to 11 a.m. Higher ed workers can sign up here: http://www.tinyurl.com/higheredlaborsummit.

At Local’s 888’s April 30 “Working in Higher Ed in Uncertain Times” event, speakers said that gaining a seat at the table with management when dealing with the pandemic was a good example of what unions can do.

“Our members benefit from speaking with one voice, when dealing with Emerson,” said Shaylin Hogan, vice president of Local 888’s Emerson chapter said via Zoom. “We speak with members regularly and have developed a good working relationship with our Human Resource Department. That really helped us get members’ coronavirus concerns addressed.”

With the rapidly building crisis, “It was clear that management was tuning out our members,” said Aimee Slater, head steward for Local 888’s Brandeis chapter. “We quickly organized a meeting with management. It was amazing to see our members who haven’t spoken up much before, feel so empowered. We stuck together for the sake of our peers; and management saw the power of our union.”

With a voice at work becoming so vitally important for higher-education workers, Local 888 is convening its second annual Higher Education Labor Summit on June 20 (9 to 11 a.m.) to connect workers fighting to improve their work lives and share skills that it takes to win on campus. The summit will provide workers an opportunity to strategize and coordinate with other university workers on their organizing and contract campaigns. (Higher ed workers can sign up here for the summit: http://www.tinyurl.com/higheredlaborsummit.)

“At American University, we were 10 months into a union campaign and building up a head of steam when the coronavirus hit,” said Sam Sadow, visual resources curator and adjunct professor. The lack of face-to-face contact has slowed recruitment down, but the campaign is still moving forward. The key issues remain the same during the crisis, they are just heightened. For example, they have been organizing for a say in policy changes and now, during the pandemic, those policy changes seem to be happening daily.

A worker organizer at Tufts said, “I really like Tufts, but I want it to do better by its workforce.” He said the university staff’s COVID-19 transformation of the workplace shows that: “We are awesome. I’m proud of my co-workers for all they’ve done. It’s important to remind ourselves: We are a skilled and flexible workforce. We deserve to have a real voice in our future.”

“Winning isn’t easy, but with a union, you’re not by yourself,” said Hogan. “Now speculation about what will happen after the coronavirus crisis is over — abound. We don’t know what the new normal will look like. But you have to tell the administration that they’re going to have to listen to us. We are leaders on our campus, and we must demand a voice to help shape new policies.”

Links to resources to help workers stay safe!

COVID-19 RESOURCES FOR SEIU LOCALS
Comprehensive Information on Covid-19

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Cafeteria staff keeps on serving

STILL AIDING STUDENTS: Marlborough cafeteria workers have prepared thousands of lunches since the schools closed. See video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00n16RvA6CE.

STILL AIDING STUDENTS: Marlborough cafeteria workers have prepared thousands of lunches since the schools closed. See video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00n16RvA6CE.

The Marlborough cafeteria workers, always essential, have been on the job through the COVID-19 shutdowns. They have been preparing thousands of brown bag breakfasts and lunches for the city’s children, typically in needy families, with the addition of the senior center.

The food is then delivered by buses using two routes each day, both morning and afternoon.

The COVID-19 environment “has definitely been a learning process for everyone involved,” said Julie Whapham, chapter president. “People on the whole are doing OK, but some don’t feel comfortable coming in to work.” Some live with elderly relatives, too.

In the beginning, masks were not mandatory. Everyone has had to adapt to the idea of social distancing.

The staff has had to redesign how the work is done, said Whapham, the food service manager for the high school. For example, now only two people will get assigned to a specific task, so they can stay 6 feet away from each other.

Work flow, too, has been changed so that not everyone is going to use the main refrigerator. And there’s more preparation taking place beforehand for the workers who come in later. That, too, helps maintain social distancing.

And now everyone wears masks.

In addition, parents with young children have had the rug pulled out from under them as day-care centers have closed. The rules for who gets paid and who can take sick time have changed over the course of the crisis.

The overall arrangement now is that workers come in Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but are paid the usual amount. The difficult part of that is, they have to work at a hectic pace the days they go in, because they make about twice as much food each day as they were doing at first during the pandemic.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health has issued guidelines on COVID-19 safety that includes sections on custodial and food service workers. See: https://tinyurl.com/888essential.

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Health coalition flunks Baker’s reopening plan

MassCOSH logo

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, which includes Local 888, has given flunking grades to the governor’s plan to reopen the state’s economy, saying that it fails to truly protect workers and the public.

The situation, as outlined by MassCOSH, is that “thousands of essential workers in Massachusetts have become ill and even died as a result of their exposure” to the virus that causes COVID-19. This has made for “an unprecedented worker health and safety crisis (For the full MassCOSH report card on Baker’s plan, see https://tinyurl.com/888Baker).

“Due in particular to the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home outbreak, Local 888 members have been hard hit by the coronavirus,” said union President Brenda Rodrigues. “All workers should have access to appropriate personal protective equipment, something that management there failed to provide for caregivers — and, initially, even fought against,” said Rodrigues.

MassCOSH said President Trump’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been “missing in action.” Therefore, the coalition said, “the state must allocate the resources needed to build capacity to conduct worksite investigations, enforcement, data analysis and technical assistance to employers.”

The coalition used four categories to size up Baker’s plan:

  • Worker Health and Safety Standards: Grade: D.
  • Enforcement of Health and Safety Standards: Grade: F
  • Protection of Workers Rights: Grade: F
  • Testing and Tracing Grade: D

Part of the problem, MassCOSH said, stems from the makeup of Baker’s Reopening Advisory Board — which failed to include “frontline workers, unions and those with occupational health and safety expertise.”

The coalition said that, “the failure of this plan isn’t that it is opening up the economy too fast or too slow — its failure lies in the plan’s inability to adequately protect workers and the public from COVID-19.”

During the pandemic, MassCOSH said, “Massachusetts workers have been left largely to fend for themselves, relying on collective actions, media attention, individual legal advice and in some cases, local boards of health, to force their employers to provide safe workplace conditions.”

The coalition said the Baker administration “has profoundly failed workers that have been working for the last two months and is now, with this plan, failing to robustly protect everyone who’s going back to work.”

The coalition adds that “the actual penalties to employers who don’t follow standards are minimal and are only issued after verbal and written ‘redirection’ is ignored.”

MassCOSH has released a “COVID-19 Tool Kit for Essential Workers: Health and Safety Protections and How to Make Them Happen” (Click here to view.) It includes sections particularly of interest for Local 888 members:

For a report on Workers’ Memorial Day, see http://www.seiu888.org/2020/05/25/frontline-essential-workers-honored-by-labor/ or https://www.facebook.com/SEIULocal888 on Facebook.

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‘Now is our time to step up’

‘DEVOTED TO THE KIDS’: Wayne MacLeod said his chapter — custodians, maintenance and cafeteria — are essential workers on the job during the crisis.

‘DEVOTED TO THE KIDS’: Wayne MacLeod said his Watertown chapter — custodians, maintenance and cafeteria — are essential workers on the job during the crisis.

“We are essential workers; this is our moment to shine,” said Wayne MacLeod, president of the Local 888 chapter that includes Watertown’s cafeteria, custodial and maintenance workers. “Now is our time to step up and do what’s needed,” he said.

“We’re pretty much all devoted to the kids. A lot of us grew up in Watertown, myself included,” added MacLeod.

MacLeod said that he had worked closely with the schools’ superintendent as the pandemic hit. Among other pandemic measures, schools were shut down March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.

When he and the schools superintendent first connected to talk about the situation, MacLeod said, he told her that “whatever you need to do, we can do. It’s time for us to step up.”

At first, that meant four-hour shifts, five days a week, for the custodial and maintenance staff, later reduced to two days per week. The Local 888 members were paid their full salaries. Now that Local 888 unit is back in 40 hours per week and preparing to return the materials left in the schools — by teachers and students — at the time of the shutdown.

Cafeteria workers continued making meals for delivery to the town’s children, particularly the needy. Scheduling varied, but has meant divvying up the needed shifts.

Meanwhile, the chapter is gearing up to negotiate a new contract, along with Local 888 internal organizer Patrick Atwell. In the current environment, negotiations are on hold

“We’ve had two negotiating meetings” to lay the groundwork, said MacLeod. He expressed optimism. “We’ve got a very good administration, and have worked well with them.

The Local 888 leader is now on a task force regarding school reopening. He said the pandemic will probably mean an increase to members’ workloads, given the demands of increased cleaning.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health has issued guidelines on COVID-19 safety that includes sections on custodial and food service workers. See: https://tinyurl.com/888essential.

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