Union Updates

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Cafeteria workers fight to save jobs

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues speaks as Groton-Dunstable school cafeteria workers rally to save their jobs and benefits.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues speaks as Groton-Dunstable school cafeteria workers rally to save their jobs and benefits.

Groton-Dunstable school cafeteria workers united in Local 888 rallied April 10 to protest a proposal to cut costs by slashing benefits. The cafeteria workers and their supporters, including parents and students, then packed a meeting where the board discussed the outsourcing plan.

“I’m pretty angry that, after 15 years of working for the district, I and my co-workers are having to fight to keep our jobs and benefits,” said Dorynda Auth, a leader of the Local 888 cafeteria workers chapter.

The Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee’s proposal is to have Whitsons Culinary Group take over the food service operation — with the key goal being slashing the benefits of 23 school workers.

Auth, who gets health insurance through her job, said that the cafeteria staff’s turnover is low – except for those working less than 4 hours a day. They get no benefits.

The district’s proposal “sends a message that people don’t matter, money does,” said Michael Shea, a parent of Groton schoolchildren and a teacher in nearby Chelmsford. “Outsourcing is not innovative thinking; a corporation like Whitsons only cares about one thing: profits.”

“I care about the children, and I understand their health issues,” said Karen Nardone, a 10-year Groton-Dunstable cafeteria worker. She talked about making sure a boy who had an allergy to peanuts was served the proper food. “That boy should feel safe when he comes to school; these children deserve quality service,” said Nardone.

“My daughter has severe peanut allergies,” Eric McKenzie, a Groton-Dunstable parent, told the school board. “One safe place for her is the school cafeteria.” McKenzie added that one cafeteria worker actually calls him up to make sure new products will be safe for his daughter.

“The cafeteria workers are our neighbors — they’re part of the community,” McKenzie said.

“I’m really heartbroken that I have to be here tonight,” added Groton-Dunstable parent Valerie Edwards. “We shouldn’t have to be fighting for these women’s jobs.” She vowed to write emails to local officials telling them: “These people’s jobs should stay, and the food quality they provide should stay.”

“You should know that we will keep fighting to preserve these workers jobs,” Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues told the school board. “They are people who live in the community, and they deserve to keep their jobs.”

The committee aims to save a pittance at best — perhaps $70,000 in the first year, $90,000 in the third year of the contract — by eliminating health care benefits for most of the workers. A school district report on outsourcing said that, “benefits constitute a significant net cost for the program.”

Altogether the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District has 2,771 students and goes from elementary grades through high school. The current Local 888 contract runs out June 30.

For its part, Whitsons has been hit with harsh criticism and even legal action. It is the same vendor that the Boston Public Schools got rid of less than two years ago after complaints from parents and health advocates about poor quality and bad-tasting food.

In addition, Whitsons was forced to pay $1.6 million to settle with the state of New York amid accusations the company overcharged school districts in violation of contracts as well as state and federal regulations.

For more information on Whitsons Culinary Group, see http://www.seiu888.org/cafe/. Also:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/07/17/bps-chooses-new-school-food-vendor/jXHQVowa4zIzdwaPu72b7H/story.html

https://www.masslive.com/news/2017/12/head_of_kitchens_at_longmeadow.html

https://libn.com/2011/10/05/whitsons-pays-1-6m-to-settle-school-lunch-overcharges/

https://brookline.wickedlocal.com/news/20181211/brookline-school-lunches-become-target-of-complaints-and-declining-sales

Is privatization a threat where you work? To get resources and tips on how to fight privatization, email rwilson@seiu888.org.

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Plan threatens members’ benefits

UNHEALTHY CHOICE: Local 888 members prepare to protest the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee’s recipe for saving money: Outsourcing the cafeteria service to an outfit with a reputation for serving bad-tasting food.

FOOD FIGHT: Local 888’s Steve James, Angela Gagne, Dorynda Auth, attorney John Magner, Karen Nardone, Leslie Colt, and organizer Neal O’Brien, front, protest the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee’s outsourcing recipe.

The Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee is looking to cut costs by slashing the benefits of the cafeteria workers through outsourcing. Local 888 members are not giving up without a fight.

About 25 members and their supporters filled the audience at the March 27 School Committee meeting wearing Local 888 T-shirts. Members gave the committee a piece of their mind — and tempers flared.

The committee aims to save a pittance at best — perhaps $70,000 in the first year, $90,000 in the third year of the contract — by eliminating health care benefits for most of the workers.

School Committee member Marlena Gilbert sent an email saying she was “concerned about the stress of the unknown for the café staff.”

“If the School Committee is really concerned about our well-being, then why are they outsourcing our jobs?” said cafeteria worker Dorynda Auth.

The current Local 888 contract runs out June 30. The School Committee is considering outsourcing the cafeteria operation to Whitsons Culinary Group.

However, Whitsons is the same vendor that the Boston Public Schools got rid of less than two years ago after complaints from parents and health advocates about poor quality and bad-tasting food. Whitsons has run into similar problems in Brookline. “It’s the worst food,” said one food-service worker, “I would not feed it to my cat.”

The company has been mired in other controversies as well. As reported by MassLive.com, the head cook at Longmeadow High School was fired for alleged sexual harassment less than two years ago. The accuser and another worker said that when complaints had been made about the cook previously, those who voiced their grievances had been fired.

In addition, Whitsons was forced to pay $1.6 million to settle with the state of New York amid accusations the company overcharged school districts in violation of contracts as well as state and federal regulations.

Altogether the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District has 2,771 students and goes from elementary grades through high school.

A school district report found that, “Benefit costs could be reduced by as much as $90,000” by outsourcing the cafeteria. It also said that the school district “does not seem to be unhappy with the quality of its food service operation, but benefits constitute a significant net cost for the program.”

The Lowell Sun reported in May 2014 that a Groton-Dunstable Educators Association member read the School Committee a prepared statement — slamming the talk of privatizing cafeteria and maintenance duties. The statement noted that the changes would be made as part of the district’s attempt to save money after the schools needed millions of dollars to plug a budget hole in fiscal year 2015.

That situation was solved when Groton and Dunstable residents OK’d the needed increase in funding. Of course, saving some tens of thousands of dollars by eliminating workers’ benefits would not have gone far — even if it worked — toward plugging a budgetary hole of millions of dollars.

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SEIU fest to feature fun, opportunities, U.S. rep

SEIU unity, good food and fun are at the top of the agenda for the “Spring Fling” set for April 27. Also: Music and dancing.

“It’s a great way for our members from around the state to have a chance to meet each other, socialize and have some fun,” said Brenda Rodrigues, president of Local 888.

A special guest speaker will be new U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley. The former Boston City Council member has hit the ground running, emboldening Democrats around the country.

The event will put a spotlight on SEIU caucuses – which are a way for union members with similar backgrounds and interests to get together, build lasting bonds and address issues affecting their communities. They include the African American (AFRAM), Latino, Lavender, Asian/Pacific and Women’s caucuses. SEIU caucuses can serve as an entry point into union activities and help members become leaders.

The statewide SEIU “Spring Fling” is set for Sat., April 27, 4 to 8 p.m., at the SEIU 1199 Union Hall, 108 Myrtle St., Quincy.

The event is sponsored by the SEIU Massachusetts State Council, SEIU Community Action and Locals 888, 1199, 509 and 32BJ.

To RSVP, visit https://bit.ly/2SbhnwY

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Rejuvenated Billerica set for bargaining

Local 888 members have stepped up to fill the void after the longtime Billerica chapter chair, Donna Hansen, announced at a recent union meeting that she was stepping down. The administrative and professional unit’s contract runs out June 30.

“My goal is to fight for the 30 other people in our union,” said the new chapter leader, building inspector David Lenzie. “And it’s great to see a couple younger people get involved – members who can continue our union tradition on into the future.”

Since taking on Lenzie’s former chapter post of secretary, Joe D’Angelo has already taken part in stewards’ training sponsored by Local 888. The rejuvenated chapter has a complete slate of officers, with Ken Buffum as vice president, Steve Robertson as treasurer and Mike Haines as steward (a post that had been vacant for some time).

The chapter’s leaders and the town administrator have since met to set ground rules for bargaining, with the first official session set for May. One thing that could influence the negotiations: The town just did a study of workers’ salary and benefits by job classification to see how they compare to those in similar positions in other towns. Lenzie said he wants to help those in positions that are underpaid while still taking care of the membership as a whole.

How should your chapter’s leadership roles be structured? Email myunion@SEIU888.org or contact your staff organizer for some guidelines.

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Homes’ leaders speak up

TALKING SHOP: The Local 888 chapter council at the Chelsea Soldiers Home meets. From left: steward Chrissy Wilson, steward Lyneth Martin, organizer Penelope Jennewein, steward John McDonough, and chapter president Speandilove Nelson.

TALKING SHOP: The Local 888 chapter council at the Chelsea Soldiers Home meets. From left: steward Chrissy Wilson, steward Lyneth Martin, organizer Penelope Jennewein, steward John McDonough, and chapter president Speandilove Nelson.

SEIU Local 888 leaders continued to press their campaign to improve working conditions at the Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers Homes during a second meeting with a top state official.

And they called the meeting with Marylou Sudders, the state’s secretary of health and human services, a success.

“I can tell you that Sudders is listening – especially with Brenda (Local 888 President Rodrigues) there, they’re all listening,” said Kwesi Ablordeppey, a CNA and the Holyoke Home’s Local 888 chapter chair. “We’re making progress.”

Sudders had the superintendents from both Soldiers Homes attend the March meeting. Also there: Francisco Urena, state secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Services.

“Sudders has a problem-solving attitude,” said Joe Montagna, Local 888 internal organizer. “And it’s been great for members to talk together, share their experiences and, collectively, bring their issues forward.”

Rodrigues said, “It was phenomenal to see Secretary Sudders listen to our members and say to the Soldiers Homes’ management: ‘You’ll take care of this at the local level, right?’ ”

Union members blame Holyoke Home management for causing high turnover. The causes include: understaffing, excessive forced overtime and a hostile work environment generating a pileup of grievances.

Sudders said that the state now has a contractor to perform separate staffing studies for each Soldiers Home.

The Holyoke Home, which of course operates around the clock, has hired more staff. But, Ablordeppey said, there are still vacancies for 19 CNA positions and 8 LPNs there.

The meeting with state officials is part of a campaign by Holyoke Local 888 members to seek improvements. They have organized T-shirt protests and delivered a petition to management saying they had no confidence in either the director or assistant director of nursing.

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Officer nabs doggone pup

WAYWARD POOCH: Vanished after his owner was hurt in car crash.

WAYWARD POOCH: Vanished after his owner was hurt in car crash.

Watertown’s animal control officer, a member of her Local 888 bargaining committee, has received accolades for going above and beyond the call of duty to rescue a lost Chihuahua – and getting bitten in the process.

The out-of-state owner of the Chihuahua had to be taken to the hospital after a Watertown car crash. When the snarly hound tried to bite one of the first responders on the scene, everyone backed away and the dog ran off.

Animal Control Officer Karen O’Reilly said she had put the word out, but there were no sightings for a couple days. While out on another call, she found the dog, named Chico, in a swampy area along the Charles River, maybe half a mile from her truck.

Watertown Police Capt. Raymond Dupuis and another officer arrived on the scene to help out. He said that, “after being out in the cold for two nights, the dog had an extremely bad attitude.”

Nonetheless, O’Reilly was intent on capturing the snarling creature right then and there. “I knew he wasn’t going to be easy to get,” said O’Reilly. Indeed she did get bitten.

Despite it all, she even took the animal home so it had a place to stay until it was retrieved.

Dupuis added: “O’Reilly went above and beyond what I would expect an ACO to do. If anyone could have seen her that day, it was clear she is in this job for her love of caring of animals.”

O’Reilly, who has been the town’s animal control officer for 12 years, said she had previously worked at veterinary hospitals and a medical diagnostic company. It was the Great Recession and here was a good opportunity – so she applied for the Watertown job and got hired.

Since taking the Watertown job, O’Reilly has been involved with the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts, which has a training program.

Commenting on the Chihuahua and other pets, O’Reilly said, “I’m one of those people who sees myself in their little bodies. And I think: There I am hunkering down in the brush beside the Charles River. “

She added: “I love animals. All of us animal lovers who get into the field want to work with animals,” said O’Reilly. However, pet owners are the ones who can be the hardest to deal with. “Sometimes, it seems, I should have gotten a degree in psychology.”

Last summer the big animal issue reported in the local paper: “Aggressive raccoons attack Watertown residents, cause injury.” O’Reilly said: “It was very odd; that’s not very common.” No rabid raccoon was ever collared for the crimes.

As for the wayward Chihuahua, his days of snarling in the mud and brush along the Charles River are over. He’s living the comfy life back home in Maryland.

Got a good story about a Local 888 member? Email communications@SEIU888.org.

 

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Medicare-for-All movement grows

Medicare for All hirez

More and more unions are following the lead of the SEIU and Local 888 — and endorsing proposals for a Medicare-for-All model for the U.S. Meanwhile more than 100 House Democrats are supporting just such a plan, which would make health care a basic human right in this country.

“Today in America, 30 million people are uninsured; 40 million are underinsured. We have the most expensive healthcare system in the world and yet our outcomes are the worst of all industrialized countries,” said the chief sponsor of the Medicare for All Act of 2019, U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.U.S. House members from Massachusetts who have endorsed the bill include Katherine Clark, William Keating, Joseph P. Kennedy, James McGovern, Ayanna Pressley and Lori Trahan.

At its 2017 convention, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO backed the Resolution in Support of Health Care as a Human Right. Delegates voted to support federal and state bills “that embody the principles of a single-payer Medicare-for-All system.”

Similarly, the national AFL-CIO passed a resolution in 2017 endorsing Medicare for All model. One goal would be to cut overall costs by eliminating the red tape and inefficiency of private health insurance.

For more information on the Medicare for All Act of 2019, see https://jayapal.house.gov/medicare-for-all/medicare-for-all-act-of-2019/?

Three Massachusetts members of Congress haven’t endorsed the act. You can reach them by going to their websites’ contact section: Stephen Lynch at https://lynch.house.gov/contact-me/email-me, Seth Moulton at https://moulton.house.gov/contact/, Richard Neal at https://neal.house.gov/contact

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Local 888 leader joins staff

JOSH CLANCY

JOSH CLANCY

Veteran Local 888 leader Josh Clancy is leaving behind his marathon plowing days to become an internal organizer for the union.

Clancy had served as Local 888 chapter president over five years at the Tyngsborough Department of Public Works. He was the lead negotiator in the last round of contract talks. A key win, he said, was the addition of longevity pay — up to $3,000 annually for someone on their anniversary date after 20 years of service.

When it comes to negotiations, “you have to keep pushing — don’t take no for an answer. At the same time, you still have to find common ground.”

How do you get there?

“Small talk is important. You learn to see eye-to-eye with people like the town administrator. You pick up a lot of information that you can use later to try get the parties into alignment.”

In addition, Clancy worked to bring the town’s other unionized workers together so as to bargain from a stronger position. “My favorite part of my old job was dealing with management on behalf of my chapter members and working with the other unions.”

Clancy worked for the Tyngsborough DPW as a skilled laborer for 10 years: “I enjoyed it all,” he said, commenting on the range of duties.

Perhaps the DPW’s most prominent role is cleaning the roads of snow and ice — which could mean ridiculously long hours plowing and sanding. “Plowing and sanding during storms, there were times we worked 30-plus hours straight,” he said. Improving break times and pay for this service was an important contract victory.

He comes from a union family, with relatives belonging to various locals — including an aunt who was a chapter president for Local 888.

Clancy and his wife, Lisa, have a daughter, Lydia, 6. In his off hours, Clancy likes to take his daughter out fishing in a canoe. They live in Mason, N.H.

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Coming Attractions

Coming up 

FAIR SHARE AMENDMENT HEARING: Thurs., April 11, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., SEIU State Council office, 145 Tremont St., Boston.

MGM SPRINGFIELD FUNDRAISER: Benefits SEIU Local 888 COPA (Committee on Political Action). Cost: $40. May 4 event includes breakfast sandwich and charter bus, which leaves at 10 a.m. from the Local 888 headquarters, 25 Braintree Hill Office Park, Braintree. Also: as much as $20 in MGM casino scrip and a $10 food credit. For more details, see http://www.seiu888.org/

PROMOTING POLITICAL PARTICIPATION: Wed., May 15, 1 to 2:30 p.m., SEIU State Council office, 145 Tremont St., Boston.

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COPA meeting is postponed until April 2

The SEIU Local 888 COPA meeting scheduled for TuesdaBuilding-Working-Class-Power-Croppedy, March 26 is POSTPONED until Tuesday, April 2.  The meeting will take place at the SEIU Massachusetts State Council Office, second floor, 145 Tremont Street, Boston.  The meeting will start at 6:30 PM.

 

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Show Stop & Shop That Its Customers Care About Workers!

Stop & Shop workers deserve respect in the workplace. These folks are at the front line of the stores every day and work hard to make sure that we are able to feed ourselves and our families — and right now they need our solidarity!

ss_we_care_bannerYou may have heard in the news that Stop & Shop workers recently voted to approve a strike across New England. This does not mean that they will definitely go on strike — they would much rather get the dignity they deserve from their bosses without taking that drastic step. The ratification vote is the result of years of disrespect in the workplace and relentless requests to accept lower pay and worse benefits.

It’s time for customers to stand up and tell Stop & Shop we won’t accept this treatment of the workers in our community!

Here’s what you can do:

·       Sign our petition in support of workers here

·       Show up for Western Mass Stop & Shop workers on Wednesday, March 20 at 12 pm in Chicopee. Link to the Facebook event here

·       Show up for Boston area Stop & Shop workers on Saturday, March 23 at 11 am in Somerville. Link to the Facebook event here

·       Share the links in this email with your family and friends!

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Changes in Shuttle Pick-up / Drop-off from Quincy Adams Red Line station to Local 888

Starting Friday, March 15th, there will be a temporary pick up and drop off location at the Quincy Adams T Station due to garage construction.  At this time, the T is not giving us a lot of information. This spot may change during the progress of the construction.  We will keep you updated with any changes.

shuttle pick upPlease see the picture at right showing the new location.

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