Local 888 leaders joined a somber crowd at the State House for Workers’ Memorial Day. The event honored workers in Massachusetts who have lost their lives while simply doing their jobs — and paid tribute to the families who have lost loved ones.
“We stand with you,” said Al Vega from the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, a Local 888 partner organization. “We’re going to fight to make sure that the state’s workplaces are safe for everyone.”
“A key goal for our union is making sure workplaces are safe for our members,” said Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues. She praised a new state law, which took effect this year, that makes federal health and safety regulations the minimum standard for all public employees.
The Boston event, sponsored by MassCOSH, featured speakers from labor unions and community groups. It was this coalition that spearheaded passage of the new law, — which puts the onus on employers to make sure workplaces meet federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations
“Without the OSHA standards, public employees have lacked much-needed protections,” said Rodrigues. A workshop at the Local 888 convention last October put a spotlight on the state law.
According to a report from MassCOSH and the state AFL-CIO, 59 workers lost their lives while on the job in 2018. Another 10 firefighters died from workplace-related diseases. The report adds that those who are at a higher risk of workplace injury, such as in construction, are also at a higher risk of opioid misuse. For example, Massachusetts construction workers die from opioid overdoses at a rate six times that for other industries.
That’s why MassCOSH is taking a closer look at opioids in the workplace — and taking action, said the coalition’s executive director, Jodi Sugerman-Brozan. This includes working with labor unions to educate workers on addiction.
MassCOSH has helped develop “a peer-led, workplace educational curriculum to reduce workplace injury and opioid misuse” with the help of a University of Massachusetts Lowell center, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, Teamsters Local 25 and Ironworkers Local 7.
For more info on the new state law that covers public sector workers, visit: https://www.mass.gov/workplace-safety-and-health-program-wshp. For more on MassCOSH, visit: http://www.masscosh.org/.
Local 888 member Lorna Heron talked up the SEIU African-American Caucus (AFRAM) while at the statewide SEIU “Spring Fling” in April. Heron, who works at Boston’s Commission on Affairs of the Elderly, is an Eastern Region board member for AFRAM.
“People ask the question: Can anyone join AFRAM?” said Heron. “The answers is: yes. But the caucus is for us, about us and run by us – by and for the members.”
She praised the Massachusetts State Council for working to support the caucuses. And she urged people to join them.
Heron said the recent AFRAM conference in Baltimore was a great success. A key part of that, she said, came about because “for three years we have been fighting as one to get AFRAM Massachusetts to come together.”
The national AFRAM mission statement says that its members “engage to promote social, economic and political justice.” For more info on SEIU AFRAM Massachusetts, visit www.facebook.com/groups/503070166868170/.
“The work of this union is just so important,” said U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley “Yes, it can be tiring to have to organize for basic human rights and dignity — and to have to do it again and again and again. But you have to do it. We can’t afford to be tired and apathetic and cynical.” The new congresswoman spoke at the statewide SEIU “Spring Fling.”
Pressley spoke at the statewide SEIU “Spring Fling,” held in Quincy. Pressley emphasized that her worldview was informed, in part, from working for six years in hotels. She said she learned from her co-workers the economic challenges often faced by blue-collar workers and people of color.
One of her first actions when she took office this January was to co-sponsor legislation that would have provided back pay for the thousands of furloughed federal contract workers who went without a paycheck during the partial government shutdown triggered by the president. “Trump held U.S. families and federal workers hostage,” she added.
Federal workers who went without pay during the shutdown generally collected back pay when the crisis ended. Not so for contract workers — many of them janitors, security personnel and food service workers, she said, adding that these people should get paid, too.
In general, the role of the federal government is to serve the people, said Pressley, a former Boston city councilor. “And I pledge to you I will never forget to serve the people.”
For more about Pressley, see https://pressley.house.gov/media.
PROMOTING POLITICAL PARTICIPATION: Wed., May 15, 1 to 2:30 p.m., Massachusetts State House hearing room, Boston.
‘FROM COORS TO CALIFORNIA: David Sickler and the New Working Class’ is the focus of a Local 888-sponsored event featuring Sickler, one of the most successful union organizers in the country. Wed., May 15, 5 to 6:30 p.m., at SEIU Local 32BJ, 26 West St., Boston. For more info, www.facebook.com/events/2913917238651877/.
HIGHER ED LABOR SUMMIT: SEIU Local 888 to host; learn about others’ experiences. Sat., June 15, 9 a.m., Local 32BJ offices, 26 West St., Boston. Call 617-241-3317 for more info or email firstname.lastname@example.org.