Union Updates

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Zoom orientation takes off

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One of the big success stories for Local 888 during the pandemic has been initiating the use of Zoom to host union orientation programs for members, and especially new hires.

The monthly events are generally on the second Thursday of a month at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. — with the next one set for Feb. 11. The one-hour orientations are open to all Local 888 workers; sign up online at www.seiu888.org/mwo.

More than 154 people have attended a Member Welcome Orientation since they were started last June. Contact Johannes Raatz at jraatz@seiu888.org to find out more details.

When people learn about the advantages of collective bargaining and “just cause” protections they are more likely to get involved in their union, said Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues. “Member involvement makes the union strong.”

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Members raise COVID-19 concerns

Boston-City-Hall-2019

HUB CENTRAL: Local 888 represents 12 bargaining units in Boston that include both workers in Boston City Hall and out in the neighborhoods.

Local 888 members have criticized city of Boston management for not doing enough to protect city workers from exposure to COVID-19. One such critic, a street worker with the Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF), was subsequently fired.

The union has sprung into action —by filing several grievances on behalf of certain workers that Local 888 believes were retaliated against for asserting their rights as leaders and members. In addition, Local 888 sought talks with city officials, which have now included a Jan. 12 Zoom meeting with the head of Boston’s labor relations office.

COVID-19 issues are of high importance for the some 1,800 city workers represented by Local 888, whose contracts have expired during the pandemic.

In a Dec. 21 letter, Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues officially raised members’ pandemic concerns with that office.

One key complaint for Local 888 has been that the city did not do enough to inform its employees of COVID-19 cases, for example at SOAR, the youth and families agency’s street worker program. The other main complaint was that not enough was being done to keep workers, who are deemed “essential,” safe.

The Boston Globe reported on Local 888’s COVID-19 concerns (“Workers rap city’s handling of COVID outbreak at gang-intervention unit,” Dec. 24). At the time, the paper said, five SOAR team members working at the city’s Tobin

Community Center in Roxbury had tested positive that month. COVID-19, of course, is a highly contagious virus. Five other city employees in the same building tested positive in December.

Jamaine Gaitor, a street worker for Boston for 15 years, had written a letter to various city officials on the staff’s concerns, the Globe reported. Gaitor was later fired.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health’s “COVID-19 Safety Toolkit For Workers,” is at https://tinyurl.com/MassCOSHCOVID.

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Working women organize

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LABORING FOR JUSTICE: Emerson College’s ‘Bright Lights Film Series’ will feature ‘9to5: The Story of a Movement’ online on Thurs., Jan. 28, 6:30 p.m. page 4. Watch the trailer here.

Emerson College’s “Bright Lights Film Series,” co-sponsored by Local 888, is set to launch its 2021 Season — which will feature several union-themed movies aired online. These include “9to5: The Story of a Movement.” The film tells the story of the real-life women who organized for better pay, more advancement opportunities and an end to sexual harassment.

“Bright Lights” is directed by Anna Feder, a Local 888 member and activist. She wrote a front-page opinion piece for DigBoston in early 2018 as the staff fought for a first contract.

The successful union drive at Emerson followed in the footsteps of the organizing work depicted in the movie.

“We build power as workers when we organize,” Feder said. “And as someone who has dealt with gender discrimination at the college, helping to organize the union was how I handled a situation where I felt powerless.”

Feder added that, in the new “Bright Lights” series, she wanted “to focus on economic justice — even as the country and the world continue to grow more economically unjust.”

The “9to5” documentary was set to air on Thursday, Jan. 28, 6:30 p.m. Watch the trailer here. The movie will also air on PBS jn February.

See https://websites.emerson.edu/brightlights/ for more on “Bright Lights.” For “9to5” info: www.facebook.com/events/238916847634638. For a preview of the “Bright Lights” season, see https://www.facebook.com/BrightLightsEmerson/videos/1824057787742335.

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Dispatchers win equal pay

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Local 888’s chapter president for the Somerville E911 dispatchers took their case to the City Council — and got the funding members were looking for to pay for their new contract.

In an impassioned speech, Susan DeSousa said that, while it might seem that the dispatchers were getting “a significant pay increase,” the issue at hand was equal pay for equal work. The contract “represents our city’s intent to right a long overdue wrong,” she added.

“An affirmative vote would reinforce an important objective: and that is to recognize us as equal,” DeSousa said. She added that the contract recognizes “that regardless of who’s doing the job, we should receive equal pay for equal work,” she told the council.

She told The Spark that the package would increase total compensation by about 34 percent over the three-year contract. The plan is to bring her chapter’s base pay up to that of the fire-alarm operators, who are all men. Of the E911 chapter’s 14 members, 11 are women.

“Our membership has been dedicated to the residents of Somerville since our inception,” said DeSousa. “We have been — and continue to be — an essential part of public safety.”

The mayor supported the memorandum of agreement between Local 888 and the city; the council voted to accept the proposal. The agreement had been signed in November.

The needed $ 74,543 was funded by a state grant. The money covers the period from Jan. 17 to June 30, the remainder of the fiscal year. It covers salary increases of $54,658; differential pay increases of $8,421; longevity pay increase of $2,700 and $8,764 extra for holidays.

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Moments of Silence

888 In Memory

The officers and staff of Local 888 extend our deepest sympathies to the families of:

  • Janice A. Hunter, 70, of Boston, a principal financial representative with the Boston Water and Sewer Commission.
  • Mario Rickerson of Randolph. He was a longtime union member, first with Local 40 of the carpenters union and then with Local 888’s building maintenance supervisor II chapter at the state’s Division of Capital Asset Maintenance and Management. He served as chapter president and chief steward.
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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

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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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