Union Updates

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Local 888 leaders event

SEIU Local 888 logo

Local 888’s Leadership Conference is set for Sat., Oct. 19, Braintree Hill Office Park, Braintree. Lunch is from noon to 12:30 p.m.

  • General session: 10 to 11 a.m. to feature Local 888 leaders, a guest speaker and an overview of proposed changes to bylaws.
  • Workshops: 11 a.m. to noon will address such topics as: Using your rights at work to win grievances and resolve on-the-job problems.
  • Industry Sector Breakouts: 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., will cover schools, early childhood education, higher education, municipalities, state government, public authorities, and the MassDefenders.

Pre-register for a Door Prize: Members who pre-register for the conference by Oct. 11 will be eligible for a special door prize: https://forms.gle/744wHjqZ5KjNsBsh6

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Custodians eye on-job hazards

HEALTHY SUPPORT: Local 888 members and staff along with health and safety professionals were there for a report on custodians’ health and safety given by, in front at right, Sheba Saji and Ellie Prickett Morgan, immediately to her left.

HEALTHY SUPPORT: Local 888 members and staff along with health and safety professionals were there for a report on custodians’ health and safety given by, in front at right, Sheba Saji and Ellie Prickett Morgan, immediately to her left.

Local 888 custodians face a wide range of health and safety issues — from the demands of physical labor, to the hazards of cleaning chemicals, to the dangers of dealing with bodily fluids, such as blood and saliva. For example, cleaning up from blood spills is a regular feature of work at the Chelsea and Holyoke Soldiers Homes.

Local 888 engaged occupational health and safety interns Sheba Saji, a graduate student, and undergrad Ellie Prickett Morgan to study the hazards. The pair interviewed Local 888 custodians at 12 different worksites this summer.

Their research resulted in an in-depth report on health and safety problems along with some recommendations for dealing with them. The pair spoke at Local 888’s Braintree headquarters.

“Poor practices for storing chemicals” is a common problem at custodians’ workplaces,” said Saji. Touring some facilities, she added, “we’d get hit with intense odors” in chemical storage areas. She recommended that chemicals no longer in use get disposed of and that facilities adopt safer, “green” chemicals whenever possible.

Another common health and safety issue for custodians is the use of caustic stripping compounds for cleaning floors, which can cause painful chemical burns on exposed skin.

 

In addition, slips and falls are common during such cleanings.

The report adds that isolated working conditions is a problem: “Solitary work is an extremely dangerous practice.” Custodian work involves unseen hazards and a lot of moving objects around.

A Mashpee custodian recalled the severe injuries suffered by a Local 888 member in a town building. The maintenance man was working on scaffolding when part of it collapsed, causing him to fall 8 feet. His injuries included a severe ankle fracture, leg fracture, neck fractures, and injuries to his wrists and face.

Other hazards custodians may face include common cleaning chemicals, such as ammonia and bleach. The report recommends keeping a log along with material safety data sheets on what chemicals are in use. As for unused chemicals? Get rid of them — safely.

Even in workplaces where good practices have been put in place, there is the need to train new people and give them the tools they need to perform their jobs safely. For example, older facilities may have asbestos, such as in vinyl flooring and ceilings. Proper training is key for preventing the inhalation of the carcinogenic compound’s fibers.

The two interns produced fliers for Local 888 that cover: asbestos, floor care, chemical safety, blood-borne pathogens, shoveling snow safely and lifting properly

To get more involved with Local 888’s focus on the health and safety of custodians — or to get copies of the union’s fliers — contact a Local 888 organizer or email Rand Wilson at rwilson@seiu888.org.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted a Janitorial Products Pollution Prevention Project. Some information on that can be found at: https://www.epa.gov/greenerproducts/greening-your-purchase-cleaning-products-guide-federal-purchasers

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On food service menu: A little more R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Food is Love 9-9-19

Local 888 chapters have begun organizing for the Food Service Workers’ Recognition Week, slated for Oct. 14 to 18.

“It’s a great idea — and long overdue,” said Karen Warren, president of the Brockton cafeteria workers chapter. “I think this will be a very positive step for food service workers, who have not been getting the recognition they deserve.”

The state, municipal and school food service workers in Massachusetts are dedicated to serving the children in our schools, clients in their homes, and patients and veterans in hospitals and nursing facilities. These workers deliver healthy, high-quality food. They also use their expertise to take care of those with food allergies and special dietary needs.

The goal of the week is to honor food service workers, including through related programs and activities. Warren said she believes that numerous candidates running for mayor and City Council this year will be eager to jump on the bandwagon and support the Food Service Workers’ Recognition Week.

The Brockton chapter has 195 members, which includes people who work from 20 hours per week to a full 40 hours per week. Warren works as a cafeteria manager at Brockton High School

Learn more about food service workers’ week at www.seiu888.org/cafe and “like” us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Cafeteria-Workers-United-in-SEIU-Local-888-2006616322968670/. If you have any questions, contact Ian Adelman, iadelman@seiu888.org.

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Legislators get earful in pension fight

MAKING THEIR CASE: Theresa King and Kwesi Ablordeppey testify at the State House.

MAKING THEIR CASE: Theresa King and Kwesi Ablordeppey testify at the State House.

Local 888 members took their case to the Legislature, saying that caregivers at the Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers Homes are entitled to better pension benefits than they currently get.

“Leaders from the Soldiers Homes did a great job testifying at the State House on behalf of our bill,” said Local 888 Secretary Treasurer Tom McKeever.

“We take care of patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), some of who may be violent,” said Kwesi Ablordeppey, Holyoke Home’s
chapter leader. “Some live on  locked wards and wear ankle bracelets that can set off an alarm as soon as they try to get out.”

The caregivers are being classified at the Group 1 level for retirement. Under state rules, Group 1 includes laborers and clerical administrative and technical workers. The state website says that Group 2 includes positions that “provide direct care, custody, instruction or supervision of persons with mental illness or developmental disabilities.”

Local 888 members are urged to contact the Legislature to correct this unjust situation. To find out who your state representative and senator are and how to contact them, go to https://malegislature.gov/search/findmylegislator

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Dracut honors retiring leader after ratifying 3-year contract

SMILES ALL AROUND: Local 888 members Carol Hamilton, internal organizer Madeline Soto, Sue Noel, Kerry Lee-Noel and Cynthia Alexander celebrate the Dracut chapter’s new contract.

SMILES ALL AROUND: Local 888 members Carol Hamilton, internal organizer Madeline Soto, Sue Noel, Kerry Lee-Noel and Cynthia Alexander celebrate the Dracut chapter’s new contract.

The Dracut library and Town Hall clerical staffs have ratified a new three-year contract featuring 3 percent raises each year and an increase in longevity pay. The Local 888 chapter has close to 40 members.

The contract includes an agreement that Town Hall workers will stay till 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, but get to leave on Fridays at 1 p.m.

The chapter is bidding goodbye to its longtime leader, Sue Noel, a former Local 888 Executive Board member. Local 888 gave an award to Noel, the administrative assistant for the Dracut Fire Department, who is retiring.

As a leader, she worked with members and the local’s staff to make the chapter stronger. Noel was also active in such Local 888 activities as gathering more than 1,600 signatures in support of putting a Fair Share Amendment on the state ballot. This measure, still up for debate, would institute a millionaires tax — an additional tax of 4 percent on the income greater than $1 million of state residents. The tax is targeted toward new state investment in education and the crisis-plagued transportation system.

Following in her footsteps, new leadership is stepping up to the plate. Kerry Lee-Noel (not related) is the new chapter leader.

For info on the upcoming SEIU Local 888 Leadership Conference, set for Sat., Oct. 19, email rwilson@seiu888.org.

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School bell rings for pact

THUMBS UP! Local 888 literature was on display when Oxford members OK’d their new contract.

THUMBS UP! Local 888 literature was on display when Oxford members OK’d their new contract.

Two Local 888 chapters in the Oxford Public Schools ratified new labor contracts on one of the biggest days of the school year. The staff was preparing for the return of students with the start of school.

“Everything went well,” said Sue Grenier, summing up the day. The steward for the clerical chapter said that, “It feels good to have a new contract. We put a lot of work into this, a lot of meetings, to get to this agreement.” It includes increases to longevity pay, which kicks in with five years of service and goes up again at 10.

As for the back-to-school preparations, Grenier said: “It’s very hectic. There will be new students and new classrooms for others to go to. But we’re ready.” Both chapters’ new contracts include 2 percent raises in each year of the three-year pacts. The other chapter covers instructional assistants, including in school libraries.

For info on Local 888 school chapters: Darlene Archibald, darchibald@seiu888.org.

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Local 888 leaders event

SEIU Local 888 logo

Local 888’s Leadership Conference is set for Sat., Oct. 19, Braintree Hill Office Park, Braintree. Lunch is from noon to 12:30 p.m.

  • General session: 10 to 11 a.m. to feature Local 888 leaders, a guest speaker and an overview of proposed changes to bylaws.
  • Workshops: 11 a.m. to noon will address such topics as: Using your rights at work to win grievances and resolve on-the-job problems.
  • Industry Sector Breakouts: 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., will cover schools, early childhood education, higher education, municipalities, state government, public authorities, and the MassDefenders.

Pre-register for a Door Prize: Members who pre-register for the conference by Oct. 11 will be eligible for a special door prize: https://forms.gle/744wHjqZ5KjNsBsh6

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HONORING LABOR

HONORING LABOR: Local 888 leaders and members attended Labor Day events. Above: Pedro Ayala, right, was a Local 888 raffle winner at the Bread & Roses Festival in Lawrence. Other events included the Greater Boston Labor Council’s annual Labor Day breakfast and an SEIU 32BJ rally for Immigrant Workers' Rights in Copley Square. State Attorney General Maura Healey has issued her ‘Labor Day Report on Protecting Massachusetts Workers.’ To see the report, go to: https://tinyurl.com/888Labor.

HONORING LABOR: Local 888 leaders and members attended Labor Day events. Above: Pedro Ayala, right, was a Local 888 raffle winner at the Bread & Roses Festival in Lawrence. Other events included the Greater Boston Labor Council’s annual Labor Day breakfast and an SEIU 32BJ rally for Immigrant Workers’ Rights in Copley Square. State Attorney General Maura Healey has issued her ‘Labor Day Report on Protecting Massachusetts Workers.’ To see the report, go to: https://tinyurl.com/888Labor.

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Coming Attractions

Coming up

BROCKTON CANDIDATES NIGHT SEPT. 19: At East Branch Library, 54 Kingman St. Meet and greet at 6 p.m., followed by mayoral forum at 6:30. Sponsored with: SEIU Mass. State Council. For more info, call Pablo at 617-684-5671 or email Pablo.Ruiz@SEIUma.org.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS TRAINING: Tues., Oct. 8, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the SEIU Local 509 offices, 293 Boston Post Road West, Marlborough. Call 617-241-3300 for more info.

LOCAL 888 LEADERS MEET: The SEIU Local 888 Executive Board meets Wed, Sept. 18, 10:00 a.m. start, at the union’s conference room at 25 Braintree Hill Office Park, in Braintree.

LOCAL 888 LEADERS EVENT: Local 888’s Leadership Conference is set for Sat., Oct. 19, Braintree Hill Office Park, Braintree. Lunch is from noon to 12:30 p.m.

  • General session: 10 to 11 a.m. to feature Local 888 leaders, a guest speaker and an overview of proposed changes to bylaws.
  • Workshops: 11 a.m. to noon will address such topics as: Using your rights at work to win grievances and resolve on-the-job problems.
  • Industry Sector Breakouts: 12:30 to 1:30 p.m., will cover schools, early childhood education, higher education, municipalities, state government, public authorities, and the MassDefenders.

Pre-register for a Door Prize: Members who pre-register for the conference by Oct. 11 will be eligible for a special door prize: https://forms.gle/744wHjqZ5KjNsBsh6

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Family Fun Day at Canobie Lake

UNITED BY … FUN TIMES: Members from the Brockton Library, UMass Lowell, Woburn cafeteria and at least 10 other chapters went to the Canobie Lake amusement park for an outing organized by Local 888. About 200 people participated!

UNITED BY … FUN TIMES: Members from the Brockton Library, UMass Lowell, Woburn cafeteria and at least 10 other chapters went to the Canobie Lake amusement park for an outing organized by Local 888. About 200 people participated!

UNITED BY … FUN TIMES: Members from the Brockton Library, UMass Lowell, Woburn cafeteria and at least 10 other chapters went to the Canobie Lake amusement park for an outing organized by Local 888. About 200 people participated!

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Higher ed summit inspires

LOOKING UP: Staff at area colleges and universities shared workplace issues and strategies at Local 888’s recent Higher Education Summit in Boston. A followup meeting is in the works.

LOOKING UP: Staff at area colleges and universities shared workplace issues and strategies at Local 888’s recent Higher Education Summit in Boston. A followup meeting is in the works.

On June 15, members from BU, Brandeis, Emerson and UMass Lowell gathered to talk about their common workplace problems and share creative solutions.

“The higher-ed summit was a great chance to meet with our counterparts at other schools and find that we relate on so many issues,” said Robin Chace, an information-design and support specialist at Emerson College. “I was energized and motivated by the camaraderie and exchange of ideas that came from this meetup. I’m looking forward to the next one!”

“I absolutely loved the opportunity to meet union members from other universities!” said Esther Brandon, a digital literacy specialist at Brandeis University. “We were able to compare challenges and develop relationships that will strengthen our union.”

In talking about their own contracts, members found that, while one might have better language on promotions or just-cause protections, another had superior pay or more vacation time.

Now higher ed chapter leaders are inspired to aim for the higher standards in future contract negotiations.

Members also shared tips and strategies on contract enforcement, bargaining, research and getting members involved. In addition, students who have been active supporters of their campus unions talked up their own experiences. Building a strong alliance with students, faculty, other campus unions and the alumni community can strengthen workers’ on-campus power.

At the conclusion of the summit, attendees vowed to bring more higher ed members together for another meeting in September and to share the lessons learned with their co-workers.

“As a union steward, the summit encouraged me to develop my leadership abilities,” continued Brandon. “It inspired me to get more involved in the larger workers’ movement. The summit helped me realize the larger perspective of unionized workers in solidarity with each other. Instead of focusing on specific universities or one union, we can enact lasting change that will benefit future higher education workers.”

For more information about the next higher education meeting, contract Local 888 organizer by email at rwilson@seiu888.org or call (617) 241-3368.

 

 

 

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MassDefenders: There oughta be a law

STANDING TALL: MassDefenders and supporters rally at the State House, pressing the Legislature to amend the state’s collective bargaining law.

STANDING TALL: MassDefenders and supporters rally at the State House, pressing the Legislature to amend the state’s collective bargaining law.

Public defenders from across Massachusetts and their supporters rallied on the steps of the Grand Staircase at the State House to demand the same collective bargaining rights that all other state employees have.

About 750 Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) attorneys, social service advocates, investigators, secretaries and other professionals work on behalf of poor people in criminal cases, juvenile cases, child and family cases, and mental health and other civil commitment cases.

“We do really important work, and we deserve a fair deal,” said Daniel Werner, an attorney. “We deserve the right to legally organize and bargain collectively. Last year, we came closer than ever

before to getting this legislation passed. I think we can do it this year.”

“The time has come for this legislation, which is about two fundamental human rights” said Jason Lewis, chief sponsor of the bill in the state Senate. “Everyone has the right to a legal defense, whether rich or poor. It’s a core element of our judicial system and our democracy.”

“The second fundamental human right, he added, “is the right for workers to organize — whether in the private sector or the public sector. They have a right to negotiate over wages and working conditions.”

“Fighting for our collective bargaining rights is really a team effort,” said Fall River public defender Ben Evans, who was the MC for the event. “We’re lawyers, social workers, administrative staffers and investigators,” said Evans. “And we’ve started forming our union right now, regardless of whether this legislation passes ‑ though obviously we need that, too.”

“Yes, we are a union,” added Rachel Scotch, who was recently elected president of the MassDefenders, a Local 888 chapter. “And we are stronger together with Local 888 and all the other unions across the state that are supporting our cause.”

As state employees, CPCS workers already receive their paychecks, pensions, and healthcare from the state, but because of a defect in state law they do not have collective bargaining rights like other state employees. This lack of fairness, along with low pay and a lack of predictable career paths, creates high turnover and instability.

“This is what unions are all about: it’s about fairness and people having a voice,” said Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues, addressing the crowd at the State House. “How ironic that these people who fight for justice for others, can’t get a sentence changed in the state law so that they can fight for justice for themselves. For seven years the Legislature has had the opportunity to include these workers in the state collective bargaining law — but has failed to do so. It’s long overdue.”

Senate Bill 1555 and House Bill 2330 currently before the state legislature would repair that flaw and treat CPCS employees like every other state employee who works for a state agency or the Judiciary. The bills were referred to the joint committee on Public Service which reported out the legislation favorably. The pending legislation is now before the respective Senate and House Ways and Means committees.

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