Union Updates

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

Leaders set 2019 strategic plan for Local 888

LOOKING AHEAD: In line with the Executive Board’s plan to have chapter leaders take an oath of office, the new Lottery Commission stewards were sworn in at Local 888 headquarters.

LOOKING AHEAD: In line with the Executive Board’s plan to have chapter leaders take an oath of office, the new Lottery Commission stewards were sworn in at Local 888 headquarters.

Local 888’s Executive Board has forged a strategic plan for the new year aimed at strengthening the union to help members win better contracts. The plan was unanimously adopted at the board’s Jan. 9 meeting.

The plan includes recruiting hundreds of rank-and-file leaders, emphasizing a comprehensive orientation for new hires and defining six key industry sectors. Those are: early education, public schools, higher education and public authorities along with state and municipal workforces.

The strategic plan lays out a range of legislative priorities including bills that would:

  • Grant those working in the state’s public defenders agency the right to unionize.
  • Upgrade pensions for members working as police dispatchers, natural resource officers, Soldiers Home caregivers and certain DPW personnel.
  • Have the state adopt a “Medicare for all” approach to health insurance funding.
  • “Achieving our political goals means working with community organizations and coalitions to advance important legislation and link our members’ struggles for dignity and justice on the job with the people who benefit from the services they provide,” said Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues.

In line with that, the Executive Board has agreed to join or support:

  • The Fund Our Future campaign aimed at increasing state funding for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade by $1 billion a year. See: https://massedjustice.org/fundourfuture/
  • MassCare, a coalition working for a single- payer, “Medicare for all”-style health reform
    that would save money on administrative costs and cover everyone in Massachusetts. See: https://www.masscare.org/
  • The Boston PILOT Action Group, which is campaigning for more responsible Payments In Lieu Of Taxes from major tax-exempt organizations. For more info, see:
    https://pilotaction.weebly.com/

A summary of the Executive Board’s strategic plan will be posted to Local 888’s website.

 

Leave a comment

Brandeis librarians win with community support

SHOWING SOLIDARITY: Members of the Brandeis Labor Coalition support the Local 888 librarians.

SHOWING SOLIDARITY: Members of the Brandeis Labor Coalition support the Local 888 librarians.

Local 888 librarians at Brandeis University won their new contract with a key assist from the wider college community. Some members will receive up to 15 percent raises over the life of the three-year pact with “market adjustments.”

A student group, the Brandeis Labor Coalition, “played a really essential role,” said Local 888 organizer Hersch Rothmel. “They were the most organized student group I’ve ever seen.”

The librarians’ campaign garnered 75 student testimonials addressed to Brandeis officials and support from multiple unions on campus as well as parents and alumni. These included Jules Bernstein, a labor lawyer who sits on the board of the Waltham university’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management.

“All these factors were working in our favor, and we were able to take advantage of them,” said Rothmel. “And our own members were fired up and ready to go.”

The librarians’ new contract, approved unanimously, includes across-the-board raises of at least 9 percent over three years, improved access to professional development and more flexible scheduling and break times.

Negotiations had languished for months; the old contract expired in June. The contract campaign culminated with a Dec. 3 lunchtime rally where the librarians were joined by more than 50 supporters. These included Drew Flanagan, a Brandeis English lecturer and shop steward for the adjunct professors union, SEIU Local 509.

“All we’re asking is to be treated with dignity and with the acknowledgment that we do important work,” said librarian Joanna Fuchs at the rally. “We love our jobs and want everybody in this community to be a success.”

Just days later, the librarians hammered out the new pact.

Undergrad Alina Sipp-Alpers told a student paper that the Brandeis Labor Coalition attributes the contract victory to the solidarity rally. “The university finally understood that the librarians had the students’ support and that they would not back down until they were given a fair contract.” (https://www.thejustice.org/article/2018/12/after-rally-brandeis-university-offers-new-librarians-union-contract )

Leave a comment

Soldiers Homes tackle staffing woes

SERVING THOSE WHO SERVED: SEIU staff and leaders met with state officials about problems at the Soldiers Homes. From left: organizer Joe Montagna, Erin Saykin from the Holyoke Home, Theresa King (Holyoke), Lyneth Martin, from the Chelsea Home, Chrissy Wilson (Chelsea), Kwesi Ablordeppey (Holyoke), Speandilove Nelson (Chelsea), organizer Ron Patenaude, Elmer Ariazza (Chelsea), a Local 509 member, Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues and Nely Sageth.

SERVING THOSE WHO SERVED: SEIU staff and leaders met with state officials about problems at the Soldiers Homes. From left: organizer Joe Montagna, Erin Saykin from the Holyoke Home, Theresa King (Holyoke), Lyneth Martin, from the Chelsea Home, Chrissy Wilson (Chelsea), Kwesi Ablordeppey (Holyoke), Speandilove Nelson (Chelsea), organizer Ron Patenaude, Elmer Ariazza (Chelsea), a Local 509 member, Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues and Nely Sageth.

SEIU local 888 and 509 members from the Holyoke and Chelsea Soldiers Homes took their campaign to improve working conditions to a new level at a Boston meeting Dec. 21 with Marylou Sudders, the state’s secretary of health and human services. Sudders said she would look into the issues around understaffing and meet regularly with Local 888 leaders in a bid to resolve outstanding problems.

“The meeting was very productive,” said Kwesi Ablordeppey, a CNA and the Holyoke Home’s Local 888 chapter chair. “Therefore, it’s worthwhile to give her the benefit of the doubt and say: Let’s move forward.”

“We’re just looking for our basic human rights,” said Erin Saykin, who also works at the Holyoke Home. “As it stands now, management is not giving us enough staff to do our jobs safely.”

Union members blamed Holyoke Home management for causing high turnover. The causes include: understaffing, poor use of existing staff, excessive forced overtime and a hostile and retaliatory work
environment generating a pileup of grievances. Ablordeppey said that 21 certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses left the facility over a four-month period this fall. New hires have replaced less than half of these.

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 the director or assistant director of nursing.

At the Boston meeting, Sudders said she had several “action items,” including a staffing study for the Soldiers Homes and better oversight of the discipline process.

“There’s good reason to be optimistic that conditions at the Soldiers Homes will improve,” Brenda Rodrigues said. “Local 888 wants that to happen, so they can continue providing excellent care to our veterans.”

Leave a comment

Haverhill steers new course

ON THE UNION BUS: Leaders are looking to take the Haverhill Transportation Group to new heights. Front row from left, Gail Pelitier, treasurer; Gigi Terranova, chapter co-chair; Cindy Gouldsbrough, chapter co-chair; Beth Chasse, secretary; Michelle McCarthy, steward; and Rosalida Mendez, chief steward. And; second row in the yellow shirt, Gustavo Rivera, steward.

ON THE UNION BUS: Leaders are looking to take the Haverhill Transportation Group to new heights. Front row from left, Gail Pelitier, treasurer; Gigi Terranova, chapter co-chair; Cindy Gouldsbrough, chapter co-chair; Beth Chasse, secretary; Michelle McCarthy, steward; and Rosalida Mendez, chief steward. And; second row in the yellow shirt, Gustavo Rivera, steward.

There’s renewed activism in the Haverhill Transportation Group chapter, with additional leaders helping to fuel a successful drive for a new contract. The chapter covers about 40 school bus drivers, van drivers and bus monitors.

To top it off, two grievances were settled in union members’ favor last month. The school district has agreed to a more liberal policy for members on maternity leave and to properly post additional work so that members can bid on it.

“Members have really seen the benefit of joining together as a team, with the result that we’ve made good strides forward” said Larry Higgins, Local 888 internal organizer. “Previously, members had an attitude that nothing was ever going to change — but they have now changed their minds,” said Higgins.

The new three-year contract includes, for the first time, step raises — which recognize workers for service and dedication, but also for becoming better at what they do.

With the improved contract language, workers will receive a minimum of 3 percent annually in raises each year of the contract. In addition, the contract includes an improved grievance and arbitration procedure.

“We’ve broadened the number of chapter leaders in the process,” Higgins said. Instead of only having a couple people taking responsibility for the chapter, there are now seven. This broader representation of members includes a couple of Spanish-speakers in the new leadership.

 

Leave a comment

Mashpee aids homeless

AIDING THE HOMELESS: Local 888 chapter chair Teri Lambert, right, gives a check to Tom Deeg of the Mashpee Homeless for the Holidays fundraiser.

AIDING THE HOMELESS: Local 888 chapter chair Teri Lambert, right, gives a check to Tom Deeg of the Mashpee Homeless for the Holidays fundraiser.

Local 888’s town, clerical and library workers in Mashpee donated their chapter funds to the Homeless for the Holidays event run by the Mashpee Fire Department.

“When I saw we had the funds available, I sent out an email to all the members asking for a vote as to how they wanted to use their funds this year — a party, pizza or to do something new like donating to a local charity,” said Teri Lambert, chapter chair. “It was unanimous as the votes came in, and I was so proud to see how caring and generous my members were as they chose to donate the funds instead of having a party.”

Local 888’s town, clerical and library workers in Mashpee donated their chapter funds to the Homeless for the Holidays event run by the Mashpee Fire Department.

“When I saw we had the funds available, I sent out an email to all the members asking for a vote as to how they wanted to use their funds this year — a party, pizza or to do something new like donating to a local charity,” said Teri Lambert, chapter chair. “It was unanimous as the votes came in, and I was so proud to see how caring and generous my members were as they chose to donate the funds instead of having a party.”

Mashpee Fire Department union members put on the fundraiser each year. “They sleep and live outside in shifts at a rotary to bring awareness to homelessness, in this state and around the country,” said Lambert, a police dispatcher. She added that some of the money raised will go to aid a firefighter who is battling breast cancer.

Leave a comment

Chair City workers air stories

Jonathan Dudley

Jonathan Dudley

Local 888 member Jonathan Dudley is helping to save — and honor — the hard work and civic contributions of furniture workers in Gardner, known as the “Chair City” and “The Furniture Capital of New England” due to its manufacturing history

Dudley is currently working at the Chair City Community Workshop on oral histories connected to the furniture company Nichols & Stone (See https://www.instagram.com/tracie.pouliot/ ). At the time it closed in 2008, Nichols & Stone blamed the Great Recession “along with a flood of low price/low quality imports” for closing its Gardner plant.

Mount Wachusett Community College instructor Tracie Pouliot collected the interviews a year after Gardner’s Nichols & Stone closed. Pouliot runs the community workshop, where volunteers use the printing and book arts to celebrate the stories of the working people in Gardner.

Dudley, a Head Start teacher at the Montachusett Opportunity Council, volunteers at the community workshop and has transcribed furniture workers’ interviews. After the interview is printed, volunteers sit together and bind each oral history by hand into a book.

“It is a great opportunity to talk about the issues raised in the stories – like why do we think furniture factories closed in Gardner and how deindustrialization has affected our small city,” said Dudley. After 400 copies of each oral history book are printed and bound, the community workshop holds a book-release party to celebrate the interviewees and the volunteers.

Leave a comment

Coming Attractions

Coming up

LOOK FOR UNION CARDS: SEIU Local 888 will be sen ding out membership cards through the mail in yellow envelopes. So, be on the lookout!

Leave a comment

Happy Holidays! (and Local 888 office schedule)

Due to the Christmas Holiday, the SEIU Local 888 office will be closed on 12/24/2018 and 12/25/2018
For the New Year’s holiday, Local 888 will be closed 12/31/2018 and 1/1/2019

On behalf of the SEIU Local 888 E-Board, Officers and Staff, we wish everyone a safe and joyful holiday and Happy New Year.

Pictured below are many of the Local 888 staff after an all staff meeting.

IMG_7828

Front row (L-R) Neal O’Brien, Jonathan Paz, Steve D’Amico, Hersch Rothman, John Magner. Back row: Antonio Nunes, Rand Wilson, Ian Adelman, Dee LeGrand, Mike King, Brenda Rodrigues, Joe Salterio, Trent Parker, Penelope Jennewein, Joe Montagna, Lidia Calvo, Maureen Medeiros, Joan Caruso, Larry Higgens, Linda Deluca, Ron Patenaude. 

Leave a comment

Chair City workers share their stories

Jonathan Dudley

Jonathan Dudley

In 1987 Richard Beauregard got a job as a band saw operator at the Nichols & Stone furniture company in Gardner. Nichols & Stone was a union shop, and so a co-worker approached Richard about signing a union card and paying dues. Richard recalls the exchange:

“What do you mean I got to join the union?” Richard said.
“You gotta join the union,” responded his co-worker.
“What if I don’t want to join?,” he asked.
“Well then you can’t work here,” his co-worker replied.

“I mean I was making good money, so I joined the union.” said Richard. “If you’re gonna make me join something, I’m gonna find out something about it.” Richard got involved in his local — IUE 81-154 — and in 2003 he was the shop chairperson for IUE at Nichols & Stone helping negotiate the contract.

In 2003 no one at the negotiating table knew that would be the final IUE Local 81-154 contact with a Gardner furniture maker. Nichols & Stone closed its doors in 2008 after 150 years of production.

“I haven’t heard anybody say that Nichols & Stone closed because of the union,” said Richard.  “You often hear that union places close – ‘Ah the union … demands far too much.’ But at the end we took cuts. We didn’t take the raises that we were entitled to. So it wasn’t the union that forced them out. I’m glad I haven’t heard that.”

 These recollections are from a 2009 interview with Richard and his wife, Millie, that are currently being printed as part of a series of oral histories about Nichols & Stone at the Chair City Community Workshop. Mass. Community College Council (Massachusetts Teachers Association) member and part-time community college instructor Tracie Pouliot collected the oral history interviews a year after Nichols & Stone closed. She runs the community workshop, where volunteers use the printing and book arts to celebrate the stories of working people in Gardner.

The oral history series includes interviews with people from throughout Nichols & Stone, including managers, the back office, the front office, and the factory floor.

Jonathan Dudley, a Head Start teacher and member of SEIU Local 888, volunteers at the Chair City Community Workshop. “I actually transcribed Richard and Millie’s interview. And one of the staffers at my local agreed to do some editing on it in his spare time,” said Dudley, who works for the Montachusetts Opportunity Council.

Next, he said, “volunteers will print the interview on our letterpress. We even set some of the type by hand.” After the interview is printed, volunteers sit together and bind each oral history into a book by hand.

“Especially when we’re sitting around binding the books, it is a great opportunity to talk about the issues raised in the stories – like why do we think furniture factories closed in Gardner and how deindustrialization has affected our small city,” said Dudley. After 400 copies of each oral history book are printed and bound, the community workshop holds a book-release party to celebrate the interviewees and the volunteers who worked on that oral history. Later, there is an informal book discussion, where community members can dive into the issues raised by each story.

Richard and Millie’s oral history is not specifically about the union at Nichols & Stone, but it is an account by two working people about their experience working in the furniture industry and trying to understand why a 150-year-old company shuts its doors, as well as how a factory closing like that affects a person.

The Chair City Oral History Book Series is community run — and depends on volunteers coming in and helping produce the oral history books. “I would be very excited to have a bunch of people who care about working-class history or are interested in unions to come in and help us finish Richard and Millie’s book,” said Dudley. “You don’t need any experience to help, someone will train you on the spot. If you volunteer three hours, you can have a copy of Richard and Mille’s book; or if you don’t like the work, you can always sit around the community workshop and share your own experiences.”

The Chair City Community Workshop is located at 306 Central St. in downtown Gardner. “All Are Welcome,” reads a small broadside printed by a letterpress shop in St. Petersburg, Florida, shortly after the 2016 elections.  For more information or to find out the hours for the community workshop, visit traciepouliot.com and click on Chair City Oral History Project.

Leave a comment

Librarians, supporters demonstrate for a fair contract at Brandeis Univ.

GAINING SUPPORT: Members of the wider Brandeis University community joined with the school's Local 888 librarians in a luncheon rally.

GAINING SUPPORT: Members of the wider Brandeis University community join with the school’s Local 888 librarians in a midday rally.

Brandeis librarians were joined by more than 50 supporters at a lunch time rally on Dec. 3. The librarians are demanding a fair contract and, accompanied by several supporters, delivered letters of support from the wider university community. On the cold windy day, speakers led the sign-waving group in chants calling for fair contract.

“All we’re asking is to be treated with dignity and the acknowledgment that we do important work,” said librarian Joanna Fuchs. “We love our jobs and want everybody in this community to be a success.”

“First as a student, and now as an faculty member, I want to say that the librarians have been there for me — on off hours and on short notice,” said Drew Flanagan, a Brandeis English lecturer and shop steward for the adjunct professors union, SEIU Local 509. Flanagan said that he had delivered letters of support to the Brandeis administration on behalf of Local 509 members, and urged others to voice their support for the librarians.

“Having a fair union contract is a basic right – and being able to be respected at your job is a basic right,” said Alina Sipp-Alpers, a sophomore at the school and member of the Brandeis Labor Coalition. Noting the many testimonials in praise of librarians’ role at Brandeis, she added that students and the labor coalition were “a part of the librarians’ fight for a contract!”

Click here to see more pictures from the rally.

A small group of representatives left the rally to deliver more letters of support to university officials inside the administration building, where the rally was held.

“We sent a powerful message to the administration,” said librarian Aimee Slater when the group returned to the rally. She added that the librarians “will be there to support anyone else going through this kind of struggle.”

Slater, a member of the Local 888 negotiating team, emphasized the protest did not mean there would be an upcoming interruption in library service. “We want to help all of you students as you go through your exams.”

The librarians have been locked in a contract dispute since June. And the administration has refused to bargain fairly.

“So far, we’ve been the ones to reach across the bargaining table seeking to come to an agreement,” said Surella Seelig, a librarian and member of the bargaining team. “But the university has just been playing games, making it sound as if there’s been movement on their part.”

However, the library staff have successfully gained support from students, parents and the wider Brandeis community. In October, the librarians set up a table at the Brandeis Family Weekend – educating students and parents about their fight for a fair contract.

For its part, the Brandeis Labor Coalition has written in support of the librarians in the Brandeis Hoot, the community newspaper.

Click here to email or call Brandeis University President Ronald Liebowitz with a message of support for the librarians.

Leave a comment

MassDefenders go on offense

COMING TOGETHER: Workers at the public defenders office in Worcester meet as part of a statewide drive to set up their structure, elect chapter leaders and form their union.

COMING TOGETHER: Workers at the public defenders office in Worcester meet as part of a statewide drive to set up their structure, elect chapter leaders and form their union.

The MassDefenders are holding meetings around the state with an eye toward electing chapter leaders — and putting pressure on management to make workplace improvements.

Already, their protests and lobbying of legislators have been rewarded with significant raises, due in January. But they want respect as well — along with the stable workplace environment that a union contract would bring. A Thanksgiving week meeting in Worcester drew an enthusiastic crowd.

“People were energized by the idea of taking steps to form a chapter — and not waiting for the Legislature to act,” said John Sadek, a public defender in the Worcester office.

The MassDefenders latest drive kicked off in Fall River this fall. Almost the entire office of the Committee for Public Counsel Services — the bureaucratic name for the state’s public defenders — attended an organizing meeting. And they signed union cards. Other such meetings are planned — from Pittsfield to Provincetown.

The roughly 750 lawyers, investigators and social service advocates and administrative staff in the state agency want to form a union. But a loophole in the law denies them this basic human right. Last legislative session, a bill to fix this loophole never made it out of the House Ways and Means Committee, led by state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez.

After this setback, Local 888 Secretary-Treasurer Tom McKeever called on the MassDefenders to step up their efforts. “Local 888 has been with you on this journey for rights and respect for six years. We aren’t going to give up now.”

Then, in the Democratic primary this fall, Sanchez was trounced by Nika Elugardo, who spoke about her victory at the Local 888 convention in October. (For more coverage of state Rep-elect Elugardo’s election victory, see http://www.seiu888.org/ .

While this defeat was gratifying, much work remains to be done.

A few years ago, the situation was so bad that a state commission found that the public defenders’ salaries were — when adjusted for inflation the lowest in the nation. Even below West Virginia. This has led to high turnover.

But the workers in the public defenders are committed to the indigent clients who they serve — and to pursuing their own rights.

Leave a comment

UMass members raise scholarship fund

READY FOR ACTION: Joe Piscitello, his son Evan and brother, Local 888 leader Nicholas Piscitello, get ready to drop the puck as UMass Lowell and UConn players face off before the Nov. 17 game.

READY FOR ACTION: Joe Piscitello, his son Evan and brother, Local 888 leader Nicholas Piscitello, get ready to drop the puck as UMass Lowell and UConn players face off before the Nov. 17 game.

More than 200 members, friends and family were on hand for Local 888’s UMass Lowell Hockey Night, which had the men’s River Hawks face off against the UConn Huskies on Nov. 17.

The hockey game came on the heels of a successful drive by Local 888’s UMass Lowell chapter to raise an endowment that will annually fund a student scholarship. As a result, chapter chair Nicholas Piscitello was asked by the university to take part in the opening ceremonies of the game.

He then forwarded the ceremonial puck to his nephew Evan. The scholarship will go to a family member of someone in the Local 888

Professional Administrative Chapter at the university, which represents about 580 workers. Secondarily, the winner of the scholarship will also be determined by financial need.

Piscitello said that the scholarship drive raised $28,000, more than the target, in only 2½ years. Both the chapter and Local 888 members contributed, including through payroll deductions. For starters, the endowment will cover two, $500 scholarships. The scholarship amount will grow as the endowment grows.

“For many of our members, working at UMass Lowell is more than a job — it is about contributing to something larger, serving students and enriching our community,” said Piscitello, a graduate of the school. “This is a great opportunity to create a living benefit that will grow and last for generations.”

He said the scholarship will help fill a role that the state has not kept up with: providing an affordable college education. UMass students face escalating tuition costs and fees.

To top off the event, the River Hawks soared to a 3-0 shutout victory.

Leave a comment