Union Updates

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

Convention coming together on Oct. 24

20_888-SEIU Local logo2

The Local 888 Convention will run from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 24, via Zoom.

The union has identified six key industry sectors that members work in: early childhood education, public schools, higher education, public authorities and state and municipal workers.

There will be breakout sessions for members to meet with workers in their sector to compare their working conditions and union experiences.

To register and be eligible for a door prize, see http://www.seiu888.org/convention/.

Leave a comment

On Local 888’s event menu: ‘The Labor of Lunch’

GADDIS

GADDIS

‘THE LABOR OF LUNCH’: This book talk on school cafeterias will feature the author.

THE LABOR OF LUNCH’: The author spoke to SEIU Local 888 about her work.

There is a growing movement across the United States to improve the freshness and quality of school cafeteria food — while improving the quality of the jobs and ensuring better wages and benefits.

“Cafeteria workers are typically left out of the public conversation” on school lunch programs, said Jennifer Gaddis, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor. She spoke with Local 888 members on a special Zoom call to celebrate National Food Service Worker’s Day.

Gaddis said the coronavirus pandemic has only increased the importance of engaging cafeteria workers who are now widely praised as “essential.” There needs to be a move toward “improving labor conditions, providing hazard pay and guaranteeing sick days” to cafeteria workers, she added.

In 2019, Local 888 along with union and community allies successfully fought to save cafeteria jobs in the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District (See: http://www.seiu888.org/2019/05/07/fight-saves-cafeteria-jobs/.) The school board was out to save money by eliminating workers’ health insurance and other benefits, such as vacation time.

Even before this latest wave of school cafeteria outsourcing, many school districts across the U.S. had been persuaded to cut costs by outsourcing preparation work and jobs. Cooking food from scratch has fallen by the wayside in many school cafeterias.

Gaddis spoke about her book, “The Labor of Lunch: Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools.” She provide an analysis of how large food companies and chains “have largely replaced the nation’s school cooks by supplying cafeterias with cheap, precooked hamburger patties and chicken nuggets.”

Over time, said Gaddis, “heat-and-serve meals have become more common.” What this has done, she said, is to cut the number of 30- and 40-hour-per-week jobs, including better-paid cooking jobs. That has left the remaining workers with shorter hours that often fail to deliver benefits.

She said she has spoken with older cafeteria workers who recall having such facilities as an onsite bakery — and longer hours when more cooking was done by scratch.

Minneapolis offers a model for adding healthy, local food to school menus, Gaddis said. “They started investing in on-site cooking and created a lot more full-time jobs.”

Gaddis also suggested that school cafeterias could expand their mission in the community to include feeding the homeless and those in need of a good meal.

For more from Gaddis, see her website at http://www.jenniferelainegaddis.com/. For a recent article by her on the topic, see https://tinyurl.com/888Gaddis. For more on Minnesota, see https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/02/28/school-lunch-healthy-local-food-minnesota.

For an article about the presentation see: http://www.seiu888.org/cafe/ .
For a video of her presentation (posted on YouTube) https://youtu.be/oQM7CxFT9cE.
Leave a comment

State SEIU, Local 888 back Ranked Choice Voting

MERMELL

MERMELL

The SEIU Massachusetts State Council has followed Local 888 in endorsing Question 2, or Ranked Choice Voting. The “Yes on 2” Campaign says that approving the measure on the November ballot would strengthen our democracy, because more elected leaders will better represent the will of the people.

If the state already had such a measure, it likely would have been the deciding factor in the Massachusetts Fourth Congressional District.

Pro-labor candidate Jesse Mermell, former communications director for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, was supported by Local 888 and many other unions in the recent Democratic primary.

But the pro-labor vote was split between several candidates, and ex-Republican Jake Auchincloss won with only 22.4 percent of the vote, or 34,971 votes. Mermell got 21.1 percent, or 32,938 votes.

With Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), voters — if they chose — could rank their choices of candidates. In this scenario, those who cast No. 1 votes for the least-popular candidate would see their No. 2 votes doled out to the remaining candidates. This process would continue to narrow the field until one candidate received an actual majority of the vote.

RCV helps to keep third-party candidates or those with similar views in a primary from becoming spoilers, who pull votes from a potential winner, such as Mermell. The former Brookline Select Board member said she is now the poster child for why RCV should become law.

For more on RCV and the election:

See http://www.seiu888.org/2020/01/07/voter-choice-set-for-ballot/ in The Spark.

Voter Choice Massachusetts is leading the charge for Ranked Choice Voting, see https://www.yeson2rcv.com/about/.

Local 888 is organizing a forum with candidate for U.S. Congress Jake Auchincloss on Wed., Oct. 21 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Zoom. See www.seiu888.org for updates.

Leave a comment

Nascimento in spotlight at Local 888 convention

NASCIMENTO

NASCIMENTO

The Local 888 Convention, set for Oct. 24, will shine a spotlight on the local’s new secretary-treasurer, Kevin Nascimento. He took office recently after being nominated by President Brenda Rodrigues and approved by the executive board, which he was a member of.

“Kevin has truly stepped up in the role of an officer for SEIU 888,” said Rodrigues. “He attended the 2020 SEIU convention as a delegate and is preparing the financial report for our convention.”

Beyond that, she said, “Kevin is a leader who understands adversity in the workplace.”

In fact, his LinkedIn page describes himself as an information professional advocating for workers’ rights and fair play. He said that the latter applies both to his service as a soccer referee and to unions. “It’s important that workers feel they are treated fairly.”

Nascimento is treasurer of his Local 888 chapter for the Brockton Public Library. As part of that, he said, people call him up about chapter funds. “At Christmastime, they know who to call,” he joked. Social events are part of what chapter funds can be used for.

He started out in 2006, when just a high-schooler, putting books back on the shelves as a library page. Since then, he said, “I’ve learned about how important unions are and how important it is to talk with your co-workers about workplace grievances.”

He is committed, as a librarian to opposing censorship and advocating for average people’s right to information. This includes support for net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers treat all online data equally, a policy the Trump administration opposes.

Nascimento has worked his way up to the position of reference librarian for fiction. He provides advice for readers using both his own knowledge and the latest software. In the COVID-19 world, he organizes online book clubs.

He has earned a bachelor’s degree from Bridgewater State University. Now, Nascimento is working toward getting a master’s degree online in library and information science with the University of South Carolina.

Leave a comment

Haverhill to hire 10 custodians to take on coronavirus cleaning

RUSSELL

RUSSELL

The Haverhill Public Schools had been cutting back on custodians for 20 years. But when management came looking to get more out of the remaining workers, chapter leaders and Local 888 staff said it was time for a talk.

“We said that, in order for us to make it work, you have to hire more custodians,” said chapter president Eric Russell. The result is a new agreement on the issue, in which the district is hiring 10 additional custodians to deal with the pandemic.

“Management definitely understood the situation, even though they didn’t like it. They had to give us more staff,” said Russell. The school district currently employs 51 custodians, with about 10 of them part-timers.

“They want us to go through and clean the bathrooms every hour,” he said, describing the heightened cleaning. That’s compared to having the bathrooms cleaned once a day, usually after hours. The work includes emptying the bathroom trash, cleaning up anything that’s been disposed of improperly and disinfecting key areas such as the sinks and toilets.

The goal is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and make students and staff feel safe. The new work also includes disinfecting heavily used surfaces in the buildings, such as door knobs and light switches and the water coolers. Students bring in their own cups.

Haverhill has 17 buildings and about 8,063 students. Therefore, not all the buildings, including Russell’s, will have another custodian.

The school district has many students who are learning remotely. Most are going to school on a hybrid model, meaning they are only in the school two days a week, with students broken up into two cohorts.

Leave a comment

UMass Lowell chapter slams layoffs

ATHLETICS ON ICE: Local 888 members teamed up for an entertaining Hockey Night last year. Now, the school has canceled athletics for the fall.

ATHLETICS ON ICE: Local 888 members teamed up for an entertaining Hockey Night last year. Now, the school has canceled athletics for the fall.

The Local 888 chapter at UMass Lowell has been protesting the state’s planned layoffs since the summer and working for fairness for its members.

“What’s needed at this point is for the state and federal government to bail us out,” said chapter president Nicholas Piscitello. “They need to recognize that the universities are in financial distress. UMass Lowell is not alone in this. It’s higher education all across the country.”

“The federal government bailed out the airline industry” during the pandemic, he added. And during the Great Recession, the feds bailed out the banking industry.

Locally, the chapter is part of a coalition, UMass Unions United-Lowell, that has
organized several protests against the layoffs. That included a July demonstration featuring 200 empty chairs, complete with pink slips attached to them, to represent employees losing their jobs.

“We’re trying to limit the impact on members, where we can,” added Piscitello. “We’re trying to mitigate what we can.” For example, about 10 members took advantage of a retirement incentive program. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough people take the incentive to prevent layoffs,” he said.

Now, he said, about 84 members are on “temporary layoff.” Under this designation, the employer portion of their health insurance is covered.

The pandemic shut down the university’s in-person teaching and services in March. Local 888 members played a key role in the huge effort it took to bring classes online.

Subsequently, the university set up a policy under which all staff took at least five days of furlough. Since then, university staffers have been hit with layoffs.

The university has said it took an immediate lockdown loss of $15 million, including such areas as students’ room, board and parking fees. Now, it said, it is facing a $50 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.

Under the contract, Local 888 leaders have to be informed in advance of layoffs, which gives some time for bargaining on the issue.

This month, the UMass Lowell chapter plans to take part in protests to cast a spotlight on the need for further funding for higher education.

About 580 members are united in the Local 888 Professional Administrative Chapter.

Leave a comment

Taking on a new way for member orientation

STEPPING FORWARD: Via Zoom, Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues swears in stewards Lorraine Cavanaugh and Maryanne Carty as the new chapter leaders for the Westwood clerical and administrative workers.

STEPPING FORWARD: Via Zoom, Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues swears in stewards Lorraine Cavanaugh and Maryanne Carty as the new chapter leaders for the Westwood clerical and administrative workers.

SEIU Local 888 has taken on the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis by innovating — such as by using Zoom to host union orientation programs for members, new ones in particular.

One recent evening session featured new members in the North Shore Regional 911 Center, Boston Public Schools and the Boston Water and Sewer Commission.

“I take great pride in being a union member — and in speaking up and making sure our voices are heard,” said Brenda Rodrigues, Local 888’s elected president, kicking off the Zoom event. She noted that, early in her working life at the Brockton Public Library, she became an active member of her union. Rodrigues emphasized that “the union is the chapter’s members in the workplace. It’s about how we work together to have a safe and healthy workplace.”

The main service Local 888 provides members is internal organizers, who assist with collective bargaining and contract enforcement. Rodrigues compared belonging to a union to being a member of a gym. If you don’t show up at the gym to exercise, you won’t build up muscles.

Building up your union’s strength means: knowing your contract, showing up at union meetings and supporting your co-workers on the negotiating team. It also means representing your union in the community or with elected officials.

Contact Johannes Raatz at jraatz@seiu888.org to find out more on member orientations. See www.seiu888.org for more info.

Leave a comment

For more on Ranked Choice Voting:

19Dec_VoterChoice

See http://www.seiu888.org/2020/01/07/voter-choice-set-for-ballot/ in The Spark.

Voter Choice Massachusetts is leading the charge for Ranked Choice Voting, see https://www.yeson2rcv.com/about/.

Local 888 is organizing a forum with candidate for U.S. Congress Jake Auchincloss on Wed., Oct. 21 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Zoom. See www.seiu888.org for updates.

Leave a comment

Convention set for Oct. 24

20_888-SEIU Local logo2

The Local 888 Convention will run from 10 a.m. to noon on Sat., Oct. 24 via Zoom.

The union has identified six key industry sectors: early childhood education, public schools, higher education, public authorities and state and municipal workers.

There will be:

  • Breakout sessions on different sectors.
  • A session on the new retiree chapter.
  • Discussion of important political topics.

For more information and to register, see http://www.seiu888.org/convention/.

Leave a comment

Food Service Worker’s Recognition Day

‘THE LABOR OF LUNCH’: This book talk on school cafeterias will feature the author.

‘THE LABOR OF LUNCH’: This book talk on school cafeterias will feature the author.

‘THE LABOR OF LUNCH’: Author Jennifer Gaddis will talk about her new book, which looks at “Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools,” via Zoom on Thurs., Sept. 24, 2:30 p.m. The event is in advance of Food Service Worker’s Recognition Day. Here’s the Zoom link:
us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEvcuipqTwtGN1YHDpTBGAuMFJXlcI1vWoD

If needed, cut and paste the link into a web browser in order to register. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the celebration.

 

 

Leave a comment

Fall classes at the Labor Guild School

Coming up

LATEST CLASSES AT THE LABOR GUILD SCHOOL: Four-session classes will run via Zoom from the week of Oct. 19 to the week of Nov. 9, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. (https://laborguild.com/school-of-labor-management-relations/courses/.) Mondays: Steward Training. Tuesdays: Speaking in Public. Wednesday: Power and Struggle. With approval from their chapter leader(s), members in good standing may use chapter funds for tuition reimbursement.  Local 888 will also provide a limited number of scholarships for members.

Leave a comment

COVID-19 coalition has school plan

SOCIAL DISTANCING: Paraprofessionals in Marlborough are gearing up for the opening of the public schools, which will feature one type of a ‘hybrid’ model, with kindergarteners, for example in school full-time.

SOCIAL DISTANCING: Paraprofessionals in Marlborough are gearing up for the opening of the public schools, which will feature one type of a ‘hybrid’ model, with kindergarteners, for example in school full-time.

A new state coalition that includes Local 888 has laid out 16 health and safety concerns that should be addressed before public schools reopen during the ongoing pandemic.

“It is imperative that state and local governments fully address COVID-19 issues in the schools,” said Local 888 President Brenda Rodrigues.

“Our members’ needs must be met. These include putting intensive cleaning practices in place, preserving school staff pay and benefits, providing adequate-sized and well-ventilated rooms, and maintaining socially distanced transportation for our students.”

The new Coalition to Safely Reopen Schools said that: “Ours is a frontline perspective from those who will be ultimately responsible for the health, safety and quality of education that students will receive as a result of these decisions.” The coalition has laid out a plan for reopening schools.

Some of the top issues are: making sure there is proper ventilation and circulation of air, ensuring proper social distancing and providing access to rapid testing — with clear guidelines for contact tracing for those who test positive for COVID-19.
The coalition is made up “of school nurses, teachers, parents, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, librarians, school support staff, janitorial staff, labor, occupational health and community advocates, who came together to provide a  frontline perspective.”

For more on Local 888 chapters in schools, see http://www.seiu888.org/2020/09/16/hybrid-part-of-school-reopenings/.

The American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts (AFT), Massachusetts Nursing Association and the Massachusetts Coalition for Safety and Health (MassCOSH) belong to the coalition as well.

Also on the new coalition’s must-do list: providing needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for all staff and students, identifying alternative spaces for schools in their respective communities and ensuring appropriate school nurse staffing. For more on the coalition, see https://www.massnurses.org/news-and-events/p/openItem/11811.

Local 888 supported #DemandSafeSchools actions on Sept. 2 that involved the AFT, MoveOn and other groups:. For more info, see https://www.facebook.com/SEIULocal888/photos/a.360691577312212/3308690302512310.

MassCOSH, which Local 888 belongs to, has a “COVID-19 Safety Toolkit For Workers: Health and Safety Protections and How To Make Them Happen.” Find it at: https://tinyurl.com/MassCOSHCOVID. It includes sections particularly of interest to Local 888 members, such as childcare providers, school custodians and cafeteria workers.

Leave a comment