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Local 888 lands in media spotlight over Mass. and Cass tent city

November 20, 2021

Board member Fadel leads negotiation team in contract talks with Boston health agency.

Unsafe and unhealthy conditions at the tent city around the Southampton Street Shelter have captured the attention of Boston’s media and residents around the state. At the same time, Local 888 negotiators are in the middle of talks with the city over a new contract.
Baraa Fadel, chief negotiator, said the feedback he’s gotten from the city is that Local 888 negotiators “have to be realistic.” For his part, Fadel argues that, in fact, union representatives are simply asking for what its members deserve.
The Local 888 contract is with the Boston Public Health Commission, which runs the homeless shelter and other programs. Fadel, a new member of Local 888’s executive board, works with the agency’s tobacco control program.
“It’s exciting to see that the Local 888 members at the homeless shelter and engagement center are finally getting the attention they deserve. Conditions there are just horrible,” he added. (For more coverage of the shelter, see
Fadel credited the union’s new president, Tom McKeever, and Local 888 organizers with putting those issues into the spotlight. “They have worked aggressively to shed some light on the terrible conditions there. They’re not shy about it.”
That fits in with Fadel’s approach to serving as a steward. “I’m not afraid to speak my mind to management if a member has been treated unfairly.”
The homeless shelter is on the proverbial wrong side of the tracks in the problematic Mass. and Cass area. The shelter is in the Newmarket Square industrial zone. To the north are the ramps for Interstate-93. Down the street from the shelter is the Suffolk County House of Correction.
Prior to starting full time at the health commission in 2007, Fadel worked at a program for troubled youth. He also spent some time as a temporary worker at a homeless shelter.
At the health commission, he first worked on the operations side, making sure problems with its vehicles got fixed. A city scholarship program helped him to earn a Boston University graduate degree in criminal justice.
He now works with tobacco control as a compliance officer. That department deals with permits, undercover inspections and the enforcement of tobacco restrictions for places like bars.
The executive board member said that he used to be the kind of person who was always criticizing Local 888 as not doing enough for its members. “I would say that the union was no good."
Then, a co-worker told Fadel: “I see that you complain and complain. Why don’t you get involved with the union and do something?”
Fadel decided he would. He first became a bargaining team member and then a steward. Among his other hats, Fadel has now added the role of chief steward.
When he was running for the union’s executive board, Fadel summed up the situation in the U.S.: “Employers are undermining and challenging unions. I believe that it is not enough for employers to merely tolerate unions; they must be continually pressured to accept that unions are here to stay. I want to ensure that unity and solidarity remain the cornerstones of all our union’s activities.”
These principles, Fadel said, will “lead to great outcomes for our members.”