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Workshop Zooms in on ‘just cause’ protections, workers’ need for unions

January 14, 2022

Local 888 leadership, staff lead orientation for both new members and more long-term ones looking to learn more

Promoting fairness in the workplace is one of the top priorities for Local 888 — and a hot topic for a January member orientation via Zoom.
Larry Higgins, senior internal organizer for Local 888, explained one key example: “ ‘Just cause’ protections are a workplace standard that union members have, but nonunion employees do not.” Without just cause protections, workers may find themselves at the mercy of bullying bosses, unfair discipline and unjust firings.
“It’s all about having due process, fairness and standards that management must adhere to,” he added. That’s why just cause protections are specifically covered in most union contracts.
Under U.S. labor law, in fact, employers must lay out workplace rules — and the possible penalties for disobeying a rule. Such just-cause requirements give union members an opportunity to defend themselves from an unfair action.
If the circumstances are right, then, a union member can go over the head of a boss. In contrast, nonunion workers are employees “at will” — and so can be fired or disciplined for any reason at all. (See for a full report on the issue of just cause.)
The January “Member Welcome Orientation,” which took place online, included folks from a variety of workplaces, such as UMass Lowell, the city of Lowell, the Boston Public Health Commission and the Blue Hills Regional Vocational School. The event included both new members along with more long-term ones who wanted to learn more about Local 888.
For more such orientations, see Next up: two workshops on Feb. 10.
Local 888 represents a diverse workforce, with 36 percent of members working for school systems, 35 percent for municipalities, 15 percent for the state and 9 percent in higher education. The local has about 8,000 members.