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July 19, 2022

Belmont Selectmen Cross Line in Comparing Union Members Advocating for Fair Contract to Insurectionists, Murderers

SEIU 888 President Tom McKeever expressed outrage this week after a trio of Belmont Selectmen compared members of the union advocating for a fair contract to January 6 insurectioninsts and murders.

“Many Belmont town employees have been working without a contract for nearly two years and the town has continued to bargain in bad faith in resolving issues, including retroactive pay,” said McKeever. “As is the right of every advocacy group, we arrived at town hall to raise awareness of this issue. It is outrageous and irresponsible for elected officials to label members of their own community as insurectionists and murderers simply for exercising their right to free speech.”

“This is beyond the pale,” added McKeever. “We demand that the board of selectmen issue an immediate apology to the dedicated public servants who were maligned by these comments and whose livelihoods are being held captive by the board’s negligent policies.”

At issue are comments made at the June 24 Board of Selectmen meeting, during which public outreach tactics conducted by SEIU 888 to raise awareness of unfair labor practices were discussed.

“This is how you got the January 6 insurrection,” said Board of Selectmen Vice-Chair Adam Dash. “This is how judges get shot. This is how abortion doctors get shot.”

On June 24, members of SEIU participated in an informational picket outside of Town Hall. The peaceful assembly included a literature drop with flyers stating: “Shame on Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin for failing her obligation to bargain with Belmont town workers and threatening their pay.” Members also delivered balloons with a card stating: “thank you for destroying worker morale.”

The public gathering came after months of failed negotiations between town employees and Garvin. During those negotiations the town engaged in regressive bargaining, attempted to side-step SEIU negotiators, and threatened to eliminate nearly two years of retroactive pay for staff. The town administrator stormed out of the last negotiating session, according to staff in attendance.

“The notion that a public official - whether it be the board or the town administrator - is somehow off-limits for public criticism is completely undemocratic,” said McKeever. “Belmont needs to do better.”

During the Board of Selectmen meeting, Mark A. Paolillo also asserted that town staff were fearful for their safety because SEIU members were protesting outside. In fact, SEIU leadership was captured on video engaged in cordial conversation with staff inside Town Hall.

“Our colleagues demonstrating outside town hall were there peacefully advocating on our behalf,” added McKeever. “It’s completely nonsensical to assert that we were somehow inside and fearful of our own advocates.”

SEIU 888 has filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations.