Direct Care Workers Building Momentum in Fight for Living Wage

String of major contract wins increasing pressure on taxpayer funded agencies to address crisis in care

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MARLBOROUGH, MA — At the midpoint of its historic contract campaign to raise wages for direct care workers in Massachusetts, SEIU Local 509 announced that nearly 2,500 workers organized through the union have won significantly better wages in the last month. In the past two weeks alone, workers organized to major contract wins from management at Eliot Community Health Services and Fidelity House, building on hard-fought contract campaigns at several other nonprofit agencies. Local 509 launched the coordinated bargaining campaign earlier this year in response to a crisis in care caused by low wages at human services providers across the state.

Over 6,000 employees who serve individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and people living with mental illnesses are organized through SEIU Local 509. Through relentless organizing, months of bargaining, and in some cases, voting to authorize a strike, thousands of 509 members have won the following major gains from key human service agencies:

  • STATEWIDE:

    • Eliot Community Health Services*: 3 percent wage increase over the course of one-year contract with larger increases for most clinicians

  • MERRIMACK VALLEY:

    • Fidelity House: $.60/hour raise for direct care staff over the course of the one-year contract

    • CLASS, Inc.: $.75/hour raise for direct care staff over the course of the one-year contract

  • GREATER BOSTON:

    • Boston Senior Home Care: 3% wage increase in the first year of the contract

    • Mystic Valley Elder Services: 3% wage increase across the board over the course of the one-year contract

  • SOUTHEAST:

    • Coastline Elderly Services*: 2.5%, 2%, and 2% wage increases for direct care staff over the three-year contract, with additional gains for RNs at the agency

    • Better Community Living: 3%, 2%, and 2% wage increases for direct care staff over the three-year contract

    • Comprehensive Mental Health Systems, Inc.: Annual raises as high as 8% for direct care staff over the three-year contract

  • CAPE:

    • Latham Centers: All direct care employees raised to a minimum of $15/hour and 1%, 2% and 2% wage increases for all direct care staff over the course three-year contract

  • WESTERN:

    • Highland Valley Elder Services: Wage increases of $.80/hr and $1.00/hr in the first year of the contract

    • Womanshelter/Companeras: $15 minimum and 4% raise for all

Additionally, in the face of increasing anti-immigrant policy, Local 509 won key immigration protections for the diverse workforce at many of these agencies.

“We all agree that everyone deserves to live a life of purpose and dignity, most especially individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and those with mental illnesses,” said Peter MacKinnon, President of SEIU Local 509. “Yet the workers who directly serve the most vulnerable among us are themselves in crisis, and often not making a living wage in return for the social good they provide.

“Local 509 members will continue to fight and organize until we address the crisis-level working conditions at human service providers across the state and the impact on the individuals being served by these taxpayer funded agencies.”

Earlier in the campaign, SEIU Local 509 released a report calling attention to the need for state accountability measures on spending by nonprofit agencies that received funding through Chapter 257. The report found that agencies disproportionately spent on increasing CEO pay and administrative costs, rather than raising wages for workers in an effort to address high turnover. A copy of the report can be found here.

To speak with workers and leaders of the campaign to address the crisis in Massachusetts’ human services industry, contact Christie Stephenson: (413) 374-6370.

*Denotes tentative agreement pending a vote of union membership.

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