More than 100 direct care support workers at human service agency Triangle, Inc. are organizing to form a union with SEIU Local 509, calling for better pay, lower turnover, and a voice and respect at work. Today, workers and Local 509 announced they have filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board, with ballots scheduled to be mailed to workers tomorrow.
“Many of the workers here are highly educated and qualified, but our wages are too low to pay the bills, and we don’t have room for advancement. Triangle pays its workers peanuts, so we have to pick up hours elsewhere. Many people work for two or three different agencies just to pay their rent, and we still can’t afford to live in the communities where we work,” said Wycliffe Mulindwa of Woburn, a direct care specialist at Triangle, Inc.’s Reading residential site who helps people with disabilities with their basic needs, administers medicine, and drives individuals to medical appointments and community activities. “We’ve seen the improvements that happen at other agencies when workers form a union. They’re paid more, turnover is reduced, and services for the people they care for improve. I’m supporting the union because we need to see that change here at Triangle.”
The 100+ employees work at employment support and day services sites in Brockton, Malden, Randolph, and Salem, and at group homes in Beverly, Danvers, Malden, Peabody, Reading, and Saugus, supporting individuals who have developmental disabilities. With their current low pay and lack of job security, many workers are forced to work two or three jobs to survive, with some reporting they work more than 100 hours each week. Triangle, Inc. workers are also concerned about how the agency’s high turnover and resulting low staffing levels impact the people with disabilities whom they care for.
“Due to low staffing levels, my coworkers and I are spread thin and have to cover different work sites, doing multiple jobs at once. Juggling varying responsibilities to make up for low staffing takes the focus away from the people we serve, and greatly diminishes the quality of the services we’re able to provide for them,” said Amy Banelis of Lynn, an employment specialist at Triangle, Inc. who works with people with disabilities to teach career readiness, help individuals find jobs in the community, and support them in their jobs. “I’m supporting the union to have a voice in the workplace, to improve wages in order to reduce turnover and improve staffing ratios, and to win workplace protections that only a union can provide.”
SEIU Local 509 represents nearly 20,000 human service workers and educators throughout Massachusetts, including over 6,000 private sector human services workers who serve individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and people living with mental illnesses. Through relentless organizing, months of bargaining, and in some cases, voting to authorize a strike, thousands of 509 private sector human services members have won significantly better wages over the last two years, including minimum wages of $15 an hour at several agencies. Additionally, in the face of increasing anti-immigrant policy, Local 509 won key immigration protections for the diverse workforce at many agencies.
“People with disabilities deserve to live a life of purpose and dignity, just like the rest of us, and the hard-working direct care support staff at Triangle, Inc. help them do so every day,” said Peter MacKinnon, President of SEIU Local 509. “Yet these front-line workers who directly serve the most vulnerable among us are themselves in crisis, and often struggle to get by each week. By coming together in a union, the workers at Triangle, Inc. and other human service providers are using our power in numbers to raise wages, secure a voice in the workplace, improve our jobs, protect our rights and create a better life for ourselves, our families and our communities.”
For Immediate Release
July 23, 2018
Contact: Andrew Farnitano, Crawford Strategies
SEIU Local 509 represents nearly 20,000 human service workers and educators throughout Massachusetts. We provide a variety of social services to elders, at-risk children and people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities — as well as educational services in both public and private sector settings. From mental health clinicians and social workers to early childhood educators and university lecturers, Local 509 members are united in our mission to raise living standards for working families while improving the quality and affordability of the services we provide. SEIU Local 509 is part of the 2 million member Service Employees International Union, the fastest-growing labor union in the United States. Focused on uniting workers in four sectors –- public services, long term care, property services, and hospital systems — SEIU is the nation’s largest health care union, the largest property services union, and the second-largest public employee union.