509 News

Media Contact:

Christie Stephenson, Communications Director
office: (774) 843-7500 || cell: (413) 374-6370 || email: cstephenson@seiu509.org

Averting Strike, Workers at Fidelity House Make Key Gains in Fight for Quality Care & Good Jobs

Tentative agreement reached under increasing pressure on the agency to avoid strike

LAWRENCE — In a major step toward addressing the low wages and staff turnover plaguing Fidelity House staff at the agency who directly care for individuals with disabilities reached a settlement early Sunday afternoon with Fidelity House management. Facing a strike that was set to begin in less than 24 hours, management at Fidelity House returned to the table Sunday morning for a negotiation session overseen by a federal mediator. The resulting settlement is subject to a ratification vote next week by affected Fidelity House workers, who will return to work on Monday.

Today’s settlement is a step forward in a years-long campaign by Fidelity House workers, organized through SEIU Local 509, to address the crisis in caregiving created by low wages at the agency. The tentative agreement will result in a $.60/hour raise for direct care staff over the course of the one year contract, a significant raise for workers at Fidelity House,Inc. who have worked and organized tirelessly to gain this win for frontline direct care workers.

“What I do for a living isn’t just about me, it’s also about all the individuals we serve here in the Merrimack Valley,” said Nurys Cintron, a worker at Fidelity House and leader of the contract bargaining committee. “I’m relieved that after many months and a long morning of bargaining, all of my colleagues will return to work Monday with a better contract that will hopefully pave the path for all our brothers and sisters in the human services field.”

“Today we got a good contract but the work continues,” said Alette Domenech, who has worked at Fidelity House for three years. “I look forward to the roll out of these much-needed improvements in our contract.” 

Workers had provided management with the legally required 10-day strike notice on July 24th, while continuing to try to bargain in good faith with management in the days leading up to the strike. Today’s settlement comes after an outpouring of support for quality care and good jobs at Fidelity House from community groups and elected officials, including Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, Representatives DiZoglio, Matias, Moran, and State Senator Barbara L’Italien.

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Workers at Fidelity House Set to Strike Monday

Workers at the Merrimack Valley nonprofit will strike for three days over staff turnover & low wages

LAWRENCE — SEIU Local 509 members at Fidelity House will be on strike Monday through Wednesday of next week, following stalemated contract negotiations with the agency. Members of the union at Fidelity House overwhelmingly voted to authorize the strike, and delivered management last week with the legally required 10-day notice of their intent to strike. Workers, community leaders, activists, and local elected officials will be on the picket line during the three-day strike next week.

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WHERE: 439 S Union Street, Lawrence

WHEN: 9-6pm, Monday-Wednesday July 24-26

COMMUNITY RALLY: 12PM Tuesday, July 25

“We love our work and the clients we serve,” said Alette Domenech, who has worked at Fidelity House for three years. “Management at Fidelity House has forced us to go on strike by failing to work with us to address high staff turnover. The turnover at Fidelity House is disrupting the lives of people we care for, and they deserve better.”

For more information about the strike and the fight to ensure a living wage for private sector human services workers, or to speak to a leader of the campaign at Fidelity House call (413) 374-6370.

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Averting Strike, Workers at CLASS, Inc. Take Major Step Toward Quality Care & Good Jobs

Tentative agreement reached under increasing pressure on the agency to avoid strike

LAWRENCE — In a major step toward addressing the low wages and staff turnover plaguing CLASS, Inc., staff at the agency who directly care for individuals with disabilities reached a settlement late Friday evening with CLASS management. Facing a strike that was set to begin Monday, management at CLASS, Inc. returned to the table late Friday for a negotiation session overseen by a federal mediator and convened by Massachusetts Senator Barbara L’Italien. The resulting settlement is subject to a ratification vote next week by affected CLASS, Inc. workers, who will return to work on Monday.

Tonight’s settlement marks an inflection point in a years-long campaign by CLASS workers, organized through SEIU Local 509, to address the crisis in caregiving created by low wages at the agency. The one-year tentative agreement is a critical step towards reducing staff turnover and improving the standard of care for individuals with disabilities in the Merrimack Valley.

The tentative agreement will result in a $.75/hour raise for direct care staff over the course of the one year contract, a significant raise for workers at CLASS, Inc. who are among the lowest paid at peer agencies across the Commonwealth.

“I do this work because I love the individuals I care for — it’s my passion,” said Krystina Castillo, a day habilitation worker at CLASS. “I’m happy that after many hours of negotiating we get to go back to work on Monday with a better contract.”

“At the end of the day, we won a better contract,” continued Thomas Baca, a driver at CLASS. “But the fight continues to make sure the individuals we care for can access the care they deserve.”

Workers had provided CLASS, Inc. management with the legally required 10-day strike notice on June 29, while continuing to try to bargain in good faith with management in the days leading up to the strike. Tonight’s settlement comes after an outpouring of support for quality care and good jobs at CLASS from community groups and elected officials, including Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera and Representatives DiZoglio, Matias, and Moran.

For interviews with workers leading the bargaining process, contact Christie Stephenson: cstephenson@seiu509.org / (413) 374-6370.

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SEIU Local 509 Lauds Inclusion of Protection for DCF Social Workers in Final Budget

As the conference committee budget heads to Governor Baker’s desk, SEIU Local 509 released the following statement lauding the inclusion of a critical safety measure for social workers at the Department of Children and Families. Effective upon the Governor’s signature, DCF social workers will be able to use state-issued identification for all DCF business, protecting workers’ home addresses from becoming public record.

The following statement is attributable to Adriana Zwick, a social worker and SEIU Local 509 DCF Chapter President:

“Social workers at DCF dedicate their careers to keeping at-risk kids safe from abuse and neglect, and unfortunately, it can be a dangerous profession. Too often in the course of our work, social workers are forced to provide personal information, like our home address, when we visit our clients in hospitals, correctional facilities, or schools. Being forced to provide our personal information poses a safety risk to social workers and their families.

“This measure keeps social workers’ personal information personal and helps protect their safety by allowing the use of state issued identification when carrying out DCF work. We are grateful to Minority Leader Tarr, Senator DiDomenico, Representative O’Day, and the Baker administration for championing home address protection for DCF social workers.”

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Workers at CLASS, Inc. Overwhelmingly Vote to Authorize Strike

Strike vote comes as SEIU Local 509 fights to bring private sector human services workers to $15/hour
 
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LAWRENCE — SEIU Local 509 members at CLASS, Inc. have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, in the midst of stalemated contract negotiations with the agency. In a show of strong energy and solidarity, nearly 90% of frontline workers at CLASS voted in favor of the action. Tonight, member leaders of SEIU Local 509’s chapter at CLASS, Inc. delivered management the legally required 10-day notice of their intent to strike on July 10.
SEIU Local 509 members at CLASS, Inc. continue to bargain in good faith with management in an effort to address the crisis in care at CLASS and private sector human services agencies across the Commonwealth. Frontline workers care directly for clients of the agency, coming into work day in and out to care for people with disabilities and help them live with dignity. Yet frontline workers still struggle to earn a living wage, resulting in high turnover and constant staffing issues that impact the quality of care available to the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable.
Thomas Baca, who has worked at CLASS, Inc. for five years, confirms that low wages are causing a crisis in care at the agency.
“The reason we voted to strike is simple. We need to take steps to address high staff turnover, so the individuals that we care for can access the care they deserve. Management now needs to take steps to address the low wages that are causing high turnover.”
For more information about the fight to ensure a living wage for private sector human services workers, or to speak to a leader of the campaign at CLASS, Inc., call (413) 374-6370.
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SEIU 509 Fights for Economic Justice for Adjunct Faculty

Bill would invest in pay equity, economic security, and student learning

BOSTON, MA – Dozens of members of SEIU Local 509, the Massachusetts union for educators and human service workers, are at the State House today to fight back against the corporatization of higher education. With colleges and universities beginning to act more like businesses than like institutions of higher learning, investments in faculty and instruction are disproportionately lower than increases in administrative and other costs. As a result, adjunct faculty — who teach a majority of courses at many area universities — are not paid fairly for their commitment to student learning.

“The question of adjunct pay goes to the heart of the mission of higher education—teaching. That’s what adjuncts do,” said Dan Hunter, an adjunct professor at Boston University. “Adjuncts like me teach more than 50% of the classes nationwide, meeting the same standards as our full-time and tenured colleagues. Yet we receive about 20% of the same pay.”

A first of its kind bill, H.2236 — sponsored by Representative Tom Stanley — addresses the pressing economic issues facing the thousands of adjunct faculty who teach at private higher education institutions across the Commonwealth. The measure ensures pay equity for adjunct faculty and that they receive the same pay per course as their full-time colleagues. Adjunct faculty are gig workers, and often course assignments are routinely cancelled at the last minute, after the instructor has put in weeks or months of preparation. H.2236 would require universities to take responsibility for some of the costs these flexible employment practices impose — by giving sufficient notice of course assignments and paying adjunct faculty a percentage of what they would have earned for the course if it’s cancelled.

“Too often, colleges and universities exploit our passion as faculty, knowing we will maintain high standards because we feel deep responsibility to our students,” said Amy Todd, who has worked as an adjunct at UMass Boston, Northeastern University, MIT, Dartmouth College, Boston University, and Brandeis University. “We also need to earn a living wage and have stability of employment to be the best teachers possible.”

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More information about H.2236 is available here. To interview adjunct faculty in the Commonwealth about their commitment to student learning, contact Christie Stephenson at (413) 374-6370.

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509’s Elise Simpson in the Worcester Telegram

A leader within 509’s MRC chapter, Elise Simpson, wrote a letter to the editor that was featured in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. In the letter, Elise responds to a recent story shining a light on private human service agencies spending a disproportionate amount of state funding increases on administrative growth and CEO pay. As Elise writes:

To me, this article showed that not only are human services agencies failing to invest in direct care staff, they also do not respect the people they are paid to serve. I think it’s an outrage that a CEO is paid nearly a million dollars annually while the workers caring for clients everyday do not even make $13 an hour. Yet this is exactly what’s happening right here in Worcester at Seven Hills. I fear this will continue unless our elected officials hold these agencies accountable for bringing their front-line workers closer to a living wage and a sustainable career.

Click here to read the full letter.

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Congrats to all 2017 scholarship winners!

Each year, our SEIU Local 509 Scholarship Program funds more than a dozen educational scholarship awards for fellow members and their dependents.
Each of these scholarships range from $1,000 to $1,500 — many awards are based on member’s demonstrated commitment to the union’s growth over the last calendar year. From this year’s pool of qualified applicants, winners were drawn at random.
Congrats to all the winners, and stay tuned for information about next year’s application process!

Daniel Connerty, DOC
Danielle Henry, DTA
Diana Pereira-Velez, DTA
Ethel Everett, DCF
Euphemia Molina, DCF
Italienne Guillaume, Bridgewell
Johnson Odewale, DMH
Joyce Girardi, DMH
Kevin Higgins, Old Colony Elder Services
Kimberly Daughtry, MassHealth
Kristen Tully, DCF
Lisa Rooney, DDS
Lori Cassier, DCF
Michael Grow, DMH
Paul Kelly, DTA
Raymond Obeng, DDS
Stephanie Klink, MRC/DDS Worcester
Stephen Beloa, Bridgewell
Tiana Davis, Masshealth
Umberto Uku, Bridgewell

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Worcester Telegram: Senate backs caregiver wage hike after union raps CEO pay growth

By Brad Petrishen
Telegram & Gazette Staff

A new union-backed report rapping CEO salary growth at nonprofits that provide human services – including the Seven Hills Foundation of Worcester – has spurred a local lawmaker to seek pay increases for caregivers.

“Direct care workers should be making, at the very least, $15, if not more, an hour,” said state Sen. James B. Eldridge, D-Acton, who filed a budget amendment intended to increase pay for caregivers. The Senate adopted the amendment last week as part of its state budget bill.

Should the amendment make it into the final state budget, human service agencies, barring individual waivers, would have to put 75 percent of funds from state contracts toward ensuring all their employees are paid a minimum hourly wage of $15.

The impetus for the requirement, Mr. Eldridge said, is a report issued last week by the union for caregivers that accuses human services nonprofits of using state funding increases that were intended to boost “front-line” pay to instead pad administrative costs and executive salaries.

“Increases in state funding for human services, intended to raise wages for front-line workers, have been disproportionately going toward administration cost and exorbitant CEO compensation at some of the state’s largest providers,” SEIU Local 509 concluded in an eight-page report released Tuesday.

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The “poster child” for the problem, the union says, is Worcester’s Seven Hills Foundation. CEO David A. Jordan’s compensation package totals $797,482 – the most of any such CEO in the state – while the workers, the union says, average $12.47 an hour. That’s more than a dollar less than the statewide industry average of $13.59 per hour identified in the report.

“These facts strongly suggest that Seven Hills Foundation’s leadership has prioritized poorly in deciding how to spend the $41.4 million in additional state funds they have received since fiscal 2011, short-changing front-line workers in the process,” the report charges.

Seven Hills, the largest human services provider in the state, declined a request for an interview; in a statement, John N. Altomare, board chairman, said Mr. Jordan has helped grow the organization from a local agency into a nationally respected one with a $210 million operating budget.

“We provide competitive pay and generous benefits to direct support professionals, along with opportunities for promotion and a supportive workplace for those who share our passion for serving our community,” Mr. Altomare said.

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Presented with a set of questions Friday that pressed for additional detail, Bill Yelenak, vice president of policy and development at Seven Hills, said his CEO was unavailable Friday and is the only person authorized to speak to the media.

The council noted that it and its members, including Seven Hills, have worked with legislators to file a bill that would ensure private-sector human services employees earn as much as those who work for the state.

Mike Fadel, director of private sector field services for Local 509, said while the union supports anything that hikes wages, the bill doesn’t call for full wage equity until 2023.

“It’s a slow boat to China,” he said of the approach, noting that the union’s math finds human services nonprofits could afford to hike front-line hourly wages to $15 right now.

According to the study, the top two-thirds of providers collectively posted a $51.8 million surplus in fiscal 2016. If $34 million of that was invested into pay, the union said, the average hourly wage would jump to $15.

“Most provider organizations have sufficient net revenue to bring workers to a $15 per hour benchmark, without additional state funding,” the union wrote in its news release.

[…]  Read the full story here at the Worcester Telegram-Gazette.

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SEIU Local 509 Lauds Senate Passage of Amendment to Protect DCF Social Workers

Last night, the Massachusetts Senate passed budget amendment #300, which would protect frontline social workers at the Department of Children and Families (DCF) from having their personal information, including their home address, publicly exposed. The following statement is attributable to Adriana Zwick, a social worker and SEIU Local 509 DCF Chapter President:

“Social workers at DCF dedicate their careers to keeping at-risk kids safe from abuse and neglect, and unfortunately, it can be a dangerous profession. Too often in the course of our work, social workers are forced to provide personal information, like our home address, when we visit our clients in hospitals, correctional facilities, or schools. Being forced to provide our personal information poses a safety risk to social workers and their families.

“If passed into law, this measure would keep social workers’ personal information personal and help protect their safety by allowing the use of state issued identification when carrying out DCF work. We are grateful to Senator Tarr for sponsoring this amendment and Chairwoman Spilka for her work on it. We urge the conference committee to include it in its final budget.”

Hundreds of Local 509 members at DCF wrote and called their Senators yesterday to urge the passage of this important amendment.

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