Committees

Member Committees of SEIU Local 509

Boston Globe | Not your grandpa’s labor union

Not Your Grandpa's Union ImageThe Ideas section of April 6th’s Boston Globe took on the challenges and opportunities presented by our 21st century workforce — a landscape where traditional employer-employee relationships have become more exception than norm. Author Leon Neyfakh details a host of new initiatives that aim to organize workers in this new reality, including those of healthcare professionals, adjunct professors and service industry subcontractors.

From the Neyfakh’s ‘Not your grandpa’s labor union’:

Unionization efforts have also been successful among some graduate students and medical residents, who have had to convince the institutions they work for to recognize them as employees, rather than categorize their teaching or hospital work as merely educational. Adjunct professors, who have been able to find only low-paying freelance teaching jobs after finishing degrees, have also formed unions recently. Meanwhile, the large number of doctors who in recent years have effectively gone from business-owners to employees after selling or leasing once-independent practices to hospitals are being targeted for recruitment by the Union of American Physicians and Dentists…

…In all these cases, labor experts say, what we’re seeing is evidence of a struggle to establish clarity about what constitutes employment, and an effort to reduce the ambiguity surrounding the relationship between workers and the entities that wield power over them. That is what’s happening with fast-food workers, who have been striking for higher wages since last December, and who have been told by industry executives to address their grievances to the owners of the individual franchises that employ them. Organizers counter that franchise workers should be recognized as employees of the parent companies, instead; if they were, they could potentially organize on a much larger scale.

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SEIU President: Supreme Court grants billionaires even greater political power

 After the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in McCutcheon vs. FEC, Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:

“This ruling is an unwelcome sequel to the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United which will further erode the ability of 99 percent of our citizens to meaningfully participate in the political process and to have their voices heard in the governance of our country. Today, in a 5-4 ruling, a majority of the Court twists the freedoms guaranteed under our cherished First Amendment to use them as a sword to further undermine the foundations of our democracy. In Citizens United the Court ruled that corporations can freely use their amassed resources to drown out the voices of real people in the political process. With today’s decision, the Court has eliminated the long-standing limitation on the ability of billionaires to buy the gratitude and loyalty of elected officials with a blizzard of separate campaign contributions to candidates and political party organizations. Taken together, these two decisions will effectively drown out the voices of working people in the political process and deny them access to their elected officials. To a Supreme Court which equates speech with money, only the voices of the rich are entitled to protection under the First Amendment.

“This is a disappointing opinion that puts the underlying values of our democratic system at risk.”

Read the New York Times’ take on the McCutcheon decision here.

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SIGN ON TODAY: Our Open Letter to DCF Commissioner Olga Roche

DCF Colleagues,

It’s no secret that front-line workers at the Department of Children & Families have faced unprecedented challenges in recent weeks. From ever-increasing caseloads to disjointed and inconsistent directives, the critical work we do has grown more difficult with each passing day.

While initial steps have been taken to address issues related to staffing shortfalls and technology deficiencies, it has become clear to those of us on the front lines that change has not come quickly enough. Even worse, many of the systemic problems that we have collectively raised for months — or years, in some cases — continue to go unaddressed.

Commissioner Roche and her management team need to understand just how severe these challenges have become – and they need to hear it directly from us, the front-line workers who are charged with protecting the safety of at-risk children.

That’s why we’re circulating this formal sign-on letter. With your help, we’ll be able to put in writing the concerns front-line workers have expressed across the Commonwealth — in a format that can’t be ignored.

There are three ways to sign on to the letter to Commissioner Roche:

  1. Download a paper copy, print and sign the third page along with your co-workers.
  2. Catch up with a Union Steward in your office. Stewards are circulating paper copies of the letter this week for signature.
  3. Comments Off

TAKE ACTION: Stop the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital

North Adams Regional HospitalNorth Adams Regional Hospital, a cornerstone of healthcare access for many Western Massachusetts families and residents for 129 years, is facing imminent closure.

This is a public health crisis — a matter of life and death for the impacted communities whose residents could lose access to emergency hospital services. The area of North Adams has a high poverty rate (22%) and many residents lack access to the reliable transportation they would need to drive up to an hour to the nearest emergency room.

Healthcare workers and community members — including our brothers and sisters at 1199 SEIU — are calling on state officials to immediately intervene and protect the vital, cost-effective services provided by North Adams Regional Hospital. The loss of 530 jobs will deal a critical blow to the area economy. This is a devastating development for patients and workers alike. This closure is unacceptable.

Click here to sign the petition to save North Adams Regional Hospital

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SATURDAY, MARCH 15: SEIU Massachusetts Governor’s Election Forum

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Lesley Adjunct Faculty Vote ‘Union YES,’ Join Adjunct Action/SEIU

Adjunct Action Boston LogoLesley University Adjunct Faculty Vote to Form Union, Join Colleagues at Tufts in Adjunct Action/SEIU

Lesley University adjunct faculty have resoundingly voted to form a union in Adjunct Action, a project of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The victory marks the second time in five months that adjunct faculty at Boston-area universities have formed a union to improve their profession and the quality of education.

Adjuncts teaching across Lesley’s four campuses stood together and overwhelmingly supported a union on campus by voting 359 to 67 to join SEIU.  The votes for the all-mail ballot election were counted at the Boston office of the National Labor Relations Board on Monday.

The win reflects an 84 percent vote in favor of forming a union – a landslide victory for adjuncts, and the entire Lesley community. Matthew White graduated from and now teaches graphic design at Lesley. He said, “Teaching is a passion for me.  Seeing students transform their ways of thinking and doing is what it’s all about.  With part-time faculty making up the majority of faculty, our working conditions are directly related to student success and that’s why I’m excited about forming our union today. Our union will help Lesley University provide students a richer experience and better education. “

This shift to a contingent faculty workforce in higher education has been dramatic. In the early 1970s, almost 80 percent of faculty were tenured or on the tenure track. Today, only 33 percent of faculty remain in tenured or tenure-track jobs. As a result, being a university professor, once the quintessential middle class job, has become a low wage one where instructors face low pay and no benefits or job security. Many do not even have access to basic facilities like office space, making it increasingly difficult for adjuncts to do their best for their students.

Lesley adjunct instructor Shira Karman said, “We, the adjunct faculty at Lesley, voted to form our union to be seen and respected as a vital part of the Lesley community.   Today marks a new day for us and the Lesley community.  I’m thankful for the heartening support from all corners of campus; full-time faculty, students, alumni and our local elected officials who stood with us as we voted to form our union.”

Over the past few months, adjunct and part-time faculty from coast to coast have engaged in conversations about forming their own union to raise standards for private, non-profit universities. Tufts University part-time faculty voted to join SEIU in September 2013 and are currently bargaining their first contract.  In December, adjunct faculty at Whittier College in Los Angeles voted to form a union with Adjunct Action.  Last Thursday, contingent faculty at Seattle University in Washington State filed an election petition with the NLRB.

The efforts to form unions come on the heels of victories by part-time professors in the Washington, D.C. area. There, contingent faculty significantly improved their pay, job security, benefits and working conditions after forming a union with SEIU.

Lesley adjuncts are joining a national movement to address the crisis in higher education where jobs are increasingly low wage and part time even while revenues and profits are increasing. Lesley adjunct Norah Dooley said, “Lesley is exceptional in the way it cares for its students as human beings. As an Alumna of Lesley, I love my alma mater yet I wish Lesley was equally as exceptional in its treatment of its adjunct faculty.  Teaching one course at Lesley does not even cover the costs of health insurance for me and my family during the 13 week semester.  While the crisis in higher education is complex, it is not intractable. Our overwhelming “yes” vote to form our union with SEIU/Adjunct Action is a great start on a solution. Adjuncts are raising standards not just for adjuncts and not just for Lesley. I truly believe we are raising the bar for all in higher education. Alumni like me want to see Lesley University take a leadership role in this movement.”

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Adjunct Action is a project of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation’s largest and fastest growing union and home to over 18,000 unionized college and university teaching faculty who have won improvements in pay, job security, evaluation processes, and access to retirement benefits. For more information, visit www.adjunctaction.org.

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Boston Globe | The Invisible Professor

Adjunct Op-Ed ImageIn Sunday’s Boston Globe, Jay Atkinson lays bare the ‘Walmartization’ of higher education in the US, where reliance on a low-paid, no-benefit adjunct workforce has become pervasive at top colleges and universities:

“Adjuncts are referred to as ‘part-time,’ but that’s a misnomer. To make a living, adjuncts often work for abysmal pay at several colleges during the same term, without medical or retirement benefits, decent office space, or compensation for attending academic seminars or faculty meetings.”

Jay’s point is echoed by thousands of fellow faculty members who have gained a voice on the job through SEIU’s Adjunct Action efforts, which have steadily gained momentum in the Boston area in recent months. Here’s why: out of the 58 four-year private colleges in Greater Boston, 67% of the educators are classified as adjunct faculty.

So as tuition continues to skyrocket at most leading institutions, one has to ask: if the money doesn’t go to the classroom, where does it go?

Read the full Boston Globe piece here.
Follow Adjunct Action on Facebook and Twitter.

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Gov. Patrick Announces $9.2M Investment in DCF Workers, Technology

Among a number of big-ticket items in Governor Patrick’s FY2015 budget announcement is a $9.2 million investment in staffing and technology improvements at the Department of Children & Families. A copy of the governor’s announcement is included below, along with the statement issued by the union following preliminary review of the proposal.

SEIU Local 509 Statement on DCF Budget Announcement

“The number one priority of front-line social workers at the Department of Children & Families is keeping at-risk kids safe from abuse and neglect. That is why we have pushed so aggressively to identify and address key challenges at DCF – from crisis-level caseloads and outdated technology to insufficient resources devoted to training, support and supervision.

“Today’s announcement marks an important acknowledgment of the systemic issues front-line social workers have raised for many years. We thank Governor Patrick for taking an important first step in providing DCF social workers with the resources and tools they need to keep children safe – and we look forward to working with our partners in the legislature
to ensure the department receives the critical investments needed to fulfill its mission.“

 


Massachusetts State Seal

GOVERNOR PATRICK ANNOUNCES $9.2 MILLION INVESTMENT IN DCF TO FURTHER STRENGTHEN CHILD WELFARE PRACTICES

BOSTON – Wednesday, January 22, 2014 – Governor Deval Patrick today announced a $9.2 million FY15 budget investment in the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to further enhance the agency’s work to protect the over 100,000 youth served by the Department each year and strengthen families across the Commonwealth. The investment will allow the Department to move towards its 15 to 1 caseload goals, and enhance its screening, investigation, and case review practices. In addition to the FY 15 budget funding, the Department will also provide mobile technology solutions for workers in the field.

“DCF has one of the most critical missions in government, and their workers perform countless miracles every day,” said Governor Patrick. “This investment will ensure that the Department has the resources it needs to be successful, and I look forward to working with the Legislature to support our shared goals to protect the Commonwealth’s children and families.”

 

MOVING FORWARD WITH 15 FAMILIES:

The Governor’s budget invests in staffing that will allow the Department to move forward with the goals outlined in the 15 Families Memorandum of Understanding signed last year between DCF and SEIU 509. The 15 Families plan will be implemented over the coming years in accordance with the agreement by meeting additional staff needs to achieve the 15 to 1 caseload goals.

“As a former social worker, I know how challenging this job can be, but I also know how rewarding it is to help a family succeed,” said DCF Commissioner Olga Roche. “Our front line workers deserve all the support we can provide, and that’s why we are moving forward with the 15 Families plan and additional technology enhancements.”

 

UTILIZING NEW TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS:

The Department will provide mobile technology solutions for workers that will allow them to access DCF case files remotely in the field, enhancing their ability to communicate and record information on families, and eliminating existing lag time in processing reports. This will also allow workers to quickly access sensitive and historical information and better communicate with law enforcement partners.

 

After the Department’s thorough review of the Oliver case, Commissioner Roche launched additional actions to strengthen engagement with children and families, including enhanced case reviews and additional communications with school districts.

The Commissioner also directed staff to screen in for investigation all allegations of abuse or neglect involving children age five and younger with young parents; or parents of any age who have a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, mental health issues, or unresolved childhood trauma. The Governor’s budget investments will allow DCF to continue these enhanced practices.

“These additional investments will ensure that DCF has the tools in place to be successful and well positioned to serve the Commonwealth’s children and families well into the future,” said Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz.

On January 9, Secretary Polanowicz announced that the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) will conduct a full, independent review of DCF over the coming months. This review will look at broad areas of DCF’s practices, including supervision, management, home visits, processing of reports of abuse and neglect, and how the Department deals with families with young children. CWLA has been provided with the flexibility and latitude they need to conduct a thorough review and will be interfacing with members of the Legislature as they work to develop action steps going forward.

“We have made great strides recently to expand kinship placements, increase adoptions and enhance foster care supports to help provide high quality services and keep our children safe,” said Commissioner Roche. “The Governor’s budget investments will help us keep this progress going to ensure the very best for our children.

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Remembering Kenny Gorman

Ken Gorman

Kenneth (Kenny) Gorman, Jr.

Local 509 is sad to share news of the passing of longtime member and union leader Kenneth (Kenny) Gorman, Jr.

A celebration of Kenny’s life was held on Tuesday, January 14 in Spencer, MA.  Details can be found here, or in the Worcester Telegram.

While he recently retired as a correctional program officer at the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, Kenny was a larger-than-life figure at SEIU Local 509 for many years. He served in a variety of union leadership roles throughout his career: steward, chapter president, chair of our Committee on Political Education (COPE), and most recently as a trustee of the local.  Many members, both in his chapter and beyond, are grateful for Ken’s willingness to mentor and support them in their work — along with his encouragement to become more active in the union.

In addition to bargaining for and representing working families in countless forums, Kenny maintained a true passion for politics. Prior to his storied years of work in the union, Ken served as a legislative aide on Beacon Hill and maintained several close friendships from his time there. Ken volunteered many of his own hours helping to elect candidates who understood and prioritized issues impacting working families — most recently helping to elect Marty Walsh as Mayor of Boston.

Both Kenny’s day-to-day work and his activism were firmly grounded in the desire to lift up all working families — and his dedication to the cause knew no boundaries. Whether here at home or halfway across the country, Kenny was always ready to lend his voice and energy to the fight for workers’ rights. When union workers in Wisconsin came under attack from  Governor Scott Walker, Kenny passionately rallied a large crowd in Boston in support of his brothers and sisters. His words and actions will continue to inspire our work for years to come.

Kenny Gorman was a great leader, a dedicated public servant, and a kind man who will be greatly missed by all of us at local 509.  The SEIU Local 509 COPE Committee has established an annual $1,000 scholarship to be given in Ken’s memory.

 

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RSVP TODAY: Meet the Candidates for Governor!

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