In yet another victory for workers’ rights in the Bay State, a majority of direct care workers at Woburn-based NuPath, Inc. overwhelmingly voted ‘Union Yes!’ in their recent election. The win caps off Merrimack Valley service providers’ aggressive, months-long effort to secure better pay, safer working conditions and a greater voice in the workplace. With the December vote, more than 200 front-line service providers joined the Massachusetts Human Service Workers Union, SEIU Local 509 – marking the union’s second successful organizing drive in the Merrimack Valley in 2013.
With core facilities in Woburn and dozens of independent living locations in Andover, Billerica, Burlington, Lexington, Lincoln, Lynnfield, Medford, Reading, Tewksbury, Westford and Wilmington, NuPath, Inc. provides services to hundreds of individuals people living with developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and acquired brain injuries. From day habilitative care to independent living support, human service workers at NuPath play a vital role in communities throughout the Merrimack Valley, yet many earn close to minimum wage and see limited opportunities for training or advancement. The conditions led workers to seek – and win – a greater voice in the workplace with SEIU Local 509.
“This is a major win for direct care staff at NuPath, who have worked tirelessly to secure the voice they deserve on the job,” said Susan Tousignant, president of the Massachusetts Human Service Workers Union, SEIU Local 509. “Human service workers at NuPath play a vital role in the community – meeting the needs of families throughout the Merrimack Valley. We are proud to welcome them to the Massachusetts Human Service Workers Union.”
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry offered this statement today in response to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ release of enrollment numbers for the federal marketplace under the Affordable Care Act:
“Before the new federal marketplace opened on Oct. 1, the vast majority of Americans knew very little about the Affordable Care Act and the that fact that it offered a future of more secure, lower-cost healthcare coverage that could transform their lives and their health.
“By now most people have heard about the insurance coverage available under the new law, and today’s figures show that more than 26 million people are exploring their options. More than 500,000 Americans are well on their way to affordable coverage, based on individuals who have picked a plan or qualified for expanded Medicaid coverage.
“Today’s numbers also show that in states where governors, healthcare providers, faith leaders, labor and business are working together, the law is working and saving lives. Where obstructionism and foot-dragging rule the day, hard-working Americans are being left behind.
“For the past six weeks, thousands of SEIU nurses, doctors, librarians and child care providers and our partners in local communities have done everything we can to close this knowledge gap about the benefits of the law, while far-right Republicans have done nothing but convene hearings to obstruct, delay or take away healthcare from the very people they are supposed to represent.
“They are supposed to represent Americans like Cecilia Fontenot of Houston, who is uninsured and cannot afford a follow-up mammogram. Ms. Fontenot is not a number; she’s a person whose life may be hanging in the balance.
“And when working Americans have had serious questions about how the law works for them, SEIU nurses and doctors on the front lines of healthcare have not said the law is perfect, but instead, ‘we will do everything we can to address your concerns and help improve the law.’
“Given all that is at stake for individuals like Ms. Fontenot, working families are wondering why more Republicans in Congress are not capable of standing up and doing the same thing.”
- View the official press release from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services here.
- Read the full enrollment report here.
- Check out a user-friendly infographic on Affordable Care Act/ObamaCare progress here.
Dozens of workers joined labor and community leaders outside the JFK Federal Building Tuesday, urging the US Senate to immediately confirm President Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). As part of a national day of action, the delegation called on US Senator Elizabeth Warren to push her colleagues to action on the critical nominations – which have languished for months under the threat of a filibuster.
President Obama has nominated a package of five individuals to serve on the NLRB – the important agency charged with settling labor-management disputes and protecting workers’ rights. The package of five nominees includes three current members of the Board —Chairman Mark Pearce and recessed appointed Members Sharon Block and Richard Griffin — plus two nominees who have not served previously on the Board: Philip Miscimarra and Harry Johnson. Both Miscimarra and Johnson are attorneys who have previously represented management in disputes with employees, making the nominees a truly ‘bi-partisan’ slate. Yet a group of US Senators has continued to stall the confirmation process, threatening to bring all NLRB proceedings to a screeching halt.
“Working families in Massachusetts deserve to know their rights are being protected on the job – and we need a fully-functioning Labor Relations Board to ensure that happens,” said Russ Davis of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice. “We’re very fortunate to have a champion like Elizabeth Warren in the Senate, and we know she will push her colleagues to act immediately.The delegation cited a host of examples where NLRB functionality could have a significant impact on Massachusetts workers – including contract disputes between technical staff and managers at Boston television stations and a conflict over potentially illegal workplace retaliation at Lawrence-based CLASS, Inc. In the latter case, human service workers organized a union after their concerns over fair compensation and workplace health and safety issues went unaddressed. The employer retaliated with what workers view as selective discipline and terminations, which would be in violation of labor law. The NLRB is the primary venue charged with enforcing our nation’s laws prohibiting retaliation for protected concerted activities – but CLASS is among the many employers claiming the board lacks a quorum and is therefore unable to act.
“For months, we’ve fought for a voice on the job, but management is fighting us every step of the way,” said Nelson Rivera, a human service worker at CLASS, Inc. “These confirmations will ensure no employer can stifle workers’ voices or retaliate against them for speaking out. We need action now.”
Participating workers and community leaders met with key staff in Senator Warren’s office and delivered a formal letter urging her to push Senate colleagues to action on the confirmations. Organizers promised to continue their efforts until all five NLRB appointees are confirmed.
Human service workers Nelson Rivera (CLASS, Inc.) and Orlando Pena (Bridgewell) urged immediate confirmation of all five NLRB appointees in their meeting with key Warren staff.
In light of tragedies that befell three human service workers in 2011, we had two meetings with OSHA, to discuss a growing epidemic, i.e. violence in the workplace. We have decided to work closely with OSHA on this, both to create safer working environments and to monitor and report incidents of violence in the workplace. To this end, we have formed a Private Sector Safety Committee. Those who met with OSHA are Jon Grossman, the Local 509 Private Sector Team Leader, who was on the 2011 Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Task Force on Staff and Client Safety, and has great insight regarding our increased need for safety on the job. Mike Capasso from Eliot Community Human Services attended the OSHA initial meeting and will chair the committee. I attended both OSHA meetings and brought Mary Hoye from OSHA to do a “violence in the workplace” training of over 20 members on October 28. We will have more workplace safety trainings, statewide, in 2012.
We will have our first Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday, December 6, 7 p.m., at the Local 509 offices in Watertown, 100 Talcott Ave. We will have teleconference available; please dial in around 6:55 so that you are on the line when the meeting commences. If you have ever been physically assaulted at work or fear physical attacks, you should join this meeting.