“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.
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.
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.”
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.
In 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?
At a press conference on the National Mall today, SEIU’s Eliseo Medina made clear the need for action on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. For two weeks and counting, Medina has led a group of activists in a fast, pushing the US House to move forward on the long-overdue legislation.
“You ask how we feel. I’ve lost almost 20 lbs. We’re tired. Feeling weak. But you know, as tired as we are, there is still a hunger within us for justice. A hunger to be heard. A hunger for the end of this suffering. We’re going to be here as long as our bodies will hold out. We’re not going anywhere.”
Janet Murguía wrote a great piece explaining why the Fast for Families is so important — and why the time for reform has come. Check out the full article here — and like Fast for Families on Facebook to stay up on the latest.
WASHINGTON, DC – After the U.S. Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:
“Today’s vote in the Senate is a huge victory for LGBT workers across America who live in states where they have no protection against discrimination and bigotry on the job. But while passing ENDA through the Senate marks great progress, there is still an enormous amount of work to do to make it law.
“As is often the case these days, the burden now rests on the House to finish the job – ‘The People’s House.’ Americans overwhelmingly support federal protection for workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Yet, Speaker Boehner has made his opposition to ENDA quite clear, citing absurd reasons like frivolous lawsuits and lost jobs. If Speaker Boehner prevents ENDA from receiving a fair up or down vote in the House, he will find himself in history textbooks as the Speaker who prevented landmark civil rights legislation from becoming law. The House must pass ENDA and carry out the will of the American people.”
The federal government may be in shutdown mode, but our advocacy around key issues that affect working families continues. As part of our ongoing efforts to support the rights of all workers, SEIU Local 509 has joined forces with Keeping Families Together — a coalition of dozens of community, faith and labor groups united in the fight for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
This Saturday, October 5, Keeping Families Together and hundreds of other community coalitions across the country are sponsoring a national day of action to demand congress enact immigration reform now. In Boston, we’ll gather at noon outside the Boston Public Library near Copley Square:
This is a true statewide gathering, and caravans will be driving in from a number of cities throughout the Commonwealth:
WILLIAMSTOWN: Contact Cesar Serrano 760-884-6998
SPRINGFIELD: Contact Bliss Requa-Trautz 774-722-1511/ email@example.com
WORCESTER: Contact Maria Lorena Valencia 781-521-2239 / firstname.lastname@example.org
FITCHBURG: Contact Miguel Leal 978-342-2069 / email@example.com
LYNN: Contact Julio Ruiz 857-227-4072
BROCKTON: Contact Angel Cosme, 617-512-5305 / firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW BEDFORD: Contact Adrian Ventura 774-961-8283 / email@example.com
Join thousands of working families from across the country in sending a message to congress: “Make immigration reform a reality in 2013!”Let’s show our leaders that all workers deserve dignity and respect, regardless of where they were born!
Members of the Keeping Families Together coalition include: American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLU), American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), ADL’s Latino-Jewish Roundtable, Anti-Defamation League, The African Council, Agencia ALPHA, Berkshire Immigrant Center, Birfly Conexion Juvenil Inmigrante, Boston New Sanctuary Movement (BNSM), Boston College Students, Brazilian Immigrant Center, Brazilian Women’s Group, Brockton Interfaith Community, Centro Presente, Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores de New Bedford, Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores de Lynn, Chinese Progressive Association, Chelsea Collaborative, Cleghorn Neighborhood Center, Comite de Refugiados El Salvador (CORES), Dominican Development Center, East Boston Ecumenical Community Council (EBECC), Emerson College Students / EmersonUNITE, Harvard College Act on a Dream, Harvard Kennedy School Students, Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC), Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative, Jobs with Justice, Just Communities of Western Massachusetts, La Comunidad Inc, Latinas Know Your Rights, Latinos Unidos de Massachusetts (LUMA), Maria Luisa de Moreno International Foundation, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA Coalition), MassCOSH, Matahari Eye of the Day, MIRA USA, Neighbors United for a Better East Boston, New Hampshire Alliance of Immigrants and Refugees, Oiste?, Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance (QAPA), REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, SEIU 32BJ/615, SEIU 1199, SEIU Local 509, Student Immigrant Movement, UNITE HERE Local 26, Williams College Students, and Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD).
Adjunct faculty at Tufts University have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a forming union with Adjunct Action/SEIU. Ballots were counted today at the National Labor Relations Board, and the victory was announced this afternoon. The win sets the table for contract negotiations at Tufts.
“This victory is exciting and important for the entire Tufts University community. I’m happy that my part-time colleagues and I will have a greater say in making Tufts an even better place to work and to learn,” said Carol Wilkinson, a part-time lecturer who has taught at Tufts since 1986.
Instructors at Tufts, Bentley, Northeastern University, and other Boston area colleges and universities are part of a growing movement of adjunct and contingent faculty coming together for a voice in their profession and in the future of higher education.
The victory comes after adjuncts in Georgetown University in formed a union with SEIU in May, joining DC faculty who formed unions at American University, George Washington University, and Montgomery College. In addition to adjunct organizing efforts in Boston, campaigns are underway in Los Angeles, Washington, DC and Seattle.
“Now that we’ve won our union at Tufts, we’ll be preparing for the collective bargaining process that is the only hope for achieving a measure of democracy, balance, and fairness in the academic workplace,” said Tufts part-time faculty member Andy Klatt. This is an important victory for part-time faculty at Tufts and an encouraging step in the movement to organize contingent faculty across the country.”
Voting is currently underway at Bentley University, where ballots will be counted on October 4th. Jack Dempsey, an adjunct professor at Bentley and a member of the organizing committee there, expressed his support for Tufts.
“We want to congratulate the part-time faculty at Tufts University on their campaign to unionize and stand up for the value that they contribute to their school and students,” he said. “When we win our vote to unionize on October 4th, we’ll be thinking of you and thinking ahead to a regional and national effort with our sisters and brothers at Tufts and other schools. The day of our second-rate status is ending, and a new one is on the horizon.”
For more information on SEIU’s Adjunct Action campaign, visit www.adjunctaction.org.
Two dynamic and telegenic Hispanic doctors on the front-lines of community healthcare delivery today hosted a teleconference to launch a new SEIU online video campaign about the federal and state health insurance marketplaces that open for enrollment Tuesday, October 1. The online launch is part of a wider, shoe-leather-style SEIU outreach strategy to spread the word to Latinos, a community with the highest share of people without health insurance in most states. SEIU members will reach out to Latinos in more than a dozen states about the new healthcare coverage options soon available to them under the Affordable Care Act. Check out the videos below in English and Spanish.
“I have members of my own family who are hearing about the new healthcare law from their employers and asking me about it,” says Dr. Say Salomón, an internal medicine resident in a Brooklyn hospital whose parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic. “People of all ages in our community want to know who to turn to for information. That’s why it’s important to get the word out.”
The lively, bilingual videos are the first in a two-part series about lower-cost and no-cost coverage the new healthcare law makes available to millions of working people, those who don’t get insurance through their employers and can’t afford it on their own. Dr. Salomón appears in 90- and 30-second versions of the videos alongside Dr. Michelle Espinoza, the chief family medicine resident at a Queens hospital, whose family ties are to Argentina. Both doctors in the outreach video are among the 13,000 members of the Committee of Interns and Residents of SEIU Healthcare. Members affiliated with both public and private hospitals nationwide will join in the video and social media campaign.
“Although the healthcare law’s inevitable now, not everybody knows about it – not even in the healthcare community,” Dr. Salomón said. “People aren’t yet clear on the basics – they think it’s a government program and don’t realize that the marketplaces are run with private insurers. They compete against each other and that’s what’s lowering costs already.”
The outreach to Latinos and the new videos – which quickly cover the important basic benefits of the new law and how to sign up for coverage – are part of a larger national outreach campaign by SEIU to reach out to 2 million citizens nationwide in coming months. SEIU President Mary Kay Henry announced the overall national outreach strategy earlier this month with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and a Pittsburgh area nurse leader. SEIU doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, childcare providers and other SEIU members are already talking with their friends, co-workers and neighbors in more than 30 major metropolitan areas in 20 states, with a focus on reaching hard-working, African-American and Latino Americans over 35 years old.
As of October 1, millions of working people who don’t get health insurance through their employers will be able to buy affordable insurance through the new healthcare marketplaces, where insurers compete against each other. The website is also available in Spanish at www.cuidadodesalud.gov.
Next week the SEIU Healthcare doctors will launch a second series of videos for Latinos about the Medicaid coverage available to more people under the Affordable Care Act, health coverage that provides life-saving care to low-income working people who can’t afford to buy insurance.
Workers, small business owners, and health care officials testified at a legislative hearing today in favor of a bill to allow all Massachusetts workers to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. The hearing highlighted the widespread support for this legislation, which will help over one million Massachusetts workers, almost one third of the state’s workforce, who are currently unable to take a single sick day to care for themselves or their families, without risk of being fired.
“As a Personal Care Attendant and a health care worker I am committed to providing the best care possible to my client,” said Emily Rodriguez. “I do this work because I care about people and I want everyone to be able to live full, healthy lives. Due to the lack of earned sick time there have been times I was sick with a virus and I had to go to work anyway. I could not afford to lose wages by calling out sick so I went to my consumer employer’s house to take care of him – which not only made me feel worse but also put him in danger of getting sick as well. As low wage health care workers, the only way we can provide the best care is if we are also able to care for ourselves.”
Senator Dan Wolf, lead sponsor of the bill, said he recognizes the value of earned sick time both as an elected official and a business owner. His company, Cape Air, started with six employees, has grown to over 1,000, and has always included earned sick time for employees.
“Earned sick time should be a standard for all businesses and a right for all workers,” said Wolf. “I’ve found with my own company, businesses are the true beneficiaries of earned sick time because it reduces employee turnover, keeps workers healthy and productive at work, and increases morale.”
Other cities and states across the country have adopted sick day policies to improve public health and ensure that when workers are sick they will not lose pay – or worse, their jobs. New York City has an earned sick time law, as does our neighboring state of Connecticut.
“Earned sick time legislation is a moral and economic imperative,” said State Treasurer Steven Grossman, who testified in favor of the bill today. “My family business has had it for more than 25 years and it has strengthened our entire workforce.”
“I support earned sick time as a matter of basic fairness for workers,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley. “When people get sick, they should be able to get treatment without being penalized at work. It also allows people to better seek preventive health care that will control health costs for businesses and families in the long-term.”
The earned sick time legislation is gaining momentum in Massachusetts and currently sits before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development, which is co-chaired by Senator Wolf and Representative Tom Conroy. The bill heard today varies from the ballot question approved by the Attorney General to appear on the 2014 ballot.
“No Massachusetts worker should have to choose between caring for a family and earning a day’s pay,” said Steven Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “Clearly, our state needs a new basic workplace standard to accommodate the needs of today’s working families. If we believe in family values, then we should demonstrate that by valuing families and providing earned sick time.”
“We adopted our earned sick time policy at SnoOwl since learning about the bill from community members,” said Jasiel Correia, II, founder of SnoOwl and also a business incubator set to launch in Fall River in early October “By offering sick time to my workers, I show them that I respect their loyalty and value their commitment to this company. As a small business, it is the most important benefit I provide.”
“We proudly claim that Massachusetts residents have universal access to health care,” said Elizabeth Toulan, senior attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. “The truth is that one out of every three Massachusetts workers earns no sick time and risks losing their job if they stay home sick or to care for a sick child.”
If the legislature fails to pass the pending bill, Raise Up Massachusetts, a statewide coalition of community, faith and labor organizations, will continue working toward putting earned sick time on the November 2014 ballot. Hundreds of volunteers skipped today’s hearing to be at the polls, gathering the signatures needed to place the question on next year’s ballot.
The ballot initiative protects workers from being fired if they need time off from work because they are sick or need to care for a sick child, parent, or spouse. Workers can also earn time for preventative care measures such as doctor’s appointments, eye exams, and yearly physicals.
“We always warn people to stay home if they’re sick. It’s a message you’ll hear us repeat more and more as flu season rolls around,” said Dr. Anita Barry, Director of the Infectious Disease Bureau at the Boston Public Health Commission. “But the reality is that only works when people can afford to stay home. Too many folks, especially low-wage earners and people of color, run the risk of losing their jobs by following what we know is sensible public health advice, and that has to change. This is about more than public health. It’s about fairness. Earned sick time should be a basic right to all workers.”