State Worker News

SEIU Local 509 Statement on DCF Announcement in Jeremiah Oliver Case

The Massachusetts Human Service Workers Union, SEIU Local 509, released the following statement regarding today’s announcement by the Department of Children & Families (DCF) in the case of Jeremiah Oliver. The statement is attributable to union spokesman Jason Stephany:

“From day one, front-line social workers throughout the Department of Children & Families have been clear in their call for accountability in the case of Jeremiah Oliver. Following the investigation, DCF has taken steps to ensure those who bear responsibility in this tragedy are held accountable – including the overloaded caseworkers involved and Department administrators who ignored red flags.”

“As Commissioner Roche stated, the Department of Children & Families has begun to implement new policies and procedures to help prevent future tragedies from occurring – not the least of which is a commitment to addressing the caseload crisis. We will continue to work with the Administration to fulfill these commitments and bring caseloads at the Department of Children & Families down to the manageable levels needed to keep at-risk children safe.”

SEIU Local 509 represents caseworkers at the Department of Children & Families, along with more than 17,000 other human service workers and educators throughout the commonwealth. SEIU 509 members provide a variety of educational and social services to at-risk children, elders and people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. Local 509 is part of the Service Employees International Union, the largest and fastest-growing labor union in the United States.

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Message from DCF Chapter President Peter MacKinnon on Fitchburg Tragedy


I don’t need to tell you that the last week has been an incredibly trying time for all of us at the Department of Children & Families. There are no words to describe the tragedy that has occurred in Fitchburg, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of Jeremiah Oliver and all those impacted by this case.

I’ll lay the situation out plain: if the allegations put forward by Commissioner Roche are proven true by a formal investigation, then the individuals involved — including DCF managers — must be held accountable. Those who played a role in this tragedy must accept responsibility. And in an effort to get to the truth quickly in this specific case and ensure accountability for everyone involved, we have agreed to an expedited grievance hearing process. But the Department cannot afford to let this single case paper over the real, systemic caseload crisis that overshadows the critical work we do each day. 

Those of us who are on the front lines, working to protect our communities’ most at-risk kids, know just how serious this crisis has become. Promises of movement are no longer sufficient. And as Judge William Young so succinctly put in the Connor B case weeks ago, immediate action is needed to address the crisis before another tragedy occurs.

No one has done more to take on and address the systemic issues at the Department of Children & Families than this union. Over 1,000 of us have come to highlight the critical need for additional caseworkers at DCF. We put years into securing a monumental agreement to bring caseloads closer to safe and manageable levels. And we’ve consistently pushed real, tangible solutions in face-to-face meetings with the Commissioner and her staff — including some ideas that wouldn’t cost any money. 

As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, we’ve been working hard to educate the media about what’s really at stake with the caseload crisis at DCF. Nearly two dozen media outlets have addressed the caseload crisis in their reporting over the last three days — be sure to check out stories from State House NewsWBUR Radio and theWorcester Telegram, among others.

These have been tough days for all of us, and there will likely be more to come. We’ve already heard of new proposals from the administration that will pose both challenges and opportunities — and will be addressing those in short order. I will be sure to keep everyone up to date as information becomes available.

We know that, working together, we can bring about the real, systemic change that is needed to ensure each and every child in Massachusetts receives the best care possible. 

Thank you for all you do,

Peter MacKinnon
DCF Chapter President, SEIU Local 509

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Local 509 on DCF Caseload Crisis: Barring Immediate Action, It’s Only A Matter of Time Before Another Tragedy Occurs

SEIU Local 509 Statement on DCF Fitchburg Case

In response to comments made by Department of Children & Families Commissioner Olga Roche on a pending case at the agency’s North Central Office, SEIU Local 509 released the following statement, attributable to union spokesman Jason Stephany:

“We are disappointed that Commissioner Roche is more interested in finger-pointing than accepting responsibility for yet another tragedy on her watch.

“The sad truth is that caseloads at the Department of Children & Families have long stood at crisis levels, yet Commissioner Roche has done little to address them. Instead, the Commissioner has chosen a convenient scapegoat to deflect blame from department administrators – terminating caseworkers without any formal investigation, whatsoever.

“If the actions of the caseworkers in question warrant termination, Commissioner Roche should proceed with a formal investigation and make her case, as legally required. But without immediate action to address the Commissioner’s caseload crisis, it is only a matter of time before another tragedy occurs.”

SEIU Local 509 represents caseworkers at the Department of Children & Families, along with more than 17,000 other human service workers and educators throughout the commonwealth. SEIU 509 members provide a variety of educational and social services to at-risk children, elders and people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. Local 509 is part of the Service Employees International Union, the largest and fastest-growing labor union in the United States.

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House Bill 59: It Goes Too Far.

The personal stories of workers featured in the above video paint a clear picture of what’s at stake in House Bill 59 — Governor Deval Patrick’s proposed changes to retiree healthcare. Simply put, HB59 goes to far.

Under House Bill 59, workers just two or three years from retirement could see the rules changed so drastically they would have to work another 22 years to receive promised benefits. The legislation has its biggest impact on low-wage workers, and offers no real cost-saving measures other than spiking out-of-pocket expenses for seniors – meaning future retirees will bear 100% of the cost burden of these reforms. Even worse, HB59 penalizes workers who must take a leave of absence for the birth of a child or death of a loved one.

That’s why hundreds of workers across the commonwealth are taking action to educate their legislators about the negative impact of House Bill 59 — testifying at public hearings, sending letters to Representatives and Senators, and meeting face-to-face with key legislative leaders. You can take action today to protect retiree healthcare.

Retiree Healthcare Click Here Button Additional Resources

  • Read Local 509 President Susan Tousignant’s testimony on House Bill 59 here.
  • Access the proposed legislation in its entirety by clicking here.
  • Download the Special Commission’s report on Retiree Healthcare here.
  • Invite fellow concerned workers to contact their legislators here.
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Message from Governor Patrick on the Federal Government Shutdown

Dear Colleagues,

As you know, the shutdown of the federal government has triggered layoffs and furloughs for many federal employees. You may also have seen news reports speculating about the potential impact on state government. There is still much uncertainty, mainly because the impact on our state and on state government is greater the longer the federal shutdown lasts. Here’s what I can safely tell you right now. The shutdown is hurting Massachusetts. Federal contracts going unfunded and federal programs at risk of running out of money do both direct and indirect harm to our people, our businesses and our economy as a whole. Some programs in state government are funded in whole or in part through federal grants and, in those cases, there is the potential for furloughs and layoffs of staff. This is not imminent. We are doing our best to calculate at what point in a prolonged federal shutdown we may have to take state action, and will communicate with you as and when we have a better handle on that.

Please be assured that we are taking this situation seriously, and will use every flexibility and resource we have to keep state government fully functioning and you on the job serving the public. However, we cannot fill the gaps left by the shutdown for very long. In order not to place vital programs in further jeopardy, Congress must reopen the federal government and pass a budget that both resumes funding and reimburses the state for any cost we incur during the shutdown. Governors across the political spectrum have joined in that very appeal. Meanwhile, stay focused on your duties and please accept my continued thanks for all the good work you do on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth.


Deval Patrick Signature

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Alliance Contract Negotiations in Full Swing!

MRC Lowell Staff Rally for a Fair Contract

Workers at MRC Lowell were among the thousands of state employees wearing “Fair Contract NOW!” stickers on the first day of negotiations.

State contract negotiations are already in full swing, and Local 509 members are more prepared than ever for the potential fight ahead. Dozens of leaders prepped at Bargaining Team caucus meetings, and more than 1,700 members responded to our contract survey –- sharing their ideas, concerns and priorities for the upcoming negotiation sessions. This trove of information will serve as the foundation for many of the proposals we put forward in the coming weeks, and we are fired up and ready to go!

The first Alliance Contract negotiation session took place on July 31, and Local 509 members put their solidarity on full display. Thousands of state workers rocked their ‘Fair Contract NOW’ stickers to send management a clear message: let’s get this thing done! (Check out the Local 509 Facebook Page to see a few of the many photos members sent in throughout the day.)

With so much at stake in this contract — from wages to benefits to working conditions — it’s incredibly important that as many workers as possible get engaged in the negotiation process. A quick and easy way to get involved is to sign up for the Contract Action Team (CAT) for your chapter/worksite. As a CAT member, you’ll communicate important negotiation updates to co-workers at your worksite and help mobilize members for key contract actions as the process moves forward.

Workers have set a goal of building a 750-member CAT team in the coming weeks, so there’s no shortage of opportunities to make a difference. Together we can win a strong contract for all state workers!

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New Public-Sector Stewards Trainings Announced

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Sign Up to Attend the February 28th DCF Stewards Training in Worcester

Union Stewards are members like you who volunteer to help make a stronger and more effective Union. At the stewards training, you’ll receive training on how to make sure our contract is enforced and what you can do to stand up for your co-workers and help them stand up for themselves.

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2012 Annual Meeting Details

Come to the 2012 Annual Meeting

Saturday, October 27th
The Publick House – Sturbridge, MA (map)
Registration – 9:30am, Meeting Begins 10:00am

Click here to RSVP

This year our members have accomplished an amazing number of victories at work and at the State House. Through the tremendous efforts that many of you put in, we protected collective bargaining for state employees, moved Local 509 members into new retirement groups, got millions for private sector human service wages, created the opportunity for thousands of new Local 509 members, and accomplished many other victories for our members.
But we’re not done yet!
We’ve got a number of additional priorities for our membership in the upcoming year, and I invite you to join me and the rest of SEIU Local 509 as we lay our plan to win for Local 509 members and all working families in 2013.
Susan Tousignant
President, SEIU Local 509

Click here for the list of officer vacancies to be filled at the annual meeting

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Contact Your Legislators to Support a Fair Budget

The House and the Senate have both passed their state budgets for the upcoming year, but before the budget goes to Governor Patrick’s desk, the differences between the House and Senate versions need to be worked out. There are a number of issues that are very important to Local 509 members that are up for debate in the Conference Committee that works out the differences.

In order to make sure that our concerns are included in the final budget, we urge all members to contact their legislators to tell them how important these changes would be to them and the individuals that we work with. Click the links below to contact your legislators today.

  • Prevent the Closure of Taunton State Hospital: Stop and Study – Calls for a comprehensive study of the actual mental health services available in our state and what is needed before we allow the closure of Taunton State Hospital or cuts to any other services.
  • Human Services Salary Reserve – Provides a long overdue pay increase for private sector human service workers, most of whom make $9-$10 an hour. A Salary Reserve is vital as well because it includes language that requires that salary reserve increases be above and beyond any already negotiated pay increases.
  • Increase DTA Funding – As caseloads continue to rise at DTA, it is vital that we have the staff to process these requests in an efficient and accurate manor.
  • DDS FY13 budget priorities – Service Coordinators provide case management, safety, monitoring and oversight for the DDS population. Since 2008, 82 Service Coordinator positions have been lost — despite increases in the population of vulnerable citizens that need these services.
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