SEIU 509’s Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission chapter is in arbitration with management because they laid off 23 workers. SEIU 509 believes that their rights were violated under Article 18. Our union is fighting in court to get their jobs back.
In addition, our union is challenging management’s attempt to close offices. We want to keep offices in the communities to make our services accessible to the individuals we serve. Many of our consumers rely on public transportation and desire a safe place for counselors to meet with their clients. Finding a safe, confidential space in the community to meet with consumers is difficult.
This year, SEIU 509 successfully reversed an attempt by management to lower our educational standards. Management wanted Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors to be hired with a Bachelor’s Degree. Our clients deserve to work with Master’s level counselors with knowledge about disabilities.
Plus, our union wants to change or eliminate Disability Determination Services core hours. DDS requires our members to be at their desk or on break from 9:30-11:30 AM and from 1:00 to 3:00 PM. Instead, we are working with management to roll out an alternative work options (AWO) program.
Finally, we want the MRC Commissioner to meet and communicate more effectively with our members.
By fighting for these issues, we are ensuring that we have more manageable caseloads and smoother labor-management relationship to offer high-quality, effective and efficient services to the public. Thank you MRC members for your hard work and participation to date!
MRC Chapter President David Zbikowski
Over the past year, members stood in solidarity with the union bargaining committee and took action at work sites. As a result, SEIU 509 state workers won a new contract that offers more pay, more job security and better working conditions.
Some highlights include:
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.
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
Your response is needed to help us tackle WIOA challenges!
As an MRC VR family, we know that the work of VR counselors has taken on a new dimension since the passing of the Work Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA). Our work with Transition-Aged Youth has taken on a new depth — and we know that many counselors are concerned about how new programs implemented by the agency will affect direct client service delivery.
As you likely know, there is an open demand to bargain with MRC management over the impact of WIOA on counselors’ daily activities. With the final rules governing WIOA now out, management has agreed to meet with us to discuss our concerns.
In order to fully communicate these challenges and concerns, we need your feedback as it relates to the agency’s interpretation of the law and the implementation of WIOA. We ask that all impacted VR counselors fill out this survey, which will take approximately 20 minutes to complete:
CLICK HERE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE WIOA SURVEY
(Note: the survey has been updated to address a question glitch. If you have already participated, you do not need to re-take the survey.)
This survey addresses different aspects of WIOA — ranging from your work with Transition Aged Youth to MRCIS concerns. The insights we’ll gain are incredibly helpful in making a strong case to agency managers, so please be as thoughtful in your responses as possible.
Our first meeting with management is set for this Thursday, so we hope to hit the ground running with as many responses as possible in the next 24 hours. Thank you in advance for helping ensure our voices are heard!
In peace and solidarity,
MRC Chapter President
P.S. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.
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.
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!
The MRC Chapter Board has reminded me that you, our MRC members aren’t getting as much information about our activities and challenges as you need to feel connected.
First, we are experiencing vacancies on the Chapter Board. Currently we have vacancies in the South VR and the Administrative Offices. Julie Arroyo from Malden was just elected to fill the VR North vacant seat. If anyone is interested from the other locations, please call or e-mail me at the Lawrence MRC.
We have contacts or stewards in every location but have discovered that the monthly Chapter Board minutes have not been distributed. I have requested that they be posted on the 509 website so that you all may read them.
One major recent activity was the Reallocation Hearing for the QVRC series. On May 4th, Corey Durham, Pat Chabot and I met with representatives from OER and HRD to “state our case”, which Corey did quite eloquently. She had also prepared and distributed binders documenting the information which was presented . Pat, Cory and I have copies if anyone wants to visit to review the material. We felt that the hearing went well and are awaiting a response from the Commonwealth. We felt all of your support and solidarity when you wore purple on that day!
Pat and Rick Hanauer are also representing us on committees including the EPRS and Health and Safety Committees. I have been participating in the Grievance Committee Hearings at the Local until Dick Gates our Secretary of Grievances can resume his duties. The Union is referring cases to Alternative Dispute Resolution to try to eliminate the backlog at step 3 (OER). New cases are being filed at step 3. Any class actions or grievances with multiple witnesses will require a full hearing. Some of these which are in the queue the Unit Supervisors working Out of classification and not being paid , the SNO/Christmas Holiday grievance, the Tornado grievance and other individual grievances.
We have repeatedly asked MRC management for closure on the Alternative Work Options survey and committee work. Thus far, they have stonewalled us and more or less indicated that they will take no further action. Local 509 will be pursuing more flexibility in schedules as part of the last contract negotiations, so don’t give up. There are manager in other agencies who have seen the benefit of four day workweeks, flexible time and telecommuting so perhaps within the larger context we will fare better.
I have been very busy in the North Region. I believe in the Golden Rule. I believe that you get what you give. I believe that what goes around comes around. And I believe that the North Regional Director who has treated our members so disrespectfully and with such meanness is now receiving payback. L has throughout the years benefitted from the hard work of our members. Yet in this past year, she has encouraged members to file grievances, only to rule against them. She has overlooked horrific acts on the part of her “pet” managers, even after they retire. Now she has four vacant AD positions . She wouldn’t authorize travel to one supervisor who was willing to be acting. She wouldn’t fight for the higher pay rate so in-house qualified applicants have turned down the job. Boohoo. Poor L.
I was very pleased to hear that the CFO was fired. I want to again remind you that you can submit your travel more than a month after the travel is incurred, that you can get reimbursed for tolls and parking, that there is an automobile allowance in addition to the mileage rate. And clients really don’t have to go on direct deposit for CDP, that was for vendors. And the new self reporting for Time and Attendance is not to change practice or prevent part time employees from getting flex time. Someone was paying attention!
I was also thrilled to read the line item in the 2013 Senate Budget that ended with language to the effect that the Sturbridge Office would remain open and fully staffed exactly one week before we were scheduled for a “Demand to Bargain” the closing of the office. Of course, MRC management hasn’t said a word so I’m hoping that Senator Brewer will help us keep the office open.
Last week, the Program Coordinators in SES who have been “doing” our bargaining unit work were offered the opportunity to become QVRC’s. We have made it clear that if and when the SES is phased out to the field, they will have no transfer rights unless they are in the Q series.
It’s hard to believe that it has already been a year since my last report. (Whoa, that sounds like I’m about to make a confession… don’t worry, I’m not.)
Our Chapter Executive Board members are, along with me: Pat Chabot and Rick Hanauer who also are our Joint Executive Board representatives; Corey Durham, Mike Tomasko, Dawn Davis, Dick Gates, Nancy Donovan, Lynne McDonald, Jamie Leader, Jen Cornette and John Agboola from the VR Division; Liz Mahoney from AO; and Matt Dichard, Aja James, Paul Davenport, Alan Dennen and Gary Small from DDS and Jerry Levinsky our Local 509 Field Rep. In addition to the work that they perform daily as the leaders in our Chapter some of them also serve on committees. Lynne and Rick are both representatives on an agency wide Governor’s Advisory Committee on Employee Safety and Health. Rick and Mike are both on the Committee for Joint Technology. We are all kept very busy but I hope anyone reading this knows that all of us try to get answers to your questions and work on your behalf to make MRC a better, fairer workplace.
Some of the things which we have accomplished this year are securing additional supervisor positions in VR, preventing layoffs when programs were downsized in the Administrative offices, convincing the EOHHS Administration to consider the downside of cubicles and EHS centers, and encouraging promotional opportunities in both VR and DDS. We continue to work with management towards mutual respect in the workplace. MRC has begun to backfill SES positions with QVRC’s rather than PC’s. This is a first step in getting the positions correctly classified. Recently, we were able to get a year’s extension for the members on ARRA positions who had not been able to transfer to vacant positions. These are a few of the things that are resolved or heading towards resolution. We still have a number of grievances both individual and class actions which are making their way through the grievance procedure. We appreciate all of the support of the members and are proud to represent you.
Today, state workers voted overwhelmingly to ratify their contract!
3252 – YES
212 – NO
8 – blank
237 – YES
4 – NO
Thanks to all of the poll captains and volunteers who staffed the 26 balloting sites across the state. Your hard work was instrumental in making today’s vote a smooth process.
To see the details of the newly ratified settlement, click here to read the Memorandum of Understanding