Weekly Labor Reader, June 13, 2019

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"Every child deserves a fair common ground to start from and if everyone pays their #FairShare, this will become a reality." -- Amber Roderick, MTA member

"Massachusetts Infrastructure score of D+ earned us a ranking of 9th Worst In The Nation. Boston drivers wasted an average of 164 hours in rush-hour traffic in 2018, the highest total among U.S. cities. The Fair Share Amendment provides the necessary investment to fixing our transportation problems." -- Frank Callahan, President of the Mass. Building Trades Council

SEIU 1199 Nursing Home Workers Authorize Strike

Yesterday, nursing home workers at Saugus Care & Rehabilitation Center announced they have submitted a notice to strike on June 20 and 21. 1199 members face a crisis of low wages and mismanagement which stems from the larger nursing home industry crisis in Massachusetts. Out of state owners enter the market without interest in investing in employees, residents, or the communities they serve.

Workers are demanding a fair contract that honors their hard work and dedicated service. We all know that quality care comes from quality jobs. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “all labor has dignity.” Management at Saugus are not treating workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.

“I’ve been working full-time at Blue Hills for 12 years. It’s very unfortunate that the owners of this company will not cooperate with caregivers for a fair contract. We deserve fair wages in order to provide for our own families.” Stephanie Hoppstetter, Certified Nursing Assistant

This fight is not just for nursing home workers, it is a fight that all healthcare workers are behind to protect quality care at every stage of life. As workers go on strike, we hope that you will stand with us to protect standards for quality care and good jobs in our community.

Sign this petition to urge both owners to the bargaining table to settle a fair contract that lifts wages and enhances resident care.

AFSCME Custodians in Saugus Fight Privatization

Contracts for the Saugus school district’s 20 custodians are set to expire on June 30 and hundreds of residents are petitioning for the School Committee to reject the idea of privatizing their jobs.

“Such an action would remove taxpayer control in governmental accountability over the cleaning and maintenance of the town’s school buildings,” the resolution reads. “Eliminating the current custodial positions and replacing them with a private company would make our schools more susceptible to theft, reduce the quality delivered to our students, and replace loyal, hardworking and dedicated employees with transient workers being paid at the poverty level.”

It calls on the School Committee to instead negotiate a fair contract with the custodial staff. Protesters plan to demonstrate at the next Saugus School Committee meeting, to demand that the Committee negotiate a contract which will alleviate the threat of privatization.

Read more from ItemLive here and here.

And join the demonstration at the June 20th School Committee meeting to show that public services belong to the public!

One Job Should be Enough for Airline Food Workers - Strike Vote

Hundreds of union workers who prepare food served on American Airlines and United Airlines flights from Logan Airport plan to vote on a strike authorization Thursday.
Unite Here Local 26, the union representing the workers, expects the resolution to pass and is organizing a demonstration at Logan on July 3, when the airport is likely to be crammed with Independence Day travelers.
If the 345 workers represented by the union do authorize a strike, they will not walk off the job immediately. Union leaders will continue to negotiate, through a federal mediator, with LSG Sky Chefs, the company that employs them and supplies food to airlines. To go on strike, workers would need permission from the National Mediation Board.
The group of airline food workers in Boston is just one of 21 taking strike votes this week, according to Unite Here. Roughly 11,000 food workers nationwide are mulling strikes at airports in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Dallas.

Read more from WBUR and the Boston Globe here.

Learn more at Airport Strike Alert here.

First Victory for the Fair Share Amendment

Yesterday the Fair Share Amendment passed the state’s Constitutional Convention with 75% of the MA State Legislature voting in favor. The proposed tax on incomes above $1 million would raise approximately $2 billion a year for spending on transportation and public education.  

State Representative Jim O’Day and State Senator Jason Lewis each championed legislation in January to being the legislative process of amending the constitution with the Fair Share Amendment with broad public support. Beth Huang, Director of the Massachusetts Voter Table and a Co-Chair of the Raise Up Massachusetts Grassroots Committee said, “More than 100 community, faith, and labor groups all across Massachusetts strongly support the Fair Share Amendment because it’s the most fair, progressive, and sustainable way to raise the major new revenue Massachusetts needs to invest in transportation and public education, year after year.”
The Fair Share Amendment needed a 50% vote of the constitutional convention to advance yesterday. Now, it will need to receive another 50% vote of the constitutional convention during the 2021/2022 legislative session in order to be placed on the November 2022 ballot.

MA Unions Celebrate Pride

Last Saturday, thousands took to the streets of Boston to celebrate the annual Boston Pride parade. Connect with Pride at Work Eastern MA to learn more and get involved in building power for LGBTQ+ workers!

And as we celebrate, we also continue to fight for equal rights for all LGBTQ+ workers and community members. Check out this article from an NEA Worcester educator who asks, "Are our schools safe for LGBTQ+ immigrants?"

And listen to the latest edition of the State of the Unions podcast: Union Proud: A Conversation with Pride at Work Executive Director Jerame Davis.

MNA Warns: Baystate Hospital "Washing Their Hands Clean of Mental Health"

On the face of it, Baystate Health’s plan for a new mental health facility in Holyoke seems like a boon for the region. The proposed new facility will have approximately 130 beds, increasing the total number in the region by 30 percent.

The new facility also offers mental health beds for geriatric and pediatric patients, as well as those who are disruptive or have a substance abuse problem. Right now, many of these hard-to-place patients “board” for days if not weeks in emergency rooms waiting for inpatient care. Get the Daily Download Our news roundup delivered every weekday. “Because of the increase in bed capacity and an improved environment of care, we envision that we will be able to treat a broader spectrum of patients in the new facility, including patients who have historically needed to be sent to the Boston area for care,” said Dr. Barry Sarvet, chair of psychiatry at Baystate Health.

But as it opens the new facility, Baystate plans to close smaller mental health units at three of its community hospitals in Westfield, Palmer, and Greenfield. According to mental health patients, providers, and advocates in these smaller communities, that’s not a fair trade. Each of the smaller hospital-based units slated to close are deeply rooted in the communities they serve.  Patients and service providers rely on them as part of a web of supports that help people with serious mental health conditions stay in their communities.

In contrast, the new facility is relatively far away in a region with spotty and circuitous bus service. The new facility will also be operated as a private entity, which has stoked the concerns of advocates and patients who wonder whether the focus will be on profits instead of patient care.  Baystate will be a minority partner (33 percent) in the project with US Healthvest, a behavioral health services company based in New York that runs half a dozen behavioral health for-profit companies around the nation. US Healthvest is also opening a 120-bed facility in Worcester this year. Donna Stern, a nurse on the Baystate Franklin mental health unit in Greenfield and a local leader of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said closing community hospital beds and investing as a minority partner in a private company means Baystate Health is “essentially washing their hands clean of mental health.”

As a for-profit, she said, the new facility will have no requirement to admit people who are uninsured, and will accept a smaller percentage of people covered by Medicaid, the health insurance program operated by the state and federal government. “We take people every day who do not have insurance,” she said. “We are the last safety net for these folks.”

Read more from CommonWealth Magazine here.

Stand with Nurses to Save the Somerville Emergency Department

The Cambridge Health Alliance wants to close the Somerville Emergency Department and make it into another Urgent Care that is only open 12 hours a day. Sign this petition and join the campaign to save the ER!

If the Somerville Emergency Department closes that will leave the 82,000 plus citizens of Somerville without an Emergency room. Residents will have to go to Boston, Cambridge, Everett for its closest Emergency care. Somerville is far too large of a city with its booming growth to not have its own Emergency Department. The city of Somerville is the most densely populated city per square mile in all of New England.

For more than 128 years, Somerville Hospital has provided emergency services and a health care safety net to Somerville and surrounding communities. In the coming months, Cambridge Health Alliance is proposing to close our emergency department and other key services that provide around the clock life-saving care to our community's most vulnerable patients when it matters most. The proposal calls for the replacement of this service with an urgent care center that cannot provide the same level of care, nor provide care 24/7. The Coalition to Save the Somerville ER, an alliance of residents, nurses and dedicated employees, have launched a campaign to preserve this vitally important service.

Sign the petition and read more here.

June 13: AFL-CIO Communications Roundtable Campaigns Workshop

June 18: Pride at Work Fighting Discrimination

June 20: Fight Saugus Custodian Privatization

June 20: Building Trades Issues Central MA

June 21-23: WILD Summer Institute

June 27: Boston City Council Hearing on Grad Student Union Organizing

June 27: MA AFL-CIO Political & Legislative Roundtable

To view all upcoming events, visit the calendar on our website. If you have an upcoming event or action that you would like included, email Rachael Running at [email protected]

@IUPAT_DC35: IUPAT DC 35 helps build a new accessible home for war veteran Cpl. Paul Skarinka https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqaVVEuGevk … https://iupatdc35.org/woundedwarriorsproject/ …

@WorcesterFD1009: The @THE_PFFM Biannual Convention always starts with a memoriam for members lost. A special moment was provided for our fallen brother Chris Roy. #Weneverforget #PFFM2019 #WorcFFsL1009