Esmeralda Baez, Laundry Worker and Frontline Hero

Meet Esmeralda Baez, a production worker at an industrial laundry facility in Boston and member of UNITE HERE New England Joint Board. Esmeralda shares her story from the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis as part of the Greater Boston Labor Council’s #FrontlineHeroes series. Our series profiles the work of union members and everyday heroes who are working on the frontlines during the global pandemic. Stories are updated weekly. To read other Frontline Hero stories, click here:

Coronavirus/COVID 19 Resources for Members

The global Coronavirus/COVID 19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on working people across the globe. Many NEJB employers have curtailed operations or ceased operations all together. During this crisis the New England Joint Board is committed to representing and protecting our members to the best of our ability. In line with these goals we are providing the following information and resources to members.


The US House and Senate have passed a package of bills expanding sick leave and FMLA leave to workers affected by COVID 19. The following expansions will apply:

Emergency Paid Sick Leave: Private employers with less than 500 employees and all public employers are required to provide two weeks of paid sick leave at full pay to employees who cannot work or telework due to quarantine, isolation, or pending diagnosis.

  1. Qualifying Employees:
    1. Employee subject to federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order re: Covid-19;
    2. Employee advised by a health provider to self-quarantine related to concerns related to Covid-19 (e.g., protected health condition);
    3. Employee is symptomatic and is seeking a diagnosis;
    4. Employee is caring for someone in categories (i)or (ii);
    5. Employee is caring for child if school/childcare closed due to Covid-19 precautions.
  2. Eligibility:
    1. All employees as defined by FLSA (and certain federal employees)
    2. Employees are eligible regardless of how long they have been employed by an employer, if they qualify (above)
  3. Duration of Benefit:
    1. Full-Time Employees: 80 hours
    2. Part-Time Employees: Average number of hours worked over a two-week period (if schedule fluctuates, six-month average of hours)
    3. No carryover of unused benefits permitted from one year to next
  4. Amount of Benefit:
    1. Personal isolation/quarantine: Full pay at maximum of $511/day or $5,110 total
    2. Caregiving isolation/quarantine/childcare: 2/3 full pay at maximum of $200/day or $2,000 total
    3. Benefit is based on greater of federal minimum wage, state/local minimum wage, or employee’s regular rate of pay as defined by FLSA.
  5. Employee Protections:
    1. Employee cannot be required to find replacement to cover their hours while on sick leave
    2. Employee cannot be required to use any other accrued sick leave before taking this leave
    3. Employee cannot be fired, disciplined, or discharged for taking this leave
  6. Violations: Constitute failure to pay minimum wages under FLSA and subject to FLSA penalties.  
  7. Effective Date: 15 days after enactment of statute and sunsetting 12/31/20


Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act: Amends key sections of FMLA to include time out of work due to childcare needs. Applies to private employers with less than 500 employees and all public employers.

  1. Qualifying Employees: Employees who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days. Certain health care providers and emergency responders exempted, as well as small businesses with less than 50 employees which can show that imposition of the requirements would jeopardize the ongoing viability of the business.
  2. Eligibility: Employees must be unable to work or telework due to absence of childcare for child under 18 if school or place of care closed or childcare provider unavailable
  3. Duration of Benefit: 12 weeks maximum
  4. Amount of Benefit: First 10 days is unpaid leave but employee may substitute any vacation, personal, or medical or sick leave provided by employer. After first 10 days, at least 2/3 an employee’s regular rate of pay (defined by FLSA) for the hours they are regularly scheduled to work (or if schedule varies, average number of hours for last six months)—but pay shall not exceed $200/day or $10,000 in total (for entirety of leave).
  5. Notice Requirements: Employees must provide as much notice “as practicable” if foreseeable
  6. Effective Date: 15 days after enactment and sunsetting 12/31/20



Union Office Operations: As of 7/8 the Union headquarters in Boston is open again.

Resources for Members:  The following resources have been provided by the International Union

Unemployment Assistance: The Federal Government has provided guidelines for states to follow in relaxing the requirements for Unemployment Insurance. The Federal guidelines allows states to pay benefits where:

    1. An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work;
    2. An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and
    3. An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member

Each state must enact it’s own legislation in order to implement the new federal guidelines. Below is a listing of each state in the NEJB’s jurisdiction and information about the status of updating its unemployment system to conform to federal guidelines.

Connecticut: New unemployment claims may be filed by clicking here. All workers who become unemployed due to Coronavirus should file for unemployment. The following steps should be followed when filing a claim:

    • Answer “YES” to the question “Do you have a DEFINITE return to work date after today?”
    • If you do not know your return to work date but expect to return to your job, enter 04/01/2020 for your return to work date when prompted.
    • Have your employer’s DOL registration number available. If you do not have the number, enter 99-999-95
    • When you are asked if you are able and available for full-time work on either your initial claim or your weekly claims, please answer “No” only if you are out of work because YOU are sick.
    • If your employer is shutting down for a period of time because of COVID-19 and will be paying you your usual wages for this time, you are not eligible for unemployment.

Maine: Emergency legislation was approved this week by the legislature to allow Maine workers unemployed due to COVID 19 to file for unemployment. Please refer to this document for eligibility information. Unemployment claims may be filed by calling 1-800-593-7660 or online.

Massachusetts: Workers laid off due to COVID 19 should apply for unemployment assistance immediately. For a guide to applying for unemployment due to COVID 19 click here.

The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) has relaxed the following rules for CURRENT claims in the system:

    • All requirements regarding attending seminars at the MassHire career centers have been suspended.
    • Missing deadlines due to effects of COVID-19 will be excused under DUA’s good cause provision.
    • All appeal hearings will be held by telephone only.

The has approved a waiver of the 1 week waiting period before receiving benefits. The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development has implemented emergency regulations that will allow people impacted by COVID-19 to collect unemployment if their workplace is shut down and expects to reopen in four or fewer weeks. The following conditions willapply:

    • Workers must remain in contact with their employer during the shutdown.
    • Workers must be available for any work their employer may have for them that they are able to do.
    • An employer may request to extend the period of the covered shut-down to eight weeks, and workers will remain eligible for the longer period under the same conditions described above.
    • If necessary, DUA may extend these time periods for workers and employers.

Workers should file for unemployment online at the Department of Unemployment Assistance website.

New Hampshire: As of 3/19 Governor Sununu has exapnded the scope of eligibility and has extended benefits to workers dealing with COVID 19. Updates can be found at the Department of Employment Security website. Workers laid off due to COVID 19 should file for unemployment immediately by calling 603-271-7700 or applying online here.

New YorkThe New York State Department of Labor has waived the seven day waiting period before receipt of unemployment benefits. Workers on lay off due to COVID 19 may file for benefits by calling 888-209-8124 or through the Department of Labor website.

If you are filing a new unemployment insurance claim, the day you should file is based on the first letter of your last name. If your last name starts with A – F, file your claim on Monday. For last names starting with G – N, file your claim Tuesday. For last names starting with O – Z, file your claim on Wednesday. If you missed your filing day, file your claim on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Filing later in the week will not delay your payments or affect the date of your claim, since all claims are effective on the Monday of the week in which they are filed.

For instruction on how to file your claim please see the step by step guide here.

Rhode Island: The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training is allowing workers laid off due to COVID 19 to apply for unemployment benefits. Workers are encouraged to follow the RIDLT fact sheet on filing for unemployment. Unemployment claims can be filed by calling 401-243-9100 or by filing a claim online.

VermontWorkers impacted by COVID 19 or laid off due to COVID 19 may file for unemployment benefits here or by calling 1-877-214-3332. By executive order of Governor Scott payments will be expedited and the filing process will be waived.

*Please check this page often as it will be regularly updated as new information is released*

*Updated 7/8/20 1:29 PM*




NEJB Executive Board Endorses Bernie Sanders for President

Today we are proud to announce that the rank and file leaders of the Executive Board of the New England Joint Board UNITE HERE have unanimously voted to endorse Bernie Sanders for President of the United States. Our union represents 10,000 workers in the six New England states and New York in the manufacturing, distribution, laundry, hospitality, and human services industries. Our members work in factories, mills, warehouses, industrial laundries, cafeterias, casinos, hotels, group homes, and offices. We are a union of immigrant workers, with women and people of color representing a majority of our membership.

Bernie is the candidate who has spent his life fighting alongside the working class. In these times where big banks, corporations, and the wealthy few have enormous power over our political system we need a President who will stand with the workers of this country. We believe in the multiracial, multi-generational, working class movement that Bernie Sanders is leading to bring social, economic, and racial justice to all. We share Bernie’s belief that the best way to confront the massive inequality imposed on our country is through empowering workers through a strong labor movement. When we expand the rights of workers and strengthen unions, we can rebuild America’s working class. The health insurance crisis is one we have to face every day at the bargaining table where ever-increasing insurance costs are exacerbating what are already difficult negotiations. While we are proud to offer our members some of the best quality medical insurance in the region, we support Medicare for All because we believe everyone should have health insurance as a right. We believe in a Green New Deal because as low wage workers and people of color we know that the climate crisis will have a disproportionate effect on us. We must act now to ensure a sustainable future for our children. We believe in Bernie’s plan to protect and expand Social Security because working class Americans deserve to retire with dignity. Bernie knows that we are a nation of immigrants and shares our belief that we must welcome those who seek the American dream, build our communities, and strengthen our economy. We support his plan to implement an immigration system grounded in compassion, and civil and human rights. We share Bernie’s belief that our nation can be the most prosperous and true to its ideals when that prosperity is shared by everyone.

Today we pledge to lend our collective voice to the grassroots movement behind Bernie’s campaign. We will stand together and we will fight for each other. Not me. Us.

 In Solidarity,

Executive Board of the New England Joint Board UNITE HERE



NEJB Announces New Benefit to Members in Partnership With Somerville’s Credit Union


We’re excited to announce that the Pressers’ Local 12 ILGWU Credit Union has merged with Somerville’s Credit Union to offer the members of the New England Joint Board credit union membership. We are proud to offer the great benefit of Credit Union membership to all members of the NEJB. Credit Unions are community-oriented, member-owned financial institutions that are driven by serving the needs of their members, not profit. Credit Unions offer working people a great way to gain financial independence and financial literacy by offering a people-centered focus to banking.

Join Somerville’s Credit Union (located at 236 Holland street, Somerville, MA) to open a Share (Savings) Account with a low $25 opening balance. Sign up for our checking account to enjoy debit/ATM card access at more than 30,000 nationwide CO-OP network ATMs. Bank where you live & work by visiting any of the 5,000+ CO-OP Shared Branches. Conduct your banking from the privacy of your work or home through our Virtual Branch, allowing free online access (including 24/7 remote check deposit capability). Many more, low & no-cost financial services, including a full suite of CD’s, Personal, Vehicle & Real Estate loans are available to you as a New England Joint Board UNITE HERE! union member. Details can be found at: or call: 617-625-0898



MGM Springfield Workers Ratify First Union Contract 

SPRINGFIELD, MA – Workers at MGM Springfield overwhelmingly ratified their first union contract, a four-year deal covering nearly 700 workers who work as cocktail servers, guest room attendants, bartenders, cooks, valet drivers, and other hospitality positions at the resort casino.

By the end of the contract workers will see an average 19% increase to their wages with some workers seeing their wages increase by almost 40%. Workers will continue to benefit from high quality health insurance and will not pay any increase in their contributions for the duration of the contract. The Company will begin contributing to a defined benefit pension plan on behalf of each employee in the third year of the agreement, a benefit almost unheard of in the area hospitality industry.

“We’re extremely pleased to have won such a momentous first contract for workers at MGM Springfield,” said Warren Pepicelli, Manager of the New England Joint Board UNITE HERE which represents servers, bartenders, housekeepers and other hospitality workers. “This is a strong first step towards setting a standard in the gaming industry in Massachusetts.”

Frank A. Rossi, President and Principal Officer of Teamster Local 404 which represents warehouse, valet, front desk workers and others stated “The best way to rebuild the middle class is through strong union contracts that strengthen our communities.”

“With this union contract I feel relieved that my job and benefits will be protected so that I’ll be able to provide for my family,” said Laurie Andrews-Johnson, a Guest Service Representative in the Slots Department. “Now I know I have a voice at work with guaranteed wage increases, retirement security, and high-quality benefits.


About the New England Joint Board UNITE HERE The New England Joint Board is a union representing 10,000 workers throughout New England and New York who work in the textile, garment, manufacturing, distribution, laundry, human service, and hospitality industries. The New England Joint Board is an affiliate of UNITE HERE International Union. For more information, visit

About Teamsters Local 404 Teamsters Local 404 is a union representing 1,500 workers in distribution, public sector, trucking, and manufacturing to name a few in the Western Massachusetts area. Local 404 is an affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. For more information, visit

MGM Springfield Workers Join NEJB!

On Monday October 8th over 900 gaming workers at MGM in Springfield, Massachusetts became members of the New England Joint Board through a card check neutrality agreement. With the certification the MGM workers become the first union resort and casino workers in Massachusetts since the Expanded Gaming Act was signed into law in 2011. MGM Springfield opened its doors on August 24th launching the careers of hundreds of new gaming workers and marking a new era in the history of the City of Springfield. The opening also marked the culmination of almost a decade’s worth of work by our union to ensure that good, union gaming jobs could come to Massachusetts.

The NEJB in coalition with Teamsters Local 404 began organizing months before the grand opening and signed up a vast majority of the nearly 1,000 gaming workers on the property. The organizing drive was characterized by the excitement and energy of hundreds of workers beginning their first careers in the union hospitality industry. With the opening, MGM Springfield becomes the first major hospitality industry employer in the City of Springfield and the Western Massachusetts region. The NEJB looks forward to ensuring that these new jobs become family sustaining careers that will be the basis for forming strong and prosperous working class communities throughout the region. With a strong and diverse negotiating committee, the NEJB is moving forward and preparing to negotiate a strong first contract.

The NEJB would like to thank UNITE HERE International Union and Locals 54 and 25 for their assistance and support throughout the organizing effort.

NEJB Announces Endorsements in 2018 Primary

The New England Joint Board UNITE HERE is a progressive union of immigrant workers fighting for dignity and respect for workers everywhere. We believe that good jobs and the values of equality, justice, and fairness provide the foundation for strong communities; that every worker has the right to a family-sustaining job; and that having a voice in the workplace is a fundamental democratic right. We support candidates who share our mission and values.

We are proud to announce the endorsement of the following candidates for elected office in the New England Region:


NEJB Endorses Barbara L’Italien for Congress


“We’re proud to endorse Senator L’Italien in her campaign for Congress. Senator L’Italien has been a close friend of the NEJB for years. She lent her voice to our members at Polartec in Lawrence when they were thrown out of their jobs through no fault of their own. She was a leader in the state delegation supporting our campaign to win justice for Polartec workers. She has also built a strong progressive track record in her time in the state legislature advocating for a range of progressive issues from advancing pro-worker legislation to protecting the elderly and people with disabilities. Barbara has built a reputation as a fearless advocate who is willing to choose to do the right thing rather than the politically expedient thing. 

The Third Congressional District needs people like Senator L’Italien in Washington willing to take bold and sometimes politically risky positions on critical issues that actually matter for working people. Workers in the district can no longer afford to be the support network to elected officials masquerading as progressives. The political moment we find ourselves in is having very real consequences for many of our members. What they need now is a leader in Washington who isn’t afraid to act on their progressive ideals not only to protect people threatened in the current environment but to begin moving us forward again. Senator L’Italien has proven that she is capable of taking bold stances and delivering for working people. She’ll take this experience to Washington, with a foot firmly planted in her district, as she always has, and fight for working families. Our members, whether they’re sewing a garment or serving a meal, know they can count on Barbara.”

Massachusetts’ 3rd Congressional District includes the cities of Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill. The NEJB represents over 1,200 members in the needletrades, manufacturing, food service, laundry, and distribution industries in in the 3rd CD. The NEJB is a progressive union of immigrant workers at the forefront of the labor movement.

370 Workers Join the NEJB in Just Two Weeks!

In just a two week period over 370 workers joined the New England Joint Board UNITE HERE. Beginning on April 13th 70 Case Managers at WellLife Network in New York City joined through a card check agreement after over a year of organizing. The workers at WellLife join over 800 workers at the non-profit agency who are already represented by the NEJB. Case Managers provide critical services to people with developmental disabilities and their families in the New York City area.

Exactly a week later, 300 workers in the Environmental Services Department at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut voted to join the NEJB in an election conducted by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. The ESD workers organized for well over a year and withstood a vicious anti-union campaign waged by the company complete with captive audience meetings and misleading anti-union propaganda. Workers took their concerns to the Connecticut State House in March and testified in support of a bill that would outlaw coercive captive audience meetings. The workers, responsible for cleaning and maintaining the resort and casino, held strong throughout the campaign and become the fifth unionized department in the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Reservation.

“I voted yes for the union because I’m concerned about job security. We all have families to support and we can’t do that comfortably if we’re constantly worrying that our jobs could disappear without us having any say,” says Leon Morrison, a 24 year ESD worker and resident of Norwich. “By voting yes for the union we now have a seat at the table.”

“This is proof of a rising tide in America. Workers have had enough and they’re joining together, arm in arm, to demand a voice at work and fight for their futures.” says Warren Pepicelli, Manager of the New England Joint Board. “We can’t expect politicians, the media, or companies to help us. We need to do it ourselves, as workers. There is no substitution for worker solidarity. For too long workers have been used and abused in this country and our society is allowing companies to get away with it. That is why workers and their unions are taking it upon themselves to stand up and demand that their hard work be honored and respected. We did this at Foxwoods and we’re ready to do it again wherever there are workers ready to make their voices heard.”

The New England Joint Board represents 10,000 workers across New England and New York in the textile, garment, manufacturing, distribution, laundry, human services, and hospitality industries. NEJB members come from nearly every corner of the globe and a majority are women and people of color. The NEJB is proud to be a progressive organizing union.

300 Foxwoods Workers Join the New England Joint Board!

MASHANTUCKET, CT – Hundreds of employees of Foxwoods Resort and Casino now have a voice in their workplace. An overwhelming majority of employees voted to be represented by the New England Joint Board of UNITE HERE, a union representing hospitality, gaming, and manufacturing workers in New England.

The vote took place throughout the day on Friday and was conducted through the authority of the Mashantucket Employment Rights Office (MERO). The workers join over 100,000 gaming workers across the US represented by UNITE HERE, making it the largest gaming workers union in the country.

Noticing the positive impact other unions have made for workers at Foxwoods, ESD workers began their organizing with the New England Joint Board over a year ago. ESD workers have many concerns about their working conditions and say that a union will give them the voice needed to win a better return on their hard work. The predominantly immigrant workforce cites the threat of outsourcing as a prime motivating factor for forming a union.

“I voted yes for the union because I’m concerned about job security. We all have families to support and we can’t do that comfortably if we’re constantly worrying that our jobs could disappear without us having any say,” says Leon Morrison, a 24 year ESD worker and resident of Norwich. “By voting yes for the union we now have a seat at the table.”

“ESD workers sent a strong message of unity by voting yes today. We’re hopeful that Foxwoods will respect the workers’ decision and schedule negotiations as soon as possible. We look forward to negotiating in good faith with Foxwoods to address the many concerns that workers have,” says Warren Pepicelli, Manager of the New England Joint Board.

The ESD department becomes the fifth union represented department at Foxwoods Resort Casino.