Massachusetts Workers Need A Raise!

On June 11th members of the NEJB testified before the Joint Standing Committee on Labor and Workforce Development  on in support of an increase to the minimum wage. Currently the Massachusetts minimum wage is $8.oo. The proposed bill would see that number rise to $11.oo with further increases tied to changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). 

NEJB members from food service, laundry, and retail industries joined other unions, community groups, faith leaders, economists, academics, and business leaders for the hearing. Testifiers highlighted the fact that worker productivity has skyrocketed while wage levels have stagnated. The last time the minimum wage was raised in Massachusetts was in 2007. Since then the cost of food, gas, utilities, rent, and other expenses increased dramatically. More and more workers are relying on minimum wage work sometimes working two or three of these jobs just to get by. The low wage work that is typical of the retail, hospitality, and service industries keeps workers in a rut, limiting their upward mobility. As Cara Cinelli, a retail cashier at Logan Airport and member of NEJB Local 24 testified: “I live in East Boston and am a lifelong resident and currently live in the hom I grew up in with my two daughters, grandson, mother, and brother. I am forced to live in the home my mother owns because I can’t afford to live anywhere else.”

A raise in the minimum wage would affect 580,000 Massachusetts workers and their families. Our Joint Board is proud to join numerous allies from many different movement and backgrounds in fighting for this just piece of legislation. Without our activism we will not win. Urge you state senators and representatives to support an increase in the minimum wage. It’s long overdue.

Members in Worcester Stand Up for Good, Union Jobs

NEJB members are speaking out about the importance of good union jobs in the city of Worcester. Massachusetts’ recently expanded gaming legislation allows for three regionally located resort casinos and one slot parlor in Massachusetts. Currently one development company has submitted a proposal to build a slot parlor and hotel in Worcester. In order to qualify for a gaming license through the Massachusetts Gaming Commission applicants must enter in to a “host community agreement” that addresses issues of importance around the building and operating of such a gaming facility. Ultimately the decision to authorize a gaming facility will be put to the voters through municipal/town refernda.

In Worcester, Rush Street Gaming is proposing a slot facility in the Green Island area of the city. Unfortunately at Rush Street Gaming’s other facilities throughout the country workers are being denied a fair process to organize a union. Rush Street has a track record of failing to keep its promises to the communities in which it operates casinos. UNITE HERE and members of NEJB locals 313, 75, 66L in Worcester have been attending city council meetings to stress that if gaming jobs are coming to Worcester they must be good, union jobs that strengthen our community. Recently David Kenney of Local 66L Ameripride Laundry spoke before the Worcester City Council: “We’re not for our against the slot parlor in Worcester. What we are for is good union jobs with a voice in the workplace.” Members stressed the importance of union jobs in helping improve the economy of Worcester. “We want to bring Worcester up, not bring it down” said Barbara Breaux, NEJB executive board member and Local 313 TJMaxx member. Concerned NEJB members and Worcester residents will be calling on the City Manager to negotiate a host community agreement that includes strong protections for workers.

 

Click here to see NEJB member Barbara Breaux interviewed on Channel 3 Worcester News

Oppose Cuts to Disability Services in New York

NEJB UNITE HERE represents 1,000 workers who work with people with developmental disabilities as employees of non-profit human services agencies throughout the New York Metropolitan Area. The state’s recent transition from institutional-based services to community-based care is being undermined by the proposed 30-day amendments to the 2013-2014 state budget. The amendments propose additional deep cuts to agencies that serve people with disabilities.

These amendments amount to an almost 6% reduction in funding to provider agencies. Almost all OPWDD services are funded through Medicaid with state dollars and matching federal dollars. This cut would amount to a total loss of $240 million to the non-profit provider agencies. These community based services have already faced more than $350 million in cuts targeting developmental disabilities services. With funding already at a low, this cut could force agencies to lay off staff putting the health and safety of those they care for at risk.

These cuts would come at a time where funding is already a serious issue that affects services and care for people with developmental disabilities. Our members and other staff in this industry work extremely hard for low pay. They describe the work they do, caring for those with developmental disabilities, as “God’s work”. Our members provide assistance with bathing, feeding, using wheel chairs, controlling behavioral problems, and coordinate recreational activities and outings. Thousands of families depend on these services to keep their loved ones safe, healthy, and happy. These services are vital in helping individuals with developmental disabilities lead fulfilling and productive lives as citizens of our communities.

Please join us in standing up to protect jobs and people with developmental disabilities. Urge your legislators to say no to the 6% cut to OPWDD services.

Contact your New York State Senators (http://www.nysenate.gov/senators) and Assembly Members (http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/) Tell them NO CUTS TO OPWDD!

SIGN THE PETITION! bit.ly/WHUP3X

Welcome Locals 919 and 1904 to the NEJB!

The members of Locals 919 and 1904 in New York City recently voted to join the NEJB and were welcomed at our November delegates meeting. Local 919 and 1904 represent workers at Richmond Community Services and PSCH, Inc. disability services agencies based in New York and New Jersey. Members of both locals serve adults and children with developmental disabilities. Members typically work in group home settings and care facilities doing everything from helping attend to the 24 hour day-to-day needs of the residents to planning and facilitating recreational and educational outings. Members are passionate about the work they do and love the people they care for.

Before joining the NEJB, Locals 919 and 1904 were part of the Disability Services and Allied Workers Joint Board of the ILGWU and later UNITE. They bring with them Business Agent Ray ACosta. Ray began as a member of the ILGWU working in a New York City garment factory in 1984. He later became an organizer for the ILG and a business agent and today proudly serves the members of the disability services locals across the NY-NJ area.

The NEJB is excited to welcome the disability services workers to our union. We share a vision of social and economic justice for workers everywhere and can’t wait to work towards these goals together. These workers and diversity to a union made up an already extremely diverse membership. The disability services workers join thousands of workers across New England in the garment, textile, manufacturing, distribution, laundry, food service, and non-profit industries.

Secretary-Treasurer Sam Giurleo Retires

The NEJB would like to congratulate Sam Giurleo on his 41 years of service to the members of the New England Joint Board. Sam recently retired as Secretary-Treasurer of the NEJB. Sam emigrated to Boston from Italy when he was 8 years old. His mother was a stitcher and member of the ILGWU and his father was a tailor. He began work for the ILGWU in 1971 as an accountant and has remained with the union ever since, gradually working his way up to become Secretary-Treasurer and seeing the union merge with ACTWU to form UNITE and finally with HERE to form UNITE HERE. His leadership has guided our Joint Board through many difficult times into a position where we are well-equipped to move forward into the future. We are grateful for his loyalty and devotion to the members of the union and the cause of working people everywhere. We wish him and his family the best of luck in his retirement.

In November the delegates of the NEJB elected Andy Press to succeed Sam upon his retirement. Andy has three decades of service to the union beginning as an auditor for the ILGWU in New York City. He has experience in many aspects of running the union and has also seen our union through multiple mergers. Andy is excited to begin work as Secretary-Treasurer and we congratulate and welcome him.

Local 580 Ratifies New Contract

Local 580 negotiating committee members and business agent Tally Abreu after counting the vote.

On November 13, over 130 Bridgewater State University food service workers, members of UNITE HERE NEJB Local 580, overwhelmingly ratified a new three year agreement that gives workers fair wage increases, first time benefits to part time workers, and a better shot at middle class life. The cooks, bakers, caterers, cashiers, drivers and dishwashers of BSU will receive a $0.50 per hour wage increase retroactive to October 1 for the first year of the contract, $0.35 the second year, and $0.50 for the third and final year. Workers also won an additional paid holiday, an additional paid sick day (the first and only for part time workers), and paid personal time for part time workers.  

The food service workers faced a long negotiation with Sodexo, one of the world’s largest food service corporations. Students, faculty, and staff of BSU helped put pressure on the university and Sodexo to come to an agreement with the union by signing a petition calling for a fair contract for food service workers. Almost 600 people signed the petition circulated both by hand and electronically and delivered to Sodexo at the bargaining table on the last day of negotiations. Students like Kevin Kurbs left messages of support on the petition, “The ladies and gentlemen of food services make life so much better on Bridgewater’s campus. They make the extra effort to improve every student’s day, and go above and beyond to build relationships.” Jim Collier added, “Essential workers to the University community. Fair wages to these workers means a better life for all!

The contract agreed upon by Sodexo and UNITE HERE goes into effect immediately and will last until September 30, 2015. It covers all food service workers at the four dining halls on campus.

“We’re very happy with the new contract. The outpouring of support we received from members of the BSU campus community was heartwarming and crucial to our negotiations” said BSU caterer and Local 580 president Karen Carroll. “We showed that the issues our workers face in the cafeterias affect the entire campus community. We love our jobs serving the students, faculty, and staff of BSU. The new commitment Sodexo has made to us, with more respect for the work we do, will translate to better service to the BSU campus community and will help us better provide a middle class life for our families.”

NEJB Local 1554T Giving Back to the Community

From Brian Coutu, Sergeant-At-Arms UNITE HERE NEJB, President NEJB Local 1554T:

 

The Christmas Giving Program is an annual event sponsored by the members of Local 1554T at Arkwright Advanced Coating Inc in Fiskville, RI. This program started in late November of 1992, twenty years ago, with a single person who saw that some local families were in need and asked if we could do something to help. That started a program with the purpose of helping as many families as possible in our community. A year later, four trees were put up around the plant with tags bearing the age and gender of a child.

Employees, both Union and management, picked tags from the trees and replaced them with toys. We were pleasantly surprised when we ended up with just over two hundred brightly wrapped packages containing toys that Santa Clause would distribute to needy youngsters that Christmas. It was also a surprise to find out that we were somewhat off the mark. While every child wants a toy, deprived youngsters need and want other things. Like coats and hats to keep them warm. Like clothes that don’t have holes in them. These kids wanted underwear and socks. And how about asking for something to eat? Imagine being hungry. And at Christmas? We had our eyes opened.

After some discussion we decided that we would try a more holistic approach. We would adopt and sponsor whole families. Once again we were amazed and pleased at the generosity of our co-workers. That season we provided food assistance and clothing assistance to all the members of the households, as well as some goodies to be left under the tree for the kids to find on Christmas morning. One of our members wanted to give heating assistance to a family in the form of 100 gallons of fuel oil. When informed that we had seven families that we were sponsoring and that he should pick the family to be so blessed he couldn’t make a choice. So he donated 100 gallons of fuel oil to all seven families!

As each year passed we found more and more people needing assistance and have also found more and more people willing to get involved. Each year we adopt as many families as possible and supply them with toys, clothes and food. Everything they need for a Merry Christmas. In addition, we are also able to distribute toys to other, individual kids who would otherwise have nothing.

Try to imagine how you would feel not being able to provide a Christmas for your family.

Over the years we have worked with various agencies to sponsor families from Coventry, West Warwick, Cranston, Scituate, Foster, Warwick, Providence, Westerly and Central Falls. In this time we have helped several hundred individuals and more than 50 families. Each year we adapt our program depending on the needs of the adopted families and our budget.

Throughout the year we host fund raising events and raffles. We also host a fund raising dinner. This year the annual Christmas Giving Tree Program Dinner will be November 3rd, 2012. At the dinner a raffle is held with the profit becoming a major part of our budget.

Local 1554-T is keeping the tradition alive. Once again the tree will go up and the tags will be on it starting the day after Thanksgiving. While our anonymous fuel oil-giver was certainly the most generous of our benefactors, each and every donation, whether cash, clothing, food or a toy donated to our “Annual Giving Tree,” no matter how large or how small, is greatly appreciated by the Officers and Executive Board of the Local.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at at either [email protected] or [email protected]. Please send donations to the address below.

Thank you in advance for your support this year. More than ever people will need help this holiday season. Together we can make it a special holiday season for families in our area.

 

Brian Coutu

President, Local 1554T

New England Joint Board – UNITE HERE

NEJB Announces 2012 Endorsements

The NEJB has endorsed the following candidates running for federal and state offices on Tuesday November 6th. The NEJB did the research and found the following candidates to be the best choice for our members and working families in this election. Click here to find out where your polling place is. For more information contact NEJB Political and Communications Director, Ethan Snow 617-832-6602

Connecticut

CT Senate: Congressman Chris Murphy

2nd Congressional District: Congressman Joe Courtney

5th Congressional District: Elizabeth Esty

Massachusetts

MA Senate: Elizabeth Warren

3rd Congressional District: Congresswoman Niki Tsongas

4th Congressional District: Joseph Kennedy III

9th Congressional District: Congressman Bill Keating

17th Essex Senate District: Senator Barry Finegold

16th Essex House District: Representative Marcos Devers

New Hampshire

NH Governor: Maggie Hassan

BSU Food Service Workers Fight for a Living Wage

Julia Tevis knows what another 85 cents an hour would mean to her family.

“You always worry about where the money will come from at the end of the month,” said Tevis, a food service worker in the Crimson Hall cafeteria on the Bridgewater State University campus.

 

NEJB Firing Back in Bradford, RI

WESTERLY — A union representing former employees of the Bradford Printing and Finishing plant is accusing its owner of unfair labor practices and pocketing health care deductions from employee paychecks.