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Posted By: Council 93

Nashua, NH- The two-and-a-half year battle against privatization of Nashua School Custodian Services ended in a clear and decisive victory this week when the city's newly-elected school board voted to end the district's pursuit of outsourcing.

The February 26th vote by the board was a direct result of our union's active involvement in the most recent school board election and marked the end of a comprehensive campaign that included grassroots community organizing, collective bargaining, legal action, media relations, political action and textbook examples of labor solidarity.

"Anyone who doubts the power and importance of union protection should take a long, hard look at what we accomplished in Nashua," said Council 93 Executive Director Frank Moroney. "We employed every resource we have in this campaign. Our field staff, our political action department, our attorneys, our communications team – everyone was on the job. Most importantly, the members of local 365 worked with us and did everything we asked of them. We're thrilled that this difficult ordeal is finally behind them and we look forward to continuing to work with the members of Local 365 for many years to come."

The union's fight began in September of 2015 when the board of education took a secret 8-1 vote in executive session to outsource the work, with former board member Kim Kleiner casting the lone vote in opposition. The vote, held just days after the deadline for candidates to declare their candidacy for the school board, created an uproar in the city and left many believing it was timed to insulate the board members from voter backlash. But at the first public school board meeting after the secret vote, board members soon realized they were not going to be let off the hook. More than 200 custodians, teachers, students, and parents turned out to criticize the board and oppose privatization, starting one of the most remarkable and unified campaigns against outsourcing in the state.

Since the board took the vote to privatize after the deadline for candidates to run for the school board, AFSCME worked with the staunchly pro-custodian Nashua Teachers Union to recruit a slate of write-in candidates. In less than two weeks' time, there was an extensive public education campaign that garnered 19,000 votes for five write-in candidates. Although it did not swing the majority, it was enough to get the attention of privatization proponents on the board and proved the union would be a force in the next election.

Meanwhile, in the weeks and months following the initial vote by the school board, Local 365 members and Council 93 staff kept a regular presence at weekly school board meetings. Working together, they prepared an extensive list of the many duties and responsibilities of the custodians, which helped to shape the school district's Request for Proposal (RFP) bidding process and resulted in significantly higher minimum bids from private vendors. That, combined with media and public relations strategies employed by the union, generated greater awareness of the value the custodians provided to the school communities and a deeper appreciation for their work.

In December of 2015, Council 93 field staff and attorneys worked to file an unfair labor practice with the state's Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB), in protest of the school board's efforts to negotiate a new contract with non-school custodian members of Local 365. Eight months later, in August of 2016, the PERLB found in favor of the union and ordered the board to begin negotiations with the entire bargaining unit. Later that month, the board voted to simultaneously begin negotiations and appeal the PERLB decision to the state Supreme Court. But by then, support for privatization on the board had eroded significantly. In May of 2016, a motion to abandon privatization and open contract negotiations with the custodians failed by just a 5-4 margin, with then board chair Sandra Ziehm publicly stating she could no longer support privatization.

In a complicated September 2017 ruling, the Supreme Court essentially ruled in favor of the employer's ability to privatize but ordered or "remanded" both parties back to the PERLB to determine the applicability of the contract's evergreen clause, which states provisions of an expired contract remain in effect until a successor agreement is negotiated. Since the expired contract included specific language prohibiting privatization, determination of the validity and applicability of the evergreen clause is essential. The matter of the evergreen clause is still pending.

While the long legal process was difficult on the custodians, the skillful work of the Council 93 field staff and legal team prevented any final action on privatization and provided the union time to prepare for the 2017 school board elections. Building on their efforts from the 2015 write-in campaign, Local 365 worked with the Council's Political Action team to thoroughly vet candidates and make formal endorsements. They then moved into an enthusiastic Get-Out-the-Vote campaign. On Election Day, fifty-seven members, more than half of the unit, joined Council 93 staff members at the polls educating the public on the candidates appearing on the ballot. Their efforts played a key role in defeating pro-privatization candidates and electing a pro-worker majority that cast the 6-1 vote this week.



AFSCME Council 93

AFSCME Council 93 represents more than 45,000 state, county and municipal employees in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

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