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Posted By: Council 93

Council 93 is pushing for passage of new legislation in Maine that would provide state and county corrections officers with well-deserved worker compensation benefits in the event that the stress of their dangerous jobs results in heart disease or hypertension.

The bill (LD777) was filed at the request of AFSCME by State Representative Ralph Tucker (D-Brunswick). The proposed law would create what is known as a "rebuttable presumption" that any heart disease or hypertension suffered by a corrections officer was caused by the difficult work they do. In other words, the burden would be on the state to prove the illness was caused by other factors. If the state is unable to do so, the officer would be entitled to worker's compensation. In the event an officer dies from the illness, his or her family would also be entitled to a death benefit.

A public hearing on the bill was held March 23, by the legislature's Joint Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development. In testimony submitted in person and in writing to the committee, Council 93 highlighted the experience of Local 2968 member Phil Newth, a 20-year veteran officer at Maine State Prison in Warren. The 45-year-old Newth suffered his first heart attack at age 32. A second heart attack followed in 2015 requiring Newth to undergo open-heart surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Because he did not qualify for worker's compensation, Newth exhausted all accumulated sick and vacation time, including 81 additional hours donated by his fellow officers. The ordeal pushed Newth and his family to the brink of financial disaster. While recovering from his 2015 heart surgery, he was forced to go to court in an attempt to stop foreclosure proceedings on his home. At the time, Council 93 was in the process of working with the legislature to successfully override Governor Paul LePage's veto of AFSCME legislation that provided all corrections officers with a $2.00 per hour wage increase. While Newth did not have the additional money in his paycheck at the time of the court hearing, the promise of it coming was enough to convince the judge to give him more time to save his home. Fortunately, Newth was able to keep his home and continue on the road to recovery. He is now back to work and will be working with the Council to gain support for the new legislation in the coming months.

This isn't the first time Newth has worked with Council 93 on legislative issues. In 2012, during the first attacks on unions by Governor LePage, he agreed to be interviewed for a series of radio commercials sponsored by the Council, which helped stop attacks on pensions and other benefits. Although they aired several years ago, the message is still relevant today. Audio files of the commercials are below.

Radio Commercial 1

Radio Commercial 2

Posted By: Council 93

Imagine what you can achieve with the AFSCME Free College Benefit.

There are always points in your career — and your life — in which you want to move forward. You want to improve; you want to feel inspired and reach new goals. Perhaps you want to qualify for a promotion, finish your degree, or enrich your life through learning. Whatever your motivation, a quality education can be the catalyst to get you where you want to go.

It's AFSCME's mission to give you every advantage to get ahead. That's why we've partnered with Eastern Gateway Community College. Through the AFSCME Free College benefit, you and your family members can now earn an associate degree completely online–for FREE.

Eastern Gateway is an accredited community college, a member of the University System of Ohio, and is one of the fastest-growing public colleges in the country. It's an open access public college governed by the Ohio Board of Regents and accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Click here to find out more today!

Posted By: Council 93
AFSCME Council 93 is accepting registrations for our next Financial Standards Code/Treasurers Training to be held on Saturday, June 3rd from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua, NH. This training provides an excellent introduction to, and overview of, the important financial responsibilities of local union officers.

Local Union Presidents, Treasurers, Trustees and Executive Board members are welcome to attend and newly elected officers are urged to attend.

The $40.00 per person registration fee includes a lunch buffet.

Click here for more details including a registration form and information on overnight accommodations for those who may wish to stay on Friday evening.

Posted By: Council 93
Every day AFSCME home health care members provide vital services to clients in their homes. These homes are workplaces with unique challenges. This webinar will concentrate on two topic areas: chemical hazards and infectious disease prevention and control. Join us for this 45-minute webinar where you will: -- Discover the most common chemical hazards in the home and in home health care -- Understand how these chemicals can get into the body and potential health effects -- Learn how diseases spread and how to best protect yourself and your clients -- Be ready to develop action plans to make each home safer for both the provider and the client. Click here to register online.

Posted By: Council 93
Last week the GIC Board of Commissioners voted once again to increase out-of-pocket costs for state and higher education employees by granting provisional approval to a series of increases, effective July 1, 2017. Our labor representatives on the board voiced strong opposition to these increases but due to an imbalance of management and worker representation on the GIC board, we were unsuccessful.

To prevent similar votes in the future and to try to offset increases in out-of-pocket costs, we are working in coalition with other public-sector unions on a series of legislative initiatives that would:

  • Increase our representation on the GIC board of commissioners to give us a stronger voice against management.
  • Provide premium relief by switching all workers to an 80%/20% premium cost split.
  • Allow our members to keep more of their hard-earned money by placing an annual cap on out-of-pocket costs related to healthcare.
We have already secured lead sponsors for these initiatives, which are divided into separate bills. We now need the help of our members as we work to build support for this legislation. Please take a few minutes right now to call your state representative and state senator and ask him or her to sign on as a co-sponsor to the following six bills:
Senate Docket Number 1220 - filed by Senator Ken Donnelly
House Docket Number 2935 - filed by Representative Dan Cullinane
These bills would provide us with additional representation on the Group Insurance Commission board, thereby reducing the chance of future increases to out-of-pocket costs.

Senate Docket Number 1228 - filed by Senator Ken Donnelly
House Docket Number 2848 – filed by Representative Paul Mark
These bills would equalize all state and higher education employees at an 80%/20% premium split

Senate Docket Number 668 – Filed by Senator James Timilty
House Docket Number 2867 – Filed by Representative Paul Mark
These bills would cap annual out-of-pocket expenses for workers on both individual and family plans.

You can identify your State Representative and State Senator and find their contact information by entering your address at this link.
You can also email Jim Durkin for help or call Jim anytime at 617-367-6012.

When you call your legislators, simply share how steady increases in health insurance costs have hurt you and your family. YOUR CALLS WILL MAKE A TREMENDOUS DIFFERENCE and are much more effective than sending an email. If you have any doubt, read this NY Times article on the impact calls to legislative offices make and how they motivate elected officials. PLEASE MAKE THE CALLS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE as the deadline to co-sponsor bills is rapidly approaching.

Posted By: Council 93

SJC decision means New Bedford must pay back wages for furloughs

By Aimee Chivaroli
New Bedford Standard Times

NEW BEDFORD - A Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision means the city will have to pay back employee wages from a 2009 furlough of City Hall workers.

In the wake of the 2008 economic collapse, former Mayor Scott Lang issued a 2009 executive order to close city offices at noon on Fridays, requiring City Hall workers to take unpaid furloughs. Due to the reduced hours, employees earned less money, according to a statement from the City Solicitor's office.

The union representing the city workers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 93, challenged Lang's order. And in November 2011, the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board found the reduced work hours constituted an unfair labor practice.

"The SJC's decision exhausts the city's options for judicial appeal," stated the press release from spokeswoman Elizabeth Treadup Pio.

The city is now required to pay back municipal employees for wages lost because of the CERB decision, according to the city statement. The chief financial officer is "evaluating a number of potential funding sources" according to the release.

The amount the city owes is being determined and CFO Ari Sky said he could not give a ballpark estimate of how much the city might owe. He said he wanted to provide accurate information and that would take a few days to calculate.

Sky said an interest rate of .18 percent accrued on the back wages, which is equal to roughly $3,000 a year. He also identified two possible funding sources.
He said there is about $7.8 million in the stabilization or "rainy day" fund. Additionally, he said the state recently notified the city of $2.7 million available in "free cash," or a revenue source from unrestricted funds from operations in the previous fiscal year, that could be used if necessary. However, Sky said it has not yet been determined how the free cash funds will be used.

The CFO also said there are over 300 AFSCME members and the city needs to work with the union to figure out which members worked for the city at the time and had to take the furlough.
More Video: New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell talks about under construction Cove Walk where in long term city hopes to build park for the Cove neighborhood.

Former Mayor Lang said he does not regret the furlough and was glad he was able to save some jobs.
"I don't regret doing the furlough because it saved at the time...;between 66 and 89 AFSCME jobs," Lang said. "No one was looking forward to another massive layoff in the city of New Bedford."

Lang said he had laid off between 180 and 190 people in Feb. 2009 due to cuts in state aid which included AFSCME workers and police and fire personnel. "We had about six months in the year in which we had to make dramatic cuts," he said.

"I was looking for a way to save jobs," Lang said. "We were literally threadbare at that point with police and fire."

The former mayor said he wanted to keep a strong city workforce and not subcontract out for jobs. He also said he didn't want to raise taxes for people in the city. The furloughs ended in late June 2011.
Mayor Jon Mitchell in a written statement said that Lang's decisions left him in a difficult position.

"The City's 2009 decision to furlough city employees left my administration in a difficult legal position in fending off the union's challenge," Mitchell said. "I appreciate the diligent efforts of the City's legal team in fighting an uphill battle on behalf of the City's taxpayers."

Posted By: Council 93
We're proud of the work AFSCME members do to keep America's communities safe, clean, and healthy. So we're recognizing members who regularly demonstrate great pride and dedication to their work with the Never Quit Service Awards.

Do you have an AFSCME co-worker or friend who always takes great pride and goes the extra step in their work? Brings a smile to the faces of the people they serve or work with? Who never quits on doing the best job they can?

Fill out this form to nominate a fellow AFSCME member — or yourself — for a Never Quit Service Award.

Winners will have their stories featured on the Never Quit website and receive a certificate honoring their outstanding contribution to public service.
We can't wait to hear your story!

Posted By: Council 93
Paying for college is expensive enough without adding in the cost of dorm room furniture, school supplies and clothes. Shop interest-free for back-to-school items with PayCheck Direct:
•Deck out the dorm with a selection of small kitchen appliances.
•Call it a night with cozy and stylish bedding sets under $100.
•Make mom proud with vacuums that can clean up any mess.

Click here to find out more.

Posted By: Zac Bears
From correctional officers to residential care workers, AFSCME members do some of the most dangerous jobs in Massachusetts. And that's why AFSCME Council 93 will continue fighting for fairness when it comes to death benefits for public service workers.

A recent study by MassLive highlighted the top 10 most dangerous jobs in Massachusetts based on how many days workers missed after an injury or other incident at work.

Currently, payments and benefits to families of public sector employees who are killed on the job are available only to public safety and law enforcement workers. Council 93 has filed legislation in the current session that would provide a $150,000 line-of-duty death benefit to the families of all public service workers who lose their lives as a result of "accident or injury" on the job.

John E. Lozada and Steve Hubbard
(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

This work and our lobbying efforts led the state senate to include language in both the 2017 budget and recent veterans legislation that would provide the children of all public sector workers with free tuition, fees, room and board at any UMass campus, state college or community college. We will be filing similar legislation in all states in our jurisdiction.

Correctional institution workers, like corrections officers and other jail and prison staff, came in at number 10. In fact, there were 4 worker deaths at Bay State jails and prisons in 2014.

Workers at nursing and residential care facilities had the seventh most dangerous job in the state in 2014, missing almost 5 days of work per 100 employees due to on-the-job incidents.

Hospital, health care and social assistance workers had the third most dangerous job in Massachusetts in 2014. There were two deaths of hospital workers in 2014 and injuries at work caused health care workers to miss nearly 6 days of work per 100 employees.

A patient attacked AFSCME Local 72 member Jason Lew at a mental health facility on Cape Cod in 2012, causing serious injuries. Lew died weeks later, and his death was ruled a homicide. The only benefit his children received came through donations from his union brothers and sisters.

AFSCME members in other professions also face serious dangers at work.

Local 851 member Carlos Taberas was killed while working alone repairing a Bobcat in a City of New Bedford garage in 2011. Carlos had a big family – six kids. But there was no line-of-duty death benefit for them. His $5,000 life insurance policy didn't even cover funeral expenses.

"The union is simply asking the Legislature to recognize that when it comes to losing your life on the job, everyone is equal," Council 93 Legislative Director Jim Durkin argued in testimony before the Legislature. "Everyone has paid the same price."

Police officers and firefighters face serious risks on the job, but so too do correctional officers, direct care providers, mental health care workers, public works employees, highway workers and many other public service workers.

AFSCME members work some of the most dangerous jobs of anyone in Massachusetts, and extending line-of-duty death benefits to all public service workers is a simple matter of fairness.

Posted By: Zac Bears
This story is the first in an ongoing 'Visit Our State Parks' series, which explores the important work of AFSCME members at Department of Conservation and Recreation facilities across Massachusetts.

CHICOPEE, Mass. – Walking into the office at Chicopee State Park, the forest cabin smell and exposed wood framing instantly puts you in touch with nature.

The office, which serves as the hub of sophisticated daily park operations, is just a taste of what surrounds it. A step outside the door puts a visitor in the midst of hundreds of acres of pristine forest and lake shorelines that are enjoyed by tens of thousands of residents and tourists every year.

Access to this great natural resource would not be possible without the skills, experience and hard work of a relatively small crew of AFSCME Council 93 members in Local 2948 who work for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

John E. Lozada and Steve Hubbard
AFSCME members John E. Lozada and Steve Hubbard at Chicopee State Park.
(Zac Bears/AFSCME Council 93)

For just an $8 daily parking fee, Massachusetts residents and tourists can access beaches, fishing, grilling, hiking, boating, mountain biking, picnicking, swimming and even cross-country skiing right in Chicopee, one of the largest cities in Western Massachusetts. For those who work up an appetite from all the activities, there's plenty of great spots for a barbecue and picnic too.

"It's a great opportunity to get outdoors. Where else can you bring your family for $8 for a whole day and enjoy the outdoors?" asked Steve Hubbard, an AFSCME member and Vice President of Local 2948. "Six Flags is $50 per person."

Hubbard, a DCR employee for 36 years and the Field Operations Team Leader for the area, is responsible for managing Chicopee State Park, three boat ramps on the Chicopee and Connecticut Rivers, three public pools, Robinson State Park in Agawam and Hampton Ponds State Park in Westfield.

Between the facilities, Hubbard works with six full-time year-round staff, 40 summer staffers in the parks and another 45 seasonal staff and lifeguards at the city pools.

It may not be apparent to everyone who visits the park, but a massive amount of well-coordinated, behind-the-scenes work ensures that parks open on time, stay open and provide a welcoming environment to the families who visit them.

"You have to get the buildings ready, make sure the water systems are running, perform regular beach inspections to ensure public safety and put out buoy lines for swimming," Hubbard said. "And that's all before you get to our day-to-day tasks, like cleaning up trash, maintaining bathrooms and working with the park visitors."

Hubbard says over 225,000 people visit the nearly 4,000 acres of parkland at these three locations every year. Upwards of 2,000 people can show up at Chicopee State Park on a busy summer Saturday. Most of the park visitors come from the nearby cities of Springfield, Holyoke and Chicopee, giving people a chance to get out of the city.

Beachfront at Chicopee State Park
Beachfront at Chicopee State Park. (Zac Bears/AFSCME Council 93)

Amazingly, these great locations represent only three of the 39 state parks and reservations in Western Massachusetts alone.

"From hiking at Mt. Greylock and swimming at Chicopee to hiking in the Berkshires and driving down to Cape Cod, we have so much to offer residents of Massachusetts," Hubbard said.

AFSCME members in Local 2948 aren't just responsible for making sure people have a good time. They have an important public safety role as well. They maintain the high-hazard dam that is a part of the park's watershed. Park workers have to keep an eye on the water level during storms because too much water could break the dam, which would destroy the water supply line for Chicopee and flood a major section of Interstate 90 (the Mass Turnpike).

"Public service is a great career, and I like to see people enjoying and respecting the DCR facilities," Hubbard said. "Helping people out is a great bonus as well. We have youth groups who do nature's classroom activities. It's great to make kids aware of the different aspects of nature."

Steve Raina
Steve Raina, AFSCME member and DCR recreation facilities supervisor.
(Zac Bears/AFSCME Council 93)

Hubbard reminds every visitor to any state park that it's important to pick up your trash and keep the park clean.

"It's your park," he said. "Take pictures and only leave footprints."

"We're an important aspect of society for the citizens of Massachusetts," Hubbard explained. "We provide such a significant service."

To find a Massachusetts State Park near you, click here.

Check your inbox and Council 93's website for more stories on the AFSCME members who make our state parks happen in July and August.

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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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