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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
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
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

FROM BOSTON GLOBE January 18, 2016

State Auditor Raps Roxbury Community College

By Laura Krantz Globe Staff January 18, 2016

Roxbury Community College has abandoned a plan to privatize its information technology department after the state auditor criticized the school for failing to competitively bid the deal, documents show.
After the auditor's reprimand, the troubled college announced last month it will again use college employees to run the department, even as it simultaneously fired the department's unionized workers and continues to pay the private contractor.

The dispute is the latest controversy at the school and comes 2½ years after Valerie Roberson was appointed president, to lead the college out of a period of mismanagement and subsequent federal investigations.
The auditor's office said the college should take extra precaution when hiring private companies because it has a history of ignoring public bid laws, which are intended to protect taxpayer dollars.

A letter from State Auditor Suzanne Bump's deputy this summer called RCC's fast-tracked hiring of Florida-based contractor CampusWorks Inc. "rife with potential for self-dealing" and "exactly the type of procurement practices that public bidding laws . . . were designed to avoid."

When the auditor examined the deal, RCC had already entered into a three-month contract with CampusWorks to "remediate" the department, according to the documents. CampusWorks had recommended that it work for RCC for a three-year "transition period" and also farther into the future, the auditor found. RCC's actions "raise serious questions about potential conflicts of interest," wrote Gerald A. McDonough, deputy auditor and general counsel in Bump's office, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Globe.

Internal squabbles about the IT office began in June, when the college informed the IT workers' union it was considering privatizing the department. The union contacted the auditor in protest.
In November the auditor objected to RCC's $3.4 million contract with CampusWorks. The college said the agreement was only an "interim remedial" contract. Documents submitted to the auditor show the agreement extending through June 2019.

On Dec. 15, the college informed the auditor it would not go through with the privatization, although it has said it still plans to pay CampusWorks for two years during the transition.
The day before that letter, however, Roberson sent notices to the department's five unionized members, who belong to a local chapter of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, saying they would be laid off due to "fiscal and programmatic reasons."

The college told the Globe last week it is reorganizing the department and plans to hire new employees soon. "In order to effectively and efficiently serve our students, we must solidify and strengthen all aspects of our internal infrastructure," the college said in a statement. Roberson's office declined multiple requests for further comment.

AFSCME spokesman Jim Durkin said the union has been informed the new jobs will not be AFSCME positions.

Two of the five laid off workers told the Globe they felt targeted by the college administration and unfairly treated.

"I think it was just written on the wall that [RCC was] trying to get the IT people out," said Miguel Coren, a help-desk employee for 5½ years. He and the other workers were paid until Jan. 6.
During the back and forth this fall, RCC's IT employees said they tried to be helpful to the consultants, who started working regularly in the offices. Consultants flew in weekly from Florida and Pennsylvania, stayed in hotels, and took Uber cars to and from the Columbus Avenue school, the employees said.

The workers said consultants seemed to get special treatment and lacked a basic understanding of the department's functions. Coren said IT employees for years have asked the college to update its computer labs — some of which still have floppy disk drives — but the school always said it didn't have the money. When CampusWorks arrived, he said, new computers were suddenly ordered.
Shonda Green, an IT analyst who worked 19 years in the department after graduating from RCC, said she and her co-workers asked for training over the years but weren't given it, then were told they lacked skills needed to run the department.

"Good people lost good jobs," said Green, who earned about $80,000 annually.

Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.

Posted By: Council 93

An agreement reached today between AFSCME Council 93 Local 1489 and the Boston Medical Center (BMC) will provide a number of current members of the Local with a meaningful pay raise and set a new minimum starting hourly rate of $15.12 for all new part-time, full-time and per-diem employees at the hospital.

Under the agreement, approximately 130 existing Local 1489 members who are currently earning below the new starting wage will see their pay increase to the next wage step that is closest too but in excess of the new $15.12 per hour minimum rate. The lowest current starting rate for an AFSCME member at BMC is currently $13.24 per hour.

AFSCME Council 93 Executive Director Frank Moroney lauded the agreement and praised BMC leaders for taking a pro-active approach with the union to address the wages of workers. "This agreement represents a 14% increase in the starting rate for our lowest paid members and will put our current and future members at BMC more than 33% ahead of the new state $10.00 hourly minimum wage scheduled to be implemented on January 1," said Council 93 Executive Director Frank Moroney. "We are currently under a contract agreement with the hospital that will not expire until September of 2016 so management was under no obligation to provide these increases at this time. Their actions are a strong indication that they respect the important work our members do and they understand the connection between decent wages and attracting and retaining quality employees.
These pay increases are also a testament to the strength of our union."

The more than 700 AFSCME members at BMC work in a wide-array of important positions including but not limited to dietary aides, certified nursing assistants, housekeeping and pharmacy technicians.

Posted By: Council 93

From the State House News Service 10/29/15

Line of duty death benefits afforded to public safety officials like police officers and firefighters should be extended to all public employees in Massachusetts, according to a state representative and public employee union official, who cite cases of families struggling in the wake of deaths of their loved ones.

Rep. Jay Livingstone and Jim Durkin, legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), say extending the benefit is a matter of fairness.

After testifying this week before the Public Service Committee on the proposal, Durkin described cases where families without line of duty death benefits struggled economically after a New Bedford water department mechanic and a Natick public works employee were crushed to death by heavy equipment and a Department of Mental Health worker died of a heart attack two weeks after being attacked by a patient.

"Their families deserve some compensation," said Durkin, adding that everyone should be treated equally when it comes to losing one's life on the job. "It's a matter of respect for all public employees."

"This can happen to anybody, where they're doing their job and they pass away in the line of duty" said Livingstone, who noted lawmakers recently raised the current line of duty death benefit from $100,000 to $150,000 after two firefighters were killed battling a blaze in Boston.

Five state representatives have signed on as cosponsors of the bill (H 2364), which is backed in the Senate by Sen. Will Brownsberger, co-chair of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee.

Livingstone and Durkin said they did not have an estimate of how many employees would likely receive the benefit or its potential cost. - Michael Norton/SHNS

Posted By: Council 93

More than 13 months of intensive contract negotiations has yielded a lucrative new contract for AFSCME members working at Vermont's Howard Center.

Members of Local 1674 voted overwhelming on June 30th to ratify the contract, paving the way for long overdue pay increases for the workers. Under the new agreement, current employees who were employed at the Howard Center on or after 11/1/13 will receive a 2% increase to their base salary. In addition, workers will receive a 2.6 percent retroactive increase for the period of 7/1/14 through 6/30/15. They will also receive an additional 2.0 percent increase effective 7/1/15. Some staff will receive additional pay increases or bonuses, depending on licenses they hold, the shifts they work, the length of time they've worked at the center, and other factors. In addition, workers who use their automobiles for their jobs will now also receive reimbursement at the non-taxable per mile rate set annually by the IRS.

"It's heartening to know that the wages of our members at the Howard Center are finally beginning to match the quality of the critical services they provide," said Council 93 Executive Director Frank Moroney. "These skilled and dedicated workers work hard every day to provide quality care to some of the most vulnerable members of society. We're pleased we were able to bring them this long-overdue recognition and we look forward to continuing to build the strength and power of Local 1674."

The road to the contract agreement was long and difficult and included several picketing demonstrations aimed at calling attention to the extremely low wages paid to the workers. The union also organized a public informational forum at Burlington City Hall that drew more than 150 supporters and was attended by Council 93 Executive Director Frank Moroney and International President Lee Saunders. After months of pressure, the union also received the backing of Burlington City Councilors who passed a non-binding resolution in May urging the Howard Center to pay workers a living wage. These and other efforts were bolstered by a Council 93 paid radio advertising campaign and other media relations strategies.

Founded in 1873, the Howard Center provides life-saving professional crisis and counseling services to children and adults; supportive services to individuals with autism and developmental disabilities counseling and medical services for those struggling with substance abuse, and intensive interventions for adults with serious and persistent mental health challenges.

Posted By: Council 93

From Lowell Sun, Page 1 May 31, 2015

By Alana Melanson
Sun Staff

CHELMSFORD -- Only two months after Chelmsford Public Schools inked a deal with Aramark Education Services for janitorial services in 2011, a subcontracted employee was arrested on a warrant for failing to appear in court on a charge of forging an opioid painkiller prescription.

Two years later, an Aramark custodian was arrested after being caught on hidden camera stealing student prescriptions from the McCarthy Middle School nurse's office. This month, police used surveillance cameras again to catch another Aramark custodian accused of stealing school equipment and student belongings, including a credit card, from a locker room. Police announced Friday they are investigating yet another Aramark employee believed to have stolen computer equipment from one of the schools.

Instances like these are among the pitfalls to privatization, according to Jim Durkin, director of legislation, political action and communications for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 93, a union representing public custodial workers in New England. When Chelmsford was looking to go this route with custodians, he said, his organization warned school officials the direct cost savings they sought may not outweigh the negative side effects.

Low wages for these outsourced positions can affect the quality of employees they attract, Durkin said.

"You have a revolving door of strangers, with unknown histories and backgrounds, as opposed to a custodian who is part of the fiber of the school community," he said.
School custodians who are direct employees of a district will often spend many years in the same job, Durkin said, and provide an extra level of security in the school setting, as opposed to compromising it. He said the public, parents, students and staff deserve to know who's coming in and out of the schools on a daily basis.

School Committee Chairman Al Thomas said the committee is concerned about the recent thefts, but that such problems can exist whether the employees are hired directly by the schools or through a contractor. When he was principal of Chelmsford High School, for example, he said a camera had to be set up to catch a non-custodian, direct employee with access to a safe in the act of stealing from it.

According to the School Department's contract with Aramark, Chelmsford Public Schools has the right to conduct checks of both the state Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) and the Sex Offender Record Information (SORI) for Aramark employees and its subcontractors. But while these means are available to try to root out bad apples before they set foot in the schools, Thomas said they're not foolproof.
"The thing with CORI checks, until somebody's caught doing something, nothing shows," he said. "That helps, but it's not a total protection from issues."

The Sun reached out to Superintendent Frank Tiano and school Human Resources Director Ken Storlazzi to inquire about the screening of these contract employees. Neither responded.

School Committee members The Sun spoke with did not have knowledge of whether the practices outlined in the contract were being followed.
"Are they CORI-checking everybody the way they should?" Committee Secretary Evelyn Thoren said. "And are they fingerprinting them? Because that is a new law to add to it."

When contacted regarding what sort of screening and background checking Aramark conducts on its employees, company Vice President of Corporate Communications Karen Cutler provided only a short email response to The Sun. She said the company does conduct background checks on all of its employees, but the district is responsible for fingerprinting all employees who work in schools. Cutler did not respond to a subsequent request for greater detail regarding Aramark's background checking process.

In addition to the instances that resulted in charges, Police Chief Jim Spinney said investigations of other thefts have occurred at the schools. In the fall of 2011, $100 was missing from the Byam Elementary School cafeteria cash box, and a month later, a digital camera was stolen from a teacher's room. In both cases, Spinney said, no charges were filed because the items stolen were in open, heavily traveled areas and there was no definitive proof of who the culprit was.

This past March, police were back at Byam to investigate missing cash, a classroom projector and an iPad. Again, the investigation didn't lead police to any suspects.
Thomas lauded police for their work in identifying the most recent Aramark employee alleged to have stolen, an investigation Spinney said took a month to complete.

School Committee member Barbara Skaar, who was skeptical of the benefits of outsourcing touted by school officials during her first run for a committee seat in 2012, said she is concerned about the safety of students and staff and is interested in reviewing the Aramark contract. "I think we need to revisit whether or not this was a cost-saving endeavor," she said. Thoren said she believes Aramark has acted swiftly when problems have arisen, but she agrees it is time to review the contract.

While the contract is not negotiated by the committee - it is managed by the school business manager - Thoren said members can make recommendations as to what direction they would like to go.
She believes custodians could be an area where the schools and town government could collaborate to produce savings and efficiencies. Property maintenance workers are already under the purview of the town side, Thoren said, and there have been instances where it wasn't clear whether a particular duty fell under maintenance or custodial. She said she would like to have a discussion with the town government to determine the pros and cons of possibly bringing school custodians under its jurisdiction. "If it was more efficient and didn't cost any more money, then we would benefit on both sides of the ledger," Thoren said.

Aramark custodians arrested while working for Chelmsford schools:

2011: Sean Watson, of Boscawen, N.H., a subcontracted employee of Aramark, was arrested during a routine traffic stop on Drum Hill Road. Watson had a default warrant for failing to appear in Lawrence District Court on a charge of uttering a false prescription. Watson had allegedly forged a prescription for Roxicodone, a generic form of Oxycodone, and attempted to fill it at a Lawrence pharmacy.

2013: Corey Ralls, of Lowell, an Aramark custodian, was accused of breaking into a locked McCarthy Middle School nurse's office cabinet and stealing dozens of pills belonging to students for treatment of attention deficit disorder. He was caught on hidden camera and charged with two counts of larceny of a drug and three counts of breaking into a depository.

2015: Lamar Wright, of Mattapan, was accused of breaking into Chelmsford High School lockers and stealing equipment, cash and student property, including a credit card that was later used at a local convenience store. He was allegedly caught on camera during a month long police investigation and charged with two counts of larceny from a building, receiving stolen property under $250 and improper use of a credit card over $250. Wright failed to appear at his arraignment and was later arrested on a warrant.

An investigation is also ongoing for another Aramark custodian believed to have stolen computer equipment from one of the schools.

Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter and Tout @alanamelanson.

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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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