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Posted By: Council 93
Mental health workers press Baker to back metal detectors at DMH facilities

From State House News Service/Worcester Telegram and Gazette

By Andy Metzger, State House News Service

BOSTON — They are trained to treat those with the greatest behavioral problems, but workers at inpatient mental health facilities around the state fear they lack specific infrastructure to keep everyone physically safe and now they are asking Gov. Charlie Baker to step in.

Two officials from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees hand-delivered to the governor's staff a petition signed by more than 1,100 workers asking for the installation of metal detectors at seven facilities.

"We need his intervention," Jim Durkin, director of legislation for AFSCME Council 93, told John Tapley, the governor's constituent services director, on Friday. Durkin said metal detectors would not completely solve security challenges at the facilities but they would be an "immediate first step."

Tapley said he would make sure the governor received the request, which asks for "immediate action." The Department of Mental Health is "carefully reviewing and updating its procedures to maintain a safe workplace and treatment environment for staff, patients and visitors," a Baker spokesman said on Tuesday.

Knives and other weapons have been smuggled into DMH facilities, and a few months ago a patient used a pencil or pen to stab two workers at Taunton State Hospital, according to Joanne Cooke, president of AFSCME Local 72, who has photos of weapons found on campuses and photos of the wounds staff suffered from the attack earlier this year.
Cooke and Durkin worry that a patient prone to violence will obtain a weapon capable of seriously injuring someone at a mental health facility, posing a risk to staff, visitors and other patients.

"We can't wait any longer for this. It's only a matter of time, we believe, before a knife or a firearm falls into the hands of a patient and people are seriously injured or killed," Durkin told the News Service.

While metal detectors are a common security measure at government buildings and airports, they are rarer in health care settings. Mental Health Commissioner Joan Mikula has tasked her department with looking into the costs associated with installing metal detectors and the department is also surveying staff about their safety concerns, according to an official.

"The safety of staff, persons, and families served is one of the department's highest priorities," DMH spokeswoman Daniela Trammell said in a statement. "In order for our work to be successful, DMH must create and maintain a safe workplace and hospital treatment environment. We are assessing the department's needs to best address all patient, visitor and staff safety needs."

Health care safety concerns are not limited to DMH facilities. The Massachusetts Nurses Association is urging lawmakers to support legislation (S 1374/H 1007) that would require annual safety assessments at all health care facilities. Neither bill has passed the House or Senate this session.

On Friday DMH closed Westwood Lodge, a private hospital operated by Arbour Health Systems "due to issues concerning patient safety and quality of care," according to the department, and transferred 20 adult patients out of the facility. Westwood Lodge is not one of the DMH inpatient facilities but it is licensed by DMH.

The seven DMH inpatient facilities are Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, Taunton State Hospital, Corrigan Mental Health Center in Fall River, Cape Cod and Islands Community Mental Health Center in Pocasset, Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center in Boston, Tewksbury Hospital and Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Boston, according to Durkin.

Some of those facilities use hand-held metal-detecting wands, according to the administration and the union.
Durkin said the wands are a "secondary tool" insufficient for screening all incoming visitors and patients. He claimed the administration is reluctant to install metal-detecting gates because of image concerns, which he said is "absurd."

"The only reason we can get out of them is it's an image concern," Durkin said. "They don't want their facility to have a prison-like feel. But if you go to any of these facilities, you'll see at Worcester, for example, 20-foot barbed wire fences surrounding the facilities."

Durkin said the union has been pressing for metal detectors for several years and over the past several months he has spoken about the issue with Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, her chief of staff, Leslie Darcy, and Mikula.

Cooke said that as officials have sought to expand treatment options in the community rather than inpatient settings, the patients treated at DMH facilities are "really the sickest of the sick right now."

"Let me tell you, these are tough characters," said Cooke, who said patients have told staff they are afraid of violence.

Posted By: Council 93
Council 93's Scholarship Committee is now accepting nominations for the Council 93 Memorial Leadership Award.

Awarded in memory of our late brother and sisters of Council 93, the award is given annually to a current member in good standing who through exemplary action or dogged determination, exemplifies the spirit of a true trade unionist. Nominations must be received NO LATER than SEPTEMBER 22, 2017.

Each Council 93 Local Union may nominate one member for the award based on the criteria cited above. Click here for detailed information and instructions on the nomination process. Employees of Council 93 are not eligible for this award at any time during their paid service to Council 93.

A plaque, together with a check in the amount of $100.00, will be presented to the recipient at Council 93's Biennial Convention in November.

Questions can be addressed via email to Anna Owen or by calling Anna at 617-367-6015.

Posted By: Council 93
More than 350 current and retired members of AFSCME Local 851 in the City of New Bedford, MA are now sharing a total of $1.845 million in back pay that was illegally stripped from their paychecks in 2011 by the city's former mayor.

The money arrived in the workers' paychecks in mid-August, nearly eight years to the day that former Mayor Scott Lang announced he was implementing the furlough despite clear language in the law that required the union's consent. It was a hard-fought win for the union and a shining example of AFSCME Council 93's "never quit" attitude when it comes to fighting for members.

"This win sends a loud and clear message that we will fight for a long as it takes to achieve justice whenever our members our treated unfairly," said Council 93 Executive Director Frank Moroney. "We're pleased that we were finally able to force the city to pay this long-overdue debt to the hard working men and women of Local 851."

The long road to victory started with a November 2011 ruling against the furlough by the Commonwealth's Employment Relations Board (CERB). Lang left office a few months after the CERB ruling but his successor Jon Mitchell continued to fight AFSCME in court, forcing a long legal battle that ended with a showdown in the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

In December of 2016, the state's highest court ruled in AFSCME's favor and the city began identifying the workers who were owed the money and calculating the amounts due. On July 20th, the $1,845,942 in payments were approved by a unanimous vote of the New Bedford City Council. A month later, the funds were finally in the hands of AFSCME members.

Donna Cordeiro, who worked for the city's library for more than 38 years, received a check totaling $5,976. (before taxes) – even though she retired from her position two years ago.
Cordeiro, who said she will use the money to pay down some debt and build her savings account, praised the union for continuing to fight and ensuring that retirees would receive all the money they were shorted during the furlough. "I think AFSCME did a great job, Cordeiro said. "They did all they could for us and they fought until the end. They stuck with us and didn't give up."

Cordeiro added that she felt fortunate to have AFSCME fighting for her, noting that non-union management employees cannot recoup the lost funds. "If you weren't in the union, you lose," she said.

Local 851 member and Steward Shelley Avila-Martins is among the current workers who received the long overdue money in August. A zoo keeper at the city's Buttonwood Park Zoo for the past 16 years, Avila-Martins recalled the difficulty the financial hardship placed on her family when her pay was drastically cut. "It was rough, she said. "I just had a baby and we already had a two-year old. At the time, the loss of money every week hurt me really bad."

Avila-Martins knew her union was fighting for her, but admits she was doubtful at times that city leaders would ever pay their debt. "Honestly, sometimes I figured I'd be dead and gone and my kids or my grandkids would end up having to fight for it," she said with a laugh.

For Avila-Martins, who received $6899. in back pay before taxes, the money will ease the transition to a new apartment for her and her family. "It's nice not to have to struggle to come up with that security deposit and first and last month rent," she said. 'And, I even have a little left over for a rainy day." Avila-Martins said she continues to hear stories from co-workers about the difference the money is making for her union brothers and sisters. "It's been a blessing in a lot of peoples' lives," she said. "People are going through tough times and this is making a real difference."

She added that the victory is just one of many examples of why workers need union protection and has "earned us respect" from members who, from time-to-time, question the value of the union. "As a steward I tell people all the time that the union is only as strong as its members and if we stay together there is nothing that we can't accomplish."

Posted By: Council 93
Today is Workers' Memorial Day, a time to remember and honor workers who lost their lives due to job related accidents, injuries and illnesses. It's also a day to renew our commitment to fighting for safer working conditions and passage of laws and regulations that protect the safety of our members.

The name of our brother Jason Sanderson was among those read in remembrance at a ceremony at the State House in Boston earlier today. Jason, who was an active and valued member of Local 1700, lost his life in a work related tragedy last November while working a second job in construction.

In recent years, Council 93 has also mourned the loss of Jason Lew, a nurse in Local 72, who died in 2011 of injuries sustained in a violent attack by a patient in his care at state facility in Pocasset, MA. We also suffered the loss Carlos Tabares, a member of Local 851, who died in 2012 after being pinned between the bucket and the cab of a bobcat he was repairing at the New Bedford, MA Water Department.

Council 93 continues to fight for safer working conditions and fair and equitable line of duty injury and death benefits for our members. We are actively engaged in efforts to address the problem of violent attacks against our members in the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services and Massachusetts Mental Health facilities to name a few. We are also pushing for passage of legislation that would provide the same line of duty death benefit currently provided to public safety workers.

We use the sacrifices made by brothers Lew, Tabares and Sanderson as inspiration and invite all members to join us in our efforts. If you have a workplace safety issue that needs to be addressed or are interested in joining our fight to provide safer working conditions please email Jim Durkin or call at 617-367-6012.

Posted By: Council 93

A pair of impressive arbitration wins against the City of Manchester, NH has led to the promotion of two AFSCME Council 93 members and a combined total of 33 months in back wages.

Thanks to the hard work and high quality representation of their union, Local 298 members Walter Madej and William Cote have both been promoted to supervisory positions in the city. Madej will take on the job of highway supervisor in the department of public works while Cote will serve as a shift supervisor at the wastewater treatment plant.

The decisions, handed down last month by arbitrator James S. Cooper, reaffirm the strength of seniority language in collective bargaining agreements and send a strong message to management officials who may try to bypass the seniority process.

The cases started in the summer of 2015 when the vacant positions were first posted. Cote and Madej were among a number of applicants for the positions and both possessed the skills and experience needed to perform the job. But the pair also had something else that no other candidate could claim – seniority. Despite the fact that both Cote and Madej had skills and experience equal to or better than the other applicants and despite clear seniority language in the contract, the city opted to give the promotions to two other candidates. Grievances were subsequently filed by AFSCME and after more than a year, both matters were placed before independent arbitrator James S. Cooper for a binding decision in accordance with the contract.

After hearing the arguments and viewing evidence presented by both sides at hearings in January, Cooper ruled in favor of the union and ordered the immediate promotion of Cote and Madej. He also directed the city to make both workers "whole for loss of pay and benefits retroactive to the date of the grievance." Madej will receive 15 months of the difference between his current pay and the promotional level pay. Cote will be compensated for 18 months of the difference in pay.

In his written decision Cooper sharply criticized management for their actions calling the system used to deny Madej the promotion "a façade of objectivity designed to provide the department a basis for promoting the department's favored candidate." But Cooper's strongest language came at the end of the Madej decision which read, "perhaps someday, (the other candidate) will enjoy the application of this standard when he has seniority and ability to perform the job and some hot shot new employee tries to edge him out of a promotion. Seniority means something and in this case, it means Walter Madej should have been promoted."

The arbitrator's decision translates into a well-deserved pay day for Madej and Cote but the cost doesn't stop there for the Administration of Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas. Due to language in the contract stipulating the loser in arbitration pays the full cost of the arbitrator's services, the Gatsas Administration is also responsible for nearly $13,000 in arbitration costs.

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!

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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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