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News


05/19/2020
 
Posted By: Council 93
Council 93 is now accepting registrations for a new online workshop aimed at helping stewards and other local union leaders and activists "Navigate the Five Steps of Handling a Grievance."

All AFSCME members – regardless of their position within their local – are invited to participate.

Through this training program, participants will:
- Learn the contractual definition of a grievance
- Identify the five basic steps of the grievance process
- Gain the skills and knowledge needed to use the grievance process to effectively enforce a collective bargaining agreement

This live Zoom call training will be held on Thursday, June 4th at 4:30 PM and will end at approximately 6:00 PM

In order to provide participants with sufficient time to ask questions, this workshop will be limited to 100 participants. As such, interested members are encouraged to register now.

The deadline to register is June 3rd at 12:00 PM

To register, email Brittany Gagnon with your name, AFSCME Council 93 Local number; employer/worksite; and your mobile phone number. You will receive a confirmation email from Brittany with additional details including a zoom call link.

Members with questions or in need of additional details can email Dave Nagle


05/05/2020
 
Posted By: Council 93
Field Services
Join us this Thursday, May 7th for a virtual training on Stewarding In a Crisis Today's global pandemic has created some unique challenges for stewards and union activists. We need to find new ways to activate our locals.

Date: Thursday, May 7th
Time: 4:00pm to 6:15pm
Location: Virtual Training

Join us for: Stewarding in a Crisis.
• Identify the best ways to represent members in a tumultuous environment.
• Create support structures and a pro-active working environment for our members.
• Adopt tactics to increase union activism.
• Turn threats into opportunities for union building.

RSVP to Membership Development Coordinator David Nagle dnagle@afscme93.org



04/30/2020
 
Posted By: Council 93
The union representing more than 6,500 direct care workers and support staff in Massachusetts State Human Services facilities and group homes has asked the Administration of Governor Charles Baker to establish a public, online system for reporting data on COVID-19 infections among staff and the patients and clients in their care.

Council 93 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) reached out to officials in the administration during the weekend of April 17-19 to suggest the issuance of regular, easily-accessible online reports on patient/client and staff infections for each human services facility under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS).

In the days that followed, some reports were emailed to staff at select human services facilities but the union has yet to see seen evidence of a consistent, public reporting system for all facilities as requested.

The union believes the reports are necessary to put an end to sporadic media reports of infections at select facilities under EOHHS, which have created a great deal of confusion and concern among families with loved ones receiving care in these facilities, as well as the front-line staff.

"Concerned families, AFSCME members, and the media are turning to us for answers and we cannot and should not be the official source of this critical information," said AFSCME Council 93 Executive Director Mark Bernard. "The families and staff deserve to know what is happening in each facility and they shouldn't have to hunt for that information or rely on any source other than the commonwealth. We realize that the information provided in these online updates may be disturbing, but the fear and panic associated with the unknown is, in many respects, worse."

In an effort to further calm concerned individuals and families, the union is also asking that the reports include specific information on steps being taken to reduce the spread of the virus at each individual facility and group home under EOHHS.

Bernard said the union's effort is not aimed at criticizing the Baker Administration. Rather, the union is calling for the online reporting system to provide "some measure of comfort" to families and staff who are searching for answers. "This is not a complaint. It's offered as a well-intentioned suggestion," Bernard said. "We're all in this together and like our members, we believe Governor Baker and his team are doing the best they can under increasingly difficult and rapidly changing circumstances. But the bottom line here is that concerned parties deserve to know what is happening in these facilities, and they need to have easy access to the most up-to-date information from a single source. We stand ready to help in any way we can."

Media inquiries can be directed to Jim Durkin at 978-866-2283 or by email


04/27/2020
 
Posted By: Council 93
Just over a month ago, Dave Harnois was working as a Vocational Instructor for the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Disability Services (DDS) providing job and life skills training to some of Massachusetts' most vulnerable citizens. But Harnois' job duties changed in mid-March when the coronavirus began to spread quickly across Massachusetts and the country.

A twenty-one-year veteran employee of DDS, Harnois misses his regular job at the working with DDS clients at the Dighton Redemption Center where he teaches developmentally disabled clients job and life skills to more fully integrate into the community and develop independence through work. But he knows that he is where he is most needed right now, and happy to be helping in any way he can. "When social distancing became the priority the programs we staffed were designated as non-essential and people in jobs like mine were reassigned and became essential overnight," Harnois said. But like all of my members, I'm ready to do whatever we need to do to keep the individuals who rely on us safe."

Harnois' vocational program was abruptly halted last month, as were all programs that brought the 41,000 adults and children served by DDS into the community. Daytrips, vocational training, occupational therapy, job placements, and many other important programs were temporarily suspended to slow the spread of the potentially-deadly virus among the medically fragile populations DDS serves.

Harnois, President of Local 651 and a Council 93 Executive Board Member, has been reassigned to a group home as a Direct Support Worker on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight. He is responsible for assisting the now home-confined clients with daily chores, food preparation, and self-care during this difficult time. Local 651 has approximately 600 members working 24/7 at fifty-three group homes in the DDS Southeast Region which spans from Cape Cod, to Attleboro, and up the South Shore. The suspension of visits from residents' friends and family members has made the job of AFSCME members even more difficult and increased the already heavy reliance that residents have on the staff.

"COVID-19 has made a difficult job that much harder," Harnois commented. "The clients we work with are used to a daily routine and this has totally upended any sense of normalcy. To make matters worse, a lot of them do not understand what is going on and why we can't go out like we used to. It is really hard to explain to someone with disabilities who has worked hard to gain some independence that they no longer have that freedom and it is for their own protection and safety."

The transition has been difficult on Local 651 members as well. "A lot of members are in the same position I am in. They're working in new locations with new duties with different clients all while trying to keep themselves and the clients safe."

As a local president, Harnois has the added responsibility of keeping his members informed of any policy directives from DDS and advocating for the membership with management for the necessary safety procedures and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

"Luckily we have had good communications with DDS management and Department of Public Health Staff throughout this crisis," Harnois said, noting that the daily calls to update union leadership on policies and procedures are put in place for the safety of the clients and membership alike. "They have been open and listening to the concerns of our members who are on the front lines and we have been advocating for our members to get the proper PPE."

Harnois has been thankful for the guidance and assistance Council 93 staff have provided throughout the crisis. "I am trying to keep people positive and upbeat during a stressful time. It helps to let members know that we have our union fighting for us every day. They have been with us since day one to answer any questions or deal with any issues that have arisen. Council 93 has not missed a beat."


04/20/2020
 
Posted By: Council 93
Editor's Note: The day after this story was finalized, Sgt. Tony DeMarco came down with symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, he is recovering in self-isolation and hopes to return to his job shortly.

Tony is just like any of the direct care workers, public health nurses, custodians, public works professionals, corrections officers, and so many other public service workers across our region and the country are maintaining essential services — all at great risk of contracting the coronavirus. We're on the front lines of this pandemic and doing everything we can to protect our communities at all costs and too often without the health and safety resources that we need.

Our state and local government budgets are reeling from this crisis. We need greater investment in our health care systems, our schools and our workplaces.


Tell Congress to fund the front lines. We're doing our jobs. We need Congress to do theirs.

Boston, MA- Tony DeMarco is used to being in close contact with dangerous situations as a Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) Police Sergeant dealing with some of Boston's most vulnerable homeless and drug addicted populations, but the COVID-19 crisis has added unanticipated levels of stress and anxiety to an already stressful and dangerous job.

DeMarco, Vice President of Local 787, and all of the BPHC Police Officers have been working their regular schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic and performing to the same high standards. BPHC Police Officers are deputized special police officers responsible for the safety and well-being of the public while on BPHC Campus properties throughout Boston.

DeMarco is deeply concerned for well-being of all the BPHC officers and staff, "we are working daily with a lack of supplies. Yes, we have hand sanitizer, but there is a lot more that we are in need of as far as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Safety items are in high demand; many officers do not have the proper PPE; we are being issued one mask that is essentially a painter's mask not an N95."

PPE is essential for front line workers and has been shown to limit the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, this potentially lifesaving equipment is in short supply as the crisis spreads. In response to the nationwide PPE shortages, AFSCME has been working tirelessly to urge action from the federal government so that front line workers have the protection they need to keep themselves and their communities safe.

The work of any police officer can be dangerous under the best of circumstances, but the added pressures and stress of keeping the peace during a global health pandemic heighten the dangers of the job. BPHC officers are routinely in close physical contact with the public greatly increasing their odds of contracting COVID-19. On a daily basis, officers deal restraining emotionally disturbed individuals so they do not harm themselves or others; regular drug over doses; arrests; or removal of individuals from BPHC property. DeMarco noted that "many of the programs are ignoring the six-foot rules, people are huddled up in groups around the facilities, and in the event of a conflict that requires a physical resolution our officers are putting themselves at greater risk of exposure."

"As an essential worker you realize you're not going to be safe and sound working from home, you're on the front lines asked to continue performing knowing your risk of transmitting this disease is much greater than people staying home," DeMarco shared when asked about his feelings on being an essential employee. "The worst part is the possibility arises you could become a carrier and unwillingly cross contaminate your family when you go home. As a professional I accept the responsibilities we as a department are needed in order to continue the daily function of people's lives but you wonder if that feeling is shared about you from others."

"The day-to-day work being done by Tony and all of the BPHC officers on the front lines during this fight is truly incredible and just one of thousands of examples of AFSCME members working every day across New England and throughout the country to ensure our communities continue to function," said Council 93 Executive Director Mark Bernard. "The least that we can do is ensure that the men and women working on the front lines have the proper equipment to keep themselves safe during this crisis."

DeMarco lamented "I wish I had something positive to tell you other than the respect I have for all of us thrown into this quagmire with nobody looking for a way out. Honestly it's as much the ignorance of people as it is the disease. When you see parks full with kids playing on swings, playing basketball, or at a beach when others are scavenging for medical supplies to hopefully stay safe at work dealing hands on with a historic epidemic that's effected a half million people and counting it's mindboggling."

To end on a positive note, DeMarco noted that "everyone says 'Stay Safe' now. It's the new 'Boston Strong' phrase. It used to be one law enforcement agency to another, but now it's everyone urging safety."





04/20/2020
 
Posted By: Council 93

AFSCME members at working at mental health and public health hospitals in Tewksbury Massachusetts will soon be receiving badly-needed assistance from the United States Army Medical Corp, and according to AFSCME workers on the front lines, the aid can't come soon enough.

Local 700 member Salmira Mitchell says that she and her fellow direct care workers at the mental health facility in Tewksbury are struggling to get through every day and night as COVID infections among staff and patients continues to rise.

Mitchell, a seven-year veteran of the hospital, says that staff shortages resulting from infections has forced caregivers to cope with higher patient to staff ratios; ration and sanitize their own personal protection equipment; and deal with increased assaults on staff from "frightened and confused" patients in their care. Mitchell said that increased overtime mandates resulting from the staff shortage are also exhausting the already tired staff.

Yet, Mitchell says that she and her colleagues continue to persevere. "Everyone, patients and staff, are under a high level of stress," Mitchell said, "It's been tough, but we are hanging in there. Everyone is working hard and doing the best we can with what we have to work with."

Council 93 represents workers at both the mental health and public health facilities on the sprawling state campus in Tewksbury. In an email to staff this week, state officials said that 77 patients and 76 staff members at the Tewksbury facilities had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus as of April 18th.

However, the email to staff also indicated that assistance was on the way in the form of an Army Medical Corp. team based in Texas. The email stated that the commonwealth had received word on April 17th that the team had arrived at the hospital this past weekend "to begin orienting themselves." The email further stated that the army team consists of "physicians, RNs, LPNs, medics, social workers, rehab staff, and some mental health clinicians" and the team will be "integrating into patient care units in the next couple of days."

"The situation is difficult and dangerous at virtually all of our human services facilities but things have become particularly hard in Tewksbury over the past few weeks," said Council 93 Executive Director Mark Bernard. "The assistance from the army is both welcome and appropriate. Make no mistake about it, we are fighting a new type of war and our AFSCME soldiers on the front lines need this help."

Local 700 member and direct care worker Melissa Rusler, who has been at the hospital for almost five years, said any help will be welcomed as COVID-19 infections continue to rise. "We have 34 COVID patients on one unit. That's just too many," Rusler said. "A typical unit would have about 30 patients, but that's a health unit without any infectious diseases present. That's too many infected patients in a small place. When it first started we could separate infected patients when they were eating or watching tv. That's not possible anymore."

Like Mitchell, Rusler said the mandating of overtime shifts on COVID units is also a problem. "The recommendation is to limit exposure to the virus to eight hours but now people are having to work for 16 straight hours in a COVID unit. People are tired but they're mostly scared right now," she said.

Local 700 President Felix Martinez expressed pride for the dedication of his members and promised to continue working to make them as safe as possible. "We are doing everything we can to support them, and we are receiving great support from Council 93, Martinez said. "I'm talking to several members every hour. We are all doing our best to respond and react as soon as we can."

Local 842 President Frank Minton, whose local represents workers at the public health facility, also praised his members and the union. "We're all struggling with the same issues but we're working with Council 93 to do everything we can for our members and they deserve nothing less," Minton said. "Everyone is working at 120%. No one is taking time off. Our housekeepers, LPNs, nursing assistants, our respiratory and recreation therapists, our campus police officers and dispatchers – everyone is knocking it out of the park."


04/19/2020
 
Posted By: Council 93

Massachusetts legislation that would provide time-and-a-half compensation to ALL Public Sector Workers required to work outside of their homes during the COVID-19 Pandemic will receive a public hearing on Tuesday, April 21st before the legislature's Joint Committee on Public Service.

The legislation (formerly House Docket 4970) has now been admitted as a bill and therefore has a new bill number, which is House Bill 4631.

Thanks to grassroots lobbying efforts by AFSCME and other public-sector workers, co-sponsorship of the legislation has nearly DOUBLED to 63 LEGISLATORS over the past two weeks.

HOW CAN AFSCME MEMBERS HELP?
Council 93 will be submitting testimony on behalf of all of our members. However, our chances of success will be enhanced if committee members hear from rank and file public-sector employees who are on the front lines of this fight. Since the State House remains closed to the public, testimony can only be submitted by email.
We are encouraging all members to take a few minutes to submit testimony to the committee. To make it as easy as possible for our members, we have worked with the Public Service Committee to set up a single point of contact for AFSCME members.

By clicking on this email link, your testimony will be sent to Garret Beaulieu, a staff member of the committee, who will ensure that your testimony is provided to the full committee.

TIPS FOR SUBMITTING TESTIMONY
The following are some important tips to remember when submitting your testimony.

- Type "Testimony in Support of House Bill 4631" in the subject line of your email
- Begin the body of your email by providing your full name and home address for the record.
- Provide your job title, the name of your employer, and worksite if applicable.
- Give a brief description of the work you have been doing during the pandemic, noting that the essential nature of your job prohibits you from being able to shelter safely in your home. Share any personal thoughts on how working during the pandemic while the majority of the public has the ability to remain safe at home has impacted you and your family. This is extremely important. The more information you provide here, the more powerful your testimony will be.
- Close the email by "urging the committee to take prompt and favorable action on House Bill 4631."

Please note that the committee will accept testimony until Tuesday April 28th however, AFSCME members are encouraged to submit their testimony as soon as possible.


04/12/2020
 
Posted By: Council 93

AFSCME members working on the front lines of the Covid-19 Pandemic will now receive some well-deserved financial recognition, thanks to an agreement reached this evening between AFSCME Council 93 and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Members working in state human services facilities and group homes will receive temporary pay increases of $5.00 or $10.00 per hour, as they continue to put themselves and their families at risk by delivering essential public services to the most vulnerable members of our society.

"We're pleased to deliver this hard-earned pay increase for our members," said Council 93 Executive Director Mark Bernard. "The agreement we signed with the state calls these increases 'pay incentives,' but we view them primarily as well-deserved recognition for the courage and dedication AFSCME human services professionals are exhibiting on the job every single day and night."

Under the agreement, workers holding licenses related to their occupation will receive the $10.00 increase. All other workers will receive the $5.00 bump in pay. The increases are in effect immediately and will remain in effect until "The Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) determines that the COVID-19 Crisis has abated." However, the increases will remain in effect until at least May 30, 2020, regardless of any determination by EOHHS. Approximately 6,500 AFSCME members will receive the increases.

The agreement also provides additional recognition to workers who have not missed a "shift or regular workday" since the March state of emergency declaration by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. These workers will also receive a one-time $500. bonus in addition to the hourly-pay increases.

Bernard noted that despite the fact that AFSCME members are working in high risk environments, employee absenteeism numbers among AFSCME members overall have been extremely low during the crisis, according to reports the union has received from local union leaders working at human services facilities. With visits from the public suspended indefinitely, patients in public health and mental health hospitals; residents in developmental disability group homes and facilities; as well as juveniles in the custody of the Department of Youth Services; have become even more reliant on the AFSCME members who care for them. "Our members know that they are needed now, perhaps more than ever," Bernard said. "And, they have really stepped up during the crisis. They have been wherever they are needed, whenever they are needed. We are grateful to the Baker Administration for acknowledging their contributions."

Bernard added that he viewed tonight's agreement as a "good start," noting that AFSCME Council 93 will continue ongoing efforts to increase compensation of members who are needed at work during the crisis, and extend pay increase benefits to additional members beyond those included in tonight's agreement. Bernard said AFSCME will also be working to have the increases paid retroactively to the start of the state of emergency in March.


04/06/2020
 
Posted By: Council 93

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources

As the coronavirus, or COVID-19, spreads across the United States, members may be wondering how to keep themselves and their families healthy and safe. AFSCME members are on the front lines, caring for and transporting those afflicted with the virus. Workers in emergency services, health care, child care, educational institutions and many others may come in contact with those infected by the virus, endangering themselves. Here are some resources we have put together.

COVID-19 Updates for Locals:
Updated 4/30/2020
Updated 4/17/2020 11:00am
Updated 4/9/2020 4:00pm
Updated 4/8/2020 12:00pm
Updated 4/6/2020 12:00pm
Updated 4/1/2020 6:30pm
Updated 3/30/2020 1:30pm
Updated 3/27/2020 11:30am
Updated 3/26/2020 11:00am
Updated 3/25/2020 9:00am
Updated 3/24/2020 4:30pm
Updated 3/23/2020 12:00pm
Updated 3/20/2020 5:00pm
Updated 3/20/2020 1:30pm
Updated 3/20/2020 10:00am
Updated 3/19/2020 10:00am
COVID-19 Public Health Resource:
Fact Sheets:

Other Resources:

Watch this video from the World Health Organization to learn more
about COVID-19 and how to protect yourself against it.



04/01/2020
 
Posted By: Council 93
The AFSCME International Executive Board has adopted the attached resolution addressing the current COVID-19 pandemic and its impact. AFSCME is hard at work implementing the comprehensive resolution.

The resolution calls for:
  • Protecting workerswith proper training and equipment;
  • Lobbying Congress for direct federal assistance to states and local governments in order to maintain services as well as financial help for all workers and families;
  • Promoting telecommuting where feasible to limit exposure and to care for family members; urging OSHA to issue emergency temporary standards to protect all workers at potential risk of exposure;
  • Prioritizing the testing of health care professionals, first responders, and other critical public service workers on the frontlines;
  • Testing and treatment of COVID-19 at no out of pocket cost to individuals
  • Fighting efforts attacking collective bargaining and workers rights
  • Supporting workers' efforts to protect themselves and co-workers during the crisis
  • Continuing to support affiliates by producing communications materials, offering best practices and keeping affiliates up to date on next steps with regard to policy, the economy and legislation.

IU COVID-19 Resolution


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

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