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News :: Labor
Workers at MSPCC vote in SEIU Local 509
25 Sep 2004
After a three year campaign workers at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC) voted in SEIU Local 509 September 23 by a 4-to-1 margin.
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Workers at MSPCC vote in SEIU Local 509
Largest private sector victory in Western Mass in five years

By Bryan G. Pfeifer

After a three year campaign workers at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC) voted in SEIU Local 509 September 23 by a 4-to-1 margin.

The pro-union vote marks the biggest private sector union victory in Western Massachusetts in five years.

The final vote tally, supervised by the National Labor Relations Board at multiple work sites, was 216-52. The MSPCC in Western Massachusetts covers about 300 workers in the cities of Springfield, Pittsfield, Greenfield, Athol, Holoyoke and Chicopee.

Local 509 represents 10,000 workers in Massachusetts, including social workers and nurses that provide human services to children and families in state agencies and private companies. 509’s progressive history includes supporting its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members by fighting for expanded workplace rights. Last spring 509 members joined over 200,000 workers in labor unions state-wide to demand same-sex marriage rights.

The MSPCC is not a state agency but a private non-profit social service organization that provides intervention programs, mental health treatment to prevent child abuse, counseling support for abused children and engages in public advocacy towards these goals. The MSPCC receives state funds.

On its website MSPCC says it is "....dedicated to leadership in protecting and promoting the rights and well being of children and families.”

According to the workers this didn’t extend to them.

“People have been very, very unhappy here,” said Anne M. GeMusis, a clinical case worker for families in crisis at the MSPCC Springfield office (www.masslive.com).

According to GeMusis, the workers voted union because they received no raises for five years or cost-of-living increases for two years, the workers’ precarious at-will status, a boss controlled grievance procedure, meager benefits, increasing case loads and more. Many of the workers, despite having bachelor’s or master’s degrees, make on average between $30-35,000 annually, a pittance.

After the pro-union vote GeMusis expressed the workers’ hope.

“….It’s very frustrating because management doesn’t address issues [but] they’re going to have to now.”

Workers at MSPCC in Jamaica Plain, a borough of Boston, joined SEIU three years ago and now have guaranteed raises and protected grievance procedures among other gains in their legally binding contract. But this win didn’t come without a struggle despite the workers voting in Local 509 by a 4-to-1 margin in April 2001.

According to 509 organizers, the MSPCC in Jamaica Plain refused for over 18 months to recognize the workers’ choice in violation of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, spent over $140,000 of state and private donors’ money to fight NLRB orders to bargain and fired over 40 percent of the social workers at the Jamaica Plain office who voted for 509 amid numerous other unfair labor practices.

Despite the worker’s pro-union vote Local 509 fully expects a similar battle to be waged in Western Mass. Log on to www.seiu509.org for more information on how to support the MSPCC workers.

-- END --

(c) 2004 Bryan G. Pfeifer. Article may be used in whole or in part provided full attribution is given to author.
See also:
http://www.seiu509.org
http://www.millionworkermarch.org

This work is in the public domain