(SPRINGFIELD)— In a union election covering over 500 human service workers, employees at Sullivan & Associates overwhelmingly voted to be represented by SEIU Local 509. Sullivan employees provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health issues at 60 worksites throughout central and western Massachusetts. Sullivan workers, by a vote of 190 to 94, chose to be represented by SEIU Local 509 in collective bargaining with management.
“This is a huge victory for not only the human service workers at Sullivan & Associates, but for the individuals we serve every day. Now, we will have a real voice to improve the conditions in our workplace and to ensure that the individuals we serve are receiving the best care they possibly can. It is a step forward for dignity and respect for ourselves and for everyone we serve. This is a great day,” said Tamador Gibreel, a Direct Service Provider at a Sullivan & Associates facility in Springfield.
The Human Service Workers at Sullivan gained a significant amount of community and political support in their campaign to form their union free from coercion and intimidation.
Citing many actions by Mental Health Association (MHA) in a June 2010 union election that were deemed illegal by a National Labor Relations Board hearing officer, city officials in Springfield, Worcester and Pittsfield all voiced strong support for the rights of Sullivan’s human service workers to each make their own personal decision about whether to form a union free from the intimidation and coercion that was rampant in the MHA election. In a stinging rebuke of the tactics employed by MHA and its out-of-state union-busting consultant, Region 1 of the NLRB overturned the results of the MHA election and has called for a new election there.
“This is a win-win both for us as Human Service Workers and for the individuals we serve. Many of us have very serious concerns about the working conditions at Sullivan & Associates worksites. We have been concerned about our job security and stability and getting adequate pay for the work we do. Now we will have a way to bring those concerns to management in a way that cannot be ignored. We will be able to negotiate for improvements in working conditions, pay and benefits and that will help everyone involved,” said Michelle Arnhold, a Direct Service Provider at a Sullivan & Associates day program in Worcester.
“We congratulate our new brothers and sisters at Sullivan & Associates for their vote to join the Human Service Workers Union. SEIU Local 509 is proud that the workers at Sullivan chose to join our union and we will work hard to ensure that the Human Service Workers at Sullivan are treated with respect, dignity and as equal partners in providing the best care possible for the individuals they serve every day,” said Michael Grunko, President of SEIU Local 509.
The election, which was conducted by mail-in ballot, began on November 29, 2010 and concluded on December 13, 2010. 507 Sullivan Human Service Workers were eligible to vote in the election.
SEIU Local 509 represents over 12,000 Human Service workers throughout Massachusetts. Several thousand SEIU 509 members work as professional, direct care, and support staff at private agencies that receive public funding to provide a variety of social services to elders, at-risk children, and people with mental illness and developmental disabilities.