From East to West Coast, Human Service Workers Come Together to Form their Union


In a win for the workers and the communities they serve, human service workers in Massachusetts and California have voted to form their union with SEIU to have a voice on the job and improve the quality of services they provide.

Following a months-long campaign, more than 100 CLASS service providers will now join SEIU Local 509. This historic win makes CLASS the first unionized affiliate of The Arc in Massachusetts.

“I’ve been an Integrated Day Service Specialist at CLASS for over five years and I love my work,” said Liz Parrilla, a worker who voted. “My co-workers and I know that SEIU Local 509 will stand with us in our fight for fair wages, safer working conditions and a real voice on the job. We’ve united to make our voices heard.”

Over 150 employees of Mission Hope Day Program (MHDP) in northern California have also voted to form their union with SEIU Local 1021. Workers stuck together in the face of MHDP management’s effort to intimidate them with expensive anti-union consultants who tried to convince workers not to vote for their union.

“In the past we have tried to voice our concerns to management but nothing changed, “said Manny Lopez, Mission Hope worker and union supporter. “Coming together and forming a union will help us see the changes we’ve earned.”

MHDP employees are already preparing for the next step when they will sit down with their employer to improve their jobs and ensure their clients receive the quality care they deserve.

Read more on CLASS win in the North Reading Patch here and visit the 509 Local website here.

Read more on the Mission Hope win on the SEIU 1021 Local website here.



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The Time is Now for Gun Control & Increased Workplace Safety

Last month, President Obama released his plan to reduce gun violence.

I am deeply thankful for the President’s leadership in acknowledging that both gun violence and unaddressed and severe mental health issues have all too often played a role in tragedies like those in Newtown, Connecticut and communities across the nation and the need for increased dialogue on mental health in our country is imminent.

Whether at a school, group home, clinic or hospital, SEIU members believe that the right to a safe, secure workplace should be fundamental for all workers. When direct support workers and mental health providers go to work every day, they should never have to worry about getting hurt or losing their lives.  And while the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, unaddressed and severe mental health issues have been a common thread in too many of the recent mass killings.

Sadly, the SEIU family has also been deeply affected by violence in the workplace. Four SEIU members in the healthcare and mental health industry have lost their lives recently.

It is up to us to continue to promote a culture of safety not just on our jobs, but in our communities as well.

Have you been impacted by workplace violence? Click here to share your story of support for a system that will improve workplace and public safety and the mental health system to prevent future senseless acts of violence. 


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Massachusetts Group Home Workers Speak Out to Improve Safety

Group home workers, clients and family members spoke out in a recent WBUR piece about the urgent need to improve safety for clients and workers in Massachusetts group homes.

Feeling unsafe on the job is a cold, hard fact, some workers said.

“Something like that could easily happen to us,” said Noah Campbell, speaking of Moulton’s murder. For the past three years, Campbell, a member of Service Employees International 509, worked as a counselor for Alternatives Inc., a CBFS vendor providing mental health services in western Massachusetts. “And I don’t think there is anything to prevent that.”

Read more or listen to the piece, Gaps Found in Care, Safety in Mass. Group Homes

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Direct Support Professionals at the Mentor Network/REM Form Union for Respect, Better Pay and Improved Services for Consumers

More than 275 direct support professionals at the Mentor Network, REM Connecticut Community Services have formed their union with SEIU District 1199. Despite tough employer opposition, workers stood up for respect, better pay and a voice to improve services and supports for their consumers.

“I’m organizing because changes are needed within the agency for the staff, our families and the people we care for,” said Carina Kerr, a direct support worker at the Mentor Network, REM.

Simone Dacres says that she supports forming a union because, “We need to support each other as we support our consumers here at REM.”

Workers at the Mentor Network, REM in Connecticut join over 200 human service workers at CHI in Maryland who voted to join SEIU Local 500 last month.

Direct support professionals are increasingly seeing that the best way to have a real voice in important decisions that impact their jobs and the services they provide is by joining together in a union.

Explaining why she and so many others chose to join SEIU Local 500, Delphine Achi said, “Our union will help us speak out.”

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Massachusetts Mental Health Coalition Scores Legislative Wins to Restore Services and Improve Safety

In Massachusetts, Mental Health Advocates United had a tremendous end to the 2012 legislative session.

Our partnership with made significant progress restoring past cuts and providing services to those living with a mental illness. The 2013 state budget increases funding for adult and children’s community-based mental health services by more than $16 million.  As a result, more children, adolescents, adults and seniors began the journey to recovery.

Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry insured that a $100,000 will go for the Stephanie Moulton Safety Symposium.  This forum will be a first of its kind in Massachusetts that will be conducted by the DMH annually for direct care community workers. Named for Stephanie Moulton, a mental health counselor from Peabody who was killed in the line of work on January 20th, 2011, this event will focus on improving safety, best  practices, policies and risk management.

Lastly, the mental health budget includes $5.1 million to keep 45 psychiatric beds open at Taunton State Hospital. This is great news since the state is already strained with a lack of available acute care beds across Massachusetts, forcing hospitals to discharge patients going through a mental health crisis.

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ACTION NEEDED to Support Community- and Home-Based Services

The Center for Medicaid Services (CMS) in Washington, DC has a proposal that goes straight to the heart of our values as people who care about improving support services for adults and children with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

The CMS proposal would give states more flexibility to provide home- and community-based services.

That means more resources for services that value individual choices, independence and the ability for individuals to live in their community with control over their immediate environment and day-to-day activities.

CMS needs to hear from us about why these values are so important and why we need to encourage states to move away from providing services in expensive institutional settings that do not meet individuals’ needs. It’s up to us to be a strong voice for the least-restrictive, most consumer-directed settings for individuals to receive the supports they need.

Send your note today supporting the CMS proposal to promote home- and community-based services for adults and children with mental illness and developmental disabilities.

Thank you for joining with us and making your voice heard.

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Congressional Budget Puts Human Services at Risk, Frontline Workers Speak Out

Instead of making the 1% – the rich and big corporations – pay their fair share, House Republicans voted to make unprecedented and devastating cuts to essential services at a time when 99% of families can least afford it.

These service cuts would hurt millions of people with mental illness and developmental disabilities. At the same time, some in Congress want to give the richest 1% and big corporations more than $4 trillion in tax cuts.

Money from the federal government is by far the single largest source of revenue for state and local governments. So what Congress does matters a lot.

Direct support professional, Cantave Pamphile, tells Congress to get its priorities straight

Cantave Pamphile, Direct Support Professional, Massachusetts

My name is Cantave Pamphile. I started this work because of the experience I had with my nephew. He has Down Syndrome and I saw what my sister was doing to take care of him. I wanted to be able to provide that assistance to others who need it. I see that if these individuals are given a hand, they can really be able to live the independent lives that they want to.

The best part of the job for me is just working with the individuals and spending time with them. We can see how much our work means to them and contributes to their well-being.

We’re often staffed just enough to maintain the proper level of care for our individuals, and there are so many more things that we could do with the individuals if we had the resources.

If funding for the individuals that we serve were cut, it would affect them a lot. There are eight individuals in the house that I work in, but we only have three staff at a time. The people that I work with need a lot of assistance, so if we were to lose just one staff person, the result would be dramatic. The whole system could fall apart.

Every one of the individuals that I work with has become a part of my family, and I feel like I’ve become a part of theirs. We spend so much time with them, making sure that they have the support they need, that it’s just natural to be close with them and their families. I can’t imagine not being a part of their lives.

Members of Congress need to hear about the individuals that I work with and how much they depend on the services that we deliver. They need to know how the work we do allows individuals to live as independently as possible, and without our work they would be left hanging.

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Massachusetts Human Services at Bridgewell Win Better Pay, A Voice on the Job in First Union Contract

After forming a union with SEIU Local 509 last year, direct support staff at Bridgewell just won their first union contract that improves pay and other working conditions and gives staff a voice in important decisions that impact the  people with disabilities who they support every day.

In the largest union victory for human services workers in New England, Bridgewell staff formed a union in May 2001 to address concerns about the quality of services and to win respect for the work they do.

Cantave Pamphile, a direct care worker in Saugus, said they joined with SEIU Local 509 because “we want to make Bridgewell a better provider of services. The union will help us keep staff who are committed to our work.”

SEIU Local 509 represents over 13,000 human service workers in Massachusetts, and is the fastest growing union of human service worker in the state. Since 2009 over 1800 private sector human service workers have voted to unite with SEIU Local 509.

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NAMI, SEIU speak out for funding community mental health services

SEIU members joined NAMI and other advocates calling on Massachusetts lawmakers to increase funding for community mental health services. Advocates pointed out that additional cuts run the risk of allowing people to develop long-term physical and mental health problems driving health care costs way up over time. Watch the story covered by channel 22 in Boston to find out more.

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Oregon Workers and Consumers with Disabilities Lobby Legislators

People from around the state came together for our lobby day focusing on legislation affecting people with developmental disabilities and mental health issues. Homecare workers and adult foster home providers were joined by consumers to meet with their legislators at the capitol. Below are some videos from this empowering day of action.

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