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Rhode Island Residents with Disabilities, Advocates and SEIU Members Unite to Stop Harmful Budget Cuts

Developmentally disabled residents, caregivers and advocates have come together in the Have a Heart Coalition to stop harmful budget cuts that would eliminate critical services for people with disabilities.

In a Valentine’s Day action, coalition members spoke to lawmakers about how the budget debate will impact real people’s lives. Read the coverage in the Providence Journal.

Two Rhode Island state representatives also joined a meeting of over 50 members of SEIU Local 1199NE to hear directly from caregivers about how the cuts will affect the people they serve.

Amanda Hitchener, a direct care staff member asked the elected officials, “Do you remember the Ladd School? That was where the state basically kept developmentally disabled people locked away out of sight and didn’t invest in their care.  With these budget cuts, we’re heading back to that model — and it’s wrong.”

Other workers spoke about the impact of the cuts on their wages which are already so low that it is difficult to make ends meet.

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Coworkers, family & community allies remember slain mental health provider

Candlelight vigil in Peabody, MA

Coworkers, family members, and community allies held statewide candlelight vigils to remember slain mental health provider Stephanie Moulton on her birthday.  She would have been 26.  Stephanie was killed just over a year ago, allegedly by a mentally ill client in Revere, MA.

Since Stephanie’s tragic death, her family, mental health advocates and coworkers have been working on key legislative initiatives that would improve safety in the mental health system, including “Stephanie’s Law,” which would require Department of Mental Health facilities in Massachusetts to be equipped with panic buttons.

Panic buttons – which would be used to call for help in the event of an emergency – could save lives.

Two-hundred people participated in events across Massachusetts last night honored Stephanie by highlighting the need for immediate implementation of measures to prevent and respond to threats to worker safety in the mental health system.  People from around the country sent messages to Stephanie’s family and some shared their own stories about workplace violence within the mental health system.  Please click here: to send Stephanie’s family a letter of condolence and to share your own story of workplace violence.


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Remembering slain mental health provider Stephanie Moulton

Stephanie Moulton would have turned 26 years-old today.

About a year ago, the mental health provider was repeatedly stabbed to death by one of her mental health patients at the Revere facility, a Massachusetts state-run facility.

At the time of the incident Stephanie was working alone. She didn’t have a panic button, security or anything else to circumvent what took place after the patient was triggered.

Stephanie’s family, friends and SEIU Local Union 509 have since teamed up to push for legislation requiring mental health facilities to have panic button equipment for all its providers. Though one would think this would have been implemented days after Stephanie’s death, a year later this simple step in the right direction is caught up in endless committee.

While there will be statewide candlelight vigils taking place in Massachusetts today, we are calling on members and activists to send Stephanie’s family a letter of condolence, of solidarity, and if moved to do so, their own story as it relates to violence on the job. We will be certain that every response is personally delivered.

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Super-Committee FAIL: Democrats Hold Firm; Republicans Side With Millionaires

TaxBreaksforWealthy.jpgLate Monday afternoon, the congressional Super-Committee announced their failure to put forward a proposal to cut $1.2 trillion from the U.S. budget over the next 10 years.

Time and time again, the Super-Committee proved unable to reach an agreement on long-term deficit reduction for one reason and one reason only:

Republicans refused to make the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.

Despite an overwhelming majority of Americans wanting the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share, Republicans refused to budge from their stance that Bush tax cuts be preserved while cutting programs that the middle class, seniors, and most Americans depend on.

Democrats on the Super-Committee stood their ground that the rich pay their fair share or no deal. They insisted that everyone in America pay their fair share and prevented devastating cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and other programs that millions of Americans rely on for their healthcare and livelihoods.

By rejecting the Republican proposals that came out of the Super-Committee, Democrats were expressing the views of the vast majority of Americans and standing behind them. While these efforts were able to prevent a bad deal from coming out of the Super-Committee, this fight is far from over.

“Now, it’s up to both chambers to focus on putting Americans back to work. That is the best way to reduce our deficit,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry in a statement following the announcement by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. “A cuts-only approach will not work and will end up shifting responsibility to already stretched state budgets and cost millions of jobs.”

[Read Mary Kay’s entire statement on SEIU.org here].

In a White House press briefing Monday evening, President Obama took Republicans to task for not proposing any serious deficit reduction proposals that would required shared sacrifice:

“There’s still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington. They continue to insist on protecting $100 billion worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans at any cost […]”

More details from the New York Times on the failure of the Super-Committee to propose a plan to identify $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions in time for the November 23rd deadline.

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People with Disabilities and Workers Team Up to Fight the “Right Fight”

Bob Kafka, from the Adapt Community, Endorse the Guiding Principles while SEIU President Mary Kay Henry and SEIU Executive Vice President Kirk Adams look on.

Today leaders from the union and disability advocacy movements joined together to sign a historic document called “Guiding Principles: For Partnerships with Unions and Emerging Worker Organizations When Individuals Direct Their Own Services and Supports.”

For nearly three years, SEIU, ADAPT, the Center for Self Determination, and the National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services have collaborated to design these shared principles.

The refrain at the signing ceremony today was the words “stronger, “ and “together,” because these principles provide a framework for how disability advocates and labor unions can work side by side to advance an individual’s ability to direct and control their own services while also improving workers’ wages, benefits, and working conditions.

“In this environment, our two great movements must work together to fight these threats. We must support each other and combine our strength, or we will suffer the consequences. These Guiding Principles create the framework for us to work together,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said.

Now more than ever, Americans need our united voices. Millions of Americans in the 99% are being left behind in this economy; affordable, secure healthcare is under attack; corporations and right wing extremists are focused on dismantling the rights of workers; and the very foundation of independent living for people with disabilities is at risk.

Today’s ceremony closed with the joint commitment of both movements to go forward in educating its respective constituents of the Principles. Please feel free to download the full document, or this version of the document optimized for screen readers, and pass it along to everyone you know. You can also read a cover letter from the individuals involved in drafting the principles and get in touch with them here.

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Left to right, back row: Tom Nerney, Leslie Frane, Kirk Adams, Mary Kay Henry, Mark Polit, Kevin Mahoney, Erin McGaffigan; Left to right, front row: Mike Oxford, Bob Kafka

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Tell Congress to Get Their Priorities Straight!

I wanted to share this email I just received from SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry.

Dear Peter,

Sometimes our representatives in Washington lose their way.

It’s as simple as this: America needs good jobs, not more healthcare cuts.

Democratic and Republican members of the congressional “Super-Committee” are poised to cut Medicare and Medicaid rather than end tax giveaways for big corporations and millionaires.

That’s just plain wrong.

Please call to tell your member of Congress that they cannot support a Super-Committee deal that takes away the healthcare that seniors, people with disabilities and working families are counting on and destroys jobs. Here’s the number:

877-736-7831

Recent news reports say that these members of Congress are reviewing proposals that include staggering cuts to Medicaid and Medicare to the tune of $500 billion or more.

Cuts of this magnitude would be a terrible deal for 99% of Americans and especially disastrous for seniors, people with disabilities and children who rely on these lifesaving healthcare services. America’s middle class is hurting. Instead of cutting healthcare and cutting jobs, it’s time for Congress to ask millionaires and big corporations to do their part in reducing our nation’s deficit.

Call your member(s) of Congress and tell them that to say NO to any deal that cuts Medicaid and Medicare and yes to protecting the jobs that get America working again:

877-736-7831

Keep Fighting,

Mary Kay Henry
SEIU International President

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MHA Under investigation by state Operational Services Division

As we all know, the actions of Linda Williams, the union busting consultant, and managers were so outrageous last year–like erecting a stockade fence around the voting site on election day and indicating bonuses were tied to the outcome of the election–that the NLRB set aside the election.  Now the state of Massachusetts Operational Services Division has opened an investigation into the possible illegal use of state money to fund their anti union campaign.

You can read the correspondence between Linda Williams and the OSD on their website here, including their most recent request for additional information filed this week. If Linda Williams does not comply with the OSD’s request for information, she could jeopardize the care of our clients by subjecting MHA to:

delay of payment, disallowance of payment expenses relative to which documentation sufficient to meet governmental agencies’ inspection or auditing standards is not provided, restriction on bidding for new contracts, restriction from receiving additional funds or price increases, determination that the Contractor is ineligible for the ready payment system under 815 CMR 3.00, or debarment from doing business with the state. In addition, Contractors of special education services shall not be eligible for an increase to prices authorized pursuant to the provisions of 808 CMR 1.06.

Linda Williams says she has nothing to hide, so lets hope she is as open and transparent with the state as she says she is with us.

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Councilor Rivera Calls on Linda Williams to Respect City Council Resolution

In October of 2010, Springfield City Council passed a resolution supporting workers rights to allow employees to: “Choose freely whether to unionize or not, free from intimidation or coerction”

As we all know by now, because the actions of Linda Williams and management were so egregious–like erecting a stockade fence around the voting site and indicating bonuses were contingent on the union election outcome–the NLRB threw out the first election.  You would think, that MHA would have learned their lesson by now.

Unfortunately, Linda Williams seems to be headed down the same path of fear, intimidation and coercion.  She has once again hired a high paid “union avoidance” consultant.  And this time, she seems to be acting in conflict with the goals of the City Council Resolution supporting workers rights, in addition to potential further violations of NLRB rules.

City Councilor Amaad Rivera has sent a letter calling on Linda Williams to respect the resolution:

MHA employees now report that MHA has again retained a “union avoidance” consultant, Natasha Gordon, and is requiring staff to attend mandatory meetings to dissuade employees from supporting a union.  I am concerned these activities and others conflict with the resolution of City Council.   During this second election, I trust you will respect the resolution of city council and allow your employees to: “to choose freely whether to unionize or not, free of intimidation or coercion.

The councilor has joined  growing list of over 60 community members and community organizations like Jobs With Justice, United for Community Voices, the Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council, Arise and elected officials like state representative  Cheryl Coakley-Rivera who have a called on Linda Williams to respect workers rights.

If you haven’t already, you can send a letter to Linda Williams and the MHA board of directors here.

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Let’s Not be Fooled Again!

Is it KEISHA or NATASHA?

Most of us have been visited in our programs this week by a woman who sometimes goes by the name Keisha or Natasha. No one knows her real name. She claims she’s from Atlanta and that she used to work for SEIU.

The TRUTH is that Keisha/Natasha is a paid, anti-union consultant! Yes, even after the National Labor Relations Board ruled that MHA broke the law, the agency is once again spending money that could be in our pockets to keep us from forming our union.

Last year, MHA was so scared that we would vote YES for our union that they:

  • Built a fence around the parking lot at the polling place
  • Locked the front entrance to the polling facility and deactivated the keys to the other entrance
  • Hired security on election day
  • Hired a high-priced anti-union law firm
  • Illegally implied that our bonuses were tied to how the election turned out!

But even after the federal government determined that MHA broke the law and ordered a new election, MHA hasn’t learned its lesson. It’s up to the same dirty tricks as last time.

Let’s not let MHA’s dirty tricks fool us into giving up our rights.

Let’s VOTE YES the week of November 14th!

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Election Date Set for MHA!

Our Election Date Has Been Set!

After a year of fighting to have our voices heard, the National Labor Relations Board has set a date for our election. It is time to put fear in the past, and think about our future. By joining SEIU Local 509, we are demanding that our voices be heard. We are standing together to effect real change. This is our opportunity!

  • The National Labor Relations Board will mail our ballots on November 14th
  • Complete your ballot & return it immediately to make sure your vote is counted. Ballots must be received by November 28th
  • Ballots will be counted at 10am on November 30th

VOTE YES FOR OUR FUTURE

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