Showing Solidarity at the American Red Cross Blood Services Unit in Bangor.
MSEA-SEIU Steward Katie Duncan, who works as an educational audiologist at Governor Baxter School for the Deaf/Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, was named the Steward of the Year during the Maine AFL-CIO’s Virtual Biennial Convention.
This award for me is really a reflection not only of my personal growth in the last year but the collective growth of our membership as well in our worksite,” Katie said in accepting the award. “I’ve been so proud to watch our members unite and fight not only for themselves but for their coworkers, too. We have succeeded in winning a fair contract and the respect of our management team. These success have only helped to demonstrate the importance and the influence of the union, and our staff has really taken notice. We’ve seen a significant uptick in membership over the past year and displays of solidarity that I’ve not witnessed before.”
Representational services roundup —
Fighting for contracts that respect us
2021 has been a year of hard-fought contract campaigns. We have continued to stay firm with no take-aways and fighting hard for key gains in our contracts.
Executive Branch: More than 4,000 workers participated in the fight for fair contracts in the Executive Branch. We had record participation in the survey, on petitions and in letters to the Governor. We had a rally and pickets throughout the state. We worked hard with allies in the Legislature to vote more money into the salary budget and push the Governor to move at the table. We integrated video updates, mass Zoom meetings and member surveys through the campaign in new ways to connect with more state workers than ever before. The ratified contracts include: an across-the-board 2 percent pay raise with the start of the pay week starting closest to Dec. 1, 2021; a $2,000 one-time payment for all employees, pro-rated for seasonal, part-time and intermittent employees, with the start of the pay week starting closest to Dec. 1, 2021; On Dec. 15, 2021, all state-worker salary schedules that are below $15 an hour will be increased to $15 an hour. The tentative agreement states that a good-faith effort will be made to complete the full classification and compensation study by March 31, 2022. Now, ahead of us, we have the work of implementing and improving policies in departments for work from home and continuing the compensation study and the fight to close the pay gap as we pivot from this contract campaign and start this year building toward the next.
Judicial Branch: Despite a challenging spring for Judicial, the team secured a strong contract making gains in key language: a $650 lump-sum payment Aug. 1, 2021; a 2% pay raise Sept. 1, 2021; an add-a-step/drop-a-step equivalent to a 4 percent pay raise Dec. 1, 2021; plus a 1.5% pay raise July 1, 2022.
Governor Baxter School for the Deaf/MECDHH: Workers at Baxter School for the Deaf took on the task of rebuilding the strength of their union and bringing demands of improved wages, telework, improved non-discrimination language and more time off to the table. Though management fought them hard each step of the way they, the workers, signed up new members, took over meetings and demanded to be heard. After rallies, visibility days, petitions and a constant show of unity, they won a strong contract and built a stronger union in the process. Their contract provides raises for all classifications, which management didn’t want to do. They secured nondiscrimination language adding protected classes and gained 10 days of paid parental leave. They secured snow pay for the maintenance crews and, for those certified in trades, stipends of $2 to $3 an hour.
Maine Maritime Academy: The Staff, Support and Professional (SSP) Unit has faced significant challenges this year due to a decline in MMA student enrollment. However, after a long negotiation, the SSP unit was able to secure a tentative agreement that includes a progressive wage hike, paid time off for workers who kept campus and waterfront operations going during the early days of the pandemic, and the creation of a labor-management committee focused on harassment and discrimination on campus. The Faculty and Supervisory bargaining units remain in negotiations.
York County Government: Members of our negotiating team this year secured annual wage increases totaling 9.5% for some workers and other key improvements. The contract increases employer payments toward employee health insurance in the amount of $40 a week for family plan participants and $20 a week for individual employees. Bereavement leave is clarified and enhanced. Workers’ compensation pay also is enhanced.
Maine Community College System Support Services Bargaining Unit: Members of the Support Services Bargaining Unit at MCCS overwhelmingly approved a new contract that makes substantial gains. There aren’t any takebacks. The contract includes a 4.5% pay raise retroactive to July 1, 2021 another 4.5%pay raise on July 1, 2022, a $16 an hour minimum wage retroactive to July 1, 2021, and longevity pay increases as follows: adds a new, 10-year increase of 25 cents an hour; boosts from 30 to 40 cents an hour the 15-year increase; boosts from 40 to 60 cents an hour the 20-year increase; and boosts from 50 to 75 cents the 25-year increase. Plus the contract adds Juneteenth as a new paid holiday. The bargaining team secured the establishment of a labor-management committee to address the need for remote work and flex time. Management must notify members when changes are made to time cards. The bargaining team also secured unlimited COVID-19 time if a member were to contract COVID and be out of work, with the memorandum of understanding on COVID-19 expiring Dec. 31, 2021, but with a reopener if needed.
Child Development Services: Members at Child Development Services have begun negotiations for new two-year contracts to replace the ones expiring Dec. 31. They are determined to secure contracts that reflect the essential services they provide. Bargaining team members Laurie Brown, Diane Rowe, Jakey Nadeau, Brittany Deschaine and Erin Leaman-Farley are negotiating both the Professional and Support bargaining unit contracts in coalition.
American Red Cross: MSEA-SEIU members at the American Red Cross Blood Services Unit in Bangor on Dec. 1 ratified a new two-year contract that takes effect immediately. The new contract increases the starting hourly pay to $16.49; it previously had been $14.61. Also under the new contract, wages increase for current employees anywhere from 50 cents an hour to $2.14 an hour. Members of our bargaining team are Sean Moncrieffe, Kristen Erickson and Ben Gates. National negotiations are ongoing.
Legislative Branch: Members of the Legislative Employees Bargaining Unit unanimously approved a new, two-year contract providing for a 2% pay raise in November 2021, a $2,000 lump-sum payment in 2021 that is prorated for session and part-time employees, and a 4% pay raise in October 2022. Relating to overtime, the new contract provides for premium overtime (time-and-a-half pay) to be based on an eight-hour day in addition to how it is currently based on a 40-hour week. It includes a one-time retroactive payment for overtime worked during the last session. Administrative leave hours for snow days and administrative leave hours granted by the presiding officers will now count as hours worked for the purposes of computing overtime pay. Session-only employees will no longer have to pay more for health and dental insurance during the interim than they do during the session. The new contract also establishes a labor management committee to meet at least quarterly to discuss and address workplace issues as they arise.
Planned Parenthood: After organizing and being recognized in an National Labor Relations Board election last year, Planned Parenthood workers successfully negotiated their first contract and made huge gains. Workers will receive raised between 11 to 39% over the life of the contract. Low-wage workers will see immediate raises that bring the minimum wage for current employees to $18 an hour and the minimum wage for new hires to $17.50. The workers also won improvements in healthcare costs, additional professional development funding and paid holidays. They made significant gains in rights at work including in all their demands to improve diversity, equity and inclusion and to end favoritism around wages, hiring, promotions and access to training.
Maine Public Employees Retirement System (MainePERS): On Nov. 22, MSEA-SEIU members in our Administrative Services, Professional and Technical Services, and Supervisory Services bargaining units at MainePERS ratified new, three-year contracts. They include a $2,000 bonus effective December 2021, a 4% pay raise Jan 1., 2022; a 2% pay raise Jan. 1, 2023; and agreement for a wage reopener Jan. 1, 2024. The agreements provide for 28 calendar days of paid leave for childbearing and adoption, and an ability to have an additional total of six months unpaid. The contracts establishes telework as a contractual right, though not subject to the grievance article, with an appeal process to the supervisor’s supervisor. Juneteenth is added as a paid holiday. While the employee share of dependent costs of health insurance will increase from 30 to 35 percent, the contracts provide an increase in base income eligibility for health income credits in line with contract raises over the upcoming years; this will increase the number of employees who may pay only 5 percent of individual costs or with health assessment completion there will be no cost to the individual. The contracts add a spouse or domestic partner’s parents to the list of immediate family members for bereavement time and use of sick leave. Plus they provide on-call scheduling pay to IT personnel who previously weren’t eligible for such pay.
ACLU of Maine: ACLU workers were officially recognized in February after months fighting the employer to make sure all workers were included in the unit. We are making progress at the bargaining table with a number of tentative agreements achieved, including rights at work, just cause and a grievance process.
Building power for Maine workers: We have seen an increase in the size and number workers wanting to organize into unions and will be continuing our work with some 2,500 workers across four employers to lay the groundwork for helping them form their unions with MSEA.
Grievance and Arbitration: We currently have approximately 400 active grievances and approximately 120 cases at the level of arbitration (including cases due to be heard by the relevant grievance committee). The majority of cases scheduled for arbitration are due to go through the Tri-X process. We have continued to handle most investigations, disciplinary meetings and grievance step meetings remotely, and all mediations and arbitrations have been remote since the pandemic began. While we are hopeful that some in-person meetings and hearing can resume if/when the pandemic subsides, we imagine that some of the efficiencies realized through remote meetings and hearing will remain.
COVID-19: We continue to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic in a variety of ways, including but not limited to taking action to ensure safe workspaces and work practices and in many instances advocating for work-from-home arrangements. Recently, more employers have been instituting policies that require employees either to get vaccinated or undergo regular testing, and we are making sure that such policies are being administered equitably and taking into account members’ rights under their collective bargaining agreements and under the law. Last winter, we had to file a prohibited practice complaint against the Executive Branch for failure to provide sufficient notice when employees tested positive, and we were successful in negotiating an agreement requiring detailed notification to the union whenever an employee tests positive. Additionally, we have a number of grievances pending with the Executive Branch, including grievances concerning the employer’s unilateral withdrawal from agreements to pay hazard pay at the State hospitals, prisons, and State Postal Center.
Looking Ahead: In the midst of the second wave of COVID, we know things will remain challenging and unpredictable as we finish out this year and head into the next. Key issues are navigating negotiations on the impact of mandates, continuing to work on workplace safety and maintaining/expanding work from home. We also know that we have been building a solid foundation from which to continue to improve our contracts, defend our rights and grow the union. The more we have been able to build membership and engage members in action, the more we have been about to win improvements and expand our voice in the work we do and better our ability to advocate for the services we provide. As we prepare for 2022, we will be applying for additional grants to continue to support the work or strengthening our union. We will be setting goals to continue to maintain and grow our membership, defend and improve our contracts as well as strengthen our voice at work, in the Legislature and in our communities.