Informational Pickets

AFSCME 1674 held three Informational Pickets on April 2nd and April 9th to protest the lack of a Fair Contract and Livable Wages for all employees after One Year being at the Bargaining Table.
pic3Each picket hosting between 25-40 people, they sent a strong message of solidarity and support across different sectors of the agency and community.

pic2New stories were told of employees struggling to provide care to clients while living off of sub-standard resources.

pic 4Resolve was strengthened as we were reminded that we struggle not just for ourselves but for all of us.

picAnd we’re not backing down!! Stay tuned and get involved as we continue to send a united message to the Agency for quality services, staff retention, livable wages and manageable caseloads, to ensure a stronger community for us all!

***Next up: Rally for Livable Jobs at the Howard Center 6 pm Monday Night, May 18th. ***

“City Councilors Want Livable Wage For Howard Center Employees”

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Monday night December 15th, Progressive City Councilors brought the below Resolution to the table; supporting a livable wage, good working conditions, adequate state funding, and retention of employees as a priority for the Howard Center Agency in its important work in the city.
The Resolution was met with both support and criticism from Democratic Councilors who worry that the wording may somehow interfere with the bargaining process. Progressive Councilors maintain their broad support towards encouraging all agencies within this city to provide a livable wage to their employees, including and especially those within the Mental Health, Family, and Developmental Service areas, providing crucial services to the most vulnerable among us.
The Resolution has been tabled to a later meeting date in January.
Please circulate to all at local work-sites and beyond as this important discussion continues.

See news coverage of the Resolution here and here

12/15 SUPPORT FOR STATE BUDGET ALLOCATIONS TO ALLOW FOR LIVABLE WAGES AND BENEFITS TO HOWARDCENTER EMPLOYEES:

WHEREAS, the Burlington-based HowardCenter “offer[s] life-saving professional crisis and counseling services to children and adults; supportive services to individuals with autism and developmental disabilities who need help with education, employment, and life maintenance skills; counseling and medical services for those struggling with substance abuse, and intensive interventions for adults with serious and persistent mental health challenges;” and

WHEREAS, HowardCenter’s workers provide essential services to Burlington residents and their families, and contribute substantively to public health and safety in our community; and

WHEREAS, HowardCenter employment often requires skills gained through significant experience and/or educational accomplishments, such as masters’ level degrees; and

WHEREAS, state and federal funding for direct service providers and designated agencies is frequently imperiled; and

WHEREAS local non-profit organizations face many significant cost pressures and difficulty in balancing budgets; and

WHEREAS, HowardCenter workers have come forward to express concerns about low wages, with many of them indicating the need for supplemental employment, benefit assistance or use of local services such as the Chittenden County Emergency Food Shelf; and

WHEREAS, HowardCenter workers and managers report high turnover rates for frontline workers, with over 120 positions currently open for clinicians and other service providers; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Burlington City Council calls for allocations in the State of Vermont’s budget that allow for livable wages and benefits for workers at the HowardCenter and comparable designated agencies; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Burlington City Council urges HowardCenter management to make livable wages, working conditions and retention of workers a priority.

AFSCME Workers Support Fairpoint Workers on the Picket Line!

fpointJoin us Thusdays as we bring solidarity to Fairpoint workers picketting in snow and cold! Next up: December 16th 3:30pm at 266 Main Str.

The workers of AFSCME stand in solidarity with the workers on strike at Fairpoint in their prolonged struggle for just working conditions going into these winter months!
More on the Fairpoint strike here.

~AFCSME Together: We are VT Homecare workers, Howard Center Employees, St. Mike’s Janitor’s, Public Works Employees, Burlington School Food Project, Fletcher Free Library and the people and families who support us!~

RSVP and get updates here.

November 18th Statement to the Board

“I Love My Job At Howard: I Wish I Could Afford To Stay”
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Howard Board and Management:
We are here today to bring you stories of ourselves and our co-workers, finding ourselves six months without a fair contract at the table with the Howard Center.
Comments and stories have been pouring in from fellow employees trying to come to terms with the fact that the agency is showing no actual respect and concern towards just compensation for its frontline workers, who are the ones keeping the agency afloat day after day.
City Councilors and State representatives alike are asking- Since this is the infrastructure the city has in place for dealing with some of its most pressing issues- homelessness, mental health, drug abuse, family services- Why is it not employeeing its workers under a livable wage and with conditions that allow them to remain more than a year and develop as professionals? They have taken note and are prepared to take new steps in support.
We are coming to you as the Advisory Body for this agency, urging you to not be on the wrong side of decision-making in this process. Urging you to do what is in your power to see that the agency –As it’s number one priority before taking on new projects!–  Compensate its employees with a wage comensurate to the cost of living in Vermont. Towards the development of an actual working relationship with its employees based on dignity, equity and justice, for the tremendous services they daily live out and embody for this community.
Employees are frustrated, feeling unrecognized and unheard. As you listen to these stories from co-workers I urge you to ask yourselves:
Who is it that you believe makes up the Howard Center?  What does it mean to have a true standard of excellence that begins with the working conditions for employees on the ground?
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Where’s MY 3%?! Update and Lawsuit Summary:

SUMMARY OF AFSCME LAWSUIT AGAINST THE HOWARDCENTER

•    In May of 2013, the Vermont Legislature passed a law giving a 3% funding increase to Medicaid providers, including the HowardCenter.  The law required providers “to provide a commensurate increase in compensation for direct care workers.”  In other words, direct care workers were supposed to get a 3% wage increase as of November 2013, when the state funds became available.

•    While virtually all other providers gave that 3% wage increase to direct care staff, the HowardCenter refused. Instead HowardCenter management argued that it could cut the increase to 1.4% by crediting a previously negotiated pay increase of 1.6%.  In the end, HowardCenter has simply kept the entire 3% increase for itself.

•    HowardCenter’s argument fails because the law had nothing to do with the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).  The CBA was negotiated at the bargaining table over a year prior to passage of the law.  The legislature mandated and paid for the increase for all direct care workers, whether or not they had a CBA.

•    As a result, AFSCME filed suit on March 7, 2014 in Chittenden Superior Court seeking to enforce the law and force the Howard Center to pay the 3% wage increase.

•    On April 7, Howard Center “removed” the case to federal court, claiming the case was preempted and barred by federal law because, HowardCenter argued, the case called for the interpretation of the CBA.  “Removed,” is a legal term, which means moving the case to another court.  The Howard Center also asked the federal court to dismiss the case.

•    However, on August 27, 2104 United States District Court Judge William K. Sessions III issued a 27-page decision that was strongly in AFSCME’s favor.  Judge Sessions denied the Howard Center’s motion to dismiss AFSCME’s lawsuit and sent the case back to state court.

•    The HowardCenter is trying to appeal this decision to the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City.  As of October 8, 2014, we are awaiting a decision from Judge Sessions on the request to appeal.  We are hoping soon to make our case in state court, where the case started and still belongs.

A Growing Movement

Sunday September 14th: Be Part of a New Movement with Local 1674

With changes in AFSCME staff we at Local 1674 are experiencing new
opportunities to create and be part of a more member-run Union.
Come join a discussion and brainstorming session with longtime Labor Activist
Ellen David Friedman, to help create a dynamic strategy going forward.

Ellen will help facilitate a member-run discussion including such topics as:

  • Union Dignity
  • Organizing Efforts
  • Community Awareness
  • Forward Momentum for Activists

. . . and, other topics from attendees.

Everyone is welcome to attend!  Bring a buddy!
Snacks Included!

Where: Vermont Worker’s Center (294 N. Winooski Avenue; Burlington)
When:  Sunday, September 14th, beginning at 9 am through 1 pm.
Contact: howard.union@gmail.com

Community Day of Action: Soteria House Fence Building

On Sunday August 24th AFSCME Local 1674 teamed up with the new Pathways’ project Soteria House opening in the Old North End, to tear down an existing fence and get a new one started.
Fence group1674 3

 It was a great day of team-work, fun, and camaraderie.
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We were glad to be able to partner and with a fellow Mental Health Agency,
and to be able to join as a Union to welcome Soteria House to our community.  
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Stand Stronger Together

Attend AFSCME Local 1674’s meeting
 on September 2nd!

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Though we have yet to be offered a fair contract, AFSCME Local 1674
is standing strong in solidarity. 
Come put your heads together with us, and be part of the new energy 
and ideas happening with your local Union.

When: Tuesday, September 2nd, at 5:30 pm
Where: CYFS Building, 1138 Pine St., Burlington, VT  05401