UNITE HERE Local 26 Harvard University Dining Services Strike
Save Our Public Schools: No On 2
On November 8, Massachusetts voters decisively chose to keep the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts by voting no on question two by a margin of 62.1% to 37.9%. Congratulations to everyone who worked tirelessly to keep money in our public schools! We won this victory by bringing together teachers, parents, students, unions, and community allies to fight privatization efforts from big-money and out of state donors. The NE JLC endorsed the No On 2: Save Our Public Schools effort in August, participated in canvassing throughout the campaign, and engaged in visibility efforts during the election.
SEIU 32BJ Janitors’ Master Contract
SEIU 32BJ represents 13,000 janitors who work under one collectively bargaining master contract. These janitors maintain buildings across Massachusetts and Rhode Island, including the John Hancock, Prudential Tower, Vertex and Biogen, State Street buildings. On Friday, September 30, 2016, 32BJ reached a tentative agreement on the master contract and members are currently voting on its ratification. The new contract provides a 12% increase in wages over the life of the contract, expands employer-paid healthcare to family members of full-time employees, and creates more opportunities for full-time work.
The JLC is proud to have participated in many ways in this campaign, from marching with janitors to calling for a fair contract as part of the larger faith community. Sixteen rabbis signed the faith statement as they prepared for Rosh Hashanah.
32BJ janitors continue to negotiate their contracts at Tufts University and Harvard University.
Domestic Workers Bill of Rights
The New England Jewish Labor Committee worked with the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers to pass the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights on July 2, 2014, which establishes basic workplace rights for nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers employed in private homes. The bill requires employers of domestic workers to provide their employees with one day off a week, sick and vacation days, and protection from discrimination and sexual harassment. Previously, domestic workers lacked legal protections and avenues to report workplace mistreatment.
The NE JLC mobilized people to go the State House to advocate for the DWBR, organized living room talks to raise awareness of conditions for domestic workers among those who employ them, and spoke about the DWBR at several synagogues. Through the advocacy of the NE JLC, the Somerville Board of Alderman voted unanimously to support the DWBR.
Other members of the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers include the Brazilian Immigrant Center, Women’s Institute for Leadership Development, Dominican Development Center, Brazilian Women’s Group/Vida Verde Coop, and Matahari: Eye of the Day.
photo credit: MA Coalition for Domestic Workers
On April 13, 016 nearly 40,000 Verizon workers went on strike. We “adopted” a Verizon store and mobilized people in the Jewish community to picket outside every week; and we attended large demonstrations. After 45 days and with strong support from groups like the JLC, Verizon workers settled their contract on June 1. The new contract is a great victory: Veriozon withdrew its proposed cuts to accident and disability benefits as well as to pensions, and workers’ won increases in their wages and benefits. The contract stopped proposed job cuts and added 70 new Verizon Wireless retail store workers who had not been previously covered by a collectively bargained agreement.
2014 Minimum Wage Bill Passed
The NE JLC has been a member of the Raise-Up Massachusetts Coalition that works to improve working conditions for low-income workers. The NE JLC collected signatures for two ballot initiatives: The first was to increase the minimum wage and to establish earned sick days. NE JLC successfully organized synagogues to collect signatures. The minimum wage bill will not go to ballot because Raise Up Massachusetts pressured the legislature to pass a minimum wage bill. The minimum wage will be raised from $8.00 to $11.00 in the next two and a half years. The bill was sign into law on June 26, 2014.
Earned Sick Leave
In November 2014, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot measure that created earned sick leave for all Massachusetts residents. Almost 60% of voters cast ballots in support of this measure. The Earned Sick Leave law went into effect on July 1, 2015. The NE JLC successfully organized several synagogues to collect signatures in support of Earned Sick Leave. We recruited people to make phone calls to encourage people to vote in favor of the Earned Sick Time ballot measure that passed in November 2014. Recently, we submitted testimony to the Attorney General encouraging her to implement the Earned Sick Time law without delay and without exceptions.
Read the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition statement on the Earned Sick Leave victory here.
Le Meridien Hotel
The NE JLC had a lead role in a two-year community-wide effort on behalf of the workers at Le Meridien Hotel in Cambridge. This effort included organizing clergy to speak to management at Le Meridien and to help organize a prayer vigil protest in the lobby of Le Meridien.
In December of 2013 HEI Hotels and UNITE HERE entered into a long-term partnership focused on generating mutual growth and improving industry-wide labor relations. This agreement resolved all ongoing matters between the union and HEI Hotels. On March 4th Le Meridien employees voted UNITE HERE Local 26 to be their collective bargaining representative. In the spirit of partnership between the union and HEI, the workers are now negotiating their first contract.
On July 1st 2013, an agreement was reached between Hyatt Hotels International and UNITE HERE that resulted in excellent union contracts at many Hyatt hotels across North America ending a global boycott. In September of 2014 Hyatt Hotels, Corp. agreed to pay $1 million to 98 Boston-area housekeepers who had been summarily fired replaced by lower paid outsourced workers five years before. This ended the local boycott of Hyatt Hotels.
From 2008 until the final agreement in 2014, the NE JLC led outreach to Jewish organizations and synagogues in support of the “Hyatt 100” — the housekeepers who were fired. We mobilized hundreds of rabbis who signed a petition in support of the Hyatt workers, and thousands of Jewish community members who joined the Hyatt boycott, wrote letters, and attended rallies and protests. Our efforts made a significant difference in the nationwide and local settlements between Hyatt Hotels International and UNITE HERE.
Justice for Janitors
New England JLC was part of a coalition that was instrumental in helping win an excellent contract for 14,000 janitors of SEIU 615 in Greater Boston on October 1, 2012. The contract is helping many janitors who were working several part-time jobs without health care to move into full-time jobs with health care. Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur of 2012, the NE JLC mobilized 14 rabbis to sign a public statement supporting the janitors; two of those rabbis spoke at a press conference about the janitors and their struggle. We wrote an op-ed that was published in The Jewish Advocate. We and other Jewish organizations held a Yom Kippur action. This public pressure could not be ignored.
Trader Joe’s: Fair Food Agreement/Coalition of Immokalee Workers
We rallied, wrote letters, and sent delegations to Trader Joe’s who signed the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food Agreement, ensuring an increase in wages for tomato pickers (who until recently were earning just $12,000 a year) and protection from abuse in the fields.
Hilton Hotel Workers
Seventy-four workers at the Blackstone-owned Hilton: Financial District celebrated union recognition at their hotel. The workers chose to join Boston’s UNITE HERE Local 26 by card-count recognition. We participated in community delegations and attended rallies supporting workers.
Temporary Workers Right to Know
The Massachusetts legislature passed the Temporary Workers Right to Know Act and on August 6, 2012 it was signed into law. It will prevent temporary employment agencies from exploiting temporary workers and undermining law-abiding businesses. We spoke with legislators and raised community awareness about this issue.