September 2013


For Marlboro Paras, a Better Bargain
hen it was time to negotiate their latest contract, members of the Marlboro Paraeducators chapter decided to pursue a different course. Instead of each side presenting a set of demands, the paras sat down with members of the Marlboro School Committee and talked. Bargaining committee member Ann Coleman explains that the process, called interest based bargaining, emphasizes shared values and problem solving. “It was a really different approach,” says Coleman. “The School Committee learned a lot about what life is really like in the schools and we learned the ‘why’ behind their issues.“ The result, Coleman notes, is a contract that more accurately reflects the demands and challenges faced by paras, who work alongside teachers in the Marlboro Public Schools, including serving as substitutes. The contract, which is effective through July 31, 2015, also establishes an innovative mentorship program in which current paras serve as mentors for their new co-workers. Continued on page 3

Member Spotlight: Relying on Family—at Work & Home

Charlotte Killam and Nicole Halley from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. Killam says that Halley, who was recently diagnosed with MS, is an inspiration.

Local 888 Western Mass. Caucus Spaghetti Dinner-Dance
Join friends and co-workers for a fun night, including raffle prizes and a 50/50 drawing, to benefit a great cause. All procee ds will be donated to the Springfield Shriners Hospital for Children.

Spaghetti Dinner Dance October 5, 6:00-11:00PM Elks Lodge #2448, 69 Chapin St., Ludlow, MA
Tickets are $10 and can be purcha sed online at, by emailing myunion@ or by calling 617-241-3 300.

n inspiration. That’s how Charlotte Killam describes her colleague at the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, Nicole Halley. Since Halley was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year, the 33-year-old mother of two has impressed her co-workers with her positive attitude. “Her spirit and determination are really amazing,” says Killam, who contacted the Spark to suggest a profile of her colleague. Spend even a few minutes speaking with Nicole Halley and you’re likely to hear a lot about family. There’s her work “family” at the Boston Water and Sewer Commission, where Halley began working at the age of 21. Then there’s her extensive network of family and friends, many of whom joined her during a fundraising walk for the MS Society this summer. Continued on page 3


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The Spark

September 2013

Ask Sparky
Dear Sparky: I’m not a big fan of politicians but I understand that the union has to do the whole endorsement thing. Sometimes I like who you pick and sometimes I don’t. But what I don’t get is how you decide when to back somebody. Is it like a backroom deal type of thing? And is there any chance you’ll ever run for office, Sparky? Take ‘em or leave ‘em Dear Take ‘em: Have you ever heard of the oldfashioned sniff test? Here’s how it works. I give each candidate a sniff and go with the one who smells right to me; the others get a growl, or worse, a bite. OK—it doesn’t quite work like that but can you blame a dog for trying? The endorsement process is pretty simple. A committee made up of members likes you meets every month, and based on interviews with candidates, questionnaires or forums, decides whether or not to endorse. To win the coveted 888 “thumbs up,” the majority of committee members + one must agree. The process is explained on our website: http://www. The COPA committee is open to all members who donate to the union’s political program. As to your question about my running for office, I’m afraid I’ve got a few too many bones buried in my backyard, if you know what I mean. Sparky

Coming Attractions
Boston Preliminary Elections
Don’t forget to vote! The preliminary elections, including the contest to determine the next mayor of Boston, will be Tuesday, September 24. For a complete list of Local 888 endorsements, visit:

Meet the 5th District Candidates
Seven candidates are running for the seat formerly held by Senator Ed Markey. Hear what they have to say at this special forum. When: Saturday, September 28, 10:00 AM-2:00 PM Where: SEIU Local 509, 100 Talcott Ave, Bldg 313 2nd Fl, Watertown, MA 02472 For more information, call 617-241-3300

Local 888 Executive Board Meeting
When: September 18, 10:00 AM Where: Local 888 union hall, 52 Roland Street, Charlestown, MA

Women’s Caucus
The Women’s Caucus was created to encourage women to become more deeply involved in our union. Join us! When: Tuesday, October 8, 6:00-8:00 PM Where: Local 888 union hall, 52 Roland Street, Charlestown, MA

Win a $75 Gift Card

For the latest news and views visit
New on the website this month: Local 888 member and Spark contributor Greg King reflects on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington. Mark DelloRusso, Local 888 President, makes the case for raising the minimum wage. And check out the new and improved events calendar at

Play our Crazy 8’s game and you could win one of three gift cards worth $25, $50 or $75. Here’s how it works: whenever you see the number 8 in this edition of the Spark, make a note. Add up the sum of the 8s and mail or fax your answer back to Local 888. All correct answers will be entered into a drawing to be held next month. Mail your entry by Septem ber 31st to SEIU Local 888, 52 Roland Street, Charlestown, MA, 02129 or fax to 617.241.5150. Be sure to include your name, chapter or workplace and email address and/or phone number. Only members in good standing are eligible to win. Good luck!

The Spark

September 2013

Continued from cover
In fact, Halley’s group of supporters was so large that the charity asked them to be the face of the annual fundraising walk. More than 100 people walked with ‘Team Halley,” raising a combined $3,000 for the fight against MS. “We had no idea they were going to ask us to lead the walk,” says Halley. “It was an amazing experience and it left me wanting to do more.” MS runs in Halley’s family—a beloved aunt passed away from the disease earlier this year. Halley’s diagnosis so soon after her aunt’s death sent shock waves through the family. The younger children were especially hard hit, says Halley, who has a 13-year-old and a seven-year-old. “The younger kids thought I was going to die. I thought it was really important that they understand what MS is and what’s going to happen.” A cousin was appointed chief researcher and put together a Powerpoint presentation to be delivered after a Sunday dinner. And then it was time for questions. Lots of question, says Halley. “I had 12 kids in my two bedroom apartment for about five days. We just talked and talked and I tried to answer as many of their questions as I possibly could.” Halley also credits her “family” at the Boston Water and Sewer Commission for helping her to adjust at work. When Halley had to take time off for a recent hospital stay, her colleagues donated their sick days to her. For now, Halley says that she’s holding her own. “You can get depressed but I just don’t want to go there,” says Halley. Charlotte Killam says that it’s that spirit of optimism and determination that make Halley such an inspiration to their coworkers. “I’m really proud to know her,” says Killam.

A Better Bargain for Marlboro Paras
Continued from cover
The paras say that by expanding the conversation beyond the traditional bargaining table back-andforth, issues that might otherwise have been discounted as unimportant came to the forefront. One example: communications. The new contract, which was approved unanimously, works to improve communications between the paras and school administrators. Members will receive more timely notification about their assignments prior to the start of the school year, and principals are required to hold at least five meetings per year. The new contract also goes much further in treating the paras as professionals, something they’ve long sought but might not have been able to secure via standard negotiations. The practice of having paras serve as substitutes with no increase in pay, for example, is no more. Paras will also be compensated for translation work they do before or after work. Potentially divisive issues, like a new evaluation system and a change in the allotment of sick days, were also on the table. But Coleman says that the interestbased process allowed for flexibility and compromise. The evaluation tool, the first of its kind for paras, allows for extensive input by the paras and will be monitored by a labor-management committee. Says Coleman: “The process was certainly different and at times intense, but I feel we gained more respect. I’d definitely negotiate this way again.”

Relying on Family

Do you know a member who should be featured in the Spark? Write to

Ann Coleman and Tracy Wright from the Marlboro Paraeducators chapter of Local 888. They recently helped to negotiate a new contract using a process known as interest-based bargaining.

The Spark

September 2013

Sandwich DPW Seals New Deal

Congratulations to Local 888 members at the Sandwich DPW who recently approved a two year contract. The new agreement includes wage increases of 2.5%, 2.5%, 2.5% and ends a number of ‘two-tier’ practices that members say threatened to weaken the union. Scheduled overtime during the workweek will be offered to union members before part-time employees, while cross-training will be offered to all staff. Other provisions include an end to a ‘two-tier’ vacation policy; all members will receive 25 days vacation after15 years.

new employees. New employees are now entitled to sick leave after 3 months instead of 6, and all employees are now eligible for 25 days vacation after 15 years. Employees who work on holidays and Sundays will now receive double-time pay. The contract also includes a 2.5% cost of living increase for each year of the agreement.

Local 888 members and staff helped promote labor and collective bargaining at the 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival in Lawrence. Pictured left to right are: Margarita Franco (Chelsea City Hall), Russ Davis (Jobs with Justice), Karen Brandow (musician and interpreter), Christina Villafranca (Local 888), Brenda Rodrigues (Local 888), Rosa Matias (Chelsea Soldiers’ Home), Orvine Ramos (Local 888) and DJ Cronin (Local 888). Also helping with the Local 888 festival table were Sue Winning (UMass Lowell) and Bianca Pierre (Boston Public Health).

Bread and Roses

Local 888 members at the Sandwich DPW show their approval for a new contract.

Local 888 Scholarships

Local 888 has established a scholarship program for members and their immediate family with awards up to $500. Three scholarships will be awarded for any qualified college or post-secondary education program and two scholarships are designated specifically for labor-related education and training programs. All members are encouraged to apply by visiting or emailing Note: Application deadline is September 15!

Merrimack Valley Caucus Forming

Sandwich Clerical Unit

Members of the Sandwich Clerical Unit recently approved a new agreement that includes several improvements to wages and benefits, including for

Local 888 is forming a Merrimack Valley Regional Committee that is open to any member in the area. In the coming weeks, Local 888 will be holding meetings in order to better identify the priorities of members in the Merrimack Valley. For more information, contact Madeline Garcia at