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One year ago, the Service Bargaining Unit of Local 250 at MHS bargained their first union contract. At the time, most people's attention was on the 9% wage increase and free dependent health care, but as the year went on, we had cause to appreciate some of the other rights the contract gave us. One of the big ones is the right to bargain over changes in job duties. In the past, (during the "redesign" period, for example), major changes in how work was done occurred without anyone who actually did the work being consulted.

Now with the Union contract: "The Employee will send the Union a draft of the changes, with the changes indicated, in advance of implementation. Within fifteen days, the Union may request and the Employer will meet to negotiate with respect to the proposed change...."

Union employees in the Environmental Services Department at Mercy General have been "meeting to negotiate with respect to the proposed change" since late last Fall, when the EVS manager announced a fairly major "redesign" of the department. Then, on March 14 of this year, the Union received a letter from the EVS manager announcing the planned implementation of the EVS redesign, effective May 4, 2003. This was NOT agreeable to EVS employees, who voted by a large margin (34 to 3, I think) to protest this abrupt close of bargaining by holding an informational picket of Mercy General on April 9th, 2003.

  This is the view of Mercy General from the Human Resources office across the street. It is a view active union members often see, as much time is spent in Human Resources discussing the various fine points of the Union contract and its implications for our working lives.


  A major issue in EVS is understaffing. The "redesign" involves never filling the positions of three full-time employees who quit last Fall and continuing to try to clean the hospital with the remaining staff. A number of employee injuries have resulted, and morale is low from the strain of trying to maintain cleaning standards that cannot be met with a reduced staff. Though the EVS manager claims that "learning to do work in a new way" will help, it is feared that "learning to accept lower cleaning standards" is what will actually happen.


  Karl Briggs, shop steward from Respiratory Therapy, participated in the informational picket. It is understood by all who came out that standing up for EVS is standing up for the Union contract, and will benefit Union members all over the hospital.


  Someone has to keep people alert and shouting, and Morgan Gay (SEIU Local 250) was one of the main people.


SEIU Local 250 VP John Borsos out on the picket line to defend the Union contract he helped us bargain a year ago. Bargaining the contract was an essential step, but the contract is one of those "living documents" that you have to live and enforce if you want it to mean anything. The day's big turn-out showed that a lot of Union employees understand this.

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