This year was as consequential as any other in recent memory for SEA/SEIU Local 1984, and along the way, we experienced progress and challenges. But as we always have, we emerged united on the other side.
As we prepare for a new year and new challenges, we pause now to take a look back at the year that was.
The Janus decision
On June 27, 2018 – four months and one day after oral arguments – the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. As expected, the court found that unions could not collect agency fees – also known as fair share fees – from bargaining unit employees who chose not to join the union. Fair share fees were used to help cover the cost of negotiation and defending the collective bargaining agreement.
The immediate impact of the Janus decision was that fair share fee-payers in unions with such provisions – including SEA/SEIU Local 1984 – no longer had fees deducted from their paychecks, leading to a drop in revenue for unions. This was the goal of the anti-worker forces that bankrolled the Janus case – starving unions of funds so that they could no longer help working people advocate for themselves.
Thankfully we were prepared to withstand this adverse decision and it has only strengthened the resolve of our members to stick together and encourage their colleagues to join.
Losing Ken Roos
This summer, the union suffered a massive loss, as First Vice President Ken Roos died after a brief illness. As an executive board member, Ken had a massive impact on the union’s decision-making process, but Ken made his impact known every day with his constant presence.
Ken’s shock of curly white hair was ubiquitous at union meetings – he was truly everywhere. It’s because Ken was so deeply involved, in fact, that his loss was felt so deeply. In the time since his passing, his colleagues and friends in the union – and the community at large – have worked to help fill his shoes and honor his legacy.
In October, Ken was posthumously honored as Member of the Year at the annual SEA/SEIU Local 1984 convention, and in December the union partnered with Temple Beth Jacob in Concord to hold the inaugural Ken Roos memorial blood drive. We know that as we go forward members will continue to step up to help fill the void left behind, but we know we’ll never replace Ken.
Wins at the Legislature
Last year’s legislative session started with a roar, with the Republican leadership pushing a right-to-work bill as its first priority. That set the tone for a mostly defensive session, with members fighting to preserve their rights and get budget funding for their agencies. While we spent time this year fighting off some proposals, 2018 was marked by the union going on the offense.
Among the legislative wins were a pair of bills impacting CCSNH – one gave workers the right to bargain a tuition discount for part-time workers and the other created a process to evaluate whether the system should re-enter the state health plan. Some retirees in the state pension system received a one-time payment this year, the product of a bill that also sought a COLA. This one-time payment of $500 was the first such payment in eight years. Child protective service workers at DHHS fought for a bill that funded new positions to help relieve the massive strain on the Department of Children, Youth and Families. Finally, a group of clinicians organizing with the SEA were able to pass a bill that limits the amount of time in which insurers could retroactively deny claims.
Taken together, this was a hugely successful session. It couldn’t have happened without members taking action by calling their legislators, sending emails, and showing up to testify at the State House. While some measures fell short, it was not due to a lack of effort by members. Our agenda for 2019 will be just as ambitious and should be aided by the election of many new pro-worker lawmakers.
Flipping the Legislature (and Executive Council)
As the summer rolled around, the SEA turned its focus from the legislative session (and a long contract fight – more on that below) to the upcoming statewide elections. As is always the case, members were encouraged to seek office and this year, they sought office at the county level, in the state House of Representatives and the state Senate.
When all was said and done, we helped elect eight members to the House of Representatives – including several first-time candidates. Members across the state stepped up in impressive fashion to help flip the House, Senate and Executive Council to a Democratic majority focused on fighting for working people. In all, 200 members were involved in political activities this year, making 8,500 phone calls to members and knocking on 1,500 doors. In the final weekend before the election, 52 volunteers turned out to get out the vote.
What this means going forward is stronger support for initiatives that benefit working people and ensure our retired public employees aren’t left further behind. There will be plenty of work to do, but as this year’s legislative session and the election showed, our members are up to the task.
A new state contract, at long last
In late April, 10 long months after the Executive Branch contract expired, the SEA reached a tentative agreement with the state. That agreement came only after a fact-finder’s report that favored state employees.
The master bargaining team worked for months preparing for negotiations, though that ultimately stalled when another union declared impasse. The team put in even more hours preparing for the fact-finding process and their dedication made a massive difference. Also making a difference were the hundreds and hundreds of members who took part in actions during that 10-month span.
Members organized visibility events not just around Concord, but around the state as well. Large signs in front of the SEA office noted the weeks without a contract and called on the governor to invest in his workforce. The new contract came with some victories, including cost of living raises and an extra step in the wage matrix. While this contract covers by far the largest group of SEA members, many of our smaller units worked hard throughout the year negotiating new contracts, and some have waited far longer than 10 months to get a new deal. One of the most notable wins came in the town of Hampton, where members successfully worked to convince residents to support a warrant funding their new contract. We thank all of our members who step up to bargain in support of their colleagues.
Looking forward to 2019
Overall our members spent the year doing what they do best – taking action. The results shone through.
Our strength lies in numbers. It’s what allows us to have an impact in our worksites, at the Legislature and the ballot box. We need to stay strong going forward and we need members to continue to step up and take action. Until then, we wish you all happy holidays and a great new year.