Direct care support workers at human service agency Triangle, Inc. have voted overwhelmingly to form a union with SEIU Local 509, calling for better pay, lower turnover, and a voice and respect at work. The 100+ employees work at employment support and day services sites in Brockton, Malden, Randolph, and Salem, and at group homes in Beverly, Danvers, Malden, Peabody, Reading, and Saugus, supporting individuals who have developmental disabilities.
By voting to unionize, they are joining nearly 20,000 human-service workers and educators throughout Massachusetts, including over 6,000 private sector human services workers, in SEIU Local 509. The election occurred by mail, and votes were counted last Friday at the Boston office of the National Labor Relations Board.
“Coming together to form a union gives us a voice in the workplace, the ability to improve wages in order to reduce turnover and improve staffing ratios, and workplace protections that only a union can provide,” said Amy Banelis of Lynn, an employment specialist at Triangle, Inc. who works with people with disabilities to teach career readiness, help individuals find jobs in the community, and support them in their jobs. “This vote is a win for Triangle, Inc. employees, and it’s a win for the people we care for, because they deserve the better quality of care that occurs when human service workers can make this job into a good career.”
With their current low pay and lack of job security, many workers are forced to work two or three jobs to survive, with some reporting they work more than 100 hours each week. Triangle, Inc. workers are also concerned about how the agency’s high turnover and resulting low staffing levels impact the people with disabilities whom they care for.
“We’ve seen the improvements that happen at other agencies when workers form a union. They’re paid more, turnover is reduced, and services for the people they care for improve. Voting to form our union is the first step towards making those changes here at Triangle,” said Walquiria “Val” Wilson of Malden, a community coordinator at Triangle, Inc. who coordinates and oversees work for clients with disabilities in the community. “We’re proud of our vote, and we’re standing together, ready to work with the agency to raise wages, lower turnover, and improve the level of care we provide for the people who depend on us.”
Through relentless organizing, months of bargaining, and in some cases, voting to authorize a strike, thousands of 509 private sector human services members have won significantly better wages over the last two years, including minimum wages of $15 an hour at several agencies. Additionally, in the face of increasing anti-immigrant policy, Local 509 won key immigration protections for the diverse workforce at many agencies.
“People with disabilities deserve to live a life of purpose and dignity, just like the rest of us, and the hard-working direct care support staff at Triangle, Inc. help them do so every day,” said Peter MacKinnon, President of SEIU Local 509. “Yet these front-line workers who directly serve the most vulnerable among us are themselves in crisis, and often struggle to get by each week. By coming together in a union, the workers at Triangle, Inc. and other human service providers are using our power in numbers to raise wages, secure a voice in the workplace, improve our jobs, protect our rights and create a better life for ourselves, our families and our communities.”