Below is union president, Helene O’Brien’s statement to the Metro Council:
Hi. My name is Helene O’Brien. I am the president of SEIU Local 21 LA. We represent employees of DPW, Head Start, Juvenile Services, the City Constables, the City Community Centers, Community Development, Mosquito and Rodent Control, to name a few. And I am here today to ask the Metro Council to approve this contract.
This contract is a simple renewal, with no additional costs to the city-parish. But it is a product of good faith negotiations between the Administration and its employees. We’ve made modest changes to the previous contract. The most important of which is to ensure access to training opportunities for all employees. This expanded training access is essential, especially now as DPW re-organizes and upgrades its technology. It is good policy to develop your workforce, especially the dedicated and committed workforce of East Baton Rouge City-Parish.
The only other changes to the contract are measures that ensure better communication and cooperation among the workforce and management, which, again, is essential in a time of great change.
Finally, the members of SEIU Local 21 LA, your City-Parish employees want to thank the Metro Council for its support and the Mayor for recognizing that when we disagree, and you all know that that happens now and again, that when we disagree, it is a family disagreement. And that our members, your city-parish employees, are committed to serving the public with the highest quality and to make you proud.
A group of nearly 60 Recovery School District (RSD) school custodians won a total of nearly $19,000 in back pay owed to them by their employer, Aramark.
Aramark is contracted by the RSD to clean its schools. During the week of August 28, Hurricane Isaac swept through New Orleans and surrounding areas. Schools and many businesses were closed as a result. Even though classes were canceled, Aramark, a Fortune 500 company, was paid.
Instead of paying workers for their scheduled shifts that were canceled due to forces beyond their control, the Pennsylvania-based company and its Wall Street owners stiffed New Orleans workers out of thousands of dollars of pay. The loss of income put many workers into precarious situations.
“Not being paid for one day let alone a week is a hardship for me. I had to borrow money just to make ends meet,” said Rosalyn Markum, custodian at Benjamin Banneker School and New Orleans native. “I’m not a Fortune 500 company. I don’t have the luxury of being backed by Wall Street. I’m a single woman and I work hard for every cent I get.”
With the help of her union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 21 LA, Markum and her coworkers called out Aramark about making a week’s work of profits off of the suffering of New Orleans and the New Orleans people. After six months of talks, the Aramark workers finally received four days of pay.
“Me and my coworkers didn’t take Aramark’s no for an answer. We knew it wasn’t fair for the company to receive taxpayer money, but refuse to pay us workers. This is my community and
I’m going to fight for what’s right,” Markum said.
Delores Jampierre is all politics these days and she is loving every bit of it.
It’s the week before Election Day and Jampierre, a dedicated associate member of SEIU Local 21 LA, is busy, busy, busy.
Associate members are allies who join with 21 LA union workers in the fight for good jobs.
Jampierre is on the phone nonstop at the union’s call center. On an average day, she makes as many as 250 calls. Of those calls, she has about 40 conversations. These aren’t brief chats with friends either. Jampierre is having tough conversations with frequent voters about a taboo topic: politics.
“We are asking people would they consider supporting a candidate that will fight for working families,” said Jampierre, the St. Helena Parish resident and retired union member. “We are calling and encouraging people to go out to vote. We are also encouraging them to bring others to the poll.”
Jampierre said some callers are more receptive than others, but she doesn’t allow this to deter her or dampen her spirits.
Her motto is to “address everyone with a deep respect,” regardless of how they act.
“I love talking to people about politics. Politics concerns people, ideas and change,” Jampierre said. “A strong union can make anything happen. If you stand alone, you won’t have anyone to fight for you.”
To learn more about associate membership, please call (504) 483-2125.
Everett Armand knew it was time to evacuate his Laplace home when the flood waters reached his waist. He quickly gathered his wife, elderly mother-in-law and the eight-month-old baby the couple is caring for into a motor home.
“If it wasn’t for having a motor home, we wouldn’t have gotten out. I had to drive it through the water like it was a boat,” described Armand, a longtime SEIU 21 LA union member. “I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t have a chance to do anything. I had just woken up and it was time go.”
The Armands drove to New Iberia and spent three days in a hotel incurring lodging, food, gas and expenses for even basic needs like clothes and toiletries.
Tens of thousands of people throughout Louisiana and the Gulf Coast have been impacted by Hurricane Isaac. SEIU Local 21 LA has established the SEIU Local 21 LA Disaster Relief Fund to help Armand and other members who have lost so much during this trying ordeal.
“I didn’t have time to grab anything. My wife grabbed a few shirts and her work clothes and put it in a little bag, but everything else went under water,” said Armand, a Jefferson Parish Public School owner-operator bus driver.
Armand lost two vehicles and his home is a total loss. Luckily, his bus was parked at another location and wasn’t damaged. He’s currently gutting his home (removing the sheetrock to prevent molding and additional problems) and trying to do as much of the work himself because he has no confidence the insurance company will adequately settle his claim.
Armand and his family are living in his motor home parked in the driveway of their Laplace house.
“I got my hands full, but I can handle it. It’s bad. It’s really bad. I still have water in the house. That will just have to dry,” Armand said. “The only thing I’m looking for is for people to keep praying for me.”
The criteria for the distribution of SEIU Local 21 LA Disaster Relief Funds:
Members may qualify for up financial assistance in an amount to be determined by the amount of loss and the availability of funds to members meeting at least one of the criteria above. Funds will be distributed on a first come first serve basis. If funds are available and there are still significant needs we may at a later date decide to make an additional contribution.
To apply for the SEIU 21 LA Disaster Relief Fund, please call (504) 483-2125.
Harold Sterling of SEIU Local 21 LA assists in the clean up of 21 LA member Everett Armand’s Laplace home.
As the country celebrates Labor Day, it’s imperative that we not only stop to honor the past contributions of American workers to the prosperity of our nation, and remember our future is at stake in November, the most important election of our lifetime, but to acknowledge our union brothers and sisters working on the holiday to aid in the post-Hurricane Isaac recovery in Louisiana.
In New Orleans, Parks and Parkway employees are working to pick up storm debris to make our communities safe and clean again. Department of Public Works in Baton Rouge workers are doing the same.
We salute you on Labor Day.
Now, more than ever, rebuilding the middle class in Louisiana is at stake.
In a study released last month, the Pew Research Center reaffirmed what working people in this country have known for years: the middle class is shrinking and so is middle class share of income. According to the study, during the last decade, middle-class income declined for the first time since the end of World War II; meanwhile, the percentage of Americans defined as middle class fell from 61 to 51 percent since 1970. However, the share of income that went to upper income people grew substantially over the same period. The study follows a similar examination of middle-class decline by the Yale University Institution for Social and Policy Studies, which found a growing disconnect between economic output and wages.
The American middle class has been in decline for decades. Recent studies are a stark reminder that framing the decision we face this November in terms of the last four years alone is short-sited and ignores a long history of policies detrimental to working people in this country.
Despite a growing body of evidence that the middle class is in jeopardy, we’ve watched as right-wing lawmakers have blocked legislation that would put the middle class on firm footing once again. Republicans have wasted time debating intrusive women’s healthcare legislation and the DREAM Act, legislation that would have provided a pathway citizenship for undocumented immigrant youth. When Democrats in Congress introduced the American Jobs Act, and other measures to stimulate the economy, Republicans filibustered legislation for the purpose of political theater.
We know that, in the spirit of the day created to honor the American workers, it is time to get everyone back to work and create prosperity for many, not just the few.
Happy Labor Day 2012.
Organizations and individuals with a passion for improving New Orleans for the 99 percent gathered on August 21 at the M. Francis Gallery at 604 Julia St. in the Crescent City for the Social Justice Social II.
The mixer was co-sponsored by Service Employees International Union Local 21 LA (SEIU), Neighborhoods Partnership Network, OxFam America, AVODAH, Puentes New Orleans and VAYLA New Orleans.
Participants played a round of Social Justice Bingo, a take on the age-old game, where issues such as education reform, good jobs, food justice and healthcare replaced the letters and numbers of the traditional bingo card. There was even a slot for Social Justice Bingo players to fill in the blank with an issue not already appearing on the card.
Guests came from as far as Japan. That’s right, a delegation from the Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training was in attendance.
Myesha Francis, the proprietor of the only black-owned gallery on Julia Street, a thriving art stroll in the city’s central business district, offered her second anniversary print, the breathtaking image, A Sweet Starry Night in NOLA at a super duper discounted rate of $25 especially for this event!
To view images from the Social Justice Social II please click the link below:
The first-ever Social Justice Social, held on July 31 at Ur Way Yogurt & Coffee Bar, was a success. More than 70 New Orleanians came together to discuss issues like racial justice, environmental justice, food justice and good jobs. The SJS was sponsored by SEIU Local 21 LA, Safe Streets Strong Communities, PlayNOLA and Junebug Productions.
SEIU Local 21 LA president, Helene O’Brien and
Research and Policy Coordinator, Jayeesha Dutta play Social Justice Bingo.
SEIU Local 21 LA Political Director, LaTanja Silvester checks in participants.
To view more images from the Social Justice Social, please click here.
SEIU Local 21 LA participated with dozens of other cities across the country to raise awareness to the low wages. Members and community gathered at Domino’s Pizza at 402 N. Carrollton Ave.
Please visit our Facebook page to view more images: Click here.
Congratulations to SEIU 21 LA member Linda Hollins (DHDS) who was elected to the Personnel Board as the Regular Classified Representative and will serve a four-year term starting January 1, 2013- December 31, 2016.
Ms. Hollins, a Head Start employee, has worked for 19 years as a classified civil service employee. She also acts as administrative liaison for Head Start and other City Parish Departments. In 2009, she received a Certificate of Achievement for exceeding the criteria for job performance.
Congratulations to Ms. Beverly Kelly who was elected to the Personnel Board as the DPW Regular Classified Representative and will serve a four-year term starting June 14, 2012- June 13, 2016.
“When the position of Personnel Board Representative was posted I jumped at the opportunity to serve with no hesitation,” said Ms. Kelly. “I love people. I believe I can make a difference and I am concerned.”
On May 1, 2012, Alfred Dixon, custodian of five years at L.B. Landry High School, was among 11 other Aramark, full-time workers in the Recovery School District (RSD) fired for no reason violating federal labor laws.
The wrongly terminated workers are dedicated employees with as much as 22 years of service keeping New Orleans schools clean.
Dixon enjoyed taking care of Landry, making sure the new, 3-story school was in the best condition possible for students to receive a quality education. He took pride in his work and doesn’t understand why he was let go.
Aramark is a multinational, Fortune 500 company that receives taxpayer money to clean and provide food services in the Recovery School District. Firing full-time employees is one of many of Aramark’s union busting tactics as well as turning full-time positions into part-time, casual employment.
“I loved being around the children,” said Dixon, a soft-spoken, quiet man. “How am I going to make a living? I have a wife and family.”