Member Wins at Texas Supreme Court
Paul Green v. Dallas County Schools Slip Op. No. 16-0214 (Tex. May 12, 2017) http://law.justia.com/cases/texas/ supreme-court/2017/16-0214.html
Plaintiff Green worked as a bus monitor for Dallas County Schools (DCS) transporting children with special needs. Green informed his supervisor that he was taking a diuretic called Lasix for congestive heart failure. He switched to Coreg, another drug that he believed had similar urinary side effects.
On August 30, 2011, after the bus dropped off the only student who was on the bus at that time, Green asked the bus driver to stop at a gas station so that he could use the restroom. The bus driver instead drove into a residential area, and after repeatedly asking him to pull over, Green eventually urinated in his pants. The driver finally pulled over and Green finished urinating in an empty water bottle. Green then assisted another child at the next scheduled stop who was in a wheelchair, but Green did not touch the student at any time.
The driver reported the incident to his supervisor, who notified DCS’s area director. Green was terminated for “engaging in unprofessional conduct while on a DCS school bus” and “fail[ing] to protect the health and safety of the students boarding at [the] next scheduled stop from exposure to bodily fluids.” Green unsuccessfully appealed the termination and eventually filed this lawsuit.
At trial, Green testified that previous drivers accommodated his requests when he needed to stop and use the restroom and would inform DCS dispatch about the unscheduled stops. One of the drivers also testified that Green informed him that he took medication that sometimes caused an urgent need to urinate.
The jury found in favor of Green; however, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling, concluding that there was no evidence that DCS fired Green “because of” his disability. The court determined that even if the evidence established that “DCS terminated Green because he experienced incontinence while he was on the bus, there still must be some evidence that his disability caused the incontinence.”
The Texas Supreme Court determined that the Court of Appeals erred by concluding that the only disability the jury could have found was Green’s heart condition. Under the Texas Labor Code, a disability includes any “physical impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity.” A major life activity includes activities such as work, but also includes the operation of a major bodily function–including functions of the bladder. Thus, the Supreme Court determined that Green’s urinary incontinence would qualify as a disability if it substantially limited his bladder function or his ability to perform work related functions. As a result, the high court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment and remanded the case to that court for consideration of issues it did not reach.
Although I am not a lawyer, the significance of this Supreme court ruling is that it extends Americans with Disabilities Act protection to disabled workers who are affected by the side effects of the medicine they take to treat or control their disability and in a grievance hearing or similar situation I would argue that this ruling protects disabled workers from discrimination because of those side effects as well as protecting him against discrimination because of the disability.
Houston Independent School District
One happy Houston ISD Food Service worker with three Local 100 United Labor Union organizers.
Local 100 Welcomes New Members from Hartman Middle School
Local 100 Organizer Alain Cisneros (green shirt) welcoming three new Local 100 members into our Local from Hartman Middle School HISD.
Entire kitchen staff at Kashmere Gardens are Local 100 members. They are fighting for dignity and respect from the Principle who is a bully!!!
Senator Royce West stiffs Local 100. Drivers and Monitors call for Walk out
Twenty four Local 100 Dallas County School Bus drivers and Monitors ; some terminated but most still employed, met Saturday, 10/29/16, in the hopes of appealing their terminations and to ask for State Senator Royce West’s help to stop Dallas County’s continuing unfair terminations and suspensions.
Their hope quickly turned into anger and frustration when West called us to say he had another meeting and couldn’t come to ours, despite our having confirmed his attendance two days earlier. There were calls to Walk Out and Sick Out and the Drivers and Monitors immediately began strategizing the best time to do it. The State student testing day was picked as the day when DCS and the 13 school districts it provides student transportation for would be the most vulnerable to a Sick Out or walk Out.
In the end, cooler heads prevailed and the plan became to write a letter listing our issues which are:
1. Terminations and Suspensions because of red light camera tickets that go back three years and which we were never informed of until DCS needed a scapegoat to cover up their failure,
2. poorly trained Drivers,
3. Overloaded buses,
4. Unsafe buses,
5. DCS doesn’t follow its own policy.
And our demands which are:
1. Reinstate drivers who made the alleged violations,
2. Suspend the supervisors whose mis-management caused the problems.
3. Lift Driver suspensions or show proof.
4. Reimburse our lost wages,
5. Give us the right to face our accusers and send this letter to the Board members at DCS and all the school districts it serves.
6. And set up informational picket
Dallas Local 100 Fights for Justice for School Bus Drivers
On October 22nd, Dallas Local 100 members took the message to the people. Union members (Doris Humphrey, Cassandra Fletcher, Robert Stahn of AISD and Vernon Johnson) were interviewed on KNON 89.3 FM about the unfair terminations and suspensions of the drivers by Dallas County Schools. 483 camera violations were posted against bus driven by DCS employees between 1/1/2014 and August of 2016. These tickets were sent to DCS, the owners of the vehicles, and without the drivers knowledge and paid by DCS. When NBC 5 investigated DCS they found multiple checks issued to cover the fines, a total exceeding $80,000. The drivers were not told at the time and any violations that occurred during that period were allowed to accumulate. After the NBC 5 expose DCS demoted the 2 supervisory personnel in charge of informing the drivers and recouping the fines from the drivers, however the drivers involved were suspended (5 to 9 days without pay) or terminated. Local 100 has been helping the involved drivers by assisting them with their grievances and representing them at their appeals. Local 100 has also begun organizing the drivers in the Arlington ISD where a chronic shortage of drivers (40 short presently) has resulted in mechanics driving creating a greater backlog of busses needing servicing and repairs. The lines were busy and hosts Bonnie Mathias and Gene Lantz of the Workers Beat were happy to spread the word about workers in DFW. Local 100 will keep the pressure on next week with the monthly membership meeting on October 29th with State Senator Royce West coming and listening to the issues of the workers who were unfairly terminated and suspended as well as ongoing management problems. Senator West plays a key role as over 50% of the monies that school districts receives come from the state.People pictured in photo are: Vernon Johnson fired driver, Gene Lantz- co-host of Workers Beat, Bonnie Mathias-co-host of Workers Beat, Cassandra Fletcher current driver with DCS, Doris Humphrey fired driver, Kenneth Stretcher organizer Dallas office, Robert Strahn-driver Arlington ISD.
Houston Local 100 on KHOU 11 News About Lead in Schools
Safety is every parent’s wish when they send their kids off to school.
“We want them to be safe,” said Carmen Thomas. But Thomas is worried about what may be in the water at her daughter’s HISD school.
“If it’s not safe for them to drink, I wouldn’t want them to drink it,” said Thomas.
At Thursday night’s board meeting, she’ll ask HISD to provide bottled water for drinking at nearly every school in the district, while Texas’ largest district tests the water at its 283 schools for lead.
“The sooner the better,” said Thomas.
Orell Fitzsimmons is field director for Texas United Employees Union, Local 100. He says 101 of HISD’s 180 elementary schools were built before federal regulations banned lead in 1986. Those are the schools he’s most concerned about.
“Every school is not going to have lead, but we don’t know which ones do,” said Thomas. “Unless you know it’s safe, you shouldn’t be exposing children to it once they get exposed. It’s irreversible damage.”
HISD tells KHOU 11 that five schools – Wharton Dual Language Academy, Hogg Middle School, Henderson Elementary School, Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy for Young Men, and McReynolds Middle School – were all randomly tested for lead in March. All lead levels at those campuses were found to be within acceptable standards. So at this point, HISD says there’s no need to provide bottled water.
That’s not good enough for Fitzsimmons.
“I would like to invite the new superintendent to come out to Cornelius Elementary with me and let’s have a glass of water and see how he feels about it,” said Fitzsimmons.
Thomas says this is about protecting children and after watching the water crisis unfold in Flint. She believes it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“I would hope my city takes responsibility and not let the situation get to that point like what happened in Flint,” said Thomas. “I’m just trusting the district that they’ll take care of the situation.”
More on Local 100’s Victory in Houston to Save Children and Workers from Lead Poisoning: HISD Reverses Course, Will Test All Schools for Lead in Water
After initially planning to only test nine schools this summer for lead contamination in its water outlets, the Houston Independent School District reversed its policy Wednesday evening and will now test all of its 153 elementary schools this year, following questions by the Houston Press about lead testing to HISD officials.
In interviews Wednesday, before the changed policy was announced, School Board Trustee Harvin Moore and United Labor Unions Local 100 Field Director Orell Fitzsimmons said HISD officials had previously told them they planned to test only nine schools for lead each year. When asked about this plan, HISD spokeswoman Lila Hollin said Wednesday, “As far as how many and which ones, that hasn’t been decided yet.”
At a rate of only nine schools per year, with 283 schools to test, the district wouldn’t have finished its tests for more than 30 years.
Yet around 6 p.m. Wednesday, after the Press spoke with Hollin and called numerous HISD employees that day with questions about the district’s lead testing policy, Board of Education trustees received a one-paragraph email from HISD Interim Superintendent Ken Huewitt. That email said something very different.
“While we have tested a number of our schools in HISD, we have decided to take a much more proactive and aggressive approach,” Huewitt wrote in the email. “I have asked the facilities team to test all elementary schools this year. All middle schools will be tested in the 2017-2018 school year. Finally, any remaining high schools that have not been completed with the bond program will be tested in the 2018-2019 school year.”
“Results for each facility will be posted on the HISD website as well as a schedule outlining when testing will occur,” Huewitt added.
Fitzsimmons first took an interest in HISD’s lead testing policies after watching the water crisis unfold in Flint, Mich. He submitted multiple public information requests asking about HISD’s records and practices regarding testing for lead contamination, and spoke at the June 9 Board of Education meeting about the district’s need to test all of its schools for lead, starting with elementary schools – the age group most at risk for lead poisoning.
Big Victory for Local 100 in Houston: HISD to test for lead in drinking water in nearly all its schools
The Houston Independent School District announced Thursday that it will test for lead in drinking water at nearly all campuses over the next three years in “an abundance of caution” amid national health concerns.
The state’s largest school district said it tested five of its 288 schools at random in March and found that lead levels in all samples were acceptable.
The district will start by testing all its elementary schools for the toxic metal during the upcoming academic year. All middle schools will be tested in 2017-18, and high schools not being rebuilt as part of the voter-approved bond program will undergo testing the following year.
The announcement followed a public request in June from union leader Orell Fitzsimmons. During a school board meeting, Fitzsimmons called on the district to test for lead in all schools.
“I’m so ecstatic that they’re actually doing testing,” Fitzsimmons, field director of United Labor Unions Local 100, said Thursday. “I think they’re going to find some lead. And once they find lead, then the timeline’s going to be expedited.”
Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor who recently helped uncover the water problems in Flint, Mich., said he can “almost guarantee” that Houston will have troublesome levels of lead in some schools, if the tests are conducted appropriately.
Edwards applauded HISD for rolling out testing, even though federal law does not require any such checks.
“The worst examples are the schools that never test because then you just don’t know,” Edwards said. “The sooner you get the bad news, the sooner you can prevent harm to your kids.”
Schools built before 1986, when Congress passed a lead ban, are most at risk for having tainted water. Lead generally affects children more than adults and can cause serious health problems such as brain disorders, heart and kidney disease, and reduced fertility.
HISD estimates the cost to test its elementary schools will total $130,000. It did not provide cost estimates for testing at middle and high schools.
The Cypress-Fairbanks, Klein and Clear Creek school districts said they rely on local utility districts to ensure water safety. The area’s other large public school districts did not respond to questions sent via email late Thursday.
Nationwide, about 1 percent of children from 6 months to 6 years old have been found to have elevated levels of lead, a significant reduction from decades ago, said Dr. Marcus Hanfling, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine who runs a lead and environmental clinic in Pasadena. Historically, he said, young children are tested for lead – and then a search for the source of the problem starts.
“This approach, checking the school water from a precautionary standpoint. makes more sense,” he said.
The five HISD schools already tested are: Wharton Dual Language Academy; Hogg Middle School; Henderson Elementary School; Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy for Young Men; and McReynolds Middle School. A district spokeswoman said there are no records of lead testing in prior years.
Dallas Workers Got Sick Working for DISD
15 Retired DISD Maintenance employees who have been exposed to Lead, toxic chemicals and heavy metals while remodeling a 1920s era Proctor and Gamble soap factory for use as a DISD central maintenance facility while employed at the DISD met with Community and Civil Rights organizer Peter Johnson on April 7, 2016
Peter, coincidentally, is conducting lead and mold tests in the South Dallas neighborhood around the old Proctor and Gamble factory to prove his theory that low tests scores in inner city schools is due to the fact that kids in these neighborhoods have been affected by lead and mold exposure. If the DISD refuses to test us, we have developed a campaign strategy with plans to include all employees and ex-employers who worked at this site. Mr. Gomez pictured below has bladder cancer as a result of his work environment and does not expect to live long enough to receive anything from this, so he asked if his survivors would get anything coming to him.
Local 100 fights for Environmental Justice
In 1921 Proctor and Gamble built a factory in South Dallas. In the 1990s the DISD bought the closed plant for a song because no one was interested in cleaning up the toxic chemicals, lead, arsenic, mercury, that Proctor and Gamble had left behind. The DISD used its employees to do the cleanup and convert the building into a maintenance facility and named it the Cotton building.
The presence of toxic chemicals in the building has become an issue and the DISD began giving blood tests to the current employees working in the building but has refused to test the retirees and temps who had to clean up the building and do the renovation to begin with. Local 100 held its first meeting of retirees who worked in that building to begin the process of building the power to pressure the DISD to” Do the right thing” and test everyone who has ever worked in the building, not just current employees. This meeting was organized by Ms. Doris Taylor, a local 100 member during her years working for the DISD and who remains a Local 100 member on Backdraft. She has also assumed the leadership of the Dallas Local 100 Retiree organization.
Pictured, left to right, Thomas Taylor, Doris Taylor, Kenneth Morgan and William Morgan.
Local 100 Demands Change
Local 100 leaders, Norma Rivera, Flora Norman, Alvin Jimmerson, and Stewards Larry Williams Howard Pearlman, and Ruby Ross Attended the March 8th Dallas County School Board Meeting to tell the Board to change its Attendance Bonus Policy. Also attending were Friends and supporters of Local 100 Cledell Kemp and Mary Stretcher.
Dallas County Schools operates 2000 school buses and have a difficult time keeping drivers for all of its routes, so it offers an $800 yearly bonus to those who don’t miss a shift. Their policy has the unintended consequence of encouraging people to come to work sick which poses risks for drivers, students and other drivers, and to avoid jury duty or not take off for legitimate reasons or workers compensation. Ruby presented petitions signed by almost 750 Drivers and monitors that asked to not be penalized for taking time off for legitimate reasons. Other issues raised to the board were the need for suitable video training for new drivers from the Middle East and the need for buses with 2 speed differentials instead of turbo charged buses.
Dallas Local 100 on a Roll
Thirteen Dallas County Schools School Bus Drivers joined Local 100 on December 15. Cledell Kemp, a Local 100 organizer, who is currently on medical Leave is shown at an information table in the Lawnview break room signing up a Lawnview driver.
Justice for School Bus Driver
Mr. Clarence Crenshaw, a long term employee with a spotless work record drove a School Bus that carried students from Truett Elementary, a school with Students so out of control that teachers would ride along on the bus to help control the students. On October 14 no teacher was there to help. Mr. Crenshaw loaded the students and they went out of control while the bus was parked in front of the school. Mr. Crenshaw got them under control, reseated and quieted down except for two who he escorted off the bus and sent to the principal. The girl student’s parents accused him of grabbing her arm and after a perfunctory investigation by Dallas County he was fired. Mr. Crenshaw’s wife is dying of cancer and this also meant losing health insurance and possible financial devastation. Mr. Crenshaw called Local 100, the only union that fights for Drivers and monitors in Dallas County Schools. Local 100 went to bat and got Mr. Crenshaw’s job back.
A school Bus driver can be robbed and assaulted by Students on camera and nothing will be done but if he is accused of touching a student he is immediately fired, unless he is defending his life. Mr. Crenshaw’s spotless work record made the difference in swinging the decision in his favor.
Vote for Turner for Mayor of Houston
Local 100 Members working on getting out the vote from the Mayor’s election.
Pin Oak Middle School Food Service Employees
We want 8 hours a day, everyday
One additional hour a day would increase our income by $2000
Join Local 100 and help us fight for 8 hours a day like most other HISD employees
Cleaner kitchens and more efficiently ran operations
We are tired of working for poverty wages of $14,000 a year
It’s not right for us and it’s not right for our children
Local 100 United Labor Unions
Web Site: www.unitedlaborunions.org :: Facebook.com/Local100texas
Local 100 Wins HISD Raises Minimum Wage For Lowest-Paid Workers : Most of the workers who will benefit are women.
Most of the workers who will benefit are women.
By: Laura Isensee, July 08th, 2015 01:40 PM
The Houston school board trustees made a historic move last month when they passed the nearly $2 billion budget for next year.
That budget increased the minimum wage to $10 an hour at the Houston Independent School District.
An extra $2.20 an hour may not sound like much.
But that adds up to thousands of dollars for the lowest-paid employees who were earning as little as $7.80 an hour.
“When you have an extra $3,500 dollars in your budget every year, you’re going to be able to provide for your family,” said Orell Fitzsimmons, field director for the United Labor Unions Local 100. He has pushed for this raise for years.
It will affect about 1,400 workers who clean classrooms and tutor kids. Most of the employees are women.
“In a lot of cases, these are single mothers, head of households, and they’re just going to be able to lift themselves up a little further out of poverty,” Fitzsimmons said.
HISD Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones set the higher minimum wage as a priority.
“And the fact that a lot of those people are also parents of our students,” she said.
“I just don’t think in today’s economy in a place where Houston is so vibrant and our economy is so good and has sustained that level of success over a number of years that we should be paying anyone less than that,” she added.
In total, the new wage will cost HISD about $4 million.
Memorial Hermann Continues to Sue the Uninsured for Charges They Can’t Afford
She couldn’t get any air into her lungs. At first, Edith Abadlia, then an oncology nurse who had worked for two oncologists located in Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza for more than 25 years as of July 2012, tried to ignore it, but she couldn’t seem to draw a deep breath. The feeling got worse, as if a corset had been cinched around her waist and pulled so tight she thought she might die.
Abadlia told one of the doctors, and he suggested they take her over to Memorial Hermann’s Texas Medical Center emergency room since her employers didn’t have the right equipment to check her out. She walked next door to the emergency room. Abadlia didn’t have health insurance — her office didn’t provide it, and she and her husband had lost their coverage after he was laid off from his IT job — but someone told her not to worry, that Memorial Hermann is a nonprofit hospital with a charity arm that would be able to help her handle the bills.
During the first hours, Abadlia’s world had narrowed to focus only on the next breath, on sucking oxygen into her lungs. Once the feeling began to pass, she kept an eye out for the woman who was supposed to come talk with her about her finances and applying for charity to cover part or all of the bill, but no one ever showed up. She was discharged, still unclear about what was wrong with her and what she owed the hospital.
A few months later, the tightness returned. This time it was like an iron band around her torso, and she was sure she’d suffocate and drop dead in the middle of the oncology office. One of her bosses walked her next door to Memorial Hermann again, she was given drugs to help her breathe, and was scanned, examined and kept overnight again for observation. Again it was unclear what was wrong with her. Again someone told her a woman would come by to talk with her about qualifying for charity care since she was uninsured. She says no one ever came.
Over the following months, her health declined to the point she quit her job, hoping things would improve if she got rid of the stress. She kept an eye out for the Memorial Hermann bill and talked with her husband about how they would tackle paying it and the other medical bills she was incurring as her health continued to fail. “I thought maybe one of the doctors I worked for more than 25 years had paid it or maybe the charity had taken care of everything and it was all okay,” she says now.
On December 31, 2014, Abadlia found an affidavit plastered on her front door informing her she was being sued for her bills at Memorial Hermann. Abadlia lives in northwest Houston and is retired and home most days because of her deteriorating health, but she maintains no one ever came to the house or tried to inform her of the lawsuit until the last day of the year.
After she received the affidavit, Abadlia called Memorial Hermann’s law firm to try to get some information about what she was being sued for. Since she’d never seen her own bill for the two hospital stays, Abadlia asked the lawyer if he could send her a copy of the unredacted bills from 2012. He told her that wasn’t possible because her bills from two years ago had already been archived. He urged her not to fight the lawsuit and to accept the bills and the additional charges she was likely to face if she didn’t answer the suit and the judge issued a summary judgment. By then, she had nine days to find a lawyer who would take her case.
Abadlia learned how much she owed Memorial Hermann, according to hospital records, only after she learned of the lawsuit. It was filed in August 2014, and the private process server attempted to serve legal documents to Abadlia eight times from November 2014 to December 2014, according to court documents filed by Sullins, Johnston, Rohrbach & Magers, the law firm that handles Memorial Hermann’s debt-collection cases. She was being charged more than $32,000 for two nights of observation at Memorial Hermann at the Texas Medical Center, plus 6 percent interest and a $2,500 legal fee.
Abadlia, who drives a 12-year-old car and lives on disability checks, talked with different lawyers, but they all wanted her to pay hourly fees that were well beyond what she and her husband could afford. Between what he makes as a limo driver and her small Social Security stipend, they make the money stretch to pay bills and pay down some of the other medical debts acquired after her health collapsed, but none of the lawyers offered a rate they could afford.
She’d resigned herself to showing up alone in court when the phone rang and a man with a cheerful voice informed her his name was Orell Fitzsimmons and he wanted to speak with her about her lawsuit. Fitzsimmons is a longtime labor organizer who is now the head of Citizen Wealth Centers in Houston, a new organization whose members pay $20 per month and get help with things like taxes, financial aid applications, medical bills and lawsuits.
“You don’t know me, but I’ve been looking at your court records with Memorial Hermann, and I want to talk to you about it,” he told her. “You’re not alone. They’ve been doing this to a lot of people.”
In 2013, when the Houston Press reported that Memorial Hermann Health System, one of the largest nonprofit health systems in Texas, was suing uninsured patients [“Getting Stuck,” by Dianna Wray, July 24, 2013], the suits were being filed in state district court. In fact, Memorial Hermann has been pursuing patient debts that either were not covered by insurance or were incurred by patients without insurance, those often least able to pay their full-price medical bills, through the court system for more than a decade.
Hospital lawyers are now primarily using the county civil courts at law to pursue unpaid medical bills. A Press audit of the Harris County Clerk’s records shows that Memorial Hermann has sued more than 500 patients in county civil courts over more than a decade. Memorial Hermann Health System is the plaintiff in 22 lawsuits to collect debts from patients in 2015 alone, with the most recent suit filed April 29.
Memorial Hermann spokeswoman Alex Loessin describes these lawsuits to collect debts from patients as “very rare incidents” for Memorial Hermann, a “recourse of last resort” representing only a tiny percentage of the more than 1.8 million patients treated in the Memorial Hermann Health System within the last fiscal year. “We only take such legal action after all reasonable efforts have been exhausted,” she says.
Vivian Ho, the chair in health economics at Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute, maintains Memorial Hermann is simply a large business being run so that it can stay healthy enough both to fulfill its mandate as a nonprofit charitable entity and to continue functioning as a good business. Suing patients may seem harsh, but it’s most likely just a bottom-line issue of smart business practices, she says. “The reason they can take care of so many people is because they’re so well run financially. You can take them to task for what they’re doing with these practices against patients, but other hospitals would either go under or not be able to care for as many patients as Memorial Hermann sees every year.”
But on the other side, critics say Memorial Hermann is a nonprofit unfairly targeting vulnerable patients despite the hospital’s not-for-profit, tax-exempt status. Unlike any other nonprofit hospital in the Houston area, court records show, Memorial Hermann has been suing hundreds of patients for payment since shortly after the hospital system was formed in a merger in the late 1990s. While some Houston-area hospitals occasionally sue patients for payment, no other Houston nonprofit hospital has filed as many lawsuits against patients as Memorial Hermann.
Fitzsimmons started trying to find people like Abadlia about four months ago. People were coming into the Citizen Wealth Centers asking for help with these lawsuits filed by Memorial Hermann.
Once he’d read enough of the lawsuits — all filed by the same legal firm, all featuring redacted medical bills and asking the judge to -order the defendant to pay the full bill plus 6 percent interest per year and $2,500 in attorneys’ fees — Fitzsimmons started trying to contact the defendants. He had better luck with the more recently filed cases because most of those patients hadn’t moved.
He and his team would go out to the addresses listed on the court records and knock on doors when they couldn’t get phone numbers. Everyone he talked to had an alarmingly similar story, he says. “Most of these people never heard anything about charity care while they were in the hospital; they don’t know what they’re being charged for because all of the medical charges are redacted; they have no lawyer, and they have no idea they’ve got a court date coming up,” he says. “At first you might question this, but after you’ve done enough of these and they all say the same thing, you think they must be telling the truth.”
Fitzsimmons brought in Kevin Hall, a lawyer who works car accidents but who has been doing mostly pro bono work representing debtors against credit card companies, utility companies and collection agencies for years. Hall had noticed a number of Memorial Hermann cases over the years.
In one case, a patient agreed to pay more than $600,000 in medical debt, plus more than $50,000 in attorneys’ fees. “That really bothered me because that’s an outrageous amount to charge for this type of work,” Hall says. “To take advantage of an un-sophisticated person who is being sued and scared over a debt so that she agrees to pay that high a fee on top of what she owes, that got my attention.” When Fitzsimmons approached him about representing Abadlia and a few other clients, Hall immediately agreed.
It’s still unclear why Memorial Hermann pursues this route to try to collect debts. In 2013, the hospital -system brought in more than $3 billion in revenue, according to Moody’s, and the credit rating agency predicted the system will continue to grow and thrive in coming years.
The root of the practice may lie in Memorial Hermann’s history. The hospital system was forged in 1997 when two charity hospitals, Hermann Hospital, known for conducting more scientific studies and based in the Medical Center, and Memorial Health System, known for its size, combined. A study issued by the American Hospital Association in 2011 noted that both hospitals were financially weak at the time of the merger.
Before the merger, there were only a few instances in which Hermann Hospital had sued patients to collect debt, according to court records, but there are Memorial Healthcare System lawsuits against patients dating back to the 1980s. By 2003, Memorial Hermann’s lawyers were filing more lawsuits against patients than against insurance companies. It became a part of the Memorial Hermann culture, says Patricia Gray, director of research at the University of Houston Health Law & Policy Institute. “They’ve been doing it for years, and over the years, they’ve gotten increasingly aggressive about those collections,” Gray says. “It’s how they operate.”
Lawyer Robert Painter has been working on medical lawsuits since the 1990s. A few years ago, he noticed Memorial Hermann had filed a number of suits against patients in Harris County District Court. Painter represented some of those patients, including Ignacio Alaniz, the subject of our cover story in July 2013.
The amount Memorial Hermann ultimately collects from these cases is most likely only a fraction of a percent of the hospital system’s budget, Painter says. He’s still puzzled about why Memorial Hermann continues the practice. “I thought the Affordable Care Act would put an end to these kinds of lawsuits, but it didn’t. For the life of me, I don’t know why they do it,” he says. “It would seem to me the cost of collecting from these people who can’t pay in the first place would offset any amount of money you eventually get from them.”
Vivian Ho says the public misunderstands Memorial Hermann’s nonprofit status to mean that the hospital is run like a charity. Costs have shot up for hospitals just as they have for patients in recent years, she says. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, hospitals have been struggling to figure out how to adjust to a new business model based on quality-centered care instead of the old fee-for-services system. “They follow the money. They know exactly what’s going on in terms of the disproportionate regulations, and they make sure they get every single dollar that’s due to them through various programs and grants. You have to be as aggressive as you can. But then there’s the other component where they go after everyone they possibly can. That’s how they stay in business.”
Memorial Hermann isn’t the first nonprofit hospital to come under fire for an approach to patient billing that seems to clash with its nonprofit status. “It’s been a national phenomena. A couple of decades ago, it was reported that some hospitals were doing this and then suddenly lots of hospitals were going and doing it. Suing patients coincided with rising costs in health care, so suddenly there was more money to collect,” Ho says.
Texas requires that at least 4 percent of patient revenue actually be spent on charity care, but right now that includes full-price bills for the uninsured and the charges that Medicaid won’t reimburse, along with various community services. This means the hospital is providing charity care, so the money doesn’t go as far as you’d think, Painter said. Who qualifies for the charity care can also be a murky question.
Memorial Hermann patients have to be within 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines to qualify for free charity care. If they are 201 to 400 percent within the poverty guidelines, they qualify for reduced-cost medical care on a sliding scale, Loessin says. Even though the law is changing to require hospitals to clearly post these guidelines along with how to apply for financial aid, Memorial Hermann still doesn’t have these parameters posted online or attached to its medical bills, according to the 990 Internal Revenue Service form required of tax-exempt organizations that was filed by the hospital in 2013.
Other Houston-area hospitals have come in for their share of criticism. The University of Texas Medical Branch, located in the district Gray represented as a legislator, has been sharply criticized for years, drawing complaints that it doesn’t do enough in the community to maintain its nonprofit status and tax exemption. MD Anderson came under fire for attempting to turn away a Lake Jackson woman diagnosed with acute leukemia because her limited-benefit insurance wouldn’t cover enough of the bill and hospital officials wanted her to pay more than $100,000 up front, Gray said. MD Anderson was also the focus of a recent story in Time magazine in which the author called out the nonprofit hospital for pulling in a profit of $531 million, a 26 percent margin on $2.05 billion, and for paying its president and CEO, Ronald DePinho, a salary of more than $1.8 million.
Ho says it was inevitable that a large nonprofit hospital system in Texas would turn to the courts to collect debt on medical bills, given that at least 25 percent of the state’s population is uninsured. As a Level One Trauma Center, Memorial Hermann in the Texas Medical Center treats a disproportionately large number of uninsured and underinsured patients in distress because it is better equipped to handle emergency medical situations. As things have changed, the hospital systems that have figured out how to collect on high-cost medical bills have been the ones that have managed to stay financially healthy.
While nonprofits are required to donate a certain amount of charity care to the community to maintain their tax-exempt status, being a nonprofit is not the same as taking a vow of poverty. Nonprofits don’t have shareholders, but that doesn’t mean they can’t generate any profits. While some of that money goes to charity care, nonprofit hospital employees are well compensated, including Memorial Hermann CEO Dan Wolterman, who was paid more than $3 million in 2013, according to the most recent 990 available. “A lot of these nonprofits have marble floors and statues and beautiful office furniture. They can spend the money where they see fit,” Ho says.
Memorial Hermann donates more funds in uninsured and underinsured care than any other nonprofit hospital system in Houston, Loessin says. Even though the charitable care is required, the result is still that Memorial Hermann handles more uninsured patients than other hospital systems. But the system itself has been undergoing a shift as it adjusts and prepares for the federally mandated changes resulting from the Affordable Care Act.
Many of the changes brought on by the ACA have already been put in place, but more are coming. The number of uninsured has fallen in Texas since the ACA went into effect, according to a study Ho has been issuing annually since the start of the ACA, but it hasn’t declined as much as in other states because Texas government officials refused to expand Medicaid, a move that would have brought the bulk of the uninsured into the insurance system.
However, Texas did accept about $29 billion over five years to spend on uncompensated care. Memorial Hermann and other hospitals that see a high number of uninsured patients have been able to draw on those funds, but Gray says the federal government may yank the funding because Texas officials are still refusing to expand Medicaid.
There are other changes coming, too, that will affect the economics of hospitals. “In the future, they’ll be penalized if they discharge a patient too soon. They’ll be penalized if they don’t have plans in place to coordinate patient care better. They’re going to have to work harder to provide a mechanism for patients to meet their financial obligations,” Ho says.
Austin Kirkland, a health-care revenue consultant, says that in previous years, hospitals were focused on dealing with representatives of the federal government through Medicare and Medicaid and with insurance companies. They tended to be secretive about both the sticker prices for services and the real prices that patients with Medicare, Medicaid and insurance would ultimately pay. But that has changed with the Affordable Care Act. Hospitals need to start treating patients as customers instead of patients and need to be upfront about what treatments and services will cost and how everything works, Kirkland says.
Insurance companies stood between the patient and the hospital, and the companies were competing with each other and other contractors. Competition and the insulation effect of services purchased through insurance created an incentive to keep the real cost of health-care services secret,” Kirkland says. “Now, because of the ACA and a general evolution in health care, patients are acting more like consumers and there’s a lot of pressure on hospitals to prove that they’re the place medical services should be bought.”
After Franky Nguyen, then 25, was run over by his ex-girlfriend in October 2013, he was in so much pain he could barely speak, let alone think about how his part-time job at Walmart didn’t provide health insurance, or wonder how he would pay the medical bills already mounting as the ambulance rattled toward Memorial Herman Northeast.
Someone called Nguyen’s mother, Tanya Nguyen, to say her son was in the hospital after being run over by a car. Her husband drove her to the hospital where Tanya Nguyen found her son lying on a gurney, hooked up to IVs, his face slack from the morphine drip, a splint snapped onto his left leg. A hospital representative had appeared at his bedside and asked if he had health insurance. When he said no, they didn’t ask any other questions about his job or his circumstances. No one mentioned applying for aid from the nonprofit arm, Tanya Nguyen says now.
The X-rays revealed that he’d been lucky, the doctors told his mother: Even a pound more of pressure and his bones would have snapped as the car thudded over his body. His hips and knees ached from deep bruising and he was going to have to use crutches to walk for months, but he was in better shape than expected.
Watching her son in the hospital bed, Tanya Nguyen didn’t know that the hospital was charging him $11.50 for every dose of the drug. She had no idea he was being charged more than $2,000 for the scans of his ankle, legs and pelvis. Tanya Nguyen works at a department store, and her husband has been unemployed since he was laid off from his warehouse job in 2012. The family cares for elderly relatives and lives on a tight budget, Tanya Nguyen says. After about two hours in the hospital, Nguyen was released and given a bill for more than $5,000.
In the following months, the bills kept arriving in the mail, but he couldn’t pay them, so he ignored them. His parents tried to stay out of it — he got so emotional when anyone brought up the incident that it seemed best to leave him alone — until they found out Memorial Hermann was suing Nguyen to pay the bills in March 2015. They called attorney Painter and asked him for help.
When the Nguyens contacted him, Painter was surprised that Memorial Hermann was still suing uninsured patients, and he agreed to represent Nguyen pro bono. He’d assumed that since Memorial Hermann had stopped filing against patients in state district court, the hospital system was using other methods to collect patient debts.
Hall says the only way to fight these cases is to push back and demand exacting proof of every charge listed on the medical bills. He pulls the case apart and makes the other side prove every single charge and service claimed. “With a medical bill, if you say you gave the patient an aspirin and charged her for it, I’m going to make you bring in the -person who actually gave her the aspirin to testify.”
Hall has dealt with the lawyers at Sullins, Johnston, Rohrbach & Magers for years in the car accident lawsuits and says they’re always polite and seem to look at the debt collection as another part of their jobs. The firm has a number of lawyers dedicated to filing liens and collecting debts for Memorial Hermann, the firm’s top client, he says. “My take on it is when the numbers get to a certain point, it kicks into filing a lawsuit, but it’s without a commonsense check to say, ‘Wait a minute. Who are we really filing against?’ These lawsuits are against the poorest of the poor most of the time.”
Most cases aren’t fought at all, Lone Star Legal Aid lawyer Tariq Gladney says. Court records are packed with dozens of cases in which Memorial Hermann lawyers filed a lawsuit against a patient and the defendant never responded. Lawyers then routinely asked for summary judgments from the courts and received them. “A judgment gives them an extra hammer,” Painter says. “You can get the court to order post-judgment discovery about assets; you can look at bank accounts and wages. You can use the court’s power to collect the debt. You’re using the court’s authority to be the best debt-collection agency in the world.”
Texas law protects a person’s home and up to $60,000 worth of personal property and forbids wage garnishment. Despite that protection, people facing these debt lawsuits are in a difficult situation, Painter says. Lawyers can’t take such cases on a contingency fee basis (in which the lawyer gets paid a percentage of the winnings) because if they win, it only wipes out the debt. If a person doesn’t have the money to hire a lawyer on an hourly rate, he or she has to try to find a lawyer who will take the case pro bono. Those who are within 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines can qualify for Lone Star Legal Aid, Gladney says.
After Painter got involved, Memorial Hermann agreed to drop the lawsuit against Nguyen. However, Painter is also working to collect from -Nguyen’s ex-girlfriend’s insurance company for the damage. Memorial Hermann has already filed a lien against the claim and will be paid some portion of the $5,000 bill if and when Nguyen gets the insurance money.
But even this is better than seeing her son saddled with a debt Tanya Nguyen and her husband couldn’t help him pay. “He didn’t do anything wrong. He got hit by a car, and then the medical bills were going to destroy his life. It would have been slowly — indirectly not getting loans because of bad debt, no credit because of this debt, no buying a car or a house; it might keep him from getting jobs. It’s slow with these things, but this is how you slowly destroy a life.”
More than 20 years ago, Abadlia was a single mother trying to figure out how to support her family. She’d always loved helping people, so she scraped together the money to go back to school to become a nurse.
“What Memorial Hermann did to me wasn’t right. I have always worked hard. I worked hard to become a nurse because I loved it, but I also knew I was a single mother and it was a way to pay my bills. I’m not somebody who just shuns my bills. I always do my best. I still try and work with everyone I owe to pay them.”
When she realized she was facing a lawsuit without any help from anyone other than her husband, that was the lowest moment. “I was really and truly hurt. I studied so hard to become a nurse. I was good to everybody and I was always there for them, but then nobody was there for me. I felt so alone.”
Now Abadlia has Fitzsimmons and Hall helping her. She calls them her “guardian angels.” Hall helped her obtain the medical bills and they’ve been going through them. and Abadlia says she’s found mistakes that will cut down on her bill when they’re resolved. There’s no time limit on when a person can apply for Memorial Hermann’s charity care, so Hall is helping Abadlia to see if she can get some of the debt expunged that way. If not, they are moving ahead with court proceedings, Hall says.
Fitzsimmons plans on gathering a bunch of the patients together so they can work as a team to get the hospital to listen to what they’ve been doing.
It’s a long shot, but Fitzsimmons is hoping that talking with hospital officials and putting faces to the names of those being sued for debt will make the officials listen and change their ways.
Maybe they’ll finally stop suing patients who can’t pay their bills. Maybe.
Local 100 Members fight Surcharges, Driver goes back to work
Local 100 members addressed the Board about drivers being fired because of late surcharge payments which cause their license to be suspended at the Dallas County Schools Board Meeting April 16.
Aaron Hobbs met David Walker, who had told his story to the board. His license had been suspended June 2014 while he was on a leave. He had been rehired in August but he didn’t get the DPS notice that his license was suspended until March 2015. He notified his supervisor and he has not driven since. Instead of giving him a letter of termination, which would let him apply for unemployment, he had been kept on the employment rolls without pay. Hobbs agreed to look for a monitor’s position for him until he got the license back and then let him return to driving. His unemployment claim is being appealed.
David returned to work the following Monday, April 20 as a monitor and will return to driving when he gets the license reinstated.
There is no clear and easy solution to this. Dallas County puts all the blame on Drivers and ignores the real problem, which is that the DPS Contractor, who handles the DPS paperwork, does not notify the drivers that their license has been suspended in a timely or efficient way.
Local 100 214-823-2001
What’s Wrong With This Picture
HISD Workers Paid Less than $10.10
Job Men Women
• We suggest, children of HISD employees should not be living in poverty, thus the School Board should pass a policy that does not allow less than $10.10 per hour for any job offered by the District.
• We should change 11 month custodians to 12 months, because it adversely effects wages of mostly women.
• HISD can be a leader in Houston to end poverty for our children.
• We are asking the HISD Board Trustees to vote to get our children out of poverty and on the way to a better life.
A Project of Local 100, United Labor Unions
For more information please call 832-566-2531
Supporting Steelworkers in Houston
We represent the office workers at Local 13-227 and were asked by our members yesterday to visit the picket line. This unit was part of the nationwide strike by the Steelworkers and this chemical plant is the last one still on strike in Texas. United We Stand!!!!!
Local 100 Campaign for Bus Drivers in Dallas
Local 100 members attended the Dallas County Schools Board Meeting April 16 to address the Board about drivers who are being fired because of late surcharge payments which causes their license to be suspended. Immediately after the Board meeting Aaron Hobbs met with one driver, David Walker, who had told his story to the board. His license had been suspended June 2014 while he was on a leave. He had been rehired in August but he didn’t get the DPS notice that his license was suspended until March 2015. He notified his supervisor and he has not driven since. Instead of giving him a letter of termination, which would let him apply for unemployment, he has been kept on the employment roles without pay. Hobbs agreed to look for a monitor’s position for him until he got the license fixed and then let him return to driving.
Unfortunately, there is no clear and easy solution to this. Dallas County keeps putting all the blame on the Drivers while it ignores the real problem, which is that the Contractor, Municipal Services, who handles the paperwork for the DPS does not notify the drivers that their license has been suspended in a timely or efficient way.
David returned to work the following Monday, April 20 as a monitor and will return to driving when he gets the license reinstated.
Breaking Barriers in Texas
Local 100 is working with Labor Neighbor Research Training Center on releasing a report in Texas on Breaking Barriers: Improving Health Insurance Enrollment and Access to Health Care in Texas. Link to the Report is available here Breaking Barriers Texas Report.
If Wal-Mart can, HISD Can
New Members in Houston Fighting for Higher Wages
Woman in middle with blue shirt is paid $7.30 an hour, while working for the largest employer in Houston, Houston Independent School District, they sure know how to make poverty happen. Her daughter on the far right is in the 4 grade and is also living in poverty with her mother!
Local 100 wins pay raise and Back pay for Dallas County Schools Bus Driver
Documented driving experience outside Dallas County Schools can be credited to the years of Dallas County experience, which puts the employee at a higher level on the pay scale.
Mr. Sysamouth Singvong has driven a school bus for Dallas County Schools and other school bus companies and school districts for almost 19 years. Before coming to work for Dallas County Schools.
Mr Singvong had asked to be given credit for his experience but nothing happened until he got Local 100 involved.
Local 100 went to bat and got enough experience credited to him to get a $6.00 per hour pay raise and $2400.00 back pay and he might win more.
Local 100 is fighting for Dallas County Schools Drivers and Monitors
Join Local !00 and build the Power to win
An injury to one is an injury to all!
New Members at Eliot Elementary School in Houston
4 new members at Eliot ES in HISD signed up with the help of food Service Manager Pamela Williams and our two new organizers Miroslava Ocanas and Thania Martinez. Most important, Ms. Williams then sent us to Oats ES to sign up the Food Manger. Members are working with organizers to make the Union grow. Issues: 4 hour employees are now getting help to sign up for under-employment with the State Workforce Commission, Food Stamps from the Federal government, and since they don’t qualify for health insurance at HISD they can get in line to signup for ACA in the fall. Three of the new members make less than $9.50 an hour, so the Local 100’s campaign to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 is right down their alley. Join Local 100 TODAY and fight for fairness.
Local 100 in MLK Parade in Houston
New Organizers in Houston
Local 100 Organizer Maggie Green signs up her first member at Harvard Elem.
In HISD.Organizers Nicole Watts & Cherye Wesley sign up their first Local 100 members in HISD, the office is a buzzing!!!!!!!!
Bus Drivers Win Raise in Dallas County
Local 100 organizers signed up 25 new bus drivers members at DCS on August 6. Members want working air conditioners on all buses and were real happy with our organizing committee playing a big part in getting all employees a 3% pay raise.
Fight for Air-Conditioned Buses in Dallas County
Several Local 100 members at the Richardson School bus service center had been complaining to Dallas County Schools about non-functioning air-conditioners and buses with no air conditioning since the start of summer. When the drivers asked the Area Director to let them drive one of the air conditioned buses sitting unused on the lot, he blew them off. A mechanic measured the temperature on an un-airconditioned Dallas County School bus at 113.9 degrees on the same day that the temperature in Death Valley made national news by reaching 129 degrees. Local 100 acted by calling a press-conference on July 3rd. Speaking at the press conference was Steward Jerrine Vincent and Shirleen Perry. The next day, every driver who wanted an air conditioned bus was given one.
Organizing at HISD
Organizer Delaram Peimani with Juan Guillen, Plant Operator HISD
Local 100 Welcomes New Member at Hollman Middle School
Local 100 member Ms. Davis Food Service manager at Hollman Middle School in HISD signing up a new member.
Look at What Aramark Thinks is a Proper School Lunch
What seems wrong about this photo from a elementary school in Houston Texas.
Well, lets start with the lunch tray. No vegetables, no milk, no nothing but a order of greasy nachos and two cups of sugar, food coloring and ice.
Has this become the all American lunch that will fortify our children for the educational battle with workers of the world or just a profit machine for Aramark, the private company, that’s making profits on the stomachs of our children? You wonder why diabetes is running wild in HISD as Rome burns. Maybe fiddle music should be playing as we view this lunch.
Local 100 Meets with Congressman Al Green
April 3rd, 2013
Excellent meeting with Congressman Al Green in Houston today about Comcast giving internet access, remittance justice on pricing for money transfers, the need for higher funding for Head Start workers, and increasing the minimum wage. What a great peoples’ representative!
Dallas County Crossing Guards Fighting for Pay Raise
Dallas Crossing Guards met Saturday, 3/23 to come up with a pay raise demand for the Dallas County Schools budget committee meeting. Crossing Guards in Dallas were City of Dallas employees and part of the Dallas Police Department until they were trannsferred to Dallas County Schools a few months ago. Dallas County Schools is a County school district that provides support services and Transportation services to School Districts in Dallas County.
As city employees, they were able to draw unemployment during the summer but they lost the ability to do that when they were transferred because they became School Districts employees
Replacing that lost income, which amounts to 94 cents per hour, is a major issue. Rasheed Rashad pointed out that they had been promised $9.63 when they came to Dallas County Schools and had the documentation to prove it. So the calculation was simple. $9.63+$ .94= $10.57. The first Budget committee meeting will be April 11th, the next one is in June and the Budget has to be finished by July. Crossing Guards are justified in asking for a $2.24 per hour raise and are determined to get what they deserve.
Pictured are Anne Kail on the left, Rasheed Rashad in the middle and Lola Hollins on the right.
Local 100 Members at Press Conference at Comcast/KPRC-TV2
Silva Ibarra, Dorothy Lindsey, Brenda Cisneros, Brenda Cisneros Jr., Peggy Gabriel
Comcast promised to make low cost Internet service available to kids at Head Start and on free lunch at school. With over 500,000 children qualified in the Houston area, less that 1% have been enrolled by Comcast in over two years.
Local 100 is demanding the following
• Comcast to set a goal of 250,000 children enrolled by 2016
• Require Comcast to greatly increase its direct outreach to children’s families
• Require public disclosure of the number of customers of Internet Essentials since 2011 by zip code
Join the fight to make Comcast do right
Group photos with Local 100 ULU members and Martin Luther King III at Congressman Al Green’s Labor Breakfast in Houston Texas December 19, 2012.
Congressman Al Green and Sheila Frazier, Treasure of Local 100 and an employee of Gulf Coast Community Service Association Head Start program.
Martin stated that the progressive moment must not forget the struggle for poor people, the need for reform on issues about home ownership and to continue to fight to for all people of the world to be “free at last”.
Congressman Al Green will continue to fight for a living wage bill in Congress that will tie the minimum wage to the rate in inflation that would increase the rate every four years automatically. During the 112th Congress, Congressman Al Green re-introduced the Living American Wage Act, which would increase the minimum wage by 15 percent above the poverty line every four years.
One Day for Obama in Houston
Dororthy Lindsay, Head Start Teacher for GCCSA in Houston is standing next to President Obama while getting ready to make phone calls to Florida to help the Presdient win. Dorothy stated, “The President has done a lot for Head Start and since I’m a Head start employee I felt it was my responibilty to stand up for him. I’m not only here today but I’m coming back everyday next week to work for Obama because he has stood up for me.”
Ida Skinner, another Head Start employee at GCCSA in Houston (green shirt) stated, ” I voted for the President in 2008 but didn’t help in the campaign. This time I thought he needed my help so here I am. I hope every Local 100 member that reads this story can find the time to at least have “One Day for Obama” before November 6th.
Victory is ours, if we take it.
GCCSA Ratifies New 3 Year Contract
With an overwhelming vote for ratification Local 100 members from Gulf Coast Community Service Association agreed to a new three (3) year contract that includes a 2.8% pay raise, increase pay for Teacher Aides when teaching a class without a teacher, $2 more an hour and better protections under the arbritation rules. Importantly we had no increase in the cost of health insurance or any changes in the pension plan. Steward Sheila Frazier stated, “we have a good contract, great health insurance and a pay raise, life is good.”
Dallas Bus Drivers Speak Out
Mary Ann Perez Running for State Representative
Mary Ann Perez the President of the Board of Trustees of the Houston Community College and a candidate for State Representative in District 144 in Pasadena, Batown and the East End of Houston with State Senator Mario Gallegos, the godfather of Houston Hispanic politics. Senator Gallegos supported Local 100 ten years ago when we were organizing GCCSA and now supports us in our drive to organize Houston Community college employees. The primary election is in late May and Local 100 members will be phone banking, block walking and working on election day to ensure Mary Ann’s victory.
John Reno with Senator Gallegos
Brenda Cinneros, Local 100 Organizer and her daughter at the Perez fundraiser with of course their Local 100 T-shirts in full display.
GCCSA Contract Bargaining
During our first bargaining session for our 4th GCCSA contract our committee is looking strong. Five different members addressed management on issues and the overall feeling in the meeting was for the Agency and the Union to work together in making GCCSA a better place to work for our members, a more productive place for the children to learn and a place to allow management to lead with vision.
Committee members from right; Pearlier Demart,Sheila Frazier, Demetrus johnson, Shawneque Wells, Elvelyn Claiborne, Dorothy Lindsey, Joe Hunter.
Stop Pay Reductions at Houston Community College
Local 100 member John Reno lobbying Mary Ann Perez, President of the HCCS Board of Trustees, to support Local 100’s proposal to grandfather all HCCS Counselors into the present pay scale to stop the reduction in pay of up to $20,000 for some counselors at the Houston Community College in Houston, Texas.
Dallas Local 100 Goes to Bat for Members Cheated out of Seniority Because of NEA
Richard Pritchett has worked as a dispatcher and bus driver in Dallas County Schools since 1980 and had accrued 27 years of seniority. A few years ago, the NEA used its influence to get the seniority policy changed to exclude time not spent as a Driver for purposes of Seniority and raises.
The NEA and DCS didn’t grandfather employees like Richard and he automatically lost 12 years seniority which meant a big pay cut because bus routes, field trips and pay raises are based on seniority. The policy change put him behind people who have been there half the time he has.
Local 100 is asking for an amendment to the policy that will grandfather Richard and any others in the same situation and give everyone full seniority.
Local 100 has met with the head of HR and the Chief Financial Officer, has asked for a meeting with the Superintendent and will meet with the School Board president next.
FCC Complaints Filed in Houston on Comcast
Two Houston Local 100 members fill out “Form 2000A Deceptive of Unlawful Advertising of Marketing Complaint” after calling Comcast and getting the run around and being told by Dell that the program “Internet essentials” doesn’t exist.
Houston Protests Comcast Scam
Local 100 members in Houston held a very successful protest against Comcast. Comcast has been falsely advertising a low cost Internet package for low income families that basically NO ONE can sign up for. When people call for the $9.99/month service, they are talked into signing up for a way more expensive package or paying for a huge deposit ~ a “bait and switch” move. Comcast is ripping off low income families and doing bad business in Houston and across the country. Local 100 has joined with a coalition of other groups to get Comcast to honor their word for low cost service. We will fight until they shape up or get out of own town! Way to go Local 100!
Not only food service employees support our fight against Aramark, (top) Sandra Mendoza a Custodian at Attucks Elementary and Donnella Tyrone a Custodian at Wheatley High School have both signed our pledge to get Aramark OUT. What is good for food service workers is also good for Custodians. Sandra stated, “we stand with our sisters in Food Service to get Aramark out and common decency back in the District.”
Vote in Upcoming Union Election
HISD Food Service employee Sylvia Ibarra is a candidate for the Executive Board of Local 100 and wants to remind everyone to vote in the upcoming union election. Sylvia is also a leader in our drive to rid HISD of the Aramark management contract which has cost the taxpayers of Houston $1.9 million dollars. Our goal is to have them gone no later than May 2012. Join the fight to save millions for taxpayers and for fairness for food service employees and better food for our children.
Sign the Aramark OUT Pledge
As we are visiting HISD kitchens during the spring semester of 2012, we are asking our members to sign the Aramark Pledge which commits the signers to support Local 100’s attempts to get Aramark OUT of HISD NOW (by the end of the 2012 school year) by any means necessary. It is time for all F/S employees to have health insurance and time for all employees to be paid a living wage.
Call 713-863-9877 if you want to join the struggle to free us from Aramark.
Labor Breakfast with Congressman Green
Minor Ford (left) and Abron Johnson (right) have breakfast with Congressman Al Green of the 9th Congressional District of Texas (Houston) on December 30th.
They spoke with Al about their organizing drive to represent all concession workers
at all professional sporting events in Houston including football (Texans)
baseball (Astros) basketball (Rockets) and soccer(Dynumo).
Local 100 Supports Occupy Movement in Houston
HISD Crossing Guards
HISD Crossing Guards are organizing a Union to fight for changes in the policies of the Crossing Guard Department and demanding semester end bonuses if not missing any HISD crossing guard days of work for the whole semester. To join the fight join Local 100 and call 713-863-9877 Crossing Guards United!
Stand with Local 100 for a Democratic Controlled U.S. Congress
In Houston Nancy Pelosi calls for Democrats to fight for Social Security, Medicaid & Medicare
Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi visited Houston on Monday August 8th at the invitation of Congressman Al Green and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Local 100 members where in attendance to here her speak about saving Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare from the ravishment by the Republican controlled U. S. Congress.
It was clear from her speech that the battle lines are being drawn for a major conflict between Congressional Democrats and Republicans during the 2012 elections. She said, “Voters need to understand that if the Republican party gets it way the social safety net of the last 60 years will be gone and the ways of the robber barons of the 1920 will be the new reality.”
It is true that all Local 100 members pay a higher tax rate on their income than the millionaires and billionaires of the republican party. The Bush tax cuts are the main reason our tax system is so wrong and until those tax cuts are gone will there be justice in the tax system for all Americans.
It will be your god given responsibility to be sure to vote in 2012 for a Democratic controlled Congress and Senate and for the re-election of President Obama. We need to send a message to the Republican party to keep their hands off of Social Security Medicare, Medicaid and to tax the rich their fair share. Most importantly we need to bring the troops home from both wars and spend those billions on revitalizing our country. Stand with Local 100 for a Democratic controlled U.S. Congress.
on far left: Congressman Al Green of the 9th District of Texas (D)-Houston; 2nd from left: Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi; 3rd from left: Pastor Lawson of Wheeler Ave. Baptist Church; 4th from left: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson lee of the 18th District of Texas (D)-Houston
Caroline wins at Dallas County Schools
Local 100 member Caroline Hibbler has been a Bus Driver for Dallas County Schools at the Richardson bus lot for 8 years. In DCS your seniority is very important because it determines which bus route you receive and how many field trip you get. In other words, your income for the year.
This year her supervisor at the bus barn took three years of seniority from her due to an illness she had which resulted in her getting a bus route of less value and resulting in less pay.
When she came to her Union for help her we contacted Transportation Director Arron Hobbs to express how unfair this policy was and appealed to him to reinstate her seniority thus ensuring no lost in pay. After reviewing the circumstances Mr. Hobbs agreed with Local 100’s position and reinstated her full seniority. With Local 100 going to bat for Caroline it once again shows how being a member of Local 100 really pays off in a big way.
Ms. Hibbler stated, “ Without Local 100 I would not have had any where to turn to for help. The more members Local 100 has the stronger it will be and the more it will be able to do for each member. I would also like to thank Transportation Director Hobbs for listening to our position and making the right decision.”
Dallas County School Bus Drivers & Monitors Demand Change
On July 22 six Dallas County School bus drivers and monitors, Khaliah Kimbrough, Ira McCowan, Charline Buchanan, Marcia Karim and Ruby Ross met to put together a list of issues to take to Dallas County Schools.
The summer jobs are not being posted at all of the lots.
Drivers are being told that being at-will employees prevents them from drawing reduced hour unemployment benefits while other people are being denied part-time unemployment benefits.
Seniority from other school districts should be applied to routes and field trips?
Standby drivers get more hours than regular drivers.
Local 100 members should have input into employee handbook revisions?
On July 23rd fifteen drivers & monitors met with Transportation Director Aaron Hobbs at the Local 100 office and these following points were brought up at the meeting:
Summer jobs will be posted at all the lots and they will be posted before May to give people more time to make plans.
The mix-up over drawing reduced hour unemployment during the summer is due to the confusion over school district employees being ineligible for unemployment compensation during the summer but being eligible for reduced hour unemployment compensation at the same time.
Transferring seniority from one district to another depends on whether or not both districts are in the same retirement system and the school district’s policy. Also Mr. Hobbs stated recent changes allow employees that retired after 2011 to come back after 1 year and work all they want.
He will meet with Local 100 members to discuss handbook changes.
Mr. Hobbs stated “people would be given more notice of upcoming field trips.” No more being offered a field trip at the last minute.
Support Local 100 by being a Member you to have a voice at your Bus Barn.
Dallas Local 100 helps Food Service get unemployment compensation
Two DISD food service employees from WT White high school, Robert Velasquez (standing) and Victor Ortiz (sitting), watch Dallas Local 100 organizer, Adriana Collozo as she helps them fill out the TWC application for unemployment benefits at the Dallas Local 100 office.
Although Texas school district employees are not eligible for unemployment benefits during the summer, they are eligible to apply for part-time unemployment benefits during the school year because they work less than 40 hours per week. Local 100 makes it a point to help members get all the benefits they are entitled to. Victor Ortiz, the man sitting, has just started receiving $190 per week. Just in time for Christmas.
Workers vote for TUSE 100 in Houston ISD
Houston Independent School District Food Service workers and custodians are now voting for TUSE Local 100 to represent them on the HISD Consultation Committee. The Committee allows your union to officially speak to the management of HISD about pay raises, health insurance, work rules and any issue workers consider important . Vote for TUSE Local 100 and make your voice heard. If you have any questions about the election, call Local 100 at 713-863-9877.
Local 100 in Dallas Politics
On Thursday, August 12, former Dallas councilwoman Diane Ragsdale called a meeting of the representatives of people likely to be hurt by the Council’s plan to balance the city budget by laying off city workers, cutting libraries, closing swimming pools and recreation centers, and cutting funds to the African-American museum and other services and institutions important to Dallas citizens. Local 100 was invited to represent labor.
SEIU’s position regarding our members and the other city workers is as follows:
We need more tax revenue instead of service cuts in this city in order to give our members who earn the minimum wage a chance to win pay raises by fighting for their share of city revenue.
Balancing the city budget with layoffs is false economy: layoffs COST money. It costs the county hospital money, depletes food banks of their resources, costs social-service agencies money, drains unemployment compensation, causes more foreclosures, etc.
The remaining workers have an increased workload, but their pay doesn’t go up. As a result, layoffs create an overworked, underpaid and demoralized work force.
We also pointed out the fallacy behind the Mayor’s assertion that low tax rates alone will attract business. Cities where people have money to spend on goods and services attract businesses, we said. Councilperson Angela Hunt is one of several officials who are on the fence on this issue and the plan is to hold a conference call with her next Tuesday.
March For Pay This Saturday in Dallas
Local 100 is leading a March for Pay Saturday, July 17th, at 10:00 a.m. from the Warren United Methodist Church, 3028 Malcolm X Blvd. in Dallas.
A panel on the working conditions of Sanitation laborers and a panel on the need for a Living Wage in Dallas will be held at 10:00 AM followed by a one block march and rally at the King statue. Martin Luther King III, and Bill Lucy from the national AFL-CIO will lead the March and rally.
Churches and Local 100 members are coming in support Lunch will be provided.
If you are coming let us know so we can order enough food.
Local 100 Dallas
Margott Williams, HISD Crossing Guard en Love Elementary
Margott Williams, HISD Crossing Guard en Love Elementary
Ms. Williams hablo enfrente de la mesa directiva del HISD el 10 de junio para discutir los problemas del transito de autos en las escuelas. Los automóviles que vienen al sur de la calle Sheppard en el área de the Heights transita a exceso de velocidad y ella no tiene la habilidad de hacerlos que conduzcan mas despacio.
Como en la mayoría de las escuelas, Love tiene luces intermitentes para la zona de escuelas pero muchas veces cuando ella llega a las 7 AM no están trabajando. Ella siempre reporta el mal funcionamiento de las luces y usualmente toma de tres o mas días para que las reparen, poniendo en extreme peligro y estrés a Margott por que los automóviles viajan rápido y con las luces apagadas y ella tiene mucho miedo por las vidas de los niños que ayuda a cruzar a diario.
Margott dijo, “Con mas y mas gente moviéndose en las calles de Houston esta mas congestionado y mas automovilistas no obedecen las luces intermitentes de la zona de escuelas. HISD necesita hacer algo para resolver este problema antes que un niño salga lastimado. Nosotros los que cruzamos a los niños tenemos responsabilidad pero no autoridad.”
TUSE Local 100
Penny Tyler Named Local 100 Employee of the Year for HISD
Penny Tyler, a clerk at Sharpstown High School in HISD, is the Local 100 Employee of the Year in HISD.
Penny is a 15-year member of Local 100 and a 20-year employee of the District. She has one of the most outstanding employment records in all of HISD. She is part of the team that will take one of the lowest-performing schools in the District and turn it around to a high-performing school in the next three years.
Tyler said, “It takes a whole school to teach a child, not just teachers, but also, librarians, clerks, custodians, crossing guards and teacher aides. By all of us working together we can produce well-educated children. Join Local 100 and help make HISD a better place for our children and employees.”
Student Speaks Out For Healthy Food
James Castro, a third grader in HISD, gave each HISD School Board member a bag of Peanut M&M’s and compared them to the breakfast provided by the District to his classroom on May 26th.
The result was that the Peanut M&M’s were healthier for him than the HISD breakfast.
James asked the board, “What are you going to do about the food? I’m now going to the third grade, and I certainly hope, with my lobbying, we will get some good, healthy food to eat before I graduate from high school.”
If you support good, healthy food for students in HISD, call 713-863-9877 to find out how you can help.
James habla con la mesa directiva del HISD el 10 de Junio sobre la comida que el come en desayuno en el salón no es lo suficiente nutritiva como una bolsa de cacahuates M&M. James hablo enfrente de la mesa directiva dos meses atrás he hizo una pregunta simple “ ¿que es lo que ustedes van hacer para mejorar la comida?”…mese después nada paso.
El próximo semestre Local 100 presionara más al HISD con estudiantes que hablaran por comida saludable en las escuelas. Si usted quiere que su hijo este en la lista de testimonios sobre la comida en las escuelas.
Llama a James al 713-863-9877.
Hortencia Domínguez regresa a trabajo
Hay una buena razón por la que Hortencia tiene una risa grande en su rostro.
El primer día de trabajo de Hortencia en GCCSA fue el 20 de Agosto de 1991, son 19 años de empleo con el mismo empleador hasta abril 12 del 2010 cuando fue despedida. Ella tiene una devoción completa en su trabajo con GCCSA, hasta que la despidieron por dejar a un estudiante en el salón cuando ella llevo a los demás niños al receso. El niño estuvo desatendido por dos minutos, con todo eso no era suficiente para pasar por alto los 19 años de buen trabajo de Hortencia.
Tan pronto que ella fue despedida ella llamo al sindicato, Local 100 y se le lleno un reclamo demandando que ella fuera reinstalada inmediatamente. Ella suplico y fue rechazada en la audiencia del nivel II pero en la audiencia de nivel III, junto al Dr. Reynols, la decisión fue reinstalarla en su lugar de trabajo. GRACIAS Dr., Reynols por escuchar a Hortencia y dejarla quedarse en GCCSA.
Hortencia dijo después de saber que regresaría al trabajo.
“cuando fui despedida yo nunca pensé tener la oportunidad de regresar a mi trabajo, pero el sindicato me dijo que no me venciera y que siguiera luchando por la justicia. Si usted me mira en mi centro de trabajo o en una reunión de GCCSA usted ya sabe por que tengo una gran sonrisa en mi rostro, axial como en la foto. Si usted no es miembro del sindicato Local 100 usted tiene que unirse hoy por que ellos te ayudan a luchar por la justicia y los derechos en el trabajo y con una unión fuerte cada trabajador tiene voz y seguridad en el trabajo.”
LOCAL 100 – United Labor Union
713 863 9877
Local 100 Gets Aide’s Job Back
There is a good reason GCCSA Head Start teacher’s aide Hortencia Dominguez has such a big smile on her face.
Hortencia’s first day of work for GCCSA was August 20, 1991. She worked there for 19 years, but on April 12, 2010, she was terminated.
She had devoted her entire adult life to GCCSA, yet the agency fired her for leaving one student in the classroom while she took the rest of the children to the playground. The student was unattended for less then two minutes, yet that was long enough to disregard 19 years of good work.
As soon as she was terminated she called her Union, Local 100, and they filed a grievance demanding she be reinstated immediately. Her plea was disallowed at the Level II Hearing, but at the Level III Hearing with Dr. Reynolds, the decision was made to put her back to work. THANK YOU Dr. Reynolds for listening to Hortencia and letting her stay at GCCSA.
Hortencia said after she found out that she got her job back, “When I was fired, I never thought I had a chance to get my job back, but the Union told me not to give up and keep fighting for justice. If you see me at my Center or at a GCCSA meeting you now know why I will have a big smile of my face, just like the one in my photo. If you are not a member of Local 100 you should join today because they will help you fight for fairness and justice in the workplace and with a strong Union each worker will have a voice and job security.”
Being a Local 100 member made a big difference in her life. By joining Local 100, you can let the Local make a big difference in your life.
Standing with Hortencia are two Local 100 organizers, Erica and Laura. If you want to join Local 100, give them a call and they will come out to speak with you about all the good things Local 100 does.
Local 100 Wins Arbitration To Get Aide’s Job Back
ReCheena Carrier was an employee of GCCSA for over five years. In November, 2009, she was accused of child endangerment because her Teacher had allowed a young student to somehow leave the facility and go home to her father.
Carrier was out of the classroom with five children teaching them a new lesson called “You’ve Got Mail” when the incident occurred, but GCCSA fired her anyway.
The Union took the case to arbitration and won. Carrier will be given her job back with back pay, which should total close to $9,000.
Carrier said, “I never thought I would get my job back, and I want to personally thank Head Start Teacher Laurastine Lane for testifying at the hearing, Without her help we would not have won. It felt really good to have a fellow Local 100 member testify and tell the truth. If there are three things I learned during the seven months I was off work, they are:
My faith in God pulled me through this difficult time. I prayed every day;
My Union stood by me all the way and they never let me give up;
If anyone is in doubt about Local 100, my case should convince them to join the Union.”
Local 100 – United Labor Unions
Dallas Members Honor King, Fight For Living Wage
Local 100 members Levert Tyson, James Forntenberry, Willie Brown, Jeffery Stiles, Tim Simpson and Cyrus Guthrie joined Reverend Peter Johnson, head of the Dallas SCLC, who was with Martin Luther King Jr., in Memphis when he was assassinated, Kelly Obazee, the head of the Dallas Peace center, Ms. Cledell Kemp, who helped organize the action, and the owners of the Pan-African connection, to remember the fact that King died while rallying striking Memphis sanitation workers, and to remind the city that those of us doing sanitation work in Dallas are still working for the minimum wage.
Reverend Johnson read the following Message from Martin Luther King III:
“42 years ago, my father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lost his life in Memphis, TN. My father was in Memphis fighting for garbage workers. He believed that what you do for the least of these is the highest calling from Jesus.
“I am in support of my friend Peter Johnson and his efforts to get a Living Wage for sanitation workers in Dallas, TX. It is so special that you decided to do this on April 3rd, a day before the resurrection of our Lord and Savior and the day before the 42nd commemoration of my father’s assassination.”
Reverend Johnson also made it perfectly clear that the city of Dallas should be held accountable for it’s treatment of these Local 100 members and all other minimum wage workers in Dallas.
This is only the start of Local 100’s fight to finish what King started.
Miembros de Dallas dan Honores a Rev. King, por la lucha del salario mínimo.
Miembros de Unión Local 100 Levert Tyson, James Forntenberry, Willie Brown, Jeffery Stiles, Tim Simpson y Cyrus Guthrie se unieron con el Reverendo Peter Johnson, líder Dallas SCLC, quien estuvo con Martin Luther King Jr., en Memphis cuando el fue asesinado, Kelly Obazee, el Líder de Dallas Peace center, Ms. Cledell Kemp, quien ayudo a organizar luchas, y los dueños de Pan-African, para recordar el hecho que King murió luchando por los trabajadores de limpieza de Memphis, y recordar a la ciudad que los trabajadores de limpieza siguen limpiando en la ciudad de Dallas y siguen luchando por mejorar el salario mínimo.
Reverendo Johnson leyó el siguiente mensaje de Martin Lutero King III:
“42 años atrás, mi padre el, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Perdió su vida en Memphis, TN. Mi padre estaba en Memphis luchando por los trabajadores que recogen la basura. El creía que podía hace por estos mas pequeños lo hace por Jesús”
“Yo apoyo a mi amigo Peter Johnson y sus esfuerzos para obtener un salario digno para los trabajadores de limpieza en Dallas, TX. Y esto es muy especial que decidieran hacerlo el 3 de abril, el día después de la resurrección de nuestro Señor y Salvador y en el día antes de la conmemoración de el asesinato de mi padre”.
Reverendo Johnson también dejo claro que la ciudad de Dallas debe hacerse responsable por el buen trato a los miembros de la Unión Local 100 y todos los trabajadores en salario mínimo en Dallas.
Este es solo el empiezo de la Unión Local 100 luchando por terminar lo que King empezó
Local 100, GCCSA Sign New Contract
Local 100 and GCCSA recently signed a new contract. Highlights include better Job protections, a 6.9 percent increase in pay, no increase in cost of health insurance and a better pension Plan.
We have been a Union at GCCSA for over 10 years. The members are strong and always ready for a fight to support each other and to gain a better life for their families. GCCSA just passed an inspection and review by the National Head Start Agency and is now ready to go forward educating young children to give them a fighting chance to get a Head Start in life.
If you work for a Head Start Agency and don’t have a union, call Local 100. We will help you get a Union and a contract that will demand fairness and justice like we have here in Houston Texas.
Local 100 — for the people and by the people.
Local 100, Firma Nuevo Contrato con GCCSA.
La Unión Local 100 y GCCSA recientemente firmo un nuevo contrato, lo destacado incluye mejor protección en el trabajo, un incremento de 6.9 porciento de pago, no incremento en el costo de la seguranza medica en el plan de pensión.
Nosotros estamos en la Unión en GCCSA por más de 10 años. Los miembros son fuertes y siempre están listos para luchar y apoyarse unos con otros y ganar mejor vida para sus familias. GCCSA acaba de pasara la inspección y revisión por la Agencia Nacional de Aprendizaje temprano (National Head Start Agency) y ahora esta lista para seguir educando a niños para darles una oportunidad de aprender tempraneo en la vida.
Si usted trabaja en una Agencia de Aprendizaje temprano (Head Start Agency) y no tiene representación de la Unión, llame a la Unión Local 100. Nosotros te ayudaremos a entrar en la Unión y contrato que demande un trato justo y justicia como la tenemos en Houston Texas.
Local 100 – Para la gente y por la gente
Local 100 Standing Up For Member
Esther Lagunas, a food service worker at HISD Hartman Middle School, was recently reduced to working four hours a day by the management company ARAMARK, which runs the department for HISD for a fee of over $2 million a year.
Because of the reduction in hours, she qualifies for Food Stamps and Unemployment Benefits. Esther would rather work for her money to make ends meet, but Aramark won’t let her.
After filing her benefits paperwork, she said, “I’m a divorced mother of two, and the only people caring about me are my two children, until I met Local 100. Now I have someone that really cares about me and my problems. I’m sure happy I found ya’ll”.
By being a strong member of TUSE Local 100, Esther will improve her life. By making Local 100 stronger, she will make life better for many HISD employees.
UNITED WE STAND
Dallas Local 100 Fighting For Fair Wage
The minimum wage was wrong in Memphis in 1968 and these men stood up and fought back.
It rained on January 31, 1968, in Memphis. The city sent all of the black sewer workers home and let the white workers stay at work on the clock. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for these men, and they walked off the job.
A man had just been killed on a malfunctioning sanitation truck compactor a little earlier, and the sanitation workers joined the walk out. This was a huge national story, and, in March, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., arrived to rally the strikers and lead a march on City Hall. A few days later, on April 4th, 1968 he was assassinated.
The Minimum wage is wrong in Dallas in 2010, and these men are standing up and fighting back.
In February 2010, the city of Dallas was hit by an economic storm. There was no money in the budget for employees, but there was plenty of money for the city manager who makes $300,000 per year. Then the city council voted to lay off about 200 minimum wage employees of contractors who were also Local 100 members. More cut backs threatened to cut the hours in half for minimum wage sanitation workers.
These workers pictured put together a list of questions for Carline Davis, a city council person from District 7, to address their issues with the city.
Some of the questions were: Can we stop once per week garbage pickup, and since we have to do twice as much when we work, can we be paid twice as much? Why, after all these years are we still being paid the minimum wage? Why can’t the city replace broken cans and repair unsafe trucks?
Two days before the meeting, Davis cancelled out on her constituents, but the workers were not discouraged. They quickly made a plan to conduct a press conference in front of the Martin Luther King statue on the eve of the 42nd anniversary of his assassination along with Peter Johnson, head of the local SCLC and a fellow civil rights activist with Dr. King. The North Texas chapter of Jobs with Justice will also be part of the public press conference.
We plan to ask, “If the city of Dallas can name streets and community centers after Dr. King and sponsor parades in his name, why can’t the city do what he advocated — raise the pay of sanitation workers?”
Since $10 perr hour is a poverty level wage for a full-time worker in Dallas, Local 1000 says all employees of the contractors who do this city’s work need a wage floor of at least $10.00 per hour.
Crossing Guards Work To Improve Pay
Local 100 HISD Crossing Guard leaders met on Saturday, February 27th, to discuss their issues. They all support a 26-period pay program to give them income during the summer months when they don’t work. They also need more safety gear and rain coats.
We will all be going to the School Board meeting in March to lobby for our demands. All HISD Crossing Guards are welcome to attend. The meeting starts at 5:00 p.m. at the Administration Building on 18th street.
Aramark Serving Pop Tarts as “First Class Breakfast”
In Houston, HISD ARMARK is rolling out a new program called “First Class Breakfast,” which delivers a breakfast each morning to every child in the District in an atempt to have them ready to study and learn.
Like many ideas, it seems great in theory, but so far in HISD the theory is working just about a well as the theory that Wall Street doesn’t need to be regulated.
This morning the number one breakfast item for the “First Class Breakfast” was a Pop Tart.
The Executive Director of Operations for the HISD/ARMARK Food Service Department said, “When I was a kid, if I could have a Pop Tart in the morning, I was one happy kid.”
Happy children is an important concept, yet the science of nutrition should come first when serving foods that will enhance our children’s ability to learn.
It also seems odd that the very people, the HISD School Board, who control what our children eat for breakfast seem to think it’s OK to feed the multitudes Pop Tarts while their own kids in HISD all have a well-rounded, home-cooked breakfast.
Just like Wall Street profits and bonuses, an unregulated ARAMARK will feed our children anything they can to make a profit regardless of the nutritional value of the food.
Breakfast is important for our children each morning, and we should make sure every child starts the day with a full stomach. Yet what is in that stomach is also important, and it should not be food with an overabundance of sugar.
Local 100 Supports Sheila Jackson Lee
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has been a longtime supporter of Local 100, and we will stand tall during the Democratic Primary in support of her re-election.
Precinct block walking, phone calls and delivery of yard signs are all parts of the workings of a successful campaign and the kind of work we know how to do. We will be with her election night to make sure she wins.
Eastman Wins HISD Board Vote
On December 12, 2009, Local 100 supported Anna Eastman for the Houston Independent School District School Board, District I. With almost 9,000 votes cast. she won by 193.
The American Federation of Teachers called her a “teacher basher,” but they will soon find out she will support good teachers wherever she finds them. Once again Local 100 defeats AFT, and once again the children and support workers win.
Local 100 Leadership Conference Draws Largest Attendance Ever
The 26th Annual Local 100 Leadership Conference was held in Dallas, TX, September 26th. It was the best attended Leadership Conference ever. Members came from Shreveport, New Orleans, Napoleanville, Houston and Dallas.
Our biggest Union victory was the NLRB election for the workers at DFW Airport.
Our keynote speaker was City of Dallas Councilperson Angela Hunt. She had recently put on a hard hat and worked on the back of a garbage truck for a full day. She has been our number one supporter in Local 100’s fight to get a Living Wage for garbage workers in Dallas.
The meeting also covered our recent change to being an independent union no longer part of SEIU.
We also had a book signing and discussion about our Chief Organizer Wade Rathke’s new book, Citizen Wealth. All members attending the Confrence recieved a signed copy of the book. In our next union meetings in all of our cities, we hope to have a discussion and review after everyone has had a chance to read it.
Local 100 Goes To Bat for Injured Hopper
Why does Local 100 matter?
When things like this happen, we help:
Jimmy Daniels, a minimum wage CTJ maintenance worker is a hopper — a person who rides on the back of a garbage truck, hops off to collect the trash, then hops back on.
Around July 28, he was riding on the back of Dallas recycle truck 1018. At the end of the day, the driver went down an alley at a high rate of speed and hit a dip, throwing Jimmy off the truck.
Jimmy held on to the handrail thinking he could hop back on, but he couldn’t. The truck continued moving, dragging Jimmy behind it. Jimmy rolled over onto his back and shoulders to protect his head.
Another worker on the back of the truck hollered for the driver to stop, but he kept going another 50 to 75 feet before stopping.
Jimmy and his coworker then got into the truck cab for the ride back to the dump. Jimmy told the driver, “You almost killed me back there,” and the driver laughed.
The driver then realized the crew had missed some collection points, and they went back to work for another 45 minutes before ending their day.
Jimmy, injured and traumatized, didn’t wait at the office to file an accident report. He’s been treating himself at home with over the counter medicines, but he still has constant pain in his upper body and legs.
He has not received any worker’s compensation for his injury.
But Local 100 has contacted the Mayor’s office and OHSA to make sure Jimmy gets the help he is entitled to. We are going to bat for member Jimmy Daniels, and we can go to bat for you!
Local 100 at Congressman Green’s Town Hall Meeting
Two Local 100 members among many attended Congressman Al Green’s Town Hall meeting on Tuesday August 25th.
On the left is Pearlie Demart standing in solidarity with Dorothy Lindsey, in red, both from GCCSA, the Head Start Agency for Houston.
Mr. Green spoke about the need to have the public option to give insurance companies competition, which will lower the cost of insurance for everyone.
A pre-existing condition should not stop you from getting health insurance, and when you get sick, the insurance company should not be able to kick you off their rolls.
Congress is back in session this month.
PLEASE CALL YOUR CONGRESSPERSON. Tell him or her you support a public option.
If you need help finding their phone number, please call you Local 100 office for help. If we stand together with President Obama we can win this fight.
MBM Custodians In First Bargaining Session
Custodians at DFW airport had their first bargaining meeting with the company.
They asked for eight holidays, uniforms, vacations and just-cause personnel policy.
Be sure to come to the SEIU Local 100 Leadership Conference in Dallas on September 26th to meet some of the members in this photo.
As one member said at the bargaining session, “Without love there will never be justice. We love our jobs, we love America, and we want justice from MBM.”
Texas United School Employees Local 100
Attention HISD Custodians, Cooks, Janitors, Teacher Assistants and Administrative Staff:
Join America’s largest labor union in Houston, TX, to fight for and to protect your rights, improve work-related issues and benefits: affordable healthcare, vacations, etc.
Our President understands the importance of protecting the contributions American workers have made to improve and to stimulate our economy and to meet any challenge.
Your role is very important — to fight for and speak out for service workers across the nation.
To sign up, contact SEIU Local 100 HISD Union Representatives in Houston, TX by calling 713-863-9877.
Local 100 won an NLRB election 38 to 31, gaining representation for 63 workers who clean and maintain DFW Airport terminal D.
Up next is an organizing drive in Terminals A,B and C, leading to over 500 DFW workers with job security, better wages and benefits and a stronger union!
In this photo, election observers Cristobal Vigil and Jose Sarovia hold the official NLRB certification notice.
Local 100 election paving the way to 500 new members
DFW workers won the NLRB election by a vote of 38 to 31.
The Dallas Fort Worth Committee met Thursday,April 9, to ready themselves for the battle of all battles — a NLRB election set for April 13.
Out of 63 workers, 42 have committed to support the Union by voting YES on Monday. These workers work at the DFW Airport, cleaning Terminal D.
Our plan is to start an organizing drive in Terminal A,B, and C once we put this victory in the win column. We should end up representing over 500 employees at DFW.
Local 100 Gets Contract For Dallas Gunslingers
On December 17, SEIU Local 100 signed a two year contract with CTJ that will represent 240 workers who ride on the backs of garbarge trucks in Dallas, TX. They’re called “hoppers” or “gunslingers” because they jump off the back of the truck to pick up garbage cans and empty them into the truck.
Local 100 will continue to fight for a Living Wage for the hoppers through the Dallas City Council and the U.S Congress, which will be voting on a bill that will allow a yearly increase in the minimum wage.
When Martin Luther King, Jr., was in Memphis 40 years ago, he was trying to get garbage workers salaries above the minimum wage of $1.25. Today in Memphis, workers make $10.50 an hour, while garbage workers in Dallas are still at the minimum wage. If Dallas wants to become a first-rate city, it has to help the poorest of the poor by paying a Living Wage. This contract is a big victory, but only a start in a long battle for justice.
At our bargaing session we had a Texas board member from ACORN and JOBS WITH JUSTICE showing management our support from the community, and it made a big difference in helping us get the new contract.
HISD central kitchen concerns in Houston Chronicle story
The Houston Independent School District is trying to get school lunch down to a science.
In its new $50 million centralized food services facility in northeast Houston, workers can cook 400 gallons of pasta at a time in super-sized kettles and churn out 40,000 dinner rolls an hour in assembly-line style.
The Bennington Street facility is a state-of-the-art cooking, storage and distribution center that’s large enough to prepare the 220,000 meals that HISD serves daily. About 300 employees, including chefs, dieticians and office workers, toil in the building.
“This is the only facility like it in the K-12 market,” said Dave Richardson, executive general manager for Aramark, which runs HISD food service.
The self-sufficient building boasts its own water tower and electrical generators. Technology allows each cooking ingredient to be tracked from delivery to consumption. Samples of each food are tested in labs and monitored by quality assurance teams.
But HISD’s move toward mass-produced food doesn’t suit everyone’s taste. Some school nutrition experts say children are more likely to eat foods that are cooked at their campus.
“Central kitchens can help control costs and possibly make sure the spaghetti sauce is consistent throughout the district,” said Melanie Konarik, head of the Spring ISD Child Nutrition Department, which was named the National School Nutrition District of the Year this summer. “But I personally have never had central kitchen products that I felt like were the same quality.”
Klein school district officials said they’ve seen a 22 percent jump in breakfast participation since they moved toward “display cooking.” Workers at Klein Collins High School, for example, now prepare pancakes and breakfast tacos on a griddle in front of the cafeteria line.
“When students see the food being cooked in front of them, they are more likely to purchase it,” spokewoman Liz Johnson said, adding that they’re going to add display cooking in lunch lines.
Nutrition is key
The Portland Public Schools system in Oregon stopped cooking in its central kitchen about four years ago, opting instead to cook on campus or to buy prepared foods whenever possible. The casseroles, pastas and soups they used to cook there have fallen out of favor, being replaced instead with hand-held items such as pitas and burritos that can easily be assembled on campus, officials said.
“We’re here to offer nutrition, not just a feeding station,” said Kristy Obbinx, head of food services in Portland. “We’re moving as far toward farm-to-school and fresh products and locally grown products as fast as we can.”
Nutritionally, there’s not necessarily a difference between food cooked on or off site.
Cypress-Fairbanks officials swear by their central kitchen, a $4.5 million facility that opened in 1986. It produces about 95,000 meals a day.
The central kitchen has helped the 100,000-plus student district keep pace with its fast growth. Hiring and training the 200 or 300 new employees needed each year might otherwise be impossible, said Matt Morgan, the district’s food services director.
“There are a lot of misconceptions and ideas about centralized food production,” he said. “A lot of the things we do are really scratch cooking. We just make them in one place.”
Cy-Fair, for example, adds textured vegetable protein to ground beef to lower the fat and make it healthier, he said.
HISD also touts having more ability to control ingredients in the foods it cooks in its central kitchen. Most are made with whole wheat and minimal amounts of sugar and salt, they said.
Most of the meals are sent to campuses in gallon-sized bags, where they’re reheated. To students, it will appear that the meal was cooked on campus, but the ingredients and recipes will be much more closely monitored for nutrition.
“We didn’t want to create a Lunchable or TV dinner, per se,” Richardson said. “We were trying to create the best of both worlds.”
The quality is second to none, Richardson said.
“Nobody makes better chili,” he said. “What comes out of here is great stuff.”
Early reviews from the eight campuses that started receiving their food from the central kitchen in the last month — Burbank, Janowski, Roosevelt, Looscan, Jefferson, Ketelson, C. Martinez and Herrera elementaries — have been strong, HISD officials said. By the fall, all of HISD’s nearly 300 campuses will receive their meals from the central kitchen.
“The first eight are the toughest,” Richardson said.
The facility should pay for itself in five years, he said.
Part of the savings comes from being able to buy products in larger bulk. The district was also able to shut down four other buildings and to end contracts to outside vendors who handled some of the storage and distribution load.
Payroll costs will also decline, probably by about three to five hours per day per campus, Richardson said. (No current workers will lose their jobs, hours or pay rate, he added.)
Orell Fitzsimmons, local field director for the Service Employees International Union, is skeptical that the central kitchen will produce higher-quality food. He’s worried that HISD is focusing on making a profit, rather than on cooking nutritious foods that students will enjoy.
SEIU Calls for Stronger “Nutrition Safety Net”
“Without the food we serve everyday, the children at our school would go hungry,” says Pearl DeMart, SEIU 100 Steward and a cook at Wesley Square Head Start Facility in Houston. “We need to make sure these kids get the nutrition they need to be able to hit the books and grow up strong and healthy.”
As the historic economic crisis forces more American families to rely on school-based food programs, SEIU and UNITE-HERE, which together represent more than 250,000 workers in early care and education settings nationwide, are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Congress today to strengthen the nutrition safety net for our nation’s children.
“Working families have relied on child food programs for years,” says Anna Burger, Executive Vice President of SEIU. “But now more than ever we have to make sure that our nutrition safety net is strong enough to withstand a crisis.”
In public comments submitted to the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA, SEIU and UNITE-HERE are calling on the agency to ask Congress to improve meal programs in school and child care settings by increasing funding for healthy foods, ensuring broader participation, and creating training opportunities for food service workers. The comments are based on the experience of union members who work on the front lines of America’s efforts to combat hunger and obesity among millions of children nationwide.
The workers and their unions recommend that the USDA:
1. Increase federal reimbursement rates for meals to enable schools to cover the rising costs of meeting dietary guidelines and to purchase fresh, healthy foods.
2. Reach more struggling families by relaxing eligibility requirements, streamlining application processes, and allowing for regional variations in cost of living in determining eligibility.
3. Improve food safety, nutrition, health and wellness, and customer service through additional training for food service employees.
4. Fund dinner-time meals for children in afterschool programs whose parents must work long hours.
The USDA is preparing for the 2009 reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs, which include the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Summer Food Service Program. From FY 2007 to FY 2008, participation in the free school lunch program jumped by 2.6%.
In 2007, SEIU and UNITE-HERE launched the Campaign for Quality Services, which helps workers advocate for the quality food and cleaning services that the public deserves.
Dallas Sanitation Workers Keep Eyes On The Prize
Issues Include Living Wage, Safety Gear, Paychecks
Local 100 Dallas Sanitation workers recently held an early-morning press conference in front of their Sanitation Center to present their case to the public.They have simple, reasonable needs: a living wage of $10 an hour, rain gear, safety equipment, on-time paychecks, correct overtime payments for work over 40 hours a week.Previously, on April 2nd, eleven Dallas minimum-wage sanitation workers and one neighborhood supporter met with the Mayor of Dallas and Councilman Dwaine Carraway to discuss low wages, no gloves, goggles or other safety equipment, no rain gear, having to work on poorly maintained and unsafe trucks and erratic paychecks.The mayor and city council person made a predictable response: “Wait, and give us time to find a solution.” Since these two along with the rest of the city council recently voted against funding the contractor to pay $8.16 instead of $5.85, it seemed unlikely they were sincere. So local 100 has joined with a 2,000 member activist church, ACORN and Jobs with Justice to start a campaign for a Living Wage.Common Kitchens Presents Uncommon Problems for HISD MembersLoreta Nicolas is a Food Service employee at the HISD Common Kitchen, which will be cooking all of the food for 300 schools, freezing it, then shipping it out to the schools. We are expecting the quality of the food fed to our children to go way down.The new program will also reduce the number of hours that school-based employees will work to only 4 hours a day and in the long term eliminates the need for a head cook, which will mean 300 longtime employees will lose their jobs.The workers will suffer and so will the children.Loreta and her husband are both immigrants from Hati. They both came to America in 1982 and found their way to Houston where they met and married.Loreta has been employed for 13 years by HISD and has never had any kind of problem until moved to the common kitchen. Recently she was injured on the job and management is making it very difficult for her while she is off work recovering from her injury.When the kitchen is fully operational it will employee over 160 workers and will be the largest concentration of food service workers in the district. Local 100 is set to signup every one of them into the Union.Local 100 Helps With Worker’s CompThe pain on her face is all too real.Maria Murillo’s injury occurred in the Milby kitchen on March 16th when she slipped on a wet floor. Her knee will never be the same and her life is in shambles. Many workers in America face this same problem every day.With no health insurance, her care is left to the Texas Workman Compensation system, and that system doesn’t work for the benefit of employees but for the benefit of employers.An HISD employee never knows when an injury may occur, but there is one thing they need to know and that is without the help of the Texas United School Employees, Local 100, the Workers Compensation system can be very confusing and complicated. Without our help, you can be lost in a maze with no way out.After an injury occurs you must first file an injury report with HISD before you leave campus. Be sure to keep a copy of the report. After visiting the doctor you should immediately call Local 100 and then fax all of your medical paperwork to us along with a copy of your accident report. Every detail of your condition is extremely important, and the more information we have the better we will be able to help you through this difficult time in your life.Remember, if you are injured on the job:Complete an accident report before you leave campus, keep a copy.Call Local 100 after a doctor visit.Gasoline Price Tipping PointAt what price for gasoline will a “tipping point” occur?The tipping point is when a massive number of low-wage workers will not be able to drive their cars to work every morning. In Houston at Stop & Go, the price today is $3.33 per gallon.The numbers are easy to add. A worker making $7 an hour for 40 hours a week makes $1,120 a month before taxes. At $60 for a tank of gas that moves you around for a week, that today costs $240 a month — 21 percent of your pre-tax income. At $4.25 per gallon, it will cost $76.50 a week and $306 a month — 27 percent of pre-tax income. The numbers do not lie; this is starting to be a big problem.Our advice to our members centers around three ideas:1) Register to vote and then vote in November.2) Ask your employer to transfer you to a work location close to your home.3) Suggest that your employer create contingency plans to provide work transportation for all workers making less that $9 an hour.Our guess is that once gasoline is between $4.25 and $4.50 per gallon, millions of low wage workers across America will no longer have a sufficient income to use their car to get to work. When this happens, our country will come to a standstill when the school lunches do not get prepared, garbage is not picked up, Head Start workers are not there when the kids are dropped off, the teachers aide is not there to help in the class, and when the classroom is not clean when kids arrive in the morning.Three Teachers Forced To Sort Clothes In WarehouseGCCSA teachers Delma Garcia, Felicia Ughanze and Genieve Walker recently found themselves with unwanted jobs sorting clothes in a hot, dusty warehouse.They found themseleves together because of the requirement under Head Start regulations to remove teachers and teachers aides from their claassrooms when there is an accusation made concerning the safety of the children. Some workers have been withheld from their classrooms for three months. In 99% of the cases after an investigation the employees are found to have done nothing wrong.The day this photo was taken, we were informed that Ms. Ughanze and Ms. Garcia were going back to their classrooms this week. All three of the employees are highly trained and educated individuals and had complained to the Union because while waiting to go back to their classrooms they were assigned to the warehouse to sort and organize surplus clothing, which was not in their job description. The conditions in the warehouse — dusty with no air conditioning — was uncomfortable.Dallas Members Meet With MayorEleven SEIU Local 100 members met with Dallas Mayor Tom Lepper to discuss low wages in the Sanitation Department. In 1968, Memphis hoppers were making $1.25 an hour, the minimum wage, when Martin Luther King came to help them get out of poverty.Today, Memphis hoppers make $10.21 an hour while Dallas hoppers are still making the minimum wage of $5.85. In Dallas, there has been no progress in the last 40 years. Our members asked the Mayor to make Dallas a first rate city by paying its lowest paid workers a Living Wage. They also requested safety equipment including rain gear.Local 100 at Kashmere High SchoolOne happy Local 100 member: Ceola Brown, Teacher Aide at Kashmere H.S. in Houston ISD. She has been a T.A. for eight years and six years a Local 100 member. At Kashmere, Local 100 has 22 members, including Food Service, Custodial, Clerks and Teacher Aides.A family that stands together is strong. When one member has a problem, it’s a problem for all of us. With this kind of support we have job security, dignity and respect for the work we do. Our members do jobs that must be done to make society function. Because we do that, we deserve health insurance and a salary that enables us to provide a decent life for our families.Join Local 100 and engage in the struggle.Local 100 Wins For Evelyn ClaiborneEvelyn Claiborne has been a SEIU Local 100 member for 12 years, from the very beginning of the organizing drive that brought 1000 employees a Union contract. She works for Gulf Coast Community Service Association Head Start program as a Family Service Associate.An Ideal Employee and MemberEvelyn has been everything a Union could want as a member. She helps recruit new members every month, she attends the monthly membership meetings. She has attended the last four Leadership Conferences and has never missed a bargaining session during the 12 years of the contract. She is the kind of employee that GCCSA should encourage and promote as an ideal employee. One of her responsibilities is to ensure 100% sign-up rates for all available classroom positions; she has become an expert in getting young families to understand the importance of an early education and getting the children enrolled in Head Start.
Custodial Crew Meets with PHS Principal To Discuss ConcernsThe custodial crew of Pasadena Independent School District met with Pasadena High School Principal Chris Bolyard on March 12 to discuss working without enough cleaning supplies, extra work when co-workers are out, not having any substitutes and the need for health insurance. Mr. Bolyard showed a great amount of respect and concern while discussing our issues, and we are expecting a reply within 10 days per PISD policy.Having the strength to stand up and speak to the boss sometimes gets some of the problems solved when you do it as a group. By being part of TUSE Local 100 you have the strength. With unity comes power.WFA Brings Immigrants To Students’ AttentionOn Tuesday March 18th, the Working Families Association took University of Houston students connected to the Newman Center, part of the Catholic Church, to visit taco stand workers at various locations in Houston. We hope to bring the plight of sub-minimum wage workers ($50 a day for 12 hours of work) to their attention and help them better understand the lives of immigrants in Houston.There are over 400,000 undocumented Hispanics in Harris County and each day more arrive. As responsible caring citizens, we have a need to ease their transition into our society.The issues are many — from drivers licenses, health care, language, jobs and education to legalization of residency in America. Without the right to vote or even the legal right participate in public discourse, these individuals have joined WFA to fight for dignity, respect and justice in a country that professes on the Statue of Liberty to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”This freedom will not happen over night and the debate will not be friendly. Nativism along with economic stress will make any long-term solution extremely difficult. The longer we put off a solution, the harder a solution becomes. Presently we have over 13 million undocumented residents, many with children that are American citizens. No reasonable person would suggest taking a mother from her child to deport her for non-citizenship, yet that proposal has clearly been put on the table by the very people professing family values.The debate on immigration is at the core of the America’s value system, about what it really means to be an American, what our future as a country will be and how the world views the American Dream. We suggest America’s greatness comes from its “huddled masses” and this great experiment of ours need to continue to bring people of different cultures together and somehow create a peaceful world.Local 100 Fights For Suspended DriverTUSE Local 100 Organizer Maria Castilleja and HISD Bus Driver Ceola
Brown, an 11-year employee who was recently suspended for an accident. Her case is pending, but Local 100 expects her to get her job back right after Spring break.Ceola is a special education bus driver, and, while driving students home one evening, a child came out of her restraint and somehow hit her head on the front window of the bus. Luckily the child was not harmed, and all other students are OK. This was a once-in-a-lifetime accident, and we are sure it will never happen again.Organizing the HISD Common KitchenLoreta Nicoles is an HISD Food Service worker and our first new member at the Common Kitchen, which will have over 160 employees and be fully operational in the fall. Most children will receive their lunches from this kitchen, which will be frozen at this facility and then shipped by truck to each school.Local 100 will be monitoring this process closely. We feel the food for our children should be cooked at their school for the best quality. The 160-person location is an organizing opportunity, and Local 100 will be there on a regular basis to insure our members are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.Bingo! Bingo! Bingo!Ka-ching!HISD Employee and TUSE Local 100 member Cynthis Lopez, a food service employee, filed for her income tax refund and her Earned Income Credit on February 11,2008.She got an IRS Refund and a Credit.Two checks, one visit!The service cost her nothing. PRICELESS!We care about our members.Standing with Cynthia is the intake worker that helped her with the paperwork, Melva McNeil, at our offices at 2600 South Loop West, suite 310.Call and set your appointment: 713-863-9877.GCCSA Local 100 Member Hai NguyenHai Nguyen was born in Vietnam in 1934. His father was the Chief of Police in Hanoi between 1952 to 1954. When the communists took charge, Hai’s father was put into prison. Hai helped his father escape from prison and walk to Saigon. Hai learned English and French in High School in Hanoi and from a collection of books in his father’s library. While reading about America he was especially drawn to the idea of freedom.Hai earned a law degree in 1954. In Saigon, he worked for the American Military Command as an interpreter and later as an intelligence specialist. By 1968 he became the officer in Charge of Construction for the U.S. Army in Saigon.The Fight For Fairness In DallasRodney West, a custodian employed by a city of Dallas contractor, Tolman Buliding Service at the Dallas Convention Center, fills out his union card for Local 100. Rodney makes $6.75 per hour and doesn’t get any benefits.In contrast, city of Dallas employees are required by a city ordinance to be paid at least $10.00 per hour. Rodney is joining Tolman Building Services employees in the City Sanitation department and throughout the rest of the city who have voted to be represented by SEIU Local 100.United We StandFive Food Service workers who feed 800 school children every day, working as a team, all joined the Texas United School Employees, Local 100.Why did all five women join Local 100? As a team you get more
done, not just for the children but for the team. Work is easier if you work together. Life can be better if you join the Union and fight for better pay, affordable health insurance, justice from management and fairness from the school board. Local 100 also provides members with free income tax preparation and qualification for earned income credits from the federal government.Together we stand, divided we fall. We, at Scroggins ask every food service worker in Texas to join Local 100 today.Local 100 Gives Tree to Head Start CenterThe 55 students at Moses Leroy Head Start Center in Houston, TX, were given a Christmas tree by SEIU Local 100 to help get their Christmas off to a fast start. Local 100 also gave every student a photo of their class standing in front of the tree. They will be able to look back at the photo in the years to come and remember the great times they had at their center.Who knows, maybe one of the young girls will grow up and be the second woman President or replace Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee when she retires. The center is in her Congressional District.Local 100 Begins Pasadena DriveLocal 100 has begun an organization drive in Pasadena, TX, for school district employees.The first organization committee met on September 20th at the Steel Workers of America (SWA) union hall, where Local 100 represents the office sectaries.The project is targeting over 600 workers in the Food Service and Custodian departments, which are 97 percent Hispanic.There are three main issues:(1) The need for affordable health insurance. The school district provided health insurance is $150 a paycheck for employees only, and very few workers can pay $300 a month for insurance and feed their families in the same month.(2) When workers are absent from work there are no replacements, which is a hardship for the remaining workers. They need to have a relief pool.(3) Better pay. If there was ever a prime example of the working poor it is the food service and custodial workers in PISD.The politics of the situation are clear: in Pasadena over 65 percent of the school children are Hispanic, yet there are no Hispanic school board members. Our goal is 500 members and with spouses 1000 registered voters by the next school board election.Someday there will be a majority of Hispanic school board members, the only question is when. Local 100 suggest the answer should be NOW!Local 100 Wins New Contract, $3,500 Pay Raise!Elicia Arriaga (sitting) and Joyce King (standing) have been members of SEIU since 1980. They work as secretaries of the United Steel Workers Local 13-227 in Pasadena, TX. Local 100 just negotiated a new contract that protects them through July 2011 and gives them a $3,500 raise over the next two years. Both women are the happiest members Local 100 has, and they support many of the political and social activities of the Local. You could look a long time before you could find two more loyal and hard working SEIU Local 100 members. Give them a call sometime and ask them why they are so happy! (713) 534-8185 ext. 10.Local 100 Turns Out For HISD CandidateTwenty SEIU Local 100 members attended a September 8th B-B-Q to meet the next School Board member of District IV, Dr. Davetta Daniels (standing in the middle in white). On September 15th, ten members committed to come back and help in her campaign. Not only HISD members volunteered, but many Gulf Coast Community Service Association (Head Start) members will help, too.Over 200 Local 100 members live in District IV, and on election day with their spouses also voting we will be able to deliver over 500 votes for Dr. Daniels’ victory. And, yes, we all plan to be at her campaign headquarters election night, Nov. 6th, to celebrate the victory. If you are a Local 100 member in Houston, you need to volunteer and to come election night.Pick-up Sticks Game Causes Green’s GCCA TerminationKatrissa just finished testifying in Mrs. Green’s arbitration case concerning Green’s termination for playing pick-up sticks with one of her children in the Wesley Square Head Start Center playground. They were both accused of not caring for the safety of their children.At the time of the supposed incident there were 4 GCCSA teaching staff in the playground with 4 children. Each person was directly interacting with one child. Considering the small area of the playground there was one adult present for every 10 square feet of playground space, making it practically impossible for the children not to receive adequate care.Mrs. Green has been employed at GCCSA for 6 years and every one of those years has been a joy because of the children. GCCSA is not allowed to terminate employees without a just cause. In this case the Human Resource Department did not go to the bother to check out the Center Director’s story. When the Union investigated, we found out the truth, and in this case the truth will set Mrs. Green free!We expect Ella to be back to work soon, with back pay and benefits and most importantly her dignity and respect in the community restored.By Mrs. Eldridge standing up and telling the truth at the arbitration, she has protected Mrs. Green future and has put GCCSA on notice that the Union is strong. Each and every member demands fairness and justice from GCCSA, and if we don’t get it we will let the arbitrator give it to us.Dallas Hoppers Get City Councilman’s SupportCity Councilman Caraway meets with SEIU Local 100 members and Dallas Sanitation workers about the upcoming election on July 20th. Caraway is committed to help these workers being paid $5.15 an hour to get a living wage plus health insurance.These Hoppers pick up the trash of Dallas and should be paid a wage that gets them out of poverty. If they are doing a job that makes society function then they should be paid a living wage. If their job provides for the public health of the Dallas then they should have health insurance.Local 100 Organizing Dallas Sanitation WorkersSEIU Local 100 is organizing Dallas, TX, sanitation workers employed by Recana Solutions, a city contractor, to get better pay and safer working conditions.Many of Recana’s employees still make only minimum wage after several years on the job. They often work seven days a week with inadequate safety equipment.Local 100 has signed most of the company’s workers, and they’ll hold an election beginning July 6th.This is a photo of SEIU Local 100 members at Recana’s McCommas Landfill in Dallas.Check out the links for media coverage of the Dallas workers’ fight for justice.Local 100 members bring Rodriguez health insurance concernsHouston Independent School District President Manuel Rodriguez met Wednesday night April 4th with the Local 100 Health Insurance Committee to discuss the high cost of health insurance. With 30,000 employees and 13,000 with no insurance, the issue has become the number one concern of HISD employees.Elma Myles, HISD employee says, “When $60,000 employees can pay the same amount for health insurance coverage as an employee making only $10,000, it’s not fair, and we are going to do something about it. We have to.”This problem — increasing numbers of employees without insurance — continues to grow every year. The board has to deal with it now because the issue is not going away. By next year the number of employees with no health insurance coverage will be over 50 percent. A district without health insurance is not a healthy district.Winderlyn Prince illustrates unfair health insurance systemWinderlyn Prince is a plant operator at J.R. Harris elementary. She and her husband are both diabetics. She pays $7,892 a year for health insurance, which is an overbearing portion of her income. She purchases health insurance because she has to, but about 7,000 people have left the HISD health insurance pool because of the prohibitive cost.We need to get these people covered with AFFORDABLE, FULL-COVERAGE health insurance!Rep. Green and organizer Maria CastillegaCongressman Al Green, a Democrat from Texas’ Ninth Congressional District, meets with Local 100 organizer Maria Castillega. Rep. Green should be an ally and sympathetic ear in Congress for Local 100.Workers win better work conditionsHISD food service workers at Sanchez Elementary School were having problems with work conditions, so Local 100 Organizer Orell Fitzsimmons arranged a meeting for them with Romy Landrum, head of personnel food service. Landrum is in the blue jacket.Oswaldo Pineda — 18-year employee stiffed by unfair health care systemOswaldo Pineda has been a Sharpstown Middle School employee for 18 years. Six years ago he paid $130.00 every paycheck for family health care coverage. Today it would cost him $444.00 per paycheck. If he paid that, his take-home pay would only be $310 per paycheck. So he has no health insurance.A while ago, Pineda had an ulcer that required hospitalization. He now owes the hospital $8,692.00. He’s paying 50 dollars a month, and it will take him 15 years to pay back the hospital.This is a crime — a grave social injustice that must be remedied!Judy Is Back, Protects Pregnant Co-WorkerLong time Local 100 member Judy Hudson, a Food Service Manager in HISD Dogan Elementary School has been off work because of health problems for four months. A temporary Food Service Manager had told Local 100 member Arnell Jones, a Food Service Attendant at Dogan that she “she shouldn’t have gotten pregnant” and gave her the job of lifting heavy boxes even though she was four months pregnant. When Judy came back to work last week and heard this story she put a stop the harassment of Arnell and told her she would be supportive during the next five months, if need be she would do any heavy lifting that needed to be done.One more story of Local 100 members helping each other.Local 100 Starts “A Petition for Health”In HISD, the largest employer in Houston 70% of the non-teacher employees can no longer afford the District’s health insurance. The cheapest policy costs over $100 per pay check, with take home pay of only $400 it is not affordable. Beginning in January Local 100 will release the petition to all HISD kitchens and ask members to make it available to all support workers in each school. The petition asks Superintendent Saavedra to restructure the HISD budget to allow affordable insurance rates for support staff. A recent janitors organizing drive in downtown Houston by our union has given workers health insurance for $20 a month. If janitorial companies can afford it, HISD should be able to afford to care about its employees.Sign the petition and let Saaverdra that you care about your health.Food Service Manager Confronts Health Insurance RealitiesJose Luna is a Food Service Manager at Katherine Smith Elementary. He works hard, and encourages his co-workers to achieve goals every day. At the recent Members Meeting on May 13th, Jose discussed the high cost of health care with Local 100 field director Orell Fitzsimmons.”I became a member [of Local 100] in 2001 because working for HISD– you never know when you may need representation. I was born in Matamoras, Mexico in 1963. I came to America in ’79 because I would have more opportunities for a better life.”Jose continues, “HISD is a wonderful place to work and especially helping the children everyday. I hope to work for HISD for the next 20 years and then retire. I have recently become more involved with Local 100 and hope to be part of electing a school board that will lower the cost of health insurance. I now pay $138 a paycheck for my insurance and many of my co-workers can no longer afford any health insurance.”Food Service Managers face the same problems as contract, hourly, and substitute workers, and in many ways they are no different from the workers under their supervision. Managers and workers alike need to be prepared to stand together and shout aloud in unison, “We need affordable health care coverage Now! Right now!” 50% of HISD workers have no health insurance. Less than a decade ago that coverage was free and open to all HISD employees, and this trend is not good for anyone.Nick Lampson: Candidate, House District 22Local 100 endorses Nick “The Charmer” Lampson in the race to replace Tom “The Hammer” Delay for the U.S. House of Representatives, District 22.As November draws nearer Local 100 will be working hard to see that Nick Lampson’s campaign goes as far as his character will take it, which is all the way to Washington.For volunteer opportunities, and to help the campaign to get “The Charmer” in the House, contact Local 100 in Houston. Also, see the related link for Nick Lampson’s homepage.Affordable Health Insurance for AllThese SEIU Local 100 members come to work every morning to feed students at Milby High School in the Houston Independent School District, the largest employer in the City. None of the twelve women in this photo can afford the cost of HISD health insurance.Of the 2,000 Food Service employees in the district fewer than 400 of them can afford HISD health insurance. Throughout the District hardworking service professionals face the same problem. In fact, 37% of the 30,000 employees can no longer afford health insurance coverage. HISD has left the health needs of over 12,000 of its own employees in the hands of the Harris County Hospital District.SEIU Local 100 believes that HISD ought to take up the responsibility of health care for all of its employees rather than leave it in the hands of Harris County taxpayers.When an employee chooses health care coverage, the cost to HISD is $2800 a year. Insurance premiums are so high, however, that many employees choose not to participate, and that $2800 promise disappears. Instead of taking that promise from its employees, HISD ought to put that money into the employee’s yearly salary.Food Service workers come into contact with our children everyday; they need to be healthy. Their service is an essential part of the education process, and bolsters the local economy and social infrastructure. These workers remind HISD students everyday that they are being taken care of by their city. Demand that HISD take care of their essential service employees.Call Brad Bailey (713-220-5092) and tell him you need health insurance!Outsourcing company didn’t find aggravated sexual assault
Outsourcing and sub-contracting reduce accountability, so workers and children suffer. Sub-par wages only attract workers who are unable to gain employment elsewhere. These events sadden us all.Janitor accused of assaulting two girls:
Middle schoolers say he lured them home; HISD says a background check didn’t find ’97 caseJASON SPENCER and MÓNICA GUZMÁN
Houston Chronicle – November 18, 2005A Houston middle school janitor who faced a child sexual assault charge eight years ago as a teenager is now accused of luring two students to his home and sexually assaulting them, police said Thursday.Johnny Lee Wright, a 26-year-old janitor at Attucks Middle School in northeast Houston, was arrested Wednesday at his home in the 7800 block of Corinth and charged with one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child and one count of sexual assault of a child. Police also charged him with possessing more than 4 grams of cocaine with intent to deliver.The two female students, ages 13 and 14, told investigators they met Wright in October and he invited them to his home, where he assaulted them, police said.Attucks is one of 30 Houston Independent School District campuses that contracts its custodial services to Aramark, which in turn farms the work out to Aztec, the company that hired Wright, said HISD spokesman Terry Abbott. About 130 Aztec employees work in those schools, he said.Aztec officials could not be reached Thursday for comment.Harris County records show Wright was charged with felony aggravated sexual assault of a child in 1997.Aztec officials have told HISD they ran a criminal background check on Wright when he was hired in September but that the 1997 sexual assault charge did not show up, Abbott said. The charge was eventually knocked down to a misdemeanor, which could explain why the charge went unnoticed, Abbott said.A computer search of Harris County courthouse records by the Houston Chronicle produced a record of the felony sexual assault charge.All Aztec employees have been ordered off the Attucks campus until further notice, Abbott said. Company officials have agreed to begin performing annual criminal background checks on all employees working in schools. Until now, Aztec has checked employees’ criminal backgrounds only at the time of hiring, Abbott said.Orell Fitzsimmons, local field director for the Service Employees International Union, said low wages paid by Aztec could make hiring quality employees difficult.The union represents custodial workers on the HISD payroll, who receive health coverage and retirement benefits, unlike the contract workers. The starting salary for those workers is $7.40 an hour, Abbott said. “When you have subcontractors paying substandard wages, this is what you get,” Fitzsimmons said.”That’s an inappropriate comment by a union boss who’s still upset the district moved by unanimous vote to approve outsourcing,” Abbott responded.Houston police investigators said they are looking for more possible victims and asked anyone with information to call 713-731-5335.HB 2507 which would put 1600 Taco Stands out of businessIn early April State Representative Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) introduced HB 2507 to get the Health Departments of Harris County and the City of Houston to enforce Health regulations for Taco Stands just like they are for major restaurants. Which would mean that the Taco Stands would have to have running water and restrooms. This requirement would put all of the Stands out of business. On Thursday April 21st 106 WFA members had a protest in front of Mr. Bohac Houston office. We are now meeting with Bohac on May 3rd in Austin to try to get him to withdraw the bill from consideration this session. We will also try to get the the two Democratic Co-Sponsor to withdraw their names from the legislation.There is not a Senate sponsor yet but we are meeting on Tuesday with Senator Mario Gallegos (D-Houston) to gain his support if it is needed.Union, ACORN, AHC Unite: Help Dallas Member Avoid Foreclosure
All unions try to help their members but no one covers all the bases like SEIU, Local 100. When MISD School Bus aide and Local 100 Co-Steward Minnie Hubbard joined Local 100 she joined to fight to get an unnecessary and extreme pay cut restored but the pay cut caused some personal problems.
She started having trouble paying all of her bills and on top of that her ex-husband ran up a lot of debt in her name and foreclosure threatened to take her house.
Minnie had met Dallas ACORN lead organizer Cledell Kemp at a union meeting and called her for advice. Ms. Kemp reassured her that she was a long way away from foreclosure and referred her to an ACORN Housing Credit counselor. Fantaye Akbar is working with Minnie to get her credit straightened out.
Cledell says, “Minnie is happy as a Lark”. Local 100 understands that problems on the job leads to problems off the job and has the resources and connections to help its members with more problems than most unions.Eating It UpAre HISD and Aramark cooking the books to feast on federal breakfast subsidies?The cafeteria workers at Jefferson Davis High School run their breakfast program with factorylike precision. Into the big blue Igloo coolers go foil-wrapped taco pockets, cartons of milk and boxes of apple juice. Each kid gets one breakfast. Each classroom gets one cooler.The coolers are shipped to classrooms at Davis just before the bell rings; by the time morning announcements are over, the kids have brought them back, laden with crumpled foil and empty cartons. Another day, another breakfast served.There’s just one problem: Many of the breakfasts never even get touched.Breakfast in the Classroom is a project of the Houston Independent School District and its food service contractor, Philadelphia-based Aramark. Figuring that kids learn better on a full stomach, 56 schools in the district now serve breakfast during first period to anyone who wants it. Thanks to the project, HISD now serves 11 million free breakfasts a year — almost five million more than it did before the program expanded.But a quick survey of the returned coolers at Davis reveals that a breakfast served is much different from a breakfast eaten. Cooler after cooler returns with untouched taco pockets and unopened milk cartons; in many coolers, the juice is gone, but that’s about it.
HISD spokeswoman Adriana Villarreal says that only kids who want breakfast get food, and teachers use rosters to check off the kids who eat. But the worksheets at Davis seem to bear little relation to the evidence. In one classroom, for example, the teacher has checked off 32 of 37 kids — despite returning a cooler with 33 milk cartons and 18 unopened tacos. In another, the teacher has marked off 28 kids, but only five took tacos.There’s more at stake than accurate record-keeping. The federal government’s Free Breakfast Program reimburses HISD up to $1.46 for every eligible kid who eats breakfast. Last year, that added up to $16.7 million in federal funds to the district.Thanks to the fed’s largesse, HISD’s food service program ran an $8.9 million surplus last year, according to records. And that, along with the increased participation numbers, ensured Aramark its highest fee yet: $4.75 million for the year.Not everyone is happy.”They’re serving thousands of breakfasts that no one even looks at, much less eats,” says Orell Fitzsimmons, field director for the Service Employees International Union Local 100. “They’re bilking the free breakfast program for millions every year.”
HISD spokesman Terry Abbott rejects that criticism. This year “we were able to actually cut the price of our meals for the poorest kids in half, while all around the country other school districts were raising prices,” he writes. “Fitzsimmons has always opposed Aramark, and he has always been wrong.”Hiring a private company to manage HISD’s food service program was the brainchild of former superintendent Rod Paige, now the U.S. secretary of education. The district’s cafeterias had barely been breaking even; the state comptroller had released a blistering audit. Aramark, Paige said, would clean up the mess and run the program at a profit.However, the plan lost money in two of Aramark’s first three years managing it, including a whopping $2.8 million in the 1998-99 school year, according to district records.Breakfast in the Classroom changed that. While the program officially started with one school in 1997, it didn’t really hit a critical mass until the new millennium. Not so coincidentally, the food service program began to run fat surpluses at the same time. In fiscal year 2002, it ran $8.7 million in the black — a 361 percent improvement from the year before, according to records. Last year, with the program in at least 30 schools, breakfast subsidies made up 16 percent of the program’s total revenue.The math is simple enough. Once cafeteria workers are on-site, it’s significantly more economical for them to serve two meals than one, especially when most of those meals are paid for by the federal government. (The program is aimed at lower-income students; more than 80 percent of HISD kids qualify for free or reduced-price meals.)
Of course, the district could just serve breakfast in the cafeteria. After all, janitors say the in-room breakfasts create a big mess; one teacher at Reagan High reported that his students enjoyed hiding the breakfast entrée around the room and daring him to find it before it rotted.
But kids just aren’t interested in stopping by the cafeteria. Maggie Polk, food service manager at Sam Houston High, says she served almost 2,700 meals every day last year during the Breakfast in the Classroom. After the program was canceled this year and kids were required to make a trip to the cafeteria to eat, that number dropped to 200 — even though Aramark cut prices.Aramark is making a big push to expand to more schools. It’s been peddling a packet of information to union reps and acting superintendent Abe Saavedra, spelling out its financial benefits. The packet quotes the president of the National Education Association saying that serving kids breakfast is important for “the future of this country.” It even notes that schools that serve breakfast in the classroom showed a significant increase in standardized test scores.
Aramark’s qualitative claims are difficult to confirm. Aramark’s own stats show that secondary schools in the program averaged a 3 percent improvement in their passing rate; the district average for the same year was a 5 percent gain, according to the Texas Education Agency. So secondary schools in the program actually did a little worse than their peers.And while Aramark cites an oft-quoted Harvard University study that showed that kids who eat breakfast do better in school, it ignores a similar study from the USDA with much different findings.
Preliminary results from the government study show that offering free breakfasts to every student “did not have a significant impact on measure of dietary intake or school performance.” The study found that kids who previously ate breakfast at home simply started eating at school. The USDA concluded that the only real difference was that the universal breakfast helped to lower the school’s per-meal cost.
Aramark spokeswoman Kate Moran deferred all comment to the district, and she did not return subsequent calls. HISD spokeswoman Villarreal says the district is happy with the program, but it’s up to each school to decide whether to participate.
Fitzsimmons, the union director, would like to see HISD get rid of Aramark. His union represents food service workers; he claims that Aramark has gradually phased out full-time employees with benefits in exchange for cheaper labor. He believes that the taco-filled coolers he witnessed at Jefferson Davis point to “federal fraud”; he wants the school board to launch an investigation.”The president of the school board needs to get Aramark out of our kitchens,” he says. “They care about profit and not about our children.” And while the district crows about increased federal subsidies, Fitzsimmons will have none of it: “This is our money — federal tax dollars. I’m paying for it, and you are, too.”
If history is any indicator, however, Fitzsimmons won’t have an easy time getting resolution on his complaints.Three years ago, Fitzsimmons started asking questions about Quality Concession Foods. The company’s owner is Darryl King, a well-connected entrepreneur who chaired the Urban League and later took the helm at the Convention and Visitors Bureau.King says he contacted Aramark in 1996 and persuaded it to go for the HISD food service contract — and make Quality its minority partner. (For a while, Quality also partnered with Aramark at the George R. Brown Convention Center, although King refuses to discuss whether he still does work there.) Ever since then, it’s earned roughly 25 percent of Aramark’s fee.Although Aramark has paid King anywhere from $600,000 to $1 million a year, food service workers told Fitzsimmons they’d never met anyone from Quality and had seen King only once — at a Christmas party.Fitzsimmons called for an audit. The district ignored him. “They never did anything,” he says.King insists that he takes an active role. “Do government employees see President Bush? I work on all my contracts,” he says. “I don’t visit every single school, but what I do is not anybody’s damn business. Everybody who thinks I don’t work can kiss my black ass, and you can quote me on that.”In the last three years, questions about Quality have increased. County records show numerous tax liens against both the company and King personally. Quality owes close to $300,000 in overdue federal taxes alone; it also faces liens from the state workforce commission. In February, the Texas secretary of state revoked the company’s charter for failure to file the proper tax forms; after eight months without corporate privileges in Texas, King finally filed the paperwork last month and began to work to regain certification, a state spokesman says.In July, the company also lost city certification as a minority-owned subcontractor. It has begun to rectify the situation, says city affirmative action director Velma Laws.District records show that Aramark paid Quality $1.19 million in the last year alone — despite its yanked charter. Robert Gallegos, HISD’s director of supplier diversity, says he plans to follow up: “The fact that they’re not certified at this present moment, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered.”King insists that his company’s problems are no more than paperwork mistakes. He describes an impoverished childhood and briefly blames both a cancer-stricken employee and a failure to update addresses before changing the topic. He won’t discuss what he actually does for the schools.”I don’t intend to have a detailed conversation about my business practices,” he says. “I don’t do anything illegal. I don’t ask for anything illegal. You don’t see me out there wining and dining these people.” When asked about a fund-raiser he underwrote last year for HISD board member Larry Marshall, King insists that’s different: “Of course we do fund-raisers. Everybody does fund-raisers.”In the last five years, Aramark increased the number of breakfasts served at HISD by 65 percent, according to state records. At the same time, federal subsidies to the district have increased 48 percent. Those are far greater than the 13 percent increase notched by the San Antonio schools or the Dallas school district’s 8 percent increase.Spokeswoman Villarreal says HISD is pleased with Aramark. She cites increased participation in the food service program, a “record number” of meals served per day and a glowing report on nutritional content.
So far, the feds aren’t concerned, either. They count on the Texas Department of Agriculture to monitor free breakfast and lunch programs, says USDA spokeswoman Susan Acker. The state periodically checks to ensure that numbers are in a realistic range, Acker says, but “comprehensive reviews” and on-site visits are required only once every five years.They’re not looking at bigger trends, so they can’t be expected to notice that HISD students are hardly willing to put their money where their mouth is. At the same time that Breakfast in the Classroom has increased the number of breakfasts served, state records show the number of kids paying for lunch has dropped 22 percent.
“They know how to scam, and scam legally,” Fitzsimmons says. “But that doesn’t make it right.”Texas School Employees Get RaiseThe Attorney General of Texas has yielded to pressure from thousands of Texas union members who flooded the Attorney Generals office with thousands of phone calls, e-mails, and postcards and who have been lobbying for months to demand that the $500 per year health Care Stipend that the State Legislature gave us to help offset the cost of Health insurance be given to us in cash and not be put into Health Saving Accounts . The $500 will eventually show up in our paychecks and will mean a raise of about $20 per pay period for those of us paid biweekly and about $40 for those of us paid monthly. The director of the DISD compensation department, Carlos Tapia, told Local 100 that we should start receiving the money in November.HISD Pools $1.6 million in Unspent Health Care PremiumsAs November rolls around, eligible Houston Independent School District employees will be given the option of renewing or waiving their annual employer-contributed health insurance plans for the coming year. To the school board, this may constitute nothing more than the additional busy-work of writing memos and preparing health insurance packets. However, for many employees it means that another heartbreaking decision is soon to come.This year nearly 69% of HISD workers earning between $10,000 and $20,000 are living without health insurance. Of the 5,538 that are considered eligible 2,235 employees declined health insurance this year. It isn’t that they don’t want the health insurance. It isn’t even that they don’t need it. The majority of workers in this salary bracket simply can not afford the bloated health insurance premiums that they are offered.HISD employees are given the choice of either paying almost $2,000 out-of-pocket annually to participate in the district’s group health insurance plan, or taking a waiver and declining health insurance entirely without any form of compensation. As a result of ever increasing premiums, more and more HISD employees are declining coverage each year. HISD waivers increased an astonishing 347% over last year. This year, 5935 employees waived health insurance benefits. This means that HISD is saving $1.6 million in health care costs at $2800 per employee. The employees, however, never benefit from this cost savings to the school district.Perhaps the school district’s budget surplus is being spent to hire more teachers, or to fund an art program. Maybe HISD is cutting health care costs to meet the bottom line. Perhaps HISD administrators feel that their employees just don’t deserve to be healthy in lieu of a more padded bottom line. Whatever the reason may be, HISD employees are not compensated for this loss.Good health is not a luxury, and should not be treated as such. If HISD cannot find a workable solution to its increasing cost of healthcare, then the money saved by employees waiving the program should be redistributed to the people it was intended to benefit. A $2,800 raise would certainly help to alleviate the employee burden to acquire independent healthcare coverage from a more reasonable provider.The disturbing reality is that countless American workers feel that they cannot afford health care. Today, 85.2 million Americans struggle to remain healthy in a world devoid of affordable health insurance. As the cost of healthcare skyrockets, premiums continue to explode. Even those people who are fortunate enough to have employer-provided health insurance are feeling the bite taken out of their wallets as employee contributions rise.Minorities and those in the lower-to-moderate income brackets suffer most from this alarming trend. It is estimated that the majority of workers at lower income levels spend over 25% of their total earnings on health care premiums alone. Many workers are forced to choose between feeding their families and paying health insurance premiums. The decision may be easy, but living this way is hard.HISD has decreased employee benefits frequently since Aramark Corp. overtook managed services six years ago. As a counter measure, Local 100 has been working diligently to help elect school board members who understand the harm that Aramark inflicts on school employees, their spouses, children and extended families. It is believed that if the majority of school board members choose people over profits, benefits to HISD workers will be restored.Local 100 members have also taken on the challenge, and are fighting back by promoting school board members who truly care about support employees and their families. Our members strive to reverse the damage done by companies like Aramark that put the needs of their employees behind reaching the bottom line. Essentially, the issue boils down to a system of beliefs. Some people believe that children are important, and others see only dollar signs in their eyes.$1.3 billion HISD budget has small raises for most workersThe Houston school board is expected to adopt a $1.3 billion budget today that includes small pay raises for all employees except HISD’s top administrators.Instead of money, the 200 highest-paid administrators in the Houston Independent School District will get three extra days off when the new fiscal year begins July 1.The largest percentage raises would go to HISD’s lowest-paid workers — nearly 6,000 bus drivers, clerks, food service employees and teachers aides — who would get a 3 percent boost. Houston’s nearly 13,000 teachers would get a minimum 2 percent raise. About 600 principals and assistant principals are in line for a 1 percent raise.If the board approves the proposal, HISD teachers will have received a total 32 percent pay raise since 1999.Orell Fitzsimmons, head of the Service Employees International Union Local 100, said HISD’s hourly workers need the extra money to offset rising health-care costs.”When there is a pie to cut, let’s cut it equally,” he said.Overall, the proposed budget spends about $3 million less than the current year’s spending plan, with some of the largest cuts coming in consulting fees, curriculum and instructional development and administrative job positions. HISD expects to lose about $13 million in state money because of rising property values.HISD trustees plan to increase property taxes by 2 cents per $100 assessed value to pay off debt from the $808 million school construction package that voters approved in 2002. The new $1.60 tax rate, and higher property values, bring the total HISD taxes on the average $148,400 home to $1,658 next year after exemptions, a $138 jump.The school board has scheduled a 4 p.m. public hearing on the budget proposal at HISD headquarters, 3830 Richmond.Help Change Union Power Rules for the Dallas School DistrictL100 holds meetings for members and non-members who are school employees to help change the rules around which unions must organize.The Campaign is the Rewriting of the Dallas County Schools employee handbook which is the rulebook that we work under. It came about like this; Dallas County Schools got a new superintendent who we met with and who agreed to meet and confer with us on a quarterly basis. He also announced plans to rewrite the employee handbook.Shortly before this, we elected a pro-labor school board member who offered to meet us every Monday, go through the old handbook page by page to make the changes we want to make. So far we have proposed about 75-80 changes, additions and deletions to the book and there is quite a bit left. Attendence at these meetings has been good and everyone is welcome. If you are not a member you can join when you arrive.Local 100 has made a proposal for a 6% pay raise in the DISD for Support employees( the 6% is based on the fact that the total cpi, including health cost increases is 4% plus all school district employees will have the state subsidy to their health insurance reduced by half as well as 13 paid holidays but we have ran into a lot of opposition from the AFT who sign up support employees in order to build power for overpaid school teachers. In the RISD we are making plans to go to the school Board to demand a significant pay raise.Aramark Serving Pop Tarts as “First Class Breakfast”In Houston, HISD ARMARK is rolling out a new program called “First Class Breakfast,” which delivers a breakfast each morning to every child in the District in an atempt to have them ready to study and learn.Like many ideas, it seems great in theory, but so far in HISD the theory is working just about a well as the theory that Wall Street doesn’t need to be regulated.This morning the number one breakfast item for the “First Class Breakfast” was a Pop Tart.The Executive Director of Operations for the HISD/ARMARK Food Service Department said, “When I was a kid, if I could have a Pop Tart in the morning, I was one happy kid.”Happy children is an important concept, yet the science of nutrition should come first when serving foods that will enhance our children’s ability to learn.It also seems odd that the very people, the HISD School Board, who control what our children eat for breakfast seem to think it’s OK to feed the multitudes Pop Tarts while their own kids in HISD all have a well-rounded, home-cooked breakfast.Just like Wall Street profits and bonuses, an unregulated ARAMARK will feed our children anything they can to make a profit regardless of the nutritional value of the food.Breakfast is important for our children each morning, and we should make sure every child starts the day with a full stomach. Yet what is in that stomach is also important, and it should not be food with an overabundance of sugar.Crossing Guards Work To Improve PayLocal 100 HISD Crossing Guard leaders met on Saturday, February 27, to discuss their issues. They all support a 26-period pay program to give them income during the summer months when they don’t work. They also need more saftey gear and rain coats. We will all be going to the School Board meeting in March to lobby for our demands. All HISD Crossing Guards are welcome to attend. The meeting starts at 5:00 p.m. at the administration building on 18th street