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Appeal for Solidarity from Boston IWW Member

Hi there.   My name is Sara Willig.  I am a member of the Boston GMB.  You might remember me if you followed the DARE job branch struggles of 2002-4.  The situation I’m writing you about tonight is  related to that fight, when my coworkers voted to decertify the union about 18 months ago after a campaign of union busting and manipulation by management.

If you didn’t follow the DARE job branch situation, or if you’ve joined more recently, I’m a health care worker.  I do a social work job, but without a degree in social work or the higher wages that go along with that degree.  Keeps the price down for you, the taxpayer, never mind the State.  But mostly it keeps the costs down for the boss.  The agency I work for contracts with Massachusetts’ Dept, of Mental Retardation (DMR) and I’m paid to be the case manager for two disabled people.  Sometimes I’ve had a caseload of three people. Currently my clients are borderline MR and moderately MR.

I’ve worked for DARE for over 11 years and made between $6.60 and $14.03 an hour.  Typically in the Health Care industry, wages are low and benefits are excellent.  Since my third year with DARE I’ve always had 5 weeks paid vacation/3 weeks paid sick time.  Every year our wages have gone up 4%, every year we’ve gotten a bonus.  Because my agency receives so much State money, they can be easily subjected to the public eye.  And there are all kinds of demands that DMR can impose and chance and re-impose. Shifts in my industry can be very long – 10, 11, 12, 14 hour are fairly common.  Often with only 8-10 hours off between them.

On Thursday April 6, 2006 I went into work as usual, expecting to take the van and go help my high-functioning client with his taxes.  I arrived about 15 minutes late and my immediate boss was there.  This is unusual because he’s almost never at my job site, certainly not when I’m there.  Alie, my boss, told me that Ted was here to see me from the Head Office.  Last time I saw Ted was last summer when he investigated a complaint made to DMR.  He’s a high-level management guy and ranks above my boss’ boss.  These two men sat me down at the kitchen table and Ted did all the talking, while my boss sat there like a lump.  Ted gave me first a company policy on layoffs.  I’d never seen this before, but then there hasn’t been an up-to-date Employee Manual kept at my job site for about 3 years.

Severance Agreement - http://www.supermarket.com/willig
Documents: Willig 1-of-3.pdf  § Pages  9, 10, 11

My reading of the above led me to believe that I wasn’t going to be laid off.  There’s an overnight at my job site who was hired a month before I was.  And another coworker has been on forced unpaid leave since September who’s been with DARE much longer than I have, but not longer at this job site.   The other 4 people who work my job site, two of who are split-shift (some hours at one site, some at another) have all been there less time than I have.  In addition, when I started at DARE I declared myself to be a disabled person.  This is supposed to grant me some protections.

Imagine my shock when Ted told me that I was being laid off due to “client shrinkage.”  Of the 3 clients who live at my work site client, one died about 5 weeks ago and one has been in the hospital or a rehab this entire calendar year.

Alie had told me that DMR would be shortly allotting new clients from its long waiting list.  When I mentioned this, Ted said that it hadn’t happened yet.  He said that my 8.5 hours left of vacation time would be bought out , and that I was being formally served my 2-weeks notice and that DARE was opting to pay me, but not have me work.  Massachusetts is aan at-will employment state, so getting 2 weeks notice isn’t standard either in my State or in my industry.

When, the next day I asked for a statement in writing about the being paid but not having to come in, I was told that I’d receive that once I’d signed the Severance Agreement.  He then handed me across the table a long scary-looking legal document.  He told me I couldn’t sign it until April 21, because to do so before would “look coercive.”  He also told me that I was to sign and hand deliver the form to DARE HQ on the 21st; notarized or not.  At that point I would get 7 more weeks of pay and health care.  Severance agreements are definitely not standard in my industry.

Severance Agreement - http://www.supermarket.com/willig
Documents Willig-1-of-3.pdf § Pages 3, 4, 5, 6

In brief, the company letter demands: no legal claims against DARE or affiliates, no charges of company denial of medical leave, and a provision that I will not “suggest, imply, do or say anything that could in any way be harmful the interests or good will of DARE.”  (And these are the same guys who told us at the bargaining table that the terms "just cause" and “justice” were  too nebulous!)  It also requires that I will never mention that there even is (or ever has been) any severance agreement!  Nondisclosure/gag-order agreements are also not standard in my industry.

In order to try to protect their reputation and hide their union busting, DARE is trying to silence me.

Less than 2 months of pay and withdrawal of all employee benefit plans not covered by COBRA is not enough to whitewash 11 years of my working life and 2 years of dubious "negotiations."  I spearheaded  the union drive in the shop, was elected representative of the bargaining unit and attended all of the bargaining units.  This “offer” is adding final insult to injury.

I am asking for your help so that I don't have to take DARE's sucker bait.  DARE is trying to buy me off for about $1260.  If we can raise that much in donations in the next seven weeks then I won't need to take DARE's offer and I won't have to sign away my civil, labor, and free speech rights.

Thank You,
FW Sara Willig


The Boston General Membership Branch of the IWW urges all of our members and all of our supporters and sympathizers to contribute something so that Sara will not have to sign away her  Do this, and we will have a solid example of how the union can pull together to stand up for our principles and defeat company legal manipulation. A couple of bucks from every member will send the message: An Injury to One is an Injury to All, and the IWW works quickly to heal the cut.

To donate funds you can send check or money order to:

  • Boston Area IWW
  • P.O Box 391724, Cambridge, MA 02139

Contact Info: FW Mike Bell: 781.913.0290