2016 Contract Negotiations: Where We’ve Been, One Big Problem, and the Year Ahead

When UMass and then Memorial employees voted to form the SHARE union, the main goal was participation. People wanted a say in decisions that affect them at work.

With a merger, and with healthcare changing rapidly all around us since, there have been many decisions being made that affect SHARE members. As a new union and in the 18 years since those votes, we’ve checked off most of “the biggies” from our list:
  •  SHARE members wanted to make raises predictable, with raises every year, and a salary system that was fair, transparent, and moved people up to grade max over time.
  • SHARE members wanted to hold onto the benefits they had, in spite of the merger, especially:
    • Health insurance, keeping the 85%/15% premium split the state workers had had.
    • A defined benefit pension.
  • SHARE members wanted to land safely in new jobs when there were layoffs, especially in the highly uncertain times of the early merger. And we wanted to feel that seniority was valued equally no matter which campus you came from. 
  • SHARE members from Memorial and UMass wanted to have the same policies across campuses, without going to the lowest-common-denominators among those policies. And we wanted to continually improve on these policies.
We all know that there’s plenty more we can do to improve even further on those goals. Still, our achievements have been significant and hard-won. Congratulations to all of us for sticking together when our union has faced hard times and hard negotiations.

Changing How it Feels to Come to Work

While we have steadily, persistently ticked the goals off our list, there’s one important nut that we haven’t cracked: We really want to change how it feels to come to work every day.
  • We want to save lives and improve patient health to the best of our ability.
  • We want patients’ experience -- from making an appointment to paying the bill – to go smoothly and give the patients what they need.
  • We want to have fun at work
  • We want to be able brag to our neighbors that we work at UMass Memorial, to have the respect of our peers and leaders, and to leave work consistently with our heads held high.
SHARE wants to focus on that problem -- how to re-imagine and improve our entire work culture -- in our next contract negotiations.

Many forces combine to cause our work to be stressful and frustrating:
  • Constant change, and financial pressure that leads to “doing more with less”
  • Work systems that are complicated and wasteful rather than clear and efficient
  • An old culture of “command and control,” and a “shame and blame” approach to problems that make positive teamwork tough to establish
Changing how it feels to come to work is not a simple goal. We have lots to figure out, and we may need to try several approaches before we figure out what works. 

We Need Your Ideas!

We hope that all SHARE members will take part in this conversation as we prepare to tackle this difficult set of problems. We are starting with a survey for all SHARE members to get your thoughts, questions, concerns, and ideas.

We will negotiate about raises and benefits too – so there will be a lot going on in this coming year. We will set up lunch-time SHARE information meetings across the hospital’s campuses in the new year. You can also contact your SHARE reps and organizers through the SHARE office any time.

And of course, we will post updates here on this blog. Stay tuned…