What We Have AccomplishedMany new workers believe their benefits and working conditions were always in place. In reality, most of the benefits were won by the union through collective bargaining and the willingness of workers to fight together to improve working conditions.
Issues such as seniority, fair and equitable raises, the right to representation and just cause for discipline, holidays, personal days, sick leave, FMLA, life insurance, pensions, health benefits, childbirth leave, medical leave of absence, shift differential, furloughs, recalls, placement rights, grievance procedure, alternate work schedules and the meet & discuss process were non-existent before the union.
Where We Came FromClaude Saracino was one of the chief Pennsylvania Social Services Union (PSSU) organizers in the Scranton area. In fact, he was the head of a SEIU local before Act 195, Pennsylvania’s Public Relations Act, was passed. In 1956, he was a caseworker at Lackawanna County Department of Public Assistance. When SEIU organized the caseworkers into Local 365, he said, “I was a charter member and was elected Secretary-Treasurer.” Saracino later became President of Local 406 and Lillian Nicholas was Secretary-Treasurer.
In 1967, BSEIU Local 358, which covered state workers in the Pennsylvania Bureau of Employment Security of Lackawanna County, merged with Local 406. The new local became Local 406, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania State Employees Union. When Act 195 was passed in 1970, the way was cleared for public employees to organize in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. To get it passed, unions from all over the commonwealth worked together in coalitions, lobbying at the state legislature.
Saracino saw the passage of Act 195 as the beginning of organizing PSSU. He said, “Under Act 195, we got the greatest expansion of solving our problems. Act 195 gave us a right to organize. Local 406 was the most active local in the state. We had the choice of having the new statewide union under 406, or having a new number. We agreed it would be better to start from scratch with a new local which became Local 668. Local 668 then started under Rosemary Trump. The Steering Committee was made up of new employees who never had been with any local before, except a few of us from the old State Council.
The first woman SEIU Intentional Vice-President, Rosemary Trump, was just a timid social worker in 1967. Rose Trump was hired as one for the first women organizer for SEIU. One of her primary responsibilities was to help organize PSSU.
She explained, “One of the biggest obstacles in that whole campaign was that the law was new. There were no contracts in Pennsylvania to use as examples. People want to know what you can do for them if they are going to spend their money on your organization. We were always reaching for Massachusetts and California; no one could relate to that. The fact that it was brand-new and people could control their own destiny was such a new concept to them that they were disbelieving.”