We hope a federal investigation of Triangle, Inc., a corporate provider to the Department of Developmental Services for alleged anti-union activity brings public attention to the potential for privatization of DDS programs to result in low pay for provider staff and poor care.
In our view, the alleged efforts by Malden-based Triangle’s management to block staff from unionizing imply an implicit acknowledgement by the management that it wants to keep direct-care wages low. Low wages, in turn, result in lower-quality care.
In preventing their workers from organizing, providers like Triangle appear to be pitting themselves against the growing movement in Massachusetts for a $15 living wage for workers.
The Boston Globe reported earlier this month that the National Labor Relations Board has issued a formal complaint against Triangle after at least three former employees of the provider were allegedly fired for helping organize the agency’s staff to unionize with SEIU Local 509. The union represents both state workers and staff of state-funded providers to agencies such as DDS.
Triangle’s chief executive, Coleman Nee, allegedly stated that anyone in the agency who even voiced support for the union could be fired. Nee is a former Cabinet secretary under then Governor Deval Patrick.
The relatively low level of pay and benefits to direct-care staff in human services has been a long-standing issue in Massachusetts and elsewhere around the country.
“Nonprofit DDS providers do not want to pay a living wage to their direct care workers because their CEOs are keeping the money for themselves,” COFAR Executive Director Colleen Lutkevich wrote in a comment on the Globe site. “It can only benefit people with developmental disabilities if unions help these workers to earn more money. The management is a disgrace and it’s not the people they serve that benefit, it is their own pocketbooks.”