AFSCME New Jersey holds unfair-labor-practice strike at SERV

AFSCME New Jersey Council 63 brothers and sisters, joined by labor leaders and rank-and-file members from the New Jersey State AFL-CIO and affiliated unions, plus New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and other top state elected officials, held a one-day unfair labor practice strike on Labor Day 2021 at the SERV Mercer County office.

“It’s unthinkable that an organization like SERV that receives millions of dollars from the state of New Jersey will not treat its employees equitably with a good first contract,” New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech said. “These essential workers are caring for people who are going through difficult periods in their lives, and they deserve to be compensated fairly.”

AFSCME New Jersey represents more than 50 residential counselors and maintenance staff employed by SERV Mercer County in Ewing. New Jersey State Senate President and Ironworkers Brother Steve Sweeney, Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo (IBEW) and Anthony Verrelli (UBC), and state Sen. Shirley Turner joined the picket line in solidarity.

Residential counselors help clients with their behavioral health plans, monitor their medication, and provide on-site behavioral health care. They transport and accompany clients to medical appointments, shopping and other outings. They also keep accurate records of progress and implement crisis management procedures during psychiatric emergencies.

Pay rates for the same jobs are different at SERV’s facilities elsewhere in New Jersey.

Negotiations with the behavioral health provider began in late July 2020 and have dragged on for over a year with little to no progress. SERV officials have given no indication that they intend to negotiate a fair contract, and they have hired Jackson Lewis, the country’s largest union-busting law firm, to represent them.

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