CLASS, Inc., a facility that provides day habilitation and other services to assist developmentally disabled adults, denied allegations by the Human Service Worker's Union SEIU Local 509 about the use of state funds for an "anti-union campaign."
CLASS, Inc. has locations in North Reading, Lawrence and North Andover. The North Reading facility is located at 48 Main St. #A.
According to a letter from the state's Operational Services Division (OSD), SEIU Local 509 asked that the office investigate “the questionable use of state funds and client safety concerns by Class Inc.” for an alleged anti-union campaign.
CLASS Director of Development Robin Ellington denied the allegations.
"CLASS did not use state funds for any alleged anti-union campaign," Ellington said. "Furthermore, CLASS has received directions from the EOAF Operational Services Division on how we need to file the end-of-year report to document the source of funds that are not received from the state. When we send our report to OSD it becomes a public record and available for all to see."
Workers Concerns, Union Vote
The union said CLASS CEO Bob Harris declined to discuss workers' concerns about the unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, a recent press release said. Workers claim they confronted him earlier this month at the company’s headquarters in Lawrence. Still, Harris refused to speak with them and instead called police, according to a union representative.
The union stated that CLASS has a history of endangering the health and safety of its workers and clients.
"Widespread reports of mold, rodents and sewage leaks have emerged at CLASS facilities, in addition to broken seatbelts and wheelchair lifts in its vehicle fleet," a release said. "Now, a growing number of employees have reported skin infections, linked to unsanitary conditions in a portion of CLASS’s Parker Street location commonly known as ‘the dungeon.’"
In early May, CLASS sent out a memo reporting that a staff member had been diagnosed with scabies. According to Ellington, the memo "mistakenly informed residential providers and families that one of the staff members who works at the Parker Street location in Lawrence was 'diagnosed with scabies,' when what we should have said was 'the staff member reported a case of scabies.'"
"No evidence of scabies was found by the occupational health nurse at Lawrence General Hospital or the CLASS nursing staff — not on employees, not on the clients we serve and not on the Parker Street premises," Ellington said. "Senior officials from the Executive Office of Human Services personally examined the Parker Street facility and found no fault."
Ellington also reported that the the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services Office of Quality Enhancement reviewed CLASS facilities on April 29 and gave them a 97 percent. The only issues were the hot water temperature and location of a lawn mower.
"DDS recommended the hot water temperature be adjusted to 110 degrees because it was low and requested the lawnmower be moved out of the garage. We built a shed for it the next day. The hot water and lawnmower kept us from scoring a perfect 100 [percent] on our survey," Ellington said.
She added that Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors "examined the Parker Street facility on May 21 and found no fault."
CLASS workers voted to form a union at an election Wednesday "to secure better pay, safer working conditions and a greater voice in the workplace," according to a recent release.
"With today’s vote, more than 100 front-line service providers will join the Human Service Workers Union, SEIU Local 509 – making CLASS the first unionized affiliate of The Arc in Massachusetts," the release said.
“You’d think a scabies outbreak would be a cause for action,” 13-year veteran Day Habilitation Specialist Mildred Barrera said in the release. “But instead of addressing the health and safety issues that endanger clients, CLASS has focused all of its attention on preventing service providers from speaking out. Management won’t even meet with us to discuss our concerns.”