In 1995 the Service Employees International Union Local 509 and four Massachusetts human service providers signed an unusual agreement to forge a partnership in which employers would remain neutral while the union approached its workers with an offer to advocate in the state legislature for greater funding for private human service employees and to promote cooperative relations with their employers. This study examines the context of the agreement and the pressures on public employee unions and small human service providers whose workforce copes with low wages, high turnover, meager benefits, and poor public image as well as the give-and-take between union and employer representatives and their effort to provide representation for a growing number of poorly paid, often part-time human service workers.



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