Four decades ago a small group of supporting service employees in the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) had a vision of uniting all support staff to empower a workforce to believe they were entitled to decent wages, benefits, and rights.
Along with this vision, support staff professionals had big dreams: job security, career opportunities, respect and hope for a better future for their families. From their struggle, emerged a union ready to grow and improve the lives of public sector workers across Maryland and Washington, DC.
MCCSSE: Out of Hard Work and Hope, A Union Emerges
MCPS supporting services workers knew they needed a union, but they faced two major obstacles. First, workers needed a law in Maryland to allow them to bargain with their employer. Second, to succeed supporting services workers needed to stand together across the county and across job classifications.
Supporting service employees of the MCPS began meeting to find ways to improve their working conditions.
VISION FOR UNITY (1969)
MCPS employee Vincent Foo led a campaign to unite all MCPS employees to form a union and lobby Maryland legislators for a law allowing supporting service employees to bargain collectively (a right Maryland’s teachers had just won).
CREATION OF MCCSSE (1970)
MCPS supporting services employees passed bylaws to form a union named Montgomery County Council of Supporting Services Employees (MCCSSE).
BUILDING MOMENTUM (1970 – 1973)
MCCSSE signed a “memoranda of understanding” agreement with MCPS in 1970 — the first of its kind for supporting services employees in the state. MCCSSE represented supporting services workers, working with MCPS, lobbied the state, and grew its union, even though it wasn’t officially recognized as such.
LEGAL RIGHT TO BARGAIN (1974)
Supporting services employees won the right to engage in collective bargaining thanks to a bill fought for by MCCSSE and passed by the Maryland legislature. MCCSSE and the Montgomery County school board entered into the first official collective bargaining agreement for supporting services (“non-certificated”) school employees in Maryland.
MCCSSE to SEIU Local 500: A Successful Transition
MCCSSE gained recognition and helped workers resolve their problems, negotiated agreements, and won passage of a law that allows collective bargaining for “non-certificated” employees. Ultimately, it became part of a major international labor union.
MCCSSE BECOMES FIRST UNION IN STATE TO GET FAIR SHARE (1976)
MCCSSE wins legislation in Maryland to ensure that all workers benefiting from a union contract and representation contribute their fair share.
MCCSSE AFFILIATES WITH SEIU (1978)
MCCSSE affiliates with the Service Employees International Union and becomes SEIU Local 500. The 2+ million-member SEIU is the fastest growing union in North America and a strong voice for working families.
FIGHT FOR STRONGER MCPS CONTRACTS
For many years, Local 500 members negotiated and won hard-fought gains. For example, in 1987, 3,000 bus operators, and cafeteria and maintenance workers stayed home sick to protest stalled contract negotiations. Ultimately, a positive settlement was reached.
FOUNDING PRESIDENT, VINCENT FOO, RETIRES (1993)
SEIU Local 500 President Vincent Foo retires after 23 years of service to the organization and MCPS supporting services employees. Over the next eight years, Presidents Marty Strombotne and Stephen Poor led SEIU Local 500.
MERLE CUTTITTA BECOMES LOCAL 500 PRESIDENT (2001)
Merle Cuttitta, MCPS employee, officer of Local 500 and daughter of Vincent Foo, became president of SEIU Local 500.
LOCAL EXPANDS MEMBERS AND BUILDS STRENGTH (2001 – PRESENT)
As Local 500 has grown, we continue to hold on to our core values of exceptional service, strong and informed communities, and professional excellence and respect. Local 500 has pursued a vision that recognizes that all of our members benefit when we have members throughout the region, in all electoral districts, and when we work to improve the lives of all of our members.
» Community Action Head Start — Anne Arundel Workers Join Local 500 (May 2003)
» OXFAM Workers Join Local 500 (July 2003)
» Public Citizen Workers Join Local 500 (March 2004)
» United States Students Association (USSA) Workers Join Local 500 (May 2004)
» Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (CSAAC) Workers Join Local 500 (Aug 2004)
» The George Washington University Part-Time Faculty Joins Local 500 (June 2005)
» National Children’s Center Workers Join Local 500 (Aug 2006)
» Family Child Care Providers Across Maryland Join Local 500 (Sept 2007)
» Montgomery College Part-Time Faculty Members Join Local 500 (June 2008)
» Individual Development, Inc. (IDI) Workers in Washington, DC (Nov 2010)