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Sweeney Joins with AFSCME in Support of Behavioral Health Workers

Trenton – Senate President Steve Sweeney today joined with AFSCME-NJ Council 63 and the behavioral health workers at SERV Mercer County in their protest for a fair contract, better pay and improved work conditions.

AFSCME is fighting on behalf of the Residential Counselors and Maintenance Workers at SERV Behavioral Health Services Headquarters in Ewing Township for a contract that will improve pay, provide better staffing levels and safer working conditions. They are also protesting the company’s refusal to fully respect the bargaining rights of AFSCME’s representation of the workers who provide vital services for behavioral health, mental health and addiction treatment in Mercer County.

“I stand with you in support of your right to be represented by AFSCME and to have SERV negotiate a contract for fair pay, improved working conditions, and adequate staffing,” Senator Sweeney told the workers and union members assembled for the protest. “You should be treated with respect and appreciation. The work you do is difficult, demanding and vital. Greater support for workers will result in better care for consumers and a quality behavioral health system in Mercer County and New Jersey.”

Senator Sweeney referred to a law he sponsored that specifies that any contract by the Department of Human Services or the Department of Children and Families with a private contractor requires the employer to enter into labor peace agreements so that workers who want to form a union can do so without harassment or intimidation.

Negotiations with SERV began in late July 2020 and have since dragged on for over a year with little to no progress and the company trying to undermine the rights of the union to represent the workers, according to AFSCME officials.

“There is a behavioral health crisis in New Jersey and at the core of it is the inability of behavioral health providers to recruit and retain employees,” said Steven Tully, Executive Director, AFSCME NJ Council 63. “This is a crisis of the providers own making. While the State of New Jersey has increased the funding to behavioral health providers to help deal with this crisis, many providers, like SERV, have chosen to increase top executive pay instead of investing in the workforce. SERV’s failure to invest in frontline workers has left them critically understaffed to the detriment of the consumers. The Residential Counselors and Maintenance Workers at SERV Mercer County are fighting for a fair contract that will improve pay, provide better staffing levels, and safer working conditions, which will lead to better care for the consumers.”