Cushing-Gavin Award Recipient
Labor Award, 2011
Coming from a working family, at the age of 14, Jen Springer took a hot and dirty job in the kitchen of a neighborhood Nursing Home and later worked her way through UMass Amherst cleaning other students’ dirty dishes. Graduating from Suffolk University Law School in 1997 on a full-merit based scholarship, Jen spent the next years as staff Attorney at AFSME Council 93, later joined a private law firm and worked for SEIU representing private and public sector unions.
In 2004, Jen was Metro Boston Coordinator and Assistant General Counsel for ASFME. Most recently, Jen was the lead architect and chief negotiator of the first-ever Coalition Bargaining Agreement between the City of Boston and all of its municipal unions over the issue of employee healthcare, resulting in good employee benefits and saving more than $70 million for the City of Boston. Recently, Jen was honored by the Mass AFL-CIO with the Gompers – Meaney Merit Award and by the Boston Firefighters Local718 with the “Friend of Firefighters Award”. After graduating in 2008 from the Harvard Trade Union Program. Jen was appointed to Governor Patrick’s Division of Labor Relations Advisory Council, Executive Board member of the Greater Boston Labor Council, and Executive Vice President at Large of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
Jennifer Springer Acceptance Speech Cushing Gavin Award December 2, 2011
These are challenging times. People are struggling to find their place in a changing world.
I am proud that here in Massachusetts we didn’t use these tough times as an excuse to turn on one another, to blame and tear each other down. Instead, we turned toward one another in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation, to find solutions that work for the tough problems we all face.
I am proud to have been part of some of these efforts to pull together in unprecedented ways:
-in Boston 36 different unions came together with the Mayor on health care; and community folks and Labor came together like never before to save our libraries;
– public sector unions across the state came together to work in coalition on legislative issues, with one voice and message.
Unions are not the problem. We are part of the solution!
These accomplishments were not flukes. These things were possible because of two basic things- Good Leadership and Shared Common Values.
It takes good leadership on both sides of the table to engender the trust necessary for people to consider doing things in a way they haven’t been done before.
In the City of Boston, the City agreed to sit down with all 36 unions at one table.
Their negotiators engendered trust by being open and transparent. They dealt in good faith and resisted the urge to walk away when things got tough.
We saved $80 million for the City and preserved excellent health care.
For the unions in Boston we pulled together like no one thought was possible.
Union leaders showed courage. 36 unions sitting down to bargain as one, at one table, without a clear quid pro quo was unheard of. Yet we did it.
It took a lot of work.
The Unions spent more time meeting among ourselves than with the city, to build trust to educate each other on the issues and options, and to get past old rivalries.
We achieved real progress on healthcare and on labor relations.
Neither side did it through threats and intimidation, or by clinging to the old notion of winners and losers.
We can choose to do things differently. Doing so takes courage, vision, and the ability to bring others along. That is leadership.
We will still have our disagreements. Despite differences we share the same basic values.
We believe in our communities. We all want good schools, parks, libraries, and safe bridges and roads for our families.
We are all part of the same community. And all want and need the very things that make a community work.
With good leadership and a focus on our shared values, I believe Massachusetts will continue be an example of how to pull together, to turn toward each other, and to find solutions that work.
Jennifer Springer, Metro Boston Coordinator, and Assistant General Counsel AFSCME Council 93.