Amidst a Wave of Growing Discontent with City Hall, Somerville Firefighters, Police, Librarians, Public Works, Construction Workers, and Progressive Activists Join Forces in Broad New Community Coalition
“Somerville Stands Together” Calls for Good Jobs, Fair Contracts, and Affordable Housing
Residents to City Hall: “Support Local Families, Not Out-Of-Town-Developers”
Somerville—Citing rising rents, stagnant wages, and irresponsible development, hundreds of residents with “Somerville Stands Together” kicked off their campaign Thursday night with a march on City Hall, urging city leaders to start putting local families first.
The broad new coalition, including local public service and construction workers, as well as community activists, is highlighting the growing disconnect between Somerville’s values of inclusion and equality, and the city’s current budget priorities and policies.
“Somerville stands for fairness, equality, and opportunity. But City Hall has lost its way. It’s not enough to talk the talk. When it comes to economic, social, and racial justice, we need to walk the walk,” said Somerville resident Penelope Jennewein.
The group said Somerville is heading in the wrong direction. One concern is wealthy, out-of-town developers who receive tax breaks from the city but don’t adhere to community standards.
The coalition also raised concerns about the city’s failure to negotiate fair contracts with the hard-working men and women who protect and serve the city. Most of Somerville’s public service workforce—including firefighters, police, and librarians—don’t have contracts and haven’t had a raise in years. At the same time, they’re facing sky-high rents and are increasingly at risk of being displaced.
“City Hall is balancing the budget on the backs of public service employees and our families,” said Ed Halloran, a Special Heavy Equipment Operator with the Somerville DPW, who’s worked with the city for 25 years. “They keep telling us to wait—but we can’t wait anymore. The bills keep piling up.”
At the event, members of “Somerville Stands Together” said that City Hall is taking Somerville in the wrong direction, and urged local leaders to sign on to the following priorities:
- Invest in new and existing affordable housing, to safeguard residents against displacement.
- Ensure respect and fair contracts for our city’s municipal workers.
- Update and enforce Somerville’s existing fair labor ordinances.
- Allow employees to form unions and hold free and fair elections at businesses that are given tax breaks by the City of Somerville.
- Hire local union labor on construction projects to ensure high standards for safety and training, and to provide career pathways for workers.
“Our public employees don’t have contracts, but the city has the money for tax breaks for wealthy developers,” continued Jennewein. “Meanwhile these developers are pricing out local families and paying their construction workers substandard wages. This is not the Somerville we love.”
About Somerville Stands Together
Somerville Stands Together is a coalition of community groups committed to maintaining the city’s diversity and its history as a place where hardworking families can build a life and a community. Somerville must continue to uphold progressive principles, where everyone is welcome regardless of race, creed or orientation; and where creativity and innovation are part of the fabric of our city. Somerville stands for immigrant rights, quality education, LGBTQIA rights, racial and economic justice, green justice, affordable housing and workers’ rights.
The coalition includes AFSCME Local 274, Building and Construction Trades Council of the Metropolitan District, Firefighters Local 76, Good Jobs Somerville, Good Jobs, Strong Communities Coalition, Our Revolution – Somerville, New England Regional Council of Carpenters, Somerville Municipal Employees Association, SEIU Fireman & Oilers Local 3, SEIU Local 888, and Teamsters Local 122.