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Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) announced that Amy Britt has joined the organization as the Leaders OnBoard program coordinator.

In this role, she will be responsible for managing LPV’s board-development program, Leaders OnBoard. The program aims to increase and strengthen the skills and capacities of boards of directors. This program is intended to recruit and train people who are new to board service as well as seasoned board members, with the goal of inspiring and strengthening the leadership provided to the network of nonprofit organizations in the Pioneer Valley.

Amy Britt comes to Leadership Pioneer Valley with a background in communications, marketing, and event management. She worked for Tapestry, a regional public-health agency, for over 10 years, most recently as director of Communications, where she oversaw communications and marketing for the organization, worked with the Development department on fundraising campaigns and events, and supported the agency’s state and federal advocacy efforts.

Britt graduated from Smith College with a bachelor’s degree in biology, and was selected as an American fellow in a U.S. State Department program focused on women’s health leadership in Brazil in 2012. She is a 2014 Leadership Pioneer Valley graduate.

Daily News

GREENFIELD — PV Squared, a worker-owned cooperative helping Western Mass. and Southern Vermont go solar since 2002, was recently named Cooperative of the Year for Principle 7 – Leadership in Community at the 2018 U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) annual conference.

The award was given to PV Squared “for receiving national recognition in their field with company accreditation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, an accreditation awarded to companies that meet a rigorous set of standards regarding installation, employee training and qualification, safe work practices, and customer accountability, as well as their work to provide solar power to communities in Puerto Rico through their work with Amicus Solar Cooperative.”

Each year, USFWC recognizes standout cooperatives and cooperators that are making a difference and leading the way toward workplace democracy. “It’s an honor to be recognized among so many influential cooperatives and cooperators,” said PV Squared General Manager Stacy Metzger. “We work hard at PV Squared to ensure we’re consistently providing quality solar across the board, and believe that the worker-owned cooperative business model is not only crucial to our success, but is essential in strengthening the local economy and empowering workers.”

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College will host two retreats during November that will invite participants to explore Ignatian spirituality, in the tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The retreat series, titled “Responding to God from the Heart: Ignatian Spirituality & Prayer,” will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Nov. 7, 14, and 28, in the Faculty Dining Room in the Mary Dooley College Center.

Virginia Collins-English, a certified spiritual director, retreat director, writer, and psychotherapist, will guide participants in finding the nearness of God in daily life, the companionship of Jesus in scripture, and a heart-centered response to God’s desire in prayer.

Sponsored by the Religious Studies Department and the Institute for Theology and Pastoral Studies, these retreats are free and open to the public, and all are welcome to attend one or all of the retreats, but registration is required. To register, call (413) 265-2575 or e-mail [email protected].

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield College School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation will present the Peter V. Karpovich Lecture featuring Army reservist Bradley Nindl, professor in the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, on Wednesday, Nov. 14, starting at 6:30 p.m., in the Cleveland E. and Phyllis B. Dodge Room inside the Flynn Campus Union. The event is free and open to the public.

Nindl, who received his master’s degree in physiology of exercise from Springfield College in 1993, is the current director of the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory and Warrior Human Performance Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh. He will discuss how leveraging scientific and technological advances and evidence-based best practices in physical education and exercise science will yield a fit, ready, and injury-free military. Nindl has a strong focus on exploring science and strategies to help bolster military readiness and national security.

The readiness of the U.S. military is adversely impacted by an unacceptably high incidence rate of physical-training-related musculoskeletal injuries that represent a major threat to the health and fitness of soldiers and other service members and that degrade the nation’s ability to project military power.

Springfield College established the Karpovich Lecture in 1973 in memory of a former faculty member who was an internationally recognized exercise physiologist and one of the principal founders of the American College of Sports Medicine. Karpovich joined the Springfield College faculty in 1927, serving as a professor of Physiology. He was named director of Health Education at the college in 1947 and was appointed research professor of Physiology in 1955.

If you have a disability and require a reasonable accommodation to fully participate in this event, call (413) 748-3413 to discuss your accessibility needs. Springfield College is a smoke- and tobacco-free environment.

Cover Story Healthcare Heroes

Scenes from the Healthcare Heroes 2018 Gala

Passion is the word that defines these heroes. And it was on clear display Oct. 25 at the Starting Gate at GreatHorse in Hampden, site of the Healthcare Heroes Gala.

This was the second such gala. The event was a huge success, not because of the venue (although that was a factor) or the views (although they certainly helped), but because of the accomplishments, the dedication, and, yes, the passion being relayed from the podium.

There are seven winners in all, in categories chosen to reflect the broad scope of the health and wellness sector in Western Mass., and the incredible work being done within it. Go HERE to view the  2018 Healthcare Heroes Program Guide

The Healthcare Heroes for 2018 are:

• Patient/Resident/Client Care Provider:

Mary Paquette, director of Health Services/nurse practitioner, American International College

• Health/Wellness Administrator/Administrator:

Celeste Surreira, assistant director of Nursing, the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke

• Emerging Leader:

Peter DePergola II, director of Clinical Ethics, Baystate Health

• Community Health:

Dr. Matthew Sadof, pediatrician, Baystate Children’s Hospital

• Innovation in Health/Wellness:

TechSpring

• Collaboration in Health/Wellness:

The Consortium and the Opioid Task Force

• Lifetime Achievement:

Robert Fazzi, founder, Fazzi Associates.

American International College and Baystate Health/Health New England are presenting sponsors for Healthcare Heroes 2018. Additional sponsors are National Grid, partner sponsor, and Elms College MBA Program, Renew.Calm, Bay Path University, and Trinity Health Of New England/Mercy Medical Center as supporting sponsors.

HealthcareHeroesSponsors

Photography by Dani Fine Photography

Meet the Judges

There were more than 70 nominations across seven categories for the Healthcare Heroes Class of 2018. Scoring these nominations was a difficult task that fell to three individuals, including two members of the Class of 2017, with extensive backgrounds in health and wellness. They are:

Holly Chaffee

Holly Chaffee

Dexter Johnson

Dexter Johnson

Dr. Michael Willers:

Dr. Michael Willers:

Holly Chaffee, MSN, BSN, RN: Winner in the Healthcare Heroes Health/Wellness Administrator/Administration category in 2107, Chaffee is president and CEO of VNA Care, a subsidiary of Atrius Health. Formerly (and when she was named a Healthcare Hero) she was the president and CEO of Porchlight VNA/Homecare, based in Lee.

Dexter Johnson: A long-time administrator with the Greater Springfield YMCA, Johnson was named president and CEO of that Y, one of the oldest in the country, in the fall of 2017. He started his career at the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, and, after a stint at YMCA of the USA, he came to the Springfield Y earlier this decade as senior vice president and chief operating officer.

Dr. Michael Willers: Winner in the Patient/Resident/Client-care Provider category in 2017, Willers is co-owner of the Children’s Heart Center of Western Mass. Formerly a pediatric cardiologist with Baystate Children’s Hospital, he founded the Children’s Heart Center of Western Mass. in 2012.
 

 

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Elms College, thanks to a generous donation from Richard Meelia, has established the Sisters Kathleen Keating and Maxyne Schneider Experiential Learning Fund to expand experiential learning opportunities for students.

This new fund will allow students to participate in unpaid internships and research experiences related to their majors or career interests; service-learning and mission-trip experiences, whether local, national, or international; and study-abroad trips.

“In addition to ensuring academic success, it is vitally important to provide students with experiences that promote career success and a life of giving to others,” said Joyce Hampton, dean for Student Success and Strategic Initiatives. “This program will allow our students to promote the greater good and also gain skills in their chosen fields, and that will serve them well both personally and professionally.”

The funding will be available to students for experiences beginning in spring 2019, when several students students will receive funding to support their participation in such activities. For eligibility criteria and to apply, students should click here.

Applications are due by Oct. 26 for mission/service trips, Nov. 9 for study abroad, and Nov. 26 for research and internships. Students who are selected to receive awards from this fund will be notified by a formal letter via e-mail by mid-December, and will need to officially accept the funding within a week of notification.

“We are pleased and honored that Richard Meelia has bestowed this gift upon Elms College and our students,” said President Harry Dumay. “Thanks to his vision and generosity, and those of people like him, Elms College is poised like never before to advance the vision of our founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph: to empower students to better their own lives and to make a difference in the lives of those around them.”

Daily News

CHICOPEE — Students at Fairview Veterans Memorial Elementary School were not happy when they learned their field trip to the New England Aquarium in Boston was going to be cancelled due to lack of funding. In fact, many of them were crying.

That’s when Marty Topor, owner of Central Oil, decided to step in and see what he could do. Over the course of an afternoon, he reached out to Bob Pion Buick/GMC and E.J. O’Neill Insurance Agency to enlist them in a fundraising effort to put the field trip back on track. Within a few hours, the three businesses had pooled together enough money to pay for the two buses needed to transport the 100 students to Boston for a day at the aquarium on Thursday, Nov. 1.

“These kinds of trips are a memorable part of being a kid,” says Topor. “I’d hate to see these kids denied a great experience just because they were coming up a few bucks short. We were all very happy to chip in and make it happen.”

The students are happy as well. They’ve invited Topor and the other business owners to the school so they can thank them personally. The business owners and Mayor Richard Kos have also been invited to see the buses off the morning of the field trip. Darby O’Brien Advertising has volunteered to film the trip and create a video for the students to enjoy.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Ron Davis, a sales professional, business specialist, and founder of WAMF Consulting, has transitioned from president and CEO of the company to chief sales officer. This new position will allow him to offer a comprehensive approach to banks, credit unions, and corporations to support their sales and business-development needs.

After 40 years of selling software and services to financial institutions and corporations in the Northeast, WAMF Consulting was born. WAMF is an acronym for ‘winners are my friends.’

Davis has been recognized nationally, achieved President’s Clubs, and been a top sales performer and district leader. He is trained in major sales methodologies, SPIN selling, power messaging, executive presentations, Dale Carnegie, and strategic selling. Early in his career as an account executive for the Savin Corp., he sold a national contract to United Technologies, the world’s largest corporation at that time.

Davis is certified in the Fair Credit Reporting Act and has a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in business, management, and economics. He has written marketing surveys which were implemented in corporate business plans and rolled out company-wide. He coined the phrase ‘lobby dynamics’ to help bank branch personnel sell more products and deepen the customer experience.

Daily News

BOSTON — Berkshire Bank was recently named a winner of PR Daily’s 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Awards in the Employee Volunteer Program category. Berkshire Bank was chosen from a wide pool of entries to receive first prize in the category for the ingenuity and impact of its XTEAM volunteer program.

Berkshire’s nationally acclaimed employee volunteer program provides employees with paid time off to volunteer during regular business hours. Last year, 100% of Berkshire’s employees nationally donated 40,000 hours of service to benefit community organizations.

Berkshire also closes down its offices each June for its Xtraordinary Day of Service, providing all employees with an opportunity to go out in the community and volunteer as a team. In 2018, Berkshire employees completed 74 service projects that ultimately benefited more than 500,000 individuals.

“Out of many outstanding submissions, we found Berkshire Bank’s work truly set a new standard of excellence for all corporate-communications professionals. We congratulate them and look forward to seeing their future successes in this field,” said Justine Figueroa, senior Marketing coordinator at Ragan Communications.

As a winner in the program, Berkshire Bank joins an elite group of past winners, including Alex + Ani, International Paper, St. Joseph’s Health, Bayer Crop Science, Arrow Electronics, Alliance Data, Viacom, U.S. Bank, and Toronto Pearson Airport.

“We’re honored to receive this recognition, but more importantly, we are proud of all of the Berkshire Bank employees who share their time and expertise as part of our XTEAM,” said Gary Levante, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility at Berkshire Bank. “This honor is a testament to their hard work, dedication, and commitment to making our communities thrive.”

Cover Story

Bargain or Burden?

With a series of employment-related ballot questions looming — on issues including paid leave, minimum wage, and the state sales tax — supporters of those measures sat down this past spring with advocates for the business community to forge what became known as the ‘grand bargain.’ The result doesn’t have employers cheering — in fact, they worry about the impact of the deal on their bottom line — but if the nature of compromise is that no one’s happy, then the process was a rousing success.

Carol Campbell, like so many other Massachusetts employers, was none too pleased when a barrage of ballot questions were set to go before voters on Election Day, one asking for increased paid leave, a second to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and a third to reduce the sales tax from 6.25% to 5%.

“My first thought was that it shouldn’t have come to this,” said Campbell, president of Chicopee Industrial Contractors. “The way issues like this are supposed to be dealt with is through our legislators.”

But once those questions were approved for the ballot — and polls suggested that voters were ready to usher in these broadened employee benefits — employers and the organizations that advocate for them decided to sit down and hammer out a different strategy. A compromise.

Carol Campbell says thorny issues of employee benefits should be legislated, not subject to the whims of the ballot box.

Carol Campbell says thorny issues of employee benefits should be legislated, not subject to the whims of the ballot box.

That deal, forged by proponents of the ballot questions and employer-advocacy organizations, was passed by both chambers in the State House and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker in June. Known as the ‘grand bargain,’ the compromise legislation will create a permanent sales-tax holiday, increase the minimum wage over the next five years, and create a new paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts — while the three ballot questions were removed from voters’ hands.

“I think we needed to sit down and talk,” Campbell said. “I was saying a couple of years ago, when this was bubbling, that we should begin by sitting down and talking. I do still have concerns because there are still a lot of unknowns. But I guess it’s better than letting something like family leave go to the ballot.”

Mark Adams, director of HR Solutions at the Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast, has spent time with employers anxious about putting sweeping benefit changes in front of voters.

“This was something that had to be dealt with because it was going to pass in November,” he told BusinessWest. “I talked to companies frustrated with the prospect of the ballot, saying, ‘how could this happen?’ My answer is simple: when you’re dealing with a ballot question, whoever gets more votes is going to win — and more employees vote than employers. Being able to take time off and be paid while taking time off resonates with employees — even if, in some cases, they might be on the hook for some of those costs. It certainly plays well, which is why it was going to pass in November, and why it was worthwhile to try to compromise.”

Nancy Creed, president of the Springfield Regional Chamber, was the sole Western Mass. voice on the seven-person committee that hammered out the bargain.

“The business community, with the support of the legislative delegation, realized, when we took a look at the polls, that we were going to lose the ballot questions, and everyone felt that we should need to come to the table and compromise,” she noted. “The more we explain that to our members, the more they understand it. They don’t like it, but they recognize that we had no choice but to do it.”

The Nitty Gritty

The grand bargain raises the Commonwealth’s minimum wage from $11 to $15 per hour over the next five years, with the initial increase taking effect in January 2019. Coupled with that increase will be a raise to the minimum base wage rate for tipped workers, from $3.75 to $6.75, that will also phase in over a five-year period starting in January 2019. The deal also phases out the requirement that retail workers earn time-and-a-half for working on Sundays.

The legislation also creates a permanent two-day weekend sales tax holiday, an event that was launched in Massachusetts in 2004 and held most years since, but not in 2016 or 2017. Proponents of lower taxes agreed, as part of the deal, to scrap lowering the state’s sales tax from 6.25% to 5%.

The third major component the bill introduces is a new paid family and medical leave program, which will provide employees who contribute to the program the ability to take paid leave for up to 12 weeks a year to care for a family member or bond with a new child, 20 weeks a year to deal with a personal medical issue, and up to 26 weeks to deal with an emergency related to deployment of a family member for military service.

Weekly benefit amounts will be calculated as a percentage of the employee’s average weekly wage, with a maximum weekly benefit of $850. Self-employed workers may opt into the program. And all workers who use the benefit are guaranteed they can return to their previous job or an equivalent position in terms of pay, status, and benefits.

Workers on paid leave will earn 80% of their wages up to 50% of the state average weekly wage, then 50% of wages above that amount, up to an $850 cap. The law includes a payroll tax increase of 0.63% estimated to bring in $750 to $800 million each year, to help fund the leave benefit.

Nancy Creed

Nancy Creed says the expanded family-leave benefits will challenge companies not only in cost, but in workforce management.

“Paid family leave was a beast; it is so complex,” Creed said, adding that this was one area where she was glad Western Mass. had representation in the discussion. “There’s an east-west disparity, and they do not understand the issues of the west and the fact that we have five gateway cities. We have a much poorer population, and our businesses tend to be smaller. Most of them [in the east] represented larger corporations, and corporations that weren’t necessarily doing the right thing.”

The members she speaks with want to do the right thing, she added.

“But you really have to look at what is the impact going to be. And it’s not just cost; it’s also workforce management. For a company that has 50 employees, if they lose five people on leave, how do they manage that, if they’re running two shifts, three shifts?”

The cost component is also significant, she went on, especially for companies that decide to foot employees’ share of the benefit in order to retain their talent and recruit more workers in a very competitive market.

“What that means is they won’t be able to hire, they won’t be able to expand, and, if they have vacancies through attrition, they probably won’t fill them because they just can’t afford to,” Creed said. “So, at a time when we’re trying to put people to work, it will probably mean less jobs. And I’m not sure the proponents understood what those consequences were.”

Still, the negotiations resulted in a better deal for employers than the ballot question, which called for 16 weeks of family leave and 26 weeks of personal medical leave. The compromise also includes an opt-out provision for employers that offer benefits greater than or equal to what an employee would receive in the state program.

“I have a hard time with people telling me how to run my business,” Campbell said. “We have short-term and long-term disability; we understand the importance of keeping our employees healthy; we understand the need for family-work balance. But it’s not always possible to have that balance. For us as a small business, if we have two or three people out for 26 weeks, it’s not as simple as hiring someone to replace them, although that in itself brings another financial burden to the company.”

Policy Briefs

One aspect of the legislation that has not gotten enough attention, Adams said, is the anti-retaliation aspects of the leave law.

“A lot of the coverage up to this point has been on the time off being available. There hasn’t been a lot of discussion about the retaliation provisions. If an employer is subject to any adverse actions within six months time under paid family leave law, there’s an automatic presumption that retaliation has occurred, and that employer can overcome that only through clear and convincing evidence that it’s something else.”

That means employers need to tighten up policies on performance evaluation, he added. “If people aren’t meeting standards, there has to be documentation that’s clearly communicated. If you’re on paid family leave and I discover you did something wrong before your leave occurred, if I don’t have documentation lined up before taking action, you can claim retaliation. That’s something companies will have to self-assess — whether their policies now are strong enough.”

Mark Adams

Mark Adams

“A lot of the coverage up to this point has been on the time off being available. There hasn’t been a lot of discussion about the retaliation provisions. If an employer is subject to any adverse actions within six months time under paid family leave law, there’s an automatic presumption that retaliation has occurred, and that employer can overcome that only through clear and convincing evidence that it’s something else.”

It’s just one example of unintended consequences that proponents of the original ballot questions might not have considered, Creed noted. Other elements of the grand bargain, however, were easier to hammer out.

“Minimum wage was a given, as a lot of businesses are already there or moving toward it. But we were able to negotiate that being phased in over longer period of time so smaller and medium-sized businesses have time to phase up to that point,” she told BusinessWest.

Interestingly, she added, while the minimum wage for tipped employees will be phased in over five years as well, the committee heard input from some servers and bartenders who were opposed to a dramatic change, “because they think one of the unintended consequences of that is that people now think you’re paying more, so I’m going to tip you less.”

Campbell said the minimum-wage increase won’t effect her company, which doesn’t hire anyone at that low pay level, but she argued that a sizable increase in the pay floor may harm the employment picture by shrinking the number of entry-level jobs for people with little experience. Minimum-wage jobs, she noted, are “the first step toward getting an education and getting proper training to have a career. It was never meant to be supportive of a family.”

As for other components of the bargain, dropping the sales-tax decrease was relatively straightforward, Creed said. “We already have no money to find education and transportation and all the things we need to fund, without bringing in even less sales tax. But at least we were able to get that permanent sales-tax holiday, which helps the retailers.”

The Retailers Assoc. of Massachusetts, which was pushing the sales-tax ballot question, was also heartened by a recent Supreme Court decision allowing states to collect taxes on online purchases.

According to John Regan, executive vice president, Government Affairs at AIM, who had a seat at the table for the grand-bargain talks, the negotiations were carried out against the backdrop of polls indicating overwhelming support for all three ballot questions; recent polls put support for the paid family and medical leave question at 82% and support for a $15 minimum wage at 78%.

“Experts believe that a campaign to defeat questions with those sorts of poll numbers could cost $10 million per initiative,” he added. “The ballot process is one-sided, winner-take-all. Coming to a legislative compromise avoids that by allowing a broader group of people to have input into key decisions to create policies that work for everyone.”

One impetus for bringing the Raise Up Coalition, which sponsored the ballot questions, to the table was the state Supreme Court blocking a fourth question, concerning the so-called ‘millionaire tax,’ a proposed 4% surcharge on incomes over $1 million.

“Once that came off the ballot and was deemed unconstitutional, that brought the other side to the table to realize that, ‘yeah, maybe we should compromise,’” Creed said. “Would we have liked to have seen it differently? Sure, but I think the whole definition of compromise is that no one’s happy, so we did our job. It’s much better than it could have been.”

Richard Lord, president and CEO of AIM, agreed. “While everyone gives something during a negotiation, we are satisfied and believe that our member employers are better off with a legislative compromise than with voter approval of the language of the ballot questions as drafted.”

No Winners

Adams told BusinessWest that different issues with the grand bargain will manifest themselves over time, with the 0.63% tax increase on wages being the most immediate concern, especially for larger companies. “That’s really going to put HR managers behind the eight-ball from a planning point of view.”

Still, Creed added, “a negotiation is messy, and no one really came out a winner. I think the proponents didn’t feel like they came out a winner because they had to compromise. In the end, it was much better than what the ballot questions would have provided.”

 

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]