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Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
Diversity, equity and inclusion, union contract negotiations, reasonable ADA accommodations, and health plan conversations were the main topics of the Massachusetts Municipal Human Resources Labor Relations Seminar on Oct. 27 in Devens.
The program opened with a keynote panel, “Opportunities for Municipal HR Departments in the Field of DEI,” moderated by Jen Breaker, the assistant town manager in Danvers and a member of the MMHR Board and the MMA’s DEI Commission. The panel included both DEI and human resources professionals from municipalities, who discussed best practices for collaboration between the two fields, as well as how to identify and navigate where they overlap.
DEI and HR professionals from Springfield — Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Judith Crowell and Assistant HR Director Caitlyn Julius — shared how they work together on recruitment and hiring efforts.
“Keeping communication and building a plan for how you work together on recruitment” is key, Julius said.
When recruiting, Crowell said, it’s important to consider the scope of DEI.
“It’s more than a culture or ethnicity,” she said. “It’s ADA, veterans, so much more, and that will apply to your community. There are so many facets of our cities.”
The afternoon featured four concurrent sessions on labor relations topics.
“Union Contract Negotiations in the Public Sector: Creative Solutions for a Competitive Labor Environment,” was led by attorney Tim Zessin of KP Law. He reviewed legal updates on public sector bargaining, offered tips on how to prepare to enter negotiations, and discussed creative solutions for reaching agreements with unions.
“Engaging is the key takeaway here,” he said. “The process of talking is so critical, and asking questions both for your own understanding and to get unions talking about what’s important to them.”
Other sessions included “Effective Labor Relationships for Health Plan Conversations,” led by Sue Shillue and Jill Gallant-Shaw of Cook & Company Insurance Services, and “Uncharted Waters: Reasonable Accommodations in the Post-COVID Workplace,” led by attorneys Jim Pender and Nikki Davies of Morgan, Brown, & Joy.
Judith Crowell and Michael Obasohan, chief diversity officer in Pittsfield, led a DEI and HR roundtable session to expand upon the conversation from the morning panel.
Also at the seminar, Dolores Hamilton presented the 2023 Emil S. Skop Award to Breaker. Hamilton, the 2022 Skop Award recipient and MMHR vice chair, recognized Breaker for her outstanding contributions to MMHR and the field of municipal human resources management. She highlighted Breaker’s leadership within MMHR, her committee participation, and her work developing innovative MMHR programs such as the MMA’s “Reframing Recruitment” webinar series held this past spring.
Attorney Mellissa Murray of Norris, Murray & Peloquin provided a labor law update, and MMA Legislative Director Dave Koffman provided a legislative update.