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Massachusetts Feels The Bern

WORCESTER, Mass. – Bernie Sanders drew thousands of supporters to rallies at North High School here in this working-class city and earlier Saturday at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

“We have the opportunity during this year to do something extraordinary,” Sanders said in his first campaign stops of the new year, “to not only elect a president but more importantly to wage a political revolution and transform this country.”

During the early afternoon stop in Amherst, about 3,400 watched from inside the UMass Fine Arts Center and on a big-screen TV set up at an overflow area outside. As the senator was speaking about the collapse of the middle class in the United States and growing income and wealth inequality, he was interrupted by a man wearing a Donald Trump T-shirt. “Here’s a Trump supporter, worried about Mr. Trump’s money,” Sanders said as the man was ushered away. “I say to Mr. Trump and his supporters that the billionaires of this country will not continue to own this nation,” Sanders added as the crowd cheered.

As he arrived in Worcester, his car was caught in traffic outside the high school. Sanders jumped out and shook hands with supporters waiting in the long line that snaked for blocks to get inside the gymnasium. Not all of them made it. As dusk fell, the senator spoke at an impromptu gathering of 300 people in overcoats and Patriots stocking hats. Inside the school, another 2,700 people packed the gym and two overflow rooms to listen to Sanders’ hour-long stump speech.

The two campaign stops in Massachusetts came on the same day when Sanders disclosed that his campaign raised $33 million in the final three months of 2015. That brought his fundraising tally for the year to $73 million, almost all of it from small donors. Altogether, Sanders received more than 2.5 million donations in 2015 from 1 million different individuals.

“We will not accept a political system which is increasingly corrupt, which allows billionaires to buy elections. But together we are going to create a government that represents all of us and not just a handful of billionaires,” Sanders said.

The Massachusetts primary is one of 11 Super Tuesday contests that Democrats are to hold on March 1.

Home Care Workers Celebrate Historic Accord Boosting Caregivers Of Seniors, People With Disabilities

SEIU Home Health Care Workers

BOSTON, MA – Tears of joy streaked the faces of cheering home care workers assembled in their Dorchester union hall on Thursday afternoon as a decades-long struggle for recognition and a living wage culminated in a historic moment of celebration.

According to an agreement reached in contract negotiations between the 35,000 home care workers of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the administration of recently elected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), Massachusetts Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) are poised to become the first in the nation to achieve a statewide $15 per hour starting wage.

Upon reaching the agreement, workers called off the fifteen-hour picket they had planned to begin at the Massachusetts State House on the morning of Tuesday, June 30th. Instead, caregivers are planning a celebration of this milestone and nation-leading achievement of a $15 standard at 4:00 p.m. on the State House steps the afternoon of June 30th.

“This victory, winning $15 per hour, it means we are no longer invisible,” said Kindalay Cummings-Akers, a PCA from Springfield, MA. Cummings-Akers cares for a local senior and became a union activist at the onset of the campaign. She was also a member of the statewide PCA negotiating team that reached the agreement with the Baker administration. “This is a huge step forward not just for home care workers, but also toward ensuring the safety, dignity, and independence of seniors and people with disabilities,” she added. “We are a movement of home care workers united by the idea that dignity for caregivers and the people in our care is possible. Today, we showed the world that it is possible.”

“Massachusetts home care workers are helping to lead the Fight for $15 – and winning,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner. “We applaud Governor Baker for helping to forge this pathway to dignity for PCAs and the tens of thousands of Massachusetts seniors and people with disabilities who rely on quality home care services to remain in the community or in the workforce. As the senior population grows, the demand for home care services is increasing. By helping to ensure a living wage for these vital caregivers, Governor Baker is taking a critical step with us toward reducing workforce turnover and ensuring that Massachusetts families can access the quality home care they need for their loved ones.”

“It is a moral imperative that all homecare and healthcare workers receive $15 per hour, and Massachusetts is now a leader in this effort,” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham. “Extreme income inequality is a threat to our economy, our bedrock American values and our very democracy. With a living wage, we can ensure more compassionate care for homecare clients, and better lives for homecare workers and their families. We applaud this bold step by Governor Baker towards a better future for our communities in Massachusetts and our country overall.”

The home care workers’ journey began in 2006 when they banded together with senior and disability advocates to pass legislation giving Personal Care Attendants the right to form a union – a right they previously had been denied because of an obscure technicality in state law.

After passing the Quality Home Care Workforce Act to win that right and introduce other improvements to the home care delivery system in 2007, the PCAs voted to join 1199SEIU in 2008 through the largest union election in the history of New England. 1199SEIU is the fastest-growing and most politically active union in Massachusetts.

Prior to the legislative and organizing campaigns, PCA wages had stagnated for years at $10.84 per hour. In a series of three contracts since forming their union and through several major mobilizations, rallies, and public campaigns, the PCAs achieved a wage of $13.38 on July 1st, 2014.

Last year, the Massachusetts home care workers also united with the burgeoning Fight for $15 movement and the local #WageAction coalition, helping to kick off the $15 wage effort in the Bay State with rallies in Boston, Springfield, and Worcester on June 12th, 2014.

Home care workers took to the streets again on April 14th, 2015 as part of a massive Fight for $15 mobilization that drew thousands to the streets of Boston. That Boston-based action served as the kickoff for similar coordinated protests in more than 200 cities and 50 countries across the globe.

Caregivers say they are excited that the picket action they had planned for their current contract expiration date of June 30th can now serve as a celebration of this achievement and the spirit of cooperation that made it possible.

“This is an inspiring moment for home care workers, but also for our children – and our children’s children,” said a beaming Rosario Cabrera, a home care worker from New Bedford, MA whose children Kendra, age 14, and Daniel, age 12, were with her at the negotiating session as workers cheered the new agreement with the Baker administration. “I am so proud that I can show my children and someday tell my grandchildren that I was part of this moment in history, that I was part of a movement for social justice. We want all home care workers to win $15 per hour – and to do it first in Massachusetts fills us with pride. It is evidence of what people can do when we organize and negotiate in good faith to reach common ground.”

“Not only is this going to help the PCAs, but this is going to help us as consumers because it’s going to be easier to hire an attendant now that they can receive a dignified living wage,” said Olivia Richard, age 31, a paraplegic consumer who lives in Brighton, MA. “In the past, consumer employers have had issues with getting PCAs simply because the wage wasn’t enough. This is going to make a huge difference in our lives, as well.”

In negotiations, workers and the Baker administration reached an agreement extending the current collective bargaining agreement and establishing a commitment that all PCAs statewide will receive a starting rate of at least $15 per hour by July 1, 2018. Workers will receive an immediate .30 cent raise effective July 1, 2015, a portion of which will be paid retroactively once the contract is ratified.

A new round of discussions will then begin no later than January 1, 2016 to solidify details on the series of wage increases that will elevate PCAs to the $15 mark by the agreed upon date of July 1, 2018. Meanwhile, PCAs across the state will vote by mail ballot on ratifying the contract extension and the terms therein, including the commitment to establish a statewide minimum $15 starting rate.


Representing more than 52,000 healthcare workers throughout Massachusetts and nearly 400,000 workers across the East Coast, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. Our mission is to achieve affordable, high quality healthcare for all. 1199SEIU is part of the 2.1 million member Service Employees International Union.

MA: Nurses Union Praises New “Patient Limit” Bill That Takes Effect This Week

Mass Nurses Association

New Law In Effect This Week Guarantees Safer Patient Care for Critically Ill Patients Setting Safe Maximum Patient Limits for Nurses in all Intensive Care Units 

Mass Nurses Association Launches TV and Radio Ad Campaign
to Raise Public Awareness of this New Patient Safety Law

CANTON, Mass.Beginning this week, critically ill patients in Massachusetts hospitals will be guaranteed safer care and closer monitoring from registered nurses as a new law goes into effect that sets safe patient limits for registered nurses who work in all the state’s hospital intensive care units.  The law requires that no nurse can be assigned more than one patient or in certain circumstances, a maximum of two patients based on the assessment of the nurses on that unit. (The full text of the law can be found at the end of this release)

The new law, An Act Relative to Patient Limits in All Hospital Intensive Care Units, was signed by Governor Deval Patrick on June 30 after passing with unanimous votes in the House and Senate and becomes effective as of Sept. 29, 2014, 90 days following the signing.

“This is an important patient safety measure for the most critically ill patients providing them with one-on-one attention from their registered nurse when they need it most,” said Donna Kelly-Williams, RN, president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United. “It is important for the public to be aware of this new measure as their health and safety in the hospital is directly related to the number of patients assigned to their nurse.”

To help educate the public about the new law, the MNA/NNU has launched a TV and radio ad campaign to alert the public about the law and to advise them to ask how many other patients their nurse is being assigned.

The law was passed in response to dozens of research studies that clearly show safe maximum patient limits for nurses is the key to improving the care and safety of patients, leading to fewer patient complications, shorter hospital stays, lower readmission rates and higher patient satisfaction, while also saving millions of dollars due to these improved patient outcomes.  In fact one study found that safe patient limits like those required under this new law, could reduce hospital acquired infections for ICU patients by 63 percent.

What the Law Does 

  • The new law applies to every type of intensive care unit in all the state’s hospitals, including medical intensive care units, surgical intensive care units, coronary care units, neonatal intensive care units and pediatric intensive care units.
  • The law sets a maximum limit of one patient per nurse.  A nurse can only take a second patient based on the assessment of the staff nurses on the unit and a soon to be developed acuity tool.  The acuity tool will have standardized criteria to help determine the stability of the patients and all hospitals will be utilizing the same criteria.  Until the acuity tool is developed, the staff nurses on the unit will determine if and when a second patient can be assigned, and if they can’t agree, then a supervisor or manager can be called in to help make the determination.  In no instance and under no circumstances can an ICU nurse be assigned a third patient.
  • The state’s Health Policy Commission (HPC) is regulating the implementation of the proposed law, including the formulation of the acuity tool, the method of public reporting of staffing compliance in hospital ICUs, and the identification of three to five patient safety quality indicators.  The HPC has scheduled a Listening Session in Boston on Oct, 29 to gather testimony from nurses, hospitals and others to assist them in fleshing out the final regulations for the acuity criteria, reporting and compliance under the law and the quality indicators that will be measured.

Law Sets Foundation for Expansion of Limits to Other Units

“This measure will protect the most critically ill patients and it breaks the decade-long logjam on Beacon Hill over the issue of establishing an enforceable maximum limit on the number of patients a nurse can care for at one time,” said Kelly-Williams.   More importantly, it moves us closer to our ultimate goal, which is to extend safe patient limits beyond the ICUs to all other units of our hospitals to protect every patient.”

Having established a foundation for safe patient limits for intensive care units with the new law, the MNA/NNU plans to introduce legislation to extend patient limits to all other hospital units in the next legislative session.

 The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

In the Year Two Thousand Fourteen

An Act relative to patient limits in all hospital intensive care units.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

            SECTION 1. Chapter 111 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 229 the following 2 sections:-

            Section 231. For the purposes of this section, the term “intensive care units” shall have the same meaning as defined in 105 CMR 130.020 and shall include intensive care units within a hospital operated by the commonwealth.

            Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, in all intensive care units the patient assignment for the registered nurse shall be 1:1 or 1:2 depending on the stability of the patient as assessed by the acuity tool and by the staff nurses in the unit, including the nurse manager or the nurse manager’s designee when needed to resolve a disagreement.

            The acuity tool shall be developed or chosen by each hospital in consultation with the staff nurses and other appropriate medical staff and shall be certified by the department of public health. The health policy commission shall promulgate regulations governing the implementation and operation of this act including: the formulation of an acuity tool; the method of reporting to the public on staffing compliance in hospital intensive care units; and the identification of 3 to 5 related patient safety quality indicators, which shall be measured and reported by hospitals to the public.


Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United is the largest professional health care organization and the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public. The MNA is also a founding member of National Nurses United, the largest national nurses’ union in the United States with more than 170,000 members from coast to coast.

Celebrate The 30th Annual Bread And Roses Heritage Festival

BRead and RosesThe 30th annual Bread and Roses Heritage Festival is a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, Massachusetts. It takes place in honor of the most significant event in Lawrence history: the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike.

The Festival offers a variety of music and dance performances, poetry and drama, ethnic food, walking and trolley tours, and a section for history and labor organizations. A newly introduced workshop series is kicking off in partnership with Qniversity, the Merrimack Valley Time Exchange, and the Center for Popular Economics. Returning for the 8th time is Lawrence History Live, our speakers’ tent with presentations on history and current labor and social justice issues.

We also host organizations representing the community and advocating for social justice. Lots of children’s activities in collaboration with the Lawrence High School’s Humanitarian Club: pony rides, jugglers, hula hooping, face painting, an obstacle course, bubble blowing, and more.

Bread and Roses is the only broadly multicultural festival in Lawrence, the Immigrant City. And it is the only festival in the East which celebrates Labor Day, in the most appropriate location, the site of the Bread and Roses Strike.

The festival is a one-day, free, ‘open air’ celebration for the whole family. Join us on September 1, 12-6 p.m.!

WHO: The Bread and Roses Heritage Committee
WHAT: Bread and Roses Heritage Festival
WHERE: Lawrence, MA, on the Campagnone Common, 200 Common St
WHEN: Labor Day, September 1, 2014, 12 – 6 p.m.

Contact:         Joshua Alba, Producer Email: alba.joshua@gmail.com
Festival Phone: 978-794-1655
Find us on Facebook under “Bread & Roses Heritage Festival”

Our Performers

Bread and Puppet Theater, famed activist theater for young and old
Hot Like Fire, award-winning, high energy, authentic Reggae from Boston
Rebel Diaz, a globe-trotting activist Hip-Hop group from the South Bronx
Ezekiel’s Wheels Klezmer Band, internationally-recognized, with contagious energy
Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, Somerville’s activist street band
Sweet Willie D, a local favorite playing true America blues and soul
Branco and Friends – Jazz
SupNater & Steve Cool, a young Hip-Hop duo from Lawrence
Banda Joven, a local band playing Merengue Tipico from the Dominican Republic
Wilda Mendez, Latin Rock, singer/songwriter, with Dominican-Caribbean roots
Veronica Robles Cultural Center presents dancing traditions and costumes from Latin America
O’Shea-Chaplin Academy of Irish Dance—sharing their love for Irish dance and heritage
Voci Angelica, riveting arrangements of songs from every continent

AFT-MASSACHUETTS Votes To Join Staples Boycott, Encourages National AFT Boycott

AFT Massachusetts Votes to Boycott Framingham-Based Staples over Deal between Retailer and USPS That Privatizes Work of Local Post Offices

Teachers Union in Support of Postal Workers Urges Educators and School Staff Not to Purchase School Supplies From Staples – Massachusetts Will Join State Teachers Unions From California, Michigan, New Hampshire and Elsewhere in Urging a National Boycott Vote at the Biennial AFT Convention in Los Angeles This Week

AFT_Logo-2BOSTON – AFT Massachusetts, which represents teachers, school workers, public librarians and college faculty across Massachusetts, announced today that it was joining a growing boycott of the office supply and bulk goods retailer Staples. The announcement by Massachusetts teachers and school workers is significant because the Bay State is one of four test markets for a pilot program that moves postal services from local Post Offices to Staples stores. Additionally, Staples corporate headquarters is located in Framingham, Massachusetts.

AFT Massachusetts leaders said the union has taken this action to support the American Postal Workers Union’s battle against a no-bid sweetheart deal struck between the United States Postal Service and the giant office supply chain.  It includes, so far, an 82-store pilot program in which postal counters providing most of the same services as local post offices would operate in Staples stores staffed by low-wage Staples employees rather than uniformed postal workers. USPS managers have stated that they would like to expand the program to 1,500 Staples locations. In recent weeks, the USPS/Staples partnership has drawn outrage across the country, and a May 21 Boston Globe story indicated that Staples may want to consider backing out of the arrangement if public and labor opposition persist.[1]

This week, the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers is expected to pass a national boycott resolution at the union’s biennial convention in Los Angeles that begins on July 10. A large protest of AFT members and postal workers has been scheduled for July 12, in front of the Staples Center, which is adjacent to the Los Angeles Convention Center, where thousands of AFT delegates are convening.

“Public school teachers and our other members value public service,” said AFT Massachusetts President Tom Gosnell. “We know that postal workers are highly trained and care deeply about the security and sanctity of the mail. The decision to outsource neighborhood post offices across the country to a big-box retailer means potentially fewer good jobs and poorer service for our communities.”  Gosnell added, “Our members have choices on where to buy school supplies.  As long as Staples continues with this USPS program we will encourage our members to shop elsewhere.”

AFT Massachusetts, a strong voice for collaborative education reform that is good for students and fair to educators, represents over 25,000 public school employees and higher education faculty and staff. The union is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.

Massachusetts Nurses Association Highlight MA Hospitals That Are Offshoring Profits From Taxpayer Money

EXPOSED!  Hospitals Stash Millions in Offshore Accounts!

“Fat Cat” CEO Mascot Delivers Beach Towels to Legislators to Highlight Money Hidden in Cayman Islands

Advocates Urge Legislators to pass
“Hospital Profit Transparency and Fairness Act”

Mass Nurses Association
BOSTON, MA — At a State House press conference today, advocates presented lists of over 40 Massachusetts hospitals with money stored in offshore accounts (see list below) and urged legislators to demand greater transparency in hospital finances by passing The Hospital Profit Transparency & Fairness Act (H3844). The initiative petition will require hospitals to report all investments, including the unreported millions stashed in the Cayman Islands.

Hospital Profit Transparency and Fairness ActFollowing the press conference, a Hospital CEO mascot dressed in a ‘Fat Cat’ costume delivered Cayman Island beach towels to legislators to highlight the millions hospitals are hiding in the Cayman Islands.

Karen Higgins, critical care nurse at Boston Medical Center, past president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and Co-President of National Nurses United explained: “Hospitals in Massachusetts receive half their revenues from tax dollars including Medicare, Medicaid, public employee and retiree health insurance, taxpayer funded grants, loans, subsidies and waivers on local, state and federal taxes. This week legislators debate the state budget and decide how many of our tax dollars they will provide to hospital administrators. Yet legislators have NO idea how much money hospitals store in offshore accounts or why hospitals don’t keep their excess reserves in Massachusetts’ banks.”

Higgins continued, “Hospital CEOs in Massachusetts are paid excessive compensation packages that bear no relationship to the quality of care or to patient outcomes like readmission rates, where Massachusetts ranks among the worst in the nation. Legislators and the public have the right to know how their tax dollars are being spent, especially when profitable hospitals are cutting needed services.”

Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) Chair of the Committee on Revenue stated: “The data we’re hearing today is new and also disturbing. We’ve been struggling mightily – and investing millions of taxpayer dollars – to keep healthcare costs in check. Why are our hospitals keeping accounts in the Caymans where they’re hidden from our oversight? Why are these funds not in Massachusetts banks? How much is there? We – taxpayers and legislators – have a right to know about what our hospitals are doing with our tax dollars. More than that, we have a responsibility to know, and the hospitals have a responsibility to tell.”

Rep. Josh Cutler (D – Duxbury) said: “I am deeply troubled to learn that some Massachusetts hospitals are storing funds offshore in the Cayman Islands and not disclosing it. Before we provide these hospitals with public money for reimbursements we should be demanding greater transparency and accountability.”

Alan Sager, Professor of Health Policy and Management and Director of the Health Reform Program at Boston University’s School of Public Health commented on this issue: “Some of the people running hospitals have lost touch with the financial circumstances of ordinary citizens of our state – and with the struggle many people face in affording both high health insurance premiums and soaring co-insurance and deductibles. High CEO salaries are one reason they have lost touch. Another reason is that Massachusetts’ hospital costs are the highest in the world. “The accounts held in the Cayman Islands and other places raise questions. How much money is involved? Why do hospitals park money overseas?  What do they hope to gain? Is it freedom from regulatory oversight or greater flexibility in spending?  If so, why do hospitals want those things?

Joe DiMauro from the Coalition for Social Justice said “This is an outrage! Everyone assumes that non-profit hospitals exist to care for their patients, not to enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers via hidden accounts stored in foreign countries where no one can monitor how they are used! Why are hospitals storing money in offshore accounts where neither regulators nor policymakers can evaluate how much excess revenue they have or if they are spending that excess revenue on CEO perks or patient care?”

Nathan Proctor, State Director of Massachusetts Fair Share said: “While it’s unclear why hospitals move money overseas to offshore accounts, the effects are simple enough: We don’t really know how much money they have. Given that taxpayers provide a huge portion of the revenue streams of these hospitals, I think we have a right to know. Given that costs keep going up and up and up, we have a right to know where that money ends up. It’s fair, it’s common-sense. We can’t address rising costs if our biggest medical centers are hiding behind offshore accounts in places like the Cayman Islands.”

The Hospital Profit Transparency & Fairness Act (H3844) will guarantee taxpayers the right to know exactly how their health care dollars are spent by hospital administrators. The transparency act requires that hospitals receiving tax subsidies, disclose in a timely and fully transparent manner how large their profit margins are, how much money they hold in offshore accounts, and how much compensation they pay their CEOs. To ensure access to needed services by all patients, the act also provides for enhanced funding options for hospitals serving poorer populations.

For more information visit:  www.HospitalTransparencyAct.com.

A complete list of Massachusetts hospitals with offshore accounts follows.

Hospitals with Offshore Holdings

MA Hospitals Offshore Tax Haven
Addison Gilbert Hospital (Lahey/Northeast) Cayman Islands
Baystate Medical Center Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Ireland
Baystate Franklin Medical Center Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Ireland
Baystate Mary Lane Hospital Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Ireland
Berkshire Medical Center Cayman Islands
Beth Israel Medical Center – Boston Cayman Islands
Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital- Milton Cayman Islands
Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital- Needham Cayman Islands
Beverly Hospital (Lahey/Northeast) Cayman Islands
Boston Children’s Hospital Cayman Islands
Boston Medical Center Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Canada, Lesotho
Brigham & Women’s Faulkner Hospital Cayman Islands
Brigham & Women’s Hospital Cayman Islands
Cambridge Health Alliance Cayman Islands
Clinton Hospital Cayman Islands
Charlton Memorial Hospital (Southcoast Health) Cayman Islands
Cooley Dickinson Hospital Cayman Islands
Dana Farber Cancer Institute Cayman Islands
Fairview Hospital Cayman Islands
Hallmark Health Cayman Islands
HealthAlliance Hospital Cayman Islands
Jordan Hospital (BID-Plymouth) Cayman Islands
Lahey Clinic Bermuda
Marlborough Hospital Cayman Islands
Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Cayman Islands
Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary Cayman Islands
Massachusetts General Hospital Cayman Islands
Mount Auburn Hospital Cayman Islands
Nantucket Cottage Hospital Cayman Islands
New England Baptist Hospital Cayman Islands
Newton Wellesley Hospital Cayman Islands
North Shore Medical Center Cayman Islands
Northeast Hospital Cayman Islands, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands
Southcoast Health Cayman Islands
St. Luke’s Hospital (Southcoast Health) Cayman Islands
Tobey Hospital (Southcoast Health) Cayman Islands
Tufts Medical Center Cayman Islands
UMass Memorial Medical Center Cayman Islands
Winchester Hospital Cayman Islands
Wing Memorial Hospital Cayman Islands


25th Anniversary Of Defeat of Ballot Question #2 To Repeal The Mass Prevailing Wage Law

By Frank Callahan
President of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council

Question 2 Button 19881988 represented a major challenge for the labor movement, as anti-union employers and contractors lobbied to repeal the Massachusetts prevailing-wage law. The law had been on the books since 1914, and required that workers on state-financed building projects be paid a wage roughly equivalent to union workers. A federal prevailing wage law, the Davis-Bacon Act, was enacted in 1931 for federal building projects. The purpose of prevailing wage law is not just to protect union workers and contractors from their underpaid and underbidding counterparts, but to ensure that contracts for taxpayer-funded projects are awarded based on competence and productivity, rather than the lowest price—jeopardizing quality.

In the mid-1980’s, the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), who had for the past decade lobbied Congress to overturn the Davis-Bacon Act, started a campaign in Massachusetts to repeal the prevailing wage. In 1987, ABC—who then called themselves the Fair Wage Committee, collected the required signatures to place a question on the ballot to repeal the law.

Throughout 1988, Massachusetts residents were subjected to heavy campaigning from ABC and their ally Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT) for a yes vote on Ballot Question # 2. Early in the campaign, voters heavily favored the repeal; at one point by a margin of 49% to 30% according to a union poll.  ABC had effectively convinced voters that the prevailing wage was a wasteful, unnecessary tax. A major development in the campaign was a study released by a well respected research firm hired by the construction unions, which disproved much of the anecdotal and contrived evidence that ABC and CLT had been using to sway voters. The study determined that a repeal of the law would result in only a marginal tax savings, and that the most significant result would be lower wages for workers. The publicity generated from this study helped to transform the issue from a superficial argument over taxes, to a more substantive argument about profits vs. people.

While transforming the argument and disproving the ABC’s propaganda was helpful, it was ultimately the efforts of the construction unions to mobilize member and public support that resulted in the defeat of Question 2. Unions held voter registration drives for members, and the building trades were able to gain support not only from other unions, but also from elected officials throughout the state, students, community leader and public housing advocates. The argument was seen as an issue for the entire working class, rather than just a segment.

On Election Day, a supporter of the building trades was placed at every polling place in the state.  After the polls closed the voters rejected Question #2 by a wide margin of 58% to 42%. What at one time seemed impossible based on public opinion was achieved through solidarity and mobilization, and a public commitment to economic justice.

(Originally Posted on MA Building Trades website.)


AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Election Night Results

Working people woke up today with new faith in American politics.   Americans who want education, health care, safe jobs, and an economy of shared prosperity voted for working family candidates and policies that rebuild the middle class.  Last night’s results show that voters rejected the Tea Party extremism that led to the government shutdown and almost caused our country to default. You could see the impact of grassroots politics and the popularity of issues that make a difference in the lives of working people.

In Boston, voters elected a union member for mayor. In Virginia, a working family candidate was elected governor. In New York, voters elected a Democratic mayor for the first time in decades. In New Jersey, voters supported the state legislature and passed a groundbreaking minimum wage increase. And in SeaTac, voters are also on the verge of passing a groundbreaking minimum wage increase.

Elections matter. They can be a road to the future we want and need. At the ballot box, we can help build an economy that works for working people. This year has been important, but the elections in 2014 and 2016 will be more so. We will keep building an independent labor movement that builds power for working people in the workplace and in the political life. We’ll start at the local level, and we’ll build to the national level. Our role is not to build the power of a political party or a candidate. It’s to improve the lives of working families and strengthen our economy as well as our country, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

#MA SEIU State Council Endorses Ed Markey in U.S. Senate Race

REP Ed MARKEYState’s most politically active labor organization will back Markey, calling him a strong ally of working families

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Service Employees International Union (SEIU) today announced their endorsement of Congressman Ed Markey in the ongoing race for Senate.

“Ed Markey will be a strong advocate for working families in Massachusetts,” said Cliff Cohn, Chair of the SEIU Massachusetts State Council. “On immigration reform, health care, the federal budget and other issues important to the 85,000 SEIU members statewide, Ed Markey will stand up for the people of Massachusetts in the Senate.”

Last Saturday, March 9, Markey and Congressmen Stephen Lynch spoke to members of the SEIU’s Locals in Massachusetts at a forum in Dorchester. Scorecards on the candidates completed by members at the forum were the primary factor in determining the SEIU State Council endorsement. Members rated both candidates highly but Markey received the highest ratings. The State Council also considered questionnaires completed by the candidates in making their endorsement.

“Throughout his career, Congressman Markey has shown consistent support for universal healthcare,” said Veronica Turner, Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU, which represents healthcare workers in Massachusetts. “Through the Senate, we know he will continue his work to guarantee access to quality affordable coverage for all Americans.”

SEIU is a member-driven union with an endorsement process driven by its members, who work as hospital employees, homecare workers, janitors, security guards, social workers, and other professions.

“Ed Markey will be a strong advocate in the Senate for commonsense immigration reform that values the contributions of aspiring citizens,” said Rocio Saenz, president of SEIU Local 615, which represents property service workers in Massachusetts. “SEIU members mobilized their communities to vote in the 2012 election and made a huge impact, and we are ready to get out the vote in those communities again for Ed Markey.”

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of the SEIU State Council and its 85,000 members,” said Congressman Markey. “SEIU is at the heart of the labor movement, fighting tirelessly to improve the lives of workers in Massachusetts and throughout the country. I have spent three decades standing up for working families and advocating for good jobs, fair wages, and quality and affordable health care. I want to bring this fight for working men and women to the Senate, and I look forward to working with SEIU to build a future that makes the American Dream achievable for all.”

The SEIU State Council is a representative body of leaders who have been democratically elected by the membership to represent their Local and workers in their respective industries.

MA Senate Race: Iron Workers Endorse Stephen Lynch for U.S. Senate

NHLN Editors Note: In what will be a highly contested race from the MA Senate seat vacated by Sen Kerry, the Iron Workers have already come out in support of Stephen Lynch.   Lynch, being a union man himself knows and understand the issues that union workers and middle class families are dealing with right now.  

***Iron Workers Endorse Stephen Lynch for U.S. Senate***

The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers announced today that it supports Congressman Stephen Lynch in his campaign to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.  The Union is committed to helping Lynch win the special election that follows John Kerry’s departure from the U.S. Senate to serve as Secretary of State.

Lynch, a South Boston native, graduated from his three-year Ironworker apprenticeship in 1976 and was elected President of Iron Workers Local 7, Boston, in 1985.  He earned his legal degree while serving as the Local’s President and joined the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1994.  Lynch was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2001, and he is prepared to serve the people of Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.

“Steve Lynch has walked the proverbial mile and then some in the boots of the middle class,” said Iron Workers General President Walter Wise.  “He has lived the issues that are important to working families, fought on behalf of working families during his legal career and will be a much-needed addition to the United States Senate.  He will use that knowledge to help working people across America.”

About the Iron Workers Union: The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers (IABSO&RIW) was founded in 1896 in Pittsburgh, Pa. They now represent more than 125,000 Ironworkers throughout the United States and Canada. The IABSO&RIW’s mission is to improve the working conditions of its members while promoting constructive relationships with their employers to increase work opportunities.

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