Union leaders in the traditionally labor-friendly state of Masschusetts are fuming over a plan passed by the state House of Representatives this week to curtail bargaining rights for municipal workers – and most of the backers of the legislation are Democrats.
With cities and towns across Massachusetts in financial straits, it appears that lawmakers would rather balance budgets on the backs of the public employees rather than force tax increases that could hurt their local allies’ chances of winning re-election. Supporters of the bill said it would generate $100 million in savings at the local level.
While Republican-controlled legislatures in Wisconsin and Ohio this year have weakened the ability of public-sector unions to bargain collectively, and Republicans in other states have pushed for a variety of curbs on unions, Massachusetts is the first state where a Democratic-led chamber has voted to limit bargaining rights, according to The New York Times.
“Everybody’s pretty upset,” said Robert J. Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO “It’s hard for me to understand how my good friends in the Massachusetts House, that have told me they support collective bargaining, could do this.”
The bill, passed late Tuesday night in advance of planned labor protests, would let local officials unilaterally set health insurance co-payments and deductibles for their employees after a month-long discussion period with unions.
In a stunning outcome, the House voted 111-42 in favor of the plan, with 81 Democrats approving it.
It also appears that the bill has some support among Senate Democrats and Gov. Deval Patrick, a prominent figure in national Democratic politics, is riding the fence.
Here’s the rest of the Times report:
“But the bill faces uncertain prospects in the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats. Senate President Therese Murray said Wednesday that she was pleased the House had “moved the needle” on the contentious issue of health care costs, but she has not endorsed the plan.
“Dave Falcone, a Senate spokesman, said Friday that Ms. Murray ‘has been consistent in her message that something has to be done, that there has to be savings, and that everyone should have a seat at the table.’
“While Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, has not pledged to sign the bill if it reaches his desk, he proposed a similar plan early this year and praised the House this week for its ‘important’ vote. He also raised concerns about a provision of the House plan allowing towns and cities to opt out of it and said unions must not have veto power over municipal health plans.
“On Friday, Mr. Patrick said through a spokesman that labor must have ‘a meaningful role’ in determining how to control health care costs, though he did not elaborate."