I mentioned this yesterday, but Mike Elk brings us the news of Massachusetts Democrats pulling a Scott Walker and trying to strip collective bargaining. This is totally outrageous:
Last night, the Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill (111-42) to strip public-sector workers of their ability to bargain collectively for healthcare. The rhetoric surrounding the bill, proposed by Democratic State House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, is in many ways similar to what Wisconsinites recently heard as Gov. Walker pushed his infamous unionbusting bill.
The State of Massachusetts currently faces a budget deficit of $1.9 billion. House Democrats say that by limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employees over healthcare they can save the state $100 million a year. Democrats in Massachusetts, much like Democrats in New York, have focused on cutting basic government services and workers’ wages instead of raising taxes on the richest. Thus, House Speaker DeLeo proposed the plan that would limit the rights of employees to collective bargain over healthcare. And many Democrats, who have been supported by labor unions in the state, passed it.
“We are going to fight this thing to the bitter end,” Robert J. Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, told the Boston Globe last night. “Massachusetts is not the place that takes collective bargaining away from public employees.”
As the article makes clear, budget deficits across the country are leading state lawmakers to go where the money is, and increasingly, they’re balancing their budgets on the backs of workers rather than raising taxes on the rich. In this case, you have Democrats elected by labor trying to strip away their rights.
What makes this more ironic is that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick just started a new organization called “Protect Your Care,” dedicated to fighting for health care. And yet his state is moving through a bill that would allow local officials to raise deductibles and co-pays for public workers without bargaining. So will Patrick sign this bill if it passes the State Senate? According to Evan McMorris-Santoro, the AFL-CIO head in Massachusetts doesn’t think so:
Even if there’s a surprise in store in the Senate, Haynes said he’s confident Patrick — who won reelection last year in a cycle that wasn’t great for his party nationally — will come to the aid of workers.
“I’m very confident that he’s not going to take our collective bargaining rights away,” Hanes said.
Patrick is certainly speaking Haynes’ language, telling reporters on Wednesday he understood where the workers are coming from.
“This is not Wisconsin,” he said.
But as Mike Elk notes, Patrick has his own vision for stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers. His plan would “give unions a limited time window to bargain before local officials would be allowed to impose their own health care benefit plans unilaterally without coming to a collective bargaining agreement.” And he generally praised the bill. I’ve asked for comment from Protect Your Care, but haven’t received anything yet.
The bill will take a month before coming to the state Senate, but the overwhelming vote in the House, and Patrick’s kinder, gentler rights-stripping plan, make it look like something’s going to happen in Massachusetts. Time to get out in the streets in another blue state.