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In full transparency, the following press release was submitted to SOURCE media for publication.


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BOSTON – Today, January 20, State Senator John Keenan (D-Quincy) and State Representative Patrick Kearney (D-Scituate) jointly filed legislation, SD.1208/HD.2435, An Act relative to collective bargaining rights for legislative employees, that would update state law to ensure legislative employees have a clear path toward
collective bargaining.

Current state law is ambiguous regarding the inclusion of legislative employees in its definition of public employees with the authorization to unionize. The new bill would clarify existing law to specify the inclusion of legislative employees.

“I strongly believe that all workers should have the opportunity to join or form a union. Unions have always led the fight for good wages and benefits, safe and family friendly workplaces, and so many other worker protections and workplace improvements. For me and my brothers and sisters, my parents’ union jobs kept a roof over our heads and food on our table,” said Senator Keenan. “I filed this bill because our valued, dedicated, and talented legislative staff have expressed a desire to form a union – this legislation would give them full opportunity to do so.”

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In addition to Sen. Keenan, the legislation was cosponsored by Senators Michael Brady, Anne Gobi, Michael O. Moore, Rebecca Rausch, and Walter Timilty.

“As a card-carrying member of IATSE Local 11, this legislation hits home to me personally,” said Representative Kearney. “I support worker’s rights, anywhere and everywhere, if they desire, to organize for benefits and a safe workplace. This includes but is not limited to, our talented and dedicated legislative staff here at the Massachusetts State House.”

“In the culmination of three years of dedicated organizing, a supermajority of Senate staff and an ever-growing number of House staff have firmly expressed the need to secure a safe and equitable workplace with a seat at the table through collective bargaining,” said the Massachusetts State House Employee Union (MSHEU) organizing committee. “We continue to see a path forward to the benefit of State House employees and the Commonwealth overall, and we are sincerely thankful to Senator Keenan and Representative Kearney for their stalwart leadership in the Legislature to support organized labor and staff. We remain steadfast in our belief that a unionized Legislative staff will ensure improvements in workplace conditions in both bodies that will be protected in the years to come.”

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The ambiguity of the current law stems from the lack of inclusion or exclusion of legislative employees on the list of public employees permitted to unionize, whereas employees in the executive and judicial branches are distinctly included and elected officials are distinctly excluded.

Along with defining legislative employees as public employees with the authority to collectively bargain, the bill would lay out parameters to exclude employees in certain offices including the Office of the Senate President and the Office of the Speaker of the House from collective bargaining.

The bill would also direct the state ethics commission to determine what scenarios would create a staunch conflict of interest for public employees.

“In a democracy, people should have choices,” said Myles J. Calvey, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2222. “In a democracy, workers should have the choice of accepting or rejecting a union. This bill simply gives the legislative staff the right to make their choice.”

“On behalf of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and our nearly half a million members across the Commonwealth, we are proud to continue to stand behind the Massachusetts State House Employee Union and the working people that make our government function,” said Steven A. Tolman, President of Massachusetts AFL-CIO. “In filing this important legislation, IBEW 2222 and the workers they represent are reaffirming that they deserve a voice in the workplace and a vote to join a union just like every other worker across our Commonwealth. We commend Senator Keenan and Representative Kearney for filing this important legislation and it is our sincere hope that each and every legislator stands in solidarity with these workers and votes to provide a path to a fair and equitable contract for the Massachusetts State House Employee Union.”

The filing of the legislation comes 10 months after Senate staff announced their intent to unionize with IBEW Local 2222 and the successful collection of authorization cards from a majority of Senate staff.

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During a closed door meeting between Senate staff and Senate Counsel in July, staff were notified of the hurdle presented by current state law, but understood that it did not present a dead end.

Massachusetts Legislative staff join leagues of Legislative employees across the country in their endeavor to unionize, including efforts by congressional staffers and a successful push by Legislative staff in Oregon. Massachusetts Senate and House staff have cited a need to ensure a safe workplace free of discrimination and sexual harassment, month-one-of-employment health insurance coverage, measures to recruit, support, and retain a diverse workforce, comprehensive professional development opportunities, and a voice in matters concerning their workplace among other factors as their motivation for organizing.

The legislation will now await assignment to a committee for further consideration.

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By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.