Democrats Strip Unions of Bargaining Rights

House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly last night to strip police officers, teachers, and other municipal employees of most of their rights to bargain over health care, saying the change would save millions of dollars for financially strapped cities and towns. The 111-to-42 vote followed tougher measures to broadly eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states. But unlike those efforts, the push in Massachusetts was led by Democrats who have traditionally stood with labor to oppose any reduction in workers’ rights.

Unions fought hard to stop the bill, launching a radio ad that assailed the plan and warning legislators that if they voted for the measure, they could lose their union backing in the next election. After the vote, labor leaders accused House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and other Democrats of turning their backs on public employees.

The 111-to-42 vote followed tougher measures to broadly eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in Ohio, Wisconsin, and other states. But unlike those efforts, the push in Massachusetts was led by Democrats who have traditionally stood with labor to oppose any reduction in workers’ rights.

Unions fought hard to stop the bill, launching a radio ad that assailed the plan and warning legislators that if they voted for the measure, they could lose their union backing in the next election. After the vote, labor leaders accused House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and other Democrats of turning their backs on public employees.

The House measure would save $100 million for cities and towns in the upcoming budget year, helping them avoid layoffs and reductions in services. He called his plan one of the most significant reforms the state can adopt to help control escalating health care costs.

“By spending less on the health care costs of municipal employees, our cities and towns will be able to retain jobs and allot more funding to necessary services like education and public safety,’’ he said in a statement.

Last night, as union leaders lobbied against the plan, DeLeo offered two concessions intended to shore up support from wavering legislators.

The first concession gives public employees 30 days to discuss changes to their health plans with local officials, instead of allowing the officials to act without any input from union members. But local officials would still, at the end of that period, be able to impose their changes unilaterally.

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