In the traditionally far-left Massachusetts statehouse, House Democrats passed legislation this week that strips municipal public sector workers of their right to collectively bargain on health insurance plans. The bill has yet to make it to the state Senate or Gov. Deval Patrick, but national labor leaders like AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, National Education Association (NEA) President and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Mary Kay Henry don’t seem eager to get involved. Notorious left-wing advocate and filmmaker Michael Moore hasn’t showed up either, nor has self-proclaimed civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson.
SEIU’s Massachusetts Political Director Harris Gruman told The Daily Caller he’s not worried about national labor leaders’ lack of support, either, and expects Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray to fight for their cause. “It is a Democrat-controlled legislature, so it’s absolutely newsworthy that they would do anything to take on any workers’ rights,” Gruman told TheDC. “We never support any decrease in workers losing a voice over conditions of work. But, the governor has said he absolutely believes in collective bargaining as a right.”
Gruman said that the bill doesn’t have the same weight as the Wisconsin or Ohio legislation that stripped collective bargaining on everything but salary amounts and wages from public-sector workers in those states. “The reason it’s not accurate to compare it to Wisconsin is this is only collective bargaining on municipal health insurance plans,” Gruman said in a phone interview.
Also, Gruman points out that “negotiations are still in process,” and that he thinks, “the House has decided to play ‘bad cop’ in this one. We’re still waiting for the Senate president and the governor to negotiate.”
Wall Street Journal columnist Kim Strassel argues, though, that the efforts to strip workers’ rights in Massachusetts are fundamentally the same as what happened in Wisconsin. “Wisconsin moved to rein in collective bargaining powers that are crushing the state,” Strassel wrote. “Massachusetts moved to rein in collective bargaining powers that are crushing the state. The only difference is that Democrats have chosen to portray Mr. Walker’s legislation as ‘union-busting’ while presenting their own as necessary reform.”
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted Strassel’s column, adding that he thought the “Massachusetts house bill validates [Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s] efforts.” Walker tweeted out an Ohio Columbus Dispatch editorial pointing out the Massachusetts Democrats’ actions against public sector unions, adding that “another paper declares our reforms bipartisan.”
National NEA spokesman Andy Linebaugh told TheDC that local union officials in Massachusetts haven’t requested national help yet, and that they normally don’t “just parachute into a state.”
“It’s not that we aren’t helping them. We haven’t been asked,” Linebaugh said. “Also, Deval Patrick is a Democratic Governor, too. It’s not at the level of fever of pitch Wisconsin was.”
As for whether the national union is ignoring teachers and workers on the ground, many of whom have protested for days at the statehouse in Boston, Linebaugh said, “we’re not ignoring them. We’ve been monitoring it.” He said Van Roekel will be speaking at a conference in Massachusetts two weeks from Saturday, too.
National SEIU and AFL-CIO spokespeople didn’t return TheDC’s requests for comment on why Henry and Trumka aren’t getting involved in Massachusetts. Jackson failed to return TheDC’s requests for comment too.
Moore’s website ran a story criticizing the Massachusetts Democrats as partaking in the same tactics as Republicans in Wisconsin and other states. Writer Mike Elk attacked the Bay State Democrats as being sneaky with their slight on unions.
“While Democrats have been less brazen in their attacks on public employees’ unions, they have still attacked public employees unions,” Elk wrote. “Why is that? It’s because it’s often less politically risky for Democrats weary of taking on the rich to go after unions than to call for higher taxes on the rich.”