In many states, legislative sessions have ended recently or are about to end and local governments are often active year-round. This means tons of legislation, both good and bad, is moving, providing opportunities for working families and their allies to pass laws that will help make people's lives easier or stop laws that will make things worse. Here is a look at some of the key state battles that recently have passed or could be on the agenda this week or next.
In our regular weekly feature, we'll be taking a look at the winners and losers of the week in the struggle for the rights of working families. The winners will be the persons or organizations that go above and beyond to expand or protect the rights of working families, while the losers will be whoever went above and beyond to limit or deny those rights.
If you need proof that America has a problem with wage theft, look no further than the AMC Loews movie theater in downtown Boston. Several years ago, six janitors contracted to work at the theater hadn’t been paid for their work in months. When they finally spoke up, the contracting company fired them all.
The commonwealth of Massachusetts is joining a national trend to expand voting rights. While some states are moving in the other direction, more states expanded voting rights in 2013 than contracted them; and the trend is likely to continue in 2014. First up, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill, H. 3788, that significantly expands the voting rights of residents. The bill passed by a 37–1 vote. It is similar to a House bi–ll that passed 141–10 last year. A conference committee will have to mend the differences between the two bills, but with the overwhelming majorities that passed it in each house and strong vocal support from Gov. Deval Patrick (D), the bill seems likely to become law.
Last week's debate in the special Senate election in Massachusetts shows a sharp contrast in the positions of the two candidates hoping to replace new Secretary of State John Kerry. Democrat Edward Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez differ greatly on the rights of government workers. Markey gave a spirited defense of the collective bargaining rights of first responders and others who work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Activists rallied in front of the Beacon Street Dunkin' Donuts in Boston to build support for a bill in the state legislature that would require employers to give earned sick leave hours to their employees. The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Dan Wolf and state Rep. Kay Khan and would ensure that workers get one hour of sick time for each 30 hours they work, up to a maximum of at least 40 hours a year, depending on the size of the company (smaller companies have some exemptions).
Frank Callahan, president of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council, sends us this open letter.
I am sure that many of you share my frustration at trying to sift through campaign commercials and talking points to find out where the candidates for president really stand on issues that are important to you. Part of the problem is Mitt Romney’s habit of changing his positions to suit his audience.
One thing he can’t change is his record. I had a front-row seat for Mitt Romney’s term as governor of Massachusetts. His positions and his actions on the issues that have a direct impact on building and construction trades workers were not good for our members.