Workers Rejoice!

June 26, 2014

Massachusetts has taken a massive leap forward in implementing progressive legislation to make the state a better place to live and work. On June 26, Governor Deval Patrick joined legislators, MassCOSH, organized labor, business leaders and worker advocates to sign S.2195, “An Act Restoring the Minimum Wage and Providing Unemployment Insurance Reforms.”

This landmark law will not only raise the minimum wage to $11 over three years, but strengthens safety protections for workers, increases funeral benefits for families and makes permanent the multi-agency task force charged with combatting the underground economy. 

The historic halls of the State House were jam packed with supporters, many of whom have fought for decades to see these changes signed into law. Speakers and witnesses to this major achievement included: Therese Murray President of the Senate, National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Speaker of the House of Representatives Robert DeLeo, Mass. AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman, Massachusetts Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley, and many others. [IMG_0142]

MassCOSH Executive Director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb enthusiastically addressed the packed room.

"By signing this bill into law here today, Governor Patr [IMG_0160] ick and the legislature is sending a powerful message to the state’s 67,000 executive branch employees: To the nurses who strain every muscle of their body as they help move and care for patients at state hospitals, the welders working at death-defying heights to keep our bridges safe, highway employees working within a hairs-breath of fast moving vehicles while fixing our roads: “Your services are critical to the wellbeing of the Commonwealth – and we are equally concerned about your well-being,” said Goldstein-Gelb to roaring applause.

Long time champion of extending OSHA protections to executive branch employees, Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists president Joe Dorant, was overjoyed with the bill's signing.

"State employees face just as many, and often more, on-the-job risks and dangers as those in the private sector,” said Dorant. “This legislation is an essential step toward instituting safety measures that will prevent needless workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths. It is a tremendous opportunity to provide state workers the same protections that private employees enjoy.”

“Protecting the health and safety of our public employees has been a top priority for me,” said Representative Conroy (D-Wayland).  “I applaud MassCOSH, our state’s labor unions, and the advocacy groups who have joined together and have worked tirelessly to bring this important issue to light. The House-Senate compromise minimum wage legislation will improve the quality of life for state employees, and will reduce our state’s injury and illness costs, saving millions of taxpayer dollars each year.”

“This is a victory for all of those who work for the Commonwealth—those who have gone without these basic protections in the workplace,” echoed Senator Wolf (D-Harwich). “These employees will now be able to proudly stand with the rest of the Massachusetts workforce, assured by the fact that there are standards in place to keep them healthy and safe at work, while also reducing the costs of having separate regulations.”

"Raising the minimum wage brings a little relief to the working poor, many of whom do jobs we could not live without and who recycle money right back into the economy," Patrick said. "By signing this bill, we show the nation that opportunity can and must be spread outward, not just upward. I thank the legislature for their important work in reaching this milestone."