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Delegates to UE Massachusetts Political Action Day

Delegates to UE Massachusetts Political Action Day with Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark (left).

Union members from around the Bay State gathered here on April 25 at the New England Labor Party headquarters for the first UE Massachusetts Political Action Day in many years. Delegates discussed and educated themselves on issues of concern to working people before walking across Boston Common to the State House to lobby their state legislators.

In particular, delegates considered the Labor Party campaigns on health care and public education, as well as the workers’ compensation system and paid parental leave.

Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark gave the Labor Party’s "Just Health Care" workshop, calling for the creation of a system that recognizes health care as a human right. Linda Stamm from Mass-Care, a coalition of labor, senior and community groups working in favor universal, single-payer health reform, spoke on the status of legislation in the state legislature.


The Mass Health Care Trust bill, HR 1947, has 48 sponsors in the House and 16 in the Senate. A study on the potential effects of the legislation shows that a universal, single-payer system could cover all state residents and still cost less than the current system. The sponsors of this legislation are now calling for a task force that would study the financing of the system. U.S. Rep. John Tierney has proposed federal legislation that would allow states to "capture" all the federal money spent in the state (including amounts spent on Medicare and Medicaid) to be placed into one "pot" for funding a universal health care system.

State Sen. Mark Pacheco

State Sen. Mark Pacheco

A long-time friend of the union, State Sen. Marc R. Pacheco, told delegates that he favors single-payer health care, in response to a question by Local 223 Pres. Fred Garcia. Pacheco, who stopped by the meeting to welcome the UE delegates to Boston, said single-payer would cover everyone and save money by eliminating the middlemen — the insurance companies. However, the senator said, it would take a big grassroots push, led by Massachusetts labor, to pass the legislature.

Pacheco, who has a 100 percent COPE rating by the AFL-CIO, is the son of a UE Local 204 retiree in Taunton. The senator was helpful to UE during the strike against General Cable and during Haskon’s bankruptcy, when the company did not pay workers’ health insurance premiums.



District 2 Pres. Judy Atkins

Turning to publication education, District Two Pres. Judy Atkins introduced the next speaker by explaining to delegates her personal opposition to "high stakes" testing, known in Massachusetts as the MCAS test. Her daughter, Mandy Cohen, is a member of the first class of high school students who will be required to pass the test in the 10th grade in order to graduate from high school.

The MCAS test is a one-size-fits-all test that tests students in the fourth, eighth and 10th grades; vocational and special education students and those for whom English is a second language are required to take the test as well. So far the failure rates average 50 percent, with 90 percent of some categories of students failing.

Jackie King reported on the Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education (CARE), which unites parents, teachers and students, and the organization’s concern about the testing. Many delegates asked questions of the speaker and offered their own concerns for their children.


The test is so hard to past that many see it as an attempt to make public education look bad, rather than an honest attempt to raise standards. The Massachusetts Labor Party has taken a stand against the corporate attack on public education, speakers noted.

Massachusetts AFL-CIO Sec.-Treas. Kathy Cassavants outlined the federation’s work to restore workers’ compensation benefits and to establish paid parental leave — the "Baby UI" bill — through use of overfunding in state Unemployment Trust funds.

In the lobbying in the State House that followed, Pres. Atkins reports, the best encounter came when Local 262 delegates met with State Sen. Lynch from South Boston, and the worst when the Local 271 delegation interacted with a Republican state representative from the North Shore.

The UE local unions represented were 204, 223, 262, 271, 274 and 279.

(In addition to Massachusetts, UE Political Action days have also been held this year in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania,Wisconsin and Vermont.)

UE News - 05/00

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