Bay State Locals
Push Legislative Program
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.
UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE
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
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
the company did not pay workers’ health insurance premiums.
HIGH STAKES IN EDUCATION
District 2 Pres. Judy
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
(In addition to Massachusetts, UE Political Action days
have also been held this year
in Iowa, Ohio,
UE News - 05/00