A Spring Legislative Action Alert: Information to Act on to Make our Communities a Better Place

May 29, 2018

Over the last year, MassCOSH has helped to pass legislation that provides protection to pregnant workers, increases the fines for corporate manslaughter, and extends OSHA protections to almost 430,000 public sector workers. However, this legislative session is not over yet and we still have at least three critical opportunities to help ensure all Massachusetts workers can earn a fair wage and return to their families alive and well and we need your help:

An Act To Prevent Wage Theft and Promote Employer Accountability

MassCOSH is a proud member of the Good Jobs, Strong Communities Coalition working to pass An Act To Prevent Wage Theft and Promote Employer Accountability (Senate Bill 2327). This legislation will work to stop the practice of wage theft, which robs workers of $700 million in wages every year in the Commonwealth.

In Massachusetts and across the country, employers are abusing the subcontracting and outsourcing model to evade their responsibilities to their workers. This environment of weakened accountability leads to increased instances of wage theft, lower wages, poor working conditions, and worker misclassification. The Bill was reported favorably from the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and has nearly 140 co-sponsors but is currently stuck in the Senate Ways and Means committee. Community support is needed to get the bill to the Senate floor for a vote, and on to the House. Make your voice heard. Please:

Call Senate Ways and means Chairperson Committee, Karen Spilka (617-722-1640) and email Committee members (use this link) and ask them to take up a vote for Bill 2327 soon and vote on it favorably.
Email your Senators (you can find out who your senator is by clicking here) asking them to join in asking lawmakers to do what is necessary to pass An Act to Prevent Wage Theft and Promote Employer Accountability into law this year.

The Healthy Workplace Bill

Workplace bullying is intentional, often targeted verbal and non-verbal mistreatment of an employee by a supervisor and/or co-workers. Scientific surveys indicate that roughly a third of U.S. workers will experience significant bullying behaviors during their work lives, making this one of the most serious problems in the American workplace.

The Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) creates a civil legal claim for damages to workers who have been subjected to severe workplace bullying that has caused physical or psychological harm. It also incentivizes employers to sharply reduce their liability exposure through effective workplace education and policies and by responding promptly to reports of bullying behaviors. This bill will come to a vote on the Senate floor soon. Again, please email your Senators (you can find out who your senator is by clicking here) and tell them it’s time to enact a fair, balanced, and comprehensive workplace anti-bullying law in Massachusetts. As always, be sure to include your mailing address in your communications, officials are particularly interested in the views of their constituents.

An Act Relative to Workplace Safety

Trenching is among the most dangerous work in construction. In October 2016, two workers tragically lost their lives in Boston’s south end in an unsafe trench, where proper safeguards were not installed. Kelvin “Chuck” Mattocks and his co-worker Robert Higgins were killed when a trench collapsed and was flooded by a broken water supply line in the South End in Boston.

A subsequent investigation revealed that the employer had been previously cited twice for putting workers in trenches without required safety measures – citations they ignored and hazards they never fixed. The safety violations and horrendous safety record of this company were so egregious that the company and the owner have been charged with manslaughter. These tragic deaths underscored the need for local and state governments to strengthen worker protections.

The Act Relative to Workplace Safety (H4219) will help save lives and prevent injuries to workers and the public. This bill will require companies seeking to do business with the state, or seeking a trenching permit, to report their records of safety violations. This bill will help assure that the state is not subsidizing or supporting companies that operate with hazardous working conditions.

This bill aims to ensure that the state of Massachusetts does business and gives trenching permits only to responsible companies that respect worker safety laws. This law will help ensure that hardworking Massachusetts workers will get the safe workplaces they deserve.

When enacted, this law will reward responsible contractors and level the procurement playing field. This will help ensure that law-abiding companies are not put at a disadvantage in comparison to those that choose to reduce their overall contract costs by cutting corners on worker safety.

We expect this bill to come to the floor of the House for a vote soon. Please call or email your Representative (click here to find your Representative's contact information) and encourage them to support this practical, feasible step toward protecting the health and safety of workers in Massachusetts.

Thank you for helping to further the fight for good, safe jobs for all.