A Legislative Grand Slam for MassCOSH Supporters

July 17, 2014

Thanks to the time, effort, and generosity of MassCOSH supporters, June marked the passage of major legislation with tangible impacts on all working people in Massachusetts.

Just a few short years after helping MassCOSH and allies pass a ban on a deadly floor finishing product and a “Right to Know” law for temporary workers, supporters can now celebrate new safety protections for state employees and assurance that family members will be able to pay the funeral costs for a loved one in the tragic event of a workplace death. Now, in the 11th hour of the legislative session, MassCOSH continues to fight for workers scarred on the job.

On June 26, Governor Deval Patrick joined legislators, MassCOSH, labor, community and business representatives to make a huge leap forward in implementing progressive legislation by signing S.2195, “An Act Restoring the Minimum Wage and Providing Unemployment Insurance Reforms.”

The historic halls of the State House were jam packed with supporters, many of whom have fought for over a decade to see these changes signed into law.

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

"By signing this bill into law here today, Governor Patrick 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.”

Yet, perhaps no one was more pleased than Representative Thomas P. Conroy, whose behind-the-scenes efforts finally made the bill’s passage possible.

“Protecting the health and safety of our public employees has been a top priority for me,” said Representative Conroy. “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 Daniel Wolf (D-Harwich), who also had much to do with making the historic day possible. “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.”
In the remaining few days of the legislative session, MassCOSH is now focused on ensuring just compensation for workers who suffered from permanent scarring due to surgery, burns or some other work-related circumstance. Massachusetts currently has a two-tiered system: Workers who suffer scars on their face, neck and hands are compensated while those who experience scars on their legs, arms or other body parts are not. MassCOSH and its allies are seeking to return the law to the when workers who suffered scars anywhere on their body received compensation.

Unfortunately, the scarring bill is currently stuck in Senate Ways and Means. MassCOSH needs 20 Senators to send a letter of support to Senate Ways and Means Chair Stephen Brewer and Senate President Therese Murray in order to get the bill moving.

Please call/email your state Senator today and email marcy.gelb@masscosh.org) the response. Click here for a fact sheet and sample letter for your Senator to use. Together we can make one more milestone for worker rights possible.