Mass. House Passes Law Curbing Union Rights

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The Hill

Mass. House Passes Law Curbing Union Rights

Jordan Fabian

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick urged state House leaders and union officials to "dial down the rhetoric" in a debate over sharply limiting municipal employee unions' bargaining power over their health insurance benefits. (File photo | Associated Press)

The Democratic-controlled Massachusetts House on Wednesday passed a law that would curb some public-sector union rights, similar to GOP initiatives in other states. 

The measure, which passed 111-42, would prevent police officers, teachers and other public employees from collectively bargaining over their health benefits, according to The Boston Globe. Supporters billed the measure as a way to save towns and municipalities millions of dollars.

Massachusetts passed its law after similar efforts advanced in other states, most notably in Wisconsin and Ohio. Liberal groups were quick to mobilize against those laws, launching massive protests against GOP governors and lawmakers.

Conservatives, who support efforts to curb the power of public employee unions, pointed to the move as a sign that their beliefs are not just held by Republicans.

"I feel like the story below kind of slipped through the cracks of today’s news cycle," Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the GOP-aligned American Crossroads group, wrote in an email to reporters. "The bill is apparently not terribly different from the new Wisconsin law."

Unions in the Bay State, however, mobilized against the effort, running a radio ad campaign and threatening to withhold support from Democrats who support it.

"It’s pretty stunning,’’ said Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert J. Haynes. “These are the same Democrats that all these labor unions elected. The same Democrats who we contributed to in their campaigns. The same Democrats who tell us over and over again that they’re with us, that they believe in collective bargaining, that they believe in unions. ... It’s a done deal for our relationship with the people inside that chamber.’"

Haynes pledged that his group is "going to fight this thing to the bitter end."

It is unclear whether the measure has enough support to pass the state Senate; that chamber's leader has not embraced the plan.

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