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Via The Pittsfield, Massachusetts Berkshire Eagle: Coalition Including Massachusetts AFL-CIO Lays Out Agenda To Boost Workers Across The State

Published Wednesday, January 18, 2017
by Colin Young/State House News Service

(BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTES) - Labor Unions, community groups and Workers’ Rights Organizations set up shop in the Great Hall in Boston earlier this week to draw attention to a raft of bills that constitute a "healthy workplace legislative agenda" that they said will make workplaces safer for all Employees.

Among the issues advocates hoped to bend policymakers' ears on were Public Employee Safety, Workplace Bullying, protections for Pregnant Workers, Wage Theft, Paid Family and Medical Leave, using carbon dioxide detectors in public buildings, and a raise in the State's Minimum Wage.

Led by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, the lobby day featured briefings on bills, speeches from Workers and Union Leaders, and visits to wrangle support among lawmakers.

"We ask you to be here today ‘in fairness,’ to ‘join us in fairness,’ to ‘help us move the agenda for Working People who are under attack’ and Public Employees ‘who give their hearts and souls and then are made to be the goat,’" Massachusetts ALF-CIO President Steven Tolman said during a speech to the organizers who would be visiting legislative offices. "That's ‘what this is about,’ about ‘working together’ to find an agenda to make Working People continue to ‘have the strength and the benefits that they should have.’ That's all we ask."

MassCOSH planned this session to focus its advocacy on the issue of Workplace Safety with an eye towards reducing the number of workplace fatalities.

MassCOSH Interim Executive Director Al Vega said there are "40 to about 60" Worker deaths per year in Massachusetts and about 4,500 annual Worker Deaths nationally.

"We ‘definitely have some areas’ (of Workplace Safety) ‘where we're a little bit better, but there are definitely areas where we are in the bottom rung,’" Vega said when asked how Worker Safety in Massachusetts compares to other States. "As a state here in the Northeast who's ‘progressive, we should be doing a lot better.’  We ‘should not be in the bottom half.’  Here in Massachusetts ‘we should be doing what we can to ensure that Workers are safe.’"

MassCOSH plans to push this session for two bills that came up short last session.

One bill (SD 239), filed by State Senator Marc Pacheco, builds on a 2014 law requiring that all Executive Branch Workers be covered by safety measures that meet U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) standards by extending that requirement to all Public Employees.

An average of 28 Municipal Workers each week suffer injuries serious enough to be out of work for at least five days, MassCOSH said, citing an estimate from the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents.  

So far, 26 States have made OSHA standards the baseline for Public Employee Safety, MassCOSH said.

MassCOSH is also reviving its advocacy for a bill that would expand the scope of Workplace Disfigurement Injuries covered under Workers' Compensation Policies to include scarring anywhere on a person's body, and that would potentially increase the compensation a disfigured Worker could receive.

The bill (SD 251) filed by State Senator Sal DiDomenico, would eliminate the requirement that a scar be exclusively on a worker's face, neck or hands, and would update the compensation from a maximum $15,000 to 30 times the average weekly wage, according to MassCOSH.

To Read the Rest of This Labor News Report, Go to: www.berkshireeagle.com/stories/coalition-lays-out-agenda-to-boost-mass-workers,495372

 

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