Updated: Monday, 25 Apr 2011, 8:13 PM EDT
Published : Monday, 25 Apr 2011, 6:03 PM EDT
BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) - Union leaders are fighting the House budget by asking lawmakers to back an amendment that would continue to give employees the ability to negotiate municipal health insurance. As the House of Representatives convened to begin preliminary discussion over the budget Monday, union members crowded the halls, handing out leaflets and wearing badges that read: “Collective bargaining equals affordable health care.”
“We don’t want to be like Wisconsin,” said AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes. “Taking away collective bargaining rights is not going to solve the healthcare crisis here in Massachusetts.”
The FY2012 House budget gives cities and towns the unilateral right to make changes to municipal health plans. Amendment 749 would allow municipal employees to keep their collective bargaining rights to negotiate insurance. If an agreement is not reached within 45 days, the matter would go to arbitration.
The amendment has about 50 sponsors, including five from Western Massachusetts. One of the sponsors, Representative Denise Andrews (D-Orange), says she supports the amendment because an open dialogue between unions and management should be encouraged.
“Look at what happened in Wisconsin and some different places, collective bargaining rights are under assault,” said Rep. Andrews. “They’re getting more than their fair share of critique that they’re the cause of the issues, they’re not.”
Lawmakers who did not sponsor the amendment, like Rep. Angelo Puppolo (D-Springfield), also agree that discussion should continue.
“You know I thought it would be prudent just to kind of keep an open mind, see the debate, how it unfolds, but I think right now both sides are talking about it, which is good,” said Puppolo.