​Looking Forward, Acting Now

February 23, 2015

On January 15, as protestors were lying down on Interstate 93 to draw attention to institutional racism, another show of force was taking place; over 100 labor supporters were gathered at the Great Hall in the State House, urging legislators to support legislation that would improve workplace safety and benefits for millions of workers.
The Healthy Workplace Legislative Event, hosted by MassCOSH in collaboration with the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and the Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative, sought to build on the legislative successes achieved in the last session, such as new safety and health protections for state employees and funeral benefits for families of fallen workers.
Armed with information packets on workers’ rights bills, workers, union representatives, and community members fanned out to legislators’ offices to ask them to cosponsor the legislation.
“[The Healthy Workplace Legislative Launch] was a great opportunity to share our labor and community priorities with legislators and hear from inspiring speakers,” said SEIU Massachusetts Political Director Harris Gruman. “We were able to present our bills on raising progressive revenue and creating a living wage of $15 an hour for fast food chains and big box retail and got a lot of interest and co-sponsors right there.”
At the event, MassCOSH highlighted a few priority bills that would strengthen protections for workers, such as:

  • An Act to Prevent Wage Theft and Promote Employer Accountability, which would update the Commonwealth’s labor laws to address the growth of temporary agencies and subcontracting, ensure conscientious businesses are not undercut by unscrupulous employers, and clarify who is ultimately responsible for fair labor standards in Massachusetts.
  • An Act Providing Benefits for Permanent Functional Loss and Disfigurement under the Worker’s Compensation Act would eliminate the requirement that the scar obtained from a work injury be exclusively on the workers’ face, neck and hands to receive damages. The bill would also update the compensation these injured workers receive from $15,000 to thirty times the average weekly wage.
  • Act to Further Define the Standards of Employee Safety, amends the section of state law giving the state the authority to establish rules to protect the safety and health of public employees, establishing federal OSHA as the baseline for protections and ensuring consistency across all employers.

“We have an exciting opportunity to make 2015 yet another banner year for halting workplace deaths, illnesses, and injuries,” said MassCOSH Executive Director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb. “The legislation being filed for the 2015/16 session addresses the most vulnerable workers, such as temporary workers and day laborers, as well as those that have inadequate safety protections, such as public employees who are not cover under federal OSHA.”
For more information on how you can help these bills become law, please contact MassCOSH Executive Director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb at marcy.gelb@masscosh.org