Halfway thru; keep organizing

Good stuff! - promoted by david

Congratulations progressives! Today is huge day for the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition. Our constitutional amendment to create a Fair Share tax to fund transit and public education has its legislative hearing today, the first step towards winning a vote of 25% of the legislature in a constitutional convention, and was made possible through the work of hundreds of activists, including our members and the Blue Mass Group community, who helped collect over 155,000 signatures last fall.

With this milestone, and the second year of the 189th legislative session beginning, it’s a good time to update the Blue Mass Group community about what we’ve been working on, and what we’re gearing up for in the year ahead.

Organizing on Our Progressive Priorities

We have been advocating on our progressive platform, through community organizing and legislative organizing. We continue to call on the Massachusetts Legislature, Governor Baker, and all state elected officials, to stand up and fight for core principles of our shared prosperity agenda: 

  • Quality, affordable health care covering all medically necessary treatment

  • Affordable and decent housing in a safe and vibrant neighborhood

  • A job that pays a living wage and is close to safe and affordable transportation

  • An equitable tax system that raises sufficient revenue to invest in our commonwealth

  • A fair and efficient criminal justice system that works to ensure public safety and strong communities and the effective use of public funds

On our updated Legislative Agenda, you can find a list of current bills that take on parts of this platform. There’s even a print-out you can use to leave with your legislators, the next time you see them at your DTCs, volunteer events or lobbying at the state house.

Commensurate with our growing work and membership, and in dialogue with our members activists, we have also expanded our progressive platform to more specifically incorporate social justice, good government and citizenship, infrastructure and environment work.

Taking Measure of Legislative Progress

At the halfway mark of this session, I wish we could say that the Legislature has taken on all of these issues with great energy and urgency, but instead it’s a mish-mash of efforts.

While there have been amazing organizing efforts to pass solar legislation, comprehensive criminal justice reform, and further address income inequality, progress on these fronts has stalled. Some notes:

Solar/Net Metering Bill

Unfortunately, this bill passed the house with a litany of terrible measures that would undo much of the Patrick administration’s tremendous advances on clean energy. Governor Baker, meanwhile, has thrown his support behind building multiple natural gas pipelines. How, in Massachusetts of all places are we letting utilities National Grid and Eversource, and the big business trade association, AIM, write our energy policy/solar legislation, with a green light from House Ways and Means Committee chairman Brian Dempsey? Though he is generally deeply conservative, as the chief House architect of the groundbreaking, progressive Green Communities act in 2007 and 2008, he should know better. I wish I could explain what happened.

Criminal Justice Reform

The House and Senate have successfully passed the repeal of the RMV sanctions law that takes away the driver’s license of anyone convicted of a drug offense, for up to five years. However, more comprehensive criminal justice reform, such as repealing mandatory minimums for certain drug crimes, remains stalled: Governor Baker, Speaker DeLeo and Senate Pres. Rosenberg have justified delaying action while the Council of State Governments (CSG) begin a one-year study of the state’s criminal justice system.

Inequality

We are encouraged that the Fight for 15 legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour for any company that has more than 200 employees, including fast food restaurants, has been reported out of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. The Senate is beginning to show interest, but the house has remained mostly silent on the issue.

Revenue

As noted at the start, Raise Up Mass’s work to pass the millionaires’ tax by 2018 to support education and transportation is moving us forward. However, Speaker DeLeo and Governor Baker have explicitly stated that there will be no new taxes or fees (while, somehow, raising MBTA fares is excluded from this promise) during this legislative session.

Public Records and Transgender Rights

To round out the disappointments of the first half of the session, the House has also been disappointing on Transgender Accommodations (failing to have taken it up so far) and “sunshine” issues like Public Records reforms. The Public Records bill that passed in the House is deeply flawed; we are looking to the Senate to return with a much stronger bill, so that a productive bill can emerge from conference committee.

No Time to Let Up

With the end of the formal session on July 31, progressives throughout the state need to advocate even harder to pass key legislation in each of these issue areas. We are continuing to do this work, in our coalition and alliance work and through the on-the-ground activism and organizing by our terrific chapters, on these and other priorities.

(You should take a look at some of what they’re doing, check out some chapter blog updates, here)

We can’t do it without your support

In just a few years since our founding, we are well on our way to becoming a powerful, statewide, multi-issue members-based grassroots organization focused on advocating for core progressive policies, by issue organizing, holding elected officials accountable, and helping elect more progressive to public office across Massachusetts.

We believe strongly that for the agenda to remain people-powered, we must be grassroots- (not big money) funded. So please, consider allying with our other members in our progressive work by becoming a contributing member, and join our winter fundraising reception Saturday, January 23rd in Newton!

RSVP on our Site or via Facebook. It’s always great to join together with fellow progressive activists face to face, to reconnect and recharge for the next challenges ahead!

Finally, I’m very excited to report we have been working hard on our Scorecard, look for it next week! (We’ll have a preview at the party on Saturday, too. See our past scorecards at: progressivemass.com/scorecard)

Thanks for all of your engagement and activism, and I look forward to allying with you to in making 2016 a good year for progressive change in Massachusetts!

- Ben



Discuss

12 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. I'll miss this event by a few hours

    But will be sure to stay involved with the group and hope you have more!
    Harmony’s $5/month pledge seems tailor designed for an indebted millennial like me to show my appreciation for this worthy work.

  2. Define company

    The overwhelming majority of fast food restaurants are franchise with legally different ownership. So will the legislation zip right past the intended target and hit small midsized companies instead, exacerbating further outsourcing of functions and its attendant incensed tax burden on the self-employed who must pay full employer AND employee share in taxes?

    • What "legislation" do you mean?

      Perhaps you can clarify what legislation you are concerned about.

      My view is that any entity with a federal tax id, different from an individual SSN, has burden to pay fair and living wages to employees.

      Other than an across-the-board objection to any taxes at all, can you please clarify what issue your comment is intended to highlight?

    • Simply Done

      “Fast food or big box retail employer,” an individual, corporation, partnership or other entity, or group of individuals or entities, including any agent thereof, that (a) employs 200 or more fast food or big box retail employees in the commonwealth, whether directly or through a contractor or subcontractor such as a temporary or staffing agency or a cleaning or security contractor, or (b) is a fast food franchisor, or a fast food franchisee of a fast food franchisor, where the franchisor and the franchisees of that fast food franchisor together employ a total of 200 or more fast food employees in the commonwealth. Any such contractor or subcontractor, fast food franchisor, or fast food franchisee shall qualify as a fast food or big box retail employer and shall be jointly and severally liable for compliance with the minimum wage and other wage and hour requirements for fast food or retail employers.

      The bill is available here: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/House/H1773

      • Must be a diffeerent one

        That one increases the minimum wage to $10/hr and then sets a different minimum wage–$12/hr– for fast food and big box retail. I don’t see anything about 200 employees.

        What is the reasoning behind making various different minimum wages apply to different industries, or depend on whether the employer has a certain number of employees? That seems likely to be a burden from a regulatory administration perspective. And why do certain people get a greater minimum wage than others? At first blush, that seems a bit unfair.

        • I think he means this one

          S. 1024

          That one covers the 200 employee bit. Porcupine, the answer is that the bill counts employees of all franchisees, regardless of whether employed by any particular franchisee. So the guy with the lone McSaltyBurger and 30 employees would be subject to the bill if ALL of the McSaltyBurger franchisees throughout the commonwealth have 200 employees in the aggregate.

          My earlier questions remain.

        • Not, It's Not

          That one increases the minimum wage to $10/hr and then sets a different minimum wage–$12/hr– for fast food and big box retail.

          No, it doesn’t. It increases the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 1/1/18. Keep reading until Section 4.

          I don’t see anything about 200 employees.

          Umm, it’s right there in the second line, after (a).

          What is the reasoning behind making various different minimum wages apply to different industries, or depend on whether the employer has a certain number of employees?

          The focus is placed on large retail and service industries (those that employee more than 200 people either directly, through subcontracting, or through franchising). The justification for the focus on certain industries (I’d think) is because most larger employers in other industries already pay more than $15. The justification for the focus on large employers is obvious (I’d think) and is based on their presumed ability to pay a higher wage (in comparison to, say, a small or mid-sized employer).

          • OK, right you are

            I guess I found the same thing in a similar draft. 200 or more “fast food” or “big box retail” employees, disregarding franchise agreements by lumping all franchisees together.

            Although I see what you are saying, I am not sure that setting various minimum wages according to sector is very wise. It seems like it would increase the opportunity to “engineer” exemptions, would be tough to enforce, and for whatever reason leaves certain people not in these favored sectors out in the cold.

            I am suspicious. Either raise the MW, or do not raise the MW. Raising for some and not for others will just make for lots of new opportunities to accept campaign donations from lobbyists on behalf of certain commercial sectors.

            • Big Box didn't work in Chicago

              Wal Mart and Target just made multi level stores with smaller footprints to get around the requirements. I firmly believe as Wellstone did that everybody does better when every-body does better and we should just raise it uniformly. $12 seems like a good starting point, though I do support $15 on principle.

  3. So it's ok for small businesses to screw their workers?

    If this makes it to the ballot, I’m voting against it because of the 200 worker threshold. Either a $15/hr minimum wage is fair, or it’s not. Size of employer is irrelevant. We have this romantic notion of small businesses as somehow different than big businesses, and better. And the best ones are. But the worst ones are WAYYY worse than a big business. Lower wages, compounded by a boss who would’ve been culled by HR years ago in a large organization. The kind of guy who thinks he’s the President of the United States because he owns his own business, and can be a dick to everyone as a result. The guy who pays his employees late, and doesn’t keep records, so he can stiff them from time to time. THAT’s the guy you choose to let off the hook?

    • Precisely

      A minimum wage should be a minimum wage.

      It exists to protect the worker, not the employer. Even $15/hour is not nearly enough in the Boston metropolitan area, and barely sufficient — if that — anywhere in Massachusetts.

      I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend how any worker can sign up for the GOP when the GOP so steadfastly screws workers at EVERY opportunity.

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