1. Requiring registration and background checks for all gun sales in Massachusetts; 2. Bringing the Commonwealth into compliance with the Federal NICS background check system while protecting mental health counseling privacy; 3. Giving police chiefs discretion in issuing rifle and shotgun licenses (the NRA’s chief objection to the bill); 4. Advancing suicide awareness and prevention in the Commonwealth through a multifaceted approach; and 5. Collecting trace data so we know the origin of guns used in crimes or suicide. Our thanks to all JALSA members who worked these many months. A very special shout out to JALSA Board Member Janet Goldenberg, who served as coordinator of the Coalition, and brought her considerable legal acumen to the task. Thank you, also, to all of the Jewish congregations which signed on as members of the Coalition — Temple Beth Elohim Congregants to Prevent Gun Violence of Wellesley; Temple Emunah of Lexington, Temple Isaiah Social Action Committee of Lexington, and the Gun Violence Action Team of Temple Israel of Boston, which put into action Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s directive to “pray with our feet.” Special thanks to the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston who dedicated considerable time to this effort and to the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) who helped bring the important interfaith participation and voice. Thanks to the JALSA staff who brought all of their skills to this important work. JALSA’s office served as the hub for making phone calls all over the state to constituents in key legislative districts, the repository for postcards from nearly every city and town in Massachusetts, and the central spot for meeting and strategizing throughout this campaign. Over the past 18 months, nearly every JALSA staff member and intern played an important role in making sure this legislation got enacted. Much appreciation to Speaker DeLeo who made gun legislation a major priority for this legislative session, and we thank all the legislators who helped the successful passage of a strong bill. We look forward to working with you, our JALSA members and supporters, on many more legislative victories, in the pursuit of justice. Regards, Sheila Decter
On June 18, 2014, the House passed a bill raising the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $11 an hour over 3 years the Senate passed this bill and the Governor signed it on Thurs. June 26.
This is a BIG BIG BIG VICTORY for justice and dignity for hard working low wage earners. Over 600,000 low wage earners will get wage increases; These wage increases will total over $1 billion dollars; At $11 an hour, our state will have the highest state minimum wage law in the country, which will enable other states to consider raising their minimum wage law levels more than they otherwise would have. This only happened because we collected over 360,000 signatures!!! Thousands of volunteers from many hundreds of congregations, community organizations, and labor unions working together in Raise UP Massachusetts collected over 360,000 signatures to qualify “Raising the Minimum Wage” as a ballot question. House Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray publicly stated that they had to take this up because we had the signatures to place it on the ballot. JALSA gathered about 9,000 signatures to raise up our working sisters and brothers across Massachusetts. Almost 800 of these signatures came via the Tzedek Reflections collaboration with many local synagogues and organizations working on income inequality. $11 an hour represents a raise of over $6,000 every year for minimum wage workers. This is a huge win for low wage workers, but it is not yet a living wage. We will continue working on this important economic justice issue until all workers receive a sufficient hourly raise to maintain their families and to work with dignity.
Earned Sick Time is going to the ballot!! Earned sick time is an issue that JALSA has been fighting for for 6 years, and we look forward to working with you to get it passed this Fall! NOTE: On Monday June 30 we delivered signatures to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.
Thank you so much for all that you have done to bring us forward in this campaign for dignity and justice. Thanks, Sheila Decter, Barbara Gutman, Cindy Rowe, Erica Rothschild and all our members and friends who collected signatures.
Who is affected by the Minimum Wage legislation? 1 in 5 workers benefit in MA; 57% are women; 140,000 are parents; 236,000 children live in households where either the sole wage earner or at least one wage earner earns low wages that would be raised $1.1 billion when fully phased in which will help these low wage earners AND help our state economy retain and create jobs since most of these wage increases will be spent right back in our economy 85% of the affected low wage earners are 20+ and most of the younger workers are either using part of the wages to support their lower wage earning family and/or saving for college
The Domestic workers bill passed too! What does that mean? Domestic workers who work over 16 hours a week will get a contract from employers outlining their terms of employment: This will ensure that workers will get paid for the hours they work and that they are not taken advantage of. Domestic workers will be able to go to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination for sexual harassment complaints and for other forms of discrimination; Domestic workers will be ensured one day off in a seven day period and one weekend off in a month; Domestic workers will have parental leave; Domestic workers will have meal and rest breaks; Domestic workers will be protected from illegal charges for food and lodging and eviction without notice; The Attorney General will enforce this bill. This is a huge victory!! Congrats to all the activists that fought for this!
Next Step in Mass. legislative efforts for a minimum wage bill: Conference Committee on two different versions passed in MA House and MA Senate.
House Vote of April 2 – . What happened with the House vote on the Minimum Wage bill? They passed a bill to increase wages to $10.50 over 3 years, but did not pass “Indexing to Inflation” and raised tipped worker wages only from 33% to 36% of the minimum wage. No cuts were made to unemployment benefits or eligibility. Since the House Speaker was opposed to “indexing” and a higher wage for tipped workers, we were not able to mobilize sufficient support for such amendments in the House and they were withdrawn. However, the Senate bill has indexing and tipped wage at 50%
From the Website of the Secretary of the Commonwealth
QUESTION 4: Law Proposed by Initiative Petition
Earned Sick Time for Employees
Do you approve of a law summarized below, on which no vote was taken by the Senate or the House of Representatives on or before May 6, 2014?
This proposed law would entitle employees in Massachusetts to earn and use sick time according to certain conditions.
Employees who work for employers having eleven or more employees could earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calendar year, while employees working for smaller employers could earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per calendar year.
An employee could use earned sick time if required to miss work in order (1) to care for a physical or mental illness, injury or medical condition affecting the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse; (2) to attend routine medical appointments of the employee or the employee’s child, spouse, parent, or parent of a spouse; or (3) to address the effects of domestic violence on the employee or the employee’s dependent child. Employees would earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, and would begin accruing those hours on the date of hire or on July 1, 2015, whichever is later. Employees could begin to use earned sick time on the 90th day after hire.
The proposed law would cover both private and public employers, except that employees of a particular city or town would be covered only if, as required by the state constitution, the proposed law were made applicable by local or state legislative vote or by appropriation of sufficient funds to pay for the benefit. Earned paid sick time would be compensated at the same hourly rate paid to the employee when the sick time is used.
Employees could carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time to the next calendar year, but could not use more than 40 hours in a calendar year. Employers would not have to pay employees for unused sick time at the end of their employment. If an employee missed work for a reason eligible for earned sick time, but agreed with the employer to work the same number of hours or shifts in the same or next pay period, the employee would not have to use earned sick time for the missed time, and the employer would not have to pay for that missed time. Employers would be prohibited from requiring such an employee to work additional hours to make up for missed time, or to find a replacement employee.
Employers could require certification of the need for sick time if an employee used sick time for more than 24 consecutively scheduled work hours. Employers could not delay the taking of or payment for earned sick time because they have not received the certification. Employees would have to make a good faith effort to notify the employer in advance if the need for earned sick time is foreseeable.
Employers would be prohibited from interfering with or retaliating based on an employee’s exercise of earned sick time rights, and from retaliating based on an employee’s support of another employee’s exercise of such rights.
The proposed law would not override employers’ obligations under any contract or benefit plan with more generous provisions than those in the proposed law. Employers that have their own policies providing as much paid time off, usable for the same purposes and under the same conditions, as the proposed law would not be required to provide additional paid sick time.
The Attorney General would enforce the proposed law, using the same enforcement procedures applicable to other state wage laws, and employees could file suits in court to enforce their earned sick time rights. The Attorney General would have to prepare a multilingual notice regarding the right to earned sick time, and employers would be required to post the notice in a conspicuous location and to provide a copy to employees. The state Executive Office of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Attorney General, would develop a multilingual outreach program to inform the public of the availability of earned sick time.
The proposed law would take effect on July 1, 2015, and states that if any of its parts were declared invalid, the other parts would stay in effect.
A YES VOTE would entitle employees in Massachusetts to earn and use sick time according to certain conditions.
A NO VOTE would make no change in the laws regarding earned sick time.
As provided by law, the 150-word arguments are written by proponents and opponents of each question, and reflect their opinions. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not endorse these arguments, and does not certify the truth or accuracy of any statement made in these arguments. The names of the individuals and organizations who wrote each argument, and any written comments by others about each argument, are on file in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
IN FAVOR: A YES vote will allow workers in Massachusetts to earn up to 40 hours of sick time a year to take care of their own health or a family member’s health.
Workers will earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, and can use their sick time only after working for 90 days.
Thousands of hardworking people in Massachusetts are forced to choose between going to work sick or losing a day’s pay – or worse, their jobs. Some are even forced to send a sick child to school to save their income or job.
A YES vote on Question 4 will save jobs and income, allowing workers to spend more in the local economy, benefiting us all.
Businesses providing sick time find that it reduces employee turnover, increases productivity, and helps their bottom line.
Debra Ann Fastino, Co-chair
Raise Up Massachusetts
150 Mt. Vernon Street, 2nd Floor
Dorchester, MA 02125
AGAINST: Protect Massachusetts Small Businesses. Vote NO on Question 4.
Question 4 would make Massachusetts the first state to require small and taxpayer funded employers to provide up to a week of mandatory paid sick time and family leave to all employees, including part-timers. The red tape and mandate would be costly to small businesses and taxpayers.
When an employee at a typical office setting calls in sick, other employees usually step in to cover the workload. However, for customer service focused employers or employers with mandatory staffing levels, this may not be an option. These employers would be required to pay twice, once to the employee on leave and a second time to the employee working the shift. It would essentially double their payroll.
One size does not fit all, and small businesses and their employees depend on flexibility to increase salaries and other benefits, not costly state mandates.
Retailers Association of Massachusetts
18 Tremont Street, Suite 810
Boston, MA 02108
A blueprint to speed repairs to thousands of leaks in natural gas pipelines across the state — reducing the threat of explosions and eventually saving consumers millions of dollars — will be unveiled Monday in Springfield.
The effort, authorized by recently passed legislation, creates a uniform system that classifies the severity of leaks and sets a timeline for their repair based on the risks. It also allows utilities to more quickly recover the costs of repairs from customers in the form of higher rates.
Those repairs could add an estimated $1 to $2 a month to the average gas bill, industry officials say. But over the longer term, Massachusetts customers could save tens of millions of dollars a year once all gas leaks are repaired. That’s because they will no longer have to pay for gas lost to those leaks.
Local utilities respond to tens of thousands of calls about potential gas leaks each year and reported more than 25,000 leaks to regulators at the end of September.
“As this flammable gas travels under our feet in often archaic pipes, I’m thrilled we are compelling gas companies to track their known leaks in a more transparent and uniform way,” said state Representative Lori Ehrlich, a Democrat from Marblehead who has long pushed to repair gas leaks. “The stakes are too high.”
Natural gas explosions, including one in April that injured 11 people in Dorchester, have called attention to the problem, but the issue has gathered momentum as researchers have quantified the amount of gas lost from thousands of small leaks in aging pipelines, and the costs — to customers and the environment.
A federal study commissioned by Senator Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat, shows that in Massachusetts alone, natural gas consumers paid up to $1.5 billion from 2000 to 2011 for gas that never made it to them because of leaks. In addition, natural gas used to heat homes is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
Several legislators filed gas leak bills this session. Industry and environmentalists worked with local political leaders to craft a compromise version passed by the Legislature and approved by Patrick on June 26. The law also requires utilities to fix all but the least hazardous of leaks whenever road construction projects expose a pipeline and to give priority to leaks within 50 feet of a school.
Earlier versions of the bill went further, requiring, for instance, that all leaks be repaired during road construction and giving priority to places of public assembly, such as churches and hospitals, not just schools.
Despite the changes, lawmakers said it achieves most of their goals. State Representative John D. Keenan, a Salem Democrat who also filed a gas leaks repair bill, called the new law a “great success.”
Utilities said the law not only allows them to repair leaks faster and recover costs in a timely manner but also has provisions that will allow them to bring natural gas service to more Massachusetts residents. Natural gas in recent years has been significantly cheaper than heating oil.
“This will allow us to accelerate the replacement of aging infrastructure,” said Thomas M. Kiley, chief executive of the Northeast Gas Association, a Needham-based industry group that represents gas utilities. “The bottom line is that there are going to be less leaks going forward.”
On Monday, Patrick will join state officials for an event publicizing the law in Springfield, where a natural gas explosion leveled a club in 2012 and injured more than a dozen. The State Fire Marshal said a worker from Columbia Gas of Massachusetts accidentally punctured a high pressure gas line at the foundation of the building while investigating a gas odor.
Markey is pushing two bills at the federal level. One, similar to the Massachusetts law, aims to revamp pipeline development and repair policies to address the biggest leaks first while making it easier for utilities to recover their costs. The other would create a program to help finance such projects with federal money and matching funds from states.
Markey said the new state law is a precursor to his national plan. “Massachusetts is yet again leading the way for the nation on energy and climate change,” he said.
Related: Map: Gas leaks in eastern Mass.