Massachusetts moved to shrink the collective bargaining rights of public workers on July 12, when Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation that undercuts municipal workers’ ability to negotiate health care benefits.
Massachusetts towns and cities can now unilaterally transfer their employees into the Group Insurance Commission, a plan already used by state employees. GIC charges lower premiums but higher co-pays and deductibles, at rates that would not be subject to local unions’ bargaining. Municipal unions said the net result will be significantly higher costs for their members.
The measure, which was passed by a Democratic state legislature, left several members infuriated. “We are here in Massachusetts cutting away at collective bargaining rights,” said State Senator Marc Pacheco. “That is not Massachusetts. That’s not our values.”
The new law is projected to save local governments $100 million per year. Some towns initiated the process for enrolling their workers in GIC within days of the law being enacted.
The Massachusetts AFL-CIO opposed an earlier version of the plan passed by the State House of Representatives in April. However, it gave its support to the final version after a provision was added requiring that 25% of GIC savings be dedication to assist union members with special healthcare needs. The allocation of these funds will remain a subject of collective bargaining.