Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Josh S. Cutler, House Chair
The Honorable Patricia D. Jehlen, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Cutler, Chair Jehlen, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,
On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to offer our comments and concerns regarding the bills before your committee for public hearing today.
We appreciate the purpose of the legislation to provide paid sick leave and other special benefits to employees in recognition of unanticipated workplace demands and concerns about personal health and safety caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic and future public health emergencies.
As public employers, cities and towns throughout the pandemic have been at the forefront of ensuring that their employees are safe in their jobs and have ready access to adequate paid sick leave and other related benefits. Local governments have worked closely with partners at the state and federal levels since the start of the pandemic to provide and pay for personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure the safety of essential municipal personnel and to provide COVID-19 testing, paid leave and vaccines to protect the health of the local government workforce and the general public. Federal funds to help finance the pandemic response have been essential and special temporary rules on employee benefits have helped the most vulnerable workers.
For municipal employees, the main issues raised in most of these bills are already addressed through existing collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), general municipal benefit policies and special rules responsive to the pandemic. There is a robust process in place at the local level for municipalities and their employees to reach agreement on additional benefits. We ask that the Committee make these legislative proposals available to cities and towns at local option by vote of the appropriate governing body.
Mandated Paid Leave
We oppose H. 1961 and S. 1222 related to emergency paid sick time during a state of emergency as these two identical bills are currently drafted.
Cities and towns already provide substantial leave benefits that are in collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) reached with public employee unions and included in municipal personnel policies for other employees. In addition, cities and towns have adopted special leave considerations due to the coronavirus pandemic, including the establishment of local sick leave banks.
We ask the Committee to make the provisions of these bills a local option so that individual cities and towns can assess how the proposed mandate compares to local leave programs already in place and the extent of the impact on local budgets, including unexpected retirement payouts for accumulated leave benefits caused by these bills.
Workers’ Compensation Presumption
We strongly oppose the several bills that would create a variety of special presumptions that any medical condition or inability to work related to COVID-19 be presumed to be work-related. These are H. 2031 and S. 1194, H. 1986 and S. 1155, and H. 1993.
The existing workers’ compensation system already provides strong benefits for COVID-related illness for public employees. A presumption is unwarranted in an environment when a person can contract the coronavirus from many sources not related to the municipal workplace. The provisions of these bills would also appear to apply to people who have refused to be vaccinated, which would impose an unfair burden on local taxpayers, most of whom have chosen to be vaccinated.
Special COVID-19 Pay
We oppose the bills that would mandate in state law specific special pay for municipal employees because of their work during the pandemic. This includes H. 2005, H. 2055 and S. 1168. These bills would impose additional municipal costs in fiscally challenging times. With the enactment of the American Rescue Plan Act in March and the U.S. Treasury guidance on May 10, cities and towns and municipal employees have a federally funded chance to work out special pay plans through the Premium Pay provisions included in the ARPA.
This is not the time to impose costly unfunded mandates on cities, towns and local taxpayers, especially since all the evidence shows that municipalities have provided leave benefits and compensation that far surpasses what has been provided by the private sector.
Thank you for your interest on these very important local government matters. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Legislative Director John Robertson at 617-426-7272 or firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO