The Honorable Patricia D. Jehlen, Senate Chair
The Honorable Paul Brodeur, House Chair
Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development
State House, Boston

Dear Chair Jehlen, Chair Brodeur, and Members of the Committee,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is writing to submit testimony on H. 1681 and S. 1045, An Act to ensure minimum wage and paid family medical leave benefits for municipal employees. The MMA strongly opposes these bills on behalf of the communities of Massachusetts. We appreciate the Committee’s consideration of the local government position regarding this important matter concerning municipal employment.

In 2018, the Commonwealth adopted G.L. Chapter 175M, creating a Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Program. The program provides temporary income replacement to eligible workers for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child, in the event of a serious illness or injury, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, and to manage family affairs when a family member is on active duty in the military. Eligible employees receive up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and up to 20 weeks of paid medical leave. The program, which will begin on October 1, 2019, will be funded by premiums paid by employees, employers and the self-employed. If benefits under an employer’s private paid leave plan match or exceed those in the PFML, employees will be covered by the employer’s plan instead. A key element of the grand bargain adopted by the Legislature last year is the provision making it clear that this is a local option statute for municipalities, and that communities may adopt Chapter 175M by a majority vote of the local legislative or governing body.

H. 1681 and S. 1045 would remove the local option for municipalities in Chapter 175M and mandate that the PFML apply outright to the municipal workforce, which would impose a large state-directed financial burden con cities and towns. The MMA asks the Committee to retain the local option for cities and towns by voting down these bills. For decades, municipalities have provided excellent paid sick, vacation and leave benefits to their workforce, and have negotiated collective bargaining language to administer leave in ways that work for each municipality. Municipal sick leave policies provide employees the opportunity to accrue generous sick leave balances adequate to provide earnings for leave that would be covered by the PFML. With generous benefits for paid time off, it is rare that an employee requiring leave for family or medical reasons does not have enough accrued paid leave, and most employers offer leave banks from which to draw more leave. Under current municipal benefit systems, many employees will stand to lose paid leave under the PFML because their collective bargaining agreements provide better coverage. The imposition of a payroll tax on municipal employees would, therefore, cost many employees more money for a lesser benefit and impose an extra financial burden on employers, employees and local taxpayers.

A state-imposed PFML mandate would also make it more difficult for departments to schedule shifts, particularly public safety and DPW, and small towns with limited personnel and resources may not be able to absorb the financial impacts of the program. Backfilling positions to cover employees out on leave could double the costs, which could result in a decrease in public services, staff layoffs and higher taxes. Municipal employers do not share the same issues that compelled the Legislature to address the lack of benefits provided by private sector companies. Every city and town must have the ability to assess their own situation and determine whether the PFML is something that would benefit their community and employees. For these reasons, we ask the Committee to maintain the local option in Chapter 175M for municipalities and to oppose H. 1681 and S. 1045.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Lisa Adams at 617-426-7272 at any time.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO