The Honorable Michael Brady, Senate Chair
The Honorable Jerald Parisella, House Chair
Joint Committee on Public Service
State House, Boston

Dear Chair Brady, Chair Parisella, and Members of the Committee,

On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association submits the following comments on a number of bills the Committee heard on May 1, 2019. We greatly appreciate the Committee’s consideration of the local government position regarding these important policy matters concerning public sector labor law.

Binding Arbitration
The MMA strongly opposes H. 2359, An Act Providing for binding arbitration for firefighters and police officers, filed by Rep. Daniel Ryan, and H. 2281, An Act relative to providing for binding arbitration for firefighters and police officers, filed by Rep. James Hawkins. These bills would allow a union representing firefighters or police officers of a city, town or district to petition the Labor Relations Board to make an investigation in the event the parties reach impasse during collective bargaining negotiations and, if the impasse is confirmed, to send the dispute to arbitration that is final and binding on the parties and the legislative body. If passed, these bills would walk back decades of labor relations for public safety employees in the Commonwealth.

In 1977, the legislature created the Joint-Labor Management Committee (JLMC) to oversee collective bargaining negotiations between municipal police officers or firefighters and municipalities. Until that time, arbitration awards were binding on a municipality. In 1980, Proposition 21⁄2 legislation provided mediation as a means for parties to resolve disputes, but the committee began to accumulate a significant backlog. In 1987, the legislature enacted Chapter 589 of the Acts and Resolves of 1987, allowing the parties to invoke limited arbitration as an additional tool of dispute resolution. Decisions resulting from this process are binding upon a municipality’s executive body and the employee organization, but are subject to the approval of funding by a municipality’s legislative body (City or Town Council or Town Meeting), thus the “limited” designation. In 1990, the Committee developed a process by which parties may voluntarily agree to limited arbitration thereby reducing the time to a settlement agreement. In addition to limited arbitration and voluntary limited arbitration, the JLMC uses a variety of dispute resolution methods. Often JLMC members assist in mediations and in many cases, mediation alone will resolve a dispute.

The JLMC and the dispute resolution processes that were put in place decades ago were passed to facilitate resolution of disputes more expeditiously and before they reach arbitration. Removing the resolution of disputes from a body that is intimately familiar with public safety collective bargaining and the parties involved by allowing arbitrators to impose costly and unaffordable contract awards on taxpayers that local legislative bodies would be mandated to fund regardless of cost places public employers and taxpayers at a significant financial disadvantage. It would also create an incentive to maximize the number of issues in dispute during negotiations, encouraging impasse. We ask that these bills not be reported out of committee.

Collective Bargaining
The MMA opposes H. 2190, An Act relative to collective bargaining, filed by Rep. Tackey Chan, insofar as it relates to municipalities. At the May 1, 2019 hearing on this bill, Jim Redmond from NAGE SEIU testified that the bill is intended to apply only to the state. We ask the Committee to clarify the language of the bill so that it does not include municipalities and reflects the union’s intent.

Reimbursement of Expenses
The MMA strongly opposes H. 2191, An Act relative to expenses incurred in defense against unfair labor practices, filed by Rep. Tackey Chan, H. 2282, and S. 1512, An Act relative to expenses incurred in defense against denials of Chapter 41, Section 111F benefits (injured-on-duty pay), filed by Rep. James Hawkins and Sen. Diana DiZoglio. H. 2191 amends the labor relations statute, Chapter 150E, by requiring reimbursement of reasonable expenses to any labor organization who successfully challenges an unfair labor practice for which they engaged an attorney. H. 2282 and S. 1512 amend Chapter 41, section 111F, governing injured-on-duty pay, to require the municipal employer to pay an employee’s legal expenses in the case of a successful challenge to the denial of 111F benefits. These bills place an unfair burden on taxpayers and will incentivize more litigation against public employers. The cost of losing section 111F claims and labor law disputes have a large enough impact on municipal employers and taxpayers without imposing additional costs. We ask that these bills not be reported out of committee.

Shift Coverage
The MMA opposes H. 2279, An Act relative to labor relations, filed by Rep. James Hawkins. This bill would amend the labor relations statute, Chapter 150E, by requiring municipal employers to negotiate over the manning of shift coverage for firefighters. Shift coverage is a right essential to an employer’s management of the workplace and workforce. The employer is in the best position to determine shift coverage taking all of the affairs of the workplace and the management of employees into consideration. Removing shift coverage as a managerial right would result in a loss of an important management function and significantly reduce an employer’s ability to manage the workforce and the workplace. We ask the committee to not report this bill out.

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

Thank you.

Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO