Meet Charice Lewis

In February 2011, Working Massachusetts began running our first radio ads across the state to share our members' stories directly with the public. Our ads feature public employees talking about their jobs and the people they help.

In this ad, you'll meet Charice Lewis, an operator on the MBTA. Do you remember the dramatic video from late 2009 of a woman falling onto the tracks at North Station? Charice was driving the train, and the story has a happy ending thanks to Charice's calm under pressure. 

Boston Globe's Loth Gets It Right on Pensions

Boston Globe columnist Renee Loth got the story right in her March 19, 2011 column, "Tensions over pensions":

Here’s the real news: public pensions are a bargain for state government compared to private businesses that participate in Social Security. The state contributes about 2.6 percent of payroll to current employee pensions. But private companies are required to pay 6.2 percent (of the first $106,800 of salary) into Social Security. If the state were to abolish its pension plan and pay into Social Security instead, the [Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center]  found, its costs would more than double.

She examined the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center's recent look at the state retirement system. Loth urged readers:

Righteous venting about fat-cat bureaucrats may feel good, but the truth is that high-profile abuses like Kinton’s are outliers. They shouldn’t be used to condemn the ordinary pensions most government workers will receive. [Emphasis added]

You can read Loth's entire column here. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center recently released two reports that debunk the most popular myths about state employees. Take a look at their report telling the truth about state employee wages versus those in the private sector here; you can see their report demystifying the state pension system here

"Clearing Up Myths and Facts About Public Workers"

National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation featured a talk with Steve Greenhouse, the labor and workplace correspondent for the New York Times, talking about myths and facts about public workers. You can read excerpts below and read the entire transcript here

Now, a lot of private-sector workers who have 401(k)s say: I don't have a very good retirement plan anymore. This stinks. And they resent seeing public-sector workers having more generous pension plans. And they say that's not fair. And the public-sector workers will say: Don't resent me for having the decent pension plan that your mothers and fathers used to have. You should fight to have a better pension plan for yourself....

Now, in some localities and some cities and some school boards, yes, the unions have helped elect Democrats, have helped elect friends who sit on the other side of the negotiating table, and yes, sometimes that means that maybe, you know, those friends whom you helped elect scratch your back and give you more generous wages or pensions than you otherwise might....

However, a lot of other people are - you know, corporations and a lot of folks are trying to, you know, elect their friends and try to make sure that politicians, who's ever elected, Democrats or Republicans, you know, won't be too generous for unions....

And I often talk to union leaders who say: We wish we were half as powerful as Jonah Goldberg says, because if we had all the power he says, if we were so lucky in electing all our friends to be sitting on the other side of the negotiating table, then our wages would be much, much, much, much better than wages for the private-sector workers....

So union leaders say it's grossly exaggerated how much power they have. But that's not to say that there aren't sometimes occasions when, you know, union friends on the other side of the bargaining table are too generous. That has happened sometimes, and sometimes that's really ended up being a burden for various towns and school boards.

Mass Budget & Policy Center Demystifies State Pension System

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center has published Demystifying the State Pension System, a report describing how the state system works, how much it costs, how it compares to similar systems in other states, and recent reforms. 

It's an easy to read introduction to the state retirement system, and it couldn't come at a better time, when so much of the country is talking about public employees and our pensions. Check it out here and save it for reference the next time your Fox-News-watching buddies try to blame your pension for their troubles. 

Hearing for Municipal Health Care/GIC Bills Tuesday March 8

The long-held right of municipal employees to bargain collectively over their benefits is the next item that could face the budget ax. The Joint Committee on Public Service will hold a hearing on Tuesday, March 8 at 10:00 a.m. in the State House's Gardner Auditorium to consider bills dealing with municipal health care and the Group Insurance Commission. 

One of the two dozen bills under consideration, Governor Deval Patrick's proposal (H.36), would make cities and towns join the GIC unless they either have less expensive plans already or can negotiate with local unions to reduce costs to a comparable level. His bill would also force municipal retirees onto Medicare, a move that now requires municipalities to approve via town meeting or city council vote. 

Larry, Bill, Charice, Sue and Kevin

Meet The Members in Our Latest Radio Commercials!

People from all over the state--even leaders in state government--have told us how much they appreciate the radio commercials we've been running at stations across Massachusetts. You may have heard our first commercials featuring Charice, an MBTA subway train driver, Sue, a teacher from Billerica, and Kevin, a snow plow driver in Boston. 

Now we've added the stories of two more public employees to the campaign. Larry Norman works at the Massachusetts Municipal Training Council, which keeps your local police officers trained in CPR and the most current information in law enforcement topics, such as handling domestic violence or elder abuse. Bill Gode works at the Department of Conservation and Recreation controlling floods in the greater Boston area. Remember the dramatic television footage from last year's flooding in Waltham, where raging waters threatened to compromise the Moody Street Dam? Bill was the brave engineer who fought his way out to the dam to release the gates and prevent a catastrophic dam failure.

Click on the media player to hear Larry, Bill, Charice, Sue and Kevin tell you about the ways they keep Massachusetts working. 

Poll: Americans FAVOR union bargaining rights!

A new Gallup/USA Today poll says that Americans supporting unionized public employees outnumber the opposition by nearly 2 to 1!

From the USA Today report:

Americans strongly oppose laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. The poll found 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to such a proposal in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law.

A spokesperson for Gallup said that, while some of the opinions about how to deal with states' fiscal problems vary, 

...public support for unions has been strong for decades, although it has dropped in the last few years. Still, he says the poll shows Americans are reluctant to take away something that unions have already.

You can read the whole thing here--and prepare a comeback for the next time your favorite anti-union buddy tries to tell you that Americans hate us.

"We Are One" rallies in Boston, Springfield Tuesday 2/22/11

Please join us for rallies in Springfield and Boston on Tuesday, February 22 as we stand in solidarity with workers in Wisconsin, here in Massachusetts and across the country as we fight attacks on our rights.


State House, 4pm


Springfield City Hall Steps, 4pm

Sue Leahy, Charice Lewis and Kevin Drake

We're On a Radio Station Near You!

Working Massachusetts has kicked off a statewide radio campaign with a series of commercials featuring our own members telling their stories!

Our first commercials are running across the state in February and March to introduce the public to Working Massachusetts. Featured in our first commercials: Sue Leahy, a teacher from Billerica and two of her students; Charice Lewis, an MBTA driver, and Kevin Drake, who drives a snow plow for the Commonwealth in Milton and parts of Boston. They belong to different unions and perform different jobs, but they all do work that we depend on every day to keep Massachusetts working.

Just click on the sound player to hear the commercials (all three are on the player)--and stay tuned!

Who's telling tall tales about public pensions now?

Looks like Fox News host Bill O'Reilly is the latest talking head talking trash about our pensions

News flash, Bill: Public employee pensions aren't bankrupting cities and towns. AFSCME President Gerald McEntee wrote in a USA Today editorial:

Let's be clear: Underfunded pension systems resulted from unprecedented losses of asset values caused by reckless behavior on Wall Street and the refusal of some politicians to make their required payments. As recently as 2007, pension funds had, collectively, 96% of the assets required to meet future expenditures. But Wall Street drove America's economy and retirement security into a ditch. And now both pension and 401(k) accounts alike must be rebuilt.

And the supposed 401(k) "solution?

The "401(k) solution" promises cost-savings that just don't materialize. A recent study in Nevada concluded that conversion to a 401(k)-style system would cost $1.2 billion more over the next two fiscal years. 401(k) plans are not less expensive, just less efficient and less secure than traditional pensions. 

Nice try, Bill. The suits on Wall Street caused the mess. The average municipal retiree's pension runs about $23,000 per year. The average state retiree's pension? About $26,000 a year. The average big shot on Wall Street can blow that money in a weekend and never even miss it. But our retirees--people who served us for all of their lives--can't afford to miss meals, or medicine, or heat because Bill O'Reilly doesn't like them.

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