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Email Michelle Harvey tearfully recounted her toddler’s fight with cancer, which came at the same time her husband Brian, right, was locked out of his job at National Grid. Days before Brian Harvey would find out that National Grid had locked him out of his job and canceled his health insurance, he and his wife Michelle found a lump on their youngest son’s stomach. Within days, their son Winston, 20 months old at the time, would have surgery to remove a renal tumor, and then would be diagnosed with stage three cancer that required chemotherapy treatment. His parents had to figure out how they would afford to pay for it.
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Email Michelle Harvey tearfully recounted her toddler’s fight with cancer, which came at the same time her husband Brian, right, was locked out of his job at National Grid.
Days before Brian Harvey would find out that National Grid had locked him out of his job and canceled his health insurance, he and his wife Michelle found a lump on their youngest son’s stomach. Within days, their son Winston, 20 months old at the time, would have surgery to remove a renal tumor, and then would be diagnosed with stage three cancer that required chemotherapy treatment. His parents had to figure out how they would afford to pay for it.
It was hurtful and it devastated us,” Michelle Harvey said, wiping away tears as she recounted “the worst month of our lives” and accused National Grid of using a “cruel negotiating tactic. National Grid locked out the gas workers in late June after several years of giving contract extensions that didn’t yield any concessions on health care or pensions for new employees.
Legislators, however, have grown increasingly impatient with the impasse, have largely sided with the workers over the utility, and are now actively considering legislative relief for locked out workers. Marc Pacheco told the company’s Massachusetts president Marcy Reed. As gas workers argued for legislation to restore their health benefits during contract talks, House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Tuesday started to move a bill that calls for the state labor and workforce development secretary to establish “a benefit program for any individual who is involuntarily unemployed during the period of the negotiation of a collective bargaining contract because of an employer’s lockout.
Unemployment benefits for many locked out workers are scheduled to expire on Jan. When we grant a public utility, we expect that companies bear implicit responsibilities because of the special status conferred upon them. House Minority Leader Brad Jones threw the brakes on late in the afternoon after, his spokesman said, members of the Republican caucus had questions about “whether or not it might be setting a precedent.
Democrats throughout the day defended their right to get involved in the labor dispute. Senate President Karen Spilka’s office also did not commit to taking up the bill this month, stating through a spokeswoman, “The Senate is very concerned about the negative impacts of the ongoing National Grid lockout for families, businesses and the safety of our communities.
We continue to monitor this situation and evaluate all available options. Antonio Cabral, who fled the unemployment benefit bill. This is not how you deal with folks who work for you every day to make your products or make your company a success. Jim O’Day back in July filed a bill that would require National Grid to restore health benefits to workers for the duration of the lockout and prevent the utility from accessing public funds or seeking rate increases.
Colleen Garry, of Dracut, said members of the United Steelworkers unions are “petrified” of getting sick. Rooms on the first floor were packed Tuesday afternoon during the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy hearing. Workers also said the lockout had put public safety at risk as the volume of gas work being done has slowed and the task of fixing leaks has fallen to replacement workers. After nearly three hours, it was finally National Grid’s chance to testify.
Massachusetts President of National Grid Marcy Reed said the utility had “serious concerns” that the O’Day bill could conflict with federal law, and said the Cabral bill would have the opposite effect of spurring an agreement. The unions and National Grid will be back at the bargaining table on Friday, and National Grid said it would like to have a deal in place by Christmas, but the utility says any deal must include concessions on health care and pension plans for new employees.
Reed and Ryan said National Grid gave the unions plenty of notice early this year that it did not plan to extend their contract beyond the June expiration date, and were met with a “complete lack of urgency” to strike a deal. They said the union has been available to meet just 21 times over the course of the day lockout, and didn’t make a counter offer for days.
Ryan drew jeers when he described the lockout as the “single biggest disappointment I will ever have in my career,” but said he’s “never seen anything like it, ever. Nobody wins,” he said. Members of the committee, however, appeared to have little sympathy for National Grid’s position.
Michael Barrett, the co-chair of the committee, urged Reed to consider reinstating health benefits on her own, and Pacheco questioned Reed over what he described as rumors that National Grid was trying to “break the union” so that it could sell the gas company. Reed denied the suggestion. Members of the committee also questions National Grid’s safety record and protocols with replacement workers, as well as the cost the lockout has foisted onto the state budget for workers who are signing up for MassHealth and other public benefits.
Jim Hawkins of Attleboro asked Reed whether she personally thought it was a humane negotiating strategy to take away health benefits from union workers.
Reed also said she didn’t think it was fair to ratepayers to ask them to cover the cost of health insurance for workers who aren’t performing any services at this time for the gas company. Thomas Golden, the House co-chair of committee, told Reed he found her suggestion “insulting” that union gas workers, who had voted to authorize a strike before the lockout, might have jeopardized safety by striking during the middle of a job.
While Reed and Ryan were left to fight alone during the hearing, Associated Industries of Massachusetts is also opposed to legislation intervening in the contract dispute. AIM Vice President John Regan, in written testimony, said the O’Day bill represented a “a troubling — and perhaps unconstitutional — foray by Beacon Hill into a private-sector labor dispute. Barrett asked United Steelworkers Local President John Buonopane how the union would feel about the Legislature declaring gas workers “essential,” which, like police, would prevent a utility from locking them out, but would also make striking illegal.
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