Massachusetts Hazard Pay Legislation Update

For the past several months AFSCME Council 93 has been working in coalition with other public sector-unions in support of HB4631. The legislation filed by State Representative Tackey Chan and co-sponsored by dozens of members of the house and senate, seeks to provide time-and-a-half pay to all public sector workers who have been required to work outside of their homes during the pandemic – retroactive to March 11th. The bill was sent to the Joint Committee on Public Service and thousands of public-sector union members across the state joined their union leaders in submitting testimony in support of the legislation. Under legislative rules, the committee was required to issue a recommendation on the legislation by Friday, June 19th. Late Friday, the committee voted to send the legislation to a "study," essentially ending hopes for passing this particular bill in the current session.

While efforts to pass the precise form of hazard pay proposed through this particular bill have been dealt a major setback, it does not prevent Council 93 from continuing to work in coalition with other public-sector unions to provide financial recognition to the thousands of public-sector workers who put their safety and the safety of their families in jeopardy by continuing to deliver essential public services during the pandemic. The primary factor influencing the house committee's decision was cost of funding the increases, which are estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Due to severe revenue shortfalls resulting from the shutdown of the economy, the state along with municipalities, are struggling to maintain public services and avoid layoffs until the economy rebounds.

AFSCME is currently working on a national level to secure a new round of federal financial aid to states and municipalities in an effort to maintain essential services until we see a full economic recovery. Legislation providing this relief has already cleared the U.S. House of Representatives and is now awaiting action in the U.S. Senate. In addition to direct aid to states and municipalities, the house bill also includes billions in funds that would be set aside to help government entities provide hazard pay. So, while the fight for passage of HB4631 may be over for this session, rest assured AFSCME will continue working with other public sector unions on other options to deliver some form of well-deserved hazard pay to our members.