BOSTON — Union leaders are outraged that House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday night to strip police officers, teachers and other municipal employees of most of their rights to bargain over health care.
On Wednesday, Gov. Deval Patrick assured them he wants to protect their rights.
Union members say the move is akin to legislation passed earlier this year in Wisconsin that strips public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights. The governor downplayed that notion, urging everyone to “dial down the rhetoric.”
“This is not Wisconsin,” Patrick said. “That’s not what the House did. That’s not… I’m not going to sign a Wisconsin-type bill in the end. We’re going to have a meaningful role for labor, and we’re going to deliver on the savings for municipalities.”
The governor says the provision will be modified as it makes its way through the legislative process, adding there is room for debate and that he will be more involved as the provision gets closer to his desk.
Though not supporting the measure specifically, the governor did praise the House for taking action.
“The principles that I have pushed for are about getting the savings to cities and towns now in time for the coming fiscal year, and making sure labor has a meaningful seat at the table,” he said. “I commend the speaker and the members for taking action.”
Danvers Fire Department Capt. Doug Conrad was one union member who condemned the House-passed proposal while at the State House Wednesday.
“It’s disappointing that all these venerable representatives think that the unions have too much power, but they have no problem taking it and flipping the power to the other side,” he said.
Several business groups on Wednesday applauded the measure.