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Mass. Unions, Lawmakers Gearing Up For A Fight11:44
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Union workers and anti-union protesters gather at the Mass. State House in support of striking workers in Wisconsin in February. (AP)
Union workers and anti-union protesters gather at the Mass. State House in support of striking workers in Wisconsin in February. (AP)

Whether you love it or hate it, Massachusetts has the reputation of being a union-friendly state. And while there have been points of conflict between union members and state government in the past, there were some things that seemed sacrosanct. Chief among them, the right to bargain collectively. Until now.

Last week, Mass. House Speaker Robert DeLeo unveiled his budget proposal. It includes a provision to allow cities and towns to change some health care benefits for municipal workers, without going through the collective bargaining process.

While the proposal deals only with a small slice of the overall bargaining process, and is much smaller in scope than what's been enacted states like Wisconsin, the DeLeo plan nevertheless has unions and government gearing up for a huge fight.

At the heart of the matter: Cities and towns are in dire financial straights, in part due to ever increasing health care costs. So something has to give. How should they balance their books? And should unions make concessions to help do that?

Guests:

  • Scott Lang, Mayor of New Bedford
  • Ray McGrath, Massachusetts legislative director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and the National Association of Government Employees
  • Steve Brown, WBUR reporter

This segment aired on April 20, 2011.

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