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Mass. Senate staff launch unionization push

Massachusetts Senate employees are hoping to become the second unionized state legislative staff in the country, announcing on Monday night their intent to unionize with Quincy-based IBEW Local 2222.

IBEW representatives delivered a letter to Senate President Karen Spilka's office Thursday seeking voluntary recognition of the union "after successfully collecting authorization cards from a majority of the Senate staff who are part of the proposed bargaining unit," according to a press release.

Staffers in the Oregon legislature organized with IBEW last year, and IBEW Local 2222 represents staffers of the Massachusetts and New Hampshire Democratic parties.

"State House staff are the unseen workforce that keeps our Legislature running," IBEW organizer Steve Smith said in a statement. "They write our bills, conduct outreach within our communities, and connect constituents with critical services like healthcare, food stamps, housing, unemployment, and more. IBEW is thrilled that Senate staffers will join the strong union tradition here in Massachusetts and rightfully take their seat at the collective bargaining table. We are grateful for Senate Leadership's continued support for unions, and we hope they also support their staff's right to collective bargaining as well."

A May 2021 anonymous survey of Massachusetts State House staff, organized by the group Beacon BLOC, found that just over 10 percent of legislative staff feel fairly paid for their work. Legislative leaders said at the time that staffers in both branches received cost of living increases that month and a stipend to offset costs of working from home.

During its budget debate last year, the Senate rejected a trio of amendments from Sen. Diana DiZoglio involving staff pay, including a proposed $55,000 wage floor, and adopted one calling for the Group Insurance Commission to study impacts of the waiting period for new state employees signing up for health insurance. House-Senate negotiators dropped that language from the final budget.

Spilka said she was aware of the unionization effort and had asked Senate counsel to review the proposal. "In the meantime, I will continue the efforts I've undertaken since becoming President to fairly compensate staff and modernize and professionalize our staffing procedures to ensure greater predictability, fairness and transparency for all Senate employees," she said in a statement.

Rep. Liz Miranda, a Boston Democrat running for Senate this year, voiced support for the unionization push.

"My staff mean the world to me, they are brilliant public servants who I could not do this work without," Miranda tweeted Monday night. "They deserve power in the workplace & a voice. Worker power cannot be built w/o a union. I stand with you @beaconhillunion ! #MALegSolidarity #Mapoli #Bospoli"

DiZoglio also tweeted that she stands with @BeaconHillUnion "for a State House that lives up to its progressive values — with strong worker protections and an end to a toxic culture."

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