Back in April, shortly after Massachusetts'
Democrat-controlled House, at the bidding of the state's Democratic governor,
Deval Patrick, passed a decidedly un-Democrat-like bill curbing the collective
bargaining rights of public employees, the governor received a concerned phone
call from the White House.
"There was no message," Patrick said as he signed collective
bargaining changes into law last week. "They were just checking
But at the time, President Obama, a friend and political ally of the governor,
had been using the union-busting efforts of Republican governors like
Wisconsin's Scott Walker to fire up the Democratic base.
"It would be very difficult for the president and Democrats in Washington
to use [Governor Scott] Walker as a foil, if Massachusetts, a Democratic state
with a Democratic governor," was also inciting union protests, said Peter
Ubertaccio, a political scientist at Stonehill College.
The bill Patrick ultimately signed, however, isn't as tough as the one passed
by the House in May or by Republican-led states like Wisconsin. While it does
curb the collective bargaining rights of teachers, firefighters, and other
municipal employees, thanks to last-minute changes negotiated by Patrick it
also cushions seriously ill workers and retirees from significantly higher
health care costs and limits the ability of local governments to make sweeping
public employee health plan changes without union approval.
Robert J. Haynes, president of the AFL-CIO of Massachusetts, who'd vowed in
April to "fight this thing to the bitter end," said labor unions
supported the governor's final plan.
"Finally, in the endgame, we still get to sit down with municipalities and
bang out and bargain what health care looks like in that city or town," he
said. "That's all we ever wanted, was to have a voice." (BOSTON
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