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Union Gas Workers Plead Their Case at Packed State House Hearing

December 4, 2018

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By Matt Murphy

State House News Service

BOSTON -- Union gas workers showed up en masse at the State House on Tuesday, crowding a hearing room where they and sympathetic lawmakers pushed legislation aimed at amping up the pressure on National Grid to end its lockout of the nearly 2,000 workers who have been out of work since late June.

Rep. Jim O’Day, who filed legislation that would force National Grid to give workers health insurance during contract negotiations, told the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy that National Grid has chosen to put profits ahead of Massachusetts families.

“There is currently no incentive for management to end the lockout and that is precisely what this legislation aims to do,” O’Day said, surrounding by nearly 20 of his House and Senate colleagues.

The O’Day bill would require National Grid to restore health insurance benefits to union gas workers for the duration of the lockout, and block the utility from receiving any public funds or rate increases during the labor dispute.

The O’Day bill would require National Grid to restore health insurance benefits to union gas workers for the duration of the lockout, and block the utility from receiving any public funds or rate increases during the labor dispute.

Rep. Colleen Garry, of Dracut, said members of the United Steelworkers unions are “petrified” of getting sick.

“To have a multi-million dollar international company holding Massachusetts residents to their knees trying to make them submit is outrageous,” Garry said.

Brian and Michelle Harvey of Braintree said that their son Winston had been diagnosed with Stage Three renal cancer days before Brian was notified that he would be locked out after 10 years on the job and lose his insurance.

“What National Grid did was wrong. It was hurtful and it devastated us,” Michelle Harvey said, wiping away tears. National Grid has proposed wage increases and job guarantees, but is seeking concessions from the unions over health care and pensions for new employees. The company says that other unions have already agreed to similar terms with National Grid, and the steelworkers have agreed with other utilities.

National Grid Massachusetts President Marcy Reed listened to the testimony of workers as she waited to address the committee.

The unions and National Grid will be back at the bargaining table on Friday, and National Grid said it would like to have a deal in place by Christmas.

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