Union Boss Suggests Senate Playing “games” with Lockout Bill
BOSTON -- The Senate gaveled out for the weekend Thursday without admitting a more than three-month-old petition that seeks to extend private health coverage to locked-out National Grid gas workers as union members watched on in anticipation.
Union members watched from the chamber gallery Thursday morning hoping to see the bill surface after the House referred it last month to the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, surface. They returned in the afternoon following a lengthy recess to watch as two senators passed a sick leave bill and adjourned.
The Senate president’s office said they “anticipate an update...in the near future.”
The Rep. James O’Day petition that the House referred to committee in late October would also deny Chapter 90 funds from National Grid for the duration of the labor dispute. O’Day filed the petition in mid-July following National Grid’s decision in June to lock out the gas workers.
“I don’t know how things work up here, what kind of games go on,” United Steel Workers Local 12012 president John Buonopane said after adjournment.
Union members visited senators’ offices throughout the day urging them to admit the bill, which Speaker Robert DeLeo has indicated he wants a hearing on before Thanksgiving. “Most of the people we’ve talked to support the workers,” Buonopane said, “but real support is taking action, and that’s what we needed today. Our members will be really disappointed.”
O’Day’s proposal is “under consideration,” Minority Leader Bruce Tarr told the News Service. “We want to see the issue addressed,” Tarr said of the National Grid lockout, adding that his Republican caucus is looking for the “best way” to do that.
Conversations, according to Tarr, are also focused on a separate Sen. Mark Montigny bill.
Senate President Karen Spilka’s spokesman Scott Zoback wrote in an email that the petition “is working its way through the Senate process” and “we anticipate an update on this in the near future.”
Buonopane said the Montigny bill, which would extend unemployment benefits to the union workers past their expiration date, deals with a different issue than O’Day’s legislation, and a hearing would provide an opportunity for lawmakers to question National Grid officials about the lockout.
According to the state secretary’s Lobbyist Division, National Grid has been represented since early July by lobbying firm Kearney, Donovan & McGee, where former Sen. Anthony Petruccelli has worked since resigning in 2016 to join the private sector.