Mass. legislators vote to limit union bargaining on health care

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has approved a bill that would strip municipal union members of most of their rights to bargain over health benefits, Michael Levensen reports at The Boston Globe.

Under terms of a compromise, the bill would give unions 30 days to discuss changes in health benefits with local officials before they are imposed, but the officials then would have the power to make changes unilaterally. The compromise also requires that union members share in 20 percent of first-year savings from the changes, up from 10 percent.

Proponents say the measure, which passed by a margin of better than 2-to-1, would save municipalities $100 million a year. It faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Massachusetts is hardly the only state to restrict union bargaining rights: Much tougher measures have been passed in Ohio and Wisconsin. But those states are governed by Republicans, many of whom campaigned on pledges to rein in public employee costs. In Massachusetts, by contrast, the move “was led by Democrats who have traditionally stood with labor to oppose any reduction in workers’ rights,” Levensen says.