No Worker Should Have to Choose Between Their Job and Their Health

Wednesday, May 26, 2020

Chairwoman Jehlen, Chairman Hay, and Members of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development: 

My name is Jonathan Cohn, and I am the chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts. Our organization and our 16 chapters around the state advocate for shared prosperity, racial and social justice, robust democracy, and environmental sustainability. 

We are writing today to urge you to give a favorable report to SD.2918/HD.5039: An Act relative to emergency paid sick time

Our top priority over the past two months has been to ensure that the Commonwealth’s response to COVID-19 is equitable and leaves no one behind. A guiding principle of an equitable response is that no worker should be forced to choose between their health and their livelihood. 

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2019 House Scorecard: In Review

At the start of the legislative session, PM and allies inside and outside the building made a push for greater transparency. We narrowed our asks to (a) more time to read bills, (b) more time to read amendments, and (c) the publication of committee roll call votes and submitted testimony online --- sensible rules that are in place in many other state legislatures. Accordingly, we scored the three corresponding amendments to the House Rules package at the start of the session (1h - 3h). The Rules debate led to a flurry of recorded votes, a welcome change from the status quo. However, we chose to score only the votes where activists had a clear ask. 

If Legislators regretted their votes -- or wanted to further their cause of culture change that they participated in, they could have signed the Transparency Pledge from Act on Mass, which PM and other allies have endorsed. This pledge involves committing to post one’s own committee votes online and standing for roll calls. That’s an important data point, so we scored it as well (25h). 

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2019 Senate Scorecard: In Review

This is a companion doc to the mid-session Senate report card for the 191st Session of the General Court.

Although transparency was a controversial issue in the House, the Senate started off the session by voting unanimously for some good-government Rules changes, such as increasing the notice for hearings from 48 hours to 72 hours and requiring the posting of recorded votes taken in committee online (1s). However, not every pro-transparency proposal passed, as the Senate voted down a commonsense proposal to provide representatives more notice when a Conference Committee produces a final bill for legislators to vote on (i.e., moving up the deadline from 8 pm to 5 pm the night before) (2s). 

Even though the Senate is a more transparent chamber than the House, it still needs improvement. So, as we did for the House, we scored a Transparency Pledge that involved committing to post one’s own committee votes online and standing for roll calls. It’s an important data point (26s). 

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🗳️ENDORSEMENT ALERT🗳️: Alex Morse for CD-01, Robbie Goldstein for CD-08

The pandemic has revealed time and time again the systemic inequalities across Massachusetts (and the country) as well as the need for elected officials who are willing to be bold, progressive leaders and not wait for others to take action.

We need elected officials who will fight for Medicare for All because, as this pandemic shows, our health is connected, and no one should have to go broke to access the care that they need.

We need elected officials who will fight for the rights of immigrants and all marginalized communities.

We need elected officials who understand that the 2020s will be the decade in which we decide whether or not we can have a livable planet -- and that we need a response to climate change that meets that urgency.

And we need elected officials who are willing to think creatively and to help chart what a progressive vision looks like for the country (and how we get out of the mess of the past four years).

Our members voted and overwhelmingly said that Alex Morse and Robbie Goldstein are the type of elected official we need, with each securing more than 95% of the vote.

(Stay tuned for more Congressional and down-ballot legislative endorsements in weeks to come.)

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Send People Checks. Make It Simple. Do It Now.

Dear Chairman Hinds, Chairman Cusack, and Members of the Joint Committee on Revenue:

Progressive Massachusetts is a statewide, grassroots advocacy group with 16 chapters across the state committed to working toward the goals of equity, justice, democracy, and sustainability.

We are writing today to urge you to give a favorable report to the following bills:

  • 4634 (Miranda): An Act providing emergency access to equity and justice for all in response to COVID-19
  • 4726 (Barber / Farley-Bouvier) / S.2659 (Eldridge): An Act to provide equal stimulus checks to immigrant taxpayers
  • 4727 (Gouveia): An Act providing for emergency cash assistance in response to COVID-19
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Protecting Our Democracy While Protecting Public Health

The following testimony was delivered to the Joint Committee on Election Laws on Thursday, May 14, 2020.

My name is Jonathan Cohn, and I am the chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts. Our organization and our 16 chapters around the state advocate for shared prosperity, racial and social justice, robust democracy, and environmental sustainability. 

Anyone who believes in a robust democracy needs to be thinking ahead to what steps we must take to ensure that we can increase participation in our September and November elections while protecting public health. As stories earlier this year from states like Illinois, Florida, and Wisconsin demonstrate, we need to be proactive, lest our inaction lead to voter disenfranchisement or further outbreaks. 

That is why we are testifying in support of the following bills: 

 

  • SD.2912 (Rausch) /HD.5026 (Madaro): An Act establishing vote by mail in 2020
  • HD.5077 (Gouveia): An Act to establish safe, accessible, and fair elections 

 

 

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Mass Incarceration is a Threat to Public Health

estimony in support of Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa’s, bill HD.4963/H.4652
An Act Regarding Decarceration and COVID-19

Thank you for taking testimony in support of this critical bill during this terrible crisis.

My name is Caroline Bays, and I am testifying on behalf of Progressive Massachusetts as well as on behalf of those who are behind bars and do not have the ability to testify for themselves.

This has been a hard time for our state. We all have found this time difficult and sometimes even scary. Imagine if you had to live through this without any control of your surroundings. Imagine if you had to live with your ability to stay safe completely in the hands of others -- and imagine if those others are people who have previously shown no indication that they care about your welfare or well-being. This is a truly scary time for men and women in the prisons in Massachusetts.

In addition many in prison are more vulnerable to this disease. Those who are not fed appropriately or allowed appropriate exercise, are more likely than most to have comorbidities, a fact which increases the likelihood that they will die from this disease. Whatever reason they might be in prison for, nobody was sentenced to illness or death. When the state incarcerates someone, the state becomes responsible for ensuring their well-being.  Well, that is what the state needs to do. And that means releasing as many people as possible in order to ensure that these tragic deaths do not continue and spiral out of control.

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Spring Holidays Are a Time for Liberation and New Life. And That Means Decarceration.

Prisons and jails are unsafe places at any time.

But during a pandemic, the combination of overcrowding, insufficient medical attention, and insufficient hygiene in prisons and jails can be an effective death sentence.

That's not okay. And it's not okay for elected officials to allow it to happen.

Here's how you can help (with scripts adapted from our friends at Families for Justice with Healing).

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2020 US Senate Endorsement: Ed Markey

When voters go to the polls this September, they should ask themselves several core questions. Which candidates are best equipped for the hard work of undoing the damage of the Trump administration and charting a progressive path forward? Which candidates will be active champions, the allies who join a fight before it becomes popular? Which candidates respond to the crises we face with the urgency required?

These are the questions our members weighed as they voted on whom Progressive Mass should endorse for US Senate, and the answer was clear: Ed Markey, with more than 96% of the vote.

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More Than Three Dozen Organizations Call on MA Legislature to Pass Urgent Safety Net Measures by April 10

Dear Members of the Legislature, 

In this time of crisis, instability, and fear we look to you for leadership—and the lives of Bay Staters will literally depend on it. We are grateful for the role the legislature has played over the past two weeks, from moving legislative offices to remote function, to encouraging Governor Baker to close schools and daycares statewide, to waiving the 1-week waiting period for unemployment assistance. However, this moment requires more from the legislative branch, and on a rapid timeline.   

Even as workplaces across the Commonwealth shutter and paychecks disappear, individuals’ expenses are increasing due to the demands of this emergency. And as we saw vividly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when disasters strike, it is people of limited means who bear the most unforgiving brunt of these crises. Low-income residents must now heat their homes during the hours when they used to be at school or work. Families must make daily pilgrimages to meal distribution sites—also often exposing themselves and their children to risk of coronavirus exposure on mass transit—to replace the two meals a day previously provided at schools. Formerly routine trips to the laundromat are now costly moral choices between leaving young children home alone longer, taking a less-frequently running bus, or paying for a TNC ride to get home to your kids faster. Residents in need are spending scarce cell phone minutes on long wait times to apply for emergency aid or to get telemedicine consults. 

Massachusetts’ assistance programs, as currently configured, are not adequate to meet this unprecedented need. Applications for SNAP benefits have increased fourfold in the last two weeks. The unemployment system has been flooded with applications, many of whom are ineligible for assistance under current parameters. And even for those who do qualify, the existing 50% wage replacement will not sustain already-low-income families. Advocates in the domestic violence space are steeling themselves for a wave of families in crisis. And these are just a few examples. The coronavirus pandemic has put immense stress on the safety net system. 

Many proposals have been floated for how to address different facets of this flood of need, and to keep circulation flowing in our local economies: a one-time supplemental payment to TAFDC and EAEDC cash assistance beneficiaries; a universal basic income intervention; closing holes in healthcare coverage for the underinsured; expansion of the UI benefit beyond 50%; supplementing the federal LifeLine program to ensure people have adequate minutes on their phone to enroll in these programs and to realistically practice social distancing; an infusion of dollars into the shelter system and RAFT program to help people be/stay safely housed. We implore you to choose some of these solutions and move on them now. 

Low-income families are in desperate, health-compromising situations and have been so for many days already. Specifically, we call on you to put a package of safety net measures on the floor of the House and Senate for a vote no later than April 10—a full month after the state of emergency was declared.

 

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