By Michael P. Norton
State House News Service
BOSTON -- A union that represents electrical workers plans to withhold direct campaign contributions to state legislators until further notice, saying they hope lawmakers will "feel the pinch" that families are feeling due to inaction on important bills.
While lawmakers last session raised the minimum wage, established a paid family and medical leave law, and gave locked out workers new income protections, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers say their decision stems from the Legislature's failure to pass bills targeting wage theft, increasing education funding, and blocking the MBTA's ability to outsource work to private contractors.
The union is also miffed that lawmakers did not vote to shore up union rights in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The court ruled that public employees can't be forced to pay fees or dues to a union to which he or she does not belong, a decision both cheered as a freedom of speech victory and decried as an attack on organized labor.
In announcing its decision, IBEW Local 103 also said it welcomed new relationships with "emerging political players who keep their promises to their constituents" and indicated it expects an increase in primary challenges to Democrats in what the union called "previously 'safe' seats.
The union referenced its support for Ayanna Pressley, who defeated former Congressman Michael Capuano in the September 2018 Democratic primary and is now serving in Congress. IBEW endorsed Pressley and said its members offered "hundreds of volunteer hours" to support her candidacy.
"In 2019, our members are not going to continue to spend their hard-earned dollars supporting politicians who fail to prioritize basic legislation aiding working people," Local 103 Business Manager Lou Antonellis said in a statement. "For too long, House members in particular have taken labor support for granted. It's time they felt the pinch our working families feel from being ignored by the Beacon Hill elite."
The union, however, is making an exception, and plans to continue to support the political campaigns of "card carrying" union members, mentioning Sen. Paul Feeney, and would continue to evaluate endorsement opportunities on a case-by-case basis.
The union said it plans to return $200,000 in Committee on Political Education funds to its members, with refund checks expected to arrive this month.