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Update on State Contract

Last Thursday, July 31, the Massachusetts State Legislature concluded what is known as” full Formal Sessions.” 
The final Formal Session ended without legislative action on a final FY14 supplemental budget, which included funding for our Alliance Unit 2 contract and our contracts with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.  The legislature’s failure to act on the supplemental budget was based on a number of factors – none of which appear to be related to the funding of our collective bargaining agreements.  

However, because the legislature did not pass the supplemental budget before the July 31 end of Formal Sessions, many of our members are understandably concerned that their new contract agreements cannot be funded until next year.  I’m writing to let you know that there is still a possibility we can get the contract funding authorized in the coming weeks and months and we are cautiously optimistic that we can make it happen.

To understand why it is still possible to get the contracts funded, one must first understand the difference between Formal and Informal Sessions of the legislature.

 In Formal Sessions, roll call votes are taken and members must be present in order to have their votes on legislation recorded. In roll call votes, how each member votes on a bill is documented and virtually all members of the legislature are present.   

In Informal Sessions, legislation is passed on what is known as a “voice vote” meaning the vote is taken by a call of the yeas and nays.  Unlike a roll call vote, there is no record of how a legislator votes on a voice vote.  Typically, only non- controversial matters are acted on in Informal Sessions and you will see only a handful of members present for these sessions. 

 Although Formal Sessions have ended, the legislature will continue to conduct business through the end of the calendar year but will do so in Informal Sessions.  A great deal of legislation is passed in these Informal Sessions and it is entirely possible that the legislature will act on the contract funding in one of these Informal Sessions.  That being said, it could be more difficult to get the contract funding passed in an Informal Session as any proposed legislation brought forth for passage in an Informal Session can be killed if just one single legislator objects to its passage.

 If that in fact happens, we would be looking at waiting until the start of the new legislative Session in January to have funding authorized.  The good news is that AFSCME is not alone in this fight.  In addition to our contracts, there are approximately 45 other union contracts included in this supplemental budget.  

 We are currently working with legislative leaders and these other unions in an effort to prevent such a delay from happening.  At some point, we may be calling on AFSCME members to contact their respective legislators to support these efforts.  However, at this point in time we do not see the need to do that.  For now, we remain cautiously optimistic that we can we can secure funding for the contracts in Informal Sessions.   Should any leaders or members have any questions please feel free to have them email or call me at 617-367-6012 or 978-866-2283.

 Thanks,
Jim Durkin