Earlier this year, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) facilitated an anonymous, voluntary survey that was created by State House staffers in various offices, alongside Beacon BLOC, a collective of BIPOC staff members devoted to ending racial inequities among State House employees.
Many concerns were raised in this climate survey, including issues around compensation, financial security, monthly work expenses pre/post-COVID-19, pay equity and overall dynamics in the building.
DiZoglio, alongside State Representative Erika Uyterhoeven (D-Somerville), has filed a series of five bills, all designed to assist State House staffers.
HD4386, An Act Relative to a Legislative Employee Living Wage, provides a floor for the lowest tier of legislative staff salaries to reduce the barrier for entrance into public service for members of underserved populations, for persons of color, for recent graduates for whom student debt is an insurmountable obstacle.
The legislation provides appropriate adjustments to other salary tiers to make public service a viable career choice, in order to increase diversity and representation among those who serve on the front lines between Beacon Hill and the residents of the Commonwealth.
HD4387, An Act Relative to Legislative Employee Compensation Equity Adjustment, adjusts legislative staff salaries for the entire period of the COVID-19 shutdown to reflect pandemic-driven increased costs of working from home and job responsibilities, and in light of legislator salary increases effective as of the beginning of session.
HD4388, An Act Relative to Legislative Employee Compensation COLAs, provides COLA adjustments to legislative staff salaries, similar to that provided to legislators.
HD4389, An Act Relative to Health Insurance Coverage, eliminates the waiting period for health insurance coverage for legislative staff, comparable to benefit provided to legislators.
Finally, HD4390, An Act Relative to Employee Liaison Mediation and Conflict Resolution Training, establishes a position in each chamber for an officer to anonymously represent legislative employees before all persons authorized to make employment-related decisions, to give them a voice as members of the workforce and as residents of the Commonwealth before those in positions of power.
The legislation also requires HR to make available mediation and conflict resolution training.
“State workers deserve to live with a standard of dignity in the communities they work so hard to serve,” said DiZoglio. “Beacon BLOC, the organization comprised of BIPOC staffers, has repeatedly expressed concerns that persons of color and people of low-income backgrounds cannot afford to apply for State House jobs, as they don’t provide living wages, nor immediate health care coverage. We always hear about the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion, yet don’t recognize outdated policies that make it difficult for those who don’t already come from a position of privilege to get a seat at the table. Many in low-income and gateway communities can’t afford to take a job that isn’t offering basics like health care coverage on day one – especially on the heels of the pandemic. Furthermore, those who currently work on Beacon Hill have repeatedly expressed their concerns that every single decision regarding staff compensation, titles and benefits lies solely in the hands of the powerful Speaker or Senate President and has nothing to do with their work performance, education, or experience. Workers have stated they are afraid to speak out about working conditions for fear of retaliation from the most powerful on Beacon Hill. Staff should not fear retaliation for simply raising concerns about inequities – but they do. Our hope is this legislation will help to change the culture on Beacon Hill to one of equity and inclusion.”
“More than one year after George Floyd’s murder and our nation’s racial justice reckoning, we are urging the State House to do its own self-examination of racial barriers and inequities for our staffers,” said Uyterhoeven. “I’m proud to file these bills in partnership with Beacon BLOC and Senator DiZoglio. We look forward to pushing for concrete steps to improve the working conditions for our Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color staff.”