Over the last few weeks, I have heard regularly from many of you regarding your concerns with National Grid’s lockout and the impact it has had on over 1,250 Massachusetts workers and their families. I wanted to provide you an update and let you know that I have been in regular contact with National Grid and the United Steel Workers Unions regarding the ongoing contract negotiations. I remain troubled that National Grid has been unable to put forward an agreeable contract, and am frustrated by reports of continuous safety violations on gas lines. As the cold winter months approach, it is especially imperative that the locked out workers be able to return to work.
Last month, I co-signed a letter to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) regarding the ongoing safety issues related to the lockout of qualified gas workers, urging the DPU to implement strict penalties on National Grid until they are able to resume safe operations in our communities. I have continuously met with locked out workers across our district to hear their concerns, and have also been in contact with all of the municipalities in our district to see what can be done on the local level to end this dispute. In addition, I vocally supported holding public hearings to ensure that locked out workers can publically voice their grievances with National Grid, and I am glad that process will begin this week.
Two bills, H.3133 and S.1028, will be heard by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy on December 4. These bills would extend the locked out workers’ unemployment benefits, which are set to expire in January. Without unemployment benefits and healthcare coverage, these workers and their families face a devastating financial situation. I fear that National Grid is using the expiring unemployment benefits to unjustly improve their bargaining position, thus preventing the negotiation of a fair contract. Further, by preventing a trained and qualified workforce from returning to work, National Grid has placed citizens across the Commonwealth who rely on this public utility at risk. That’s why I believe it is appropriate for the state to intervene on behalf of the locked out workers, and I intend to support these pieces of legislation to ensure that a fair contract can be negotiated.
This contract dispute has put the health and well-being of hundreds of locked out workers’ families at risk. This is deeply troubling and does a great disservice to citizens across the Commonwealth who have experienced a frightening spike in dangerous gas-related incidents over the last few months. Please join me in supporting the locked out workers and their families.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my office by phone at (617) 722-1432 or by email at Cindy.Friedman@masenate.gov.