Friedman advocates for prevailing wage laws and greater transparency for MBTA privatization contracts

BOSTON – On Monday, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) testified before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight in support of S.1692, An Act relative to state contracting, and S.1694, An Act requiring additional reporting of transportation privatization contracts to promote transparency. Both pieces of legislation were filed by the late Senator Ken Donnelly at the start of the 2017-2018 legislative session this January.

Under current law, there is some ambiguity around which state entities – particularly community colleges and regional authorities – are required to follow the prevailing wage laws for janitorial and maintenance services. S.1692 would resolve this issue by adding a new section to the state finance law that would clarify that the prevailing wage laws apply to any and all state departments and institutions, including community colleges and regional authorities.

In her testimony to the Committee, Senator Friedman said, “I believe that state-supported agencies should be required to adhere to our prevailing wage laws and the language of S.1692 clarifies that intent.”

Additionally, the bill would add “security guards” to the list of contracted employees covered by the prevailing wage in such departments. Two years ago the legislature adopted a prevailing wage requirement limited to security services contracted at the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, which includes the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and the Hynes Convention Center. This bill would expand it to the remainder of departments and institutions of the Commonwealth.

“Given the training and experience required by security guards, and the importance of the work they do in securing our buildings, it is only appropriate that they, like maintenance and cleaning workers, are paid under the prevailing wage law and that any contractors doing business with the Commonwealth are held accountable for following those laws”, said Senator Friedman.

Friedman also advocated for S.1694, which would place new reporting requirements on the MBTA’s efforts to privatize public transportation contracts during the exemption period granted by the legislature in 2015. This Tax Payer Protection Act exemption period runs from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2018.

S.1694 would require the MBTA to annually report the expected and actual cost savings of any new service or procurement contracts, and more importantly, the basis for such costs, including all direct and indirect costs related to the services provided by the privatization contract, including employee wage and salary rates, retirement, insurance or other employee benefit costs, adjustments to employee scheduling policies and any change in the aggregate number of employees needed to provide the service.

“In short, this is an issue of transparency,” Friedman explained. “During the MBTA’s Taxpayer Protection Act exemption period, the legislature and the general public should be given greater details with regards to how cost-savings are realized when a public transportation contract is privatized. If we are in the business of protecting taxpayers and saving money, and for a public service where the main cost is labor, having this information is necessary for good decision-making and open government.”

Friedman represents the 4th Middlesex district, which includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn, and precincts 1-2 and 4-7 in Lexington.