|Candidate Name: Lee Scott Laugenour
House District: 4th Berkshire
2012 UAW MASSACHUSETTS CANDIDATE
STATE LEGISLATIVE QUESTIONNAIRE
Address PO Box 612 / Lenox MA 01240-0612
Phone No. 413 551 9222
Fax No. n/a
Campaign Committee Name: Friends for Scott Laugenour
Contact Person: Kalin Jordan, Campaign Manager
Treasurer: Holley A. Linscott
Position Sought: State Representative
I. Freedom to Choose a Union
Employers routinely undermine the freedom of workers to choose a union by intimidation, one-on-one meetings and holding mandatory anti-union general meetings.
Unions are striving to reduce employer interference and intimidation so that more working people are free to join unions today.
1. If elected, would you take a public position on behalf of working people and insist that employers should give employees a free choice, without pressure or intimidation, about whether to join a union?
2. Will you publicly support organizing drives in your district by:
a) Writing letters of support for the workers' organizing efforts?
b) Attending community forums in support of the organizing efforts?
c) Helping to pass resolutions of support by local governmental entities?
d) Joining and supporting other educational efforts and activities that seek to build public support for the right of workers to organize labor unions?
3. [For those states where public employees don't have the right to organize] Will you support legislation to give public employees the right to organize and bargain collectively?
YES. I opposed two votes by my opponent in 2010 and 2011 that limited the rights of municipal workers and teachers to collectively bargain. (Please see my answers to questions 6 and 20 on the AFL-CIO candidate questionnaire).
4. Will you support legislation and/or administrative actions to prohibit state and local funds from being used for contracts unless the contractors or agencies agree to remain neutral in organizing drives and grant the union card check recognition upon the showing of majority support?
5. Will you support legislation and/or administrative actions to prohibit contractors and agencies from using state and local funds to oppose organizing drives?
II. Union Dues
Recently there have been efforts to enact legislation that would restrict the ability of unions to collect and spend union dues for legislative, political and community involvement purposes.
1. If elected would you oppose restrictions on the use of union dues for political and legislative activities?
Yes, as long as such spending is recorded for union members and the public to review. All political spending should be transparent.
2. Will you oppose so-called paycheck deception proposals that would silence the voice of working families in the political process?
III. Occupational Safety and Health
The federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Acts were enacted to help assure the safety of workers who were being injured or killed in the workplace. Since then, the workplace has become safer, healthier and a more secure environment in which to work. Unfortunately, too many workers still are injured or killed on the job.
1. If elected, would you oppose any proposed legislation that would repeal or weaken state OSHA programs?
2. Will you ensure fairness and equity in job safety by supporting legislation, which extends OSHA protections to MA public sector workers, which now only protects private sector employees?
Private school vouchers undermine public education by taking scarce funds away from public schools, which are open to all students, and shifting them to private schools. It is in the interest of all workers that we maintain quality public education for all children.
1. If elected would you actively oppose all private school voucher proposals?
V. Living Wage
Living Wage laws would help ensure that persons working for employers that benefit from city government contracts or city financial assistance do not live in poverty.
1. If elected, would you support the efforts to enact and enforce Living Wage Ordinances?
2. If elected, would you oppose legislation that would prohibit local municipalities from enacting the Living Wage Ordinance?
VI. Health Care
Millions of Americans do not have any health insurance for themselves and for their families, and everyday employers are foregoing health care coverage for their employees often saddling the state with the cost covering those employees who are also poorly paid. In addition, those who do have coverage are struggling with a vicious cycle of reduced health care access and higher costs.
1. Do you support single payer legislation that would provide health care for all residents of Massachusetts?
2. Will you support legislation that would allow health care professionals to report quality problems without retaliation from HMO's, insurance companies, hospitals and others?
3. Will you support legislation that holds insurance companies accountable when their decisions to withhold or limit care injure a patient?
4. Will you support legislation that would require large employers to provide or contribute to the cost of providing health coverage to their employees.
NO. I support single payer health care, that is funded by progressive fair taxation, because individuals, communities, and businesses are currently unfairly burdened by private health insurance premiums, which are regressive.
VII. Taxpayer Protection Act
Taxpayer protection laws do not prohibit privatization but establish procedure to ensure the proper expenditure of state funds when current state services are contracted to private vendors.
1. Would you oppose changes that would weaken the Taxpayer Protection Act (or the Pacheco-Menard Law)?
2.Would you support extending the current Taxpayer Protection Act Law to other state authorities not currently covered, such as the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority?
(It is my understanding that MassPort is also not covered by the current Taxpayer Protection Act. I will need to do more research before taking a position on this.)
VIII. Minimum Wage
A fair minimum wage is fundamental to a social economic system that guarantees a decent minimum reward for work. A fair minimum wage not only reduces costs for social support systems, but also acts as an economic stimulus in the communities in which low-wage workers live.
1. Will you support increasing the state minimum wage periodically by increasing it to the Consumer Price Index?
IX. UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE BENEFITS:
1. Unemployment Insurance (U.I.) is a social insurance program established to counter the cyclical
nature of the U.S. and state economy. U.I. is our first line of economic defense in a recession
and is designed to pay adequate weekly benefits so that jobless workers and their families can
maintain essential family spending, thus automatically boosting our economy by maintaining
consumer spending during a recession. Maintaining a healthy trust fund balance and adequate
benefits is good economic policy to mitigate the effects of predictable economic downturns, as
well as allows working families to survive through tough economic times. Unfortunately U.I.
benefits are constantly under attack by employers and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO is constantly
defending U.I. against these attacks. Would you oppose legislation that seeks to reduce U.I.
benefits in any way?
2. Will you oppose all attempts to deny public employees OSHA-like protections?
X. UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE TRUST FUND:
1. The original intent of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund was to maintain sufficient reserves to weather a recession. This is known as "forward funding" and the accepted standard is to have enough funds on hand to be able to pay out U.I. benefits for one year during a recession that represents the average of the three 12-month high recessions. This is known as the "Average High Cost Multiplier" (AHCM). In order to ensure an AHCM of 1.0 (one year's payout) the taxable wage base should be higher, should be indexed to growth in statewide wages, and the U.I. tax schedules need to be sufficient to maintain U.I. Trust Fund solvency. To learn more about U.I. Trust Fund solvency visit www.nelp.org. Would you support and will you sponsor, co-sponsor and vote for legislation that ensures the solvency of the U.I. Trust Fund at an AHCM of at least 1.5 by increasing and/or indexing the taxable wage base and by maintaining statutory U.I. tax schedules at the necessary level?
(As I also indicated on question #35 of the AFL-CIO 2012 Candidate Questionnaire I support maintaining the UI Trust Fund's health and solvency, but I would need to do more research before committing to an AHCM of a particular value.)
2. Will you oppose all legislation that seeks to freeze or decrease the payments made by employers towards the U.I. Trust Fund?
XI. UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ELIGIBILITY:
There have been significant changes in the labor force over the past decade with more part-time and contingent workers in today's economy. A majority of these workers are women. Would you support and will you sponsor, co-sponsor and vote for legislation or other governmental action that would expand eligibility and access to U.I. benefits for part-time and contingent workers?
XII. TEMPORARY WORKERS' RIGHT TO KNOW:
Temporary employment agencies often keep workers in the dark by denying them basic pieces of information about their job. Amazingly, this practice of not informing workers of basic information is allowed by law. Currently, workers could be assigned to a job without any knowledge as to things as basic as: whom their employer is; where they are going to work; what kind of work they will be doing; how much they will be paid; what kind of equipment they will need; or other basic pieces of information regarding their working conditions. Oftentimes workers who resort to employment through temporary agencies are not in an economic position to turn down work; therefore, they often are forced to take work despite complete ignorance as to its nature in order to support their families. No parent would willingly send their child to a job under these conditions. The Commonwealth should not allow temporary employment agencies to deny workers these basic pieces of information which inevitably lead to workers being exposed to unsafe working conditions for which they are untrained and unprepared. Would you support and will you sponsor, co-sponsor and vote for legislation that seeks to provide temporary workers with basic pieces of information before they are assigned to a job?
XIII. SOCIAL WELFARE:
Social welfare programs represent a safety net for the Commonwealth's most vulnerable citizens. The goal of state policy should be to ensure that no citizen is left behind or treated differently from any other citizen in the Commonwealth. Would you support and will you sponsor, co-sponsor and vote for legislation that allows education and training to count towards the work requirement in Chapter 5?
XIV. PAID SICK DAYS:
The Massachusetts AFL-CIO has for years supported resolutions and legislation that seeks to establish "paid sick days" for workers in the Commonwealth. In the richest country in the world and the 3rd highest per capita income state in the nation it is unconscionable that workers, particularly those in lower wage occupations, are forced to choose between a paycheck and caring for themselves or a loved one's health. Around the world 156 nations provide paid sick days. Of the ten most competitive nations in the world, only the United States does not provide paid sick days. "Presenteeism" (going to work sick) is incredibly bad for public health, as well as productivity. Those are in addition to the fundamental moral injustice that exists by forcing workers to miss a paycheck and jeopardize their employment if they become ill or have a family member whose health demands assistance. Would you support and will you sponsor, co-sponsor and vote for legislation that establishes paid sick days by allowing workers to earn a certain amount of paid sick days based on the amount of hours they work?
(The practice in this country has been, with benefits legislation such as sick time, to mandate that businesses absorb the cost. Not all workers benefit because smaller businesses are exempt. I believe it is time to begin shifting such benefits into a public social security program, such as what is seen in successful social democracies around the world. I would rather introduce legislation for a publicly administered sick day fund in Massachusetts. Please read a blog I wrote a couple years ago on paternity leave benefits.)
XV. State Unemployment Insurance
Unemployment insurance is a social insurance program established to counter the cyclical nature of the US economy. Maintaining a healthy Trust Fund balance and adequate benefits is good economic policy to mitigate the effects of predictable economic downturns.
1. Would you oppose any effort to increase the number of weeks of work necessary for a worker to become eligible to collect unemployment benefits from the current standard of 30 times the weekly benefit amount (15 weeks)?
2. Would you oppose decreasing from 30 weeks, the current maximum number of weeks a worker can collect unemployment insurance?
3. Given the fact that in today's economy, there has been significant changes in the labor force over the past decade, with more and more part-time and contingent workers, a majority of whom are women, would you seek to expand eligibility to improve access to UI benefits for such part-time and contingent workers?
4. Would you support enhancing the solvency of the UI trust fund by using an Average High Cost Multiplier of 1.0 (AHCM). (The AHCM represents the last three recessions over a 12 month period to the Trust Fund Balance, without taking into account any Trust Fund revenues. (If you would not support using this measurement how would you determine the solvency of the Trust Fund? (To learn more about Trust Fund solvency go to the National Employment Law Foundation website at www.nelp.org.
(Please refer to my answer in section X. of this questionnaire.)
5. Increasingly, employers are avoiding the payment of UI taxes by misclassifying
their workers as independent contractors. A recent Harvard study demonstrated
that this costs the UI Trust Fund between $12.6 to $35 million a year and results in an additional $152 million in lost revenues to the state. Yet, the unemployment agency has not taken aggressive measures to stop this and unlike the wage statute, G.L. c. 149, § 148B; the unemployment statute still has a cumbersome definition. Would you support greater enforcement of employers to prevent misclassification and would you support changing the unemployment law so that it has a clearer definition of who is an employee?
YES, in tandem with needed tax and health care reforms that unfairly burden small employers.
XVI. Workers Compensation Insurance:
1. Do you support efforts to improve benefits and coverage under the state workers'compensation law?
XVII. Product Liability Act:
Many states have laws that are actually stronger than federal laws that protect consumers from faulty or defective products, like flammable child pajamas or flying lawnmower blades.
1. If elected would you support proposals to strengthen existing product liability laws in Massachusetts?
XVIII. Legal Services
Would you support increased funding to the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, which funds legal services for the poor?
XIX. Child Care and Education
1. Do you support legislation to ensure affordable, quality child care for poor working families?
2. Would you support legislation that provides for state support to day care, pre-schools and head start programs to raise the pay scale of the early care and education teachers to that which is comparable to public school teachers in the labor force?
3. The benefits of early childhood education to overall educational success has been widely reported. Do you support making early childhood education available to all 3 and 4 year old children in the Commonwealth?
4. Do you oppose allowing taxpayer dollars to subsidize students at private and religious schools?
XX. Civil Rights
1. Would you oppose efforts to overturn the legalization of same sex marriage?
2. Would you use your office to speak against any effort (e.g. legislation or ballot initiatives) to attack the legal rights of same-sex domestic partners (e.g. DOMA-Defense of Marriage Act)?
YES. (The answers I provided on the MassEquality 2012 Candidate Questionnaire document several instances where I have made public statements on this subject.)
XXI. Prison Labor
1. Given that workers of Massachusetts put money back into their communities, and prison labor takes both money and jobs away from those communities, would you support legislation to regulate and restrict prison labor so as not to deprive the state economy and workers money and jobs?
2. Given that the chain gangs are morally offensive and inherently violate human rights, and that in at least one county, chain gangs have been used to perform public work projects, would you support legislation that would ban chain gangs in Massachusetts?
XXII. Municipal and County Workers
Will you agree to and support funding for pay raises, COLA increases and benefit improvements that are achieved by collective bargaining for municipal and county workers?
XXIII. Corporate Accountability
Do you support corporate responsibility legislation that would reserve economic development assistance, tax breaks and state contracts for responsible employers who pay a living wage, provide health care benefits, have not broken any laws and do not pay excessive CEO salaries?
XXIV. Higher Education
1. Will you support legislation and/or administrative action that increase public funding for higher education?
2. Will you support legislation and/or administrative action that improve access and affordability for
Massachusetts residents, in particular for underrepresented groups?
3. UMass-Amherst currently ranks last among its self identified peer institutions in terms of graduate student funding. Will you support legislation and/or administrative actions on the state or university level that improves working conditions for graduate student/employees including but not limited to: increasing stipends, health care benefits, increasing child care subsidies and limitations and rollbacks of fees?
XXV. Public Funded Employers
Under existing law (M.G.L.c. 7, section 56), contractors who perform services for or supply goods to the Commonwealth are forbidden to spend any part of public-derived funds to retain consultants, attorneys, or others for the purpose of persuading their employees to support or oppose any employee organization, such as labor union. H 3267 is designed to put teeth in the law by creating a procedure for investigating and preventing violations. Publicly funded employers would be required to maintain records sufficient to show that public funds are not being used for pro or anti union persuasion or influence. Any citizen or taxpayer may request the State Auditor to investigate and report to the Attorney General. The AG may file a civil action or if the AG declines to file an action, there is a provision for private civil actions. The court may order the employer to cease and desist and reimburse the state for improperly spent funds, plus an equal amount as damages. Knowing and willful violations may result in the employer paying the reimbursement plus double an equal amount.
Would you support H3267 - Insuring the Integrity of State Contractors' Expenditure of Public Funds?
(I support enforcement of MGL c7 S56 and I support the goal of H3267 to allow citizens and taxpayers to easily verify that employers are complying with it. I would like to work with the UAW on a less cumbersome and costly way of providing that verification that would allow taxpayers to verify compliance automatically, without tying up the auditor's office and the employer's accountants.)
Submitted on August 6, 2012 by Lee Scott Laugenour