This hardly qualifies as penetrating political analysis, but I thought that some readers might be curious as to how yesterday’s election impacts the fortunes of the Healthy Workplace Bill becoming law. Here is my very preliminary assessment.
1. Look within your state — The Healthy Workplace Bill is state-based legislation. The prospects for the HWB becoming law during the next legislative session depend on what happened in your state. Generally speaking, Democratic gains are good for the HWB, Republican gains are bad; self-identified liberals and moderates are more likely than conservatives to support the HWB. I have not seen all the results of state legislative races in states where the HWB has been introduced (readers, please share that news via Comments), but if they are at all like the Congressional and Senate races, our task is a more difficult one.
Of course, it’s not that simple. After all, it was a Republican state senator, the late Thomas Morahan, who spearheaded passage of the HWB through the New York Senate last spring. He rounded up many of his fellow GOP senators to support it as well. Although there were extenuating circumstances — Sen. Morahan was stricken with cancer and some of his colleagues may have voted for the HWB out of respect for him — it did show us that a bloc of Republican votes could be organized to support the legislation.
And the news wasn’t all bad. For example, Linda Seiler of the New Jersey Healthy Workplace Advocates reports that Linda Greenstein, prime sponsor of the HWB in the New Jersey Assembly, has won a seat in the New Jersey Senate and will be supporting the legislation from her new position. As I report right below, things held in steady here in Massachusetts and we’re ready to move forward.
Even if Democrats are more likely than Republicans to support the HWB, our goal should be to solicit support from legislators from both sides of the aisle. We need to make legislation that protects everyone from abusive mistreatment at work a bipartisan issue.
[Nov. 9 update: As this summary from The Economist explains, the Republicans made substantial gains in state-level elections, winning numerous governors’ races and capturing hundreds of seats in state legislatures.]
2. Bay Staters, let’s pull our socks up and get to work — Prospective sponsors and co-sponsors of the Healthy Workplace Bill in the Massachusetts legislature largely kept their seats. Democratic governor Deval Patrick won re-election. The pieces are in place to push the HWB forward in the 2011-12 session.
3. Prospects for federal legislation are slim-to-none — Some of us have been part of discussions about a federal version of the Healthy Workplace Bill that would cover federal workers. With the Democrats losing control over the House of Representatives and the barely holding onto the Senate, and with many of the leading Republicans being very resistant to creating new worker protections, prospects for any federal version of the HWB becoming law are next to nil.
That said, we need to talk up the possibility of a HWB for federal workers. Maybe it’s not going to happen in the immediate future, but we need to plant the seeds for change now.
On balance, the heavy Democratic losses pose challenges for supporters of workplace bullying legislation. However, the economy was the overwhelming concern of voters who went to the polls yesterday, and understandably so. Because the HWB is not yet on the radar screen of many voters, the election results were hardly a repudiation of what we’re trying to do. We need keep moving ahead, stay on message, and continue to make the HWB resonate with the public and our elected officials.