The quest to enact Healthy Workplace legislation, Part I: Subtle progress in Massachusetts

The 2013-14 Massachusetts state legislative session ended last week, and the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) made it to “second reading,” meaning it was approved through various committees and was poised to be brought up to the House of Representatives for a full floor vote. As the session approached its end, the HWB was still under discussion among House leaders, no small achievement given the thousands of bills introduced each session.

Those of us who support the HWB were hoping for more from this session, perhaps even making it all the way through to the Governor’s desk. Nevertheless, we are well primed for the next legislative session, and here’s why:

1. Legislative sponsors — The HWB has attracted increasing support in the MA state legislature. We went from one legislative sponsor in the 2009-10 session, to 13 in the 2011-12 session, to 39 in the just-concluded 2013-14 session. Our lead sponsor, Rep. Ellen Story, remains deeply committed to this legislation. A bill once regarded as a novelty is now receiving serious attention.

2. Grassroots support — Our grassroots advocacy group is flexing its muscles. We are hearing from legislators and their staffs that calls, e-mails, and visits from HWB advocates are making a difference.

3. Organizational support — From the beginning, the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) has been a source of significant support and “inside the building” expertise. During this last session, we also picked up more endorsements and active support from other labor unions and worker advocacy groups.

4. Media attention — The HWB is getting attention from the media. During the closing weeks of the session, workplace bullying and the HWB were subjects of a lengthy lead editorial in the Sunday Boston Globe, and an extensive feature in the Globe‘s Lifestyle section. During the course of the session, WGBH’s “Greater Boston” program and WBUR’s “Radio Boston” program devoted major segments to workplace bullying and the legislation.

5. Vocal opposition — The Associated Industries of Massachusetts — a powerful corporate lobbying presence — and a small group of ultra-conservative state legislators opposed the HWB. You know you’re making progress when the opposition comes out of hiding.

6. Our turn next? — A welcomed hike in the state’s minimum wage law and the long-needed addition of occupational safety & health protections for many of the state’s public workers were among the pro-worker bills that successfully made it through this session. In the meantime, the HWB created much more of a buzz this time around, as the idea of enacting protections against workplace bullying has become mainstreamed.

Legislative advocacy, especially for pro-worker bills that are considered cutting-edge policy proposals, often requires patient and steadfast commitment. Such is the case for the Healthy Workplace Bill. That said, our prospects for the next legislative session are looking very good, and I strongly believe that we can make this happen.

2 responses

  1. It sounds like things are starting to move along. I ran into a woman at church who worked where I did. She was bullied out after 23 years just like me. I have talked to more than 50 people from where I worked who have been bullied. These people either quit or were fired. I also heard that the supervisor who gets rid of the employee, receives a monetary bonus for saving the company money. This is the best part. When I was terminated, they said I was rehireable. I just got a call from another department for a job interview. It was for a domestic violence educator. They want someone with experience dealing with bullying. It was so strange, but I am going to the interview. I tell everyone my experience and try to keep it short; just so they understand the work side of this. I am an advocate and talk to and write as many politicians as possible. I think we all need to do this. I had magnetic cards made explaining the bill. I had T-shirts made. The job would be perfect for me because I put up with the bullying for 3 years. I never knew what bulling in the workplace was before. I think if more politicians (the correct ones) would hear more from us, it would help pass this to law. It is too bad each state has their own bill and that it cannot be nationwide. We are behind the times in passing this law. If we stick together and do at least one thing to get our message across, it will help. I wrote an editorial in the newspaper about the bill and that it should become a law and explained what others can do. I received phone calls and questions. There are a lot of us out there and we must work as a team of “Bully Crusaders.” Children being bullied is also terrible. I believe many children learn this behavior from their parents. This law must indicate that there is no tolerance concerning bullying . The bullies should be fired immediately. I never realized what bullying could actually do to an individual until I experienced this. I would never wish this upon anyone. There are so many mental issues that can develop from this treatment; it is abusive. Like when people say words are more hurtful and they stick with you. Please do whatever you can to tell someone, write an editorial, talk or write to a politician (find the correct politician in favor of the bill). Many politicians do not know anything about it. This cannot go on anymore. Good employees are being replaced by younger employees with less experience. The companies doing this are just ruining their reputation and making themselves look incapable. They will lose customers and money. Employers and employees should be working as a team in a positive environment. Working Americans should be excited to go to work and they will do their best in this type of environment. They should not be scared and anxious about what might happen every day. I used to love the job I had and my bully supervisor ruined many thoughts I originally had about my job. I honestly could not believe what happened and I am sure many of you could not either. I also cannot believe a supervisor, HR, and other participating upper management can agree to treat employees this way. I know and have learned that their days are numbered too; I do not think they realize it yet.

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