From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
December 2011 Edition

. MNA Photo
. Shrewsbury residents and MNA members Mary Colby, RN, and Susan Mulcahy had an excellent meeting with Rep. Matthew Beaton (R-Shrewsbury) to discuss MNA’s Patient Safety Package in November.
  MNA Photo
  Nurse constituents of Rep. Kim Ferguson (R-Holden) met with her to discuss the bills in MNA’s Patient Safety Package in Holden in November. From left, Denise Duff, an RN at St. Vincent Hospital; John Laszlo, an RN at UMass University Campus; Ferguson; and Karen Grzyb, an RN at St. Vincent Hospital.

Governor signs law to protect bargaining rights for public sector workers

Gov. Deval Patrick recently signed into law a bill that was backed by many labor unions, including the MNA, and will positively affect collective bargaining for public employees. An Act Relative to the Terms of Collective Bargaining Agreements, which codifies the use of so-called evergreen clauses in collective bargaining contracts, was enacted by the House and Senate just prior to Thanksgiving.

Evergreen clauses extend the terms and conditions of current collective bargaining agreements while labor unions and employers negotiate a new agreement. The new law addresses a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that evolved last October, which held that evergreen clauses violate the state’s labor relations statute if they extend contract terms beyond three years.

Since the labor relations statute was enacted in 1973, there has been widespread acceptance of evergreen clauses by the commonwealth’s public employers and labor unions. The new law explicitly allows evergreen clauses and reaffirms over 40 years of well-established labor law. As acknowledged by the SJC, evergreen clauses provide “a continuing code of conduct while parties negotiate a new bargaining agreement.” Such continuity is important during contentious periods in labor relations, when a contract is about to expire or has expired, particularly during periods of severe economic strain.