Tag Archives: labor

The Month of March in Labor History

March 4, 1801: In his inaugural address, President Thomas Jefferson declares: “Take not from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

March 31, 1840: President Martin Van Buren issues an Executive Order providing for a 10-hour work day for all employees on federal public works projects.

March 7, 1860: Several thousand shoemakers in Lynn, Massachusetts begin a strike that soon spreads to 20,000 shoe workers all over New England. The strikers, who include men and women, eventually win Continue reading

Leigh Panettiere of Sandulli Grace, P.C., Advances Pro Bono Legal Project for Veterans

As co-chair of the Boston Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Section as well as its pro bono subcommittee, Sandulli Grace Attorney Leigh Panettiere is spearheading an effort to gather experienced labor and employment lawyers in Massachusetts to volunteer their services to the men and women who serve us in the U.S. Military.  In coordination with the Volunteer Lawyers’ Project and Shelter Legal Services, Ms. Panettiere’s committee is arranging to send labor lawyers to “Yellow Ribbon Events” taking place in the next few months. Veterans and their families are invited to attend Yellow Ribbon Events and seek legal and other advice regarding the impact their military service has on their lives. The guidance of labor and employment lawyers is often sorely needed, especially post-deployment.

A large number of returning service members are police officers facing the challenges of re-integrating into the police force after active military service.  Most returning veterans do not have the financial resources to obtain the necessary legal advice on their own.  The goal of this project is to make returning to work easier for veterans and their families, as well as educating employers on the rights of returning veterans.  We encourage our union clients to get involved in this effort.

A training session will be held on Monday, November 1, 2010 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Boston Bar Association. An experienced trainer will be on hand to update the volunteer attorneys on USERRA and other labor and employment statutes that are typically implicated when a returning veteran seeks services.  Any attorney interested in attending the training, volunteering his or her services to veterans, or getting involved in coordination efforts as part of the pro bono subcommittee should contact Leigh Panettiere at lpanettiere@sandulligrace.com, or (617) 523-2500 Ext. 18.

Stay tuned for updates on this project at www.sandulligraceonline.com.

City Of Boston Ordered To Pay Police Union Members $16.5 Million To Resolve Longstanding Labor Dispute.

It is a case that began way back in September 1994, when the City of Boston (“City”) first assigned Boston Municipal Police (“Municipal Police”) to patrol the Boston Housing Authority (“BHA”) housing developments without first bargaining with the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (“BPPA”). Now, 16 years later after protracted litigation, the City has finally agreed to pay damages owed to the Boston police officers who should have performed the work. The Massachusetts Division of Labor Relations (“DLR”) this week issued a Stipulated Order which instructs the City to pay $16.5 million to affected officers according to a method agreed to by the parties.

The Order puts an end to a saga that began even before 1994. The BPPA, which represents patrol officers employed by the Boston Police Department (“BPD”), had objected to the creation of another, second-tier police force in the City – the Boston Municipal Police – from the start. But when the City assigned Municipal Police to patrol the BHA developments, the BPPA filed a charge of unfair labor practice with the state labor board, then called the Labor Relations Commission (“Commission”). The charge accused the City of violating G.L. c. 150E, section 10(a)(5) when it subcontracted BPPA work to the Municipal Police without first giving the BPPA notice and an opportunity to bargain. A hearing officer of the LRC upheld the BPPA’s charge after a hearing (at which the BPPA was represented by Sandulli Grace Attorney Susan F. Horwitz) in 1996, and the full Commission affirmed the decision in 2000. See City of Boston, 23 MLC 133 (1996), affirmed by 26 MLC 144 (2000). The City then appealed to the Mass. Appeals Court, where the BPPA, represented by Sandulli Grace Attorney John M. Becker, in 2003 was again successful. See City of Boston v. Labor Relations Commission, 58 Mass. App. Ct. 1102 (2003). Finally, after the Appeals Court decision, the City removed the Municipal Police from the developments. The force was eventually disbanded, with some of its members transferring to the Boston Police Department.

Back in 1996 and 2000, the Labor Relations Commission ruled that the City must: return to the status quo before the violation (and remove the Municipal Police from the developments); make officers whole for any financial losses; and bargain before making any changes. The Commission ordered the City and the BPPA to attempt to determine the damages, but numerous meetings over many years were fruitless, largely because the City took the position that it owed no damages. As a result of this dispute, the parties asked the Commission for help. By 2010, the Labor Relations Commission had become the Division of Labor Relations, and scheduled a series of meetings with the parties. First the parties attempted to mediate a settlement, without success. Then, the DLR held three days of compliance hearings, where the BPPA was represented by Sandulli Grace Attorneys Amy Laura Davidson and John M. Becker, in an effort to establish the amount of damages. It was out of this process that the parties developed a series of stipulations that led to the Stipulated Order issued by the DLR this week.

The Stipulated Order distributes the damages in a fair and equitable manner among current and former members of the BPPA. First, the nine-year damages period is divided into quarters beginning October 1, 1994 and ending September 30, 2003. Then, each person who was an active member of the BPD and a dues (or agency fee) paying member of the BPPA on the first day of each quarter is entitled to a payment for that quarter, up to a maximum 36 quarters. (This means some of those entitled to payments will be retired or promoted into higher ranks.) Then it gets a little complicated. The total amount of damages ($16.5 million) is then divided by the total number of quarters worked by all eligible individuals, for the payment-per-quarter. Every individual will receive the payment-per-quarter for each quarter that he or she is eligible. Because the total number of individuals and quarters has not yet been determined, we don’t yet know the payment-per-quarter, so we can’t yet tell individuals how much they will receive. This will take a little time, but the BPPA and the City hope to have the process substantially completed in the coming months.

Throughout the years, the leadership of the BPPA has never stopped fighting for a fair result to bring back to their members in this litigation. With this week’s Stipulated Order, they’ve reached their goal.

Tweet, Tweet – Sandulli Grace, Pc Starts Twitter Feed To Give Up To The Minute Labor News

With our blog, www.sandulligraceonline.com, continuing to grow in popularity, we’ve now added a Twitter feed to enable us to provide even more up-to-date information regarding the union movement and matters of concern to employees.  Our Twitter account, found at http://twitter.com/SandulliGrace, allows us to alert you to recent events quickly, and on the go.  (Twitter is a popular “microblogging” site.  Here’s info about Twitter, http://twitter.com/about).  We expect to post 2 – 5 “tweets” a day, depending on the news.  We’ll tweet blog postings, news articles we run across, court and agency cases, etc.  Of course, we will continue to post substantive blog items regarding issues of concern to our clients.  Indeed, don’t be surprised to see us blog an item that first appears on our Twitter feed, once we have time to digest and respond fully to a legal development, case, or political item.

You can sign up to receive our tweets on your computer or mobile device, by going to http://twitter.com/SandulliGrace and hitting “follow.”  Once “following,” you can also send us ideas or information.  Or you can visit the blog and simply look at the recent Twitter entries on the front page.  Also, if you haven’t signed up to receive e-mail announcements of our blog entries, you can do so by entering your e-mail address in the “Join our Mailing List” box in the left hand column of this page.


I had a police officer client in my office a few days ago who insisted that Question 1, which would repeal the Massachusetts state income tax, will definitely pass.  When I heard that, I knew I had to at least write something to try to convince that tiny proportion of the population that listens to what I say to vote against this.

            Why is Question 1 so bad?  The facts are well-presented by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO in its aptly titled “Times Are Hard Enough. Let’s Not Make Them Worse”.  The facts include: 

  • The income tax proposal will cost the Commonwealth more than $12 billion in revenues, about 40% of the state budget.
  • This is a binding proposal that will become law effective January 1, 2009
  • It will have dire consequences for our communities, putting:
    • Education at risk with:
      • Larger class sizes
      • Fewer after school programs
      • More school closings
    • Health care at risk for:
      • Seniors
      • Working families
      • People with disabilities
    • Public safety at risk with:
      • Fewer emergency response personnel
      • Longer 911 wait times
      • Fewer police officers and firefighters
    • Our infrastructure at risk with:
      • Unsafe bridges
      • Broken roads and more potholes
      • Cuts in service to public transportation
  • Put our fragile economy and job market at even greater risk

            For those of you who believe that eliminating $12 billion from the budget will get rid of the supposedly inefficient state workers, consider that the entire state payroll is about $7 billion.  That leaves $5 billion left to cut with no more state workers to lay off!

            Where does the $28 billion state budget go if not to the state workforce?  It goes to places like nursing homes to care for elderly and disabled, to hospitals to pay half the cost (the Federal Government pays the other half) of the care for those on Medicaid (many of whom are elderly), to contractors to build roads and bridges and schools, to local aid to cities and towns, and to pension funds for retirees.

            There is a common misperception in this state, fueled by the ideologues on talk radio, that we pay more taxes than the rest of the country.  Actually, the state and local tax burden in Massachusetts is 9.5% of income, slightly below the 9.7% national average.  This places us 23rd nationally among the states.  (If you don’t believe me, check out the web site of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Institute).

            So while there are many good factual reasons not to vote for this, it is disturbing to me that something like this is even on the ballot.  We used to be a country where people banded together to try to make everyone’s lives better.  My grandparents’ generation agreed to tax themselves to have a strong economy and get out of the Great Depression.  My parents’ generation agreed to pay taxes for a strong military to defeat the Fascists in World War II.  Rich people used to pay a lot of taxes in the U.S.  In the 1940’s and 1950’s, the highest wage earners paid over 80% on income over $200,000.  As recently as the 1970’s high income earners paid 70% or more on what they earned over $200,000.  [For a chart on tax rates, see http://www.truthandpolitics.org/top-rates.php#fn-1].

            Since the Reagan presidency and its mantra that “government is the problem” and “the less government, the better,” taxes have become the third rail of American politics.  This has worked out great for the very wealthy, who have seen their tax rates decline to less than half what they once were.  For some super-rich, who make billions of dollars running hedge funds, all of their income is taxed as capital gains at the 15% federal rate.  While their tax rates have been reduced, those earning the most money have seen their incomes soar.  In 2006, Chief Executive Officers of large companies averaged over $10 million in total compensation, 364 times that of the average worker.  As recently as 1980, those CEO’s made 42 times what the average worker made.

            So, while the rich have gotten richer and paid lower tax rates, what has happened to the rest of society?  We have, at least for the past 10 years, basically tread water.  But while our wages have been flat, our expenses have increased: medical, housing, transportation, education.  Caught in this squeeze, it is no wonder that some of us jump at an opportunity to stop paying state income tax.  But eliminating state income tax is not the solution; it will only reduce services that we all need and make things worse.  What is really needed is an overhaul of the tax policy to put more burden on the rich and an increase in the real wages (adjusted for inflation) of working people.  Hopefully, a reform of our labor laws can help with the wage problem.  But that’s for another article.

            Bottom Line: VOTE NO ON QUESTION 1!


Joe Sandulli Receives Cushing-Gavin Award, The Highest Honor For Mass. Labor Lawyer

Sandulli Grace, PC founder Joe Sandulli has been awarded the 2008 Cushing-Gavin Award for Union Attorneys, the highest honor bestowed upon members of the New England labor management  community.  He will receive the award at the Labor Guild’s 42nd Annual Awards dinner on November 20 at the Sheraton Boston.

            Since 1946, the Labor Guild has advanced the interests of Massachusetts workers and strengthened bonds between representatives of labor and management.  In 1952, the Guild started offering classes to workers through its School of Industrial Relations.  In 1967, the Guild established the Cushing Awards Dinner to honor achievement in the field of labor management.  The Dinner has grown to be the largest annual event in the Boston labor management community and provides financial support to its School.

            Joe has actively supported the Labor Guild since he began his career in the Boston labor community more than 35 years ago.  He has served as a Faculty member of the Labor Guild’s School for many years, teaching courses ranging from “Law and Labor Relations” to “Labor Strategies,” his current course offering.  His selection as a Cushing-Gavin Awardee highlights not only his standing in the community, but also his commitment to labor education and to the Labor Guild.

            Upon learning of his selection, Joe was, as usual, quick to credit the whole team at Sandulli Grace.  “While it’s a great personal honor to be selected for this award, what it shows is the standing that Sandulli Grace has in the labor management community,” Sandulli stated.  “The legacy of quality representation that Sandulli Grace provides to labor unions and their members is the proudest achievement of my legal career.”

            Thanks Joe, but why don’t you take a while to let us all be proud of you for a change.

Selectmen May Be Sued for Demoting Chief

The Massachusetts Appeals Court has waded into the seemingly never-ending internal strife in the Town of Stoughton Police Department.  In the case of Cachopa v. Town of Stoughton, #07-P-1247 (Sept. 15, 2008), the Court interpreted the little-used legal theory of “intentional interference with contractual relationship” and ruled that the Chief may sue the Town and Individual Selectmen for demoting him.  The case underscores the risks faced by Town employees who also serve in elected positions. 

 For the past several years, the Stoughton Police Department has been beset by various public controversies, including sting operations of a liquor store run by a future Selectman, a police officer’s suicide, no confidence votes against the liquor-store-owning Selectman, the demotion of the Chief, and his subsequent reinstatement as Chief.  Following his demotion by the Board of Selectmen, the Chief sued the Town and Selectmen – including one who works as a Stoughton police officer – for “intentional interference with contractual relationship.”  The Chief produced evidence showing that a Selectman – whose store was prosecuted by the Chief for selling alcohol to minors – told the Chief that he would be reinstated if the Chief appointed another Selectman – the one who is a police officer – back to a plum police assignment.

 The Court ruled that these two Selectmen may be individually liable for their actions to demote and/or replace the Chief.  To support a theory of intentional interference with contractual relationship, there must be evidence that the infliction of economic harm was motivated by malice.  Here, the Court ruled that a jury could find that the Selectman/liquor store owner was improperly retaliating against the Chief for the repeated prosecution of his liquor store, the Chief’s refusal to assign the other Selectman to a plum assignment, and the no-confidence votes.  Meanwhile, the Court found that police officer/Selectman also may be liable. Although the officer abstained from voting to terminate the Chief, his vote to name an acting chief was equivalent to demoting the Chief and these actions could be interpreted by a jury to have been motivated by his anger and frustration over the Chief’s bypass of him as Deputy Chief and for a particular assignment. 

 The Appeals Court technically did not find that the individual selectmen are liable.  The Court’s ruling merely says there is enough evidence for a jury to decide whether “malice,” rather than job performance, was the reason for the Chief’s temporary demotion.

 The Cachopa case also highlights the financial risks assumed by elected officials.  The Appeals Court ruled that the individual selectmen, when sued in their personal capacity, did not qualify for governmental immunity under the Massachusetts