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LETTERS

Essential voices have been left out of governor’s reopening board

Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito prepare to give an update on the coronavirus pandemic at the State House on April 29.
Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito prepare to give an update on the coronavirus pandemic at the State House on April 29.Matt Stone/Pool

Composition of board is an insult to working people

I would like to comment on the report that Governor Baker’s advisory board for reopening the local economy will be made up of business leaders, health professionals, and government officials (“Baker extends closure order until May 18,” Page A1, April 29). I find it extremely disrespectful to the hard-working men and women of this Commonwealth, who are going to be affected most by the decisions of this board, that they do not have a seat at this table.

The Baker administration and this board can’t be so arrogant as to believe they know what is best for workers without workers’ input, can they? The workers are the ones with firsthand experience of what they need to be protected.

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Unions in this country have been fighting for over 100 years for safe working conditions. Thanks to their hard-fought victories, many of these conditions have been adopted across the country. Companies are going to advocate for what’s in their best interest. Who will advocate for the worker? The trade unions in Massachusetts, for example, have been negotiating with their signatory partners for safety standards in order to return to construction sites in Boston and Cambridge.

The irony is not lost that these advisory board meetings will most certainly convene by conference call and that board members will be making decisions for people who don’t have that luxury.

Elizabeth Warren’s adaptation of Shirley Chisholm’s quote about bringing a folding chair comes to mind: ”If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re on the menu.”

If you ever wondered why unions exist, now you know.

Jeff Saliba

Business agent/asbestos coordinator

Heat & Frost Insulators & Allied Workers Local #6

Dorchester


In many ways, panel meets state’s needs, but there are glaring omissions

I appreciate Governor Baker’s appointment of an advisory board to guide the reopening of Massachusetts (“A daunting task for Baker advisers,” Chesto Means Business, April 29). In many ways, this board meets the Commonwealth’s needs. It includes municipal leaders from Boston, Lawrence, and Easthampton, capturing the state’s different regions, populations, and economies. It has diverse health care representation. The business people include representatives of the local culinary industry. However, where is the community? Where are the advocates for the people who have been putting their lives on the line as essential workers in grocery stores and on public transportation? Where are the small businesses? Where are the unions?

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There are plenty of candidates who could represent those of us who are not affiliated with large corporations like Kronos, General Dynamics, and Fidelity. What about Gladys Vega, executive director of the Chelsea Collaborative, who was featured Monday on the Globe’s front page (“Saving Chelsea, one meal at a time”)? How about Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, or Donna Kelly-Williams, president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association?

We certainly need to take health and business needs into account as we move forward in our new reality, but we also need to take people’s needs into account, especially the low-income people of color who have borne the brunt of this disease. The governor has missed an opportunity for true inclusion, unless he expands this board.

Rebecca Steinitz

Arlington


Front-line workers must have a voice here

This week Governor Baker named a 17-member advisory committee to recommend standards for reopening the state. The task force, headed by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, includes a diverse group of leaders. Mayors, hospital CEOs, key Cabinet members, and representatives of a number of corporations have been tasked with development of a plan to enable people to return to work and at the same time protect public health.

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Nowhere in this mix is the voice of front-line workers, whether it is representatives of their unions or individual workers. This crisis has exposed not only economic inequality but also the plight of essential workers who have taken care of patients, provided home care services, maintained public transportation, and kept the food supply chain in operation, to name just a few key services. Many of these workers had to raise their voices and campaign for safe working conditions. There can be no safe return to work and recovery without listening to these workers and ensuring their voices are heard.

Our society holds these workers up as heroes. They need a voice and a seat at the table. To do anything less is to undermine a safe reopening.

Enid Eckstein

Jamaica Plain