MassEcon, a private economic development firm in Watertown, brought together top Baker administration officials to its annual meeting last week to tackle some of the biggest issues facing Massachusetts businesses, including transportation, energy, and labor. In addition, there were interesting asides, surprising factoids, and the occasional curve ball.
Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack called the sudden breakdown of MBTA services last winter “eye-opening” particularly for employers.
“All the Dunkin Donuts franchise owners discovered how their employees get to work,” Pollack quipped.
Matthew Beaton, secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs said the state needs to get a handle on soaring energy costs, which are among the highest in the nation and put businesses at a competitive disadvantage. But, he added, Massachusetts has something else going for it: the most farmstands per capita of any state in the nation.
Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash fielded a pointed question from a construction industry executive who wanted to know whether Massachusetts could become a “right to work” state under the Baker administration.
Twenty-five states have “right to work” laws that make it illegal to require workers to join a union as a condition of employment, also known as a closed shop. “It’s not on our agenda now,” Ash said, “but we’d certainly take a look at it.”
But with an overwhelmingly Democratic and union friendly Legislature, such a proposal is unlikely to advance much beyond the looking stage.