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Labor’s political pains

John Tlumacki/Globe staff/file 2014/Globe Staff

In politics as in physics, every action has a reaction.

Or, in some cases, an overreaction.

Let’s look at two involving Massachusetts unions and Democratic elected officials.

Led by Speaker Bob DeLeo and Ways and Means chairman Brian Dempsey, the House recently showed some real leadership on the so-called Pacheco Law, which erects large barriers to hiring private companies to perform any work done by state employees. One way the law discourages even attempts at privatization is by requiring that a firm’s price must be compared with the cost of public employees doing the job “in the most cost effective manner.”


Why? Because otherwise, explains Senator Pacheco, pro-privatization forces would first lard up the payroll to inflate the public-sector cost and then propose contracting out as a remedy. Now, the senator was a good sport to call me back, given my skepticism about his law, so I’ll just say, apropos of nothing in particular, that I like this quote by the Duke of Wellington: “If you believe that, you will believe anything.”

Anyway, the Pacheco Law has been regularly cited as an impediment to a better managed MBTA. And so, in response to Baker’s call for a Pacheco reprieve, the House included in its budget a three-year suspension of Pacheco as it pertains to the MBTA.

That became law.

Labor went ballistic.

As reported by the Globe’s Jim O’Sullivan, some 45 labor leaders held an emergency meeting to vent their frustrations — and to strategize about possibly targeting some Democrats for primary challenges.

“There have been no decisions made about running candidates, but our members are furious,” reports Steve Tolman, president of the state AFL-CIO. So furious that Michael Monahan, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has advocated picketing a fundraiser DeLeo is hosting for Representative Michael Moran on July 28.


Advice: Guys, this is silly single-issue absolutism. Picketing the speaker or Moran would mark a return to the blather-and-bluster days of Bob Haynes, the former AFL-CIO chief whose eye-rolling antics diminished labor’s influence on Beacon Hill. Union members can’t expect insulation from competition. Responsible public officials need to put the overall public interest first. And on the vital issue of MBTA improvement, that’s what DeLeo and Dempsey have done.

Now consider the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. In a mid-July e-mail blast to MTA members about reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, left-wing firebrand Barbara Madeloni, the MTA’s president, criticized the two for voting for “the use of test scores as a basis for labeling and punishing schools.”

In fact, the senators simply wanted a bill that ensures that schools will properly serve minority kids. In her e-mail, Madeloni acknowledged Warren’s concerns about those students. Still, “some of the worst excesses of corporate ‘reform’ have been supported by elected officials who call themselves our allies,” wrote the MTA chief, urging union members to press the two relentlessly.

Honestly, a view of the world that sees Warren and Markey as corporatists or school-punishers bespeaks an astonishing lack of perspective.

And then came this: “At the state level, we have an opportunity to use the full power of our union and our alliances to take back control of our public schools and stop the testing madness.”

No matter how one feels about testing, is there anyone outside the MTA ranks who wants to see Madeloni and her newly militant union take control of our schools?


If so, it might be time to avail yourself of your new Obamacare mental-health benefits.

Right after you’re done picketing Bob DeLeo, that is.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @GlobeScotLehigh.


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