Hi friends,

The slow news period that typically follows the end of formal sessions at the State House was suddenly interrupted this week when major national news came knocking on our door, and it’s a doozy. 

Let’s dive right in.

State House Scoop

Migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard Wednesday night for Ron DeSantis’ political stunt

When 48 Venezuelan migrants boarded a plane in Texas earlier this week, they were told they were going to Boston, where shelter and jobs had been lined up for them. This was a cruel lie: against their will, these migrants were sent to Martha’s Vineyard. Nobody had been informed of their impending arrival. There were no jobs awaiting them, nor housing. Even worse, they had been deliberately given false information designed to prevent them from complying with federal law. Who is responsible for this human trafficking? None other than Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has publicly taken credit for using these people as political pawns to protest Biden’s immigration policies. 

DeSantis claims he diverted these migrants to Massachusetts because we’re a sanctuary state, and thus we’ll take better care of undocumented immigrants and refugees than Texas or Florida will. Of course, he’s saying this disingenuously; he wants a “deep blue'' state like ours to get a taste of our own medicine. But the truth is that Massachusetts isn’t much better for undocumented immigrants than Florida or Texas, and that is an utter failure. 

Contrary to popular belief, Massachusetts is NOT a sanctuary state. The bill to make us a sanctuary state, the Safe Communities Act, has been killed in the legislature for the last five sessions in a row. Over half of legislators are signed on as cosponsors, and it is supported by a coalition of over one hundred organizations, but it’s never even come to a vote. To make matters worse, undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts, some of our most vulnerable residents, are not eligible for basic safety nets like SNAP and housing assistance–all of which desperately needs to change. It’s high time that we became the sanctuary state that fear-mongering Republicans think we are.

Yes on 4 campaign launched to combat Republican repeal efforts

DeSantis’ craven stunt finds Massachusetts in the middle of our own wave of anti-immigrant fear mongering; the recently-passed Work and Family Mobility Act to allow residents without federal status to obtain a driver’s license is vulnerable to being repealed via ballot referendum in November. On Monday, the group behind the Work & Family Mobility Act launched the Yes for Safer Roads Coalition to combat the repeal effort. While polling on this issue shows majority support for the law, it’s too close for comfort. It took decades of advocacy to pass this bill. Let’s not allow a rare progressive legislative victory slip through our fingers.

Commission to redesign the racist MA state flag and seal flounders with no funding

Formed almost two years ago, the commission tasked with designing a new state seal and flag is in search of yet another extension to produce a recommendation. Why haven’t they been able to make any progress? Because they don’t have two nickels to rub together; the 2020 law that formed this commission explicitly stated that “it shall not receive funds from the commonwealth.” (Pro tip: to tell the difference between a genuine priority for the State House and a symbolic one, look at how much they fund it, if at all.) They have only made one decision as a committee since their formation: to conduct polling about potential flag and motto replacements. That poll, in partnership with UMass, is slated to take place next month. As of right now, we can assume there will not be a final recommendation by the current deadline of December 2022.

In Memoriam: The Graveyard of the 192nd Session

Now that our legislature is through with major business for the rest of the year, it’s time to take a look back through the 192nd legislative session to acknowledge some of the popular progressive bills that died, yet again.

Right to Strike

It is currently illegal in Massachusetts for public employees, including public educators, to go on strike. The Right to Strike bill (H.1946) would eliminate that ban. This bill, as well as a weaker compromise version (S.1245/H.2038), was “sent to study” this session–the House’s favorite way to kill a bill.

To be clear: sending H.1946 “to study'' is a direct attack on workers’ rights; rights that are essential to ensuring unionized workers have leverage when they come to the bargaining table. Public teachers cannot withhold their labor to ensure a living wage, benefits, or adequate school conditions for themselves, their students, and their communities without fear of legal retribution, which can include daily fines or even imprisonment

In this historic moment in U.S. labor history where support for labor unions is at an astounding 71 percent–its highest point since 1965–those in power on Beacon Hill are choosing to push back. Despite the ban, Massachusetts public workers have risked their jobs and livelihoods to strike in response to stalled negotiations, and have striked for better working conditions and benefits–all of which ultimately benefit communities across the Commonwealth. Although not surprising, it is disappointing that our elected officials continue to side with anti-union corporate interests instead of the rest of us.

Take Action

Join the YES on 4 Campaign for Safer Roads

The campaign will be Question 4 on the statewide ballot on Tuesday, November 8th, 2022, and we need to ensure Massachusetts voters vote YES on 4 for safer roads for all drivers. It’s a commonsense law that makes our roads safer for everyone, while letting families legally make essential trips, like dropping off kids at school and getting to work, medical appointments, and the grocery store.

Join the YES on 4 for Safer Roads campaign and sign up to take action to keep the law in place for safer roads, greater public safety, and work and family mobility.

That's all for this week! Thank you for reading all the way to the end, and for all you do for the movement. 

In Solidarity,

Erin Leahy

Executive Director, Act on Mass