Massachusetts Senate staffers will be awarded at least 10% pay raises in July under a new compensation plan unveiled by Beacon Hill leadership this week.
But Senate President Karen Spilka has stopped short of voluntarily recognizing employees’ unionization effort underway, formulated in response to gaping salary discrepancies and a lack of workplace protections, including surrounding sexual harassment.
The upgraded Senate pay scale, which mandates a starting salary floor of $ 50,138, seeks to rectify a spate of compensation problems detailed in a November 2021 report from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
It found the Senate lacked clear classification and compensation structures, with no concrete formula taking into account staffers’ years of experience of Beacon Hill, level of education, frenetic workloads and cost of living in Greater Boston, among other factors.
“This plan is an important step towards the Senate attracting a more diverse workforce and creating a foundation for future work on staff development and compensation,” Spilka said in a statement Wednesday.
The Ashland Democrat said the plan will create “a more equitable and inclusive workplace where staff can serve the people of the Commonwealth while building a career.” The average pay increase could be 15%, equating to about $ 8,000, according to State House News Service.
Mary Anne Padien, chief of staff for Spilka, made $ 146,280 in 2022, according to public salary data. That far outpaces her counterparts di lei in the chamber by a margin of at least $ 52,000, MassLive has previously reported.
Sen. Michael Rush, the chair of the Senate Committee on Personnel and Administration, said in a statement the chamber is still modernizing other human resources procedures.
“From legislative aides, to chiefs of staff and court officers — no one gets left out of this plan,” Rush, in a statement, said of the pay overhaul. “Our staff are essential to our work in serving the people of the Commonwealth, and this transformative approach to HR and compensation helps us to provide a more transparent and fair approach to staff compensation, and puts us in line with our colleagues in the executive and judicial branches. “
Senate staffers involved in the unionization effort praised the pay plan, but they urged Spilka to maintain the momentum and “forge a good faith partnership” with the Massachusetts State House Employee Union.
“Gas prices and inflation have been hard on all of us – legislative staff included – and finally receiving fair wages will be game changing,” Evan Berry, a Senate staffer involved in the unionization effort, said on Twitter. “An unbiased HR, and a seat at the table in our workplace issues, and the protection of a union, however, are priceless.”
Beyond pay, Senate employees say a union is needed to combat “decades-old systemic issues,” including the lack of an independent human resources office, standardized onboarding, and tools to recruit and retain diverse staffers.
“Most importantly, staff overwhelmingly signed unionization cards to give us a lasting seat at the table, regardless of the changing tides and power structure of Senate Leadership,” the Massachusetts State House Employee Union said in a statement Wednesday evening on Twitter.
IBEW Local 2222 representatives delivered a letter to Spilka at the end of March as they launched the collective bargaining effort. Spilka, after weeks of public inaction on the matter, later met with Senate staffers but not labor representatives.
Staffers’ unionization drive is also motivated by a separate Senate report that delineated a hostile workplace culture of harassment and gender bias, including three incidents of sexual coercion. The report found staffers are unlikely to report misconduct through formal channels, such as to the Senate Counsel, as they fear exacerbating the problem and contending with clashing political boundaries.
“Harassment and discrimination are systemic in our Legislature …” State Sen. DiZoglio, a candidate for state auditor, said in a May statement, as she recalled her motivation to enter public service. “It is one of the reasons why I have been a clear and unequivocal ally of the State House Employee Union, and all those who organize for supportive, respectful workplaces. “