Mass Nurses Association Candidate Questionnaire

2018 Massachusetts Nurses PAC Candidate Questionnaire


The Mass. Nurses PAC is the Political Action Committee of the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA). The MNA represents more than 23,000 nurses and health care professionals throughout the state. This questionnaire is the first step of the Mass. Nurses PAC endorsement process.

Date: 12/8/19
Name: Becky Coletta
Address: 23 Verna Hall Drive, Pembroke MA 02359

Political Party: Democrat
Office sought/district: Plymouth & Barnstable
1. Please describe your top three legislative priorities and why you decided to run for office.

Income inequality & economic development—We need to start by passing the Fair
Share Amendment to fund education and transportation without increasing the tax
burden on the middle class. We also need to close loopholes and increase
enforcement of prevailing wage laws and independent contractor laws. I also see a
strong connection between union membership and overall wages. We need to
support unions in their efforts to organize new categories of workers to offset the
growing concentration of capital that makes it more difficult for workers to bargain
for fair wages.
Mental health & substance use—I want to aid in the fight for true parity and
accessibility of mental health and substance abuse services. At a foundational level,
we need more beds and services to ensure that those seeking help get into a program
when they are most open to treatment. I would also like to fund innovative
substance abuse and recovery programs to find additional evidence-based programs
to increase available treatment options.
Climate change & coastal resilience—I would advocate to make progress on our
environmental issues by dedicating a minimum of 1% of the state to environmental
priorities and by moving toward 100% renewable energy.

2. Please describe how you have worked and/or plan to work with MNA members, units or nurses.

I believe a good leader is a good listener. I will always have an open door policy and
will actively seek out input, advice and ideas from MNA members anytime there are
policy decisions to be considered. My personal cell phone is attached to this
questionnaire and I’m happy to hear directly from any MNA member. My goal
would be to use this new platform to advocate for the positions of the MNA. In the
past, I have worked on campaigns for our State Rep. Josh Cutler with the MNA. I
would also use my public platform to stand with the MNA as I did at Tobey
Hospital this week and to promote MNA’s policy positions through the press and
social media platforms.

3. Would you actively and publicly support nurse’s efforts to unionize?

YES, supporting and strengthening our unions and worker rights is a core part of
why I am running for public office. We must address the issue of income inequality
in this country and stronger unions are one of our best avenues to do so. I would
love to see the MNA grow and expand and I would wholeheartedly support efforts
to unionize.

A. Would you support an MNA bargaining unit struggling with an employer who is using union busting strategies at the collective bargaining table?

YES, absolutely. In addition we must never allow public tax dollars to be used in
ways designed to thwart collective bargaining rights. We must also close any
loopholes that allow “consultants” to operate under guise as defacto union busters.
As an attorney I have the background and expertise to help shine a light on this

B. If asked, would you make a phone call and/or write a letter to an employer using union busting strategies at the collective bargaining table and ask them to bargain fairly?


C. Would you publicly support nurses engaged in a job action, including a strike, over issues related to patient care?


D. Would you publicly support nurses engaged in a job action, including a strike, over issues related to retirement security?

YES. I would be proud to support nurses for any of the reasons above.

4. In 2014, the legislature passed legislation establishing safe patient limits in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in all Massachusetts hospitals. In 2018, nurses put a question on the ballot to limit the number of patients a nurse could care for at one time in acute care hospitals. Did you take a public position on this question? If so, what was your position?

YES, I supported this ballot question. At the time I was the campaign treasurer for
Rep. Josh Cutler who publicly endorsed the safe staffing initiative and I worked
with him on it. If the hospital administrator lobby took all of the money they spent
on misleading advertising against safe staffing levels and instead put that into
patient care we all would have been better off.

A. What actions would you take to support safe patient limits at the state level?

I think we need to pursue a legislative fix along similar lines to what was
proposed in the staffing ballot question. To gain political strength on this, we
should pursue the additional data collection that the MNA is seeking in The
Workforce Development and Patient Safety Act (S 1255/H 2004), as well as
financial transparency and fairness as set forth in The Hospital Profit
Transparency and Fairness Act (S 714/H 1144). When we see Partners pursuing
a name change that will cost about $100 million, the argument for financial
transparency becomes more critical to demonstrating that the hospitals can
afford the appropriate nurse staffing levels.

5. The MNA has filed legislation that would require hospitals to be transparent about their financial holdings and limit exorbitant CEO salaries and excessive profits to
protect vital services. If elected, would you support this legislation?

YES, especially after hospital CEO claims that establishing minimum nurse staffing
levels would be fiscally impossible, we should expect greater transparency in how
they are spending our Medicare, Medicaid and other public tax dollars. And why,
for instance, they are stashing funds in offshore accounts like the Cayman Islands
while CEOS earn exorbitant pay. Patient care should always come first and it’s time
we shined a brighter light on these opaque hospital spending policies and their
financial holdings.

6. Nurses are often injured from lifting, moving and repositioning patients. These injuries occur at a higher rate than that of laborers, movers, and truck drivers according to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics. Frequent heavy lifting and transferring of patients causes skeletal damage which is driving nurses from the bedside and exacerbating the shortage
of nurses willing to work in the acute care setting. The cumulative weight lifted by a nurse in one typical 8-hour shift is equivalent to 1.8 tons. An Act Providing for Safe
Patient Handling would require all health care facilities to develop and implement a health care worker injury prevention program. The plan would require providers to
provide necessary patient handling equipment or lifting teams, as well as specialized training for health care workers on safe patient handling techniques and the use of
handling equipment. If elected, would you support this legislation?

YES, I would be pleased to support and help pass this legislation.

7. Hospitals are increasingly violent workplaces, both for employees and for patients. Workplace violence against nurses and other health care workers, which can range from
verbal and emotional abuse to physical assault and homicide, is not uncommon in hospitals and other health care settings. According to the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA), nurses and other personal care workers suffer violent assaults at a rate 12 times higher than other industries. To address workplace violence, the MNA
has filed three pieces of legislation:
A. An Act Requiring Health Care Employers to Develop and Implement
Programs to Prevent Workplace Violence
This legislation would require health care employers to annually perform a risk assessment and, based on those findings, develop and implement programs to minimize the danger of workplace violence to employees. It would also provide health care employees with 7 days of paid leave to address any legal matters arising from an assault occurring at work and require regular reporting of workplace violence to District Attorneys and the Department of Public Health. If elected, would you support this legislation?

YES. Our nurses are on the front lines of patient care and we need
to make sure they are protected.

B. An Act strengthening the penalty for assault or assault and battery on an emergency medical technician, ambulance operator, ambulance attendant or health care provider.
Under existing law, these assaults are classified as a misdemeanor. This means that when a police officer is called to the scene of the assault, the officer does not arrest an alleged assailant unless the officer personally witnesses the assault. It also means that if a nurse wishes to press charges, he or she must first appear before a Clerk Magistrate to plead his or her case before proceeding with filing charges. It means that nurses are often discouraged from pursuing charges because it’s “not really a crime” and will results in “only a slap on the wrist” for the assailant. This legislation would make assaulting certain frontline health care providers a felony. If elected, would you support this legislation?

YES. I previously served as coordinator for a battered women court
accompaniment program and have studied the impacts of trauma in
my MSW program. I understand that minimizing violence leaves
survivors feeling re-traumatized and does nothing to prevent future
violence. These issues are very important to me.

C. An Act Relative to Creating Intensive Stabilization and Treatment Units within the Department of Mental Health This legislation would create an "Intensive Stabilization and Treatment Unit" unit for women within the Department of Mental Health and reinstate the "Intensive Stabilization and Treatment Unit" unit for men that was closed in 2003. If elected, would you support this legislation?

8. Over the past decade, a lot has been done to reform the health care system in this state and country, including the 2006 Massachusetts health care reform bill and the 2010 Affordable Care Act at the federal level. What other changes to our health care system should be made? If studies showed it would increase the quality of care and decrease costs, would you support a single payer system?

We need to do more to assist our struggling community hospitals. We also need to
address prescription drug pricing. I would support a Medicare for All type plan as
well as a public option.

9. The MNA has observed the increased utilization of unlicensed personnel to administer medications in mental health, developmental disability and public health settings. This is a dangerous practice. Unlicensed personnel do not have the training and assessment skills to evaluate a patient and their reaction to their medications and overall changing condition. We are now seeing a push to allow unlicensed personnel administer medication in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and home care settings. If elected, would you support legislation prohibiting unlicensed personnel from administering medications?


10. Hospitals are closing units providing essential services to communities across the Commonwealth. An Act Relative to the Closing of Hospital Essential Services would increase the amount of notice a hospital is required to give the general public if they plan on closing services or the facility itself from 90 days to 365 days and calls for increased community involvement. This will afford the community and patients more time and opportunity in which to try and save the services or ensure that adequate alternatives are in place. It would also provide the Department of Public Health with additional authority to preserve these essential services. If elected, would you support this legislation?

YES. Community hospitals are public goods supported by public tax dollars
and we should not allow profiteers to treat them like hedge fund assets. We need to
do everything we can to preserve and support them. Requiring additional notice for
any planned closing is imperative to give communities an opportunity to find
alternate solutions.

11. Nurses in Massachusetts are licensed by the state’s Board of Registration in Nursing (BORN). Obtaining or renewing a license to practice as a registered nurse (RN) in Massachusetts means that an individual must meet specific criteria. This ensures that RNs in this state adhere to the highest standards. For several years, there have been attempts to lower these standards by introducing legislation to bring Massachusetts into a multi-state nurse licensure compact (“Compact”). This would allow nurses from other states to practice in Massachusetts without obtaining a Massachusetts license. Allowing Massachusetts to become a Compact state would lower the standard of nursing care, potentially allow nurses from many states away to practice “in” Massachusetts via telephonic medicine and, in some instances, could be used as a strike breaking tool. If elected, would you oppose legislation making Massachusetts a Compact state?

YES. Let’s encourage other states to come meet our high standards, not
lower ours down to theirs.

12. Over the last several years, there has been an ongoing and concerted effort to shut down a variety of state services. These efforts have resulted in the closure of certain state run facilities serving the profoundly developmentally disabled and state-run hospitals serving the mentally ill. These facilities serve the neediest and most under-served populations in our state.

A. If elected, how would you maintain services for the state’s most vulnerable populations by maintaining these facilities?

As a volunteer member of the Human Rights Committee of Road to
Responsibility for about 10 years, I am aware of the issues facing the
developmentally disabled as they age into nursing homes. While I believe
that community-based care can be effective for the range of people with
developmental disabilities, I would be interested in exploring with
stakeholders how we will care for an aging population of individuals with
developmental disabilities.
For the mentally ill, I believe we have to increase treatment options and
would be interested in exploring how state-run facilities may be able to assist
in providing appropriate care.

B. How would you commit to protecting the collective bargaining rights of the public employees who work at these facilities, performing difficult and vital services?

In general, we should ensure that we do not simply select an option because it
is “private” versus “public”. Too often, moving to private facilities can mean
undermining collective bargaining rights in a short-sighted effort to save
money. Whenever we look at public facilities, we have to work with the
bargaining units to ensure that the voices of those impacted by changes are
truly considered. I would stand with the nurses and other public employees
as they fight to protect their collective bargaining rights, as I recently did at
Tobey Hospital.

13. More and more frequently, the only care available for those with mental health and substance abuse issues is the Emergency Room – or, worse, the prison system, which is the most expensive and least effective method of treatment. If elected, how would you address this problem?

I agree that the ER and the prison system are the least effective methods of
treatment for those with mental health and substance abuse issues. As a social
worker, I understand that we need more available treatment options and immediate
stabilization units, and we need access when people come for help in their most
vulnerable moments. I would support funding for additional treatment beds, as well
as pilot programs to develop the best evidence-based care.

14. An ongoing trend in health care has been to shift costs to workers. The funding level and percentage state workers pay for their health insurance is presently 20% for most workers, but is 25% for newer hires.
A. If elected, would you oppose any further increase in the rate state workers pay
for their health insurance?

YES. We also need to ensure broader worker representation on the GIC. I support
increasing the number of seats on the GIC and/or designating at least two “labor
seats” to ensure that the views of workers have a full seat at the table. I also support
requiring that the GIC hold a public hearing before making any health care plan
design changes.

D. There are efforts underway to drastically cut retiree health benefits for current public workers, including those who are only a few years away from retiring. If elected, would oppose these efforts?

YES. We should not be in a race to the bottom.

15. School nurses perform a vital function in our communities and are increasingly managing complex medical conditions and chronic illness for our student populations. However, we have seen funding for school nursing programs decrease at an alarming rate. A. If elected, how would you support increased funding for school nursing?

We need to ensure we give our local school districts adequate resources to
fund local education so that school nurses and other key services don’t end
up on the chopping block. The recently passed Student Opportunity Act will
help, but we also need to pass the Fair Share amendment to provide the
needed funding without hurting middle class families.

B. Whether it is a traumatic injury, school violence, sickness or students with serious chronic medical conditions, there is a need for a school nurse in every school in Massachusetts. Yet, not every school has one. School nurses are the only staff trained to take care of the wide ranging medical issues that arise at any school and they are a facility’s first responder. Would you support legislation that ensured every public school has a school nurse?

YES. As a parent of a middle schooler, I know how important it has been for
my son and his classmates, including those with special needs and allergies,
to have access to a school nurse. All public schools should have this
important resource.

15. When workers freely decide to form a union, their power is found in the right to collectively bargain their wages, benefits, working conditions and their ability to collectively assert their voices at work. In recent years, several states have proposed legislative efforts to restrict collective bargaining rights for public and private sector unions, including efforts to make Massachusetts a “right to work” state.
If elected, would you support and defend collective bargaining rights for both private and public sector employees? If so, how?

YES. Blunting the impact of the ill-advised Janus decision was a good start but we
need to do more to combat anti-worker efforts and protect the collective bargaining.
I grew up in Louisiana, which was an early right-to-work state and know all too well
that right-to-work is a euphemism for “right-to-work-for-peanuts”. I would fight to
the finish to maintain collective bargaining rights and resist any efforts to reduce
collective bargaining rights for both private and public sector employees. In
addition, we have to ensure that our public dollars should never go to support
union-busting efforts. We must also close any loopholes that allow “consultants” to
operate under guise as defacto union busters. As an attorney I have the background
and expertise to help shine a light on this issue.

16. Over the past several decades, we have seen the increased consolidation of the hospital industry in Massachusetts. This has increased costs, reduced patient choice and
compromised quality. How do you propose to address this issue?

We need comprehensive legislation to address the issue of community hospitals. I
would support SB 672/HB 1139 to limit closure of community hospitals and units
providing essential services. We need to stabilize, support and invest in our
community hospitals and community health centers. That means looking at
reimbursement rates, scope of practice and other changes that would benefit our
community hospitals. We can’t just have a two-tiered system where only large
Boston teaching hospitals with predominately private-insured patient pools can
thrive. Our community hospitals are a core part of our broader health care system.
I would be pleased to work with the MNA to find solutions to this critical issue and
seek out ways to ensure that the voices of our nurses are fully included in all policy
deliberations. I recently had the opportunity to join with MNA nurses standing up
against the threatened closure of the maternity ward at Tobey Hospital. We cannot
allow this to happen and as our next state senator I would proudly lead my voice
and office to this cause.

17. What, if any, other endorsements have you received?

We have just begin the endorsement process. At this early stage I am pleased to be endorsed by Rep. Josh Cutler, Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons With Disabilities, as well Seth D. Harris, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor under President Obama.

Additional comments:
I admire the efforts of the MNA on behalf of patients through safe staffing
initiatives and efforts to increase access to care, as well as their bargaining for the
nurses in the union. I would be proud to have the MNA blue in my corner.
Thank you for your time.

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.