SEIU Local 509
2020 Candidate Questionnaire
Date: 12/31/19 Candidate: Becky Coletta
Party: Democrat District & Office sought:
State Senate, P&B
Address: 23 Verna Hall Drive, Pembroke MA 02359
Web Site: www.beckycoletta.com Campaign Email: email@example.com
Campaign Facebook: /votebeckycoletta Campaign Twitter: @beckyforsenate Campaign
Campaign Manager: Jessica Rushing
Incumbent’s Name: open seat
ABOUT SEIU LOCAL 509
SEIU Local 509 represents upwards of 20,000 human service workers and educators throughout Massachusetts. We provide a variety of social and
educational services to elders, at-risk children and people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities — in both public and private sector
settings. From mental health clinicians and social workers to early childhood educators and direct care staff, Local 509 members are united in our mission
to raise living standards working families while improving the quality and affordability of the services we provide.
SEIU Local 509 is part of the Service Employees International Union, the largest and fastest-growing labor union in the United States, with 2.1 million
members. Focused on uniting workers in four sectors – public services, long term care, property services, and hospital systems – SEIU is the nation’s
largest health care union, the largest property services union, and the second largest public employee union.
1. SEIU Local 509 was a founding member and continues to play a leadership role in Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of community groups, faith based organizations, and labor unions.
Please tell us how you stand on RUM’s top priority. Will you vote in favor of the so-called millionaire’s at the next Constitutional Convention?
YES. When I started my campaign, I made this a core part of my platform and my stump
speech. I am running to represent a largely middle-class district that is negatively
impacted by the wealthy not paying their fair share, and yet this issue is not generally
discussed as much in the suburbs as in the cities. Increasingly long commutes,
underfunded public schools and crumbling public roads and infrastructure are more of a
burden than local and state governments can take on with current funding. When people
can’t afford to buy homes in the neighborhoods where they grew up, when they aren’t
able to put away any savings for retirement, and when a significant portion of the
population is a single emergency away from disaster, it’s time to make changes in funding
our government. Asking our highest earners to pay a little more to help fund vital school
and transportation needs and reduce the burden on our middle class is a good first step.
After decades of increasing wealth and income inequality and austerity, this is a chance to
achieve some of the re-balancing needed to support the needs of the community that
helped them build their wealth.
2. Right now, more than 40,000 children from across Massachusetts are sitting on a waiting list for access to affordable early education and care. This waiting list robs children of the early
education opportunities we know they need to succeed later in life – and renders many parents unable to maintain gainful full-time employment. More information on the impact of the child
care waiting list on local towns is available at www.kidsfirstma.org. Will you support efforts to eliminate the child care waiting list?
YES. Fully funding early education to ensure access for all children in our Commonwealth
is not just the right thing to do, it’s a prudent and fiscally smart move that will have a
multifold return on investment. To go back to Question #1, this is something we have to
fund on the state level so our cities and towns can actually implement the programs.
Adjunct and contingent faculty constitute the majority of faculty at private colleges and universities in Massachusetts. Their pay for teaching is disproportionately low when compared
with other faculty performing the same duties. Generally they work on a temporary basis, with appointments of no more than a year or even a single semester. Their employment from
semester to semester is dependent on enrollment, funding and other factors beyond their control, and last-minute course cancellations -- with no compensation, and after it's too late to
find substitute work -- are common. Despite having no job security from semester to semester, adjunct faculty have difficulty accessing unemployment insurance benefits during the summer
and winter breaks -- benefits that are routine for other seasonal employees like construction workers, actors, etc. More info. is available at www.FacultyForwardMA.org
3. Would you co-sponsor legislation that establishes equal pay for equal work, and requires fair scheduling for contingent faculty, including sufficient notice of course assignments and
compensation for cancelled courses?
YES. Adjunct pay rates are disproportionately low when compared with other teaching
faculty performing the same duties. That needs to change. I have known PhDs who are
not able to fully utilize their education because the adjunct system is broken.
4. Would you co-sponsor legislation that allows adjunct faculty to collect unemployment insurance benefits during the summer and winter breaks if they don't have a guarantee of
employment after the break?
YES. These benefits are routine for other types of seasonal workers (construction, farming, etc.). There is no reason that adjunct professors should be excluded.
5. At least 16 states have laws permitting certain undocumented high school graduates to pay the same tuition as their classmates at institutes of higher education. In addition, two Boards of
Regents and Rhode Island’s Board of Governors for Higher Education have voted to permit certain undocumented students to attend public colleges and universities at the same tuition
rate as their classmates. Do you support In-State Tuition legislation that would allow undocumented high school graduates – who have been residents of Massachusetts for at least 3 years – to attend our public higher education institutions at in-state rates?
YES. I strongly support state action like this to normalize undocumented people’s lives
in our state. This is not a replacement for federal action, but it is the right thing to do
while we wait for change in Congress and the White House.
CLINICIANS UNITED, a project of SEIU Local 509
6. Independent behavioral health clinicians are essential to the fabric of health care in Massachusetts. The vast majority of clinicians have suffered a steady decline in reimbursement
rates from multiple insurance companies over the past 20 years. Many have been forced to reduce or drop insurance and MassHealth patients altogether – raising serious concerns about
the overall affordability and accessibility of vital mental health services in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, federal anti-trust law treats insurance companies as if they are consumers —
meaning they ‘purchase’ mental health services from clinicians. They “purchase” our services — and clinicians are therefore unable to discuss rates and business fees with each other or
collectively bargain with insurance companies. Podiatrists in Texas and MDs in New Jersey have changed their State laws to specifically remove themselves from these anti-trust
provisions. CliniciansUNITED, affiliated with SEIU Local 509, seeks to pass similar legislation in Massachusetts on behalf of independent mental health providers. Would you co-sponsor this legislation?
YES. When mental health clinicians are forced to drop MassHealth and other forms of
insurance due to bureaucratic hurdles and red tape, it reduces access for everyone. We
need to do more to ensure that the role of independent behavioral health clinicians is
respected. As an MSW, I have seen firsthand how the reimbursement rates do not take
into account the amount of unreimbursed work that clinicians need to perform on behalf
of their clients. The reimbursement system needs to take this into account and more fairly
7. Massachusetts has long been a national leader on efforts to improve the quality of health care while reducing overall costs to patients. Legislation has been filed to take the next step in health care improvement and reform by creating a single-payer health insurance system. As written, this system would guarantee health insurance to all citizens of the Commonwealth.
Would you support a single-payer health care system?
YES. I strongly support Medicare for All.
8. Not too long ago, the Group Insurance Commission (GIC) recklessly approved a plan to remove three major health insurance companies from state workers and retirees without any
input from workers or public hearings. After a large public outcry, the GIC reversed thedecision but there is nothing stopping them from doing it, or similar actions, again.
Will you support reform of the GIC to require public hearings and legislative notice in advance of major decisions?
9. A major reason why health costs have been disproportionately shifted onto public sector workers has been the lack of adequate voice for active and retired employees on the Group
Insurance Commission, where important decisions impacting the cost and quality of healthcare are made. Would you co-sponsor legislation that creates a more equal balance on the Commission by adding a seat for SEIU Local 509, currently the largest public employee union not represented on the GIC?
10. Another way to reduce health care costs for Massachusetts workers is to increase the size of group insurance pools. One specific proposal would allow state-funded human service
agencies to purchase health insurance through the Group Insurance Commission. Employers and employees would still be responsible for their health insurance costs, but would see
reduced rates and deductibles due to the larger pool of employees. Would you support legislation allowing state-funded human service agencies to purchase health insurance through the Group Insurance Commission?
YES. As a long-time member of the Human Rights Committee for a local state-funded
human service agency, I know how important this reform would be to their cost of
11. The Commonwealth has increasingly used privatization of state services as a way to – in theory – save money. Numerous reports have indicated that real savings are elusive, and the quality of services rendered is often sub-par. At the same time, the workers who provide these contracted services are paid far less than their public sector counterparts – raising real questions as the ultimate value to taxpayers, or lack thereof, of privatization efforts. Do you support privatization of state services – which cuts workers’ salaries and benefits, strips
them of their collective bargaining rights, and often results in both higher costs and reduced quality of services?
NO. Public goods and services should remain public. Privatization is no panacea.
12. Much has been reported about the Department of Children and Families and the high caseloads workers are carrying. As highlighted in the independent review of the Child Welfare League
of America and other child protection experts, this caseload crisis endangers the safety of at risk kids throughout the Commonwealth. Broadly speaking, no single social worker can safely
handle more than 15 cases at any given time, yet many front-line workers at DCF carry workloads of 20, 25 or more cases. Will you support adequate funding to meet the Child Welfare League of America caseload standards and better ensure the safety of all Massachusetts children?
YES. I earned my master’s degree in social work and believe passionately in these issues.
From my prior fieldwork at DCF, I realize that caseloads can be more challenging than
legislators may realize when they review the numbers. We need to ensure that DCF
workers have manageable caseloads and access to the resources that they need to best
serve families and children. This includes appropriate placements for children and
adolescents most at risk or needing mental health treatment. Producing data to
demonstrate programs that are successful and where services are needed (or caseloads
are too high) would be helpful to building the legislative support needed to strengthen
DCF. Working with DCF to keep ongoing communication is paramount.
13. Front-line caseworkers at the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) provide assistance and guidance to vulnerable families while keeping an eye towards eliminating fraud and
safeguarding taxpayer dollars. Caseworkers connect families with the resources and services they need so they can live productive and independent lives. Unfortunately, chronic
understaffing and attrition has resulted in high caseloads, which in turn means that workers are unable to provide the level of support that is needed to lift people out of the cycle of poverty.
Would you support the appropriate level of funding to increase staffing at DTA to service our most vulnerable families?
14. The Massachusetts State Retirement Board recently endorsed legislation that would move Correction Program Officers (CPOs) to Group 4 of the retirement system. CPOs provide care
and custody of inmates in correctional settings alongside Correction Officers who are already in Group 4. Would you co-sponsor this legislation?
15. Licensors and investigators that work at the Department of Early Education and Care (DEEC) work hard to ensure that childcare facilities in the Commonwealth; both family and center
based, are safe and adhering to the necessary laws and regulations to provide care to children their program. Employees need manageable caseloads to be able to inspect each facility in a
thorough manner. Unfortunately, assignment levels have become unmanageable, putting kids at risk. Will you co-sponsor legislation that with establish reasonable assignment levels a DEEC?
16. State workers often-times provide key services to our most vulnerable populations. While this work is extremely rewarding, it can also be very stressful and even dangerous. DDS Service
Coordinators and DMH mental health clinicians are the front-line workers that provide care, support and counseling for at-risk children and adults living with mental illness and developmental challenges. This work can place workers in volatile situations that can place their safety at risk. Local 509 has filed legislation that would move DDS service coordinators and DMH clinicians to group 2 of the retirement system. Would you co-sponsor this legislation?
17. Climate change is a crisis- the science is certain. From flooding in Italy to wildfires in California to devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean, climate change is affecting every community in every corner of the globe. We are witness to the effects of this crisis every day. Local 509 represents over 8,000 members who contribute to the state’s retirement fund. Members pay into this system for their futures - and they should be able to retire with dignity for a lifetime of hard work. Burning fossil fuels is changing our climate in ways that will significantly decrease quality of life and increase the cost of basic survival. The fossil fuel industry is on the decline, making further investment in that sector to high a risk. Will you co-sponsor legislation that requires the Massachusetts state employees’ retirement system to divest from investments in the fossil fuel industry?
YES. Here in the Plymouth & Barnstable District we are among the most affected by the
climate crisis affecting our coastlines and our watersheds.We can and must use the power
of the purse to advance critical changes to protect our planet and our region.
Massachusetts’s retirement system can set an example for other public and private sector
investors to follow suit, from Harvard University to State Street.
Will you co-sponsor legislation that allows independent municipal retirement systems to divest from investments in the fossil fuel industry?
YES. They should also have this option and having the statewide system going through
divestment will give these other systems a roadmap.