Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday morning signed a bill to extend unemployment benefits for locked-out workers, legislation for which unions of locked-out gas workers have clamored.
Locked-out workers from United Steelworkers Locals 12003 and 12012 planned to rally at the State House on Monday morning to urge Baker to sign the bill. Workers locked out since June 25 are due to exhaust their unemployment benefits in mid-January.
In an email to supporters on Sunday, Local 12003 President Joe Kirylo implored Baker to sign the bill, which calls for benefits to be extended for 26 weeks or until a lockout has ended, immediately to help families during the holiday season.
"Think about the fact that Senate President, Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo led both branches of the legislature to vote unanimously to pass the bill," he wrote. "Why is the Governor keeping his constituents worrying about their future? Why does the Governor not see the goodness in helping working people who through no fault of their own have been locked out of work? Please sign the bill Governor Baker it is the right thing to do."
Baker was on board with the Legislature as it explored ways to help locked-out workers and has for the last week said the benefits extension bill was under careful review. He expressed some apprehension about setting what he called "an unusual precedent" of having state government involve itself in a private business dispute and has continually urged National Grid and the unions to end the lockout.
In signing the bill Monday, Baker said it will help contribute to the safety of the state's natural gas system in tandem with a gas safety bill that still needs a Senate vote to get to his desk.
"The integrity of the Commonwealth's energy infrastructure is hugely important to the safety of the people of Massachusetts and this law, coupled with the bill our administration filed to require additional oversight of all natural gas projects, significantly increases accountability for all utility companies, and will help ensure that utilities use experienced crews with the proper supervision on all projects," Baker said in a statement. "I eagerly await the Legislature's approval of our bill to strengthen natural gas safety procedures and urge both National Grid and the Steelworkers union to swiftly reach consensus so that utility customers can receive the level of service and safety they deserve."