Patrick signs law to benefit Mass. workers
Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law last week the Majority Authorization bill, a pro-worker bill that will enable Massachusetts laborers to more easily organize.
Joined by Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Suzanne M. Bump, AFL-CIO President Robert J. Haynes and legislative leaders, Patrick signed the legislation Sept. 27 at the AFL-CIO’s 50th convention celebration.
“This bill is about leveling the playing field between labor and management,” Patrick said. “It affirms the Commonwealth’s policy of supporting workers who should be able to bargain collectively for fair wages, decent health care and on the job protections.”
The Majority Authorization bill permits public sector employees to become unionized through a “card check” written option, instead of only through secret ballot elections.
The Massachusetts law is a modified state version of the national Employee Free Choice Act, sponsored by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. In a letter to the U.S. Congress earlier this summer, Patrick signaled his support for the Free Choice Act, which is floundering and recently failed to gain Senate approval in a bid to become federal law.
“By giving individuals the ability to join a union confidentially, without the fear of repercussions, this legislation enables working Americans to more freely assert their legal rights,” said state Sen. Robert O’Leary, D-Cape and Islands, the lead Senate sponsor of the bill.
“This is why working people fought so hard to elect a governor who would take our concerns to heart … Together with the Legislature, we have won a major victory for workers in Massachusetts,” Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert J. Haynes said. “Before the ink dries on the governor’s signature, working people’s chances for a better life in Massachusetts will already be improved.”
CDC awards $35M to support HIV testing, increase early diagnosis among blacks
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have awarded $35 million in funding to state and local health departments to increase HIV testing opportunities among populations disproportionately affected by HIV, primarily African Americans.
Massachusetts is one of 23 states that will receive awards, ranging from $690,000 to $5.4 million.
The program aims to test more than a million people in order to increase early HIV diagnoses. Despite comprising just 13 percent of the U.S. population, African Americans account for approximately half of the more than 1 million Americans estimated to be living with HIV.
“HIV among African Americans in our nation remains a major public health crisis,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Tuberculosis Prevention.
The CDC estimates that a quarter of those living with HIV — more than 250,000 Americans — do not realize they are infected. The testing effort is intended to identify undiagnosed individuals, especially among those populations disproportionately affected by the disease.
The program’s administration is hopeful that it can diagnose as many as 20,000 people, according to Fenton.
“HIV testing provides a critical pathway to prevention and treatment services to prolong the lives of those infected and help stop the spread of HIV in the hardest hit communities across the United States,” said Fenton.
As part of CDC’s efforts to accelerate progress in reducing HIV among African Americans, the program is being targeted to areas of the nation where blacks have been most severely impacted.
Through the program, HIV tests will be available primarily in clinical settings like emergency rooms, community health centers, STD clinics and correctional health facilities. Facilities receiving funding will follow the CDC’s 2006 Revised Recommendations for HIV Testing of Adults, Adolescents, and Pregnant Women in Health-Care Settings.