BOSTON (AP) - Senate Democratic leaders unveiled a plan Monday to overhaul the state's welfare system by moving more recipients off public benefits and into the workforce while reducing the potential for fraud and waste.
The proposal, touted by its supporters as one of the most comprehensive attempts at welfare reform in the country and the most sweeping in Massachusetts in nearly 20 years, was scheduled for debate by the full Senate on Thursday and followed several critical examinations of the state's welfare agency.
The bill would require more than $22 million in new state spending, but Senate leaders say the costs would be offset by taking people more people off welfare rolls and eliminating abuse.
Several provisions also target a so-called "cliff effect," which keeps many recipients on welfare because it's better for them financially than working at a low-paying job.
Able-bodied people would be required to seek work - first on their own and later with the help of state-sponsored job training programs - before they can collect benefits, said Senate President Therese Murray.
The bill would also "close the existing loopholes that continue to serve as incentives for individuals to stay on welfare instead of working, threatening the economic independence of many our residents in the system and in unfortunate cases, allowing some recipients to game the system," Murray said.
Unionized local employees repeatedly harassed and intimidated non-union workers of a private disaster cleanup firm that won a government contract to restore Long Island, New York, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
The vice president of the union even made threats against the wife and kids of one of the workers. That worker felt it necessary to call the police and pursue other security measures to protect his family, a source told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
After Hurricane Sandy devastated the New York and New Jersey shoreline in late October, Looks Great Services (LGS) won a bid to haul away debris, clear roads and remove damaged trees. New York’s Nassau County hired the company to complete $70 million worth of repairs.
Soon thereafter, representatives of Local 138, a union representing heavy equipment operators, began visiting construction sites, demanding that the company hire unionized employees to help with the job.
But LGS was paying its workers — some of whom came from out of state — market-based wages, rather than union wages, in compliance with federal law regarding disaster recovery jobs.
“If the contract is union, we are union, if it’s not, we’re not,” said Kristian Agoglia, president of LGS, in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.
His answer didn’t satisfy the union, which began making inflammatory statements to workers at LGS construction sites.
One of LGS’s contract workers recalled a union heckler telling them to “take your country ass back to Mississippi,” and “get your dumb Tennessee ass off that piece of equipment.”
“What they would say is, ‘It sure would be sad if your trucks caught on fire,’” recalled the LGS worker, who spoke to TheDC News Foundation on condition of anonymity because the union also made threats against his wife and children.
Local 138 vice president Phil Capobianco made the threats, said the source.
“[He] called and said, ‘Look you have to get us involved,’” recalled the source. “I said, first of all, I don’t have to; second of all, we’ve tried; and third you’ve said you refuse to work for the rates we can pay.”
Then Capobianco said something that the source would never forget.
“He said, ‘I would just hate for anything to happen,’” recalled the source. Capobianco then rattled off a list of the source’s home address, his wife’s name, his kids and their current whereabouts.
“I’m a combat veteran, and I have never in my life been as frightened as I was in that phone call when he started naming my family members and where they were and what they were doing,” recalled the source. “From that point forward I wasn’t polite to him. I told him exactly what he could do with himself, what he could do with his union, and what he could do with his threats.”