Due To Upset, Two Key Labor Groups Avoiding Legislative Fundraisers

Jan 13, 2018

Mattiello has taken a skeptical stance on the proposed PawSox stadium.
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

Due to uncertainty about whether the proposed PawSox stadium will get a vote in the House of Representatives, the leadership of the Rhode Island Construction Building Trades Council has suggested that its members avoid House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello's first-of-the-season fundraiser on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the board of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Healthcare Professionals has asked its 9,000 members to avoid upcoming House or Senate fundraisers, and to not contribute to lawmakers, due to how the legislature did not override Gov. Gina Raimondo's veto of a continuing contracts bill last year.

Like the RIFT, the Construction Building Trades Council represents about 9,000 members.

The House speaker traditionally kicks off the legislative fundraising season -- and Mattiello's first event of the year is a $200 a ticket event at the Providence Marriott Downtown on Wednesday. Hundreds of lawmakers, lobbyists, union members and other interested individuals typically make the scene.

Scott Duhamel, secretary-treasurer of the RI Construction Building Trades Council, told RIPR, "There is no edict," but a suggestion has been made that no one from the Building Trades will be going to Mattiello's fundraiser.

Duhamel said the suggestion may be extended to include any financial contributions by the Building Trades to House members, due to questions about whether a proposed $83 million PawSox stadium will get a vote in the House of Representatives.

"All we are asking is that it gets a hearing and that it gets on the floor," Duhamel said.

The static between these two key labor groups and lawmakers makes for an even stormier start to the new General Assembly session after a feud between Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio went public Friday.

Some opponents have suggested that the PawSox stadium proposal -- which is controversial, in part since about half the cost would be paid by public borrowing -- be decided through a November referendum. Duhamel said that would greatly increase a move by the PawSox to Worcester, spoiling an opportunity for construction jobs in Rhode Island.

The proposed stadium "is an essential issue for us," he said.

While critics question supporters' assertion that the stadium will pay for itself, Duhamel said the project has been vetted and would catalyze additional development in Pawtucket. He praised Raimondo and Ruggerio for backing the ballpark plan.

Mattiello has taken a skeptical approach to the stadium, asserting that many of his constituents and fellow representatives oppose the use of public financing for the ballpark. He has also indicated that the proposal will get a hearing in the House Finance Committee.

Meanwhile, Frank Flynn, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Healthcare Professionals, told RIPR that the federation's board sent a letter to legislative leaders expressing upset about their decision not to override Raimondo's veto of the continuing contracts bill last year.

The governor called her veto a move to protect taxpayers. But teachers unions say that continuing contracts that would return a former status quo that was undone by a court decision.

While the federation appreciates how lawmakers passed the bill in the first place, Flynn said, union members plan to avoid House and Senate fundraisers for a period of time before revisiting the issue.