This is the season when elected officials, nearing the end of their terms, conduct all sorts of interesting housecleaning business before they pack their things and go. Most famously, presidents will issue rafts of pardons just before leaving office, but Governors have the same options – and others – available to them. It turns out that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has some housekeeping of his own to take care of, and a big chunk of it has to do with keeping in good graces with the unions.
As he prepares to leave office, Governor Deval Patrick is quietly transferring 500 of his managers into the state public employee union, a move that will qualify them for a series of 3 percent raises and insulate them from firing when the next governor takes over.
The change will automatically convert 15 percent of the 3,350 executive branch managers into members of the National Association of Government Employees, which has been fighting for the change for years, arguing the employees were “improperly classified” as managers.
While smaller clusters of management positions have been converted into union positions in the past, this is the largest sweep into the union in at least two decades, according to administration and union officials.
All 500 of these public employees – and reportedly Deval supporters – will now move into the category of being essentially “fireproof” from here on forward. Also, as mentioned above, they will have guaranteed raises in the amount of 3% coming in January and October of next year, then again in July of 2015. As I’m sure all of you who work in the private sector and have had to battle for any increase at all will agree, that’s pretty good work if you can get it.
The move was immediately endorsed by Martha Coakley, who is running to replace Patrick. You would think that anyone running for statewide office in the Bay State on the Democrat ticket should be a sure thing, with little to worry about from this. But Coakley remains the one, horrible candidate who seems able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory there, and currently trails Charlie Baker in a tight race.
It will also solidify Deval’s army of union supporters if he has any future political ambitions after leaving the Governor’s mansion. But he’s got more on his plate than locking in the union’s power. Remember those pardons I mentioned above? Patrick has a few of those on deck also.
Patrick later confirmed that he was “ready” to grant the three pardons, the first of his administration.
Two of the three men seeking pardons were drug offenders.
They are Jeffrey Snyder, 43, of Sheffield, who served two years in the Berkshire House of Correction after he was convicted of selling marijuana when he was a 17-year-old high-school student; and Edem Seth Amet, 39, a Liberian immigrant, who was convicted of selling crack cocaine in 1995, and who, without a pardon, fears deportation.
The third is True-See Allah, 44, who was convicted of armed assault with intent to murder.
Nobody knows for sure what Patrick sees in his political future, though there has been more than a little talk about national aspirations, if only at the cabinet level. These parting shots may make things interesting. The granting of pardons in Massachusetts hasn’t been a popular hobby for governors since the Willie Horton days. (For the record, Mitt Romney issued exactly zero during his tenure.) But the one thing for sure is that the unions are celebrating this weekend.