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Line-of-Duty Death Benefits Expansion Sought

by Zac Bears  |  March 22, 2016

BOSTON – AFSCME Council 93 is lobbying Massachusetts lawmakers to extend payments and benefits to families of public sector employees who are killed on the job. These payments now are available only to public safety and law enforcement workers who die in the line of duty. 

Extending line-of-duty death benefits to all public service workers is a simple matter of fairness. Police officers and firefighters face serious risks on the job, but so too do many other public service workers, including public works and highway workers. 

Local 851 member Carlos Taberas was killed while working alone repairing a Bobcat in a City of New Bedford garage in 2011. Carlos had a big family – six kids. But there was no line-of-duty death benefit for them. His $5,000 life insurance policy didn’t even cover funeral expenses.

The union is “simply asking the Legislature to recognize that when it comes to losing your life on the job, everyone is equal,” Council 93 Legislative Director Jim Durkin argued in testimony before the Legislature. “Everyone has paid the same price.”

A patient attacked AFSCME Local 72 member Jason Lew at a mental health facility on Cape Cod in 2012, causing serious injuries. Lew died weeks later, and his death was ruled a homicide. The only benefit his children received came through donations from his union sisters and brothers.

Just last year, Mike McDaniel, a Natick public works employee and member of another union, was killed while making emergency repairs to a water main. Despite 26 years of service, his family didn’t receive any death benefits from the state and spent months gathering funds to pay for funeral costs.

State Representative Jay Livingstone (D-Boston), has filed legislation that would extend a $150,000 line-of-duty death benefit to all state employees, and lawmakers are also debating legislation that would cover public works employees and Department of Transportation workers.

Livingstone’s bill is currently being debated in committee along with similar proposals to extend death benefits and a proposal to increase payments to police, fire and EMS workers. Senator Karen Spilka, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said that the proposals may be merged into one piece of legislation.

"If someone is killed in the line of duty – no matter what they are doing – they're killed in the line of duty," Spilka said.

Livingstone may push to attach his proposal as an amendment to this year’s state budget, and AFSCME Council 93 supports urgent action to protect the families of public service workers who keep Massachusetts clean, healthy and safe.

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