An MBTA privatization do-over?

Call it politicians’ version of buyer’s remorse.

The misgivings and backtracking of Republicans who had reluctantly endorsed Donald Trump?

No, we speak of the local version now playing itself out, which involves Democratic state lawmakers who are having second thoughts about all those privatizing powers at the MBTA that they handed over to Gov. Charlie Baker.

The headline on Mike Deehan’s WGBH News story captures the awkwardness of the moment best: “Union-Backing Democrats Fear Baker Will Use The MBTA Privatization Powers They Gave Him.”

After the T’s epic collapse during the snow assault of early 2015, legislators were in no mood to argue with Baker’s claim that he needed lots of management running room to get the beleaguered agency back on track. They agreed to his proposal for a control board that now essentially runs the T — and also approved his request to suspend for three years at the T the state law regulating privatization efforts.

It was a big blow to public-sector unions, which have long wielded considerable clout on Beacon Hill. But they are now fighting back.

Last week, the president of the T’s Carmen’s Union, James O’Brien, and six other union officials were arrested when they locked shut the gates to the T’s money-counting facility in Charlestown. Agency managers are moving to outsource the money-room duties to a private company, Brink’s Inc.

Yesterday, more than 20 elected officials gathered outside Faneuil Hall with T union leaders to denounce the privatization moves. Sen. Marc Pacheco, sponsor of the 1993 law governing privatization that has been suspended at the T, urged his colleagues to return to session before the end of the year to put the brakes on further outsourcing.

The privatization battle pits union arguments in favor of maintaining jobs with decent wages to support families against the Baker administration’s determination to pare back costs and introduce cost-saving efficiencies at the perennially deficit-laden transit agency.

On Tuesday, those contrasting storylines were both evident in the Globe. Metro columnist Kevin Cullen painted O’Brien and his cohorts as working-class heroes who are fighting to preserve a battered middle class. The paper’s editorial board, meanwhile, offered a strong endorsement of the privatization moves, saying T managers are trying valiantly to bring the agency into “a new era,” while the Carmen’s Union “”seems stuck in a time warp.” The editorial said the money room is staffed at double the industry standard, with vacant positions filled by former bus drivers.

Baker has said he is not looking to privatize the T’s main operations. “I do not want to layoff hundreds of T employees,” he said at May 2015 legislative hearing on his proposal. But just what that means isn’t clear, as T officials say they will be looking at other areas that may be ripe for outsourcing.

The jobs being shifted to Brink’s will almost certainly pay considerably less than what T employees earned at the money room, CommonWealth reported yesterday. While union workers at the money room earn $35.86 per hour plus significant health and pension benefits, workers at a Brink’s facility in Chicago last year said they started at $13.25 an hour.

It’s a “systematic beat-down of the middle class,” Sen. John Keenan of Quincy, told those rallying yesterday. US Rep. Stephen Lynch told the crowd these sorts of privatization moves are “the engine of inequality.”

If so, the Legislature’s Democratic leadership has its hand alongside Baker’s on the throttle.



A Herald editorial says lawmakers should not enact any tax on Airbnb and other home rental sites that they then steer to the state’s hotels and motels to make up for lost business, much as they did with the taxi industry in recent legislation regulating ride-hailing apps.


Two Boston police officers were shot last night and are in critical condition following surgery. They were responding to a domestic dispute in East Boston. The suspect, reported to be armed with an assault rifle, was shot and killed by officers. (Boston Globe) The suspect was identified as Kirk Figueroa. (MassLive)

A South Coast Today editorial buys into the mantra espoused by New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell in a Q&A with CommonWealth.

A neighbor of a proposed house for homeless veterans in Dennis, himself a veteran, has gone to court to overturn the town’s decision to allow the project to move forward. (Cape Cod Times)

In Lowell, higher salaries are pushed for elected officials as part of the higher purpose of attracting a larger and more diverse group of candidates. But others suggest a change in the way officials are elected would work better. (CommonWealth)

The Westford Board of Selectmen called a meeting to explain their decision to approve an $8.5 million settlement that would allow construction of an asphalt plant to proceed. When more than 400 people showed up to raise their concerns, the board was forced to postpone the meeting until a larger venue can be found. (Lowell Sun)

Business leaders are taking note of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s speech at a recent Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce meeting in which he said the city’s business sector must do better at diversifying its ranks. (Boston Globe)

Gloucester sets aside $60,000 to pay for its various police probes. (Gloucester Times)

A local Satanist group is getting the cold shoulder from Boston city councilors, who are not proving welcoming to its wish to offer the invocation at the start of an upcoming council meeting. (Boston Herald)


Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature for his lyrics, which the Swedish Academy said “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” (New York Times)


Two women come forward to say they were groped and kissed against their will by Donald Trump. (New York Times) What could be even more devastating is a detailed first-person account by a former reporter for People magazine who says in 2005 while interviewing Trump and his wife on their first anniversary, he pinned her against a wall and forced himself on her while his wife was out of the room. (People)

At least four Republicans who called on Trump to step aside now say they will back the GOP nominee after receiving a torrent of backlash from Trump supporters. (New York Times) New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a friend of Trump’s, declines to discuss Trump’s “locker room” talk. (Eagle-Tribune

More emails from campaign staffers for Hillary Clinton continue to leak out, the latest batch revealing campaign chairman John Podesta urged her to court “needy Latinos,” the CEO of Starbucks warning the campaign’s approach is stale and directed at old people, and aides wondering how they can avoid taking press questions. (U.S. News & World Report)

The Washington Post endorses Clinton.

Massachusetts leads the way — when it comes to having the least competitive state legislative races in the country, one sign of an overall “rot” in the state of democracy, writes MassINC Polling Group’s Steve Koczela. (WBUR)

Partners HealthCare donated $100,000 to the group pushing the ballot question on charter schools, prompting an angry retort from Sen. Patricia Jehlen, one of the question’s opponents. (State House News)

Yes on 4, the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana use, issues its own report rebutting many of the claims in the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana’s report. (State House News) Travel writer Rick Steves campaigns for Yes on 4. (Masslive)

Sandra Slattery Biagetti of Hopedale, who is running for an open state rep’s seat as a Republican, is miffed because she is identified as Susan on the ballot. (Telegram & Gazette)

US Rep. Seth Moulton isn’t facing a challenger this year, but he is nevertheless in demand on the campaign trail. (Salem News


John Stumpf, the Wells Fargo chairman and chief executive who has been under a barrage of criticism over the banks fake credit card scandal, abruptly retired, effective immediately. (New York Times)

National Fish and Seafood, a processor on the Gloucester waterfront, is asking the city for a tax break to help in the purchase of its facility. (Gloucester Times)

The contractor who tore down the historic Wollaston Theater in Quincy was fined $24,000 by OSHA for a wall that collapsed during demolition that injured two workers. (Patriot Ledger)


More people are surviving overdoses in Lynn, a trend being attributed to the wider availability of the overdose-reversing drug Narcan. (Boston Globe)


We’re No. 1! The MBTA’s Green Line had the most derailments in 2015 (seven) of any light-rail transit line in the country. (Boston Globe)

Two Uber drivers in New York were ruled eligible for unemployment benefits by the state Labor Department, a blow to ride-hailing companies who claim drivers are independent contractors. (New York Times)


The state Department of Environmental Protection issued a rare “tentative final decision” granting the owners of a controversial proposed power plant in Brockton permission to move forward but giving both sides one last chance to argue their positions. (The Enterprise)

A Vermont wind project, needing voter support, offers cash to supporters. (New York Times)