Op-ed on union power decried as ‘racist’

A four-month-old opinion piece published in CommonWealth is igniting fresh controversy.

On Friday, a group of minority, union, and liberal organizing groups – including the Boston chapter of the NAACP, Neighbor to Neighbor, City Life/Vida Urbana, Community Labor United, and others — wrote an open letter calling on Pioneer Institute senior fellow Charles Chieppo to resign.

The issue is an op-ed Chieppo wrote, published in CommonWealth on June 26, which stated that outrage over the killing of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, called attention to police unions’ resistance to reforms. Chieppo went on to argue that the police unions are similar to other public sector unions that have resisted reforms. He highlighted in particular the sway held by Massachusetts’ public transit and education unions in preventing the privatization of MBTA functions or stunting the growth of charter schools.

“In states like Massachusetts, police are hardly alone when it comes to using enormous political influence to block common-sense reforms,” Chieppo wrote. “The brutal killing of George Floyd should remind voters of the threat concentrated power poses to a healthy democracy.”

The organizing groups wrote a seven-page letter attacking Chieppo for exploiting Floyd’s killing. No one from the organizing groups signed the letter.

“Chieppo exploited the name and murder of George Floyd in a manner that warrants Chieppo’s resignation, along with an apology from the Institute to all Black Massachusetts residents and from any leader within the Institute who authorized Chieppo’s erroneous evocation of Floyd’s name to grind a political axe,” the groups wrote.

They continued, “What makes the white, arch-conservative Chieppo feel entitled to evoke the name of Floyd in his diatribe against educators and transit workers is a question that Pioneer must grapple with.”

The groups argue that “the exploitation of Black death to push an unrelated political agenda” should have rendered the op-ed “unpublishable.”

The letter also includes an extensive denunciation of the Pioneer Institute, which the letter says has for years fought “tooth and nail against public policies and programs that advance the interests of Black people, Black workers, and Black communities.” The liberal groups criticize Pioneer for anti-union policies, noting that unions represent large numbers of black workers, and for remaining silent on the Black Lives Matter movement. They also question the Pioneer Institute’s funding sources and ties to various conservative national organizations, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council.

They are demanding that Pioneer Institute fully disclose its funders, and they are calling on all media outlets to refuse to publish materials submitted by the Pioneer Institute.

The Pioneer Institute is a free-market think tank that leans conservative. One of its former executive directors is now-Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican. Chieppo, who served as policy director in the Executive Office for Administration and Finance under Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, was a member of an MBTA funding-related commission in 2000 and now runs his own communications consulting firm.

Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, said in a statement that powerful unions can be “very resistant to change” and prioritize protecting their own members, even when those members harm or kill others. “Pioneer is hardly the first to point out this obvious fact,” Stergios said. Stergios said Pioneer has done a significant amount of work on civil rights issues. “We understand that it would delight cancel-culture warriors to drag Pioneer through their Robespierreian ‘courts,’ but they don’t have a leg to stand on,” Stergios said.

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

FROM COMMONWEALTH

A third of the state’s municipalities are now considered high-risk for COVID-19. The Baker administration’s COVID-19 dashboard also reveals that two 20-year-olds died from the disease in the last two weeks and that COVID clusters are a problem at child care facilities.

COVID cases in Massachusetts K-12 schools rise in the space of a week.

The Environmental League of Massachusetts and the Sierra Club are split on whether Sen. Patrick O’Connor of Weymouth should hang on to his seat or be ousted by Meg Wheeler of Cohasset.

The Department of Public Utilities orders the state’s gas utilities to rethink their future.

Why is a photo of Rep. James Kelcourse on a campaign mailer supporting Rep. Leonard Mirra? A super PAC affiliated with Gov. Charlie Baker crops a photo incorrectly.

Opinion: With many older people fearful of working the polls during COVID, several groups came together to train a new, younger generation. Rachael Cobb, Tegan George, and Samantha Perlman provide the details.

FROM AROUND THE WEB             

 

BEACON HILL

The state retirement board stripped a pension for the first time from a State Police trooper in connection with the overtime fraud scandal in the agency. (Boston Globe)

A Globe editorial urges Gov. Charlie Baker to look to women and minority candidates for two upcoming Supreme Judicial Court nominations after nominating Associate Justice Kimberly Budd to be elevated to chief justice.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Dorchester section of Boston records an 11.9 percent positive test rate for COVID-19, the highest in the city and well above the city-wide average of 7.9 percent. (Dorchester Reporter)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Retired Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Paul Barabani and former Deputy Superintendent John Paradis testify before a legislative oversight committee that high-ranking state officials ignored dire staffing shortages for years due to “apathy.” They decried an independent report looking at the COVID-19 outbreak at the home as a “farce.” (MassLive)

Housing for adults with autism opens in Dennis. (Cape Cod Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Donald Trump, Jr., told Fox News yesterday that coronavirus deaths are down to “almost nothing,” a record-breaking day for new cases in which 1,000 Americans died of the disease. (Washington Post)

Scott Brown is winding down his charmed life as US ambassador to New Zealand and getting ready to return to Massachusetts where he’ll become dean of New England Law Boston. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Better late than never? More than 2 million Massachusetts voters have already cast ballots, but the Boston Heraldtoday endorses Republican Kevin O’Connor in his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Ed Markey.

US Rep. Seth Moulton, a Democrat, refused to debate Republican opponent John Paul Moran because Moulton said Moran traffics in “alt-right conspiracy theories,” a charge Moran denies. (The Salem News)

A new study by UMass researchers of Latino voters in battleground states finds that the economy, health care, and COVID-19 — not immigration — are their top issues in this election. (MassLive) Some voters in liberal Northampton don’t like Trump or Biden, and are thinking of voting for third-party candidates. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Counting her chickens? Politico says Sen. Elizabeth Warren is preparing to make the case to be named treasury secretary in a Biden administration.

Former secretary of state John Kerry backs ranked-choice voting. (MassLive)

The New York Times looks at the vote processing system in Florida, a state that could tip the presidential election and where mail-in ballots are already being tabulated.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The number of new unemployment benefit claims made by Massachusetts residents is rising again. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Legal Sea Foods is in discussions to be sold to Medford-based PPX Hospital Group. (Boston Globe)

MGM Resorts International, the operator of the Springfield casino, posts a net loss of $534 million last quarter due to impacts from the pandemic. (MassLive)

EDUCATION

Assumption University issues a week-long shelter-in-place order for students, essentially confining them to their dorm rooms, due to a COVID-19 outbreak. (Telegram & Gazette)

School officials in Brockton are reinforcing a policy set by the district earlier in the year that children have to turn their laptop cameras on at the beginning and end of remote classes after  a child died from being starved in Fall River. (The Enterprise)

ARTS/CULTURE

Salem’s witches are preparing to celebrate their New Years’ holiday of Samhain on Halloween night — which also coincides with a full moon this year — and they are figuring out how to adapt their celebrations to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic. (The Salem News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A black man who has served 49 years in prison for first-degree murder had the charge reduced by a Suffolk Superior Court judge to involuntary manslaughter and was freed because prosecutors intentionally excluded blacks from the all-white jury that convicted him in 1972. (Boston Globe)

More than a dozen Massachusetts attorneys claim they have been falsely accused by state prison staff of sending drugs to their incarcerated clients. (GBH)

Protesters blocked the entrance to Boston Housing Court to protest eviction proceedings amid the pandemic. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

Glenn Greenwald resigns from the Intercept, a web news site he founded, after claiming editors were trying to censor a story about Joe Biden. (The Guardian) The editors of the Intercept give their side. (The Intercept) Greenwald’s version of the facts is here.

PASSINGS

Travis Roy, who became paralyzed from an injury during his first seconds as a Boston University hockey player and became a motivational speaker and fundraiser helping people with disabilities, dies at 45. (WBUR)

David Scondras, who became Boston’s first openly gay city councilor when elected in 1983 and later pleaded guilty to a sex crime and was accused in a second case, died at age 74.