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Caring Force rallies, honors Speaker DeLeo

More than 500 advocates for human services filled the State House Tuesday for the Sixth Annual Caring Force Rally and Lobby Day, seeking fair pay for comparable work, a student loan repayment plan and affordable health care options.

Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo was presented with the Caring Bear Award as a legislative champion. Senator Linda Dorcena Forry was also honored.

“It’s quite an honor to receive this award and I assure you it will be front and center in my office,” said Speaker DeLeo. “But whether you’re working on a day-to-day basis with people with developmental disabilities, substance addiction or with our older residents, it’s you, quite frankly, who deserve an award.

“It’s nice as a speaker or a representative to read about what you do, but it’s another thing to come in and see what actually happens (at your programs) and because I’ve had the opportunity to do that, it has grown my appreciation for what you do,” Speaker DeLeo added, noting he felt it important to come honor workers and accept the award, even as the FY ’18 House budget debate was taking place.

Sean Pierce, chief of staff for Sen. Forry, accepted an award from The Caring Force on her behalf. Pierce read a message from Senator Forry – who was in Washington D.C. to meet with the state’s U.S. delegation – noting that she filed the Fair Pay for Comparable Work bill on behalf of the Council and the community-based human services workforce.

“This bill will ensure that nonprofit human services workers in Massachusetts are paid the same as their publically funded counterparts. It will ensure you earn a living wage,” her statement read.

Three individuals also shared their personal stories to show the impact that passage of the Council’s pro-workforce legislative agenda would have.

  • Tim Regan of Vinfen spoke in support of HB 116/SB 42, An act establishing a loan repayment program for human service workers.
  • Melanie Verduchi of HMEA told the audience how her family is struggling to afford health care. She spoke in support of HB 1408/SB 540, which would allow access to the state’s Group Insurance Commission.
  • Pam McKillop of Advocates spoke of the relationship her daughter Kate has with the staff of her group home and how they are affected by staff turnover. McKillop spoke in support of HB 3150/SB 47, An act relative to fair pay for comparable work.   

Former Caring Bear Award recipients Rep. Jeffrey Roy and Rep. David Linsky attended the rally, as did Reps. Jay Kaufman, Carole Fiola, John Scibak and John Velis and Sen. Barbara L’Italien.