By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Westborough – The issue of fair scheduling, equal pay for women, and the legalization of recreational marijuana were just a few of the topics discussed at the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast held Jan. 28 at the Doubletree Hotel. Over 200 members of the chamber attended the annual breakfast, which featured a panel of local state senators and representatives discussing the pressing issues facing the state.
Mark Donahue, of Fletcher Tilton PC, moderated a discussion that included state senators Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester, 1st District, and Michael Moore, D-Millbury, and state representatives Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, David Muradian, R-Grafton, Hannah Kane, R-Shrewsbury, Danielle Gregoire, D-Marlborough, and Harold Naughton, D-Clinton.
The first topic dealt with a proposed bill on fair scheduling which would mandate an employer give workers at least 11 hours between shifts and three weeks advance notice for schedules. Currently many of those who work in the service industry do not know what shifts they are working until close to the time they are due to report or have their schedules changed at the last minute.
Dykema said this issue was something that her own family has experienced as her 16-year-old son tries to balance his school work with his job.
“It’s definitely a complex piece of legislature in its current form; it’s unwieldy,” she said. “But if we are expecting families to be able to take care of their kids and elders, this needs to be dealt with.”
Gregoire noted that she had concerns about this issue as well but didn’t want to be punitive to the small businesses.
The issue of gender wage equality was passionately defended by Chandler.
“This is something that I have cared about for a long time,” she said, adding that currently women make 79 cents compared to a man making a dollar for the same work.
“This isn’t just wages, it also makes a difference in their Social Security and pensions,” she added.
Kane said that she agreed but added that people should be paid based on their qualifications and productivity, and not automatically because of their gender.
Moore said that “conceptually” he agreed but because 80 percent of the economy was small business, care must be taken, especially as that sector had just incurred minimum wage hikes.
On the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana, Moore noted that before he went on a fact-finding trip to Colorado he was against legalization; on his return he was even more so.
“There is a difference between medical and recreational marijuana,” he said. “You don’t get ‘high’ on medical marijuana.”
Not only that, there is a significant difference in the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects from 25 years ago to what it is today. And each part of the marijuana plant has a different potency, he added.
“Chiefs of police are concerned – they all say marijuana is a gateway to opioid addiction,” Naughton added. “From a public safety perspective, we are not prepared.”
Noting that he feels the ballot vote will pass because there is not yet an organized effort against it, Naughton urged the business leaders to make their voices heard in opposing the initiative.