The following is a release from State Sen. Cindy Friedman and State Rep. Ken Gordon
Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford), and their colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature voted to override Governor Charlie Baker’s veto of language requiring a project labor agreement from the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home bill financing the construction of the new Home.
In May, Governor Baker signed the bulk of a bill authorizing $400 million in bonds for the design and construction of a new soldiers’ home facility in Holyoke and $200 million in bonds to increase geographic equity and accessibility related to the continuum of long-term care services for veterans across the state, but struck a provision requiring the home to be built with a Project Labor Agreement (PLA), under which non-union workers would have to affiliate with construction unions to have a chance to work on the new facility
Overturning the veto ensures that construction of the project utilizes a diverse workforce and provides for well-paying, middle class jobs. The inclusion PLA language mandates a pre-bid, pre-hire labor agreement for the construction of the new facility in Holyoke, ensuring that the workforce is local, diverse, inclusive, well-trained, safe and skilled. Historically, such agreements on large taxpayer funded projects result in the completion of construction on-time and on or under budget.
“Rebuilding the soldiers’ home in Holyoke and increasing access to services for our veterans is necessary and long overdue, especially after tragically losing many residents of the soldiers’ home to a COVID-19 outbreak last year,” said Senator Friedman, lead Senate negotiator of the Soldiers’ Home Conference Committee. “This funding will ensure that the Commonwealth’s veterans are met with the services that they deserve and that address their unique and changing needs and that this construction project creates lucrative jobs for everyone.”
“Rebuilding the Holyoke Soldier’s Home cannot mitigate the tragedy of last year, but it is an important step toward making sure that nothing like it can happen again, all while improving the quality of life of the residents there,” said Representative Gordon. “I was proud to vote to include the Project Labor Agreement in the bill because it will ensure that construction employees, who often undertake dangerous jobs in uncomfortable conditions, are compensated fairly for their work.”
The existing soldiers’ home in Holyoke was built in 1952 with many triple- and quadruple-bed rooms. Those capacity and facility issues became clear last year as the highly contagious COVID-19 virus spread throughout the home leaving more than 70 veterans dead.
The legislation will advance the construction of a modern facility with a “small house” concept to meet the needs of future generations of veterans. To further meet the needs of veterans in all corners of the Commonwealth, with an emphasis on those areas not primarily served by the soldiers’ homes in Chelsea or Holyoke, the $200 million in bonds authorizes the establishment of regional or satellite veterans’ homes as well as new or expanded supports for community-based care services and home-based care services.
In passing the $400 million bond authorization for a new soldiers’ home in Holyoke, Massachusetts is eligible to receive up to 65 per cent in federal reimbursement through the Veterans Affairs State Home Construction Grant Program.
Mandating bold action to establish, recruit, and assist women, minority, and veteran owned businesses who may participate in the design and construction of the facility, the legislation also establishes the Access, Inclusion and Diversity Committee to help set and monitor progress of diversity and inclusion goals and recommend solutions and programs to meet them, throughout the design and construction of the facility.