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November 20, 2020

Pressley, Kennedy, Mass. Lawmakers Urge State House Leadership to Adopt Reforms Called for by Black and Brown Staffers

Text of Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-04), along with Representatives Richard E. Neal (MA-01), James P. McGovern (MA-02), William Keating (MA-09), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Lori Trahan (MA-03), sent a letter to Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Secretary of State William F. Galvin expressing support for the Black State House staffers’ and Beacon BLOC’s demands for greater inclusion and equity in the workplace.

“It is critical that in this moment, every institution, particularly institutions of power charged with crafting the very laws and policies that govern our Commonwealth and our country, look inward and examine their own contributions to the persistent inequities plaguing our communities,” the lawmakers wrote. “If precise, intentional action isn’t taken to address the structural barriers presently at work within our institutions… our policy decisions will lack the critically needed perspective and input of Black and brown residents and their communities, and will not address the root causes of the longstanding inequities in our country.”

In their letter, the lawmakers cited the glaring lack of diversity in the Massachusetts Legislature, which has only 20 members of color, with Black and Latinx legislators making up less than 7 percent of the 200 seats in the House and Senate. This lack of diversity at the staff level is felt daily by current and former staff of color, whose experiences are often dismissed and incidents of harassment not handled appropriately.

The lawmakers urged Senate President Spilka, Speaker DeLeo and Secretary Galvin to embrace the reforms called for by Beacon BLOC, including the creation of a centralized office on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the establishment of new tools to report harassment and discrimination in the workplace, and the development of improved hiring practices to diversify legislative staff and ensure that Black and brown communities and other historically marginalized communities are represented in the operations of the Massachusetts legislature.

“We support the commitment among legislators, staff, and allies on Beacon Hill to work towards the bicameral institutional changes necessary to promote the culture of anti-racism, inclusivity, and equity that our communities rightfully deserve and that this moment in time requires,” the lawmakers continued. “Beacon BLOC has created a framework to do just that and we urge you to heed their calls.”

The lawmakers also expressed concern about any potential retaliatory consequences that could threaten additional staff of color from being vocal about their concerns and experiences within the Legislature. The lawmakers commended the Massachusetts House of Representatives for establishing a working group on diversity and inclusion, and urged leaders to consider formalized diversity initiatives similar to those pursued by U.S. House and Senate Democrats, including the creation of an Office of Diversity and Inclusion to address the lack of diversity among staff.


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