BOSTON — On Thursday, the state Senate voted to approve a budget amendment sponsored by Senator Eric P. Lesser that would make all public workers killed in the line of duty eligible for death benefits.
The measure was proposed in honor of Warren Cowles, a Longmeadow Department of Public Works foreman who was killed after a train struck his snowplow while he was responding to a snowstorm this March. Although Cowles died while serving the public, he was not eligible for the same death benefits that police officers and firefighters receive when killed in the line of duty.
“Warren leaves behind his 20-year-old son, his sisters, neighbors and friends who cared about him deeply, and a community of people grateful for his service and devastated by his loss,” said Senator Lesser. “A life is a life, and if a public worker dies in the line of duty, their families should be eligible for the same benefit. This amendment is about equity and fairness to all those who do the public’s work and put their own safety at risk to serve their communities.”
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public employee union, has been a staunch advocate of the proposal.
“This amendment represents well-deserved recognition for the unsung heroes of the public-sector workforce,” said Frank Moroney, Executive Director of Council 93 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “It’s clear that different workers face different degrees of hazards on the job. But there is an element of danger in every public-sector job and when that danger results in death, then everything should be equal and the spouses and children left behind should be treated with the same dignity and respect as public safety workers. We found a champion for this cause in Senator Eric Lesser and we will be forever grateful for his willingness to work with us to build the coalition that made this possible.”
The expanded benefit would be revenue-neutral, since the funds would come out of the public employees’ pension fund.
The amendment has been included in the Senate version of the budget, which will now be negotiated with House members before a final budget proposal is sent to the governor’s desk.