Shannon Liss-Riordan Touts Experience in Attorney General Campaign

Originally published August 29, 2022 (here)

By Brittany Polito

iBerkshires

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Shannon Liss-Riordan says her legal work has prepared her to stand up for the people of Massachusetts as its attorney general.

As a labor attorney, she has spent the last 23 years fighting for working people and winning huge cases, she said. The candidate has taken on companies such as FedEx, Amazon, Uber, and IBM and has been victorious against them in court.

“I’m recognized as one of the nation’s top employment lawyers representing employees and I’ve recovered more than a half of a billion dollars in stolen wages for working people over the course of my career,” she said.

“I’ve used the law to make people’s lives better. I’ve shaped the law in many areas here in Massachusetts and across the country to strengthen worker protections. I have fought systemic discrimination as a civil rights lawyer and I’m really excited about this opportunity to use my skills, my experience, my persistence, and passion to help all of the residents of Massachusetts and continue and expand on my work with the power of the state behind me. So I am by far the most experienced and qualified candidate in this race, and I’m really excited about this race for attorney general.”

The candidate was making a campaign swing through Western Mass and stopped at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge on North Street early Saturday morning before heading to Springfield. 

Liss-Riordan, a Boston labor attorney, is running against former Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell and the AG office’s first chief of the Health Care Division Quentin Palfrey in the primary election on Sept. 6. Attorney General Maura Healey is running for governor.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu are among Liss-Riordan’s endorsements.

Fighting for workers’ rights is one of her main priorities. She would like to expand the Fair Labor Division of the AG’s office to make sure that people are getting all of the wages that are owed to them by their employers.

“One thing that I want to do as attorney general is set up a fund so that when people don’t get paid properly by their employer, they can go and get the money right away while the AG’s office goes after bad actor employers and recovers penalties,” Liss-Riordan explained.

“Because right now as it works, if you have a wage theft complaint, when and if your case gets taken, it can take weeks or months or even years for investigations to happen but people having their wages stolen need the money now. You’ve got to pay the rent tomorrow, you’ve got to put food on the table tonight, you can’t afford to wait that amount of time. This is the way our unemployment system works, our workers’ comp system, you can’t afford to wait months to get your money. So I think that kind of system should apply to wage theft also.”

She described consumer protection as a “bread and butter” function of the attorney general. This can include residents being scammed by a company or subject to predatory lending practices by a bank.

“There are all kinds of scams going on out there and there are so many ways that bad actor corporations have tried to take advantage of people, prey on seniors, and take advantage of vulnerable communities,” Liss-Riordan said.

“So that’s a really important part of the AG’s office and I plan to make the AG’s office fully accessible to people across Massachusetts. Right now, the AG’s office has outposts in Springfield and Worcester and New Bedford, which I would keep but also look into expanding further outposts.”

Fighting systemic discrimination is also a big part of the candidate’s work and she believes there can be more done in the Civil Rights Division of the AG’s office.

She referenced a case that she won in the late 2000s, Bradley vs. the City of Lynn, that addressed discrimination against police officers and firefighters of color.

“The state relied on this really outdated exam that had a disparate impact on minorities and I won that case in federal court as a result Black and brown firefighters and police officers got hired across Massachusetts,” Liss-Riordan said.

“So I’m really proud of that. That’s the kind of work that I think the AG’s office can do.”

The attorney currently has a case against Uber for having a racially discriminatory customer rating system. At the end of every Uber ride, people are asked to rate their driver and Liss-Riordan says she has evidence that the system has a significant disparate impact on people of color who are drivers.

Liss-Riordan is also a longtime women’s rights activist and will defend abortion access after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“I’m into women’s rights issues. I’ve been a women’s rights activist for decades. My first job out of college was working for Bella Abzug, legendary feminist leader, and I co-founded a national organization for young women called The Third Wave, which brought together women from all walks of life, all backgrounds to make women, young women get involved in politics and have their voices heard,” she said.

“So that activism has carried through the work that I’ve done for years and now that the Supreme Court has issued some pretty devastating decisions this term, especially overturning Roe v. Wade, there’s a lot of responsibility now on states and particularly state attorneys general to pick up and make sure our rights are protected here in Massachusetts,”

“So I’ll use the power of that office to make sure that abortion access remains throughout Massachusetts for anyone who needs an abortion here or comes here from other states and we’re gonna have some legal battles unlike anything we’ve seen before where these red states are going to try to impose their draconian anti-abortion laws here and I won’t let that happen.”

Throughout her campaign, the No. 1 concern Liss-Riordan is hearing from the community is the high cost of living and the lack of affordable housing.

“What better way, for starters, to make sure that people have the money they need to take care of themselves and their families and to make sure, first of all, that they’re getting every penny in their pocket, money owed to them by their employer, and that’s what I’ve spent 23 years making sure happens,” she said.

“I also have a plan for addressing the affordable housing crisis and people losing their homes due to eviction, I have a plan to set up an Office of the Tenant Advocate in the AG’s office, so we would provide representation for tenants, those who are at risk of losing their homes because our housing courts now are really serving as eviction notices. You go in and the landlords have legal representation but not the tenants so we would provide representation to tenants, mediation services between tenants and landlords, to help keep people in their homes and also make sure that tenants have access to programs that might help them.”

Liss-Riordan would also like to address the ongoing problem of lead paint as a health issue, an educational issue, and an equity issue. She said there are laws dating back to the 1970s that were supposed to lead to de-leading of the housing stock but instead led to “rampant discrimination” against families with children under the age of 6 with landlords not renting to them because they would have to de-lead their units.

“I think we need to enact policies and new legislation, actually, that would actually allow us to get our housing stock de-leaded,” she said.