Originally published July 8, 2022 (here)
By Emma Fringuelli
The Daily Item
LYNN — Attorney General candidate Shannon Liss-Riordan traveled to Lynn to speak with supporters on Thursday, where the Item interviewed her to discuss qualifications, policy, and what she learned from talking to voters across the state, as she vies for her spot in “the people’s law firm.”
Liss-Riordan has developed a national reputation for litigating against corporations on behalf of workers, even garnering the nickname “Sledgehammer Shannon.” She has won against companies including Uber, Starbucks, Whole Foods, and IBM. As a result of her pro-union and pro-worker stance, she has earned the endorsement of over 50 Massachusetts unions representing more than half a million workers.
“Worker protection is an extremely important part of the attorney general’s office,” she explained. Liss-Riordan believes that wage theft from corporations is a key part of wage inequality in Massachusetts. For those who do win cases against corporations, she seeks to make it easier for employees to recover their wages quicker.
Liss-Riordan emphasized that she is the only practicing lawyer in the race for attorney general, and that her litigation experience is what makes her the most qualified candidate. She said, “I’ve effectively been working as a private attorney general for the last 23 years. In my law practice I’ve taken on corporations on behalf of workers and I’ve won.… I’ve developed the law for protecting workers– fighting wage theft, fighting discrimination across Massachusetts and across the country.”
“This is a position for a seasoned, experienced lawyer, more so than a politician. I’m not a politician. I’m not a bureaucrat. I’m a lawyer.”
This experience, she said, is key when it comes to navigating the most recent Supreme Court rulings, specifically the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “We are facing some unprecedented legal issues in our country today, particularly given the Supreme Court’s ripping apart some of our most basic rights and protections. This calls for leadership in the attorney general’s office from someone who knows how to take on those legal battles,” said Liss-Riordan.
“I’ve been saying it as a joke, but it’s not a joke: I’ve spent 20 years figuring out how to get around bad Supreme Court decisions,” she said.
Her record includes cases where she fought in the Massachusetts Supreme Court to classify pregnancy discrimination as sex discrimination, as well as a case allowing people to bring disability discrimination cases under federal discrimination law.
When it comes to how Liss-Riordan would use her litigation skills in the attorney general’s office, she said, “It’s [about] making decisions about where the attorney general’s office is going to put its efforts and its resources, where the different divisions are going to focus, what type of enforcement actions are going to undertake to clarify the law or establish the law clearly in the way that’s most favorable to the people of Massachusetts.”
Liss-Riordan said her top priorities in office are, “stepping up the battle to confront wage theft and misclassification of workers as independent contractors, making sure that corporations aren’t stealing from workers, and that workers are getting a fair shake and that they have the right to organize and be protected by unions.”
Another priority includes strengthening the Consumer Protection Division so that it can handle complaints from Massachusetts residents. “The attorney general’s office needs to be equipped to take in these complaints and then act on them.” She said she wants to make sure that if a pattern of violations appears, the office is able to investigate them fully.
She also pointed to race discrimination, tenant representation, and environmental justice as places where the attorney general’s office needs to step up.
With her experience as a litigator comes experience litigating against the attorney general’s office when she felt it was on the wrong side. In the attorney general position, Liss-Riordan said she would make sure that she would be on the right side. “I know that the A.G.’s constitutional role is to defend the state and its agencies, but part of that work is making sure the state and its agencies are doing right by the people of Massachusetts…. I would not let taxpayers’ funds be spent on the wrong side of the issues.”
Both Liss-Riordan’s law career and her platform are rooted in the idea of fighting for the little guy, whether that be workers, tenants, or marginalized people. That carries through to how she is financing her campaign.
Liss-Riordan and one of her two opponents, Quentin Palfrey, have agreed to sign the People’s Pledge. The pledge, which is a vow to decline any financial support from PACs, would go into effect if all three candidates signed. While the third candidate, Andrea Campbell, looks like she will not be signing the pledge, Liss-Riordan is standing firm against corporate money.
“I don’t take corporate PAC money, I don’t take support from corporations. I spent my career fighting corporations and winning and beating them, I’m not beholden to any of them… I’m not going to take support from corporate PACs.”
Even though she is a relative newcomer to the political world, Liss-Riordan said that most of her fundraising has come from in-state. She said that her message has resonated with many of the people she met on her campaign trail.
“I think one of the top issues on folks’ minds today is the high price of everything. It is becoming so much harder to raise a family, to pay for basic living expenses, to afford a place to live. I think that’s the number one issue on people’s minds right now,” she said. “As a starting point, what better way to ensure that people can pay their bills and pay for their cost of living than to make sure that every penny they are owed by their employer makes it into their pockets?
“Making sure that corporations are not scamming them and stealing from them and they’re getting everything that they’re entitled to, all their rights and their benefits– that’s one concrete thing I can do as attorney general to help with that problem.”