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Labor lawyer Liss-Riordan running for Massachusetts Attorney General

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Shannonforag.com
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Shannon Liss-Riordan, a Democratic candidate for Massachusetts Attorney General

She is one of three Democrats in the field of candidates

A prominent labor lawyer and former candidate for U.S. Senate is running for Massachusetts Attorney General.

Shannon Liss-Riordan is one of three people seeking the Democratic nomination.

The incumbent, Democrat Maura Healey is running for governor.

The other Democratic hopefuls are former Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell and Quentin Palfrey, who was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018.

Republican Jay McMahon is also running.

WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with Liss-Riordan.

Shannon Liss-Riordan

I have spent my entire career, more than 23 years, representing working people. I've taken on the biggest challenges and delivered big results. And I'm very excited about this opportunity to take it to the next level and continue and expand on this work with power of the state behind me.

Paul Tuthill 

So what are some of the key issues that you're that you're stressing in this campaign?

Shannon Liss-Riordan

So, in my career, fighting for workers, I have gone up against some of America's largest corporations, which have taken advantage of workers. And I've won. Companies like Uber and Starbucks and FedEx and IBM. Over the years, I have put hundreds of millions of dollars back in the pockets of working people that these and other corporations have stolen from working people. I think that the Attorney General's Office is an enormous opportunity to expand on this work, to fight for workers rights, fight for consumer rights, and for the health and well being of our planet. So there's just a lot of opportunity here to do some bigger than what I've done my whole career. Very excited to continue with this work.

Paul Tuthill 

The current attorney general Maura Healey describes the office as” the people's law firm.” Is that a description you'd agree with?

Shannon Liss-Riordan

Yeah, yes, absolutely. I mean, the role of the Attorney General's office is to be a champion for the people. And that's what I'm excited to continue doing. And I'm really proud of the fact that our campaign has received endorsements now from 30 unions representing more than 50,000 workers across Massachusetts, and more unions are signing up to support our campaign every day. There is there's just so much that we can do here, and I'm particularly interested in making sure we're taking creative efforts to make sure that our laws are enforced. They're enforced fairly, and that I would work with the legislature to make sure that we're getting the right laws passed to protect regular people everyday in Massachusetts, across across the whole state.

Paul Tuthill 

What, what are some of the laws that you think need to be strengthened or need to be introduced in Massachusetts that would protect people better?

Shannon Liss-Riordan

Well, so for example, I have spent a good part of my career with wage enforcement. We've got some really good laws on the books. In fact, Massachusetts has some of the strongest laws in the country. But it's, it's getting harder and harder to enforce those laws because of some pretty terrible decisions coming down from the court. That has made it harder for workers and for consumers to go into court and and make sure that they are protected. So there's some work we need to do there, we need to get rid of sub minimum wages, which right now are still on the books for service workers and for young
workers and for prisoners. There's some big issues there have also, particularly over the last decade, taken on the so called gig economy, big tech companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, GrubHub, which are now actually trying to buy themselves an exemption from all Massachusetts wage protections. So I've been working really closely with labor supporters and civil rights activists to stop these companies from buying themselves a law in Massachusetts, that's going to be an ongoing battle. And I think it's really important that there's someone heading up the AG’s office who knows how to continue that fight. I've been I've been taking them on for about a decade. And my work in this area of fighting for workers rights for the for the gig economy has really sparked a national conversation about the needs of these workers to be protected. And I worry this is just the tip of the iceberg. They're just first and every industry in America is going to try to follow in their footsteps and wipe out worker protections if we let them get away with it.

Paul Tuthill 

.When you say they're trying to buy the law, are you're referring to the campaign for a ballot referendum in Massachusetts that would classify their employees as independent contractors?

Shannon Liss-Riordan

Yes, yes, that's right. I've been representing these workers for a decade now to get them their rights under the employment laws. In California, they spent $200 million buying themselves an exemption from labor laws, and now they're trying to take the show on the road and do this here in Massachusetts. So I've been very actively involved. I'm a co founder of the coalition to try to stop them from doing this and we have a large and growing coalition of workers rights activist, civil rights activists,and consumer rights activists who are not going to let them get away with this here in Massachusetts.

Paul Tuthill 

Would political corruption be something that you would focus on as as Attorney General?

Shannon Liss-Riordan

Yeah, absolutely. That's something that I've been hearing about so much as I've been traveling around the state that no one is above the law. And our laws are only as good as they are enforced. It's so important for our political system that we have trust in our elected officials, and they need to be complying with with all of our laws, including campaign laws. So and I'm not I'm not afraid of anyone. In my career I've taken on. I've taken on all types of corporations and bad actors who think that they can get away with skirting our laws, and and public officials are no different. They need to be held accountable. So that would absolutely be a priority.

Paul Tuthill 

I know you are familiar with the issues surrounding the Roderick Ireland Courthouse building in Springfield. What should be done with that building?

Shannon Liss-Riordan

It is a sick building. People should not be working there. prisoners should not have to be there. It's it's it's a threat to their health. As Attorney General, I would not allow anyone on my staff to work out of that building until this issue is resolved. We need to be making sure that our public employees and members of the public who need to access this courthouse have a safe environment to do their work.

Paul Tuthill 

The Attorney General's Office has I believe it's roughly 500 employees, do you have the experience to manage such a large workforce?

Shannon Liss-Riordan

I'm really excited about this opportunity. I'm the only candidate in the race who has managed a law firm. I've been running my law practice for over two decades, and I've run my own firm for the last 13 years. I'm actually the only candidate in the race who is a practicing lawyer, I'm the only candidate in the race who's represented working people. My firm that has about a dozen lawyers and close to 20 support staff, we've taken on corporate giants over the years and repeatedly one, I've made national headlines for these successes. And I've done this with my relatively modest sized crew here. So imagine what we'll be able to accomplish with with hundreds of lawyers. Behind me, very excited about the possibilities for what we're going to do for regular people everywhere across Massachusetts,

Paul Tuthill 

In 2020, you ran for the US Senate, in a challenge to Senator Ed Markey. You ended the campaign several months before the primary that year, but what what did you learn from that effort that might that is helping you with your run this time?

Shannon Liss-Riordan

I had such a great time traveling across Massachusetts meeting with meeting with voters, meeting at Democratic town committees, meeting with activists, and just listening to people's needs. Listening to what people were looking for from their elected officials was was a really huge education for me, and I loved every minute of it. So I'm really excited to be back out there now and seeing a lot of the same folks again. And this time, we're gonna do it. We've got the we've got the support of a long ongoing list of labor unions were just came out of the caucuses, which has spent the last five weeks that it was pretty exciting. Our team was I think we covered more caucuses than any other statewide campaign. We have loads of volunteers sign up after they heard us at the caucuses. So I'm pretty excited to be back out there and really, really honored and humbled by all the support that the campaign is getting.

Paul Tuthill 

I know that campaigns keep kind of an informal count with these caucuses because there is no official count. But how do you think you how do you think you did? Do you have enough support to win the endorsement at that convention in June?

Shannon Liss-Riordan

We got lots of delegates who, who went to caucus, specifically for us. And in the aftermath of the caucuses. We've had so many people reach out to us and let us know that they're going to be delegates at the convention. They're supporting a campaign. So I think we're well on our way to meeting the 15%. And I'm excited to move on as well to the next part of the campaign, which is talking to voters everywhere across Massachusetts. I was out in the Berkshires just a couple of weeks ago. Planning to be out there as often as possible. Get all around the state and make sure that voters across Massachusetts know that they've got a choice. This is going to be a very important race. The Attorney General's office is in extremely important position and I think it is absolutely vital that we have someone in there who knows how to use the law as a tool to make people's lives better, and has actually done that successfully for for my whole career.