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Why Kevin Landrigan May Be Wrong About The State Employees Contract Negotiations

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I want to start by saying, that I completely adore Kevin Landrigan.  He is knows more about State Politics in New Hampshire than many of the actual legislators.

However today Kevin and the Nashua Telegraph released this video  “Pay raise for state employees likely to come at a price” (http://bcove.me/qdgazvi5).  In this short two minute video, Kevin talks about how the State Employees Association is currently entered in negotiations for a new contract.  In this contract negotiation, the SEA is asking for a pay raise among other things.

As always Kevin was very knowledgable about the work that the SEA and other labor unions did to help elect Governor Maggie Hassan.  This however is where I would like to correct Kevin.  The labor unions in New Hampshire who worked to elect Maggie were not doing it to get some huge pay raise.  Many of the unions in NH worked to ensure that Ovide Lamontagne did not get elected.

Yes, as Kevin said, labor and Democrats have a “symbiotic” relationship.  This is mostly because the Republicans tend to be more business friendly, while the Democrats tend to be more worker friendly.  This was completely the case in the race for NH Governor.  The election of Maggie was more about survival.   Ovide Lamontagne was a strong supporter of Right To Work, as well as against Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s).  Lamontagne’s ideas were anti-worker and very anti-union, this is why labor unions were against him.

Now back to the present negotiations with the SEA.  In the video (http://bcove.me/qdgazvi5) Kevin talks about how the SEA is looking for a pay raise.  The problem is that the Governor has a very very tight budget on her hands this term. A budget that, I am sure Kevin would agree with me, will shape her political future as Governor.

Kevin brought up one good point that the SEA is ensuring that everyone knows.  The State Employees (SEA) have gone with out a pay raise for nearly four years.   This has been the case for many employees not just state employees.   Workers pay has been stagnant for quite a while and the recession has pushed workers further down.   The collective bargaining process is one of the ways that workers are going to start making gains in the workplace again.

The process of negotiations is a very delicate balance. It is give and take.  If one side does not give, then the negotiations fall apart. So the idea that in order to get a pay raise the SEA must give something back is a given. The problem is that they have already given. They have given for two full contracts now.

Kevin suggested that if the SEA wants to get a pay raise they are going to have to make concessions on their healthcare package.  I want to make something very clear, giving up on healthcare for a pay raise is not a win.  For example if a worker gets a $1.00 per hour raise, but healthcare goes up by $50.00 per week then workers again lose! ($1.00 p/h X 40= $40 -$50.00 = -$10)

This is a common trick used in corporate business, give the workers a small pay raise and increase their cost (retirement deductions, or healthcare).  The employees are tricked to believe that they are getting something when they are actually being pushed further down.   It is a shell game and I hope that the SEA (and everyone else) does not fall for it.

In many cases labor unions have forgone a pay raise in order to keep their benefits the same.  This is still a net loss for the workers, because the cost of living is always going up.  Just to keep up with inflation workers need a pay raise and this has not happened in years.  This applies to all workers, not just the SEA.  I am sure that Diana Lacey and her team will not be falling for this type of shell game.

I would also like to applaud Kevin Landrigan for his exceptional coverage, of the State House and Government operations.  I just wish that in his next video, he would not imply that workers must give more, to get pay raises that are long overdue.



About Matt Murray

Matt Murray is the creator and an author on the NH Labor News. He is a union member and advocate for labor and progressive politics. He also works with other unions and members to help spread our message. Follow him on Twitter @NHLabor_News
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