About NH Labor News

The New Hampshire Labor News is a group of NH Workers who believe that we need to protect ourselves against the attacks on workers. We are proud union members who are working to preserve the middle class. The NHLN talks mostly about news and politics from NH. We also talk about national issues that effect working men and women here in the Granite State.

Berry Craig: The Skunk Sprayed The Stink

800px-striped_skunkBy BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Melinda, my wife of nearly 38 years, suggested that debating Donald Trump is like facing a skunk.

You know the cantankerous critter is bound to spray the stink. You just don’t know when.

In the third– and mercifully final—presidential debate, Trump managed to keep the stage fairly odor free for about half an hour. Then came the stench.

Hillary Clinton called Trump Vladimir Putin’s “puppet.” His goat gotten, Trump started talking over her: “No puppet, no puppet. You’re the puppet. No, you’re the puppet!”

Melinda almost fell off a kitchen table chair laughing. She wondered if Trump might resort to that old grade school standby: “Oh, yeah? I’m rubber, and you’re glue–everything bounces off me and sticks on you!”

Predictably, Trump, his dander up, kept squirting the smelly stuff. Rapid-fire, he called Clinton a liar. Melinda anticipated “pants on fire!”

Trump dissed her as “such a nasty woman.” He glowered. He grimaced. He smirked. He bent down and intoned “wrong!” into the mike and did his best Alec Baldwin impersonation.

But, substantively, he was nowhere more skunk-like than when he refused to say flat out he’d accept the election results.

“I will look at it at the time,” Trump hedged. “I’ll keep you in suspense.” 

So Trump hinted that he might not go along with who the body politic wants to be our next president. I could almost hear the cheering from the fever swamps and sloughs of tea party Trump land.

Stay tuned until Nov. 8, says The Donald. 

The last time a big chunk of the American electorate refused to accept how an election turned out was 1860.

The white South, scared that Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans would end slavery, threatened to exit the Union if he won. When he did, Dixie departed—after insisting “Crooked Abe’s” win wasn’t legit. (Okay, the Confederates actually slammed Lincoln as “a Baboon Despot,” “the Illinois Ape,” “King Abraham I” and worse.)

The South—big time Trump country today—brought on the most lethal war in our history.

I’m not for a minute predicting a second Civil War. But check out this video of a Trump “patriot” and this one and this story and this story.  

After characterizing Trump’s election dodge “horrible,” Clinton reminded him that we are “a country based on laws.”

Doesn’t Trump say he’s a “law and order” guy?

Anyway, Trump’s a Republican like Abraham Lincoln. Okay, definitely not one like Lincoln.    

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt,” Lincoln supposedly said.  

If the Great Emancipator did say it, the Great Groper proved him right. Melinda and I can’t wait for Saturday Night Live.

Hard Working Granite Staters Stand Firmly Behind Senator Dan Feltes

Dan FeltesConcord, N.H. – Following enthusiastic endorsements from numerous organizations who represent thousands of working families across New Hampshire and District 15 , State Senator Dan Feltes released the following statement:

“I’m honored to partner with the working men and women of the Granite State as we all work to build a stronger New Hampshire economy with opportunity for everyone, not just the wealthy or well-connected few. When it comes to quality of life and to growing a business, New Hampshire is second to none, and that’s a big credit to our Granite State workers and families.”

See below for excerpts from workers’ advocates supporting Senator Feltes’ re-election:

“Dan is a fighter, he gets things done, and he gets up each day to stand up for everyday people.” -Tony Manning, President of Concord Officers Local #3195, on the endorsement of the Professional Firefighters of NH.

“Dan understands what it takes for working families across this state to thrive, and has been a strong supporter of public safety for all Granite Staters” -Jim Duckworth, President of Concord Officers Local #1045.

“Dan Feltes has a proven track record of creating and maintaining an environment where all individuals and working families are able to thrive. He has demonstrated that through his work in the senate, he is someone who will always fight to make sure all workers earn a living wage, and will work to create educational opportunities that allow our businesses and communities to thrive,” said Richard Gulla President of SEA/SEIU Local 1984.

“AFT-NH is proud to endorse Dan Feltes for re-election to the NH Senate.  A staunch advocate for working people across New Hampshire, Dan has also promoted equal access to high quality public education and advocated for improved workplace protections and an increased minimum wage.  In sum, he embodies AFT’s commitment to fairness, democracy, and economic opportunity.”  – President Douglas Ley, AFT-NH.                                               

“The New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council is proud to endorse Dan Feltes in his race for State Senate. Dan is a tireless advocate for working men and women, and New Hampshire’s working families are better off with Dan in the Senate. Dan supports raising wages for New Hampshire workers, ensuring all workers have access to health insurance and pensions, and making sure New Hampshire taxpayer dollars stay in the local economy and in the pockets of local workers. Dan spent his career as a legal aid attorney standing up for people who were left behind by the system, and he has spent the last two years in the Senate as a passionate champion for workers and families.” -President Steve Burk,  New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades.

Ayotte Office Pays Women 63 Cents On The Dollar

Kelly Ayotte’s Washington Allies Caught Lying to Cover Up Her Record of Paying Women 63 Cents on the Dollar 

Concord, N.H. — Kelly Ayotte’s Washington allies attempted earlier this week to push false data to attack Governor Hassan, and a new report shows that not only were they incorrect but that they were trying to cover up Kelly Ayotte’s actual abysmal record on equal pay for the women in her office. New analysis shows that Ayotte paid women in her Senate office only 63% of what she paid men in fiscal year 2015. 

Share Blue crunched the numbers for both Senate candidates’ offices. Please see below for excerpts from their analysis, or read the full story online HERE:

Maggie Hassan, the Democratic governor of New Hampshire, has made equal pay for women a focus of both her governorship and her campaign for the U.S. Senate. She signed into law the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act, and has pledged to push for the federal version of the law if elected to the Senate.

But the conservative Washington Free Beacon has insinuated hypocrisy, claiming that their research shows Hassan pays women in her administration only 80 cents on the dollar that her male staffers earn.

…And contrary to the claims they made based on this inaccurate mode of analysis, public records tell a different story.

In Fiscal Year 2015, the mean average salary of female employees in Ayotte’s office was $50,137. The mean average salary for male employees was $80,141.01 — over $30,000 higher than their female coworkers. This translates to female staffers making only 63 cents for every dollar a male staffer made.

For the same time period, the mean average salary of female employees in Hassan’s office was $54,840, while the mean average salary earned by male employees was $56,946 — a difference of only $2,106, which works out to female staffers earning 96 cents on the dollar compared to male staffers.

It is dishonest enough to make supposedly factual claims based on faulty methodology; it is even more mendacious to do so in order to discredit a politician on an issue that she has been fighting for throughout her career, and that conservatives often refuse to admit even exists.

Van Ostern Discusses Ways To Modernize State Government, Cutting Red Tape

SALEM, N.H. – Today, Democratic nominee for Governor, Colin Van Ostern met with New Hampshire business leaders to discuss ways to modernize state government and cut red tape. Joined by leading voices in the business community at Motivis Learning, an education technology firm in Salem, Colin offered examples of how to modernize state government functions, cut red tape and inefficient spending, and improve customer service.  

“To strengthen New Hampshire’s economy, we must take the next step forward in modernizing state government and make it work more efficiently for New Hampshire people and businesses,” said Colin Van Ostern, Democratic nominee for Governor. “I’ll bring that fiscal responsibility to the Governor’s office and I’ll cut inefficient spending, get rid of red tape, and use innovative solutions to save money with no broad-base income or sales tax. And I’ll invest those savings in our future, creating clean energy jobs, protecting affordable healthcare, strengthening our workforce, and ensuring our children can go to college without being crushed by debt.”

Colin offered five examples of ways New Hampshire can modernize state government functions, cut red tape, cut inefficient spending, and improve customer service – with no sales tax and no income tax:

  1. Move more business creation services online so business owners don’t need to be forced to stand in line – often in Concord – to obtain state business certificates, trade names, trademarks, or other professional licenses and certifications.
  2.  Digitize and streamline the state contracting process for routine contracts. Allow small businesses and nonprofits to work more efficiently with the state by moving to digital contracting options and avoiding redundant filings.
  3. Expand digital payments to replace more snail-mail check processing  and mailed communications. The state currently spends millions of dollars on snail-mail check processing and other printed and mailed communication that can be saved by moving to digital payments and electronic communications as the default mode of correspondence, where allowed by law.
  4. Incentive state agencies and employees to find new efficiency and savings. New Hampshire can modernize existing employee incentive programs so that employees and agencies who identify cost-savings can keep a small portion of the savings, with the balance of cost savings returned to the general fund or taxpayers.
  5. End the cap on solar & renewable energy development. Right now the state has a cap on the number of solar panels we can have in New Hampshire. As Governor, Colin will work to eliminate that cap holding back private investment in renewable energy and move to a sustainable model that is fair to all consumers.

To learn more about Colin’s plans to grow New Hampshire’s economy, visit: www.vanostern.com/economy

Wall Street Investment Firm Drives Ayotte’s Position on Northern Pass

Blackstone Group, competitor to Northern Pass, contributes more than $44,000 to Ayotte’s Campaign

Barrington – Recent political contribution reports show that the Blackstone Group, a Wall Street financial firm that is funding a competitive energy project to Northern Pass, has given upwards of $44,000 to Ayotte’s re-election campaign.  According to Open Secrets, the contributions from Blackstone’s executives and Blackstone’s political action committee make the Wall Street firm the largest energy sector contributor to Ayotte’s reelection campaign.

The Blackstone Group is described as the “lead investor” in Transmission Developers, Inc. (TDI), which has proposed several transmission projects in New England and New York.  Similar to Northern Pass, TDI has proposed a transmission project in Vermont that seeks to bring hydroelectric power from Canada, but to date has not announced an energy source for the project.

“Senator Ayotte portrays herself as protecting New Hampshire by trying to creating hurdles for energy projects in our state, but in reality she is working to tip the scales to gain an advantage for one of her largest political contributors,” said Tiler Eaton of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.  “Since she has begun advocating to place costly mandates on Northern Pass, Ayotte has raked in tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the Wall Street investment firm that stands to gain the most from her position.”

In addition to the Blackstone Group, Eaton said Ayotte has taken thousands in political contributions from other energy companies and power plant owners who have fought to stop any new energy supplies from entering the New England region.  Eaton said these energy companies and power plant owners benefit from the extremely high prices in the New England energy market, and work to prevent new energy supplies from entering New England that might lower prices.

Eaton said the biggest losers from Ayotte’s effort to promote the Wall Street firm’s energy projects are New Hampshire businesses, homeowners and workers. 

“At the end of the day, by letting her political contributors determine her position on energy projects, Senator Ayotte is standing in the way of lower cost electricity for New Hampshire and New England”, said Eaton. “By standing in the way of new energy supplies entering New Hampshire, Ayotte keeps electricity costs high and protects massive profits for her Wall Street political contributors.  All at the expense of New Hampshire electric consumers, our state’s economy and good jobs in the state.”

Information for NH Residents on 2017 Health Insurance Marketplace and Open Enrollment

CONCORD, NH — Open enrollment through the state’s federally facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace (www.Healthcare.gov) will run from November 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017. In advance of open enrollment on and off the Marketplace, the New Hampshire Insurance Department offers information and resources to state residents who plan to purchase health insurance in the individual market for 2017 coverage.

“New Hampshire residents have options for 2017: four health insurance companies to choose from, many plans and health care provider networks, and a range of price points,” said New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny. “Even if people already have a plan, they should go to HealthCare.gov and shop around – they may find a plan that’s more affordable or that has a health care provider network that they like better.”

Federal Assistance Based on Income Levels:

You can buy a plan outside of the federal Marketplace – through an insurance agent or directly from an insurance company – and it will cover the same essential services as a Marketplace plan.  However, if you want to receive federal financial assistance to pay for the plan, you will need to enroll through the Marketplace. Depending on your income level, you may qualify for cost assistance for paying premiums and/or out-of-pocket costs for a health insurance plan bought through the Marketplace, or for no-cost or low-cost coverage under the New Hampshire Health Protection Program.  

When you complete an application on www.Healthcare.gov, you will be prompted to enter your tax household size and financial information. After completing the application, you will be notified if you qualify for financial assistance for a Marketplace plan or for coverage through the New Hampshire Health Protection Program.

If you are enrolled in Marketplace coverage for 2016, you will receive renewal information from your insurance company and the Marketplace itself. 

If you are already enrolled in the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, you will receive information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services about how to pick a plan for 2017.

Health insurance plans:

In 2017, four insurance companies will offer individual plans on the New Hampshire Marketplace: Anthem, Ambetter from NH Healthy Families, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and Minuteman Health.

Community Health Options will not be offering coverage in New Hampshire in 2017. Current Community Health Options members are encouraged to shop and select a new plan for 2017. Those who do not select a new plan will be automatically assigned to one by the Marketplace.

For your coverage to begin on January 1, 2017, you will need to enroll by December 15, 2016 (NH residents who have CHO coverage will have until December 31, 2016 to select a new plan). You will need to pay your premium for your 2017 coverage to take effect. 

New Hampshire Health Protection Program members with Community Health Options coverage will receive information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services about moving to a new plan. New Hampshire small businesses can also purchase group plans through the Marketplace under the SHOP program (go to HealthCare.gov).

What to Consider:

There are five categories, or “metal levels,” of coverage in the individual and small group market, including plans sold on the Marketplace. Plans in each category will pay for different portions of an average person’s care, with the rest being paid by the covered person as out-of-pocket expenses:

  • Bronze: Your plan pays 60% of your health costs, on average. You pay 40%.
  • Silver: Your plan pays 70% of your health costs, on average. You pay about 30%.
    • If you buy through the Marketplace and qualify for cost-sharing assistance, you will pay less than 30%, but only if you choose a Silver plan. Your cost-sharing could be as low as 6%, depending on your income.
  • Gold: Your plan pays 80% of your health costs, on average. You pay about 20%.
  • Platinum: Your plan pays 90% of your health costs, on average. You pay about 10%.
  • Catastrophic: Your plan pays less than 60% of the total cost of care on average. These plans are only available to people who are under 30 years old or who have a hardship exemption.

The actual percentage you pay, in total or per service, will depend on the plan design (different plans feature different deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums) and the services you use throughout the year. When choosing a plan category, think about your health care needs as well as your budget. Bronze and Silver plans have lower monthly premiums, but they also pay less of your costs when you need care.  Gold and platinum plans have lower cost-sharing – meaning the plan pays more and you pay less—but have higher monthly premiums. 

Consider whether your doctors are included in the insurance plan’s network of providers. You can check the insurance company’s provider directory to see if they are included. If you are taking prescription drugs, check the insurance company’s drug formulary to see if they will be covered.

More information on 2017 plans:

New Hampshire HealthCost – a free tool developed by the NH Insurance Department:

The website www.NHHealthCost.org gives cost estimates for health procedures at medical facilities in the state. The estimates are based on actual, anonymous, paid claims data collected from the state’s health insurers. The website allows people to see the total costs of different procedures, including physician fees, lab fees, and facility fees, based on their insurance type, deductible, and coinsurance.

The site’s goal is to give people knowledge about the real cost of their care so they can make informed choices about how and where to spend their health care dollars. The website also includes hospital quality data and a guide to help consumers understand how to use their health insurance.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department Can Help:

“I want the people of this state to know that the Insurance Department is here as a resource: Our Consumer Services staff is available to assist with issues that arise after people are enrolled in coverage,” said Commissioner Sevigny.

Contact the Insurance Department with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your insurance coverage at 1-800-852-3416 or (603) 271-2261, or by email at consumerservices@ins.nh.gov.

About the New Hampshire Insurance Department

The New Hampshire Insurance Department’s mission is to promote and protect the public good by ensuring the existence of a safe and competitive insurance marketplace through the development and enforcement of the insurance laws of the State of New Hampshire. For more information, visit www.nh.gov/insurance.

Social Security COLA Falls Short for Seniors

social securty 1Small cost-of-living increase triggers huge Medicare Part B premium hike for many retirees

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. is calling on Congress to pass emergency legislation to prevent massive increases in Medicare Part B premiums for millions of retirees next year.

The government today announced a 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for federal retirees and Social Security recipients. The COLA is based on the year-over-year change in the prices for goods and services purchased by hourly and clerical workers.

This small COLA has inadvertently triggered a massive increase in Medicare Part B premiums for the 30 percent of beneficiaries who do not currently receive Social Security benefits.

Premiums for Medicare Part B are expected to increase 23 percent next year, from $121 a month to $149 a month. A so-called “hold harmless” provision prevents Medicare Part B premiums from increasing by more than the dollar increase in an individual’s Social Security payment. But for the 16 million retirees who don’t receive Social Security, including 1.6 million federal retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System, the full increase must be paid unless Congress acts.

“Congress must act now to prevent a massive increase in Medicare Part B premiums for this group of retirees,” Cox said. “Although most seniors would be protected, this group will have to pay more solely because of the uniqueness of their pension system.”

Congress last year extended the hold harmless provision to cover all Medicare Part B beneficiaries when there is no cost-of-living adjustment. However, this provision does not apply when there is a small COLA, as there will be in 2017.

Even without the increase in Medicare Part B premiums, retirees will have to tighten their belts to account for next year’s miniscule cost-of-living adjustment. Retirees already are facing a 6.2% increase in their health insurance premiums next year.

“Prices for many items that seniors must purchase are rising faster than the overall inflation rate,” Cox said. “Forcing this group of retirees to shoulder such a huge cost burden will have a devastating impact on their already modest living standards.”

The Alliance for Retired Americans have been pushing to increase Social Security benefits and change the way cost of living is calculated.

“The Alliance for Retired Americans is deeply disappointed by the announcement today that there will be a miniscule 0.3% benefit increase for millions of Social Security beneficiaries in 2017,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “For the average retiree, that means just a $5.00 per month increase, not enough to keep up with the cost of their prescription medications. This follows a 0% COLA in 2016. Most retirees are going to continue to have a hard time paying for basic necessities.”

“That’s why Congress must expand earned Social Security benefits and change the formula used to calculate future COLAs to the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).  The CPI-E would base the calculation on what seniors actually spend their money on. That list includes items such as health care and housing, which account for most retirees’ spending,” Fiesta added. 

The AFL-CIO was “disappointed” with this COLA announcement.

“A weak increase that amounts to a mere $5.00 more a month for the average retired worker is a disappointment for the millions who rely on Social Security to stay afloat during retirement,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Protecting our seniors against inflation is one of the many obligations we have to retired Americans. The 2017 adjustment falls short of that goal because it fails to reflect seniors’ extraordinary expenses.”

 “The 2017 COLA not only fails to keep pace with seniors’ high health care and prescription drug costs, it also means millions of retirees, including many retired public employees, will be hit hard because the law fails to protect them against large Medicare Part B premium increases when inflation is low. State Medicaid budgets that cover Medicare premiums for low-income seniors similarly will be affected. We urge Congress to step in and limit the coming financial blow to thousands of vulnerable retirees and state budgets,” Trumka added.

Planned Parenthood Votes Makes Six Figure Investment in New Hampshire’s Down Ballot Races

pappas-vanostern-ppnhafCONCORD, NH— Today, Planned Parenthood Votes went up with a robust, six-figure ad buy that targets the Governor’s race and Executive Council races in New Hampshire. The digital buy includes both video and social ads that highlight candidates records on women’s health and on Planned Parenthood.

The digital ads focus on Democratic Governor candidate Colin Van Ostern and Executive Councilor candidates Chris Pappas and Dan Weeks, and their strong records of protecting women’s access to health care in New Hampshire and their support for Planned Parenthood health centers. They also highlight how dangerous Republican Governor Candidate Chris Sununu, and Executive Councilor candidates Joe Kelly Levasseur, and David Wheeler are for Granite State women. These candidates have all voted to block access to birth control and cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood health centers.

“Over the past two years, women’s health has been under attack in New Hampshire. Nearly 20 legislative proposals were aimed at restricting access for women’s reproductive health and the state’s Executive Council voted to defund Planned Parenthood health centers for over ten months –– with the GOP gubernatorial nominee Chris Sununu casting the deciding vote to defund in 2015. With so many extreme candidates running, Planned Parenthood Votes has made a historic investment in New Hampshire, in order to inform voters about what’s at stake for women’s health,” said Victoria Bonney, Communications Manager for Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund.

Van Ostern and Chris Pappas ad (Watch here)

“Don’t Trust Chris Sununu” ad, Watch here

Dan Weeks for Executive Council, Watch here

The 2016 election cycle marks the largest investment Planned Parenthood Votes has ever made in New Hampshire. In the face of attacks on women’s health care access at the state and federal levels, Planned Parenthood Votes has honed in on New Hampshire as one of only six states to receive millions of dollars to support candidates up and down the ballot who will safeguard health care access for the women and families served by Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood Votes has already gone up with TV ad buys twice in the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race, including a $1.7M joint ad buy with Emily’s List Women Vote!. The ad, titled “Wrong,” details how both Kelly Ayotte and Donald Trump want to defund Planned Parenthood and oppose access to safe, legal abortion.

With just days left until the general election on November 8, the United We Can coalition — a partnership of Planned Parenthood Votes, SEIU and NextGen –– plans to knock on 200,000 doors in New Hampshire to inform voters about what’s at stake for women’s health care access and grow support for endorsed candidates.

Additional ads running: 

Joe Kelly Levasseur:  Wrong for New Hampshire

David WheelerToo Extreme for New Hampshire

AYOTTE FACT CHECK: New Ayotte Ad Features Company That Benefited From Stimulus Ayotte Opposed


Kelly For NH Ad Screen Shot

Ayotte Ad Tries to Cover Up Record of Siding With Special Interests to Cut Job Training Programs

Concord, N.H. — Today, Kelly Ayotte continued her attempts to cover up her record of siding with special interests by releasing a new ad, but her record shows that not only has she voted to slash job training funding at the urging of the Koch Brothers, but she also opposed the economic stimulus–the very program that benefited a company featured in her ad to the tune of over three million dollars. 

Cirtronics, a company featured in Ayotte’ ad, benefitted from over three million dollars in stimulus funding. But Ayotte said she “wouldn’t have supported” the stimulus because she said “it was not effective in creating private sector jobs.” 

And while Ayotte’s misleading new ad talks a big game about job training, its claims just aren’t borne out by her record. Just months after arriving in Washington, Ayotte did as the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity asked and voted to cut $2 billion from job training. She also voted to eliminate altogether the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training Grant that funded programs at community colleges across New Hampshire. 

Some of the job training efforts supported by this program Ayotte voted to eliminate include:

  • Great Bay Community College’s composites lab that trains and helps place workers at Albany International and Safran Aerospace Composites
  • Nashua Community College’s revamped advanced manufacturing program
  • Upgraded mechanical machining equipment at Lakes Region Community College
  • White Mountain Community College’s advanced welding program
  • Machining labs at River Valley Community College and partnership between River Valley Community College and Hypertherm to train and place workers

“Kelly Ayotte’s rhetoric just doesn’t match her record, and Granite Staters won’t be fooled by her misleading ads that try to cover up her real Washington record,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Press Secretary Melissa Miller. “Kelly Ayotte has repeatedly put the corporate special interests that fund her campaigns ahead of programs that are important to Granite Staters like job training at our community colleges. New Hampshire deserves better.”

Hazardous Child Labor Is Still Legal In The U.S. And President Obama Needs To End It

Tobacco, Image by Steve Snodgrass

Tobacco, Image by Steve Snodgrass

Nearly 50 members of Congress ask President Obama to ban child labor in U.S. tobacco before leaving Oval Office 

Washington, DC—Nearly 50 Members of Congress asked President Obama to ban child labor in U.S. tobacco fields in a letter sent to the White House today. U.S. child labor law allows children as young as 12 to work unlimited hours in tobacco fields as long as they are not missing school. “Voluntary policies among tobacco companies have attempted to get children under 16 out of the fields, but it isn’t clear those policies are effective or why they permit 16- and 17-year-old children to do work that is hazardous and makes them ill,” said Sally Greenberg, co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) and executive director of the National Consumers League.

“We believe that this work is too dangerous for workers under 18,” said Greenberg. “Children working in tobacco fields suffer regular bouts of nicotine poisoning, otherwise known as Green Tobacco Sickness. They are also subjected to dangerous pesticide residues and use razor-sharp tools. We believe tobacco work should be conducted by adults who are better able to deal with the risks, and kids who have to work or who want to work should be re-directed into safer jobs.”

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) authored the letter, which asks the President to designate tobacco work for children as “hazardous child labor” and by doing so, render it illegal. Cicilline has been a persistent advocate of protecting U.S. child tobacco workers since a Human Rights Watch report, “Tobacco’s Hidden Children—Hazardous Child Labor in United States Tobacco Farming,” found that nearly three out of four child tobacco workers interviewed suffered symptoms that correlated with nicotine poisoning.

“Laws that allow children to risk nicotine exposure while working in tobacco fields are hopelessly out of date and put children’s health in jeopardy. President Obama should act immediately to prohibit this hazardous work for children,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In August, the CLC sent a letter signed by 110 groups, representing tens of millions of Americans, to President Obama urging him to ban child labor in U.S. tobacco before he leaves office. The Administration has not responded to the request.

In 2012, under strong pressure from the farm lobby, the Obama Administration withdrew long-overdue occupational protections for child farmworkers that would have banned child labor in tobacco while providing several other life-saving protections.

“We call on President Obama to rectify this decision and protect child tobacco workers from the dangers of nicotine poisoning before another child farmworker becomes ill at work,” said Norma Flores López, chair of the CLC’s Domestic Issues Committee. “Children who work in tobacco fields often wear black plastic garbage bags on their torsos to try to avoid contact with nicotine-laden tobacco leafs. Imagine the heat they experience in broiling sun wearing those bags? How can we subject them to those conditions?”

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times have urged the Obama Administration to issue federal rules to ban child labor in U.S. tobacco.  

On May 5, the Federal Drug Administration announced new regulations prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to children. “We’ve agreed for many years that nicotine does not belong in the hands of children,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell. 

“Despite this concern, the Obama Administration has not yet taken appropriate steps to protect child tobacco workers from nicotine poisoning in the fields,” said HRW’s Becker.

In September, Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, a global leader of the movement to end child labor and child slavery tweeted a plea for the President “as a fellow Nobel Prize laureate” to ban child labor in U.S. tobacco.

“The United State has adopted the global sustainable development goal of ending child labor in the next nine years, but refuses to take the important first step of ending hazardous child labor in our tobacco fields,” said Reid Maki, director of child labor advocacy for the National Consumers League and coordinator of the CLC. “How sincerely are we embracing this vital goal if we won’t ban hazardous work that most Americans would agree is too dangerous for children—work that has been already banned in India and Brazil?” 

About the Child Labor Coalition

The Child Labor Coalition, which has 38 member organizations, represents consumers, labor unions, educators, human rights and labor rights groups, child advocacy groups, and religious and women’s groups. It was established in 1989, and is co-chaired by the National Consumers League and the American Federation of Teachers. Its mission is to protect working youth and to promote legislation, programs, and initiatives to end child labor exploitation in the United States and abroad. The CLC’s website and membership list can be found at www.stopchildlabor.org.

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