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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.

Leo W Gerard: Obamacare Reconciliation

The Supreme Court last week ensured millions of Americans retained their health insurance. Those who kept their coverage sighed with relief. Democrats cheered.

Republicans reacted with vitriol and recrimination. Even the GOP dissenters on the Supreme Court couldn’t stop themselves from responding with bitter sarcasm. Weirdly too, with language like “jiggery-pokery.”

For the entire five years since Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Republicans have relentlessly attempted to kill it – along with some of its most vulnerable beneficiaries who’d lack life-saving health care if the GOP succeeded. Some Republican legislatures and governors have jubilantly exploited a provision in a previous Supreme Court decision to deny the working poor in their states access to the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. But the GOP has lost the bulk of two appeals to the Supreme Court. And Republicans have failed at 67 attempts to repeal all or part of the ACA. They need to call off their war on health care now. Declare a ceasefire. Stop trying to slaughter a law that’s helping millions.

Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.

Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.

But if the colossal cadre of contenders for the GOP nomination for president is any indication, no armistice is in the offing. After the court announced the 6-3 decision Thursday, one Republican candidate after another railed against the majority on the Supreme Court and swore to take insurance from millions of Americans by repealing Obamacare.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose announcement last week was overshadowed by the Obamacare and marriage equality decisions, tweeted, “President Obama and Hillary Clinton would like this to be the end of the debate on Obamacare, but it isn’t.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tweeted: “Today’s #SCOTUScare ruling means Republicans must redouble their efforts to repeal and replace this destructive & costly law.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio agreed, with Rubio telling CNN, “I remain committed to repealing this bad law.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush issued a statement saying that as president he would “work with Congress to repeal and replace this flawed law with conservative reforms.”

These responses are, as the GOP would say, bad and flawed. Republicans can deny it until the votes are counted in November 2016, but Obamacare works. Because of the ACA, a higher proportion of Americans are covered by health insurance now than at any time since the government began collecting statistics. More than 16.4 million Americans gained insurance under the ACA. Health care costs increases have declined to a record low. And untold millions of Americans value the law’s broad protections, including prohibitions against insurers denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and against cancelling coverage when policyholders become ill.

Now, it’s true that nearly all of these Obamacare-loathing Republicans, like Jeb, contended they’d replace it after repealing it. But that’s what the GOP has said all along. And they’ve got nothin’. There’s no plan. There’s no strategy. There’s not even an outline.

And there’s a reason for that. The conservative Heritage Foundation developed a plan, including the now GOP-hated individual mandate. Mitt Romney piloted that market-based program successfully when he was governor of Massachusetts. Then, the U.S. House and Senate embraced the framework of Romneycare and passed it. That’s the Affordable Care Act – created by conservatives, adopted by Democrats.

America’s got the GOP plan A. Republicans don’t have a plan B. If they did, they’d have produced it sometime over the past five years. They keep talking like they’ve got something, but it’s as ethereal as individual health insurance plans for people with pre-existing conditions before Obamacare.

The GOP’s tactic of trying to destroy Obamacare in the courts has not served the party well. The first time around in the Supreme Court, the justices upheld the overall legality of Obamacare but did permit states to refuse the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Despite that, a majority of states – 28 – as well as the District of Columbia covered their working poor by accepting the program.

Several Republican governors who opposed the expansion at first later reconsidered, mostly because infuriated hospital administrators pointed out that the refusal pushed their institutions toward bankruptcy as it forced them to continue providing uncompensated care to the uninsured.

Rebuffing the expansion costs states jobs and economic expansion as well. The Kansas Hospital Association estimated that the state’s rejection of Medicaid expansion in 2014 and 2015 set it back $714 million in federal funding and 3,400 jobs. Still, Kansas is a holdout. That snub to businesses doesn’t seem very Republican.

The federal government threatened Kansas, Tennessee, Florida and Texas with loss of Medicaid money that pays some of the cost of care for the uninsured if those states continue to refuse the expansion. For Florida, that’s $1.3 billion. That would be a big hit to the state’s economy and health care system. Still it’s a holdout.

That’s how much Republicans hate that Democrats passed their conservative health insurance plan.

This time when Republicans tried to kill Obamacare by challenging it in court, they got nothing. In fact, they got less than nothing. They ended up worse off.

The GOP wanted the court to outlaw subsidies that the ACA awards low-income people who buy their health insurance on the federal exchange.   If the GOP had won, subsidies would have been denied to 6.4 million people who buy their insurance on the federal exchange because their states refused to establish their own insurance marketplaces.

But the majority on the Supreme Court declined to outlaw those subsidies. And it did so in a way that prevents a future Republican president from revoking the subsidies simply by changing an IRS rule. That’s a good thing for Americans receiving the subsidies.

But that doesn’t seem to be important to Republicans.

It should be. Here are two numbers those Obamacare-hating Republicans seeking the presidential nomination should keep in mind: While 1.8 million people who bought their insurance on the federal exchange live in counties that voted for President Obama, 4.5 million live in counties that voted for Romney.

Republicans may not want to be responsible for taking health insurance away from 4.5 million Republicans.

So they should stop trying. If they don’t like the Romneycare-inspired Affordable Care Act, they should try to fix it. Use some ingenuity to make it better. Arch conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia illustrated that Republicans are capable of that kind of creativity in his dissent filled with Shakespearean allusions.

The GOP would benefit from reckoning with this loss and abandoning its failed “repeal and replace” refrain. The American people who need health insurance would benefit if the party showed the slightest amount of Scalia’s inventiveness in GOP offers to work with Democrats to improve Obamacare.

 

Brackett to be sworn in as new NH AFL-CIO President

Glenn Brackett NH AFLCIO

Concord – Glenn Brackett will be sworn in today as the new President of the NH AFL-CIO. The former Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 was elected to a 4-year term, succeeding long-time President Mark Mackenzie. The NH AFL-CIO is the largest labor federation in New Hampshire, representing more than 26,000 workers in both the public and private sectors from more than 40 unions.

Brackett issued the following statement:

“I am very proud to take the reins of this great organization. Former President Mackenzie has done more than anyone I know to advance the cause of working men and women here in New Hampshire, and I look forward to carrying forward his legacy of progress and steadfast leadership.

Working men and women in the Granite State deserve leaders that will fight hard for their best interests in Concord and in Washington, DC. They deserve a President who will work with our allies to advance the cause of working people, but who will never back down from a fight when big corporations and politicians put profits ahead of people. And most importantly, they deserve an AFL-CIO that listens to its members and to workers across this great state, and that makes sure everyone’s voice is heard. Those are the values that I’m committed to upholding as President.”

Glenn is the outgoing Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320, where he recently led more than 600 local workers in a successful 130-day strike to secure a landmark agreement with FairPoint Communications, winning major compromises that benefited workers’ health, safety, and security. Glenn is a 1976 graduate of Gorham High School, and currently lives in Northwood with his family.

Unions Speak Out Against Supreme Court’s Decision To Hear Friedrichs v. CTA

Joint Statement on Public Service Workers
on Supreme Court Grant of Cert in Friedrichs v. CTA

Lawsuit Seeks to Curtail Freedom of Firefighters, Teachers, Nurses, First-Responders to Stick Together and Advocate for Better Public Services, Better Communities

WASHINGTON—NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, AFT President Randi Weingarten, CTA President Eric C. Heins, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry issued the following joint statement today in response to U.S. Supreme Court granting cert to Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association:

“We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America—that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life.

“The Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities—decisions that have stood for more than 35 years—and that have allowed people to work together for better public services and vibrant communities.

“When people come together in a union, they can help make sure that our communities have jobs that support our families. It means teachers can stand up for their students. First responders can push for critical equipment to protect us. And social workers can advocate effectively for children’s safety.

“America can’t build a strong future if people can’t come together to improve their work and their families’ futures. Moms and dads across the country have been standing up in the thousands to call for higher wages and unions. We hope the Supreme Court heeds their voices.”

And public servants are speaking out, too, about how Friedrichs v. CTA would undermine their ability to provide vital services the public depends on. In their own words:

“As a school campus monitor, my job is to be on the front lines to make sure our students are safe. Both parents and students count on me—it’s a responsibility that I take very seriously. It’s important for me to have the right to voice concerns over anything that might impede the safety of my students, and jeopardizing my ability to speak up for them is a risk for everyone.”
Carol Peek, a school campus security guard from Ventura, Calif.

“I love my students, and I want them to have everything they need to get a high-quality public education. When educators come together, we can speak with the district about class size, about adequate staffing, about the need for counselors, nurses, media specialists and librarians in schools. And we can advocate for better practices that serve our kids. With that collective voice, we can have conversations with the district that we probably wouldn’t be able to have otherwise―and do it while engaging our communities, our parents and our students.”
Kimberly Colbert, a classroom teacher from St. Paul, Minn.

“As a mental health worker, my colleagues and I see clients who are getting younger and more physical. Every day we do our best work to serve them and keep them safe, but the risk of injury and attack is a sad, scary reality of the job. But if my coworkers and I come together and have a collective voice on the job, we can advocate for better patient care, better training and equipment, and safe staffing levels. This is about all of us. We all deserve safety and dignity on the job, because we work incredibly hard every day and it’s certainly not glamorous.”
Kelly Druskis-Abreu, a mental health worker from Worcester, Mass.

“Our number one job is to protect at-risk children. Working together, front-line social workers and investigators have raised standards and improved policies that keep kids safe from abuse and neglect. I can’t understand why the Supreme Court would consider a case that could make it harder for us to advocate for the children and families we serve—this work is just too important.”
Ethel Everett, a child protection worker from Springfield, Mass.

 


About the National Education Association
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at www.nea.org and follow on Twitter at @NEAmedia.

About the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
The American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was founded in 1916 and today represents 1.6 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide. AFT represents pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; and nurses and other healthcare professionals. Go online to www.aft.orgor @AFTunion to find out more.

About the California Teachers Association (CTA)
The 325,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3 million-member National Education Association. Find out more at www.cta.org and follow CTA on Twitter at @CATeachersAssoc.

About the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
AFSCME is the nation’s largest and fastest growing public service employees union with more than 1.6 million working and retired members. AFSCME’s members provide the vital services that make America happen. We are nurses, corrections officers, child care providers, EMTs, sanitation workers and more. Read more online at www.afscme.org and @AFSCME.

About the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The nation’s largest health care union, SEIU represents nurses, LPNs, doctors, lab technicians, nursing home workers, and home care workers in addition to building cleaning and security industries, including janitors, security officers, superintendents, maintenance workers, window cleaners, and doormen and women. SEIU also represents public workers including local and state government workers, public school employees, bus drivers, and child care providers. Learn more at www.seiu.org and @SEIU.


 

Civil and Human Rights Applauds Commonsense Overtime Pay Adjustment by Obama Administration

WASHINGTON – Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president and director of policy of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement after the announcement that the Obama Administration would update overtime pay requirements to reflect the realities of the current workforce. The proposal would allow workers who make up to $50,440 per year to be eligible for time and a half for overtime work; the previous threshold was only $23,660. This adjustment would make 5 million more working people eligible for overtime pay:

“This is an important step forward in updating our nation’s labor practices and will ensure a fairer overtime wage for more workers, including women, low-income people, and people of color. This overdue adjustment would provide overtime protections for 5 million people who currently work above and beyond 40 hours a week without any benefits. 

By and large, our nation’s labor practices haven’t caught up with the times. Workers are suffering from stagnant wages, a rollback of their right to organize, unscrupulous employment contracts that bar them from enforcing their rights in court, and a minimum wage that—due to inflation— is worth a little less every day.

More needs to be done.  Our country needs sweeping reforms necessary to ensure economic security for the American workforce. We also need legislative action that protects workers and raises the minimum wage, issues that cannot be addressed by the executive branch alone.

We applaud the Obama Administration and Secretary Perez for this important step forward in ensuring that more workers can pursue the American Dream.”

Nancy Zirkin is executive vice president and director of policy of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference, visit www.civilrights.org. 

The Largest Federal Union Files Suit Over Data Breach Of Personal Information

AFGE Logo 2AFGE files Class Action Lawsuit against OPM Officials over Data Breach

The largest federal employee union has filed a lawsuit alleging that Office of Personnel Management’s leadership failed to heed warnings, obey security policies and are liable for one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history.

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has filed a class action complaint with a demand for jury trial against the Office of Personnel Management, Director Katherine Archuleta and Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour about one of the most devastating cyberattacks in U.S. history that resulted in potentially 18 million current and former federal employees’ personal and security files being compromised.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. AFGE and two individuals, Robert Crawford and Adam Dale, are represented by a legal team led by Girard Gibbs LLP, a national litigation firm representing plaintiffs in class and collective actions in state and federal courts, and in arbitration matters worldwide. Girard Gibbs LLP has vast experience with cases involving cybersecurity attacks and data breaches.

For a copy of the lawsuit, click here.

AFGE will hold a telepress conference call for members of the media to discuss the lawsuit and other issues pertaining to the data breach beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, June 30. The number to call is 800-230-1096; ask for the “AFGE Press Call.”  

In a joint statement, AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr., National Secretary-Treasurer Eugene Hudson Jr., and National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Y. Thomas said:

“AFGE will not sit idly by while OPM fails to comply with the most basic requests for information or provide an adequate response. Even after this historic security breach, OPM has continued to use poor data security practices and inferior private-sector strategies to solve its security woes.

“Since 2007, officials at OPM have been alerted to their lackluster data security policies and protocols and failed to take appropriate steps to safeguard the information. Although they were forewarned about the potential catastrophe that government employees faced, OPM’s data security got worse rather than better.

“Despite putting government employees and their loved ones at significant personal and financial risk, OPM has failed to reveal the full scope of who was specifically impacted by the data breach and the extent of the information taken. Additionally, the credit monitoring services that OPM provided have not only fallen short, but actually created more potential security risks for employees.

“AFGE is working with its members to ascertain the breadth of the breach and obtain feedback on OPM’s response. Since the agency is unwilling to provide adequate assistance, AFGE is taking unprecedented steps to gather more information for our members and hold the agency accountable.”

To learn more about how AFGE has responded on behalf of its members, visit www.afge.org/DataBreach.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

NH Elected Leaders Praise The Supreme Court’s Monumental Decision On Marriage Equality

Gay Marriage Rainbow Flag RingsToday the Supreme Court held that same-sex couples can no longer be denied the freedom to marry guaranteed by the Constitution, assuring that soon all loving and committed couples will be able to marry throughout the United States.

“Today’s ruling is a transformative triumph decades in the making, a momentous victory for freedom, equality, inclusion, and above all, love,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry. “For anyone who ever doubted that we could bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice, today the United States again took a giant step toward the more perfect union we the people aspire to. Today the Liberty Bell rings alongside wedding bells across an ocean of joy.”

“With the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the justices affirmed what a super-majority of Americans had come to understand: the freedom to marry is a precious, fundamental right that belongs to all, and that same-sex couples and our families share the same dreams and needs as any others,” Wolfson said.

“Today, the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, affirming the founding principle of the United States of America that all individuals are created equal,” said Governor Maggie Hassan. “I believe strongly in the rights of all citizens to participate fully in the civic and economic life of our communities, which is why I fought so hard to bring marriage equality to our state, and I’m extremely proud that New Hampshire helped pave the way to this truly historic day.”

“Throughout our history, every time we have sought to include all people in the life of our democracy, we have grown stronger, and this decision is a momentous victory in our enduring quest to build a brighter future by fully including all people in our society,” Hassan said.

“I am elated by the Supreme Court’s decision today in favor of marriage equality for all gay and lesbian couples in this country,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “It’s been five years since New Hampshire embraced marriage equality, and now, finally, the rest of the country will no longer discriminate based on whom one loves or where one lives. Marriage discrimination against gays and lesbians and their families has done needless harm for far too long, but today we can celebrate that those days are coming to a close. This decision will be remembered as a monumental moment in our nation’s progress towards freedom and equality for all.”

“In America, every citizen has an inalienable right to equal protection under the law, and no one should be discriminated against simply because of who they are or whom they love,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “With today’s historic ruling, the Supreme Court has come down on the side of equality and made a difference in the lives of millions of individuals across the nation who can now marry the person they love. I applaud the Supreme Court for standing up for the ideals this nation was founded on, and for ensuring that every American, regardless of his or her sexual orientation, has the legal right to marry in every state across the country.”

Congresswoman Kuster has long advocated in favor of marriage equality. Earlier this year, she joined with over 200 of her colleagues in Congress to submit an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to rule in favor of equal protection in the eyes of the law. A strong advocate for equal rights, Kuster also signed a similar amicus brief to the Supreme Court in 2012 advocating for the Court to overturn the prejudicial Defense of Marriage Act, thereby forcing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages as legal. Kuster is a member of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, an organization dedicated to promoting equal protection under the law for LGBT Americans. She has also cosponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and she is committed to passing legislation to ensure that employees cannot be discriminated against in the workplace because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Shawn O’Connor, who is running to be the first LGBT Member of Congress from New Hampshire, offered the following comments in celebration of this momentous decision:

Obergefell v. Hodges represents the Brown v. Board of Education of today’s generation. No longer will same-sex couples be denied this basic human right in 15 states. Today’s ruling is a victory not only for all the members of our community, but also for our allies and all those who have been persecuted due to race, gender, sexual orientation or disability and who have fought for decades to right such wrongs. Today is a victory for every American’s civil rights. But most importantly, it is a victory for love.”

This decision is a giant leap forward for the LGBT community but we still have work to do.

“Justice Scalia’s dissent highlights the fact that, while great strides have been made in the LGBT fight for equality, today represents the beginning of the next stage of our journey towards complete inclusiveness. In 29 states, same-sex couples can be married on a Saturday and then fired on Monday. That is un-American. As your next Congressman, I will fight tirelessly to pass comprehensive, LGBT non-discrimination legislation,” concluded O’Connor.

“Today’s decision marks a truly historic day in our fight for equal rights, a victory that was only possible because of the tremendous leadership of courageous individuals in New Hampshire and across our nation,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.

“Although Granite Staters have been leaders in the fight for equal rights for many years, there are still far too many that want to reverse our progress. The New Hampshire Republican Party (whose anti-equality platform is now unconstitutional), Kelly Ayotte, Frank Guinta, and every one of the Republican presidential hopefuls have all fought against the rights of our neighbors, friends, and relatives. We cannot and we will not let them pull our nation backward,” said Buckley.

After the Supreme Court decision Senator Kelly Ayotte stated, “While I believe in traditional marriage, I respect the Court’s decision and I believe New Hampshire’s legally married same-sex couples should be treated equally under the law no matter where they live.”

Kelly Ayotte isn’t fooling anyone with her attempt to cover up that she’s been one of the most strident opponents of marriage equality for years.

Not only has Ayotte said, “I absolutely support and believe in marriage as between a man and a woman,” but she’s also called New Hampshire’s landmark marriage equality law “unfortunate,” and commended efforts to repeal the law. Not to mention that Ayotte has even opposed adoption rights for same-sex couples.

“From encouraging the repeal of New Hampshire’s landmark marriage equality law to opposing adoption rights for same-sex couples, Kelly Ayotte has consistently fought against equal rights for our citizens,” said Buckley. “Granite Staters won’t forget Ayotte’s calls to reverse our progress and pull our state backward, and we will hold her accountable for her anti-equality actions at the ballot box in November 2016.”

 

Granite Staters Speak Out In Support Of Hassan And Budget Veto

Businesses, Advocates And Elected Officials Stand With Governor Hassan As She Fights For A Fiscally Responsible Budget That Protects Economic Priorities

Tom Strickland, owner of Sequoya Technologies Group in Peterborough, wrote in an op-ed, “My business is larger than 93 percent of the businesses in New Hampshire and these tax cuts will only save me $150 per year. That’s not enough for me to hire workers, buy equipment, or expand… What these tax cuts WILL do is result in even deeper cuts in critical state programs. The needs don’t go away when the program funding does. Those needs just shift to the community and that costs us all. Please keep my tax cut. I just can’t afford it.”

In a joint op-ed, Katie Robert, president of the New Hampshire Public Health Association and Kim Mohan, executive director of the New England Rural Health Roundtable, wrote, “The priorities embraced by the 2016-17 budgets, recently passed by the New Hampshire House and Senate, seem notably inconsistent with the needs of the state from a public health and public policy perspective… While these budget priorities are disconnected with the needs of the state overall, they would be particularly detrimental to the rural communities of our state, which make up 47 percent of the state’s population and cover 90 percent of its area.” 

In an editorial on the Supreme Court’s decision upholding access to affordable health coverage, the Concord Monitor wrote, “The New Hampshire Legislature, in particular, should see the writing on the wall and reauthorize the state’s [Medicaid expansion] program without delay.” 

Tym Rourke, chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention and Treatment, told the Concord Monitor, “Reauthorization [of Medicaid expansion] has a big impact on treatment availability.”

In a joint op-ed, Senator Andrew Hosmer and Rep. Cindy Rosenwald wrote, “We stand with Governor Hassan in her decision to veto the fiscally irresponsible and unbalanced Republican budget, which we can only describe as a trail of false promises. You may have heard Republicans claim that their budget increases funding for critical priorities like substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and our seniors. But there’s one very big problem. Republicans’ fiscally irresponsible budget isn’t actually balanced, placing every single one of those priorities — and more — at risk.”

Rep. Timothy Smith wrote in an op-ed, “This year, the Senate started by considering tens of millions of dollars in new tax cuts for businesses with its very first bills – but no one has really looked at the long-term consequences of these cuts.”

 

See below for a roundup of additional coverage:  

From the Nashua Telegraph:

… Hassan made good on her threat and vetoed the proposed two-year budget, saying the tax cuts would blow a $90 million hole in future years in exchange for giveaways to big corporations.

“When I made this decision, which I didn’t do lightly, what I really stepped back to think about was the progress we’ve made over the last two years and the progress we need to continue to make so that we are a competitive 21st century economy – not just in this two-year cycle, but in all the cycles to come,” she said Thursday during an interview with The Telegraph editorial board.

… Hassan criticized the Republican budget for unpaid-for tax giveaways to mostly out-of-state corporations at the expense of other economic priorities such as higher education and public safety.

Her administration said the budget would not provide year-to-year increase to the university system and leaves New Hampshire vulnerable to losing young people looking at high price tags at in-state colleges. She also blasted the budget for failing to adequately fund substance abuse prevention and diverting infrastructure funds intended for road and bridge repairs.

Hassan said she is not against corporate tax reductions when done properly, but said Republican budget writers raided all the wrong funding sources to make them a reality.

“Philosophically I’m not opposed to doing it, but we do have to be able to pay for the very things that businesses all around the state tell me are their priorities,” she said.

Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat and party leader in the House, said there is general agreement on spending priorities and she shares the governor’s concern about the unpaid-for business tax cuts.

“They would cost $23 million in this budget and $90 million in future budgets. The evidence that such tax cuts would drive higher economic growth just isn’t there,” Rosenwald said. “States like Kansas and Ohio have tried without success, and our own experience several years ago with a reduction in the tobacco tax rate also failed.” [Full story]

From the Associated Press:

Hassan said the budget would not provide any year-to-year increase to the university system, still funded below 2010 levels, or adequately fund substance abuse prevention. She said it also would force the Sununu Youth Services Center to cut a quarter of its budget; omit a modest cost-of-living increase for employees; divert funds intended for road and bridge repairs and underfund snow plowing and removal. [Full story]

From the Union Leader:

“I have vetoed the budget passed by the legislature because it is unbalanced, makes false promises about what it funds, and gives unpaid-for tax giveaways to big corporations, many based out-of-state, at the expense of critical economic priorities, including higher education, health care, public safety and transportation,” Hassan said in her veto message. “The long-term impact of these unpaid-for corporate tax cuts will create a more than $90 million hole in future budgets, further eroding our ability to encourage economic growth.” [Full story]

From NHPR:

Hassan said she hopes negotiations will start immediately. “I urge the legislators to meet with me as soon as possible so we can begin discussions on how we can build the kind of budget that is critical to our economic future,” she said Thursday at the State House. [Full story]

Home Care Workers Celebrate Historic Accord Boosting Caregivers Of Seniors, People With Disabilities

SEIU Home Health Care Workers

BOSTON, MA – Tears of joy streaked the faces of cheering home care workers assembled in their Dorchester union hall on Thursday afternoon as a decades-long struggle for recognition and a living wage culminated in a historic moment of celebration.

According to an agreement reached in contract negotiations between the 35,000 home care workers of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the administration of recently elected Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), Massachusetts Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) are poised to become the first in the nation to achieve a statewide $15 per hour starting wage.

Upon reaching the agreement, workers called off the fifteen-hour picket they had planned to begin at the Massachusetts State House on the morning of Tuesday, June 30th. Instead, caregivers are planning a celebration of this milestone and nation-leading achievement of a $15 standard at 4:00 p.m. on the State House steps the afternoon of June 30th.

“This victory, winning $15 per hour, it means we are no longer invisible,” said Kindalay Cummings-Akers, a PCA from Springfield, MA. Cummings-Akers cares for a local senior and became a union activist at the onset of the campaign. She was also a member of the statewide PCA negotiating team that reached the agreement with the Baker administration. “This is a huge step forward not just for home care workers, but also toward ensuring the safety, dignity, and independence of seniors and people with disabilities,” she added. “We are a movement of home care workers united by the idea that dignity for caregivers and the people in our care is possible. Today, we showed the world that it is possible.”

“Massachusetts home care workers are helping to lead the Fight for $15 – and winning,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner. “We applaud Governor Baker for helping to forge this pathway to dignity for PCAs and the tens of thousands of Massachusetts seniors and people with disabilities who rely on quality home care services to remain in the community or in the workforce. As the senior population grows, the demand for home care services is increasing. By helping to ensure a living wage for these vital caregivers, Governor Baker is taking a critical step with us toward reducing workforce turnover and ensuring that Massachusetts families can access the quality home care they need for their loved ones.”

“It is a moral imperative that all homecare and healthcare workers receive $15 per hour, and Massachusetts is now a leader in this effort,” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham. “Extreme income inequality is a threat to our economy, our bedrock American values and our very democracy. With a living wage, we can ensure more compassionate care for homecare clients, and better lives for homecare workers and their families. We applaud this bold step by Governor Baker towards a better future for our communities in Massachusetts and our country overall.”

The home care workers’ journey began in 2006 when they banded together with senior and disability advocates to pass legislation giving Personal Care Attendants the right to form a union – a right they previously had been denied because of an obscure technicality in state law.

After passing the Quality Home Care Workforce Act to win that right and introduce other improvements to the home care delivery system in 2007, the PCAs voted to join 1199SEIU in 2008 through the largest union election in the history of New England. 1199SEIU is the fastest-growing and most politically active union in Massachusetts.

Prior to the legislative and organizing campaigns, PCA wages had stagnated for years at $10.84 per hour. In a series of three contracts since forming their union and through several major mobilizations, rallies, and public campaigns, the PCAs achieved a wage of $13.38 on July 1st, 2014.

Last year, the Massachusetts home care workers also united with the burgeoning Fight for $15 movement and the local #WageAction coalition, helping to kick off the $15 wage effort in the Bay State with rallies in Boston, Springfield, and Worcester on June 12th, 2014.

Home care workers took to the streets again on April 14th, 2015 as part of a massive Fight for $15 mobilization that drew thousands to the streets of Boston. That Boston-based action served as the kickoff for similar coordinated protests in more than 200 cities and 50 countries across the globe.

Caregivers say they are excited that the picket action they had planned for their current contract expiration date of June 30th can now serve as a celebration of this achievement and the spirit of cooperation that made it possible.

“This is an inspiring moment for home care workers, but also for our children – and our children’s children,” said a beaming Rosario Cabrera, a home care worker from New Bedford, MA whose children Kendra, age 14, and Daniel, age 12, were with her at the negotiating session as workers cheered the new agreement with the Baker administration. “I am so proud that I can show my children and someday tell my grandchildren that I was part of this moment in history, that I was part of a movement for social justice. We want all home care workers to win $15 per hour – and to do it first in Massachusetts fills us with pride. It is evidence of what people can do when we organize and negotiate in good faith to reach common ground.”

“Not only is this going to help the PCAs, but this is going to help us as consumers because it’s going to be easier to hire an attendant now that they can receive a dignified living wage,” said Olivia Richard, age 31, a paraplegic consumer who lives in Brighton, MA. “In the past, consumer employers have had issues with getting PCAs simply because the wage wasn’t enough. This is going to make a huge difference in our lives, as well.”

In negotiations, workers and the Baker administration reached an agreement extending the current collective bargaining agreement and establishing a commitment that all PCAs statewide will receive a starting rate of at least $15 per hour by July 1, 2018. Workers will receive an immediate .30 cent raise effective July 1, 2015, a portion of which will be paid retroactively once the contract is ratified.

A new round of discussions will then begin no later than January 1, 2016 to solidify details on the series of wage increases that will elevate PCAs to the $15 mark by the agreed upon date of July 1, 2018. Meanwhile, PCAs across the state will vote by mail ballot on ratifying the contract extension and the terms therein, including the commitment to establish a statewide minimum $15 starting rate.

 

Representing more than 52,000 healthcare workers throughout Massachusetts and nearly 400,000 workers across the East Coast, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. Our mission is to achieve affordable, high quality healthcare for all. 1199SEIU is part of the 2.1 million member Service Employees International Union.

Pride at Work Celebrates Marriage Equality Across the Nation

Pride At WorkWASHINGTON, DC – In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled today to affirm the right to marry for same-sex couples across the nation. Pride at Work celebrates this historic victory for marriage equality and the LGBTQ community. Executive Director, Jerame Davis, reacts:

“Today’s momentous victory in the Supreme Court has affirmed what we already knew – the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law and that includes the right to marry for same-sex couples. We are ecstatic that this ruling will finally deliver equality and justice to families in every state of our great nation. We hope the states will move quickly to implement this ruling.

“The opponents of marriage equality have predicted doom and despair at each stage of this long journey to equality, but love and commitment are not values that undermine our national heritage. Today’s ruling underscores the importance of marriage in our society and upholds the dignity and value of the lives of LGBTQ Americans.

“But we are not done. In 29 states, same-sex couples who take advantage of their right to wed may face serious complications with their job, housing, and public accommodations. The very real possibility that a worker could marry the person they love on Saturday and then get fired from their job Monday morning when they show pictures around the water cooler is a looming threat to many workers who do not enjoy the protections of a union collective bargaining agreement. While a union contract will protect workers in the workplace, not every workplace is a union shop, which is why we need a comprehensive national non-discrimination law to protect these workers on the job, at home, and in the public square.

“We have won a major victory today, but the backlash will be swift. Our comrades in the labor movement rejoice with us in our victory and will stand with us to fight the battles ahead. We are one union and one nation. Both are stronger today.”

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Pride at Work is the official constituency group of LGBT union members and allies fighting for workplace equality for LGBT workers. We organize mutual support between the organized labor movement and the LGBT community in the spirit of the union movement’s historic motto, “An Injury to One is An Injury to All.” Workers interested in joining Pride at Work or in launching new chapter organizing efforts, can visit www.prideatwork.org or email us at info@prideatwork.org.

Colin Van Ostern: Should NH be more like TX?

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By Colin Van Ostern

Heads turned sharply in Concord this week when NH Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley and House Speaker Shawn Jasper both shared a press release inviting local businesses to relocate from New Hampshire to Texas. It was sent out originally by the Governor of Texas to New Hampshire political reporters Thursday, “Inviting New Hampshire Businesses to Seek New Opportunities in Texas.” All because Governor Hassan won’t approve an unbalanced state budget that, among other problems, creates special corporate tax giveaways without paying for them.

I can’t imagine a public policy dispute with a member of the other party that would cause me, as an elected official, to actively invite businesses to leave my state as Senator Bradley and Speaker Jasper did this week.  But let’s look past the backwards priorities and political gimmicks – on the substance, are they right?  Should New Hampshire try to be more like Texas?

Taxes?  It’s true Texas has low corporate taxes.  To keep them low, they rely on a hefty sales tax – which New Hampshire does not have. An Austin businessman pays an extra 8.25% on every supply he buys. So taken on the whole, the Tax Foundation found this year that Texas’s overall business tax climate ranked 10th in the nation.  Not bad, but still behind New Hampshire at 7th.

Workforce?  I’ve managed a $100 million business for a local manufacturer and currently work in a leadership role at our state’s fastest growing large employer – and I can tell you unequivocally that the most important resource for every great business is its people.  In New Hampshire, 91% of adults have a high school degree – the 4th highest state in the country, with high rates of bachelor’s and advanced degrees as well. Texas is dead last; 50th of 50 states. More Texans work at the minimum wage than almost any other state.  Only one in three adults in Texas have health insurance; again, 50th in the nation.

Quality of life? New Hampshire famously ranks as the #1 state in which to live, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development. #1 in the country to find a home. #1 state to earn a living. #1 safest state.  On those rankings, Texas scores 38th, 47th, 25th, and 30th. And yes, our unemployment rate is 3.8% vs Texas’s 4.3%.

Welcoming & inclusive to all?  New Hampshire was one of the first states in the nation to embrace marriage equality; in Texas, a state constitutional amendment bans this basic human right. New Hampshire town meetings are famous. Our voter turnout leads the nation; Texas – well, you get the idea (47th).

The point is not just to compare brag sheets. New Hampshire succeeds because of a smart, balanced, and forward-looking portfolio of unique competitive advantages: our world-class workforce, best in the nation quality of life, inclusive community, and uniquely low taxes.  The ideologically-driven approach to state budgets that the Governor of Texas, Jeb Bradley and Shawn Jasper are pushing would undermine our workforce, weaken our high quality of life, and add a $90 million hole in the budget. 

It’s simply not worth spiking in-state college tuition, threatening to kick 41,000 NH citizens off newly expanded healthcare, undermining safe roads and bridges, and passing a deeply unbalanced budget that would result in even more cuts or tax increases later in the year, all to draw high-fives from conservative Republican governors in the Deep South.

Texas is a great state and it certainly has competitive advantages of its own (its beef brisket is admittedly hard to deny).  But when it comes to our overall tax climate, our workforce, our communities, and our quality of life – well, don’t mess with the Live Free or Die state.  That goes for Texas Governors and lawmakers here in New Hampshire alike.

Colin Van Ostern (www.vanostern.com) represents 49 towns across the state on New Hampshire’s publicly elected Executive Council, including Rochester, Dover, Concord, Franklin, and Keene.

 

STATISTICS/REFERENCES:

Quality of life & related stats:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/10/07/why-the-south-is-the-worst-place-to-live-in-the-u-s-in-10-charts/

Educational attainment: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_educational_attainment

Business tax climate: http://taxfoundation.org/article/2015-state-business-tax-climate-index

Uninsured: http://www.texmed.org/uninsured_in_texas/

Minimum wage: http://www.bls.gov/regions/southwest/news-release/MinimumWageWorkers_Texas.htm

Sales Tax: http://window.texas.gov/taxinfo/local/

Unemployment: http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm

Marriage equality: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/states/entry/c/texas

Voter turnout: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/03/12/the-states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-turnout-in-2012-in-2-charts/

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