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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.

IronWorker And Congressional Candidate Randy ‘IronStache’ Bryce Rallies The Crowd At Netroots Nation

This morning, Randy “IronStache” Bryce spoke to the progressive crowd at Netroots Nation. Netroots Nation is the largest gatherings of progressive Democrats in the country with over 3,000 attendees this year in Atlanta.

Bryce opened his remarks by saying, “I am here to repeal and replace Speaker Paul Ryan.”

With over twenty years of working as an IronWorker in Wisconsin, Bryce has always been an outspoken advocate for working families.  As the political director for the Ironworkers local 8 in Wisconsin, Bryce has been on the front lines in the attacks on working people from the Republican Legislature and the anti-worker Governor, Scott Walker.

After announcing his run for Congress, Bryce launched his first, powerful campaign video that has already surpassed over 500,000 views in just over a month.

Bryce told the audience at Netroots Nation, this campaign “is not about me, it is about all of you” and referred to the GOP in Washington as “Banana-Republicans” for their failure to hold town halls or speak to the people they claim to represent.

The people of Wisconsin do not seem to be happy with Speaker Ryan’s “repeal and replace” plan for healthcare and have made public calls for him to hold a town hall to hear them.

Slate magazine reported that Ryan is afraid to hold a town hall “due to the fear of protestors.”

In one early campaign appearance, Bryce called out Speaker Ryan for not holding “an in-district town hall for 600 days.”  Politifact Wisconsin corrected Bryce when they fact-checked his statement and found that “Ryan has gone more than 650 days without holding” a traditional town hall within the district.

Bryce made his position on healthcare completely clear by saying, “Medicare For All should be the number one priority for this country.”  Bryce praised his union supplied healthcare which helped he battle and ultimately beat cancer, but now will forever have a “pre-existing condition” that would block him from getting healthcare under Speaker Ryan’s new healthcare plan.

Lastly, Bryce talked about the recent bombing on a Muslim Mosque in Minnesota.  He called the bombers, “cowards” and “should be convicted of hate crimes.”

He also talked about how as an Ironworker he has build many walls, but if he was called to build Trump’s border wall, he would tell him to “stuff it! I will not going to build some stupid border wall.” Bryce said we should not be spending money on a border wall if we are not willing to spend the money to ensure that all Americans have healthcare.

You can find out more about Randy Bryce’s campaign to repeal and replace Paul Ryan from his website.

Change, Cost and Compassion — Selling Medicare For All

By Brad Bannon

Republicans have been as quiet as church mice on healthcare reform since the latest version of what I call “Trump(Doesn’t)Care” crashed and burned in the Senate. President Trump will try to kill ObamaCare by executive fiat while the president’s addled allies in Congress bumble their way into their next half-baked scheme to produce tax cuts for the rich and misery for working families.

Democratic initiative trumps GOP inertia. No one could accuse Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) of being asleep at the switch while Trump golfs and Senate Majority Leader Mitch O’Connell enjoys his summer vacation. Sanders is using the summer congressional work session to work at building support for his universal health proposal, Medicare for All.

The GOP is great at killing laws but bad at giving birth to them. The late great Democratic Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, used to say, “A jackass can kick a barn down but it takes a carpenter to build one.”

A hidden winner in the battle between ObamaCare and TrumpCare has been Medicare for All. Since the bitter cage match between Affordable Care Act and the efforts to repeal and replace it erupted, support for universal healthcare has exploded.

Last March an Associated Press national survey indicated that there was roughly an even split (52 percent agree while 47 percent disagree) between Americans who believed that the federal government had a responsibility to provide healthcare coverage to everyone and people who didn’t think the feds had that obligation.

In a new AP poll, support for universal coverage had increased so much there is now a large majority (62 percent to 37 percent) of Americans who believe the federal government has the responsibility to guarantee health insurance for all Americans.

Democrats would lose a great chance to fundamentally reform the broken healthcare system and the party’s establishment if we aren’t bold. Here are the best arguments progressives must make to provide Medicare for all.

First, the need for fundamental change. The healthcare system, like a lot of other systems in the United States, is a mess. Is it any wonder that only 1 in 4 (27 percent-Gallup Poll) Americans think the country is headed in the right direction?

Trump rode the wave of anger and hostility towards the status quo into the White House. But TrumpCare hurts the people who supported Trump. A bold remedy for fundamental change in the ailing healthcare system would help position the Democratic Party as the party of change and reform and help win back working families who jumped ship in 2016 to support the GOP presidential candidate.

The U.S. spends more money per capita for healthcare than any country in the world and gets little in return. Inflationary medical costs are jobs killers. Millions of Americans are in danger of bankruptcy to pay for medical care for serious injuries and infirmities. Meanwhile insurance companies are reaping enormous profits and their CEOs are paid exorbitant salaries.

The second argument for Medicare for All is the need to reduce costs. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that U.S. spending for healthcare in 2016 was $9,024 per person. The average spending for all developed nations was only $3,620.

According to OECD, the average life expectancy for Americans has increased by nine years since 1960. In Japan, life expectancy has risen by fifteen years. The average increase for developed nations is eleven. The mortality rate for American men without a high school education — the Trump base — has decreased.

The best way to lower healthcare costs is to take private insurance companies and their highly paid CEOs out of the equation. In 2015, Cigna CEO David Cordani made $49 million and Aetna CEO Mark Bertolino made nearly $28 million. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who is responsible for Medicare, makes $199,700 per year.

Economist Thomas Frank recently pointed out in the New York Times that Medicare administrative costs are only 2 percent. Administrative costs for private insurance companies are about 6 times higher.

Lastly, there is the argument for compassion. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman.”

Even if ObamaCare survives, there still will be 26 million Americans who do not have health insurance coverage. If some version of TrumpCare replaces the Affordable Care Act, another 15 to 26 million people will join the ranks of the uninsured. Neither program adequately addresses the problems millions of other Americans have in paying rising premiums for coverage.

TrumpCare is hard hearted and mean spirited. Republicans didn’t plan to fail, they just failed to plan for a reasonable alternative to ACA for people who need coverage.

The GOP wants to cut Medicare. We should build on Medicare as a foundation to build a better system. The Sanders’ Medicare for All plan is the best way to fundamentally clean up the mess. We already have universal coverage for the seniors and the disabled. Even though Medicare is socialism for seniors, anytime the GOP tries to get rid of it, the effort crashes in flames.

Medicare is a popular program with a long track record of success. The Kaiser family Foundation asked Americans how they felt about giving all Americans access to Medicare and found that a large majority (57 percent to 38 percent) people favored the idea.

The blood feud between Republicans and Democrats over healthcare reform this year in Congress is just a skirmish; not the decisive battle in the health reform war. The path to real healthcare reform is a long and winding road that doesn’t end at the intersection of ObamaCare and TrumpCare.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. (There is no relation to Trump adviser Stephen Bannon). He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at MyTiller.com, a social media network for politics. Contact him at brad@bannoncr.com

Teamsters Detail Struggles of Port Truck Drivers

ATLANTA – The Teamsters brought the story of the nation’s port truck drivers to the Netroots Nation conference today, explaining how thousands of workers are being exploited by their employers while they toil long hours each day for little to no pay.

Workers and organizers from coast-to-coast told those in attendance and viewing online during the first day of the conference here how numerous companies in California, New Jersey and elsewhere are misclassifying their workers as independent contractors, which denies them workplace protections under the law. These companies also engage in wage theft that leaves many workers will little to show for their daily labor, which can stretch upwards of 20 hours in some instances.

“The drivers are engaged in a two-front battle plan against misclassifying trucking companies – striking and suing,” said Christina Montorio, a representative with the Teamsters’ Port Division. “Over the last two years drivers in Southern California drivers engaged in an escalating series of 14 work stoppages and more are on the horizon. And port truck drivers are challenging their misclassification status and attempting to recover stolen wages by filing claims with the regulatory agencies to win their right to dignity and justice on the job.”

In the U.S., the port trucking industry consists of more than 100,000 short-run truckers who haul containers on and off the nation’s ports each day. These containers are filled with all of the items that make modern society function but are no longer produced in this country – clothes, electronics, food, housewares and more. Virtually everything Americans use was brought to this country by ship in a container that wouldn’t get in the nation’s homes if it wasn’t for a port trucker.

For years, the Teamsters have been shining a light on the issue of misclassification for port drivers. And nowhere has that effort been more intensive than at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the main gateway for products made in Asia. While companies and CEOs profit substantially from the sale of those goods, those who help bring them to market are suffering in silence.

Daniel “Seko” Uaina, a driver for Intermodal Bridge Transport, said misclassification is destroying the workforce, especially in the trucking and warehouse industries. He noted that since he leases his truck from his employer, “before I step in it, I already owe them money.”

He added, “These companies have been stealing the rights and wages of these workers. I have seen too many port drivers in the last few years lose everything.”

Gabriel Procel, a former XPO port truck driver in New Jersey, has endured similar treatment. In fact, XPO fired him for his role in trying to organize his fellow workers and insisting he is a company employee. Just last week, New Jersey’s Department of Labor agreed when it granted him nine weeks of unemployment benefits.

“Being in a truck is like being in a cube. You don’t see your fellow workers. You are separated,” he said. “That’s what I see from my side.”

The misclassification of these workers stems from the deregulation of the trucking industry in 1980, said Nick Weiner, campaign director for Justice for Port Drivers. And it continues to spread across industries, upending the U.S. economy and creating huge income disparity among workers.

“The destruction of work has happened across the board,” he said. “This campaign is one effort that we hope can inspire others to show that it can be done. That’s how we win, and hopefully it will inspire our elected officials.”

Uaina, the son of a preacher, said it is time for workers to rise up and let companies and lawmakers know they demand to be treated with respect and dignity on the job. “We don’t have to be scared,” he said.

To help workers and the Teamsters fight for justice, text “port strike” to 97779.

Air Force Agrees to Provide City of Portsmouth $1.3 Million to Continue Ongoing Pease Clean-Up Effort

 PORTSMOUTH, NH — Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Maggie Hassan, and Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today announced that the U.S. Air Force has agreed to pay the City of Portsmouth $1.3 million to complete next steps in the ongoing Pease clean-up effort.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates a real and ongoing commitment from the Air Force to rid the Pease wells of dangerous water contaminants,” said Senator Shaheen. “Granite State families who are worried about their children getting sick from drinking contaminated water deserve peace of mind, and the additional funding for this carbon filtration system is an important step forward. I’ll continue to work to improve the safety of drinking water in New Hampshire communities.” 

“The announcement of this funding from the Air Force to address water contamination at Haven, Harrison, and Smith Wells  is a step in the right direction, but there is more work to do to ensure that all Granite Staters and their families have access to clean, safe drinking water,” Senator Hassan said. “Communities exposed to emerging contaminants in their water understandably have many concerns about their health, and I will continue working with the Congressional Delegation and federal partners to ensure that those concerns are urgently addressed.”

“Today’s investment by the Air Force is a good next step toward addressing unacceptable PFC contamination in our drinking water,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter. “I will continue to insist that the Air Force take financial responsibility for both cleaning up our water and for studying the health impacts of the level of PFC exposure that Pease-area residents have already experienced.”

Today’s Environmental Services Cooperative Agreement for Engineering Design Services will require the Air Force to provide the City of Portsmouth with funding to complete design plans for the carbon filtration system that will remove perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in water from the Haven, Harrison and Smith Wells, which are treated at the former Pease Air Force Base water treatment facility now operated by the City. This is the third agreement between the Air Force and the City for expenses related to mitigating PFC levels, which have been measured at levels exceeding the EPA’s lifetime health advisory in local drinking water. The first two agreements provided funding for preliminary design services and for a pilot project and demonstration of PFC removal. 

To date, the financial commitment of the Air Force for Pease mitigation activities totals $25 million. The Air Force’s projected $30 million investment in 2017 includes $13 million to retrofit the water treatment facility.

Last month, Shea-Porter’s amendments directing the Department of Defense to fund a CDC health impact study of exposure to PFCs in groundwater around military installations, as well as an amendment she cosponsored to fund ongoing mitigation efforts, passed the House with unanimous support as part of its annual Defense Appropriations bill. 

In April 2017, Senator Shaheen introduced the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, bipartisan legislation, which Senator Hassan cosponsored, that would help strengthen Federal and state efforts to improve drinking water systems. The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act creates a national strategy to coordinate the Federal response to emerging contaminants and provides state assistance in responding to related public health challenges. Shaheen also successfully included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that directs the Department of Defense to fund a nationwide health study on the implications of perflourinated chemicals in drinking water. Both Senators and the Congresswoman continue to work to ensure that the Air Force continues to engage with the Pease community and responds to their concerns.

ACLU-NH Drops “Voter Information” Lawsuit After State Agrees To Mutual Resolution

NH Secretary of State Agrees to Resolve NH Voter Information Case

The Plaintiffs in this case are pleased that the Secretary of State will obey the law by only transmitting pictures of the publicly available marked checklists maintained by the town and already available both from towns and from the State Archives.  The original statements from the Secretary of State manifested an intent to release voter information in a searchable digital file, which the Commission stated would be made available publicly. Today’s resolution means that no digital searchable information will be released and the Secretary, who is himself a member of the Commission, has stated that the material submitted will not be made public.

Today the Secretary of State has elected to produce to the Commission, the distinct voter checklist-marked copies that are used by individual municipalities on Election Day and that are distributed to the State Archives after each election pursuant to RSA 659:102.  Critically, this information — unlike the current statewide checklist at issue in this litigation — is not aggregated on a statewide basis (but rather on a town-by-town basis) and is not text searchable.  This information — which only contains whether the voter’s name, domicile address, mailing address, party affiliation, and whether that voter voted — will be disseminated in the same manner in which they are made available today to anyone in the public the public requesting this information from the individual towns or from the Secretary of State.

In his ultimate response to the demands of the Plaintiffs and the ACLU, The Secretary of State wisely chose to limit his  transmission of voter information to that allowed by State law, conforming to limitations that exist to protect the privacy of the voters.

“I am pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed to not disclose the statewide public checklist.  The Secretary of State had no statutory authority to release digital information on  the statewide public voter data base to anyone other than a political party, political committee, or candidate for New Hampshire office,” stated Senator Bette Lasky (D-NH), a plaintiff in the case.

“The legislature carefully designed strict restrictions on the sharing of the statewide voter checklist—and limited to political entities—for good reason: to protect voter privacy by helping avoid the mass dissemination of statewide vote information in a form that represented a threat to the privacy of the voters,” stated Representative Neal Kurk (R-NH), another plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Representative Kurk was involved in the crafting of the relevant statutes under RSA 654:31, which limit the prospect of mass dissemination of this statewide voter checklist in order to ensure that it is only used for political purposes, and not for commercial gain. (RSA 654:31(VI) explicitly prohibits voter information from being used for commercial purposes.)

RSA 654:31(II)-(III) only allows requesters to: (i) view the current statewide public digital database on the statewide centralized voter registration database at the state records and archives center during normal business hours where requesters are prohibited from printing, duplicating, transmitting, or altering the data and (ii) obtain hard copies of the current public checklist from local municipalities on a town-by-town/ward-by-ward basis at a fee of at least $25 per municipality or ward.

“We are happy that the Secretary of State is not entitled to grant the Commission special, unwritten exemptions that circumvent New Hampshire law,” stated Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of NH. “He must apply the law to the Commission no differently than he would apply the law to a regular member of the public seeking this information.”

The Plaintiffs in this case are pleased that the Secretary of State will be obeying the law by only transmitting pictures of the publicly available marked checklists maintained by the town and already available both from towns and from the State Archives. The parties also believe that the laws relating to the disclosure of voter information need to be tightened so voters are even further protected in the future and pledge to work in a nonpartisan manner to bring about such changes.

After the case was dropped by the ACLU, Senator Laskey and Representative Kirk, Ray Buckley from the NH Democratic Party released the following:

“The state has agreed to limit the scope of information they are releasing to President Trump’s sham election integrity commission. While this is progress in protecting the personal information of Granite Staters, New Hampshire’s voter data in the hands of a leak-happy White House is a risky proposition, especially since the administration has already released unredacted complaints they’ve received about the commission from concerned citizens. This info was requested –and some will be handed over — under the false pretense of President Trump’s constant lies about massive voter fraud to soothe his own insecurities.

These are the same lies propagated by Governor Sununu, who claimed that Massachusetts voters were bused into New Hampshire to cast Democratic votes against him and Trump. As we learned yesterday, on WMUR’s CloseUp, Governor Sununu is still a strong supporter of President Trump despite his offensive statements about the state. Granite Staters need to remain wary of frivolous requests by this administration to pry into our personal information without giving any specific reason. The governor seems more than willing to blindly hand over info without studying up on the law and that speaks to his instinct of defending Trump over protecting New Hampshire.”

Make Your Voice Heard On Proposed Changes To Net Neutrality

One of the freedoms we as America covet most of all is our freedom of speech.  It allows us to speak out without fear of reprisal.  Yes this means that Alex Jones’s horrific statements are protected, but that also means that citizens speaking out against a corrupt system of government financing are also protected.

Now what if that ability to speak out was hindered by corporations. This is the foundation of “Net Neutrality,” ensuring that everyone has open and unrestricted access on the internet.

In 2015, the FCC adopted the Open Internet Order, which reclassified broadband as a telecommunication service under Title II. The D.C. Circuit Court upheld the rules in 2016. The FCC’s Open Internet Order prohibits internet service providers from setting up internet fast and slow lanes, ensuring all online traffic is treated the same.

Think of it this way:  What if Comcast or your internet service provider (ISP) could block websites it does not want you to see.    If ISP’s had control over what content was allowed to be viewed by customers do you think you would be reading this post?  Probably not.

Net Neutrality blocks ISP from charging more money or limiting connection speed for specific websites. Imagine if Comcast slowed down websites from their competitors like Hulu or Netflix.

This is why we need strong regulations from the FCC to ensure that the internet is open to all.

Go to the FCC’s website and leave a comment that the FCC should protect a free and open internet.  Tell them to preserve Net Neutrality.

The current period to voice your opinion on Net Neutrality closes on Aug 16th 2017, but some members of  Congress believe we should extend the comment period for at least an extra 30 days.

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, joined 21 of her colleagues in calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to extend the reply comment period for its proposal to undo the Open Internet Order and net neutrality protections.

“This proceeding has the potential to impact all Americans and as the expert agency, you should ensure that the Commission provides ample time to ensure all voices are heard,” the senators wrote in the letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

(Full text of the letter can be found HERE.)

If protecting your freedom of speech is important to you, then make a comment on the FCC’s webpage.  If having unrestricted access to the internet is important to you, then make a comment on the FCC’s webpage.

Make your voice heard, comment now!

VA Secretary Meets With NH Congressional Delegation At Manchester VA Facility

Yesterday, U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, joined New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation, Governor Chris Sununu, and VA leaders at the Manchester VA Medical Center to tour the facility and hold a town hall with employees. The delegation called for the visit following a Boston Globe Spotlight report that highlighed whistleblowers’ serious concerns about care provided by the facility.

In their meeting with Secretary Shulkin, the delegation stressed the importance of an independent medical review process, fixes to the Veterans Choice program, and improvements for services for women veterans at the facility. The Senator also reiterated her support for a full-service VA hospital in New Hampshire.

The Union Leader is reporting that the Sec Shulkin has promised nearly $30 million to fix the issues at the Manchester, NH facility.

The new spending will include a $5 million coordination of care center, $7 million to fix damage caused by recent flooding and another $18 million in construction projects on the campus.

Shulkin said the task force finding in a report due out by Jan. 1 may not be for a full-service hospital but rather giving veterans access to all services by networking with community hospitals.

“While many veterans receive quality care from the Manchester VA, there’s much work to be done to ensure accountability for substandard services,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “I applaud the courageous whistleblowers who bravely spoke out on behalf of patients at the Manchester VA and am glad they had the opportunity to speak directly with Secretary Shulkin. It’s so important that the VA rebuild trust with the veteran community by consistently delivering the quality care they deserve in a timely fashion. Secretary Shulkin’s presence today, and his attentiveness to care delivery issues at the Manchester VA, gives me hope that the VA will address any shortfalls at this facility. New funding for a coordinated care center is a very positive step in the right direction. And I’m very pleased that funding to repair water damage is being quickly provided. I also appreciate Secretary Shulkin’s commitment to establish a task force that will examine providing New Hampshire’s veterans with the full range of care services. All of New Hampshire’s veterans deserve high quality, convenient, accessible health care and I will continue to work with Secretary Shulkin, the VA and the delegation until we achieve that goal. ”

I appreciate VA Secretary Shulkin’s visit to Manchester and the commitments that he made, but this must just be the first step of many to address the reports of unacceptable quality of care and administrative indifference at the Manchester VA Medical Center,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “As I told Secretary Shulkin, we need a thorough and independent review process, which includes interviews with clinicians and patients, in order to address these claims and to prevent future failures in care for our veterans. I am going to continue to work with Secretary Shulkin and the VA, Governor Sununu, and our congressional delegation to ensure that all of our veterans receive the care that they need and have earned.”

“Today, Secretary Shulkin made a firm commitment to implementing needed reforms and investments at our Manchester VA with the urgency New Hampshire veterans expect and deserve,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “The current situation is clearly unacceptable, and I am insisting that the VA do everything in its power to provide New Hampshire veterans with timely, high-quality care and also to fully cooperate with the concurrent investigations so we can get to the root of these problems and make sure they never happen again.”

During her meeting with Secretary Shulkin, Shea-Porter requested several specific commitments, including sufficient funding to expedite community provider appointment scheduling and to establish a new Office of Community Care at Manchester as well as a firm timeline for filling each position required to sustain an effective care coordination model. Following the meeting, Secretary Shulkin announced an investment of over $30 million in the Manchester VAMC, including $12 million in new funding. Shea-Porter also reiterated her strong support for a full-service VA hospital in New Hampshire. In January, Shea-Porter reintroduced the Veterans Health Equity Act, a bill that would remedy New Hampshire’s status as the only state in the nation without a full-service VA hospital or equivalent access. The bill has been cosponsored by every member of the New Hampshire delegation, Republican and Democratic, since Shea-Porter first introduced it in 2008.

“I appreciate Secretary Shulkin coming to New Hampshire to address the very serious allegations regarding quality care at the Manchester VAMC and his announcement of a thorough new investigation into the charges brought by the whistleblowers,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “I’m encouraged that Secretary Shulkin is committing $30 million in funding for capital projects and quality improvements, including a new office of care coordination. It’s imperative that we get all the answers to what happened at Manchester and how we can improve access to care for our veterans moving forward. Next month, I’ll be convening a field hearing of the House VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in New Hampshire so that the VA Committee can hear directly from the whistleblowers about their experience at the Manchester VAMC and their thoughts on how we can improve access to quality care for our veterans.”

This week, Kuster, the lead Democrat on the House VA Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, announced that she will convene a field hearing on September 18th of the Subcommittee in New Hampshire to examine the allegations.

According to the Union Leader, management shakeups have already begun and new leadership will be appointed to run the facility going forward.

(Read the entire Union Leader article)

40,000 Educators In Puerto Rico Vote To Join The American Federation of Teachers

AMPR and AFT Affiliate to Combat Austerity and Fight for Public Education and Economic Opportunity for the People of Puerto Rico

‘Tu Lucha es Mi Lucha’ – Trial Affiliation Agreement Will Boost Resources in Fight to Rebuild the Island’s Economy

SAN JUAN— Working people around the world understand they must join together to fight back against austerity politics that is bankrupting cities, states, provinces, and countries across the globe.

Right now, the Puerto Rican people are facing down a $70 billion debt crisis that has gutted the economy and wrought a devastating impact on public education, leading to 60,000 fewer students in the school system and tens of thousands of people leaving the island. The crisis has caused the closure of 164 neighborhood public schools and the stripping of benefits and retirement security from teachers and public employees. Teacher salaries in Puerto Rico have been stagnant, as hedge funds and an unelected control board have tried, and failed, to solve the crisis on their backs and the backs of the most vulnerable.

Today, Puerto Rican educators voted to join forces with one of the most powerful education unions in the United States, the American Federation of Teachers.

The Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the union representing more than 40,000 Puerto Rican educators, AMPR-Local Sindical, and the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers signed a historic affiliation agreement today that will strengthen their joint fight against austerity and privatization and for public education and economic opportunity for the people of Puerto Rico.

AMPR President Aida Diaz said: “Teachers are teachers no matter where they work, and we should be treated as professionals and respected by the government and the public as a vital and necessary resource. Every country wants to improve its economic and social situation, but in Puerto Rico teachers haven’t been treated fairly. For years we have been left behind and denied Social Security, as other professionals have seen improvements to their working conditions, salaries and benefits. With the AFT, we can work hand in hand to improve our working conditions and reclaim all that has been denied to us. In the end, the education system will only improve when teachers are treated as the professionals we are.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “An attack on teachers anywhere is an attack on teachers everywhere. AMPR has been battling against austerity and privatization in Puerto Rico and the everyday consequences for the island’s people. With this affiliation, the 1.6 million members of the AFT join in that fight.

“The people of Puerto Rico didn’t cause this crisis, but they’re forced to shoulder most of the burden because of the actions of hedge funders and irresponsible government deals. The toll has been severe—nearly 60 percent of Puerto Rican children now live in poverty, a rate three times as high as the mainland.

“Our shared values—a strong and equitable economy, great public schools, good healthcare, a strong and vibrant democracy, and the elimination of hate and bigotry—drove us to form this partnership, and we will harness those values to mobilize our members to win.”

Grichelle Toledo, Secretary-General of AMPR-Local Sindical, said: “We believe that this is a great opportunity to join our voices with the voices of 1.6 million AFT members. Both active teachers and retirees will benefit from this affiliation, and we will have a stronger voice in education and politics on the mainland and in Puerto Rico.”

Evelyn DeJesus, a vice president of the AFT’s New York City affiliate, the United Federation of Teachers, said: “I’m a Nuyorican, born in New York with Puerto Rican heritage and roots. For me, this is a very emotional day, and I am honored and excited to be here in this moment in time. We’re here to support and give voice to the children and educators of Puerto Rico. I have been proud to work with AMPR on professional development and training, and we are committed to this partnership for the next three years.”

Prior to the agreement, the AFT and AMPR worked together for months to oppose the PROMESA control board’s attacks on public education and to expose the role of hedge funds in the crisis. Joint trainings have been held to improve communications and member engagement. Separately, the AFT has been assisting AMPR with Puerto Rico bankruptcy issues.

AMPR will be chartered as a state federation of the AFT, with AMPR-Local Sindical, the AMPR’s collective bargaining agent, chartered as an AFT local. The trial affiliation agreement is for three years.

Trump Calls NH A “Drug Infested Den,” NH Elected Officials Respond

Concord, N.H. – The Washington Post reports that, on a call with the Mexican President, the President of the United States, Donald Trump said that he “won New Hampshire because it’s a drug infested den.”

New Hampshire was ranked number one in the country for economic opportunity and number two overall in the country by US News. The Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks New Hampshire the best state in the US to raise children. Trump didn’t win New Hampshire, losing it by 2,732 votes in the general election to Hillary Clinton.

Senator Maggie Hassan responded quickly via twitter to the Trump’s comments:

[Trump’s] comments about New Hampshire are disgusting. As he knows, NH and states across America have a substance misuse crisis. To date, [Trump] has proposed policies that would severely set back our efforts to combat this devastating epidemic. Instead of insulting people in the throes of addiction, [Trump] needs to work across party lines to actually stem the tide of this crisis.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen followed up with a few tweets of her own.

“[Trump] owes NH an apology & then should follow through on his promise to Granite Staters to help end this crisis. It’s absolutely unacceptable for the President to be talking about NH in this way – a gross misrepresentation of NH & the epidemic.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter released a short statement via Facebook.

“No, Mr. President, you’re wrong about New Hampshire – but you have failed to help us fight the opioid crisis. We need recovery facilities NOW. Stop attacking health care and make the investments you promised.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster called the comments “appauling” in her response to Trump.

“I’m appalled by President Trump’s ignorant and insulting comments about New Hampshire,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “At a time when we need to be working together to address the opioid epidemic, Mr. Trump is making disparaging remarks about New Hampshire to foreign leaders while promoting policies at home that will hurt our response to the substance misuse crisis, including efforts to roll back access to healthcare for thousands of Granite Staters. I’ve found willing partners in both Republicans and Democrats who want to work together to address the opioid crisis that’s impacting communities throughout the country. Mr. Trump’s comments underscore how little he appreciates the gravity of this issue and the need to work together collaboratively on real solutions. President Trump should immediately apologize to all Granite Staters.”

The New Hampshire Democratic Party called on Governor Chris Sununu to condemn Trump’s statement about the people of New Hampshire.

“Governor Sununu must immediately and fiercely condemn President Trump’s comments. It’s never a guarantee that Governor Sununu will disagree with Trump. On so many issues, Sununu and Trump have been in lockstep, from the Muslim Ban to Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords to their matching lies about voter fraud,” said NH Democratic Party Chair, Ray Buckley.

“Rather than name-call, President Trump should deliver proper aid to combat the opioid crisis. He hasn’t, instead slashing funds for recovery, treatment, and combatting the inflow of opioids. Sununu said he was ‘incredibly encouraged’ by Trump’s budget. Let’s hear Sununu and Republican leaders across the state put politics aside and defend New Hampshire. Comments like this could harm New Hampshire’s ability to attract business and tourism,” Buckley added.

The Senate Democratic leader also condemned the comments and called on Trump and Governor Sununu to do more to combat the opioid epidemic.

“All New Hampshire leaders need to condemn, not condone, President Trump’s remarks in the strongest terms. I call on Governor Sununu and NH Republican legislative leaders to stand up for those suffering from addiction and the tireless advocates and front-line services providers,” said Senate Democratic Leader, Jeff Woodburn.  “While we need to do more to combat addiction, the President owes them and the entire state an apology for his tactless and insulting characterization of our state.”

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) released the following statement in response toPresident Trump’s characterization of New Hampshire as a “drug-infested den”:

“President Trump’s characterization of New Hampshire is another example of his penchant to promote himself through a misinformed belittling of others.”

“Like many states across the nation, New Hampshire is grappling with an opioid crisis that stakeholders are working tirelessly to address.  The comprehensive approach that we have developed, which includes the utilization of drug courts, treatment for addicts who are incarcerated, and the expansion of Medicaid, is working.  Leadership and support from the federal government will be essential for this success to continue.

“As insulting as the President’s words are, his deliberate efforts to sabotage our health care system are most concerning.  As states have explained to the President, his actions are causing a disruption and cost spike that significantly harms the ability to provide services to people who need them.”

“President Trump can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution.  His efforts to disrupt our country’s health care system since becoming president have only exacerbated the problem.”

“It is past time for the president to stop posturing, show some leadership, and work with states to provide the coordination and resources needed to address this nationwide crisis.”

“P.S. – I could not be more happy that New Hampshire’s electoral votes were won by Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump.”

The Democratic National Committee called the comments “disgusting”

“Donald Trump’s latest comments calling the state of New Hampshire a ‘drug infested den’ are nothing short of disgusting and make clear that he looks at the opioid epidemic as a political advantage, rather than a national crisis that demands the attention and care of our president,” saidElizabeth Renda, DNC Northeast Press Secretary. “Perhaps instead of insulting the men and women battling these life threatening addictions, Donald Trump should focus on actually developing policies that will help Americans overcome this epidemic. Trump’s disparaging comments to a foreign leader are deeply beneath the decency and dignity of the office of the president. Granite Staters are still waiting for Trump to deliver on his promises to address the opioid crisis, and they will not forget the president’s words about their home.”

Following reports that President Trump called New Hampshire a “drug-infested den”, Manchester City Democrats Chair Ryan Mahoney called on Mayor Ted Gatsas to condemn the President’s remarks.

“The Manchester Democrats join the chorus of outraged Granite Staters calling on President Trump to apologize for his disgusting and insulting remarks about New Hampshire and call on Mayor Gatsas to condemn the President’s comments. If Ted Gatsas won’t stand up for Manchester against outrageous attacks on our people, how can the people of Manchester trust him with anything?”

“Mayor Gatsas welcomed Donald Trump to Manchester while he was running for President and has stood by President Trump despite numerous shocking and offensive statements that Trump has made. Does Ted Gatsas still stand with Trump? And would Ted Gatsas welcome President Trump back in Manchester?”

“Manchester deserves a strong mayor that will immediately stand up for our city and our people when attacked, not the weak leadership we see under Mayor Gatsas. After 8 years of failed leadership, it’s time for new voices to lead and a new mayor at City Hall.”

NATCA Remembers PATCO Brothers and Sisters on 36th Anniversary of Strike

WASHINGTON – NATCA President Paul Rinaldi and Executive Vice President Trish Gilbert issued a statement reflecting on the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike, which began on this date 36 years ago. Nearly 13,000 controllers – about 85 percent of the union’s membership and 79 percent of the workforce – honored the picket line. Two days later, President Ronald Reagan fired all remaining 11,350 striking controllers.

“Thirty-six years ago today, our union brothers and sisters took a remarkably brave and honorable stand for our profession and the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS). On Aug. 3, 1981, after 95 percent of its members rejected a contract the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had offered five days earlier, PATCO members decided to strike for safer work conditions, reliable equipment, adequate staffing levels, and fair work and pay rules.

“According to the Department of Transportation, U.S. controller staffing dropped 74 percent from 16,375 to about 4,200. It’s tough to imagine the difficult choice these men and women faced. They risked their salaries and ended up giving up their careers to defend a profession they loved. The costs to many of them and their families were profound and lasting. Decades later, we honor their sacrifice, their commitment to our profession, and their bravery in fighting for union principles.

“The thousands of new controllers that entered the workplace during the next few years encountered the same poor working conditions and substandard equipment that had made the job so brutally difficult for their PATCO predecessors. These concerns would not be addressed until the federal government allowed controllers to organize once again.

“Controllers, who faced threats of additional firings, met secretly and organized a new collective voice for our profession, what would become NATCA. The bargaining rights of NATCA’s founding members were officially recognized when our Union was certified on June 19, 1987, as the exclusive bargaining unit representative for FAA controllers by the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

“History teaches us if we are willing to learn from it. NATCA is the union it is today, because our founders never forgot the great legacy of PATCO. NATCA is reaching out and educating our newest members, so they understand what came before. We do not take our jobs or our union rights for granted.

“On this important anniversary, we remember our PATCO brothers and sisters. We continue to be deeply humbled by their solidarity and commitment. We honor them by continuing their legacy of protecting our profession and the NAS. We fight every day to ensure the rights of NATCA members are always protected.”

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