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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.

Mark Fernald: Politics vs. the Public Good

If you served in the legislature and had to choose between what is good for the State of New Hampshire and what is good for your party, what would you do?  Our legislators faced this test last year.  Most of them failed.

The issue was gerrymandering—the drawing of voting districts in a way that benefits one party over another.

The guiding principle of democracy is majority rule.  It is essential that we have rules that protect the right to vote, and ensure an accurate vote count that reflects the will of the people.

The goal of gerrymandering is to impede the will of the people by making it possible for the party with a minority of the votes to get a majority of the legislative seats.  It is a way to rig elections.

The technique is quite simple.  You identify towns and city wards that are most likely to vote against your party.  You group together as many of those places as possible, creating districts your party is sure to lose.  If you pack enough unfavorable voters into a few districts, it means the remaining districts are more likely to vote for your party.

Since the earliest days of our country, politicians have gerrymandered.  The term originated in 1812 in Massachusetts, when Governor Elbridge Gerry of the Democratic-Republican Party approved a legislative map that favored his party over the Federalist Party.  One district north of Boston was thought to resemble a mythological salamander, and the word “Gerrymander” became part of our political lexicon.

Today, computers make the process of gerrymandering more precise—and more dangerous to democracy.  It’s now routine for the party in power at the time of redistricting to hire a data-crunching firm to draw district lines for maximum advantage.

Here in New Hampshire, the Republicans were pleased with the results from their redistricting of the State Senate after the 2010 census.  It was traditional for Portsmouth and Durham to be in different State Senate districts, and both districts were usually held by Democrats.  The 2012 map put both Portsmouth and Durham in District 21.  It had the desired effect.  District 21 is overwhelming Democratic.  The neighboring districts (23 and 24) have elected Republican state senators.

Similarly, District 10 (Keene area) and District 5 (Upper Valley) were drawn to be sure-wins for Democrats—thus making the neighboring districts more likely to vote Republican.  In 2012, the Democratic candidates for State Senate received 51% of the vote statewide, but Republicans won 14 seats, while the Democrats won just 10.

It’s the same story in the Executive Council.  District 2 was drawn to combine the Democratic strongholds of Durham, Concord, and Keene.  One result is a district that is about 130 miles long—some feat in a state only 90 miles wide at the widest—with a disproportionate number of Democratic voters.  The other result is that Republicans will likely always have three seats on the Executive Council—at least until the next redistricting.

There are alternatives.  Last year, House Bill 320 was a proposal that districts be drawn using a mathematical optimization process.  Districts would be drawn with the shortest possible perimeter, to keep together communities of interest, and to avoid elongated districts that put together towns that are far from each other.  The bill would have forbidden the drawing of district lines using party affiliation of voters, addresses of incumbent legislators, previous election results, or demographic data (other than the actual census counts).  Predictably, the bill failed on a nearly party-line vote.  All but three Republicans voted to kill the bill, while all but four Democrats voted in support.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 107 called for the creation of a bi-partisan redistricting commission that would draw district boundaries using the same criteria at HB 320.  It ran into the same partisan buzz saw:  All 14 Republicans voted “no,” while all nine Democrats voted “yes.”

Our legislators take an oath to “support the constitution.”  That constitution is based on the democratic principle of majority rule.  When legislators vote for gerrymandered districts—and when they vote against bills that would prohibit gerrymandering—they are violating their oath of office.

If the shoe were on the other foot—if Democrats were benefitting from partisan, gerrymandered districts—would Republicans suddenly become fans of the use of non-partisan redistricting criteria, and would Democrats suddenly favor the status quo?  If the Democrats regain the majority in the November, we may find out.

Mark Fernald is a former State Senator and was the 2002 Democratic nominee for Governor.  He can be reached at mark@markfernald.com.

VIDEO: Shea-Porter Blasts Republican Leadership for Inaction on Gun Violence

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today spoke on the House floor in support of common sense solutions to reduce gun violence. She directly called on Speaker Ryan to end his obstruction and bring bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation to the floor for a vote.

“Children and families across the country rely on their leaders in Congress for much more than thoughts and prayers,” said Shea-Porter. “They need us to take action to keep them safe.”

“It’s difficult to argue with people who are looking at Congress and wondering if too many Members in Congress are too close to the NRA and the gun manufacturers to take any action,” Shea-Porter continued. “I agree with police officers across this country who say get the AR-15s out of the hands of dangerous people NOW! Our children are being massacred in their schools. Speaker Ryan must put bills on the floor to address gun violence or his party will go down in history as the party that blocked solutions to this crisis.”

Shea-Porter’s full remarks are below:

Children and families across the country rely on their leaders in Congress for much more than thoughts and prayers. They need us to take action to keep them safe. Gun violence in this country is a horrifying epidemic – 18 school shootings in the past 7 ½ weeks. It’s even hard to talk about this. It’s difficult to argue with people who are looking at Congress and wondering if too many Members in Congress are too close to the NRA and the gun manufacturers to take any action. Congress actually passed a law to prevent the CDC from even studying gun violence.

 

In difficult times, I too seek “thoughts and prayers” from friends, and clergy, and family. But this is not stopping the slaughter. I agree with police officers across this country who say get the AR-15s out of the hands of dangerous people NOW! Our children are being massacred in their schools. Speaker Ryan must put bills on the floor to address gun violence or his party will go down in history as the party that blocked solutions to this crisis.

 

NEA-NH President Declares School Shootings Cannot Become the ‘New Normal’

It’s time to demand our politicians do more than express sorrow and regret when children are gunned down at school   

CONCORD, NH – February 15, 2018 – “On behalf of our 17,000 members, I want to express our profound sympathies to the families of those killed in yesterday’s school shooting in Florida” said NEA-NH President, Megan Tuttle.

She continued, “Some news commentators have said the killing of students and school employees is the ‘new normal.’  We cannot allow this to happen. Sadly, if nothing is done to address the issues that lead people to deliberately shoot school children and those who dedicate their lives to educating them, then this will become the ‘new normal’.” 

“Our elected officials have the power and the resources to stop this epidemic in its tracks. It is no mystery why these events occur.  Unaddressed mental health issues and bulling are only two of the well-known reasons why people turn our schools into places of untold grief and violence. It is time for us to demand our politicians take action to provide services which eliminate these risks.”

“Professions of regret and sympathies, while heartfelt, do not constitute a policy, or program, or take even one step towards a solution to the mass killings in our schools.  Enough is enough. If those professions are serious, then so must be the response, otherwise this will keep happening”.

“The time to do something is now, not after the next one, or the next one, or the next one. We’ve had enough of that.” 

Tuttle is calling on Governor Sununu and the Legislature to pass and fund legislation that would provide additional mental health resources; fund training at the local level for educators, education employees, and administrators to help identify at-risk students and get them the help they need; and fund long-term security measures in schools.  This legislation must include stable and reliable funding and not rely only on state surpluses.

“Sadly, every school must now have an active shooter response plan in place. It’s time for the Governor to initiate meaningful discussions with educators, school employees, administrators, community leaders, and mental health workers on what can be done to prevent such violence in the first place.” 

Tuttle concluded, ” We cannot afford to wait until we experience this type of violence here. We cannot listen to the voices that encourage us to postpone finding solutions or engaging in meaningful dialogue to stop these incredible horrors.  We must do everything we can now to ensure our children and the people who educate them are safe every day they enter a school. NEA-NH is ready and willing to work with our elected officials to ensure New Hampshire schools are a place where children’s laughs are not drowned out by the sound of gunshots and sirens.”

Manchester Police Patrolman’s Association Endorses Chris Pappas for Congress

 

Manchester, NH – Today, Chris Pappas was endorsed by the Manchester Police Patrolman’s Association (MPPA) for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.

“We’ve worked with Chris for a number of years. He’s a strong, proven leader on issues of public safety and supporting policies that protect New Hampshire communities,” said MPPA President Ken Chamberlain.

“Because of Chris’s leadership, law enforcement has the resources it needs to tackle the complicated challenges in our communities. Whether it’s fighting for funds to combat the opioid crisis or ensuring we have the resources to keep our neighborhoods safe, Chris will always work to bring people together to strengthen public safety and support local law enforcement. We are proud to stand with Chris, because he always stands with us,” said Chamberlain.

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement of the Manchester Police Patrolman’s Association,” said Chris Pappas. “Members of law enforcement put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. They are a critical partner in our efforts to build a stronger future for New Hampshire families, and I’ll always stand with them,” said Pappas.

In addition to the MPPA, Chris Pappas has earned the support of Granite State Teamsters Local 633, IBEW Local 490, IBEW Local 2320, and IATSE Local 195.

Senators Unveil Bipartisan Amendment to Protect Dreamers, Strengthen Border Security

8 Republicans, 7 Democrats, and 1 Independent Introduce Legislation

Click HERE to read the text of the amendment

Washington, D.C. — A bipartisan group of 16 Senators unveiled legislation this evening to protect “Dreamers” and to strengthen border security.  The Senators are part of the Common Sense Coalition, a group of 25 Republican, Democratic, and Independent Senators convened by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), who have been meeting nearly every day in Senator Collins’ office to develop a framework to address Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and other immigration issues.

The lead sponsors of the legislation are Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Angus King (I-ME), and the original cosponsors include Senators: Collins, Manchin, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

“This bipartisan agreement finally allows DREAMers a pathway to citizenship so that they no longer have to live in fear of deportation,” said Senator Shaheen. “Time is of the essence and I urge lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support this proposal so that DREAMers can finally move on with their lives. This agreement further demonstrates the necessity of good faith bipartisan discussions and the need for compromise to get things done. I look forward to continued participation with the Common Sense Caucus to make further progress on the many challenges facing our country.”

“Our bipartisan proposal takes meaningful steps to enhance border security, adds limits to chain migration and permanently deals with DACA recipients,” said Senator Rounds.  “The $25 billion allotted for border security is a historic investment in our nation’s borders that will strengthen our ability to keep bad actors out of the country and keep Americans safe. It is a significant improvement from the status quo and will allow us to continue the dialogue as we seek to keep our borders safe and reform our immigration system to one that is merit-based.”

“Nearly everybody involved in this process has expressed a desire to help these young people, and that’s exactly what our bipartisan group, under the leadership of Senator Collins, has been working towards. Let’s help them, rather than getting bogged down in complicated, comprehensive and unrelated changes to our immigration policy,” said Senator King.  “I hope our amendment will get the votes we need to take these young men and women out of limbo and ensure their legal status in the country they call home.”

“Following the reopening of the government last month, members of our Common Sense Coalition saw that immigration was beginning to fracture along partisan lines.  We met continuously so that Senators could discuss this important issue and reach consensus,” said Senator Collins.  “Our legislation underscores the broad, bipartisan commitment to creating a path to citizenship for Dreamers, who were brought to this country illegally through no decision of their own, while strengthening border security to help stop the flow of illegal immigrants as well as drugs like heroin that are ruining lives.”

“This compromise shows the American people what Congress can get done when we work in a bipartisan way and put politics aside. I’m glad we could work through these complicated issues in a constructive way in order to secure our border and solve some difficult immigration issues that I think both sides can support,” Senator Manchin said.  

“Our proposal would represent the most significant change to immigration law in the past thirty-five years,” said Senator Graham.  “Providing President Trump with $25 billion for the Wall system he campaigned on is a giant step forward for border security.  As to the DACA population, we mirror President Trump’s proposal allowing DACA eligible individuals to obtain legal status and over a ten to twelve-year period, they can become green card holders. This will allow them to pursue their lives with certainty and stability in the United States – the only country they know. This is a substantial down payment on fixing a broken immigration system and truly is a win-win.”

“We’ve reached a deal that gives us the best chance to protect Dreamers against deportation from the only country they know as home,” said Senator Kaine. “This is a true compromise, which includes the significant boost in border security funding our Republican colleagues and President Trump have been asking for. I’ve worked across the aisle for weeks with this large group of Republicans and Democrats to reach this deal, and I hope my colleagues will join us in showing that the Senate can solve tough problems.”

“I’m pleased to be part of this group of Republicans and Democrats who are working together to make a law, rather than a point,” said Senator Flake.  “A broadly-supported, bipartisan bill that protects DACA recipients and strengthens border security ought to be able to get 60 votes in the Senate. Let’s put it on the floor and work together to get it passed.”

“This bipartisan legislation represents our best opportunity to make long overdue changes to our immigration laws that will allow 1.8 million Dreamers to live without fear of deportation, make robust investments in border security, and ensure that family reunification remains one of the core values of our immigration system,” said Senator Coons. “This process has not been easy, and this bill is not perfect, but Delawareans sent me to the Senate to not only fight for our values, but to also work across the aisle to get things done.  While this isn’t the bill I would have drafted, I believe this is a good, honest compromise, and I will support it on the Senate floor tomorrow.”

“Our immigration system is broken and we need to fix it,” said Senator Gardner. “There are many children who came to this country without documentation and we need to allow them the opportunity to remain here lawfully. This legislation addresses some of the largest challenges our broken immigration system faces, including a major boost to border security, and I urge members on both sides of the aisle that want a solution to support our bipartisan approach.”

“This agreement is full of tough compromises, but it shows that when senators really want to find bipartisan solutions, it’s possible,” said Senator Heitkamp. “That’s the whole purpose of the Common Sense Coalition – to work together, Republicans and Democrats, to reach results for the American people – and I hope Congress passes our deal. I’m proud to have been part of this group that worked together to reopen the government in 2013 and last month. And now we’re doing it again by forging a deal that both provides a permanent solution to those who came to our country as children through no fault of their own while boosting border security at all of our borders.”

“I am proud to be part of this bipartisan effort,” said Senator Murkowski. “The amendment seeks to protect the Dreamers while strengthening our border security and I am encouraged by the time and effort we have spent as a group trying to achieve a consensus on this difficult issue. I hope we can get to a final bill that protects the Dreamers and look forward to the debate.”

“My goal is to get a result on both border security and DACA so I will cosponsor and vote for Senator Grassley’s legislation implementing the president’s proposal. I will also cosponsor and vote for this narrower bipartisan proposal offered by Senators Rounds and King because it too solves the DACA problem and provides the $25 billion the president requested to improve border security,” said Senator Alexander.

“We can’t wait any longer to find a solution for the DREAMers and this bipartisan agreement – which was a product of working across the aisle with my colleagues for the past several weeks – includes a path to citizenship. I am hopeful it can get strong bipartisan support in the Senate,”said Senator Klobuchar.

“We have a real opportunity to secure our borders and address some of the issues in our immigration system,” said Senator Isakson. “I’m committed to continuing to work toward real solutions, and this legislation will help meet many of these goals.”

“This is a bipartisan solution that will provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers whose status in this country was left in limbo when the administration announced it was ending the DACA program,” said Senator Warner.  “This amendment certainly isn’t perfect, but I believe it is a suitable compromise and the best path forward for the Senate to advance legislation on this critical issue.”


Highlights of the bipartisan proposal include:

Legal Status and Path to Citizenship for Young People Brought to the US as Children.

The amendment provides legal status and a path to citizenship to individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children. Individuals who are registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program automatically qualify, if they arrived in this country by June 15, 2007, unless they have engaged in conduct that would make them ineligible. To obtain legal status, individuals not enrolled in the DACA program must:

  • Have been continuously present in the U.S. since June 15, 2012, the date of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Executive Order;
  • Have been under age 18 when they entered the U.S., and under age 38 on June 15, 2012;
  • Meet educational requirements or be serving in the U.S. Armed Forces (or have been honorably discharged from military service); and
  • Pass background checks, medical exams, and register for the Selective Service, if applicable.

Individuals do not qualify if they are convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors. Individuals are required to pay any federal tax liability incurred while working legally in the U.S.

Beneficiaries can apply for citizenship after 12 years, and up to 2 years of credit will be given for time with DACA.

PROHIBITION ON DACA BENEFICIARIES SPONSORING THEIR PARENTS FOR CITIZENSHIP

The amendment includes language prohibiting parents from using their Dreamer children’s newly granted citizenship to apply for citizenship themselves.

BORDER SECURITY

The amendment authorizes and appropriates $25 billion in funding for Northern and Southern border security over the next 10 years.  The bill requires DHS to provide detailed reports to Congress on its security plan, including physical barriers, fencing, tactical infrastructure, technology, personnel, and the milestones for implementing this plan.

Funding after the first year is released each year once the DHS Secretary certifies that at least 75 percent of the goals for the prior year have been reached.  Sixty votes would be required in order to prevent funding for each fiscal year.

The bill also directs the Secretary to prioritize enforcement resources against aliens who:

  • Have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, three or more misdemeanors;
  • Are a threat to national security or public safety; or
  • Are unlawfully present and arrived in the U.S. after June 30, 2018.

UPDATE 2-16-2018

The measure failed to get the required 60 votes (54-45) to pass the Senate.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan released the following:

“The agreement we voted on was the product of good faith bipartisan discussions and would have allowed Dreamers a pathway to citizenship so that they no longer have to live in fear of deportation,” said Shaheen. “I’m disappointed that, because of President Trump’s erratic and inconsistent positions on this issue, this agreement did not receive enough support to move forward in the Senate. It’s critically important that the Senate provide a pathway forward to protect Dreamers which is why I’ll continue my efforts across the aisle to find common ground.”

“I am deeply concerned that President Trump and his Administration did everything they could to defeat this bipartisan agreement that would have protected Dreamers and strengthened our border security,” Senator Hassan said. “The Common Sense Coalition has demonstrated that there is strong bipartisan consensus for protecting Dreamers whose energy, hard-work, and innovation is critical to our economic future. While this setback is extremely disappointing, I will continue working with the Common Sense Coalition and anyone else who is willing to join us to find a path forward for Dreamers and to ensure that our country is safe, secure, and free.”

Van Ostern Decides Not To Run For NH GOV Again

In an announcement made on twitter, Colin Van Ostern has decided not to run for NH Governor against Chris Sununu again.

“Friends, I’m not running for Governor again. I’ve deeply loved my time in public service for our state, but spending another year campaigning full-time for Governor in ’18 is not the right choice for me or my family– especially after doing so just over a year ago. I know how badly we need to get our country back on track, and I won’t be sitting on the sidelines. In addition to my work in the private sector & as a dad, I’ll be working very hard in the public arena to help elect leaders in 2018 who stand up for people over politics as usual.”

After hearing the news, the NH Democratic Party released a list of what could have been if Van Ostern had won the corner office.

What could’ve been vs. The mess we’re in

With just 2% more of the vote in one of the closest gubernatorial election in New Hampshire history, these are among the things we’re missing without electing a Governor Van Ostern in 2016:

  • Van Ostern, a champion of minimum wage increases, would have given New Hampshire the raise it deserves, but instead, Sununu accepted a $22,000 raise for himself on Day 1.
  • Van Ostern would have vetoed voter suppression bill SB3 rather than embarrassingly signing it with no fanfare like Sununu. He would’ve protected New Hampshire voting rights rather than spreading voter fraud lies in partnership with Trump.
  • Van Ostern would have invested in workforce development and job training, unlike Governor Sununu who dedicated zero dollars to either one in his first term budget.
  • Van Ostern would have advocated intensely for a conversion therapy ban, transgender rights, and an end to child marriage. Governor Sununu remained completely silent on all three issues for his entire first year while his Republican colleagues voted down each bill.
  • A Governor Van Ostern would have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance to enforce the Paris Climate Accord in New Hampshire and protect our environment. Sununu refused and supported President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Accord, making us the only country in the world left out of the agreement. Sununu has denied climate change as governor.
  • Van Ostern would have supported fully funded full day kindergarten without Republicans tying the bill’s funding to the unstable revenue source of Keno. While Sununu folded to each and every Republican concession, Democrats would have simply done the right thing.
  • A Van Ostern administration would not have used the Republican Party and his own donors as a bench for his agency appointments. Sununu has appointed mostly partisan political operatives and unqualified donor friends to run the state, and it shows.
  • Van Ostern would have pushed back against the worse tendencies in the Trump administration, being an advocate for New Hampshire instead of an advocate for himself. Sununu has defended Trump’s Charlottesville statements, backed the Muslim Ban, Trumpcare, and the crooked GOP Tax Scam while excusing Trump’s inaction on the opioid crisis, New Hampshire’s most urgent problem.
  • Van Ostern would have chosen to invest in students by freezing tuition at USNH colleges and community colleges. Sununu flat funded those institutions, making tuition rise and leaving students with an even higher mountain of debt.
  • Van Ostern would have invested in rail from Boston to Manchester, listening to the hundreds of businesses who have been asking for it for years. Perhaps New Hampshire would have made the top 20 list. Sununu’s proposal failed to make the top 20, and ever since, he has bailed on his support for rail. Sununu originally called it a “boondoogle” and “bad leadership” before proposing it himself, a little too late.

Thankfully, New Hampshire has the opportunity to replace Sununu with a governor who will do the hard work to put the Granite State back on track. With 81% of voters undecided on who they plan to vote for governor in a Blue Wave year, New Hampshire Democrats are increasingly confident we will succeed in November and take back State House majorities.


We at the NH Labor News supported Van Ostern in his bid for Governor and respect his decision not to run again.  We wish him all the best in his future ventures.   

Berry Craig: Kentucky Union Members Who Voted For Trump Are Having Buyers Remorse Now


By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Donald Trump carried all but two of Kentucky’s 120 counties, and he collected a whopping 62.5 percent of the vote.

Kentucky is among only a dozen states where the president’s popularity is 50 percent or higher. He’s at 51 in the Red State Bluegrass State.

Nationwide, Trump received votes from 43 percent of union households, according to a Roper poll. The survey didn’t break down the results state by state. The president probably did as well or better among Kentucky union households.

Anyway, go ahead and call it whistling past the graveyard. But the 51 percent number suggests that buyer’s remorse is creeping up in the border state I’ve called home for all my 68 years.

I’ve packed a union card for about two dozen years. Most of us in organized labor voted for Hillary Clinton, the AFL-CIO-endorsed Democrat. But I’m hearing about rumblings of regret in union ranks.

We said Trump was—and still is—a fraud and a con man. He ran on a standard Wall Street Republican platform with planks supporting:

— “right to work” (On the campaign trail, Trump said he preferred RTW states to non-RTW states.)

— repeal of the prevailing wage on federal construction projects

— deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

— sharp rollbacks in federal regulations that safeguard worker safety and health on the job, protect consumers and shield the environment from polluters

— hefty tax breaks for corporations and rich people and tax crumbs for the rest of us

The Trump-Republican Robin-in-reverse tax bill came up at this month’s meeting of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council, where I’m recording secretary.

“We’ve always preached that what’s good for the union is good for everybody, and it has been historically,” said delegate Jimmy Evans, IBEW Local 816 business manager.

He cited as proof the tax legislation, which AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called in a statement “nothing but an attack on America’s workers.” He added, “We will pay more, corporations and billionaires will pay less. It’s a job killer. It gives billions of tax giveaways to big corporations that outsource jobs and profits.”

The devil is always in the details. Under the tax bill, corporations can deduct payments to union-busting lawyers, but union members can’t deduct their union dues, according to the USW.

“Previously, employees could potentially write off work-related expenses that added up to more than 2 percent of their gross income, and for which an employer didn’t reimburse them,” explained CNBC’s Annie Nova.

Nova also wrote that the axing of “miscellaneous itemized deductions” for a lot of taxpayers might not sound like a big deal, but she cautioned that their disappearance “will leave a hole in many workers’ pockets, experts say.”

The end of those deductions “was a shot across the bow of union members,” Evans said. “But it also affects a lot of non-union members that work construction, just like it does our construction members.”

Nova also said workers can no longer deduct “work-related legal fees…medical examinations required by an employer, union dues and licenses.”

She quoted Seth Harris, a deputy labor secretary under President Barack Obama: “The really big story of the tax bill is that it favors capital over labor. It’s heavily skewed to benefit people who get money without working, as opposed to those who labor for a living.”

Harris also told her that many workers who itemize have a lot of different expenses — including mortgages — that would still make itemizing worth their while. He added that deductions for corporations are still abundant.

In addition, Nova quoted David Kamin, a law professor at New York University who was an economic policy advisor in the Obama administration: “While people can say there’s a doubling of the standard deduction, those who have significant unreimbursed business expenses will not do as well.”

She also interviewed Martin Davidoff, a New Jersey CPA and tax attorney who said it’s unfair that companies can still deduct the “so-called cost of doing business.”

“Take a look at McDonald’s,” he told Nova. “They spend $50 million on a Superbowl ad, and they get to deduct it.”

Tax attorney Paul Drizner said that under the tax bill, many teachers will be forced to choose between spending less on their classrooms or taking home less from their salaries. (Teachers can still can claim a $250 above-the-line deduction on unreimbursed workplace expenses if they itemize or not, according to Nova). “Teachers shouldn’t be paying out of their own pocket to put their lessons together,” said Drizner in the story.

Evans said it’s not just the tax bill that has union members rethinking the ballots they cast for Trump and other Republicans. “Now they’re wanting to get back on board and be on our side again. They see that those things we fought for is what helped them.”

I carry AFT and NEA/KEA retiree cards. More than a few community college and public-school teachers not only voted for Trump in 2016, they also cast ballots for GOP Gov. Matt Bevin the year before. (Most of us in AFT and KEA also voted for Jack Conway, the KEA and Kentucky State AFL-CIO-endorsed Democratic gubernatorial hopeful.

The fact that the president’s popularity rating in Kentucky is 11.5 percentage points lower that his victory margin suggests that many Trump backers regret their votes. We’ll know more in a Feb. 20 special House election in Bullitt County.

The incumbent, Republican Dan Johnson, took his own life. His widow, Republican Rebecca Johnson, who shares her late husband’s ultra-conservative views, wants to replace him. Her opponent is state AFL-CIO and KEA-endorsed Democrat Linda Belcher, whom Dan Johnson unseated in 2016.

KEA warned that the tea party-tilting Bevin could turn out to be the worst governor for public education in a long time, if not ever. Unions warned he was a union-buster to boot.

In 2017, he and his GOP-majority legislature pushed through a bill authorizing charter schools, which drain much-needed funds from public schools. (With Bevin cheering them on, GOP lawmakers also passed a “right to work” law and repealed the prevailing wage on state construction jobs.

Bevin’s proposed 2018 budget takes a meat-axe to education spending from kindergarten through higher education, including community colleges and state universities. He also wants to gut the workers’ compensation program.

Too, in the phony name of pension “reform,” Bevin has proposed a measure that would curb some benefits for current employees and retirees and force most new hires onto risky 401(a) programs.

Teachers are up-in-arms over the pension bill. (The GOP-majority House has been devising its own pension bill behind closed doors but has yet to release it.)

“It’s great to see all the educators getting involved,” Evans said. “But you know what it took to get them involved? Somebody is dipping his hand into their wallets.”

Evans hates to say, “we told you so,” but he reminded the delegates at our meeting that, all along, organized labor has been telling union members what politicians like Trump and Trump fan Bevin “want to do to them. It’s the same in our ranks. It’s taken politicians dipping into their wallets to get a lot of people re-engaged.”

 

Article originally appeared in the Kentucky AFL-CIO blog and reposted with permission.

Child Labor Coalition Calls For Cleaner, More Responsible Jewelry Supply Chain

Washington, DC–The Child Labor Coalition (CLC) today joins nearly 30 NGOs and trade unions from around the world in calling on the jewelry industry to ensure responsible sourcing of precious metals and gems. One million children toil in mines, often extracting metals, including gold and silver, and gems like jade, emeralds, and diamonds. The work is extremely hazardous, putting children at risk of serious injury and death. Many child miners use toxic substances such as mercury that can cause severe damage to their developing neurological systems. Mining also causes profound ecological damage in many communities, polluting waterways and soil and endangering the health of communities.

A young miner surfaces after spending an hour at the bottom of a compressor mine in the Philippines. Image by Larry C. Price, 2012.

“Consumers purchase nearly $300 billion in jewelry each year,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League (NCL) and co-chair of the CLC, whose 38 member organizations have worked to reduce child labor around the world for nearly three decades. “It’s time for jewelry companies to do more to provide consumers with jewelry that isn’t tainted with the scourges of child labor and forced labor. Existing mechanisms to clean up this supply chain have not gone far enough. It’s time for greater transparency. Jewelry companies must take responsibility for their supply chains.”

“The prevalence of child labor in the jewelry supply chains is a major concern,” said Reid Maki, NCL’s director of child labor advocacy and coordinator of the CLC. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, child labor is found in gold mining in 21 countries. Child labor is also used to produce silver in Bolivia, rubies and jade in Burma, and diamonds in six African countries. In the Philippines, children do compression mining of gold, submerged under muddy water while they breathe air through flimsy plastic hoses.

Today, the NGOs and trade unions are issuing a Call to Action to the jewelry industry calling on companies to:

  • Put in place and implement a robust supply chain due diligence policy;
  • Ensure full chain of custody over gold and diamonds by requiring evidence of business transactions and their transport routes from their suppliers;
  • Assess and respond to human rights risks throughout their supply chains, and ensuring that workers have a right to unionize and access to effective remedy;
  • Use independent third-party audits;
  • Publicly report on their human rights due diligence on an annual basis;
  • Publish the names of gold and diamond suppliers and their independent third-party audit mechanisms;
  • Actively seek gold and diamonds from artisanal and small-scale mines that are not associated with human rights violations and willing to formalize;
  • Improve human rights conditions in artisanal and small-scale mining communities;
  • Support multi-stakeholder initiatives designed to strengthen responsible minerals sourcing and work with mining cooperatives and trade unions.*

“Through this ‘Call to Action’ and the accompanying campaign, we hope to see real engagement and transformation of the jewelry industry,” said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum and chair of the CLC’s International Issues Committee.

The CLC also applauds Human Rights Watch’s new report, “The Hidden Cost of Jewelry: Human Rights in Supply Chains and the Responsibility of Jewelry Companies,” which examines the sourcing of gold and diamonds by 13 major jewelry and watch brands that generate more than $30 billion in annual revenue in the United States.

*The campaign action steps are spelled out in greater detail by Human Rights Watch on its web site.

AFGE President: Trump Budget Continues Assault on Working Class Families

Budget would freeze federal worker wages, slash benefits, undermine rights

WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today issued the following statement:

“President Trump’s budget is nothing less than a roadmap for dismantling the career civil service and handing over our most sacred public institutions to political donors and party loyalists.

“Federal workers shouldn’t be hired or fired on the whims of political appointees whose allegiance is to their political party, not the country’s best interests. By stripping employees of their due process rights and firing those who reject his politics, President Trump is opening the door for rampant corruption, discrimination, and worker intimidation.

“No group has lost more to deficit reduction than the federal workforce, with a three-year pay freeze, two government shutdowns, unpaid furloughs, and huge benefits cuts. Yet President Trump is proposing even more drastic cuts to workers’ wages, retirement security, health insurance, workers’ compensation benefits, and even their basic right to join a union and bargain over their work conditions.

“The financial hit alone to federal workers would climb to $246 billion over 10 years if President Trump succeeds in freezing their wages next year. Meanwhile, corporations and the wealthiest individuals are receiving massive windfalls thanks to unwarranted and unpaid tax cuts.

“The women and men who serve our country deserve our support and respect, not calls for slashing their pay and benefits and politicizing their jobs.”

America Needs Real Federal Investment To Repair Our National Infrastructure

Today, President Trump announced his “Trillion dollar infrastructure plan” that many say, completely misses the mark.

ThinkProgress explains how the new program is going to work (in theory):

“The proposal aims to turn $200 billion in federal funds into a $1.5 trillion investment over the next ten years by placing most of the financial burden on states and cities, which will have to cover at least 80 percent of the cost of any infrastructure project in order to qualify for federal grants, likely through higher taxes, tolls, and other user fees. The $200 billion number is a dramatic reduction in federal cost-sharing from years past.

…According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) annual Infrastructure Report Card, the United States needs to invest $4.59 trillion by 2025 in order to improve the country’s infrastructure — a figure three times larger than even the rosiest estimate in Trump’s proposal and more than 20 times larger than the $200 billion actually allocated.”

Larry I. Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) said “plan undermine the diverse needs of our transportation network” in his statement:

“We have long called for America’s infrastructure crisis to be met with a massive infusion of new federal investment that will grow the economy and create good, middle-class jobs. While we appreciate the spotlight President Trump has shined on the need to rebuild America, too many aspects of this plan undermine the diverse needs of our transportation network and the businesses, communities, and working families that depend on it.

“Robbing other federal priorities — including important transportation programs — to pay for infrastructure will only add to our growing problems. Furthermore, devolving the federal government’s funding responsibility to cash-strapped states and municipalities will leave too many projects and jobs behind.

“Congress now has an opportunity to craft a bipartisan proposal that will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, fuel a new wave of middle-class job creation, and bolster the American economy in a way that works for everyone. Getting there will require robust federal investment, stabilizing the Highway Trust Fund for surface transportation needs and prioritizing Buy America rules and longstanding labor protections that support good jobs and raise wages.

“Creating an infrastructure network capable of supporting a 21st-Century economy requires real federal commitment. It is now time for Congress to take the lead and we stand ready to support that effort.” 

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also released a statement on Trump’s infrastructure plan: 

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, our country’s grade on infrastructure is a D-plus. The infrastructure we use hundreds of millions of times each day is literally crumbling after decades of neglect. Our cars drive on broken roads, our children cross failing bridges, our loved ones ride on unsafe rail, our outdated electrical grids waste incredible amounts of power all while working people pay the cost of inaction.

President Trump has rightly noted the urgency and scale of America’s infrastructure crisis, and he has an opportunity to fix it. Unfortunately, today’s proposal relies more on accounting gimmicks and Wall Street investors than on a new federal commitment, which leaves states and municipalities to pick up the tab.

The right infrastructure plan will lift our communities and drive our economy forward for generations to come. That’s why this issue is so important and why the AFL-CIO and our affiliates are working actively with Congress to craft legislation that achieves these goals in a bipartisan way. If our nation’s leaders are serious about building America, they need to step up with trillions of dollars in new federal funding that supports America’s jobs, America’s resources and America’s products. And they need to uphold high labor standards and good wages and protect working people on the job. If they do, we have the most highly skilled and well-trained workforce ready to get the job done.

Well known economist, Robert Reich, posted a short video about the new infrastructure plan calling it a “huge tax giveaway for the rich.”  He warns that we would be turning over our public roads and bridges to private corporations who will install new fees and tolls.

This afternoon the Washington Post reports that President Trump is looking to “divest” in government assets and privatize government services. He is even proposing selling off, Washington National Airport (DCA) and Dulles International (IAD).

“The Washington region’s George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, both run by the National Park Service, are listed as “examples of assets for potential divestiture.” It was not immediately clear what public or private entity might buy those roads, whether they might be tolled, or other details. Same with the two airports in Virginia, which are leased from the federal government.

…Efforts to privatize federal assets were discussed early in the administration by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn and other advisers as a preferred way to come up with capital for much needed improvements.

A high-profile Trump effort to move the nation’s air traffic control system out of government hands was blocked in Congress.”

Even the fiscal conservative group, The Concord Coalition, says the numbers just don’t add up.

The administration is focusing a great deal of attention on its infrastructure plan but counting on most of the money for it to come from state and local governments as well as the private sector. The federal government would provide only $200 billion of the $1.5 trillion spending goal. Yet the budget proposes transportation and other infrastructure cuts of around $200 billion and there is no clear, credible explanation of this juxtaposition or how any new infrastructure spending would be financed.

Trump says he is open to the possibility of raising the federal gas tax, which has not been done since 1993. This would be a reasonable step. But just hinting at such an increase is not enough; the president should show real leadership by calling on Congress to approve a specific gas tax hike.

No matter how you slice it, this infrastructure plan stinks. If it goes through, the public will be forced to cough up more money to fix the roads and bridges, but that money will go right into the pockets of the executives of the billion dollar corporations who have bought up all of our public roadways.

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