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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.

More Must Be Done To Help Americans In Puerto Rico

Leaders with the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, are calling on President Trump and Congress to expedite the pace of recovery efforts to the 3.5 million American citizens in hurricane-battered Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In an open letter to President Trump and members of Congress, AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. and Fifth District National Vice President Everett Kelley said residents on the islands “desperately need our help.”

“Failing to treat this disaster with the same sense of urgency you displayed when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma battered the mainland just weeks earlier is indefensible,” the letter states.

Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall, most residents still lack essentials like running water, food, and electricity.

“Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are being treated like second-class citizens,” President Cox said. “There’s no excuse for it taking this long to get aid and relief to people who desperately need our help. While President Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico is a welcome show of support, residents need immediate action, not just rhetoric. Congress and the White House need to step up the recovery efforts at once.”

AFGE represents more than 5,000 federal employees who work in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They have been working around the clock to continue serving the public, even as they face their own personal tragedies and losses.

“Thousands of federal workers who call these islands home are looking to their government for help, and the silence is deafening,” said NVP Kelley, whose district includes both islands. “They’re working under extraordinarily difficult circumstances to deliver care and assistance to our citizens in need. Help cannot come fast enough.”

Tomorrow, labor unions and United Airlines will be sending hundreds of skilled volunteers to assist in Puerto Rico.

In a joint letter, Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan called on President Trump to step up disaster recovery efforts on the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra after the islands were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Citing in their letter the remoteness of the islands and reports that residents have been “without running water, power, gasoline or communications for more than a week,” the senators wrote to President Trump to request that sufficient aid and relief personnel be sent to the islands as soon as possible.

“The residents of Vieques and Culebra are U.S. citizens, and no fellow citizen should be left clamoring for help,'” the senators wrote.  “They need help now, and we urge that you provide them with sufficient aid and assistance without further delay.”

The Senators also expressed concern about the superfund site on Vieques and the potential health risks posed by the heavy metals and toxic chemicals left on the island after decades of military exercises by the U.S. Navy.  “We share the concern of residents that the hazardous waste may further contaminate the island and water supplies, and ultimately threaten the health of local residents,” the senators wrote.  “Additionally, the superfund site contains unexploded bombs and live ammunition that could be washed into the sea, posing long-term health and safety risks.”

The full text of the Senators’ letter can be found here.

Three Deaths After 1,000-Foot Fall in Miami Are Latest of More Than 130 Tower Fatalities

“Reckless Actions” by Employers Have Cost Scores of Lives, Say Local and
National Safety Groups

Investigation Underway; Tower King Cited for 5 Previous “Serious” Safety Violations

MIAMI – Local and national safety advocacy groups said today that the tragic deaths of three workers after a fall from a 1,000-foot television tower in Miami on September 27th show the need for rigorous enforcement of safety laws and regulations – especially in the communications tower industry.

Since 2003, more than 130 workers have lost their lives working on communication towers. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says this loss of life is entirely preventable if employers follow the law and proper safety procedures.

“Our prayers are with the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy,” said Jeanette Smith, executive director of South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, a founding member of the South Florida Council on Occupational Safety and Health (South Florida COSH). “We will remember Brachton Barber, Benito Rodriguez and Marcus Goffena and honor their lives by insisting on the highest safety standards for all workers.”

Tower King, the company that hired Barber, Rodriguez and Goffena to replace a television antennae high above Miami, has been cited on five previous occasions in 2008 and 2011 for “serious” safety violations by OSHA.

OSHA is now investigating last week’s deaths in Miami.

“These fatalities in Miami are the most recent needless deaths in an industry where reckless actions by employers have cost the lives of scores of workers,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH.) “We need answers and a full investigation – including an analysis of steps the employer took – or failed to take – to provide a fall protection system and to assess the structural integrity of the tower and related equipment.”

“We know from experience that in almost all cases, workplace fatalities can be prevented,” said Goldstein-Gelb. “It’s crucial that employers be held accountable for safety program lapses. Workers who die on their job and their families deserve no less – and workers who face similar risks in the future must be protected.”

Since 2003, 132 workers have fallen to their deaths while working on communication towers, according to WirelessEstimator.com, an industry website.

In 2014, following an “alarming increase in worker deaths” due to falls from communication towers OSHA sent a memorandum to employers, stating, “every single one of these tragedies was preventable.” The agency reminded employers of their responsibility under federal safety laws to provide proper training and fall protection systems to anyone working on communications towers.

In 2012, PBS Frontline and ProPublica cooperated on an investigation featuring the high incidence of fatalities on communication towers. Investigators found that major cell phone companies, installing new towers to meet expanding demand for cell service, used “a complex web of subcontracting” to “avoid scrutiny” of deadly, preventable events that have cost workers their lives.

Kobach Using Sham Voter Fraud Commission Bolster Inaccurate Voter Database

Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission Forced to Produce Electronic Communications Related To Its Work, Revealing Potential Coordination With Federal Agencies

Lawsuit By Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Yields Index Of Electronic Communications Exposing Coordination By Most Partisan Members Of Commission

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity recently released records of its communications in response to litigation brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  These records, available online, underscore the partisan nature of the Commission led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  Records indicate that Kobach communicated exclusively with partisan allies regarding the Commission’s work, to the exclusion of other Commissioners.  The communications released late last week also make available to the public the most information yet regarding the Commission established by President Trump to support his unfounded claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election.

“The information released by the so-called Commission on Election Integrity as a result of our lawsuit paints an incomplete but alarming record about the Commission’s work and intentions.  For example, it appears that known vote-suppressors Kris Kobach, J. Christian Adams, and Hans von Spakovsky, worked together without the input of other commissioners to develop the unprecedented June 28thletter to state election officials seeking vast amounts of personal voter data.  Email communications with the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security also suggest the Commission appears directed at facilitating Secretary Kobach’s dangerous agenda of comparing personal voter information with inaccurate databases to bolster his unfounded claim of widespread voter fraud to support the enactment of suppressive laws,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Clarke added: “The American people deserve to know the full story behind this Commission.  With the voting rights of millions of Americans at stake, we will continue the fight to ensure full transparency with respect to this so-called Commission’s activities.  The release of these new materials further underscores the dangerous agenda of this Commission.”

Under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), presidential commissions are obligated to operate in a transparent manner, yet the Kobach Commission has fallen short of that requirement.  Court filings by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law previously revealed that Commissioners were communicating on private email accounts rather than using federal government-issued accounts in violation of the Presidential Records Act.  Now, in providing a catalogue of communications to the D.C. District Court as part of the lawsuit brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, it appears that the Commission failed to provide any records of text messages or a complete record of staff communications regarding the Commission’s work.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has undertaken a series of comprehensive actions to challenge the Commission.  This includes filing litigation that remains active in the D.C. District Court seeking for the Administration’s compliance with federal transparency requirements pursuant to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA); launching a hotline for the public to report instances of voter suppression (866-OUR-VOTE); issuing letters to Secretaries of State demanding they not comply with Mr. Kobach’s request for private voter data; and filing a Hatch Act complaint against Mr. Kobach regarding his repeated exploitation of his Commission role to solicit campaign contributions and promote his candidacy for Governor of Kansas.

The Link Between Intimate Partner Violence And Reproductive Health

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Highlights Link Between Intimate Partner Violence and Reproductive Health

A special message from Planned Parenthood of New England

Concord, NH — For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is bringing attention to the impact that intimate partner violence (IPV) can have on reproductive health. About one in four women and one in nine men experience IPV, a pattern of abusive behavior within a relationship in the form of physical violence, sexual violence, and/or stalking. Reproductive coercion is another way that someone may try to exert control over their partner, and can include interfering with birth control methods, coercing a partner into having unprotected sex, impregnating a partner against their wishes, or controlling the outcome of a pregnancy.

At Planned Parenthood, our staff, volunteers, activists, and providers are proud to support survivors and work toward preventing intimate partner violence through providing education on consent and healthy relationships, screening for IPV at more than 600 health centers nationwide, and offering vital health care services and resources for survivors.

Statement of Molly Cowan, Communications Manager, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England:

“Health care providers see firsthand how intimate partner violence harms individuals and can threaten their reproductive health and autonomy. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England believes that every person deserves to have safe and healthy relationships. Our staff is trained to screen for abuse and can make referrals in a safe setting. We are committed to connecting our patients to the resources and care they need to take control of their health and recovery.”

Women who experience IPV are also more at risk for HIV, often because abuse makes it difficult or dangerous for them to negotiate boundaries, including around condom use. In addition, more than half of women with HIV have experienced IPV; for many, abuse comes after they reveal their status. IPV can also be a barrier to accessing regular treatment, putting these women’s health at even greater risk. The clear link between HIV and IPV makes it imperative that health care providers are equipped to recognize IPV and address a full range of reproductive health issues.

PPNNE’s five health centers in New Hampshire provide STI testing and treatment, HIV testing and treatment, emergency contraception, birth control, pregnancy tests, and options counseling in a compassionate, nonjudgmental environment. Survivors and those experiencing IPV deserve access to these critical health services from a supportive and expert provider. Visitplannedparenthood.org to find a health center near you.

100-Plus Organizations Urge Congress to Reject Giant Tax Loophole for Offshoring and Tax Avoidance

Republican Proposal for a “Territorial Tax System” Would Encourage Corporations to Send Jobs Offshore and Avoid Paying Taxes

(Washington, D.C.) Today, more than 100 organizations sent a letter urging members of Congress to reject a proposal that would allow U.S. multinational corporations to pay little to nothing on their offshore profits.

President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress included this proposal for a “territorial tax system” in the tax framework they unveiled last week.

The letter says, “This is an incredibly bad idea. Ending taxation of offshore profits would give multinational corporations an incentive to send jobs offshore, thereby lowering U.S. wages. It would also be a giant loophole for corporations to use accounting gimmicks to move their profits to tax havens, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars in tax revenue for the United States.”

“I’ve got to hand it to them. They’ve really outdone themselves this time. It must take a lot of effort to come up with an idea this bad,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “It takes a lot of nerve to propose tax incentives for offshoring and then try to fool people into thinking you’re doing the exact opposite. Up is down, black is white.  What a con job.”

“Already, the U.S. encourages tax avoidance by allowing U.S. corporations to indefinitely defer taxes on profits that they book offshore. If the United States moves to a territorial tax system, multinational companies would have even greater incentive to engage in accounting tricks and move their profits to countries with zero or single-digit corporate tax rates. Corporate bosses would win while the rest of us would be left to pick up the tab,” said Alan Essig, executive director, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy

“This scheme is a massive tax cut for wealthy corporations, that puts Main Street businesses and domestic companies at a terrible disadvantage,” said Frank Clemente, executive director, Americans for Tax Fairness. “We must continue to fully tax the profits U.S. corporations make offshore. If they pay less U.S. taxes on offshore profits than they pay now, or if they pay no taxes, they will have even more incentive to send jobs offshore and shift profits to tax havens to avoid paying their fair share.”

“It is, quite simply, the largest offshore loophole in the history of our tax code,” said Gary Kalman, Executive Director of the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition. “While hard to fathom, the proposal creates new and greater incentives to book profits offshore. When you get past the rhetoric, they propose a near zero percent tax on all profits moved offshore. Other countries have tried this, failed, and are now struggling desperately to fix it. How do you look at their failure and say ‘let’s do the same?’”

For more details on why a “territorial” tax system rigs the rules of the economy in favor of multinational corporations and against working people, see this fact sheet from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).

Why Tomorrow’s Supreme Court Case is So Important

Here’s where we are, as a country: only 20% of us trust our government to do what is right.

Pew Research Center: Public Trust in Government 2017

Pew Research Center: Public Trust in Government 2017

And tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a case testing the limits of partisan gerrymandering.

Not sure what “gerrymandering” is?  It’s when lines for legislative districts are drawn in a way that influences election outcomes.  Depending on who’s drawing the lines, gerrymandering can help ensure that Republicans win, or that Democrats win.  It causes a whole lot of “wasted votes.”

Gerrymandering lets politicians pick their voters, rather than voters picking their choice of politicians.

In Wisconsin, the districting plan at issue in Gill v. Whitford allowed the political party that drew electoral boundaries to gain 60% of the seats in the state Legislature, despite only getting 49% of the statewide vote.

Last year, those electoral maps were struck down by a federal district court, which found that

“Act 43 was intended to burden the representational rights of …voters throughout the decennial period by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats. Moreover, as demonstrated by the results of the 2012 and 2014 elections, among other evidence, we conclude that Act 43 has had its intended effect.”

Here’s why tomorrow’s case is so important.  Right now, American citizens trust the courts more than any other branch of government. According to Gallup, that may be because the Judicial Branch is seen as “above the political fray” compared to the White House or Congress.

But if the Supreme Court overrules the District Court decision in Gill v. Whitford, that’s going to put our Court system squarely in the middle of that “political fray.”

And at a time when

  • 72 percent of voters agree “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful”
  • 68 percent agree that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me” and
  • 57 percent feel that “more and more, I don’t identify with what America has become”

the last thing our country needs is for the Supreme Court to give citizens a reason to lose faith in the judicial system.

 

Vigil at ICE Office Calls for End to Deportations

30 members of faith communities pray #LetThemStay at ICE office in Manchester, NH on Sept 5th. Image from Arnie Alpert Twitter.

Interfaith advocates celebrate victory for Indonesian immigrants, but say more is needed.

Vigil Planned for October 3, at 8:30 am

Buoyed by a federal court decision putting a halt to the imminent deportation of about 60 Indonesian immigrants, members of area religious congregations will return to the Norris Cotton Federal Building on Tuesday October 3 to pray for a halt to all deportations. The vigil comes on the heels of a victory for the interfaith coalition, after an order issued on September 26 by Judge Patti Saris of the United States District Court in Boston halted plans to deport 11 Indonesians. The decision applies not only to the named plaintiffs, but to approximately 50 other Indonesian immigrants.

“We are called to continue our prayers for a halt to the deportation machine, which is tearing apart families, congregations, and communities,” said the Rev. Tim Roser, Associate to the Bishop, New England Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

The interfaith prayer vigils began on June 6, coinciding with scheduled appointments that dozens of immigrants had with officials of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency responsible for immigrant detention and deportation. Such appointments are typically held on the second Tuesday of each month.

The October 3 vigil will be led by Rev. Sarah Rockwell of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church  and Father Joseph Gurdak, ofm, Cap. of St. Anne- St. Augustin Parish.

Prior to the Trump administration, these appointments took place on a more or less annual basis for immigrants who had “orders of supervision” from ICE.  Since then, immigrants have been ordered to return to ICE with greater frequency. Starting on August 1, many of the immigrants were told to return with plane tickets to their countries of origin or risk getting jailed and forcibly deported. Since then, prayer vigils have also been held outside the federal building on each day the faith-based activists knew of anyone needing to report to ICE.

The October 3 vigil will be the 11th to take place since June. The vigils have attracted anywhere from a couple dozen to a few hundred prayerful protesters. Participants have included local and regional leaders from a variety of faith traditions. The vigils are coordinated by the Granite State Organizing Project, American Friends Service Committee, and Untied Valley Interfaith Project.

The vigil will begin at 8:30 AM with prayers, songs, and a “Jericho Walk” around the building.  “According to the Hebrew Bible, it was prayer that brought down the walls of Jericho,” said Father Joseph Gurdak, pastor at Saint Anne-Saint Augustin Parish in Manchester. “Today, we are praying for the walls of injustice, intolerance, xenophobia, and racism to come crumbling down.”

The Indonesians fled from religious persecution about twenty years ago, explained the Rev. Sandra Pontoh of Indonesian Community Support in Dover. Since then, they have been living, working, and raising families in the Dover-Rochester area. “We are hopeful that the courts will put a total halt to the deportations, which are tearing our community apart,” she said.

Others swept up in the deportation surge include people from Brazil, South Sudan, El Salvador, and other countries where violence and extreme poverty have forced people to leave their homes and come to the United States to try to make a better life for themselves and their families.

Workers on Janus: A Political Effort to Further Rig the Rules Against Working People

In a rigged economy, workers say the freedom to come together in strong unions is more important than ever

WASHINGTON — The following statement was issued by members and leaders of AFSCME, AFT, NEA, and SEIU – the nation’s four largest public sector unions – in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to grant Certiorari in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31:

The Janus case is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people. The billionaire CEOs and corporate interests behind this case, and the politicians who do their bidding, have teamed up to deliver yet another attack on working people by striking at the freedom to come together in strong unions. The forces behind this case know that by joining together in strong unions, working people are able to win the power and voice they need to level the economic and political playing field. However, the people behind this case simply do not believe that working people deserve the same freedoms they have: to negotiate a fair return on their work.

This case started with an overt political attempt by the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, to attack public service workers through the courts. And, in a letter to supporters detailed in The Guardian, the CEO of the corporate-backed State Policy Network (SPN) reveals the true intent of a nationwide campaign of which Janus is a part: to strike a ‘mortal blow’ and ‘defund and defang’ America’s unions. The merits of the case are clear. Since 1977, Abood has effectively governed labor relations between public sector employees and employers, allowing employers and employees the freedom to determine labor policies that best serve the public. When reviewing the legal merits of this case, it is clear that this attempt to manipulate the court against working people should be rejected.

“This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor. When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one. The merits of the case, and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent and sound law, are on our side. We look forward to the Supreme Court honoring its earlier rulings.” – Lee Saunders, President, AFSCME

“My work as a Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is vital to the safety of our state’s most vulnerable children and families. This court case is yet another political attack on the freedom of my colleagues and I to speak up to ensure that we can safely and adequately manage our caseloads, which reflects our commitment to safety and public service to our communities.” – Stephen Mittons, AFSCME Council 31 member, Child Protection Investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

“Unions are all about fighting for and caring about people—and in the public sector that includes those we represent and those we protect and teach in communities across America. Yet corporations, wealthy interests and politicians have manufactured Janus as part of their long and coordinated war against unions. Their goal is to further weaken workers’ freedom to join together in a union, to further diminish workers’ clout.

“These powerful interests want to gut one of the last remaining checks on their control—a strong and united labor movement that fights for equity and opportunity for all, not just the privileged few. And under the guise of the First Amendment, they want to overturn a 40-year precedent that’s been reaffirmed numerous times. In other words, this would be a radical departure from well-established law. We believe that after resolving a similar case last year, the Supreme Court erred in granting cert in Janus, and that the trumped-up underpinnings of the plaintiff’s argument will rapidly become clear before the full bench.” – Randi Weingarten, President, AFT

“My union just went through a lengthy contract fight in Philadelphia. We had to fight hard to protect our students’ basic needs, such as having at least one nurse and counselor in each school and ensuring that kids had necessary textbooks and materials. And we had to fight back against the district’s desire to eliminate class sizes and get lead testing for the school’s water fountains. Most people assume that the union only fights for teachers’ rights, when in reality, most of our contract is there to protect the basic rights and needs of our students. Those rights are at grave risk in Janus.” – Jeff Price, AFT Local 3 member, Teacher at Central High School, School District of Philadelphia.

“For decades corporate CEO’s and the wealthy have fought to enrich themselves at the expense of the rights and pocket books of working people, and that harms families in communities across the country. As the nation’s largest union, we know this fight will not only impact the lives of educators, but it also impacts the families of the children we educate. We won’t back down from this fight and we will always stand up to support working people, our students and the communities we serve.” – Lily Eskelsen García, President, NEA

“More and more, the economy is working against working people, including the families whose children I teach. My union gives me a voice and a seat at the table to advocate for my students, my colleagues, and my community.” – Sonya Shpilyuk, NEA member, High School English teacher, Montgomery County, MD

The anti-worker extremists behind this case want to divide working people, make it harder to pool our resources, and limit our collective power. But SEIU members won’t let any court case stand in our way of sticking together for good jobs and strong communities.” – Mary Kay Henry, President, SEIU

“By sticking together in our union, we’ve lifted the wage floor to a $15 minimum wage, protected and expanded health care benefits for our families, and won more funding for our schools. Together, we’ll continue to fight to ensure all students have the support and services they need to succeed in school. That’s why the extremists are attacking us, to stop our progress. But we plan to stick together no matter what and keep standing up for quality public services.” – Edna Logan, SEIU Local 99 member, Custodian at Esteban Torres School, Los Angeles Unified School District.

SCOTUS Is on the Verge of Decimating Public-Sector Unions—But Workers Can Still Fight Back

CC DBKING

By DBKING CC

BY SHAUN RICHMAN, at In These Times

On Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Janus vs. AFSCME, the case that will likely turn the entire public sector labor movement into a “right-to-work” zone. Like a lazy Hollywood remake, the case has all the big money behind it that last year’s Friedrichs v. CTA did, with none of the creativity.

In Friedrichs, the plaintiffs argued that interactions between public sector unions and government employers are inherently political. Therefore, the argument went, mandatory agency fees to reimburse the union for the expenses of representation and bargaining were forced political speech, violating employees’ purported First Amendment right to not pay dues.

The case ended in a 4-4 deadlock in March 2016, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who had appeared poised to vote against the unions’ interests.

Much like Friedrichs, the Janus case has rocketed through the federal courts. The National Right to Work Foundation, which represents the plaintiffs, petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case in early June. All briefs will likely be submitted by mid-January 2018, meaning SCOTUS could hold hearings almost exactly a year to the date that the Court last heard the same arguments.

The defendants may argue for procedural delays, which could potentially kick the decision into the following court term in 2018-2019. And it’s possible that in the meantime Justice Anthony Kennedy could die of a heart attack, or Sam Alito could forget to look both ways while crossing First St. and get run over by a bus. And the Democrats might take back the Senate next year, preventing the Trump administration from naming any more conservatives to the Court.

That’s the kind of magical thinking we’re left with, because the conservative majority on the Supreme Court is clearly determined to tilt the power of the country in favor of big business and against unions for at least a generation, and they care little about how just or fair their decisions appear to the public.

“Right to work” laws, currently on the books in 27 states, strip the requirement that union members pay union dues. Unions claim this creates a “free rider” problem, allowing workers to enjoy the benefits of union membership without contributing a dime. This deprives unions of crucial funding, but also—and this is no small consideration for the right-wing—every union family that drops their membership becomes one less door that union members can knock come election season.

Most national unions have been preparing for this eventuality since the first time the Roberts court took up the issue of public sector union fees in 2014’s Harris Vs. Quinncase. (If you’re keeping score, yes, the conservative justices on the Supreme Court have spent three years in a row trying to break the backs of unions).

Much of this preparation has focused on making sure that unions have a shop steward in every department and that every new hire is asked by a living breathing human being to actually join the union. But, as I wrote earlier this month, the bigger threat once workers have the right to evade union fees is the direct mail and phone-banking campaign that is already being run by Koch Brother-funded “think tanks” to encourage workers to drop their union membership and “give yourself a raise.”

As I wrote then, “The slick ‘give yourself a raise’ pamphlets will do the most damage in places where members think of the union as simply a headquarters building downtown. … But where members are involved in formulating demands and participating in protest actions, they find the true value and power of being in a union. That power—the power of an active and involved membership—is what the right-wing most fears, and is doing everything in its power to stop.”

There is a certain irony in conservatives applying the First Amendment to collective bargaining, a principle that conservative jurists have studiously avoided for two centuries. If every interaction that a union has with the government is a matter of speech, then we have a stronger argument for instituting a Bill of Rights for labor to protect workers and their right to demand fair treatment on the job.

Unions are already oppressively regulated. They are told by the National Labor Relations Board whom they can picket, when they may march and what they might say on a flyer. And they face steep fines if they disobey. Workers are forced to attend endless hours of anti-union presentations before a union election with no right to respond or boycott.

If every interaction the government has with a union is a matter of political speech—as a ruling in favor of Janus would imply—unions must respond by forcefully arguing that the rules of the system have been unfairly holding workers back, violating of our rights to free speech, due process and equal protection.

(Republished with permission from In These Times.)

Breaking News: Democrat Kari Learner Wins Special Election In Heavy Republican District.

Lerner wins special election, flips 4th-most GOP district in NH Trump won by 23 points

Concord, N.H. – Tonight, Kari Lerner defeated Jim Headd in the state Representative special election in Rockingham District 4, 901-862 (50%-48%). Rockingham 4 is the 4th-most Republican district in New Hampshire. Lerner’s victory comes in a district with 20 percent more registered Republicans than Democrats, where Donald Trump won by 23 points. Representative-elect Lerner becomes the first Democrat to hold the seat since 2006.

This is the largest disadvantage any Democrat has overcome in 2017, even greater than Edie DesMarais’s 18-point registered Republican gap in Wolfeboro. New Hampshire Democrats have now won five of seven special elections in 2017, four of them coming in Republican strongholds.

House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff issued the following statement:

“Representative-elect Lerner deserves enormous credit and congratulations for this great victory tonight. Our Democratic family is growing bigger by the week, and Kari Lerner is another great addition. I know she’ll work hard and stand up for Democratic values at the State House on behalf of the people of Auburn, Chester and Sandown.”

NHDP Chair Ray Buckley issued the following statement:

“Congratulations to Representative-elect Lerner on her outstanding victory tonight. There’s something happening in this state, and all across this country when the deepest red districts in New Hampshire are consistently turning royal blue.  This, our hardest-won victory so far, is the latest proof that voters are showing up when it matters to reject the dangerous and divisive agenda of Donald Trump and Chris Sununu. Lerner’s victory is a testament to her hard work and her passion for the issues, two qualities that will serve us all well in Concord.”

DNC Chair Tom Perez released the following statement:

“Congratulations to Kari Lerner on her remarkable victory tonight. This is the eighth seat Democrats have flipped this year — and it’s no coincidence. In New Hampshire and across the country, the American people are rejecting Donald Trump’s agenda and electing Democrats up and down the ballot. Representative-elect Lerner’s victory is further proof that when Democrats lead with our values, we can compete and win in any zip code. And I know she will stand up for those values and fight for working families across the Granite State.”

 

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