About Matt Murray

Matt Murray is the creator and an author on the NH Labor News. He is a union member and advocate for labor and progressive politics. He also works with other unions and members to help spread our message. Follow him on Twitter @NHLabor_News

Everything You Need To Know About The VERGARA Case And Teacher Tenure

MHP Tenure

MHP Tenure

Over the weekend, Melissa Harris-Perry talked about the new ruling from the California Supreme Court on “teachers tenure.”

Melissa Harris-Perry does a great job of explaining what the real issues are with “teacher tenure” and why this ruling takes away a teacher’s “due process” when they are laid off or terminated.

The Vergara ruling is about breaking the teachers union.  “This lawsuit has nothing to do with what’s best for kids, but was manufactured by a Silicon Valley millionaire and a corporate PR firm to undermine the teaching profession and push their agenda on our schools,” said California Teachers Association President Dean E. Vogel.

“This suit is not pro-student. It is fundamentally anti-public education, scapegoating teachers for problems originating in underfunding, poverty, and economic inequality,” said California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt.

If you are already familiar with the case and the issue, skip right to about the 5:00 minute mark to hear Marcellus Mcrae, the smug looking lawyer for the “students first,” the group who took the case to the CA Supreme Court. (BONUS POINTS if you can count how many times he slips in the ultra-derogatory term, “grossly ineffective” teachers.)

Or you can skip right to the 8:00 minute mark where AFT President Randi Weingarten tears this entire case to shreds.

Don’t forget to share this with your friends.

What Is Scott Brown Really Afraid Of? The Voters Of New Hampshire

Scott_P._Brown

Over the past few weeks the national news media has been talking non-stop about how Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, was ousted by an unknown primary contender. The main talking point of the post primary results is that Cantor “phoned it in.” He spent all of his time traveling the country rallying the GOP base for other candidates, and neglected to spend any time in his own home district. At one point Cantor was booed off the stage during a campaign speech.

How does this relate to New Hampshire politics?

There is an eerie similarity to Cantor and former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown’s campaign for the US Senate seat from New Hampshire.

Scott_P._BrownScott Brown has been driving his truck all across New Hampshire in an attempt to convince Granite Staters that he is one of us. Telling people that by spending time in New Hampshire as kid or weekends at his vacation home makes him a real Granite Stater.

True Granite Staters are just not buying it.

If Brown were a real Granite Stater, he would understand that we are less about grandstanding and photo ops, and more about substance. We want candidates who talk about their positions and are willing to stand up for their beliefs.

Brown is snubbing the people of New Hampshire by refusing to participate in local debates.   Brown skipped a debate in Bedford in April, and now he is “booked up” an unable or unwilling to participate in the Merrimack Business Association’s debate tomorrow.

David McCray, chairman of the Merrimack Business Association and a former Merrimack town councilor, was less than impressed at the way that the Brown campaign treated him and his initiation to debate.

“McCray is angry at the way his business group was treated by the Brown campaign. An invitation to the June 18 Merrimack event went out to the candidates by registered mail on April 23,” McCray told the Union Leader. “In early May, McCray learned that Brown would not be attending, not from Brown’s campaign but from a Union Leader reporter. Offer rescinded.

The irony is that McCray was a supporter of Scott Brown when he ran against Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts.

“We went to Stoneham on the day of the Massachusetts election when he ran against Elizabeth Warren and held Scott Brown signs, standing out in the cold for eight hours,” McCray told the Sentinel Enterprise. “He knew that. And yet he didn’t even have the common courtesy to respond to our invitation to a debate in 16 days. That bothered me.”

Even ultra-right wing conservative blogger, Granite Grok, had some choice words about Brown skipping the debate.

“So, Scott Brown, you used a media outlet as a cover to screw over a forum in which you’d be a sitting duck in being directly compared to your competition. Sure, you’ve accepted the big TV event debate – but that’s not how campaigning works here in NH.”

This is not the first time that Brown has ducked constituent questions.

Twice in the last week Brown was confronted by real Granite Staters who asked him straight out if he supported raising the minimum wage.”

Brown’s response:

“I’ve supported a minimum wage increase before. It’s something that I think needs to be periodically reviewed, but it’s really important to make sure that everyone’s at the table, especially people who are hiring and growing,” Brown told the Concord Monitor.

Avoiding actually answering questions from real Granite Staters is quickly becoming a trend for Scott Brown.

What is Brown afraid of? Is he afraid to tell the people where he stands because he thinks it will hurt him with the ultra-conservatives who tend to vote in the primary? Or is he afraid that it will hurt him in a general election, if he actually gets through the primary.

Granite Staters take pride in being informed about whom they are voting for, and Brown thinks he can get away with B.S. answers and newspaper quotes instead of participating in local politics.   It is bad enough that he did not work his way up through the ranks in New Hampshire like many of the other candidates.

The Union Leader asked McCray why he thinks Brown is ignoring the Merrimack debate and the voters of Merrimack?

“He’s playing it as if he has already won,” said McCray.

I am sure that is exactly what Eric Cantor thought too.

Vergara v. California: When Teachers Lose, Schools and Students Lose Too

Teacher in classroom (image by audiolucistore Flickr)
Teacher in classroom (image by audiolucistore Flickr)

Teacher in classroom (image by audiolucistore Flickr)

There is something seriously wrong in America right now and it all stems from blaming workers for the industry failures. Recently we have seen the right wing attacking the workers at the VA, completely ignoring the fact that the VA is underfunded and cannot handle the volume of new veterans in the already overloaded system.

This trend of blaming the teachers for a schools failure has been the staple of the right wing attack on our public schools.  They blame teachers who spend their own money to supply their classrooms, and spend hours of their own time correcting students’ work.

In the case of Vergara v. California, the California Supreme Court struck down the long-standing teacher tenure law.

“We are deeply disappointed, but not surprised by this decision. Like the lawsuit itself, today’s ruling is deeply flawed. This lawsuit has nothing to do with what’s best for kids, but was manufactured by a Silicon Valley millionaire and a corporate PR firm to undermine the teaching profession and push their agenda on our schools,” said California Teachers Association President Dean E. Vogel. “We plan to appeal this decision on behalf of students and educators, while teachers continue to provide all students a quality public education every day.”

Over and over we see attacks on our public schools and the dedicated teachers who work in them, for the fact that schools are under-performing, yet not once do they ever talk about how underfunded these schools are.  They always go right for the teachers and their unions.

“Rather than provide resources or working to create positive environments for students and teachers, this suit asserts that taking away rights from teachers will somehow help students,” said California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt. “This suit is not pro-student. It is fundamentally anti-public education, scapegoating teachers for problems originating in underfunding, poverty, and economic inequality.”

“It’s surprising that the court, which used its bully pulpit when it came to criticizing teacher protections, did not spend one second discussing funding inequities, school segregation, high poverty or any other out-of-school or in-school factors that are proven to affect student achievement and our children,” stated AFT President Randi Weingarten.  “We must lift up solutions that speak to these factors—solutions like wraparound services, early childhood education and project-based learning.”

The group Students Matter, citing the myth that tenure keeps bad teachers from being fired, pushed the case all the way to the state supreme court.

“While this decision is not unexpected, the rhetoric and lack of a thorough, reasoned opinion is disturbing,” stated Weingarten.  “For example, the judge believes that due process is essential, but his objection boils down to his feeling that two years is not long enough for probation.  He argues, as we do, that no one should tolerate bad teachers in the classroom. He is right on that.  But in focusing on these teachers who make up a fraction of the workforce, he strips the hundreds of thousands of teachers who are doing a good job of any right to a voice.  In focusing on who should be laid off in times of budget crises, he omits the larger problem at play: full and fair funding of our schools so all kids have access to the classes—like music, art and physical education—and opportunities they need.”

The group “Students Matter” is well funded group led by “Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch and counts among its supporters notable figures in the anti-union, pro-charter, school privatization movement such as Michelle Rhee of StudentsFirst and Eli Broad”, wrote Dante Atkins on the Daily Kos.

For those who don’t know Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization, they are the one leading the charge for the privatization of public schools. That is what this case is really about.  They have to eliminate teachers’ tenure and break the teachers’ unions so they fire any teacher, at any time, for any reason, and can hire new teachers at a drastically lower salary.

Weingarten concluded “This will not be the last word. As this case makes it through an appeal, we will continue to do what we’ve done in state after state. We will continue to work with parents and communities to fight for safe and welcoming neighborhood public schools that value both kids and the women and men who work with them. No wealthy benefactor with an extreme agenda will detour us from our path to reclaim the promise of public education.”

If we want a public school system that works for every child, regardless of their zip code, we cannot continue to starve our schools. Forcing budget cuts and putting more students in each classroom only compounds a school’s problem.  We need to invest in our children’s future by investing in our public school system.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus Gets An Amendment Passed To Protect Workers From Wage Theft

Keith Ellison

Unfortunately wage theft is a reality for too many hard working Americans.  There have been stories of workers being ordered to “clock out,” and then being forced to work without pay.  Others are working 60 hours a week but not receiving any overtime pay.  Some are even more outrageous, like Mario Batali’s New York restaurants, which were caught skimming tips from workers in his restaurants.

The Employment Justice Center reports, “A 2008 survey of large cities found that 68% of low-wage workers experience wage theft in the prior week. Twenty-six percent are paid under the legal minimum wage and 76% are denied overtime.”

Workers are bringing their cases to the National Labor Relations Board and are continuing to win, but this process is very slow.

An employer stealing from workers has become a problem for the federal government as well.

“Last week, Good Jobs Nation filed a complaint with the Labor Department alleging wage theft by food vendors contracting with GSA [General Services Administration]. The group claims that eight franchises operating at the Reagan Building have paid employees less than the minimum wage and ignored rules on overtime pay.”

That is all about to change as the US House passed a new amendment that would forbid the US government from entering into contracts with any corporation that committed wage theft or other violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Keith Ellison

Congressman Keith Ellison

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) pushed the amendment which failed in a previous vote a few weeks ago.  Today the amendment passed unanimously.

“The House of Representatives stood up for federal contract workers today, protecting them from wage theft and ensuring the federal government will lead the way to fairer labor standards for all Americans,” stated Grijalva and Ellison. “No working American should ever worry that her employer might steal a part of her paycheck, especially if she works for a contractor paid by the federal government.”

Grijalva and Ellison continued, “Sometimes employers ask workers to show up 30 minutes before their shift starts, while others pay workers with debit cards that charge fees for every use. It doesn’t matter which form it takes—wage theft is wrong and it needs to stop.

“We’re glad our Republican colleagues joined the Progressive Caucus in this step to protect Americans working for federal contractors,” concluded Grijalva and Ellison.

In a Congress that is undoubtedly the worst Congress in history based on their total inaction, this is very good news for working families.

Building A New Hampshire That Works For All Working Families

new-hampshire-flag

Today I want to talk to you about how we build an America and a New Hampshire that works for all of us, not just the ultra wealthy one-percent (1%).

Today, we see that New Hampshire’s working families and middle class are getting crushed.  Workers wages continue to go down as their household costs continue to rise. Workers are loosing their voice in the workplace as the corporations are forcing our unions out.

But this is no accident. After they break our unions, they slash our wages and loot our pensions, leaving us without a job and without a future.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Together we can create a New Hampshire that works for all of us. That’s why we must work together to reform our labor laws.  To make it easier for workers to come together and form unions, to push back against this corporate anti-worker agenda.  By sticking together and speaking with one voice, we will begin to make a difference in our communities.

You know, working people and the middle class are the engines of our economy.  When we have good jobs, we can educate our children, we can shop in our neighborhoods, we can afford healthcare and retire with dignity and security. We drive our economy forward.

We’ll bolster working families and build a strong middle class, with the decisions we make together. If we are to achieve a strong and vibrant middle class again, we need to: help workers find their voice in the workplace, to strengthen our labor laws to make it easier for worker to organize, and stronger disciplinary actions against companies who violate our laws by intimidating or threatening workers who choose to speak out.

It is up to us to hold our elected officials accountable for standing up for working people and the middle class, not just the CEO’s and hedge fund managers on Wall Street.  Together we can assure that all of us will be able to climb that ladder and find our own version of the American Dream.

This is what America is about. This is what New Hampshire is about. We can do this together. We can build an America, a New Hampshire, that works for all of us.

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Matt Murray speaking at the NH Progressive Summit.  (Image by Jennifer Kenny)

Matt Murray speaking at the NH Progressive Summit. (Image by Jennifer Kenny)

The above was a speech I wrote during a workshop at the NH Progressive Summit.  The panel was led by Richard Kirsch who talked about using the Progressive Economic Narrative to frame our speeches.  The framing in our speeches and our blog posts is crucial to how people will respond.  We can be inspiring, heartfelt, and patriot and still push a strong progressive message.

I would like to thank the NH Citizen’s Alliance and Granite State Progress for organizing this years NH Progressive Summit, and bringing in such great speakers as Richard Kirsch.

 

And They’re Off! The Race To The Bottom Gains Speed

Image by USDA
Image by USDA

Image by USDA

It is widely known that workers wages have been stagnant for decades thus leading to the vast income inequality we are seeing today throughout our great nation.  Many workers have seen little if any pay raise for years, and they are the lucky ones.  Workers have seen their wages slashed as their jobs are being contracted out, or outsourced, to low bid government contractors.

Government offices at the federal level all the way down to the local school board are fueling this race to the bottom. This week, In The Public Interest published a biting report about how outsourcing jobs is hurting our communities.

The battle to cut the budget has produced some previously unforeseen and disastrous circumstances.  Budgets writers in the past few decades looked to government contractors as way to reduce their budgets, when in reality they are merely shifting costs from one line of the budget to another.

“By slashing labor costs, a company may be able to show a city or state cost savings on paper,” the ITPI report states. “However, low wages often mean that the number of Americans on public assistance rolls increases and these supplemental income and healthcare costs, instead of being the contracting employer’s responsibility, are merely shifted onto other parts of the government budget.”

To budget writers this seems like a golden opportunity, cut labor costs and absolve themselves of the responsibility to provide healthcare or any retirement program.  This is troubling as we have seen more and more employers making reductions to retirement plans, failing to offer any paid time off, and declining number of employers to even offer healthcare to workers. 99% of all government workers are offered healthcare and retirement options.

The percent of workers offered healthcare (from the Bureau of Labor Statistics):

  • 57% of Full-Time workers in companies with less than 100 employees
  • 85% of Full-Time workers in companies with more than 100 employees
  • 24% of Part-Time workers

The percent of workers who are offered retirement options:

  • 42% of Full-Time workers in small companies
  • 82% of Full-Time workers in large companies
  • 37% of Part-Time workers

The cutting of healthcare and retirement plans is only one way that contractors appear to save the local government money by contracting their services.  We all know that the cost of labor is one of the largest pieces of the fiscal pie.  For contractors, slashing wages is the fastest way to meet a new lower bottom line.

“Contractors, including Aramark, Sodexo, and Compass, cut cafeteria workers’ wages by $4-6 an hour following the privatization of food service. As one of the workers interviewed for the report explained, “When [a private contractor] took over, it was $8 an hour to start… 10 years [later] and it’s still only $8/hour.”

In Massachusetts, “Wages were slashed as the contractor reduced the pay of custodial jobs that paid an average of $19 per hour as public jobs to between $8.25 and $8.75 per hour. Employees like Rick Thorne, who had worked for the school system for 22 years, and made $20 per hour as a custodian, couldn’t afford to take the new poverty-wage positions with Aramark.” (ITPI)

NBC News also reported on a similar trend they called “domestic outsourcing.” NBC told the story of bus drivers in the greater Memphis area.  After the school year concluded, the bus drivers were gathered and told they were all fired.  Graciously the drivers were allowed to apply for the same job they previously held with a new contractor. Debbie DeCrow, an 18 year veteran of the school district was making over $15 per hour, now her new employer offered he a starting wage of “$10 per hour with no sick days or paid vacation.

It is obvious that contractors are reaping the benefits by pushing workers further down.

On paper this all seems like a great way for local budget writers to save taxpayer money, until you add in the fact that by pushing workers wages down results in more of them being forced onto government assistance programs.

“Researchers found that school cafeteria workers working for contractors in California received an average of $1,743 annually in public assistance because of their low pay.” (ITPI)

When workers have less money that means they spend less in local stores.  This is another problem for the local community. As spending at local businesses reduce, this means less business tax revenue for the states and municipalities.  ITPI also notes that states have seen a reduction in income tax revenues as wages decline.

While the taxpayers thought they were saving money by reducing labor costs in their budgets, in fact they are subsiding the contractor’s profits with additional spending in low-wage assistance programs.

“When contractors fail to provide health insurance for their employees, or if the cost of buying into the employer’s plan is too expensive, workers and their families are forced to enroll in public programs, such as Medicaid or the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or simply rely on emergency room visits which are very costly for the public.”  (ITPI)

The report concludes by sharing policy recommendations for reversing this dangerous trend, including:

  • Requiring contractors to show that cost savings derive from increased efficiencies and innovation, not a decrease in compensation
  • Requiring contractors to pay a living wage and provide health and other important benefits.
  • Requiring transparency measures, such as tracking how much state and local governments are spending on private contracts, how many workers are employed by those contracts, and worker wage rates.
  • Requiring governments to conduct a social and economic impact analysis before outsourcing

This report from In The Public Interest is just another example of how outsourcing jobs to low-wage contractors hurts the workers and the community.

Lets pull out the checkered flag and end this race to the bottom. 

Unfair Trade Policies Lead To More American Jobs Lost

Vacant steel mill outside Detroit. (image by Jo Guldi on Flickr)
Vacant steel mill outside Detroit. (image by Jo Guldi on Flickr)

Vacant steel mill outside Detroit. (image by Jo Guldi on Flickr)

There are few things as heartbreaking than hearing that more steelworkers are being laid off. It is not that America does not need new steel, it is foreign manufacturers that are undercutting the American steel industry. This dramatic increase in foreign imports is causing American manufacturers to cut more jobs.

The Economic Policy Institute just released a new report showing how the vast increase in foreign steel is damaging American workers.

“Surging imports of unfairly traded steel are threatening U.S. steel production, which supports more than a half million U.S. jobs across every state of the nation. The import surge has depressed domestic steel production and revenues, leading to sharp declines in net income in the U.S. steel industry over the past two years (2012–2013), layoffs for thousands of workers, and reduced wages for many more.”

Yesterday U.S. Steel announced plans to halt tube operations in Pennsylvania and Texas, which will lead to an indefinite furlough for 265 workers.

“For months, our union (The United Steelworkers) has warned the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative, the public and others that a flood of illegally subsidized and unfairly traded oil country tubular goods (OCTG) poses a significant and immediate threat to American steel companies and the jobs of our members,” said USW President Leo Gerard.

The EPI estimates that over “583,600 steel-related jobs are at risk if the U.S. does not fully and effectively enforce its trade remedy laws.” The importing of foreign steel has “increased from 28.5 million net tons in 2011 to 32.0 million net tons in 2013, an increase of 12.3 percent.”

Why is this happening?Why is the country that led the world in steel production now taking a back seat to these foreign suppliers?


“The USW demands an immediate investigation into how a trade partner such as South Korea, which produces 100 percent of its steel tubular goods for export because it has no domestic market, has managed to conduct business here without regulation or any kind of fair tariff in place,” Gerard stated.

The importing of foreign manufactured steel is only one piece of the problem that has led to the destruction of millions of American jobs. Our trade policies have led to the erosion of our pay, and have pushed up our national debt.

The problem is that we as a nation are buying more than we are selling, and this is causing a $540 billion dollar trade deficit.

Foreign manufacturers play games with their currency to undercut their competitors. Currency manipulation and slave wages are how these countries are able to charge less for their products. They have rigged the game so badly that it is almost impossible for Americans to win.

For the sake of our entire manufacturing base we must put a stop to the unbalanced trade, and currency manipulation.

“For the workers and families in McKeesport, Pa. and Bellville, Texas, the USW pledges to continue fighting for a fair and level playing field so that American workers can get back to their rightful jobs as soon as possible,” Gerard stated.

“The USW will continue to be an outspoken advocate for workers who have paid and continue to pay the price for unfair ‘free’ trade, which remains the single most dangerous threat to the good, family-supporting, community-sustaining jobs the USW strives to create and protect,” concluded Gerard.

Programs like NAFTA, and the proposed TPP, are exactly what is hurting the American worker. We need to stop the hemorrhaging now, before it gets worse. Restoring our trade balance and reducing our trade deficit would create upwards of five million new jobs.

We talk about a global economy, however it seems we are the only ones buying.  Always remember; support American workers, buy American.

The Solution To All Our Healthcare Problems Including Those At The VA

medicare-for-all

medicare-for-allFor decades now labor unions have been fighting the rising healthcare costs and taking concessions in their contracts to keep healthcare costs in check. Many have agreed to freeze wages and in trade the employer would freeze the rates of their healthcare plans.

This problem has only gotten more complex now that the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare has been rolled out. The ACA is an issue that has divided people within the political parties and is dividing the labor movement as well. Some labor unions, like Unite Here and LiUNA, oppose the ACA because it does not have provisions for organizations like labor unions that provide their own healthcare plans. Other unions like the SEIU, who represent workers at all wage levels, have been pushing for the ACA from the beginning.

Here is the one thing they all can agree on, the ACA does not go far enough to fix the healthcare problem in this country. We want what is best for all Americans and is the most fiscally responsible program for all Americans. The solution to both is a national single payer system, and we already have one for those over 65.

Single Payer Healthcare Medicare For AllAll we need to do is dump the private insurance program completely. Stop giving our tax dollars to greedy corporations who are collecting 20% profit on every bill they collect. If we expand Medicare to cover people from birth to death, we could save the federal government upwards of $400 billion dollars a year.

If you go back to look at the “unions who are opposing the ACA” you will see that it is not that they do not want a national healthcare system, but they have been calling for a single payer system from the beginning.

Check out this short video of “Greg Junemann, President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and AFL-CIO Executive Council member, explains how health insurance corporations are inherently designed to deny healthcare…and why Americans are losing access to healthcare as a right.”

Then you can decide which plan you think would be better for All Americans?

There is one more thing to note about a single payer healthcare program, it is what the VA health system is based on.  There is massive outrage from both political parties about how our veterans are being treated.  Everyone loves the VA healthcare system – some choose not to fund it properly — but they all love the VA healthcare system, and are outraged when Veterans have problems that are minor in comparison to what regular Americans are going through every day with private healthcare providers.

The way to fix the VA wait times problems, and hospital backlogs, is to push a national single payer system that would allow vets (and everyone else) to go to any hospital, any doctor, to get treatment.

You like your doctor? They are covered. You like your hospital? It is covered.  Worried that the insurance company is going to cut your services or cancel your policy? Have no fear because there are no health insurance companies making decisions about care based on profit margins.

Why is the system that we use for our veterans not good enough for the rest of us? 

The AFL-CIO And The NH AFL-CIO Endorse APWU’s Boycott Of Staples Inc

Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr

Momentum behind by the American Postal Workers Union “Stop Staples” campaign is growing by leaps and bounds. 

Over the last few weeks, the American Federation of Teachers in California and Michigan adopted resolutions to boycott Staples stores for their back to school shopping.

Last week AFT-NH President Laura Hainey announced that AFT-NH would also join in the boycott of Staples

“The decision to outsource neighborhood post offices across the country to a big-box retailer means potentially fewer good jobs and poorer service for our communities,” said Hainey. “Staples workers will staff these new postal counters, rather than trained, uniformed postal employees who are background-checked and take an oath to protect our mail.”

Then, just yesterday the AFL-CIO nationally has added Staples to their national boycott list, and the NH AFL-CIO adopted the resolution (view in PDF) to join the boycott of Staples stores.

The conclusion of the resolution states:

Therefore be it resolved that:

  • The NH AFL-CIO support the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) in its efforts to protect good-paying jobs and its insistence on the highest possible standards of customer service; 
  • Be it further resolved that the NH AFL-CIO opposes efforts by the U.S. Postal Service to privatize operations and to sell off valuable public assets; 
  • Be it further resolved that the NH AFL-CIO will urge friends, colleagues and family members, to no longer shop at Staples stores until further notice;
  • Be it finally resolved that this call to boycott Staples will be communicated immediately to affiliates of the NH AFL-CIO, our community allies, to our sister unions and to the news media.

“The New Hampshire AFL-CIO fully and enthusiastically supports our sisters and brothers working in real post offices across our state and nation, and we will be boycotting staples until this unfair program is ended,” said New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie.

The Postal Service and Staples are refusing to staff the postal counters with unionized, uniformed U.S. Postal Service employees who have the training and experience to properly handle U.S. mail, and who have passed back ground checks and sworn an oath to uphold the highest standards of public service.

“These Staples postal counters are staffed by low-wage, low benefit employees with little training and no credentials to handle U.S. mail. We can do better,” MacKenzie said.

“We are thrilled to have the support of the AFL-CIO in our ongoing struggle to keep the Postal Service Public. Acting together we can save this great public service from being privatized,” said Janice Kelble, Legislative Director, NH Postal Workers Union.

“Our local post offices belong to our towns and to the people of New Hampshire,” said Hainey. “Our members can decide where to buy school supplies, and we won’t shop at Staples until they reconsider this misguided program.”

Who will be the next to join the APWU’s call to Stop Staples.

The national AFL-CIO is a labor federation comprised of 56 unions representing 12.5 million members.

(If your local would like to adopt a resolution in support of the APWU’s Stop Staples campaign and need assistance, contact Janice Kelble at jkelble (at) apwu.org, or just send me the press release and details after it is adopted to NHlabor (at) Gmail.com  ATTN: Stop Staples)

Kids Or Corporations? Which Do We Value More?

Image by Rocksee (Flickr CC)
Image by Rocksee (Flickr CC)

Image by Rocksee (Flickr CC)

From Pennsylvania, this story:

Governor Tom Corbett cut corporate taxes by $1.2 billion.  Then he cut nearly $1 billion dollars from the state’s education budget.  Then he acted shocked when schools from Philadelphia to Pittsburg were forced to close.

Then a child died.

From the AFT: “We don’t know if a school nurse could have saved this young boy. But we do know every child deserves a full-time nurse in his or her school. We do know all parents deserve to know that their child will be safe and his or her most basic needs will be tended to at school. We do know that all Philadelphia children deserve better.”

The boy wasn’t the first child who died.  Twelve-year-old Laporshia Massey died from asthma complications that started while she was at school.  Could her death have been prevented there had been a school nurse on staff?

Of course, Governor Corbett responded by attacking the teachers’ unions – without mentioning the budget hole created by his corporate tax cuts.

Yep, another politician who wants our teachers to make “sacrifices.”

(But not the corporations.  Somehow, they never ask the corporations to make “sacrifices.”)

But it’s not just Pennsylvania.

A friend of mine is an elementary school art teacher, whose classroom is out of supplies and whose budget is out of money.  How do you teach elementary school art without construction paper and glue sticks?

A middle school student complains about seeing her teachers outside of school.  “It’s really embarrassing when you run into your teacher in a restaurant,” she says.  “But it’s even more embarrassing when your teacher is your server at the restaurant.  Why can’t we pay teachers enough that they don’t need a second job to survive?”

All across the country we hear stories of states being forced “make the hard choices” when it comes to budgets.  They try to make us believe that they have no other choice than to cut programs to keep their budgets balanced.  They never mention the possibility of restoring revenues that were given away as tax cuts.

A strong public education is vital to our communities.  A strong education is the foundation of the American Dream.  Public schools provide the tools necessary to lift people up, to find good high paying work, and to get that little house with the white picket fence.  A strong public education system — which I believe should include higher education — is the key to countering America’s poverty problems, too.

But budget cuts have forced some schools to close completely, leaving children and their parents scrambling.  Teacher layoffs have led to larger class sizes, and less time to help students.  Budget cuts are forcing teachers and parents to supply schools with basic necessities like paper, pens, chalk, and paper towels out of their own pockets.

Cuts to school lunch programs mean that too many teachers are reaching into their own pockets to buy lunch for students who would otherwise go hungry.

Yet corporations keep their tax cuts.

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are on the front lines of this fight to protect and preserve our public education system.  AFT is running a new campaign entitled “reclaim the promise” that challenges people to stand up for public education.

Stand up and fight to ensure that children in all communities get access to a high quality education.

Stand up and say “NO” to the government leaders who would rather cut funding to schools than ask businesses to pay their taxes.

Stand up and say: “NO MORE hungry children.”

And “NO MORE children dead, without a school nurse around.”

 

(Special Hat-Tip to my friends Kevin Mahoney and Sean Kitchen at Raging Chicken Press for always keeping the light shining on the atrocity of Governor Corbett’s attack on public schools and public workers.)