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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

She Works Full Time For A Government Contractor, Earns Poverty Wages, And Then Became Homeless

ScreenShot

Privatization leads the race to the bottom.

Report after report continues to show that workers and taxpayer lose when government jobs are contracted out to the lowest bidder.

Last year In The Public Interest released a biting report on the effects of privatizing public jobs.

“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.”

In the report IPTI highlighted First Transit a national contractor for local bus transportation services. First Transit makes their money by slashing wages and employee benefits.

“Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) outsources 47% of its fixed-route bus service to Veolia and First Transit. The general manager of the RTD admits that cost savings from the outsourced service is largely due to the cut in employee compensation. Starting pay for bus drivers employed by RTD is $15.49 per hour. The private contractors offer $12.25 in starting pay.”

“In 2009, the North County Transit District signed a contract with Ohio-based First Transit to take over maintenance and operations for its BREEZE bus line. In an effort to cut costs, the starting wage for a bus driver dropped from $14 to $10.50 an hour.”

“In Washington DC, public Metro workers can make $25 per hour with health and retirement benefits after 8 years of service. Workers for the DC Circulator, operated by First Transit, can make $14 per hour with fewer benefits. According to one worker who started his career as a bus operator with Metro almost 25 year ago, the starting salary is very difficult for a worker to live on in the Washington DC area, and impossible if that worker has a family to support.”

(In my home state of New Hampshire, First Transit is the contractor for the Manchester Transit Authority.)

Below is a very powerful video of a DC bus driver Karen Reed, who works for First Transit.  She talks about how her pay is so low that she cannot afford to pay her bills and feed her daughter.  Reed worked 12-13 hours a day for as many days a week as First Transit would allow and yet she still needed food stamps to keep her daughter from starving. Ultimately she spent three months homeless and still never missed a day of work.

Working full time, living on food stamps, and still ended up homeless. There is something severely wrong with this.

Watch this gut-wrenching video about how privatizing jobs pushes workers into poverty.

FairPoint Is Failing Our Communities

Fire Alarm (Matthew Ragan CC Flikr)

Fire Alarm (Matthew Ragan CC Flikr)

Fire Alarm (Matthew Ragan CC Flikr)

Since October 17 — more than 60 days ago — workers from FairPoint Communications have been out on strike. Nearly 2,000 workers spread across three states have chosen to stand up to a company that is putting profits before the people of New England.

Rather than come to a fair agreement with their employees, FairPoint executives have continued to insist on $700 million in devastating cuts. The workers have made compromises — offering a health care package that would save the company $7 million a year — but the company keeps insisting on a contract that would turn good middle-class jobs into low-wage jobs with meager benefits.

We all want this strike to end. Many of us have friends who work for FairPoint and have not received a paycheck in two months.  FairPoint has also stripped workers of their healthcare coverage, leaving them completely out in the cold.

Is that really how you treat dedicated workers after years and years of service?

There is another reason that FairPoint should end this strike now: the safety of our communities is at risk.

Since the strike began, FairPoint has been hiring replacement workers to help keep services up.  These replacement workers have been a disaster for FairPoint and the communities they serve.

Customers have gone weeks without phone and Internet access, waiting for FairPoint’s replacement workers to fix their service.  A friend told me two weeks after the strike began that she was switching phone companies because she couldn’t wait any longer for FairPoint to come and fix her phone lines.

These outages are not just affecting people’s homes, they are beginning to affect our schools and emergency services. On Dec 10, the principal of the Cape Elizabeth High School in Maine sent an email to parents warning that “for the past couple of weeks…outside callers to the school experience a never-ending, never-answered ringing sound and then are never put into voice mail.”

Imagine if this was your child’s school.  Imagine if there was an emergency and the school administrators could not call out.  Without phone service, building fire alarms would not alert local firefighters of an emergency. This is a serious problem!

It gets much, much worse.  On November 28, a break in a FairPoint line caused a five hour outage in Vermont’s E-911 system. Due to the outage, over 80 emergency calls were missed.

“We saw our state’s 911 system go down two weeks ago, so we know firsthand how serious this crisis has become,” said Mike Spillane, business manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont.

On December 3, the Portsmouth Police Department was forced to have their calls rerouted through the Concord Police Department dispatch, when Portsmouth’s E-911 system failed due to a FairPoint line outage.  On the same day, problems with FairPoint’s network caused issues for the Exeter Police Department and the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Department – for the second time in three months.

We need the skilled, experienced workers from FairPoint back on the job.  We need people with the knowledge and experience to repair these problems before they become worse.

“The executives back in North Carolina don’t have to live with the chaos they’ve caused by attacking their skilled workers here in New England,” said Glenn Brackett, business manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire. “Our 911 systems, our phones and our Internet are failing because their out-of-state contractors can’t do the work.”

For the health and safety of our communities, FairPoint executives need to get back to the bargaining table with the IBEW and CWA and settle this contract dispute now.

Congressional House Members Split On Omnibus Bill

Congress West Front

 

This week has been very busy in Washington as Congress created yet another manufactured crisis with threats to shut down the government over a divisive continuing resolution.

The good news is that, for now, the government will remain open as the House passed a omnibus bill to fund the government for another year. The House also passed a two-day continuing resolution allowing the Senate time to pass the House bill. The omnibus bill created a whirlwind of controversy with numerous amendments that outraged millions of Americans. There is a very small possibility that the Senate will amend or reject the House bill over these controversial amendments.

There are three main amendments that drew the biggest scrutiny and threatened to kill the bill.

1) The Wall Street Rollback

House Republicans added an amendment written by Citi Group stripping regulations on derivatives trading. This is just another handout to the big banks on Wall Street, putting the taxpayers on the hook for billions – or trillions – of dollars.

“TBTF (Too Big To Fail Banks) are now worth $53 trillion,” wrote Liz Iacobucci “Do the math. If there is another Wall Street meltdown; and another bailout; and this next bailout also requires the government to borrow an amount equal to one-third of what TBTF institutions are worth now…”

This provision drew strong opposition from the AFL-CIO:

“The AFL-CIO strongly opposes efforts to make it easier for too-big-to-fail banks to use taxpayer-backed funds to make risky bets in the derivatives markets,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

2) The Pension Reform Amendment

Labor groups were outraged that Republicans added an amendment that would drastically reduce pension benefits to millions of retirees.

“Today we have seen the ugly side of political backroom dealings as thousands of retirees may have their pensions threatened by proposed legislation that reportedly includes massive benefit cuts,” said Jimmy Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “Thousands of hard-working men and women deserve better than having their pensions slashed by a bill that can’t stand on its own merit.”

This provision would allow multi-employer pension plans to reduce payouts to retirees from and average of $50,000 a year to approximately $15,000 a year. The “unfunded liability” is largely due to the massive losses these plans took during the last two Wall Street crashes. But the underfunding will not become an issue for at least another ten years – so there is no need to rush this amendment through on a piece of must-pass legislation.

“Changing ERISA to allow cuts in promised benefits is a ticket to poverty and dependence on government asisstance,” IAM International President R. Thomas Buffenbarger wrote members of Congress last month.

“They’ve sneaked this in,” said Dave Erickson of Isanti, Minnesota. “They don’t have the guts to come out and tell us they’re taking our money. It makes me sick. The pension payment was something I counted on.”

(Read also: Another WIN for Wall Street… and a huge LOSS for the middle class)

3) Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign finance reformers were outraged when the bill was amended to allow millionaires and billionaires to push even more money into political campaigns. Currently a donor can give $32,000 a year to the party of their choice. The Omnibus spending amendment will allow wealthy donors to donate $777,600 per year or $1,555,200 in a two-year cycle.

“Another (amendment) would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices,” stated Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who voted against the Omnibus bill.

Neither party is taking credit for the campaign finance amendment that will benefit both parties. It is a win for the fundraisers – but a loss for working families, who are losing their voice in Washington to big money donors.

In a very close 219-206 vote the Omnibus bill did pass the House. The bill saw many Representatives from both parties oppose their own party leaders with their votes. Progressives were angered to see that 57 Democrats decided to support the Republican bill in spite of the “poison pills” in the bill.

The Congressional Representatives in my home state were split in their votes on the Omnibus bill. Both voiced their support for keeping the government open and stated their opposition to these amendments; however, they reached different decisions when it came time to vote.

“Of course Congress had to keep the government open, but it should have been done by passing a Continuing Resolution that funded the government, but didn’t contain these harmful provisions. I strongly opposed the CROmnibus bill, which would hurt working Americans by allowing big-money bailouts for banks and rolling back already-inadequate campaign finance laws,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

“In 2008, I voted against the bank bailouts and for policies that saved us from a depression. I am deeply concerned that this bill calls for a taxpayer-funded bailout for irresponsible institutions if they get themselves in trouble again. The bailout provision is just one of a number of special-interest victories in this bill. Another would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices. Putting American taxpayers on the hook and gutting campaign finance laws is unacceptable, so I voted no,” concluded Shea-Porter.

“While I remain concerned about certain aspects of the so-called “CRomnibus,” including a troublesome campaign finance provision that increases the donation-limits for party conventions and political parties, I believe that first and foremost it is our responsibility as Members of Congress to work across the aisle to keep the government running,” stated Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Last year’s government shutdown was devastating for Granite State families; it put approximately 800,000 Americans out of work and wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Congress should never allow politics to get in the way of doing what’s right for our constituents at home, so I’m pleased Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to pass this legislation and provide the certainty our country needs moving forward into the new year.”

I have – and will continue to – support Congresswoman Annie Kuster (and the other 57 Democrats); however, I completely disagree with her on this vote. I share her optimism that our elected representatives can put aside their partisan party politics and do what is needed for working families; however, this bill is not one of those opportunities. This bill will decimate what is left of our campaign finance regulations, and put the Wall Street gamblers in charge of our economy once again, using my taxes to hedge their risky bets.

If these 57 Democrats had voted against the bill, the Republicans would have had no choice but to remove these controversial amendments and offer the bill up for another vote. The Republican leadership knew the bill would not pass without Democratic support because the ultra-right wing (67 in all) planned to vote against it as well.

 *               *             *           *          *               *

Editor’s Notes:

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter’s strong leadership and dedication to working families will be greatly missed in Congress over the next two years. I hope she will consider running for the CD01 seat again in 2016, or even run against Senator Kelly Ayotte for a seat in the Senate.

 

There was one other little known amendment that was slipped into the omnibus bill that would reduce the mandatory rest periods for truck drivers – against Transportation Secretary Foxx’s strong opposition. The amendment reversed the required rest period allowing truckers to drive up to 82 hours a week.

Read more about this amendment, on Bloomberg.

AFL-CIO and AFT Oppose The Wall Street Giveaways In House Spending Bill

wall street bull

wall street bull

The Wall Street gamblers are up to their underhanded tricks once again, and they are using their Congressional puppets to do their bidding.  Tonight Republican lawmakers tried to roll back provisions in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act regarding derivative trading.

“The provision that’s about to be repealed requires banks to keep separate a key part of their risky Wall Street speculation so that there’s no government insurance for that part of their business,”  Senator Elizabeth Warren stated on the floor of the Senate. “We all need to stand and fight this giveaway to the most powerful banks in the country.”

Wall Street Gamblers used taxpayer insured derivatives to nearly break our economy and sent us into the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.

“This giveaway to Wall Street would open the door to future bailouts funded by American taxpayers,” said Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. “It has been just six years since risky financial practices put our economy on the brink of collapse. This provision, originally written by lobbyists, has no place in a must-pass spending bill.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement:

At the request of too-big-to-fail banks, the Republican leadership is trying to sneak a provision into a last-minute deal to fund the government that will make it easier for too-big-to-fail banks to put taxpayers on the hook for their risky speculation in toxic derivatives.

We call on members of Congress of both parties who are opposed to too-big-to-fail to stand up to Wall Street and to this harmful roll-back of a critical anti-bailout provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Dodd-Frank forced too-big-to-fail banks to move potentially toxic speculation in derivatives out of their government-insured banks. Wall Street’s friends in Congress are trying to once again put the public on the hook for the most dangerous aspects of the financial system.

Working people were profoundly harmed by the 2008 financial crisis and its continuing aftermath of mass unemployment, falling wages, the mass eviction of working people from their homes, and reduced public investment.  Derivatives were at the center of the crisis – turning a painful decline in home prices into an international financial crisis that still plagues our economy.

The AFL-CIO strongly opposes efforts to make it easier for too-big-to-fail banks to use taxpayer-backed funds to make risky bets in the derivatives markets.

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers vehemently opposed rolling back Wall Street reforms.

“It’s unconscionable that Republicans would take a bill to keep the government open and sneak into it a provision that enables Wall Street to do the same kind of gambling that crashed our economy, required billions in taxpayer bailouts and devastated working people,” said Weingarten. “Why would anyone, instead of helping the middle class with policies that will promote shared prosperity, continue to aid and abet the rich and powerful banks with giveaways that crashed the financial system less than a decade ago? Working people are counting on Congress to do the right thing and reject this gift to Wall Street.”

As you have already heard, the spending bill — including the Wall Street roll-backs — passed the House and is now in the Senate.  If they do not pass it by midnight tonight the government will run out of funding and be forced into yet another shutdown.

Will the Senate strike the provision and send the bill back to the House? Will the Senate pass the spending bill with the Wall Street roll-backs?  If the Senate passes the bill will the President veto bill knowing that it could lead to another government shutdown?

By 1 am on Friday morning all of my questions will be answered.

 

Below is Elizabeth Warren’s entire speech to the Senate floor, it is worth your time.

Help Save Christmas For The Children Of Striking FairPoint Workers

santa-hat
Fairpoint Strikers

Image from CWA 1400

When the IBEW and CWA workers said they were about to go on strike against FairPoint communications, I knew they were in for a long fight. The decision to walk is not an easy one. Workers weigh the decision to walk against their personal financial situation. How long can we afford to go without pay?

A strike can be especially hard on the children of the striking workers. Some older children understand the reasoning behind the strike, others just know that mommy or daddy are not getting paid right now.

Many workers have already begun to inform their children that Christmas is going to be very, very small this year. Buying gifts falls way down on the list of priorities when you are on strike. Just keeping the roof over your head and the food in the fridge become serious issues.

This is where you and I can help save Christmas for hundreds of children.

CWA 1400 has compiled a wish list of gifts on Amazon for the children of CWA 1400 members who are currently on strike.   There are hundreds of items to choose from, and every gift will bring a smile to child’s face this Christmas.

After you purchase the gift through Amazon, have it shipped directly to the CWA Hall at:

CWA Local 1400
Christmas Gifts
155 West Rd
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Help make the holiday season bright by buying a few items for the children of these striking workers.

No gift is to big or to small, and every gift is special. Help to keep the magic of Christmas alive by spending a few dollars buying gifts for children who otherwise won’t be getting anything this year.

How To Help The 1,700 IBEW FairPoint Strikers

IBEW 2320 (NH), IBEW 2327 (ME), and IBEW 2326 (VT) represent over 1,700 workers who are also out on strike against FairPoint. Support for their members comes directly from the union and from the generous donations to their IBEW-CWA Strike Fund.

Click Here to make a donation to the IBEW-CWA Strike Fund. 

Many people have generously supported the strike fund, and we thank you, but I am still going to ask you to make another donation.  These funds are being used to help the families of FairPoint strikers this holiday season.  (For FairPoint IBEW members, contact your local picket captains or you local hall directly for assistance with gifts this Christmas.)

Can you help by skipping that lunch out tomorrow and make a $10 donation to the IBEW-CWA strike fund?

Click Here to make a donation to the IBEW-CWA Strike Fund.

For local New Englanders there are even more ways to help.

If you live near one of the many strike lines, please stop by and show your support. Hold a sign for a while. Bring a box of Joe or a couple of Pizzas to show your support as they stand out in the cold.

The IBEW and CWA are also asking for people to drop off gift cards to local grocery stores and gas stations.

This holiday season dig deep and give a little extra to our brothers and sisters standing up for their rights against a greedy corporation who would rather outsource their jobs, than settle their contract disputes.

 

Direct link to Amazon Wish List:
http://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/3K9M7LYHZI8LL/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_wsv_e0AGub1FVYHWT

Link to IBEW-CWA Strike Fund: http://www.gofundme.com/IBEW-CWA-Strike-Relief

 

President Obama Defies Unions And Fellow Democrats To Push For The TPP

StopTPP

In really crappy news, President Obama announced today that he is willing to defy Democrats and the labor unions that helped elect him to side with Republicans to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Those who oppose these trade deals ironically are accepting a status quo that is more damaging to American workers,” Obama said at the Business Roundtable. “There are folks in my own party and in my own constituency that have legitimate complaints about some of the trend lines of inequality, but are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to opposing TPP, and I’m going to have to make that argument.”

Barking up the wrong tree? Working families do not need another NAFTA that will continue to decimate American manufacturing. Since NAFTA we have lost millions of good high paying manufacturing jobs. The TPP will open the door for more manufacturers to offshore our jobs.

We do need to create a new trade agreement with our partners in the Far East, but we need to make it harder, not easier, for companies to offshore jobs. We also need to change our tax policies that reward corporations who build factories in China.

The biggest problem with opening up trade with China is that, we as Americans’ are buying billions of dollars worth of Chinese made stuff, yet China is not returning the favor. Comparatively China only buys a fraction of the U.S. made products creating a massive trade deficit.

If we want to see an economy that works for everyone again then we need to boost our own manufacturing base, and stop importing everything.

Look at Germany undoubtedly one of the strongest economies in the world, they have a trade surplus. A trade surplus leads to more jobs and higher wages.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership will do nothing for the millions of struggling workers here in the United States. As cheap Chinese products flood U.S. markets, American manufacturers will be forced to lower wages to compete with the slave labor wages in China. The TPP would only benefit the multi-national corporations who are only looking to boost their already obscene profits.

Any trade policy that does not turn our trade deficit to a trade surplus should be rejected. 

Walmart Could, And Should Be Paying $15 An Hour And Would Still Make $10 Billion In Profit

AFT VIDEO Screengrab

Working families are struggling and Walmart workers symbolize the struggles that millions of Americans are facing.  They work as many hours as their employer will give them and they are still living in poverty.

“If you are a man or woman working full-time in this country, it is a crime for you to still be poor,” said Rabbi Michael Feinberg.  “They (Walmart) have a 1-800 number where the workers call up in order for the corporation to help them connect to social benefits in their state, meaning Medicaid and welfare.”

Walmart workers alone cost the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars a year in social programs. The Americans for Tax Fairness “found that a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.

Walmart workers have had enough! They are walking out protesting Walmart’s poverty wages and failure to provide full-time employment.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “That’s why clergy, labor, school teachers, and workers from all over are here (and) all throughout the country to say to Walmart ‘you got to be fair, you got to be just’.”

Walmart is the largest private employer in the country and collected over $17 billion — yes that is with a B–  in profits in 2013. Let’s not forget that the CEO of Walmart collects an annual salary of $23 million.  To break it down further, that is “1,034 times more than the company’s average worker.”  Is this one man worth more than 1,000 workers? Can he stock the shelves of a 1,000 stores?

A 2013 UC Berkeley study showed that increasing wages to $12.00 an hour would add only $3.21 billion to Walmart’s annual labor costs.  That is not even half of what Walmart spent last year buying back their own stock to inflate their stock price.

If Walmart refused to take any cuts to their profit margin they could pass all of their labor costs on the consumer. This is what the Republicans say will cause the price of mile to jump to $10 a gallon!

The average Walmart customer would see an increase of $12.49 per year – about 46 cents per visit – if Walmart executives passed the total cost along, rather than cutting their profits.

Walmart can easily afford to pay workers $15 an hour, hell they could pay them $30 and hour if they really wanted to and still be a hugely profitable corporation.  In fact Fortune Magazine concluded that Walmart could give every worker a 50% increase in pay and still please their Wall Street investors.

The greed of Walmart is unmatched. Collecting millions of dollars a day in profits while asking  associates to donate to other associates so they can have food for Thanksgiving. (Of course they all had to work Thanksgiving too.)  That takes some really big cojones and a complete lack of respect for the people who are making your company a success.

 

Thanks to the American Federation of Teachers for this great video of solidarity for Walmart workers and the members of Making Change at Walmart (OUR Walmart – UFCW). 

Watch the video on YouTube

AFT President Randi Weingarten Is Arrested Protesting Eric Garner Decision — #ICantBreathe

Image via AFTUnion Twitter

As the editor of the New Hampshire Labor News I get dozens of emails every hour. Some are good and some are junk. Then there are mornings, like today, where I get an email that surprises me, and makes me feel proud at the same time.

Somewhere during the night I received an email from Kate Childs Graham a spokesperson for the American Federation of Teachers where she informed me that AFT President Randi Weingarten was arrested in New York City.

This evening in New York City, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten was arrested in an act of civil disobedience while protesting the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case. Building on the long legacy of Jews fighting for justice, the action was organized by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. The organization honored Weingarten’s partner, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, earlier in the evening.”

At first I was shocked, but it did not take long for my surprise to pleasure. I though to myself, man I love this woman. I was immediately proud of Randi for bringing attention to the atrocity in the Eric Garner case.
For those who are unaware of the details of the Eric Garner case, Garner was allegedly selling illegal cigarettes when the police confronted him. After a few moments the police decided they needed to restrain Garner. One officer placed Garner in a chock hold – prohibited by the NYPD – and took Garner to the ground. The other five officers worked to restrain Garner as he called out “I can’t breathe”. Garner past away in a local hospital shortly after the event.
The Medical Examiner is ruled that Garner’s death a homicide yet a grand jury ruled that no charges would be brought up on the police officers involved.

The grand jury ruling sparked massive outrage throughout the country and rightfully so.

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers released the following statement:

“Eric Garner’s death was a tragedy that shocked the conscience of many New Yorkers. “We in the AFT family express our deep condolences to his family. Today, we share in the disappointment of many who question the outcome of the grand jury’s deliberations in this case.”

“On this difficult day, I was in New York, and like other New Yorkers I watched the video over and over and found it difficult to reconcile the grand jury’s decision and the evidence in the video. We must break the silence. That’s what this nonviolent protest by the Jewish community is all about.” 

“The AFT represents educators who tomorrow will be in schools with students. As United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said, “We must be ready to help them work through their emotions and the difficult issues that this decision raises for many of them.”

“We in the AFT are committed to a fair and just society. That is why we are joining Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand, and many in our congressional delegation, in calling for a U.S. Justice Department investigation. 

“While many are understandably angry at today’s decision, we remain mindful of the lessons of the civil rights movement that nonviolent protest is the best way to secure justice. In the coming days and weeks, we urge that that precept be carried out.”

We must face the facts that racial profiling and police brutality against African-American is wrong and something has to change.

I applaud, Randi for taking a stand for social justice, even if that means getting arrested.

Republicans Push Right To Work In Missouri, New Hampshire And Wisconsin Admitting It Will Lower Wages

Right To Work 2

 

Yup, he said it! Missouri Republican State Representative Bill Lant actually admitted what labor advocates have been saying for decades, Right To Work laws reduce wages.

“In the states where right to work was passed recently, the hourly rates may have dropped 2 to 3 dollars an hour, but the amount of days per year that the workers actually got to put in on the job increased dramatically.” (Missouri Digital News)

 

View Progress Missouri’s short video on YouTube: http://youtu.be/iHzMu5CciBc

Proof positive that even the Republicans, who are peddling these ALEC inspired Right To Work laws, know exactly what Right To Work laws will do to workers. The corporations who fund ALEC want to pass Right To Work laws in every state to further suppress already low wages.

Rep. Lant is not the only one who knows that Right To Work laws crush wages. ALEC Co-Chair and Missouri State Senator Ed Emery said, “One of the things that will be advocated by the unions is look at all these right to work states, average wages all go down. Sure they go down…”

View on YouTube: http://youtu.be/zuzI8zzA8dw

This all out assault on worker and our wages is not limited to Missouri. New Hampshire will once again vote to make New Hampshire a Right To Work state. Like many other years in the past, Republicans in the House and Senate will pass a Right to Work bill and Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan will veto it. The only good thing is that everyone knows that the NH GOP does not have enough votes to override the Governor’s veto, but they will undoubtedly try anyway.

Just this week it became obvious that when the new “Wisconsin Right To Work” PAC popped up and began pushing press releases that Wisconsin workers will once again have to fight off Governor Walker and his Koch funded allies.

“The day after Wisconsin Right to Work launched, ALEC member Rep. Chris Kapenga announced that he would be introducing a right to work bill in 2015,” reported Brendan Fischer and Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.

“All year round, we knock on doors in South Central Wisconsin and we ask people what is on their minds,” said Kevin Gundlach, head of the South Central (WI) Federation of Labor. “Never have I heard anyone say ‘we need right to work’. People are worried about low wages, health care, benefits and making ends meet in this economy. Right to work will take us in the opposite direction from where people want to go.”

Right To Work is not about worker freedom it is about crushing workers and the unions who they have chosen to represent them.

Huge hat-tip the Progress Missouri and the Center for Media and Democracy for their great coverage.  
UPDATE:

After posting this article, it was brought to my attention that the NH Senate has two Republican State Senators (Sen Carson and Sen Boutin) who voted against Right To Work in the past.  If they vote against it again this year, the bill would be deadlocked at 12-12.

Enough is enough!

Smashed Piggy Bank Retirement

Smashed Piggy Bank RetirementToday the Nashua Telegraph posted the article, “Pension tension: New research dispels old notion that public employees make less than private sector peers,” which highlights supposedly “new” research focused on public employee pensions.

There are many things wrong with this article and I feel obligated to correct some of these inaccuracies.

Let’s start with the fact that the “new research” they cite was written in 2012, hardly making it breaking news. It was based on surveys taken in 2004 and 2006. The report basically says that while public employees do make less per hour than their private sector counterparts, when you include their retirement benefits public employees make more.

Here are the facts.

1) Research from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) shows that public employees earn 11-12% less than their private sector counterparts. There is no denying that public workers have a better benefits package than private sector employees – however, even when you add in retirement benefits, public sector employees still fall behind private workers by 6-7% overall. Many people choose to work in the public sector for less pay because they want the better benefits and a real retirement plan.

Unfortunately the trend in the private sector is to take away defined benefit pension plans and force workers into 401(k) programs. This makes employees responsible for funding and managing their own retirement plans. Employers are able to reduce their contributions, reducing what they pay for the benefits they offer. This shifts the entire burden onto the employee. This is also why private sector worker are paid slightly better: because they are expected to save that extra pay for their retirement.

2) Public sector employees are better educated than private sector employees. NIRS found that only 23% of private sector employees have a college degree – compared to 48% of public sector employees with a college degree.

This is easy to understand when you think about some of the jobs in the public sector. You have thousands of literal rocket scientists at NASA and thousands of doctors and medical professionals at the Center for Disease Control. Every teacher is required have a college degree. The result is a highly educated public workforce.

3) It is an outright lie to blame public employees for underfunding of the NH Retirement System. The fact is that in 1999, the NHRS was 100% funded – until Wall Street shenanigans started cutting into its value.

As reported by Liz Iacobucci, “the Trust Fund lost 10% of its value in the recession of 2001.” The NHRS Trust Fund continued to decline and hit rock bottom during the 2008 economic meltdown. “It lost another 25% of its value in the 2008 recession,” said Iacobucci. In 2008, the NHRS had more than $5.9 Billion in investments – and when the stock market crashed, that created what many are calling an unfunded liability.

Think tanks often spin the numbers, calculating that if every employee retired today, the trust fund would be short by “X” amount of money. The fact is that new employees replace the retiring workers, and the new employees pay into the Trust Fund. Investment returns are hugely important to the Retirement System: about 75% of NHRS pension benefits are funded by investment returns. The employers’ contributions are – literally – just pennies of each dollar paid.

Wall Street has rebounded nicely from the 2007-08 crash. The stock market has been setting new records for almost 18 months now. The NHRS has recovered much of its lost ground – and as the market continues to grow, so will the NHRS Trust Fund.

I also can’t believe that Charles Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy Studies, is suddenly so concerned about municipal budgets. His conversion is almost laughable. In the article, he says “Your town budget is higher than it would be because the pension system is more expensive than it should be. That’s money that’s not going to hospitals, to universities.”

But the Bartlett Center was one of the biggest proponents of “pension reform” bills during the 2011-12 legislative session – and back then, Arlinghaus didn’t talk about the impact those bills would have on municipalities. Cities and towns are paying more now for employee pensions thanks to the hard work of Arlinghaus and the JBC.

Enough is enough!

We need our elected leaders and these Koch-funded “think tanks” to stop lying to the people. The media pits worker against worker when these think tanks are given unwarranted publicity.

Blaming workers for the consequences of two stock market crashes isn’t “new research” – it’s political spin.

Calling retirement benefits unaffordable – without mentioning the fact that the Legislature underfunded the NHRS for years – isn’t honest “research,” it’s political spin.

And we as workers need to change the conversation away from “look at what he gets” – and start asking, “why am I not getting that?”   We as workers, both public and private need to stop blaming each other, and start demanding better from our employers.

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