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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

Progressive Senators Speak Out Against Provisions Of The Job Killing Trans-Pacific Partnership

Yesterday was a huge day in the US Senate as progressive legislators took to the Senate floor to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A group of eight Senators spoke out in opposition to the TPP and specifically the “fast tracking” of the TPP.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown opened the parade of speeches by saying, “American workers are the most competitive and most productive in the world…. Far too many have been left behind because of wrong-headed trade deals.” Brown continued by saying, “Productivity has gone up 85% while wage have only gone up by 6%.“

(Watch Senator Sherrod Brown’s speech here)

Wages have remained stagnant, as workers have continued to see their jobs shipped overseas with unfair trade agreements. “The last thing we need is another NAFTA,” said Brown.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders spoke at length on the detrimental impacts of these so-called “free trade” agreements.

“We were told that permanent trade agreements with China would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Well not quite,” stated Sanders. Senator Sanders goes on to say that permanent trade agreements with China “has led to the loss of 3 million good paying American jobs.”

When the North American Free Trade Agreement was being discussed they said it would create hundreds of thousands of new American jobs. “NAFTA has led to the loss of 1 million American jobs,” said Sanders. “Since we signed NAFTA the United States has cumulative trade deficit of 8.8 trillion dollars. That is wealth that has left the U.S. and gone overseas.”

The impacts of these trade agreements on American workers have become painfully obvious. Significant job losses and lower wages have been seen in every state across the nation.

Now as the President is asking for “fast track” authority to negotiate a new trade agreement in secret. Senator Sanders highlighted the fact that none of the major news networks are talking about the TPP and the potential impacts on American workers.

The TPP is just a new easy way for corporations to shut down in America and to send jobs abroad,” said Sanders. “It is estimated that the US will lose over 100,000 American jobs.”

“We must create a new set of trade policies that work for the ordinary American worker and not for large corporations and big campaign donors,” demanded Sanders. “It is time to stand up and say enough is enough. This country is now in a major race to the bottom.”

Watch Senator Sanders Speech

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley also highlighted the impacts of these so-called free trade agreements. Free trade agreements have led to “loss of 50,000 factories and the loss of five million manufacturing workers.”

One of the most frustrating parts of this proposed trade agreement is that the details are a closely held secret. Negotiations are being conducted behind closed doors without input from the public.

Senator Merkley wants to ensure that any new trade agreements put American workers first.

“Let us make sure that we create a standard for the consideration of future trade deals. A standard that is whether this deal will create good paying jobs in America, will expand prosperity to the middle class in America, or will it do the opposite.” (Senator Merkley’s Video 3:45)

However the biggest opponent to the TPP is Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Senator Warren. “I Senator Elizabeth liz Warrencome to the floor today to ask a fundamental question, who will benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership?”

Senator Warren took an in-depth look at one of the leaked provisions of the TPP the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Companies bring their claims to a group of foreign arbitrators instead of taking their claims through the U.S. court system. The ISDS provision basically allows foreign companies to bypass our court system therefore bypassing any or all of our laws.

“This provision fundamentally tilts the playing field further in favor of big multi-national corporations, worse yet it undermines U.S. sovereignty,” said Warren.

“If a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations wants to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage it can use ISDS,” explained Warren. “If an American labor union believes the Vietnamese companies are paying slave labor wages in violation of trade commitments, the union has to try to wind itself through the Vietnamese courts. Good luck with that.”

After explaining how ISDS was created after WWII, Senator Warren stated, “I don’t know if these justifications made sense then, but they sure don’t make sense now.

“The use of ISDS is on the rise,” said Warren. “From 1959 to 2002 there were fewer than 100 claims worldwide. In 2012 alone there were 58 cases.”

Warren continues by laying out examples of cases that were brought forward to the ISDS:

  • A French company sued Egypt, because Egypt raised its minimum wage
  • A Swedish company sued Germany because Germany decided to phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster
  • A Dutch company sued the Czech Republic because the Czech Republic failed to bail out a bank that the Dutch company partially owned
  • Philip Morris is trying to use ISDS to stop Uruguay from implementing new tobacco regulations aimed a reducing domestic smoking rates

Progressives are not the only ones who are opposing the ISDS provision in the TPP. The head of CATO Institute Trade Policy said, [ISDS] “Raises serious questions about democratic accountability, sovereignty, checks and balances, and the separation of power… These concerns about ISDS are ones the Libertarians and other free market advocates should share.”  (Read more from the CATO Institute)

We must put a stop to this disastrous free-trade agreements that will ship more of our jobs overseas and further depress our wages.

“Progressives should oppose ISDS because it allows big multi-nationals to weaken labor and environmental rules,” concluded Warren. “So long as TPP includes Investor State Dispute Settlement the only winners will be international corporations.”

(Watch Senator Warren’s epic takedown of the ISDS)

There were addition speeches yesterday and you can check them out thanks to the Communication Workers of America.

(For more information go to StopTheTPP.Org)

 

 

 

Why We Need More People Like Senator Sanders Running For Office, Even If They Don’t Win

Republicans and Democrats Logos (by DonkeyHotey FLICKR)

(Imageby DonkeyHotey FLICKR)

Can you believe it? We are only half-way through February of 2015, and we are already talking about the 2016 Presidential Elections.

Politics is the un-official sport of the Granite State. We take great pride in holding the First in the Nation Primary. This brings candidates from across the country to our quaint little state to hold town hall style events and press the flesh with local Granite Staters in an attempt to win us over.

As we get closer to the February 2016 primary, a growing number of politicians will come to New Hampshire preaching about what they are going to do once we elect them to the White House.

The Republican side of the primary is a complete free-for-all. There are so many people attempting to get into the race that I have lost count. Many of them have already been hitting the streets of New Hampshire and trying to gain notoriety at the same time. Traditionally if you can win New Hampshire, you can win the party nomination. It worked for Mitt Romney in 2012.

The Republicans are a mess right now. Each candidate is trying to rally their base by showing that they are the farthest to the right of any of the other possible nominees. It is a race to see who can be the most extreme and win over the Tea Party base in New Hampshire.

Senator Bernie Sanders (image by StumpSource on FLIKR)

Senator Bernie Sanders (image by StumpSource on FLIKR)

On the Democratic side, the bench is a little lacking. There is Hillary Clinton, who has not announced that she is running, even though everyone knows she is. There is Senator Bernie Sanders from the great state next door, Vermont. I love Senator Sanders — but let’s face it, nobody thinks he can win the primary or the general election. That is not why he is putting his name in the hat (more on this in a minute). There have also been few Democratic governors, like Martin O’Malley from Maryland, making trips to NH over the last few months. And of course there is Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts. She has repeatedly said she is not running yet they are trying to “draft” her into the primary. (Personally, I think that Senator Warren should stay in the Senate and continue her “kick ass and take no prisoners” agenda.)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (image by Ninian Reid FLIKR)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (image by Ninian Reid FLIKR)

Why are people trying to pull Senator Warren into the primary? Why is it so important that Senator Sanders push back against Hillary Clinton in a Presidential primary? It is all about the messaging!

People are so enamored with Senator Warren because she embodies everything that progressive Democrats hold dear. The same is true for Senator Sanders. This is why are they so popular nationwide. Progressive values are what the majority of Americans want, regardless of party affiliation, and progressive values win elections. Just listen to Congressman Mark Pocan from Wisconsin talk about how those who shied away from progressive values ended up losing their seats.

(Watch the video on YouTube)

Some of the progressive values that help to win elections and move America forward:

  • Increasing the minimum wage
  • Ensuring that every American has access to quality healthcare
  • Protecting the rights of workers, including the right to join and form unions
  • Protecting women’s reproductive rights
  • Reducing income inequality and holding the Wall Street Gamblers accountable for what they did to our economy
  • Reducing the tax burden on working families and ensuring that millionaires and billionaires are paying their fair share in taxes
  • Investing in our infrastructure and creating jobs

Polling data confirms that the majority of Americans support Senator Warren and Senator Sanders on these issues. People overwhelmingly agree with these core progressive values.

Again, I do not think Senator Sanders will win the NH primary or the nomination – but he will succeed in forcing both parties to address issues like raising the minimum wage, protecting workers rights, protecting women’s rights, expanding Social Security, and addressing the vast income inequality that is plaguing America. Without him in the race, nobody will be pushing these issues.

Hopefully Hillary, or whoever the Democratic nominee is, will learn a little something from Bernie and Liz before they go head-on with the Republican nominee.

Because if the eventual Democratic nominee hews to a pro-corporate agenda – why even bother getting out to vote?

In a contest between a Republican and a Democrat-In-Name-Only, voters are going to pick the “real” Republican, every time.

The Real Republican Agenda To Pass Right To Work In NH

No Right To Work

Why is the NH Republican Party pushing so hard for their so-called “Right To Work” legislation?

Is it about jobs? Hardly. It has been proven time and time again that passing “Right To Work” legislation is not the magic job-creator that the Republicans claim it to be. If passing “Right To Work” had some type of magic to create jobs, then “Right To Work” states would have the lowest unemployment rates. Instead, the majority of “Right To Work” states have the highest unemployment rates in the entire country.

Is it about worker freedom? Again, this another myth promoted by Republicans who say that no worker should be “forced” to join a union to obtain a job. This lie is brought out every time the NH Legislature discusses “Right To Work” legislation. Fact: Nobody is forced to join a union. All unions who have agency fee provisions in their contracts have negotiated and agreed to this clause with their employer. Many employers have good relationships with their unions, and want to avoid the workplace tensions that “freeloading” causes. Passing “Right To Work” actually takes away the freedom of employers to negotiate their own collective bargaining agreements with their unions.

Is it about unions taking dues money and using it for political purposes? Nope, that’s not it either. Federal law already covers this: agency fees can only be used to negotiate and administer the collective bargaining agreement. Union members can – if they choose – donate to their union’s political action fund; and the union can use those monies for campaign donations. The difference is: political money is freely given by members and completely separate from dues and agency fee money.

If it’s not about any of those things, what else could it be about? Looks like pushing “Right To Work” is about funding NH Republican political campaigns.

Political blogger William Tucker found that the National Right To Work Committee “funneled over $25,000 in out-of-state campaign contributions to five New Hampshire senatorial candidates [in 2014] in an apparent attempt to shift the balance of power in favor of right-to-work legislation.” (Tuck breaks down exactly how the money was brought in by the NRTWC and pushed out through multiple different state level PACs.)

And the National Right to Work Committee directly gave $3,000 to Bill O’Brien in 2013, $10,000 to the House Republican Victory PAC of NH in 2012, and $1,000 to District 6 Sen. Sam Cataldo in 2012.

AFSC_GUI_Article_10

Governing Under The Influence (Courtesy Image)

Yes, pushing “Right To Work” legislation helps the NH Republican Party fuel their fundraising.

Yes, this is what our “democracy” has come to, these days: looking for the profit motive for pushing legislation. That’s why so many people are getting involved in the movement to overturn Citizens United. The member organizations of the Democracy Initiative are leading the way, nationally. Here in New Hampshire, the American Friends Service Committee’s Governing under the Influence project and Ben Cohen’s Stamp Stampede are working to make Big Money an issue in the presidential primaries.

“Right to Work” has been rejected by the NH Legislature – time and time again – since the 1970s. Year after year, it’s the same-old, same-old: employers getting up and testifying to the Legislature that they (still) don’t want their hands tied when it comes to dealing with their employees.

Yet politicians like Rep Bill O’Brien keep reintroducing the bill, using the same old tired arguments.

No, it’s not about any of those repeated, repeated rationales.

It’s about fundraising.

And that’s really, really sad.

 

An Argument For Eliminating The Tipped Minimum Wage

(Screenshot College Humor YouTube)

(Screenshot College Humor YouTube)

Every morning millions of Americans wake up and get ready to go to work as servers in restaurants, hoping that today will be a busy day, and that they will have extra generous patrons who tip very heavy. These workers must rely on the generosity of strangers because their employer only pays them $2.13 an hour.   That is right servers are paid far below minimum wage, and 43 states approve of this.

The restaurant industry is one of the fast growing markets in the entire country bringing in over $600 billion dollars annually, and that trend does not appear to be stopping any time soon. Even during the Great Recession the restaurant industry continued to grow by an average of 9%.

This thriving industry relies on the fact that they can legally pay workers below minimum wage, which in most cases barely covers their taxes. The time has come to end this antiquated idea that servers should not be covered by the same wage requirements as every other employer.

Would you pay an extra dollar for that Chicken Parm if you knew that the server was being paid properly even before your tip? Would you even notice if they increased all their prices a dollar? Did you notice that they most like already raised their prices from this time last year? Servers in California are paid at least $8.00 an hour and people still go out to eat regularly.

Before you freak out over the idea of eliminating the tipped minimum wage, consider these facts from the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United):

  • Above-average employment growth occurs in the seven states that have already abolished the subminimum wage (Alaska, Montana, Nevada, Minnesota, California, Oregon, and Washington)
  • Per capita restaurant sales increase as the tipped minimum wage increases. Growth in tipped restaurant worker as a percentage of total state employment tends to be higher in the states that pay tipped workers above $5 per hour, and is higher still in states that have abolished the subminimum wage.
  • Eliminating subminimum wage does not decrease employment. In fact, the restaurant industry projects employment growth over the next decade of 10.5% in the seven states without a tipped subminimum wage, compared to 9.1% in states with a subminimum wage
  • Since 2009, tipped restaurant workers have grown in importance as a percentage of total employed workers in $2.13 states, states where tipped worker wages are higher than $5.00, and states without subminimum wage—but growth of tipped restaurant workers as a percentage of total employment is highest in states without subminimum wage.

Eliminating the tipped minimum wage would boost our local economy and help lift millions of people out of poverty. Here in New Hampshire, Representative Jackie Cilley has proposed a bold new minimum wage increase that would eliminate the tipped minimum wage and raise the floor to $14.25 over the next three years.

Enough of my facts and statistics about the tipped minimum wage, watch this hilarious video from College Humor that shows exactly why we need to eliminate the tipped minimum wage.

View the video on YouTube

Warning: Language!

One The Biggest Problems Facing Our Local Economy And You Probably Never Even Knew About It

Screen shot 2015-01-18 at 5.14.33 PM

Image is a screen shot from the video below. Credit to NERCC

One of the biggest problems facing our economy is hardly being discussed in Washington or in many of the State Capitols throughout the U.S.  Millions of workers are working 50-60 hours a week, nights and weekends, and being paid under the table or in cash to avoid labor laws, overtime, and taxes.

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters have been fighting the mis-classification of workers for many years now.  Immigrant workers are being classified as independent contractors allowing their employer to avoid paying taxes, having to provide workman’s compensation insurance, and paying drastically reduced wages.

Screen shot 2015-01-18 at 5.15.42 PM

Julio Beldi Image is a screen shot from the video below. Credit to NERCC

Take Julio Beldi who has been working in construction for many years.  Now Julio is a member of the the Carpenters Union local #33, but prior to that he worked for many unscrupulous employers throughout New England.  In the video below, Julio told tells the story of how he was working on the new VA hospital in Rhode Island.  He would go weeks and even months without being paid.  He said he was paid $18 an hour, even though he should have been paid close to the $50 per hour Prevailing Wage for the job.  National Drywall violated countless labor laws, and federal mandates on this VA hospital alone.

The problem goes much deeper. When “sub-contractors” are violate the law by illegally hiring workers under the table or off the books it hurts everyone.  It hurts the worker who is not being paid fairly. It puts the worker’s safety at risk as the fail to meet OSHA requirements and provide workman’s compensation insurance. It hurts the community because it depresses the wages of all workers, and cheats the community from the taxes they are owed.

Screen shot 2015-01-18 at 5.15.02 PMThe only people who are getting anything from this situation are the unscrupulous employers who are cheating the system.  The bigger problem is that we know that this happens all the time, but which “sub-contractors” are responsible creates a bigger legal nightmare for these workers.

Personally I think that the General Contractor should be responsible for every sub-contractor he hires.  If the GC hires National Drywall who is caught violating the law, then both would be liable.  This would ensure that the GC would ensure that all sub-contractors are following the law.

Screen shot 2015-01-18 at 5.15.22 PM

Julio is much happier now that he has found his home with the Carpenters Union.  There is no way of knowing how much money Julio has lost out on because his employers were cheating the system.  Julio knows that will not happen to him, ever again.

Listen to Julio’s story in this great video from the NERCC!

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

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)

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

 

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

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

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