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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

USDA Rejects Petition To Increase The Speed Of Poultry Process Plants Lines

Photo: Earl Dotter/Oxfam America

Today it was announced that the USDA decided to reject the petition from the National Chicken Council (NCC) to eliminate line speed limits at poultry plants.

Among the challenges that workers face inside poultry plants in the US, the speed of the processing line stands out. The maximum speed has doubled since 1979 (from 70 birds per minute to 140 today), and now poses myriad dangers to workers and consumers.  As hundreds of birds roll down the processing line, workers need to execute hundreds of thousands of motions per shift, which often results in injuries and illnesses. At the same time, it’s increasingly difficult to execute effective inspections of the birds.

When the NCC petitioned the US Department of Agriculture, once again, to lift the cap on line speed altogether (whereas the previous attempt had been an increase to 175 bpm), the poultry worker coalition sprang into action and organized consumers, advocates, workers, and experts to oppose the move. Of the more than 100,000 comments on the petition, all but a scant handful opposed the request.

Thousands of UFCW members who work in poultry plants sent comments to the USDA about the dangers of this petition. The UFCW also sent letters in October and December of 2017 to the USDA that highlighted how risky the NCC petition to eliminate line speeds would be for both workers and consumers. There are more than 250,000 poultry workers in America and 70,000 of them are members of the UFCW union family.

Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union released the following statement:

“This decision is a victory for hard-working poultry workers who hold one of the most dangerous and difficult jobs in America, and the consumers who depend upon them to provide chicken that is safe to eat. However, we remain concerned that poultry companies can request line speed waivers for individual plants.

“In addition to putting poultry workers at greater risk of injury, eliminating line speeds puts consumers at risk by making it more difficult for both federal inspectors and quality control workers to properly check birds for contamination.

“It was unbelievable to see major poultry industry groups ignore these well-known risks and lobby the USDA to eliminate line speeds.”

Last year, Oxfam a global anti-poverty and social justice organization released a blistering report highlighting the horrible treatment of poultry processing plant workers.

“…poultry industry workers are “routinely denied breaks to use the bathroom” in order to optimize the speed of production. In some cases, according to the group, the reality is so oppressive that workers “urinate and defecate while standing on the line” and “wear diapers to work.” In others, employees say they avoid drinking liquids for long periods and endure considerable pain in order to keep their jobs,” wrote the Washington Post.

Oxfam praised the news that the USDA rejected the request to speed up the processing line.

“While we welcome this victory for the workers across the country, we also sound a note of caution about the potential for individual plants to ask to raise the speed in their operations,” says Minor Sinclair, director of Oxfam’s US Domestic Program. “Workers report that they’re already working at breakneck speed – slicing and cutting 40 or 50 birds per minute. They’re exhausted and hurting, and they worry about the problems they see in the food supply.”

New Hampshire House Gets A Second Chance To Ban Conversion Therapy Saving Thousands Of LGBT Teens

New Reports Shows Tens Of Thousands Of Teens Subjected To Conversion Therapy
By The Time They Reach 18

On February 7th, the New Hampshire House will get another chance to do the right thing and ban “conversion therapy” in New Hampshire.  The bill, HB 587, first came up on January 9th, where Speaker Chandler voted to break the tie and kill the bill.  However, after the vote, Rep. Henry Parkhurst of Winchester called for a reconsideration vote.  Because Parkhurst voted in the majority, he can ask for a reconsideration vote, implying he has changed his mind and wants another chance to vote.

Previously, we have talked about the horrors of “conversion therapy” and laid out a number of reasons why it should be banned.

“Conversion therapy is a dangerous and discredited practice that is aimed at young people in order to change their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark.  “This harmful practice uses shame, rejection, and psychological abuse and can lead to depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, and even suicide.”

“It is not therapy but child abuse that can lead to suicide; and should be illegal,” said Mo Baxley, Former Executive Director of New Hampshire Freedom To Marry.

“Research suggests the treatment can worsen feelings of self-hatred and anxiety, because it encourages people to fight or hate a sexual orientation that can’t be changed [5 Surprising Facts About Gay Conversion Therapy],” wrote Tia Ghose for LiveScience.

This week, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law released a shocking new report that showed that 20,000 adolescents between 13 and 17 will undergo conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before the age of 18.  Another 57,000 will undergo conversion therapy from a religious or spiritual advisor.

The researchers also found that approximately 698,000 LGBT adults in the U.S have received conversion therapy at some point in their lives, including about 350,000 who received it as adolescents.

“Many professional health associations and the public support ending the use of conversion therapy on LGBT youth,” said Christy Mallory, the state and local policy director at the Williams Institute and lead author of the study. “Our research shows that laws banning conversion therapy could protect tens of thousands of teens from what medical experts say is a harmful and ineffective practice.”

A number of prominent national professional health associations — including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others — have issued public statements opposing the use of conversion therapy and several have called on Congress and state legislatures to pass laws that ban the practice.

For more than a century, health care professionals and religious figures have used a range of techniques to attempt to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, talk therapy is the most commonly used therapy technique. However, some practitioners have also used “aversion treatments,” such as inducing nausea, vomiting, paralysis or applying electric shocks.

“With such a large number of teens at risk of conversion therapy,” said study author Kerith Conron, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and research director at the Williams Institute, “we must ensure that families, faith communities and service providers have accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity and work to reduce stigma and promote acceptance of LGBT youth and their families.”

Lets hope that the New Hampshire House can get it right this time and ban this horrific practice, once and for all.

New Bill To Create A Death Benefit For School Employees Killed In The Line Of Duty

In 2017, approximately 40 people per day died from gun related injuries according to a report from Gun Violence Archives. Unfortunately this is the world we live in.  This is why children practice “lock down” procedures in school in the event of an armed gunman gaining access to the school grounds.

Today we are not here to discuss how we need to do something about the growing gun violence problem in America: today we want to talk a new bill being pushed in the New Hampshire Legislature to extend death benefits to school employees who are killed in the line of duty.

This week, the NH House Committee for Executive Departments and Administration held a public hearing on HB 1415.  The bill is would simply extend the same death benefit given to police officers, killed in the line of duty, to school employees.

Doug Ley, President of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT-NH) testified before the committee on why this bill should be passed.  He cited that since Columbine in 1996, there has been 202 school shootings that resulted in deaths of “164 students, 44 educators & school employees, and at least 3 security/police personnel.”

The American Federation of Teachers, represented the five teachers at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut. Those educators and aide’s were honored as heroes for doing all they could to protect the lives of the children in their care.

Just one example was special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy, 52, a 14-year veteran of the school, was found dead, holding the lifeless body of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley.

“We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died, but was wrapped in the arms of his amazing aide, Anne Marie Murphy,” the Hockley family said in a statement. “Dylan loved Mrs. Murphy so much and pointed to her picture on our refrigerator every day.”

These heroes should be given the same death benefit as any police officer killed in the line of duty.


Below is the full written testimony of AFT-NH President Douglas Ley Testimony In Support of HB 1415: Death Benefit for School Employees Killed in Line of Duty

Thank you Mr. Chairman and thank you to the Committee for providing me this opportunity to testify in favor of HB 1415, establishing a death benefit for a school employee killed in the line of duty.

My name is Douglas Ley, and I am one of the members from Cheshire County, District 9, representing the towns of Dublin, Harrisville, Jaffrey, and Roxbury. I am also president of American Federation of Teachers-NH, and I have filed all the requisite paperwork with the Legislative Ethics office and intend to participate in the discussion of HB1415.

As we know, NH Statutes currently authorize a death benefit of $100,000 for families of police officers and firefighters killed in the performance of their duties. That is a good thing, and I am proud to have helped pass that legislation. Today, we consider establishing a similar death benefit for the families of school employees killed in the line of duty, and on behalf of AFT-NH I am here to voice our support for this proposed statutory addition.

Dr. Donna Decker is my colleague at Franklin Pierce University and an expert on school shootings, a subject on which she has written and spoken. I asked her the other day just how many such incidents have occurred since the infamous shootings at Columbine High School back in 1999. According to her research, there have been 202 school shootings in the US since Columbine, or an average of 11 shootings per year over the past 18 years at all levels of education. Not all are mass shootings, and not all involve fatalities, but even so, the numbers are staggering—164 students killed, 44 educators & school employees, and at least 3 security/police personnel. Besides Columbine, the most infamous such shooting occurred in Newtown CT, my former hometown (I graduated Newtown High School in 1976)—20 students and six school personnel were cold-heartedly murdered. Thankfully, NH has thus far escaped this phenomenon and I hope that will always be the case, but it is best to be prepared for the worst.

As a negotiator, I have helped negotiate a dozen school personnel contracts. In reviewing them, I find that all include small life insurance policies for the personnel, ranging from $7500 to $30,000, paid for by the Districts. In a few cases, there are also provisions for death benefits in the form of small cash buyouts of unused sick days. None of these benefits, however, come close to the $100,000 benefit proposed here and none of these current benefits would even remotely compensate for the anguish and loss suffered by a family when a school employee is killed in the line of duty.

In my work as a negotiator, I often work with school secretaries. These are the personnel on the front-line of school security, authorizing or denying entry to individuals seeking to enter schools. Their work is often highly-demanding, pulling them in multiple directions at the same time, but the one area about which they always express deep concern is their ability to maintain school security. Like the secretaries, para-professionals, food-service workers, and teachers all tell me over and over that their greatest concern is the safety and security of the children for whom they take responsibility. They wish there was no need for school safety provisions, but they know the world in which they live and work, and they welcome the trainings and drills on how to handle life-or-death school emergencies.

Allow me to close with the following thought. We entrust our children to teachers, para-educators, and all the professionals who work in our public schools. Those school personnel take that charge very seriously, and are ready for whatever emergencies arise. I hope there is never a school shooting incident in NH, but if there is, I am quite certain that school personnel will do all they can to preserve the lives and protect the safety of the children in their charge. Because of the trust and the heavy burden we place upon these secretaries, teachers, para-educators, and all others, providing a $100,000 death benefit to their families in the event of death in the line of duty is right. It can never make up for a family’s loss, but it can provide some aid and assistance and is tangible evidence of the public’s recognition and regard for the heavy responsibilities we place on those in our public schools. Let us do the right thing, and pass HB1415 to the House floor with a recommendation of OTP.

 

Don’t Be Fooled By Walmart’s Promotional Stunt About Increasing Wages

This week the nations largest employer made national news by announcing they would raise their minimum wage to $11 an hour and provide a $1,000 bonus to 1.5 million American employees. They say that this move to increase wages and provide employee bonuses is all thanks to the Republican Tax Plan that President Trump signed into law this month.

However a closer review of this new announcement shows that it is all a publicity stunt.  They are also using the publicity stunt to cover up the news that they are closing 60 Sam’s Club stores across the country.

Making Change at Walmart director Randy Parraz explains what is happening in his statement: 

“While pay raises are usually a good thing, this is nothing but another public relations stunt from Walmart to distract from the reality that they are laying off thousands of workers and the ones who remain will continue to receive low wages. The fact is that Walmart is not permanently investing the estimated $2 billion it will receive annually from Trump’s tax giveaway to its workers – it is keeping almost all of it. This announcement is attempt to repair a crumbling image, while ignoring thousands of its workers who struggle year after year to pay their bills or depend on government assistance.

Once you crack the veneer, you see that Walmart’s wage increases does not raise hourly wages for many of its workers. Hourly wages for those workers making above $11 dollars will essentially stay the same. Workers will get a one-time bonus or raise, but not both.

Instead of taking Walmart at its word, we would hope that the Members of Congress, civic and state leaders, and the media, ask Walmart for actual facts about what this means for workers. Empty words will not lift Walmart workers out of poverty, an actual living wage will.”

Looking deeper into Walmart’s own statement you can clearly see that this is nothing more that publicity stunt to continue the myth that tax cuts somehow help corporations fuel wage increases.

The Wage Increase

Walmart’s press release further explains how this pay increase will into effect.

An increase in Walmart’s starting wage rate to $11 an hour, effective in the Feb. 17, 2018, pay cycle. The change is in addition to wage increases already planned for many U.S. markets in the coming fiscal year. The increase applies to all hourly associates in the U.S., including stores, Sam’s Clubs, eCommerce, logistics and Home Office.

Facing backlash over low-wages and protests from OUR-Walmart, Walmart announced they would raise wages from $7.25 to $9 in 2015 and raise them again to $10 in Feb of 2016.  Logic would dictate that a pay raise to $11 was overdue at this point.  Not to mention that Target, one of Walmart’s biggest rivals, announced last September that they would be raising their wages to $11 in January of 2018 and would continue to push wages up to $15 by 2020.

The Bonuses

Praising the newly passed tax cuts, Walmart said they would be giving out $1,000 bonuses to their “associates.”  As Parraz already explained, those bonuses are along going to the people who will not be getting a wage increase.  The devil is in the details.

“A one-time bonus benefiting all eligible full and part-time hourly associates in the U.S. The amount of the bonus will be based on length of service, with associates with at least 20 years qualifying for $1,000.”

So to qualify for one of Walmart’s generous bonuses, you would have to be a full-time employee, making more than $11 already and have at least 20 years with the company.  Since less than 50% of Walmart’s employees are full-time, combined with the high turnover of the retail industry, it really makes you wonder how many of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees will even see that bonus.

The Cost

There is no denying that raising wages and giving away bonuses is going to hit Walmart’s bottom line. But when you put it into perspective, it will not hurt them as much as you might think.

“This increase in wages to associates will take effect in February and will be approximately $300 million incremental to what was already included in next fiscal year’s plan. The one-time bonus represents an additional payment to associates of approximately $400 million,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart president and CEO.

That is $900 million dollars in payouts. Yes, that is a lot of money.  It looks like a ton of money.  However when you take into account that Walmart did $482 billion dollars in revenue last year and collected $13.6 billion in profits. $900 million is less than 10% of their profits. The wage increase would only be about 3% of their profits.

Maybe we should also take into account that in October of 2017, Walmart used $20 billion of its own profits to “buy back” their own stocks to artificially increase their stock prices.

Joe Ciolli from Business Insider wrote:

“Walmart is sweetening the pot for shareholders before its annual meeting, using the oldest trick in the book.

The retailer on Tuesday morning announced that it had authorized up to $20 billion in stock buybacks over the next two years. That’s a massive amount of capital to be allocated for repurchases, which are frequently used by companies to boost shares during times devoid of other positive catalysts.”

According to our research, that $20 billion dollars would do a lot for Walmart workers.

Layoffs

On January 12, the day after Walmart announced they would be increasing wages, they announced that they would be closing 63 (or 10%) of their Sam’s Club stores across the country.

“We know this is difficult news for our associates and we are working to place as many of them as possible at nearby locations,” said John Furner, president and CEO of Sam’s Club.

So far this year, Sam’s Club has closed two stores in my area and kicked 250 people out of a job.  Given both of the stores had about 125 employees, it would be safe to assume that nearly 8,000 workers are going to lose their jobs with the closing of these 63 stores.

The Tax Cuts

Walmart is praising the new Republican Tax Cuts for their ability to raise wages. Of course they neglect to mention that they spent millions lobbying Congress to oppose a minimum wage increase and to lower their corporate taxes.

The corporation will shed an estimated $2.2 billion dollars from their annual tax bill next year thanks to Republicans.  That cuts their tax bill by nearly 40%.  I won’t even go into how much the Walton Family is worth and how this tax bill will greatly benefit them. I will say that the Walton Family saved an estimated $670 million just because their income comes from dividends paid out from their Walmart stock holdings which are taxed at a drastically reduced rate compared to “regular income.”

So you see, Walmart the corporation is going to pocket $1.8 billion dollars this year in tax savings even after they spend $300 million to raise wages in their promotional stunt.

Do not be fooled by Walmart’s newly found generosity. They were going to raise wages anyway but now they can use this tax cut as a promotional stunt at the same time.  The Walmart executives are going to use this Tax Scam to line their pockets and continue to pay their low wages. Everyday.


After this post was first published, Walmart announced that they would be laying off an additional 3,500 “Co-Managers” and replacing them with lower paid “assistant manager” position.  Those who are being laid off are encouraged to apply for the new position.

Talk about a slap in the face.

Read more from ThinkProgress


Update: Original publication had the incorrect profit numbers. 

 

Proposed New Law Could Require Up To 3 Months Rent Before Moving In

Renting an apartment is not easy.  Some places require first month’s rent and a security deposit equal to a month’s rent before you can even move in.  This is a lot of money.  The New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness reported that the median fair market rent for a two bedroom apartment is $1259 a month.  This means you would have to put up $2500  just to move in.

For the landlord, the security deposit is to ensure that the tenant leaves the rental in the same shape as when they first moved in.  If the tenant leaves the rental in good shape the renter would get their security deposit returned to them.  In most cases the landlord uses the security deposit to clean and freshen up the apartment and returns the unused amount to the tenant. In many cases, tenants never see their security deposits returned to them after the leave.

A group of New Hampshire legislators is looking to make it harder for people to rent and more profitable for landlords by increasing the amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit.

Introduced this week, House Bill 1485, would allow landlords to collect a security deposit equal to two month’s rent up front as a condition of the rental agreement.  Currently the law only allows for a maximum of one month’s rent.  With this change a renter could be forced to come up with $3,700 up front to move into their new apartment.

This is an exorbitant amount of money for most people.

According to a  2015 study, “62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts and 21% don’t even have a savings account.”  They continued by saying “62% of Americans have no emergency savings for things such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair.”

If if the average American cannot come up with $500 dollars for an emergency repair on their car, how are they going to come up with $3,700 for a downpayment on an apartment?  This also speaks to the fact that we need to raise the minimum wage to a real living wage, but I digress.

This bill is unnecessary and spiteful. Even paying two months rent up front is hard enough, making them pay three is obscene.  Making it a “security deposit” that they may or may not get back is even worse.  One month’s rent for a security deposit is more than ample. If the tenant does more damage than the security deposit covers, take them to court.

The legislature should kill this bill.

Attack On Voting Rights To Come Up For Vote In NH Senate Next Week

For months now we have talked about the Republican attack on voting rights as they pushed HB 372 through the New Hampshire House. The bill would redefine “domicile” status for voting purposes, effectively forcing registrants to declare residency upon registering to vote, chilling the right to vote for college students in New Hampshire. The bill would also require that anyone who votes in New Hampshire legally change their residency to New Hampshire and would be required to pay all the fees associated with changing their residency.

On January 3rd, the New Hampshire State Senate is expected to discuss and vote on HB 372.  Voting rights advocates are encouraging everyone to attend the Senate session.

HB 372 Legislative Vote
Wednesday January 3rd, 9:15am
State House, Concord
RSVP via Facebook 

College students and voting rights groups have been outspoken in their opposition to this bill from the beginning.

“HB 372 serves one purpose: to drastically decrease student turnout on campuses across New Hampshire,” said University of New Hampshire sophomore Isabella Arms. “Thousands of students, like me, move to New Hampshire every year to learn and contribute to our communities, with the hope of staying here to start our careers. However every year, Republicans in Concord make it their priority to disenfranchise the exact group of people they need to attract and retain in order for our state to grow and thrive. The state benefits from students like us when it means getting more federal money or electoral clout, but they don’t think we count when it comes to voting for local issues that affect us, including preventing tuition hikes or investing in workforce training.”

“Senator Sanborn’s amendment to House Bill 372 is the New Hampshire GOP’s latest attempt to stop college students from voting,” said Let America Vote President Jason Kander. “Last session’s Senate Bill 3 is still in court, but that isn’t keeping Republicans from trying to further stop eligible New Hampshire voters from voting. When a college student registers to vote, they shouldn’t be threatened with possible legal penalties for how their car is registered. Voter registration should be a simple, straightforward process for all eligible Granite Staters. This is classic voter suppression, and it’s clearly a Republican priority to stop college students in New Hampshire from being able to vote in the state where they spend the most time.

When confronted by a young activist, Governor Chris Sununu said he “hated the bill” and “hopes the legislature kills it.” (The interaction was caught in the short video below.)

However after making the bold statement he would veto the legislation for its attack on the voting rights of college students, his resolve seems to be wavering.

Sununu told reporters, “There are some aspects that I’m supportive of, but there’s also some potential unintended consequences, and that’s what makes myself and some other folks across the state nervous. And that’s why we’ve asked them to go back and really take a look at not just what they’re trying to achieve but what the unintended consequences might be.”

With a Republican majority in the Senate there is a reasonable probability this bill will pass the Senate. This is why we need to reach out to our Senators and tell them to oppose this bill and kill it once and for all.

Make your voice heard and call your State Senator today!


America Votes will be holding phone banking sessions on:

  • Friday, December 29th from 5 pm to 7 pm
  • Tuesday, January 2nd from 5 pm to 7 pm

If you would like to help us with phonebanks please sign up here and America Votes will contact you directly. 

Homelessness On The Rise In New Hampshire From Lack Of Affordable Housing And Low Wages

Annual Report From NH Coalition to End Homelessness Shows
Alarming Rise In Homelessness Throughout New Hampshire

Today, the NH Coalition to End Homelessness (NHCEH) has released its sixth State of Homelessness in New Hampshire Report, which provides an overview of statewide indicators and trends in homelessness from 2015 to 2017.  After decreasing by 19% from 2015 to 2016, the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in New Hampshire rose by 11%  in 2017. This is in part due to increasing rents in conjunction with extremely low vacancy rates, which place low income renters in tenuous positions to find affordable housing.

“The increase in the numbers of children and families experiencing homelessness is concerning,” said Cathy Kuhn, director of the NHCEH. “Reversing this growth will require continued commitment and investment in the proven strategies that we know are successful in quickly rehousing those who become homeless.”

In the NH Labor News write up on NHCEH’s 2016 report, chronic homelessness was declining but there were serious concerns about affordable housing that could lead to a rise in homelessness.

This year saw a significant increase in homelessness in a few key areas.

  • After decreasing by 19% from 2015 to 2016, the overall number of people experiencing homelessness rose by 11% in 2017.
  • After dropping by 29% last year, the number of persons in families experiencing homelessness rose by 26%, from 539 people in 2016 to 680 people in 2017.
  • Unsheltered Homelessness rose by 22%, from 143 to 174 in 2017
  • From the 2015-2016 school year to the 2016-2017 school year, the statewide number of students experiencing homelessness rose by 6%. This rise continues a pattern of increases in the number of students experiencing homelessness in recent years.
  • Increases in median gross rents continued to outpace increases in median household renter incomes, diminishing an already sparse market of affordable housing. Vacancy rates continue to decrease to alarmingly low levels across New Hampshire, with the state average falling from 2.2% in 2015 to 1.4% in 2017. A healthy vacancy rate is normally around five percent.

Over the last year, Strafford county saw the largest increase in homelessness with a 67% increase from 2016, but everyone in the state is feeling the pressure.

“Last year, our shelter was at or over capacity every night from December to July. We’ve had to bunk beds and place extra mattresses and cots in spaces not normally meant for dorm rooms to accommodate the increased demand,” said Martha Stone of the Cross Roads House in Portsmouth.

The NHCEH found that families make up 47% of overall homeless population. Persons in families who have experienced homelessness often have histories of violence and trauma, which can have harmful effects on the long-term wellbeing of both adults and children.

“Every month, we receive calls for shelter that we are unable to house. We receive calls daily from families looking for space,” said Arolyn Chappell of the Friends Emergency Housing Program in Concord.

In 2016, family homelessness dropped by 29%, however those gains were quickly erased after a 26% increase in 2017. Eight of the ten counties in New Hampshire saw in increase in family homelessness in 2017.

“Due to a lack of affordable housing in conjunction with a shortage of emergency shelter beds for families across New Hampshire, many service providers report increasing numbers of families residing in cars, campgrounds, and other unsafe and unsanitary living conditions,” wrote NHCEH.

Over the last three years, unsheltered homelessness — those who are living in temporary shelters, such as emergency shelters or transitional housing, and those who are living unsheltered, such as in a tent, a car, or somewhere else not meant for human habitation — is down by 33% but 2017 New Hampshire saw a rise in unsheltered homelessness by 22%.

The largest concentration of unsheltered homelessness is in Hillsborough County, but thanks to recent efforts to combat homelessness, Hillsborough County reduced their unsheltered homelessness by nearly 48% since 2015.  Strafford County saw a 123% increase in unsheltered homelessness over the last year going from 18 to 38.

According to NHCEH, the key factors that lead to homelessness are “poverty and the lack of affordable housing.” While New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rate’s in the country at 2.8%, workers are still struggling to find affordable housing.

One recent analysis reports that someone working full-time at minimum wage would need to work 120 hours per week in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent in New Hampshire,” NHCEH stated. “The same report lists New Hampshire as having the 14th highest housing wage in the country, with a worker having to earn almost $22 an hour in order to afford a modest two-bedroom unit in the state.

 

The difference between getting by paycheck-to-paycheck and becoming homeless is “one unexpected financial, medical or familial event.” Overall the poverty rate in New Hampshire fell slightly, 8.2% in 2015 to 7.3% in 2016,  NHCEH says “financial stability is still out of reach for many in New Hampshire.”

As previously stated the biggest issue facing New Hampshire is lack of affordable housing.  NHCEH found that monthly rental costs rose 8.8% to a median of $1259 per month.  This is unacceptable considering that workers wages only rose 3.3% over the last year.  The average renter makes $38,569 a year and pays over $15,000 a year in rent alone.

“We have seen a huge increase of people in threat of being evicted for nonpayment, and not just one or two months behind… five and six months, or more behind at times.” Dawn Ferringo, Prevention Services Division Director at Tri-County CAP in Lancaster.

To make matters worse, just finding an apartment has become increasingly difficult.  Statewide the “vacancy rate” for rentals fell to 1.7%.  Carroll County reported that  they have a no rentals available and Cheshire Country reports less than 1% vacancy.

“These low vacancy rates further exacerbate the scarcity of affordable housing in these regions of the state, making it even more difficult for low income renters to find stable housing.”

There are many things that need to be done to decrease the homeless population in New Hampshire and the NH Coalition to End Homelessness will continue to push for policies and programs that will help eliminate homelessness in NH.

“With a continued commitment to collaboration in conjunction with a renewed investment in prevention strategies, it is possible to end homelessness in NH, creating a state in which every citizen has the opportunity to achieve long-term stability, wellness and success.”


Full NHCEH report can be found here

A quick reference info-graphic from NHCEH

The NH Coalition to End Homelessness is a nonprofit organization with the purpose of eliminating the causes of homelessness through research, education, and advocacy. For more information about the NHCEH or the State of Homelessness in New Hampshire Report, visit www.nhceh.org or call 603-641-9441.

NHLN Coverage of the 2016 NHCEH annual report

Doug Jones’ Victory Is A Major Win For Labor And Could Be The Vote To Stop The GOP Tax Scam

“Doug Jones’ victory is not only an enormous win for working people in Alabama, but it’s also a victory for all Americans who are ready to stand up to the current Congressional leadership’s politics and policies,” wrote CWA in a brief statement.

Organized labor pushed hard in Alabama with what they called the “largest political program in state’s history.”

“The largest labor political program in the history of the state of Alabama has propelled Doug Jones to victory. Rarely considered an important union state by political analysts, Alabama has a higher union density than Florida and Virginia and nearly the same union density as Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin,” stated the AFL-CIO.

“This victory proves working people are a powerful political force, even in states where most people count us out,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Working people are tired of the status quo and Alabama proved that we have the power to change it and improve the lives of everyone. This is only the beginning of a potent movement to win back the freedoms of workers in America.”

“CWA members in Alabama know that Doug Jones has spent his career fighting for workers’ rights and civil rights,” said Richard Honeycutt, Vice President of CWA District 3 which includes Alabama. “I’m confident that Senator Jones will push for policies that protect working families and keep good jobs in Alabama.”

Overall the coordinated labor campaign sent out more than 116,000 mail contacts, nearly 40,000 worksite fliers and speaking with nearly 100,000 union members on the phone and at the door, Alabama working families were educated and mobilized in this historic election. African American women, who were a major factor in electing Doug Jones, make up 12% of union membership in Alabama and were nearly a quarter of all contacts by the labor program.

“Doug Jones’ victory, and the defeat of Roy Moore, should send a shockwave to those elected officials who have had a single-minded focus on advancing their agenda of destroying programs that help working families in order to finance tax breaks for corporations and the 1%. Just as we saw in the elections earlier this year in Virginia, the voters are demanding that political leaders be held accountable for their broken promises to working people,” conclude CWA.

“I am so proud of every person who volunteered and worked tirelessly to make this the biggest, most successful political program in the history of our great state,” said Alabama AFL-CIO President Bren Riley, a member of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 12L. “Together with the support of so many unions, we turned out union members and households to drive home an incredible win for Alabama’s working families.”

Seating Senator Jones

Today is was reported that the House and Senate have reached a compromise on the GOP Tax Plan and are pushing for a vote by the middle of next week.

“The GOP tax bill that passed the Senate by one vote is nothing but an attack on America’s workers,” said Trumka in a statement following the party line vote in the Senate earlier this month. “We will pay more, corporations and billionaires will pay less. It’s a job killer. It gives billions of tax giveaways to big corporations that outsource jobs and profits.

“President Trump said that he wanted to lower taxes for everyone as a Christmas gift to America, but this bill is simply a lump of coal to working families across the country. The only real gift is the major tax giveaways to Wall Street, big corporations and the super-rich, when what our country needs is investment in our schools and infrastructures that creates jobs,” Trumka concluded.

“The Republican tax plan is a handout to millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations that will raise taxes on working families and give corporations new incentives to send more U.S. jobs overseas,” said CWA President Chris Shelton after the tax plan passed the House in early November.

Now that Doug Jones has won the special election, people are calling on Senator Mitch McConnell to seat him before any more votes are taken, specifically the GOP Tax Plan.

Jason Kander a Democrat and the former Missouri Secretary of State said he certified the special election of Congressman Jason Smith, a Republican, so that he could be seated less than 18 hours later.

The advocacy group Social Security Works is encouraging people to sign the petition demanding that Sen. McConnell seat Jones before voting on what they call the “GOP Tax Scam.”

Social Security Works wrote, “Alabama voters didn’t just reject Roy Moore. They rejected the Republican Party’s disaster of a tax bill, which is a handout to billionaires and corporations―paid for by gutting Medicare, Medicaid, and other vital programs.”

“Doug Jones could be the vote that kills the Republican tax scam. But Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are rushing to jam through the tax scam before he has his chance.”

The people of Alabama have spoken and they want Doug Jones to be their voice in the Senate and that includes his vote against the GOP Tax Plan.

Suddenly Governor Sununu Wants To Protect The Voting Rights Of College Students

 After signing SB3 a voter suppression bill Governor Sununu does an about-face on HB372 another voter suppression bill.

On Friday, Governor Chris Sununu was confronted by Ben Kremer, an activist with the NH Youth Movement about House Bill 372,  a Republican-driven disenfranchisement bill that would force voters to declare residency upon registration, effectively a poll tax that would discourage legally eligible young voters from participating in democracy.

The Governor responded that he “hated the bill” and “hopes the legislature kills it.”

“It is once again disappointing to see the legislature focus on limiting participation in our election process rather than finding ways to modernize our elections” America Votes New Hampshire State Director Liz Wester said in an op-ed in the Manchester Ink Link. “We are pleased that Governor Sununu has a new found commitment to ensuring that every eligible voter can vote. We should be focusing on ways to ensure every eligible voter participates in our elections instead of continuing the trend of politicians trying to pick their voters.”

“I’ve seen dozens of friends pack their bags and move out of state because our politicians aren’t putting policies in place that support young people and represent our values.  Bills like HB 372 alienate out of state students and make young people that much more likely not to come to New Hampshire,” said Kremer.

The Governor’s position on HB372 is surprising as he was one of the biggest advocates for pushing SB3 a bill that “severely tightens qualifications for voting in New Hampshire and potentially criminalizes legitimate same-day registration voters.”

Republicans in the Legislature pushed SB3 in an attempt to crack down on [non-existent] Voter Fraud but in reality it was about voter suppression.

“Senate Bill 3 will accomplish one thing: the disenfranchisement and intimidation of thousands of young voters across New Hampshire,” said University of New Hampshire student Eli Tyrrel-Walker. “Any measure that works to disenfranchise young people from participating in our vibrant civic culture is counterproductive and will only hurt our state.”

No local election officials supported the bill after hours of testimony in both the House and Senate and were not engaged in the drafting of the legislation. SB3 will jam lines at the polls, as some voters will have to fill out pages of additional paperwork.

“People shouldn’t be fined for exercising their right to vote and doing nothing wrong other than not returning to a government agency with certain paperwork—paperwork that these legitimate voters may not have,” said Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of NH. “SB 3 is also a violation of voters’ privacy by sending government agents to voters’ homes to check their documents. Requiring people to accept this government intrusion as a condition of voting will chill the right to vote.”

Suddenly, Governor Sununu wants to protects voting rights after signing SB3 into law only to have the NH Supreme Court strike down the penalties within the bill.

“Governor Sununu realizes it’s not politically viable for him to keep pushing voter disenfranchisement laws,” said NH Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. Sununu continues to struggle to walk back his widely debunked claim that Massachusetts voters were bused in to vote in New Hampshire illegally. His voter fraud lie paved the way for SB3, designed to combat an problem that doesn’t exist.”

“In a way only Chris ‘doublespeak’ Sununu can do, he did leave the door open to supporting the bill by failing to commit to vetoing HB372 if it gets to his desk. Thanks to immense public pressure, Sununu is being backed into opposing this bill, but until HB 372 is pulled or vetoed, Sununu’s voter disenfranchisement reputation precedes him,” Buckley said.

 

“Governor Sununu helped plant the seeds of widespread voter fraud lies in New Hampshire, which have since spread across the country and culminated in his signing of SB3, the restrictive voting bill,” said St. Anselm sophomore and voting rights activist Olivia Teixeira. “Students, activists, and voters everywhere have spoken out loudly to protect their rights, forcing Sununu to start backtracking on his radical agenda.  HB372 is another example of Republicans in Concord making it their priority to disenfranchise and alienate Millennials like us, the exact group our state needs to attract and retain in order for our economy to grow and thrive.

Given the Governor’s disappointing record of adversely targeting Millennials, we will continue working day and night like we have been for months, until this bill is killed in the Senate or vetoed by Sununu,” she added.

Who are we to believe? The Governor who says “I will never support anything that suppresses the student vote” or the Governor who supported the voter suppression bill SB 3 by stating, “this legislation helps protect the integrity of New Hampshire’s electoral process.”

 

 


More on Hb 372 moving to the NH Senate from the Fosters: Fight looming in NH Senate over voting rights

Disability Advocates Speak Out Against The GOP Tax Scam

Granite Staters return to New Hampshire and tell their stories after risking arrest in Washington D.C. protesting the GOP Tax Bill 

A delegation of Granite State disability rights and health care advocates who traveled to Washington, DC this week to protest the damaging Senate bill that guts Medicaid and Medicare for working families to fund massive tax breaks for the rich and corporations held a press briefing about the bill and their participation in a large-scale protest this week in the nation’s capital – which in some cases, included being arrested –  in Concord yesterday.

In a fast-tracked process that required Senators to vote on a 500-page draft bill with notes still in the margins, Senate Republicans passed a tax giveaway to the very wealthy and big corporations that will pave the way for massive Medicaid and Medicare cuts, strip 13 million Americans of health care coverage and increase insurance premiums by 10 percent for millions more. Millions of people with disabilities and seniors, working families, and children will be stuck with the bill and cuts to critical services and basic human rights all so the rich can get richer. Governor Chris Sununu has praised the bill as a “net positive.” 

The press conference highlighted the actual impact on middle and lower income Granite Staters and share the personal stories of those who traveled to Washington DC to protest it.

“I traveled to Washington D.C. to protest this bill because I know this bill will hurt the people who can least afford to be hurt, the struggling middle class and the working poor,” said Melissa Hinebauch, Human Rights Co-Chair of the Kent Street Coalition. The mother of three spoke out against the GOP Tax Bill highlighting the harm working families will suffer under the proposal.

Hinebauch also spoke about how the bill will add over $1 trillion dollars to the national debt while Senator Orin Hatch said “we no longer have the money” to fund essential programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). “This tax bill is just mean and heartless.”

Video of Melissa Hinebauch

“People with disabilities will be the hardest hit by this tax bill for the wealthy,” said Forrest Beaudoin-Friede a member of ABLE-NH who traveled also traveled to Washington D.C. to protest this GOP tax bill.  “This tax bill takes away tax credits that help small businesses become ADA (Americans with Disabilities) compliant. This credit is equal to half of their expenses above $250 dollars. This effectively raises taxes on small businesses who want to open their doors to both customers and workers with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations.”

“This bill will force cuts to Medicaid that will harm people with disabilities, like me, and some will die,” Beaudoin-Friede stated.

Eddie Gomez went to Washington to speak out against this tax bill on behalf of his seven year old nephew who suffers from the genetic disease, Muscular Dystrophy.   The program that helps Gomez’s sister, a single parent, is funded through charitable donations and receives no federal funding.

“This tax bill eliminates deductions for charitable contributions and discourages charitable giving while threatening enormous cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. How will my sister be able to afford the care for my nephew on a lower-middle class income?” asked Gomez.

Gomez explained that over 8 million working families used the medical device deduction, that would be eliminated under the GOP tax plan, to help offset the costs of high priced equipment and medical expenses.

Video of Forrest Beaudoin-Friede and Eddie Gomez members of ABLE-NH

“We are fighting against this ‘Reverse Robin Hood’ tax bill” said Lisa Beaudoin, Executive Director of ABLE NH.  This tax bill makes “deep cuts to a whole range of programs that are critical to people with disabilities.”

“This tax bill will be a slow death sentence to people with developmental disabilities,” she added.

Video of  Lisa Beaudoin, Executive Director of ABLE NH

This bill will cause “13 million people to lose their healthcare and increase the premiums of millions more,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress.

The GOP Tax Bill passed the senate in a 51-49 party line vote and now moves to a committee of conference to hash out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

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