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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

Kelly Ayotte Votes Against New Hampshire’s Best Interests In Budget

Senator Kelly Ayotte 2 (Gage Skidmore)

Senator Kelly Ayotte at CPAC in 2013 (Image by Gage Skidmore FLIKR)

As the Senate wrapped up a slew of budget amendment votes Kelly Ayotte’s priorities were on full display, and now she has to begin the difficult work of trying to explain her indefensible votes to her constituents back home.

Below is just a sampling of where Kelly Ayotte voted against New Hampshire’s best interests:

  • Voted against an amendment to prevent companies from getting tax benefits for shipping jobs overseas. Over 106,000 jobs in New Hampshire are at risk of being outsourced
  • Opposed an amendment to adopt the Paycheck Fairness Act to give women more tools to fight pay discrimination.
  • Voted against measures to protect Social Security against privatization and benefit cuts and prevent Medicare from being turned into a voucher program
  • Voted against an amendment that would let young people refinance their student loans, which would help 129,000 borrowers in New Hampshire, and against restoring cuts to the Pell Grant program
  • Opposed a measure to provide two free years of community college by raising revenue through requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share of taxes

Kelly Ayotte’s priorities are clear, and New Hampshire students, seniors families and workers don’t make the list.

“If anyone wasn’t clear about how extreme Kelly Ayotte truly is, they don’t need to look any further than her votes on this budget against New Hampshire students, seniors, families and workers,” said Sadie Weiner, DSCC National Press Secretary. “New Hampshire voters deserve better than Kelly Ayotte’s refusal to stand up for their best interests and they’ll hold her accountable in 2016.”

These are not the priorities of New Hampshire working families.  These are the priorities of the rich, elite 1% who want to take more from the hard working middle class and refuse to pay their fair share.

“From voting to protect tax benefits for companies that outsource jobs to opposing a measure that would let young people refinance their student loans, Kelly Ayotte proved once again that her focus in Washington is looking out for her special interest allies and not the best interests of New Hampshire,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.

This budget will not help Granite State families, it will only hurt them.  Slashing social programs that low income families rely on, reducing benefits to seniors who are already struggling to pay their bills on a fixed income, and gives more tax breaks to wealthy corporations who skirt paying their fair share in taxes.

It is obvious that Senator Ayotte is more interested in following her out of touch party leadership than doing what is right for New Hampshire families.  She is also setting herself up nicely for a potential GOP Vice President nomination, building a hefty war chest and voting right down party lines.

The Americans For Prosperity – NH (AKA Koch Brothers NH Mouthpiece) Approve Of House Budget. One More Reason To Oppose It

Today the New Hampshire chapter of the Americans For Prosperity, a Koch funded advocacy group, came out to show their support for the massive cuts proposed in the budget.

From NHPR:

The state’s chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers,  are behind the House Finance version of the state’s spending plan, which passed committee along party lines Thursday.

The $11 billion budget trimmed hundreds of millions from Governor Maggie Hassan’s proposal including reducing spending for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Transportation and University funding.

AFP State Director Greg Moore said the budget isn’t perfect but it is fiscally responsible.

“The House did a fantastic job of making New Hampshire more free market and more competitive, and forth and for most it takes out all the tax increases,” Moore said.

The plan removes tax increases including two tax increases on businesses, a cigarette tax as well as increasing the registration fee.

Governor Hassan warns that these cuts will hurt our economy.

“Earlier this week, the House Finance Committee recommended a budget with harmful, unnecessary reductions that will hurt families, undermine business growth and take our economy backward. Today, instead of fixing the problems with that budget, they are making things worse.

“Instead of responsibly addressing the issues facing our Highway Fund with a modest revenue solution, they are proposing further reductions to the priorities that are critical to the success of our people, families and businesses. These irresponsible cuts threaten to shut down local road and bridge projects, increase the cost of higher education, raid the dedicated Renewable Energy Fund and further downshift the burden on local property tax rate-payers.

“Combined with cuts already proposed to critical services for seniors like Meals on Wheals, to substance misuse, to mental health, to developmental disabilities, to travel and tourism promotion, to municipalities and more, this irresponsible plan will hurt our economic competitiveness and have a significant impact on our ability to continue building the foundation of a more innovative economy. I continue to urge legislators from both parties to do the responsible thing and invest in the success of our people, our businesses and our economy.” 

“The Koch Brothers’ endorsement of the O’Brien – Jasper budget proves just how bad this budget truly is for New Hampshire’s people, businesses and economy,” said New Hampshire Democratic Chair Ray Buckley. “Combined with Senate Republicans’ push for more tax giveaways for big out-of-state businesses, it’s as clear as ever that the legislature is fully under the control of the Koch Brothers.”

“Shawn Jasper has finally accomplished his goal: cut enough of New Hampshire’s priorities to satisfy Bill O’Brien and the Koch Brothers. It makes perfect sense that out-of-state oil tycoons would support a budget that raids $50 million in dedicated funds for renewable energy, slashes critical economic priorities for small businesses and middle class families, and downshifts costs onto local property taxpayers,” concluded Buckley.

We here at the NH Labor News are vehemently opposed to these cuts proposed by the NH House.  They will strip healthcare from tens of thousands of people, and force hundreds of hard working DOT workers on the streets.  Then I ask, “who will ploy the roads“?

Please take a minute to sign out petition urging legislators to stop these reckless cuts.

Petition Text:

We call on members of the state House & Senate to pass a responsible, balanced budget that protects taxpayers without sacrificing the essential programs and services New Hampshire families and communities depend on for our health, safety, and quality of life.

Click here to sign the Petition

Join activists from across the state as we stand in opposition to these devastating draconian cuts to NH Families.

Congress Votes To Block New Rules Mandated By The NLRB

Yesterday, Congressional Republicans continued their all out assault on working families by passing a law that would limit workers rights to organize and block new rules from the National Labor Relations Board that would allow for faster union elections, slated to take effect in April.

The NLRB said in a December statement that the new rules would allow unions to use electronic means to file for an election and would allow unions to hold elections just 14 days after filing.

“I am heartened that the Board has chosen to enact amendments that will modernize the representation case process and fulfill the promise of the National Labor Relations Act. Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties. With these changes, the Board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all,” said NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Peirce.

Congressman Frank Guinta receiving an award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

Congressman Frank Guinta receiving an award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

The bill passed 232-186, almost straight down party lines. The bill was opposed by all of the House Democrats (thank you Congresswoman Annie Kuster [NH-02]) and three lone Republicans. Congressman Frank Guinta, the Republican representing the first district in New Hampshire, was among the Republican majority who voted to pass the bill.

“Today’s vote by House Republicans against the NLRB’s common-sense modernization of its election rules is a direct attack on workers and their right to be heard in the workplace,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Working men and women want an agenda from their Congressional leaders that raises wages and grows our middle class. Instead, they have gotten Republican policies that roll back progress and silence workers while protecting their biggest donors.”

Listening to the debate on the House floor shows exactly how much the Republicans really care about workers and their rights.   These Republicans are putting corporations above working men and women.

“Today, Congress voted to stop an unelected board of bureaucrats from trampling on the rights of America’s workers and job creators,” said Congressman John Kline (R-MN) in a written statement after the vote. “The board’s ambush election rule will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families.

Rep. Kline’s statement is nearly identical to the statement released by the US Chamber of Commerce who has worked tirelessly to oppose unionizing efforts and push anti-worker legislation in dozens of states.

“The Chamber applauds Congress for passing legislation to stop the ‘ambush election’ rule issued by the NLRB,” stated U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits Randel K. Johnson. “This rule infringes upon an employer’s free speech right by virtually eliminating an employer’s opportunity to communicate his or her views regarding unionization with employees.

What they should have said was that this vote stifles a workers right to organize and gives more time for employers to hire union busting firms and lie to their employees about how unions operate.

President Obama has already said he will veto this totally partisan bill. This would be Obama’s fourth veto, and second in the last two months.

“President Obama is right in his commitment to vetoing this harmful legislation, and Congressional Republicans should focus their efforts on lifting workers up instead of shutting them out,” said Trumka.

Whether you support unions or not should not matter, that is why we hold elections. If workers freely choose to support a union, the union will win the election. If workers freely choose to reject the union, the union will lose. That is freedom and the choice that workers are guaranteed under the National Labor Relation Act.

Organizing and holding a union election is hard enough, and Republicans in Washington want to block workers from organizing. Working families need to understand that these Republicans are not looking out for them and are only looking out for the wealthy businesses and groups like the US Chamber of Commerce that fund their campaigns.

 

 

Click here for more information about the NLRB’s rule changes

 

Scott Walker, A Horrible Governor And Based On What He Has Done To Wisconsin, Should Not Be President

There is now doubt that the Republican’s are off and running in their attempts to win New Hampshire’s First In The Nation Primary.

This weekend Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tested the primary waters with a whirlwind tour of New Hampshire. Walker has recently come under fire for his comments comparing union protesters to ISIS terrorists. Union members across the country were appalled by Gov. Walker’s statement at the CPAC convention. We are workers not terrorists!

Now, Gov. Walker has taken his anti-worker, pro-business agenda on the road and one of his first stops is New Hampshire, where he was immediately met by hundreds of protestors. Labor leaders from across New England demanded an apology from Gov. Walker for his comments at the CPAC convention.

(Below is a short video of some of the speeches given in Concord)

 

The fact is that Governor Walker would be a complete nobody if it were not for his outright assault on working families in Wisconsin and his laundry list of controversy that follows him like a puppy dog.

Pretty much everyone in the country knows about Walker’s attack on working families, when he striped away the collective bargaining rights of tens of thousands of Wisconsin workers. The outrage from unions can still be felt in union halls across the country. Then to make it worse, Walker just pushed for and signed “Right to Work” legislation that is a well know union busting piece of legislative garbage. Listen to this compelling testimony from a Vietnam Veteran opposing Right To Work in Wisconsin.

Directly attacking union workers is not the only way that Walker has hurt the working families of Wisconsin. He is in some really deep trouble over his current budget, which gave huge tax cuts to his wealthy friends and corporations.

“Governor Walker has called so-called ‘Right to Work’ legislation a distraction and apparently that’s exactly what he wants,” said Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca. “By rushing to pass Right to Work in less than a week, clearly the governor and Republican legislators want to distract from how destructive their budget is for Wisconsin’s workers, students and middle-class families.”

“Under Walker’s fiscal mismanagement the state budget faces a deficit in excess of $2 billion, which Walker proposes balancing with massive cuts to the University of Wisconsin System and K-12 public schools, scoop and toss borrowing schemes, and even hiking the costs of senior’s prescription drugs,” wrote One Wisconsin Now.

Walker’s tenure in the State Capitol has been riddled with accusations of campaign financing violations and criminal investigations.

The New York Times talked about how Gogebic Taconite got approved for a huge mining project in Northern Wisconsin. “The mine legislation was bad enough from an environmental point of view: It allows the operator to fill streams with mine waste, eliminates public hearings and reduces the taxes the operator would have to pay,” wrote the NY Times. “It turns out to be even more shocking from an ethical viewpoint. Newly released documents show that the mine operator, Gogebic Taconite, secretly gave $700,000 to a political group that was helping the governor win a 2012 recall election.”

This campaign donation and the alleged connection between Walker’s recall election campaign and the Wisconsin Club For Growth – a super PAC that cannot legally coordinate with the Walker campaign – brought Walker up on corruption charges.

“Because Wisconsin Club for Growth’s fundraising and expenditures were being coordinated with Scott Walker’s agents at the time of Gogebic’s donation, there is certainly an appearance of corruption in light of the resulting legislation from which it benefited,” a lawyer for lead John Doe prosecutor Francis Schmitz wrote in an April 2014 court filing.

Walker also created a quasi-public job creation agency, called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which was recently accused of serious wrongdoing. The WEDC came under fire in the Wisconsin State Journal for “failure to track public subsidies to private companies and for the departure of numerous top executives.”

The Wisconsin State Journal continued, “A May 2013 audit found the quasi-public agency was not following state law in how it was keeping tabs on millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, and earlier this week the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the agency continues to have difficulties despite assurances that the problem had been addressed.

This does not even begin to scratch the surface of how bad and possibly corrupt Walker truly is. He slashed funding for public schools by $127 million dollars while giving a $10,000 tax break, in the form of a school voucher, for people who send their children to private schools. He also cut over $300 million dollars from the University system and “suggested the cuts could be made up for if professors ‘consider teaching one more class per semester.’”

After cutting the University system by $300 million dollars, Walker had $220 million left over to donate to construct a new basketball arena for the Milwaukee Bucks. That is one way to show everyone in Wisconsin, and the rest of America, that getting a quality education is less important than a professional basketball arena.

“Typical Walker,” said NEA Director Britt Hall, an instructor at Wisconsin’s Waukesha County Technical Council, “It’s smoke and mirrors — it’s ‘do more’ on the one hand, and choking the system on the other.”

Scott Walker has made it abundantly clear to the people of Wisconsin that he was the wrong choice for Governor. The state budget is billions short, he cut education by hundreds of millions of dollars, gave tax breaks to wealthy corporations, and he approval rating is beginning to show it. He has fallen over six points in the last few months alone.

“Walker’s made it clear that he sides with big dollar special interests over Wisconsin and New Hampshire working families,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “Our country doesn’t need a Presidential candidate who disparages the voices of tens of thousands of every day citizens but gladly takes phone calls from the billionaire Koch brothers.”

Scott Walker is not right for Wisconsin, not right for New Hampshire, and certainly not right for President.

 

(If you want to see the entire speeches from the Scott Walker protests, here is the long version of the speeches)

 

We Need A New Hampshire Senate That Puts People Above Big Business

Cutting Taxes 3-dThis week the Republican controlled State Senate chose to put business profits ahead of working families, by voting to cut taxes for big business.

The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute reported, “SB 1, which would lower the business profits tax (BPT) rate, and SB 2, which would lower the business enterprise tax (BET) rate, together likely would reduce state revenue by nearly $80 million on a biennial basis once fully phased in.”

That’s right boys and girls, the GOP wants to slash $80 million dollars from our budget and give that all to big business. $80 million dollars is a lot of money. That would build a lot of bridges, pave a lot of roads, repair a lot of schools, and employee a lot of people.

“These business tax cuts will not create jobs or boost the economy, but instead will drain millions of dollars out of the state budget each year,” said Jeff McLynch, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute.

The Union Leader reported, “(Democrats) noted only 1 percent of the businesses in the state pay 76 percent of the business profits tax, meaning large out-of-state corporations produce the bulk of the revenue. ‘This is a giveaway to large, out-of-state corporations,’ said Sen. David Pierce, D-Hanover. ‘It puts the interests of large, out-of-state corporations ahead of the needs of the people of New Hampshire and ahead of the needs of the state’s small businesses.’”

“Senate Republicans are so obsessed with implementing the Koch Brothers agenda of more tax giveaways for big businesses that they’re willing to blow a $78 million hole in the budget and make middle class families and small businesses pay the price,” said Raymond Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party.

Cutting taxes is the mantra of the Republican Party. Cut taxes for businesses and voila` economic prosperity and budgets overflowing with tax revenues. It is the cure all for everything! Cut taxes and more businesses will move here then with the additional revenue we can build whatever we need. We need new bridges, cut taxes. We cannot pay our bills this year, then cut taxes!

This trickle down theory of economics has failed so many times I have lost count. President Reagan, hero to the current Republican Party, drove our nation into debt with tax giveaways like this. The President George W. Bush doubled down on Reagan’s policies and cut taxes during wartime, leading to the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression.

 (Image Gage Skidmore Flikr CC)

(Image Gage Skidmore Flikr CC)

More recently, Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas put this theory into action when he signed “one of the largest tax cut bills in Kansas history.”

“Since the tax cuts took effect at the beginning of 2013, Kansas has added jobs at a pace modestly slower than the country as a whole. The earnings and incomes of Kansans have performed slightly worse than the U.S. as a whole as well.” (Read more here.)

It worked so well that Kansas has had their credit rating downgraded. Standard and Poor’s lowered the state’s credit ratingbecause of theses tax cuts.

“The downgrades reflect our view of a structurally unbalanced budget, following state income tax cuts that have not been matched with offsetting ongoing expenditure cuts in the fiscal 2015 budget,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst David Hitchcock in a release.

Yet even after the downgrade, Gov. Brownback believes that cutting taxes is the way to grow your economy. “We need jobs and we have proven the way to that is through lower taxes,” Brownback told the press.

However others have outright rejected the idea that lowering business taxes and keeping the minimum wage low will attract new business to the state.

Minnesota took a very different approach. They raised taxes on the wealthy and raised their minimum wage.

“Every Minnesotan will pay more under this tax bill, and unfortunately it’s going to harm Minnesota’s economy and hurt job growth in the state,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

The thing is that Minority Leader Kurt was absolutely wrong! This week it was reported that due to the progressive agenda of the Governor and the Legislature, Minnesota is expecting to have a $2 billion dollar surplus!

Minnesota’s State Economist Laura Kalambokidis said rising wages and lower gas prices mean more money for consumers and thus more taxes for the state. Meanwhile, the state will save more than $100 million over the next two years because there will be fewer than expected students in poverty and with special needs, as well as fewer students overall.”

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton plans to use the additional money by investing in schools, implementing a fully funded Pre-K program, and to conduct some much needed infrastructure repairs.

I guess we need to ask ourselves, what type of New Hampshire do we want? Do we want a state that gets downgraded, has sluggish job growth, and stagnant wages? If so, then we should definitely cut taxes for these large corporations.

Or, do we want a state that is rebuilding our failing roads and bridges, investing and expanding public education, and building a strong and thriving economy? That’s the New Hampshire I want, and cutting taxes is the wrong approach.

Cutting taxes is not the magic solution to every problem. Someone once said, you can tell me what you value, however, me your budget and I will tell you what you truly value.

If we enact these tax cut for large corporations, who are we really helping? Big Business or real Granite Staters.

How Much Did Senator Avard Really Know About The National Right To Work Committee’s PAC Donation Scheme?

Kevin Avard (via Girard FLIKR CC)

Kevin Avard (via Girard FLIKR CC)

Last week we reported on the big expose` that Kevin Landrigan did on the National Right To Work Committee’s shady campaign financing scam.

In short, Kevin found that the NRTWC created multiple Political Action Campaigns to funnel more money to State Senate candidates like Kevin Avard than is legally allowed under New Hampshire Law. Each of these sub-PACs gave Avard the New Hampshire maximum of $1,000 to his campaign.

Then the Nashua Telegraph posted Senator Avard’s response in an article titled: Avard calls campaign contribution story ‘hogwash’.

Avard, a Nashua Republican who defeated incumbent Democrat Peggy Gilmour last November, said he did not have any knowledge about an NH1 investigative piece reporting an organization funneled money into his senate run through up to five groups to avoid campaign finance statutes.

“That’s hogwash – it’s hogwash,” he said. “That’s absolutely absurd. I guarantee nothing illegal happened. … I’m just kind of outraged by this; this is just absolutely just stupid stuff, and you can quote me on that.”

New Hampshire’s Democratic Party said the National Right to Work Committee tried to hide money to anti-union candidates by creating front groups and providing five legitimate donations of $1,000 instead of one illegal $5,000 campaign contribution.

Avard’s general election campaign totaled $18,493, considerably less than the $105,049 in receipts reported by Gilmour, according to the secretary of state’s office.

My friend Keith Thompson who lives in Brookline and is represented by Sen. Avard, brought up some very good points about this article from the Telegraph. He was first to point out these three ideas I will expand on now.

First, the article says that the “New Hampshire’s Democratic Party said the National Right to Work Committee tried to hide money to anti-union candidates…” Actually the report was not from the NH Democratic Party it was from NH1 reporter Kevin Landrigan. The Telegraph even say that in the opening of the article. I hope that Sen. Avard is not claiming the Kevin Landrigan is a puppet for the NH Democrats.

If you have followed New Hampshire politics for longer than a week then you will know one thing that is certain, Kevin Landrigan is anything but partisan. He may lean a little right, but his reporting goes right at the heart of both parties and challenges the political ideologies of both sides. This comes with the decades of experience in New Hampshire Politics.

Second, this highlights the Telegraph’s need for a veteran political reporter. Ever since they laid-off Kevin Landrigan, they have lacked any real political coverage. They do a decent job of merging press releases but they lack the real knowledge and experience a reporter like Kevin brings to the story. Maybe if they had kept Kevin around at the Telegraph everyone would be talking about the Telegraph’s huge story about the NRTWC instead of NH1.

Lastly, I do not know anyone who would believe that Sen. Avard was not aware of these shady financial dealings. Keith hit the nail on the head when he stated, “Answer the question directly, Senator (Avard), ‘Did you have any knowledge of this scheme to circumvent campaign finance rules?’”

Avard reported only raising $18,000 dollars and $5,000 can from some type of  “right to work” group. I bet they even came in the same envelope.

“Kevin Avard has a lot of explaining to do to his constituents and to all Granite Staters about what he knew and when about the shady fundraising scheme that he benefited from,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “These questionable contributions represented more than one-sixth of all total contributions Avard took in during the election, and his claim to NH1 News that he has no idea where they came from simply doesn’t pass the laugh test.”

This type of funding is legal, and Sen. Avard is right when he states, “I guarantee nothing illegal happened.” That is exactly the problem, it should be illegal and this type of shady, underhanded donation scheme is just one more reason we need to get the money out of politics. We need publicly funded elections, and bar elected officials from taking any type of gifts or campaign donations from corporations!

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.

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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!

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