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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

Teachers, Postal Workers, and Public Employees Cry Out, “The Mail Is Not For Sale”

Via twitter @DeniseSpecht

Via twitter @DeniseSpecht

Last night at their bi-annual convention, the American Federation of Teachers adopted a resolution to support of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) in a national boycott Staples Inc. for their attempt to steal jobs from dedicated postal employee’s and continue the race to the bottom.

It resolves “that members of the AFT, along with friends, colleagues and family members, are urged to no longer shop at Staples stores until further notice.”

Read the resolution here.

Staples and the USPS are set to begin pilot program in 82 retail stores that would have “postal counters” that would provide most of the safe services as a local post office.  These postal counters would be staffed by Staples low-wage, non-union workers, and not by the dedicated clerks of the APWU, who take care of you at you local post office.

These postal counters could mean the end of our local post offices.

Similar resolutions were passed by the California Teachers Union, AFT Michigan, AFT Massachusetts and AFT New Hampshire asking members to shop somewhere else when it came time to buy their “back to school” supplies.

“Postal workers are the most amazing public servants,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Who does Staples really want and need to come into its stores every single day? Teachers. The best way we can help is if we say to Staples: ‘You do this to the postal workers, and we aren’t buying supplies in your stores.’”

AFT President Randi Weingarten (Image by @AFTunion)

AFT President Randi Weingarten (Image by @AFTunion)

School supplies are a key market for Staples, accounting for up to one-third of the company’s sales, according to some estimates. The company, faced with declining sales and revenue, has announced plans to close 225 stores by 2015.

After adopting the resolution, AFT members joined their APWU brothers and sisters in a massive rally outside Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. AFT President Weingarten and thousands of AFT convention delegates joined members of the American Postal Workers Union and other community members in a rally telling the United States Postal Service and the Staples corporation that the “Mail Is Not for Sale.”

This action is a continuing part of the AFT’s effort to reclaim the promise of an America where consumers are safe, workers are valued and well trained, and middle-class jobs are protected.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein addressed the importance of America’s middle class standing together against the effort to privatize and demonize U.S. postal workers. He said, “We too are in the public sector, we too are meeting the needs of people. We’re facing some of the same problems you are—I call it divert, defund, demoralize, demonize and dismantle.”

APWU President Mark Dimondstein (image by @AFTunion)

APWU President Mark Dimondstein (image by @AFTunion)

I applaud Randi Weingarten and all of the AFT members who adopted this resolution and will show their support for postal workers by boycotting Staples!

Below are pictures taken at the AFT/APWU rally last night.  All images are from twitter.

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America’s Moral Crisis: A Video Of Rev. Dr. William Barber’s Epic Speech At The AFT Convention

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Rev. Dr William Barber Image from AFT’s video below

“There is a moral crisis in the country”

These are the bold words of Rev. Dr. William Barber who is one of the many faith leaders leading the “Moral Monday’s” campaign in North Carolina. Yesterday Rev. Barber was a keynote speaker at this year’s American Federation of Teachers convention in Los Angeles.

“We are declaring that we will go forward together and not take one step back,” Rev. Barber said in his opening.

Rev. Barber warned everyone of a new moral crisis engrossing our country.

“Whoa unto those who legislate evil, and rob the poor of their rights, and make children and women their prey,” Rev. Barber quoted Isaiah 10:1-2

The basis of the Moral Monday’s campaign is push back against the immoral attempts from right-wing conservatives in North Carolina [and other states] to attack voting rights, worker’s rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights, and LGBT rights.

“The same people who are fighting voting rights are fighting women’s rights. The same people who are fighting women’s rights are fighting worker’s rights. The same people fighting worker’s rights are fighting immigrant rights. You and I must be smart enough to hook up, and you ‘hook-up’ with an agenda,” bellowed Rev. Barber.

To combat these attacks, progressive groups throughout North Carolina have been protesting for 62 consecutive weeks, and are slowing changing the perception of North Carolinians that the extremist right-wing agenda is leading North Carolina in the wrong direction.   Recently Rev. Barber and AFT President Randi Weingarten led 80,000 people in a march on the North Carolina capitol in Raleigh, making this the largest single protest since the march in Selma, Alabama for voting rights.

“This immoral agenda goes against our faith and against our democracy,” Rev. Barber said.

“Too often we overestimate their power, and underestimate our own power!”

Together labor leaders, community activists, and the faith community have created their own agenda. (Minute 23:00 of video below)

  1. A pro-labor, anti-poverty policy that creates economic sustainability.
  2. Educational equality by ensuring the every child receives a high quality well funded public education.
  3. Healthcare for all
  4. Fairness in our criminal justice system by addressing the continuing inequalities in the system
  5. We must “hook-up” to protect and expand voting rights, women’s rights, LBGT rights, immigrant rights and we must hold on to the fundamental promise of equal protections under the law.

With this agenda we can be “hooked together with our principles of hope,” said Rev. Barber.

Rev. Barber concluded his epic speech with a monstrous call to action. He called for everyone to “rise up” and “hook-up” together with this agenda and march on your own state capitol between August 21st and Aug 28th. Seven straight days of action, pushing our agenda to the front page of every newspaper.

“Together we will fight for the soul of this nation, and we will challenge anyone who tries to tear us apart!”

This forty-minute video, courtesy of AFT, is one of the best speeches I have ever seen. This speech should be shown at ever labor meeting, church service, and progressive community organizing event until every man, woman, and child has seen it.

Until that happens, you can share this post.

The Second Wind Foundation For Pulmonary Fibrosis Proudly Announces The “Breathe Easy” Program To Help Families Suffering From Pulmonary Fibrosis

The Second Wind Foundation For Pulmonary Fibrosis Proudly Announces The “Breathe Easy” Program To Help Families Suffering From Pulmonary Fibrosis 

The Second Wind Foundation to provide gas cards to families who are suffering from Pulmonary Fibrosis.

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Note: The Second Wind Foundation for Pulmonary Fibrosis, was started by Ron Geoffroy, the former local President for NATCA, when his wife got diagnosed.  Also I, Matt, am a board member and proud to help promote our cause.  Please share this with everyone you know.  Encourage your biker buddies to join our ride.  This is a press release, so repost on your blog, just be sure to credit the Second Wind at  http://secondwindforpf.com/

Auburn, NH – The Second Wind Foundation for Pulmonary Fibrosis proudly announces the start of a new program designed to help families who are suffering from Pulmonary Fibrosis.

Pulmonary Fibrosis is a rare lung disease that creates scar tissue inside the lungs, making it harder and harder to breathe.   Pulmonary Fibrosis currently effects more than 500,000 people in the US.  After being diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis, patients must meet with their doctors regularly to monitor their condition.  The increase in doctor visits, home healthcare, and oxygen tanks put a significant financial strain on patients and their families.

Ron and Marylou Geoffroy started the Second Wind Foundation for Pulmonary Fibrosis, after Marylou was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis.

“As Marylou’s condition deteriorated, we were traveling to Boston for doctors appointments a few times a month,” said Ron Geoffroy President of the Second Wind Foundation for Pulmonary Fibrosis. “This is exactly why we started the ‘Breathe Easy’ program, to give some monetary support to families suffering from Pulmonary Fibrosis.”

To help families deal with the financial strains that a chronic disease can have, the Second Wind Foundation for Pulmonary Fibrosis created the Breathe Easy program to provide $50 gas cards to qualified recipients.

The Breathe Easy program is open to anyone who suffers from Pulmonary Fibrosis or for those who are caring for someone with PF.  The Breathe Easy application can be downloaded at http://secondwindforpf.com/breathe-easy-program/.

Right now there is no cure for Pulmonary Fibrosis, and thanks to donations from the Second Wind Foundation for Pulmonary Fibrosis, new research is helping to find a cure.

To help raise money for this new program the Second Wind Foundation is hosting a charity motorcycle ride this September. The “Give A Gift Of Breath” motorcycle ride will be held on September 13th 2014 and begins at the Plumbers and Pipefitters Hall, 161 Londonderry Turnpike, Hooksett, NH.

Enjoy a scenic ride through the tree-lined roads of central New Hampshire, and then enjoy some great food courtesy of the Puritan Back Room.

Registration for the ride begins at 8:00 am with kickstands up at 10:30 a.m.  The cost is only $25 per bike and $10 for additional riders.

“The Give a Gift of Breath motorcycle ride is one of our biggest annual fundraisers for the Second Wind Foundation,” said Geoffroy. “To encourage people to sign up early for the ride, we are offering a $5 discount if you register now.”

For more information about the Second Wind Foundation for Pulmonary Fibrosis, and to register for our upcoming ride, go to http://secondwindforpf.com/.

UPDATED: NH’s Congressional Delegation Is Outraged Over The Hobby Lobby Decision (Well Most Of It Anyway)

In a very unsurprising decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby.  The case was to determine if Hobby Lobby could be forced to have an insurance plan that would cover contraceptives that the Green family – the evangelical owners and operators of Hobby Lobby – say they disagree with on religious grounds.

In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that because Hobby Lobby was a privately owned corporation that is run by a small group of people who have the same religious beliefs that forcing their insurance plans to cover certain types of birth control infringed on their closely held religious beliefs.

“Americans shouldn’t be forced to comply with government mandates that violate core principles of their faith,” said Senator Kelly Ayotte. “This case is fundamentally a matter of religious freedom, and this ruling affirms Americans’ religious liberties as protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

This ruling means that the religious rights of the employer are more important than the personal rights of the employees.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lashed out in an epic dissent:

“The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.”  She continued by stating, “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

This case is also chalk full of hypocrisy.

I guess “God’s will” only matters when it affects a woman’s right to choose, and not when it affects a man’s inability to perform.

“The Supreme Court’s decision today is incredibly disappointing,” stated Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “The debate over birth control was seemingly settled decades ago, and most companies and institutions had been offering birth control coverage as part of a health care package without controversy. This decision will only make some women’s lives even more difficult, and leaves me wondering what’s next from this activist Supreme Court.”

“Women should be making decisions about their health care with their doctors, not their employers,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “Today’s Supreme Court decision unfortunately jeopardizes basic health care coverage and access to contraception for a countless number of women and I’m very disappointed by the ruling. Blocking access to contraception will have economic and public health consequences that our country cannot afford.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case is a step backwards for New Hampshire women and their families,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Not only will this decision limit access to health care coverage for Granite State women, it will allow some employers to dictate a woman’s health care choices – something that can and should only be decided by each individual woman for herself. We must ensure that all women have access to comprehensive health coverage, and that they have the freedom to make choices about their own individual health care needs.”

The Affordable Care Act pushed insurance companies to fully cover preventative care for women – including contraception, when prescribed by a medical provider.  It also prohibits insurance companies from charging higher premiums for women than for men.  Before Obamacare, insurance companies could – and did – discriminate against women.  Charging women $1 billion more than men each year – and then giving them less coverage – was unfair and discriminatory.

One of the birth control options that Hobby Lobby disagreed with is the Internal Uterine Device (IUD). An IUD prevents a woman’s egg from implanting on the uterine wall, which prevents pregnancy.  Hobby Lobby makes the claim that this is abortion, because “life begins at conception.” But conception does not occur until after the egg is implanted.  So if an IUD prevents implantation, it prevents conception – and that means it’s contraception, just like the pill and condoms.

An IUD is extremely effective and has very low risk for women who choose to use it, although it can be expensive.

“It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage,” wrote Justice Bader Ginsberg in her dissent.

“Access to family planning services is critical for the health and economic security of women and families, as contraception costs are one of the biggest health care expenses for women and their families,” said Governor Maggie Hassan. “While today’s Supreme Court decision is disappointing, I’m optimistic that employers will continue providing coverage for family planning services because it’s the right thing to do for workers, it will help businesses attract high-quality employees, and it will strengthen the economic security of working families.”

This attack on women’s reproductive rights is nothing new.  Conservatives have been trying to limit a women’s right to choose since the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v Wade over 50 years ago.  When Republicans took control of the New Hampshire House in 2011, a new firestorm of attacks on women’s right was initiated.

“In 2011, the Executive Council took the radical step of eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood, blocking access to health services for thousands of Granite State women,” stated Executive Counselor Chris Pappas. “That was the wrong decision for New Hampshire families then just as the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is wrong now.  Access to contraception and basic family planning services is critical for women’s health and economic security.  As an employer and owner of a family-run business, I know first-hand that important health decisions must be left up to women and their physicians.” (Emphasis added)

It continues to show that this Supreme Court and their conservative majority are out of touch with real working families, and are basing their rulings on their ideological positions.

More and more, it seems that the majority of the Supreme Court better represents the interests of the Chamber of Commerce than it does the values and aspirations of working Americans. Workers’ rights should not depend on whether their employer—while buying and selling to everyone regardless of religion—wants to limit their reproductive rights based on privately held religious beliefs,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “That this decision, which disproportionately affects women, coincides with the Harris v. Quinn decision, which limits rights of home healthcare workers in Illinois—the vast majority of whom are women—is a throwback to another age. Working families, especially working women, have lost here.”

There is no doubt our national healthcare system was broken.  The Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction, fixing some of the major wrongs.  An insurance company can no longer deny coverage if you get sick; they can no longer deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition; their profits are limited by the 80/20 rule; and many more.

In my opinion the problem is that we are still relying on private insurance companies for health care.  For-profit institutions are making decisions about what our healthcare should be.  The problem is only compounded by our reliance on employer-supplied healthcare.

In Justice Alito’s decision, he implied that if the government truly wants to find a way to cover all of these contraceptives then the government is going to have to find a way to pay for it themselves.

To me, the solution is simple: Medicare for all.  If everyone were on Medicare, or any other version of a single payer system, the opinions of an employer would be moot.  An employer would never be able to restrict coverage for its women employees (or its men employees, for that matter).

Arnie Arnesen, a local radio personality summed it all up perfectly, “If Medicare is good enough for a 65 year old man, then why is it not good enough for a 6 year old girl?”

Why It Is A Bad Idea For Teachers To Be “Packing Heat” At School

It seems like every few weeks we are hearing about another school shooting or unstable individual attacking innocent people in the streets.

For some people the answer is always the same, more guns!

Fact: More guns do not mean people are safer. Research shows the exact opposite.

More Guns = More Accidental Shootings: People of all age groups are significantly more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries when they live in states with more guns, relative to states with fewer guns.”

To counter the increase in schools shooting some school boards have approved allowing teachers to carry weapons in schools. Are you prepared for teachers in your local schools to be carrying concealed weapons, ready to shoot at any moment?

In 2012, less than one week after the horrific shootings at Newton, the NRA called for more guns in our schools. The American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who represented the teachers at Sandy Hook and thousands more across the country, issued a statement.

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

AFT President Weingarten (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

This is both irresponsible and dangerous. No matter how much money the NRA spends or propaganda it tries to spread, one thing is clear—the NRA is not serious about confronting the epidemic of gun violence in our nation.”

Schools must be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses. Anyone who would suggest otherwise doesn’t understand that our public schools must first and foremost be places where teachers can safely educate and nurture our students.”

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Vice President of the National Education Association, completely rejects the idea, being pushing by legislators and school boards, of arming teachers.  As she phrased it, “People that would put our children, teachers, and janitors at risk do not deserve their office.”

Woman Shooting at Target (Image by Jimi Lanham CC Flickr)

Image by Jimi Lanham CC Flickr

If you live in Kansas, armed teachers will very soon be a reality! They are already using taxpayer money to pay for training programs.

Read this, “Armed Missouri teachers will have ’90 percent’ accuracy, firearm instructors promise

I am personally appalled by this idea because I read every day about another person who is killed by accidental gun violence. I do not want to read about how a teacher accidentally shot their second grade student.

“Shield Solutions training supervisor Don Crowley vowed that his students would have an accuracy of 90 to 95 percent at the end of five days of training.”

Really? A 90% accuracy after just five days of training? Hogwash!

I will concede that someone who is training for five days straight may be able to pass a test with “90%” accuracy, but that does not mean that in a month, or a year, that those gun-wielding teachers will still have the same accuracy.

Consider this, a study of New York City police officers involved in a ‘fire fight’ have an accuracy rating of only 18%. These are trained professionals who go through rigorous weapons training, regular accuracy tests, and yet they only average 18%!

What makes anyone think that a one week training class for teachers would make them more accurate that the entire New York Police department? There is serious difference between standing on a range, firing bullets at a paper target, and a person holding a gun, that is pointed at you, and is shooting back.

31,000 Americans died from gunshot wounds in 2010, and another 73,000 Americans were hospitalized with non-fatal gunshot wounds.   “From 2005-2010, almost 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings.” Over 1,300 of those were people under the age of 25.

What about the teacher who is careless and leaves their gun in a desk, unlocked, unguarded, where children are definitely present? Do not lie to yourself by saying this would never happen, because you know it would only be a matter of time.

The New Yorkers Against Gun Violence reported:

“The majority of people killed in firearm accidents are under age 24, and most of these young people are being shot by someone else, usually someone their own age. The shooter is typically a friend or family member, often an older brother.”

There are dozens of other examples of “responsible gun owners” who have shot themselves or others accidentally.

Do we really want this remote possibility in our schools???

I don’t.

+   +   +

In a side note: New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and Mike Thompson (CA-05)  lead  163 House Members in Calling for a Vote on Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

The SCOTUS Rules On “Recess Appointments” To The NLRB

Yesterday the news broke that the Supreme Court of the United States had issued a ruling on whether or not the President could make “recess appointments.” A recess appointment is when the Senate is officially in “recess,” and the President nominates someone to an official Executive Branch position, like the National Labor Relations Board.

“Today’s ruling clears up the legal landscape on a question both Democratic and Republican presidents have faced for decades – the circumstances under which the United States Constitution allows them to make temporary recess appointments to executive branch positions,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

“President Obama made the recess appointments to the NLRB because obstructionism by Republican senators was about to make the National Labor Relations Board inoperable due to a lack of NLRB members,” continued Trumka. “The President did the right thing and acted on solid legal authority in making these appointments. Had he not acted, millions of workers would have been deprived of their rights under our labor laws.”

This ruling did clear up a few things:

1) The President can make a recess appointment if the recess is longer than ten (10) days.

2) They ruled that the parliamentary trick of holding “pro-forma” session – a session where nothing gets done but technically there is a session – would be enough to break to officially keep the Senate “in session”, and would reset the clock on the any recess timetables. The effectively means that if the Senate held a “pro-forma” session every nine days during long breaks, the President would not make any recess appointments.

3) They ruled that President Obama appointments to the NLRB were unconstitutional. This means all the cases where these NLRB appointees issued a ruling (before they were fully confirmed by the Senate), are now invalid.

Trumka pointed to the filibuster rule change that is allowing appointments to move through better than they were before. “Fortunately Senate leaders successfully changed Senate rules so that Executive Branch nominees can now be confirmed by a majority of the Senate and cannot be blocked by a minority of senators.”

“While today we have a fully functioning National Labor Relations Board to act on behalf of workers, this ruling invalidates countless other NLRB rulings that must now be decided again,” stated Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “This not only puts an additional burden on the NLRB, it creates uncertainty and additional pain for those workers who believed they had found justice. We are confident the NLRB will act swiftly on these cases”

Weingarten was very critical of the real people who were inhibiting the appointments to the NLRB.

“Let’s be clear—this case was the result of Republicans’ relentless obstructionism and their efforts to interfere with President Obama’s ability to make our government work and ensure the NLRB functions on behalf of working people,” continued Weingarten. “While the Senate reached a temporary compromise on presidential appointments, this ruling could embolden a minority of senators to take action in the future to prevent the president from making the appointments needed to ensure our democracy can function fully on behalf of the American people.”

The Communication Workers of America have been working diligently over the past few years to bring awareness to the problems with the antiquated filibuster rule that is allowing the minority to block important pieces of legislation and major appointments. They used their massive network of members to start a national conversation to “Fix the Senate” and pushed to “Give Us Five” referring to a full five member NLRB.

CWA released the following statement

Today’s Supreme decision is a sharp reminder that the U.S. Senate functions under archaic procedures that must change. That’s especially true of the rule requiring a super-majority, or 60 votes, for the Senate to recess.

The Senate rules are at the heart of this decision and the Constitution is clear that the Senate has the right to set its own rules.

In every other democratic meeting, from the local city council to any major parliamentary body, proceedings are recessed by a majority vote. Only the U.S. Senate requires a super-majority to proceed to debate on most motions, legislation and including the motion to recess.

We have seen the consequences of this rule. It’s been a key tactic used by the Senate minority to block confirmation of the president’s executive and judicial nominations. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made his party’s intentions clear when he said his goal was to make President Obama a one-term president. When that didn’t succeed, the Senate minority stepped up a campaign of delay and obstruction, of appointments and any progressive legislative advances. The minority’s strategy of refusing to proceed to a vote for any recess has made a mockery of the Senate’s role in government.

The Senate’s constitutional duty is to review the president’s nominees through “advice and consent” – not use parliamentary tricks to impede his policy agenda.

For thousands of workers, this decision has real-life consequences. Some 120 decisions made by the National Labor Relations Board in the period contested by the Noel Canning lawsuit may be challenged and justice for thousands of workers will be delayed, and in practice, denied.

The need for real Senate rules reform has never been clearer, or more urgent. CWA and our allies, working together in the Democracy Initiative, are keeping up the fight for Senate rules changes. Critical is an end to the super-majority vote requirement that blocks debate and discussion of nearly all Senate business, even the motion to recess.

We need a functioning government if we are to ever recover from this economic slump, and the bitter partisanship that is crippling Washington. It just may be time to go “nuclear” on the filibuster rule, so we can make some real progress.

After SCOTUS Destroyed The Voting Rights Act, Labor Leaders Call On Congress To Protect Voters

“The right to vote is precious and almost sacred, and one of the most important blessings of our democracy,” wrote Rep. John Lewis. “Today we must be vigilant in protecting that blessing.”

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

 

The 1960’s were a tumultuous time in America, especially for Americans of color. The battle for civil rights was being played out in city streets across the country. The evening news was full of demonstrations and rallies where people were gathering to fight for equality, and to be allowed their Constitutionally protected right to participate in our democracy.

Demonstrations, walkouts and sit-ins led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Both laws pushed America in new bold new direction, working to ensure everyone has a voice in our democracy. For decades Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act, to ensure that everyone, regardless of color, had the right to vote.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, which severely undermined the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court ruling threatened the voting rights of millions of Americans.

Rep John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis

“Today, the Supreme Court stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most effective pieces of legislation Congress has passed in the last 50 years,” said Congressman John Lewis after the Supreme Court ruling in 2013.

“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

Representative Lewis continued, “I disagree with the court that the history of discrimination is somehow irrelevant today. The record clearly demonstrates numerous attempts to impede voting rights still exist, and it does not matter that those attempts are not as “pervasive, widespread or rampant” as they were in 1965. One instance of discrimination is too much in a democracy.”

“Despite the Court’s opinion, voter discrimination based on race is not a thing of the past—it is a current reality that persists to this day,” said Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “We saw efforts to disenfranchise African American and Latino voters in the 2012 election cycle in Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and elsewhere – but voters there were protected by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. In the wake of the Shelby decision, many of these jurisdictions rushed to implement new laws in time for the 2014 election cycle – the same unfair and discriminatory voting practices that had been rejected by the Department of Justice and the Federal Courts under the Voting Rights Act.

After the Supreme Court ruling, a handful of states moved quickly to push new “Voter ID” laws that have notoriously disenfranchised voters of color. Texas also rammed through their new gerrymandered districts that, prior to this decision, would have required a pre-clearance from the Department of Justice.

“Since 2010, 22 states have passed new voting restrictions that make it more difficult to vote,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said, citing a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice. “Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, seven of those have new restrictions in place.”

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on Senator Leahy’s bill to restore the Voting Rights Act.

“In the audience for Wednesday’s hearing was Ernest Montgomery, a member of the Calera City Council in Alabama and one of several black residents who intervened in the Shelby County lawsuit to try to protect pre-clearance. He said any update to the Voting Rights Act should restore pre-clearance for Alabama.” (Burlington Free Press)

“It would make our state leaders much more cautious about having any more violations and make sure we do the right thing,” Montgomery said.

After a year of waiting, and the unparalleled attacks on voting rights, we have seen a renewed effort for Congress to pass a new Voting Rights Act.

“That is why Members of Congress must come together and develop a fix to the Voting Rights Act – as the Court’s majority opinion recommended – that protects all Americans’ right to vote, regardless of who they are and where they live,” Henry stated. “We are hopeful that Congress can work together to restore the protections against racial discrimination that the Voting Rights Act is meant to provide for all Americans.”

“Fully restoring the Voting Rights Act is one of the only ways to give every American the fundamental right to participate in our democracy. Today’s bipartisan hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act is the first step in the fight to restore voting rights, the lifeblood of our democracy,” stated Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

“Our elected leaders should do everything in their power to make our democracy more accessible,” continued Weingarten. “Sadly, the Shelby decision and other state measures have made it easier for monied interests to have a voice and harder for those who have been historically disenfranchised.”

“The right to vote is precious and almost sacred, and one of the most important blessings of our democracy,” wrote Rep. John Lewis. “Today we must be vigilant in protecting that blessing.”

“As we approach another election, we must join together and reclaim the promise of our democracy, reverse the Shelby decision and enact meaningful protections at the ballot box,” concluded Weingarten.

AFT created a petition calling for action from the US House on a new Voting Rights Act.

Will Congress do the right thing to protect the voting rights of millions of Americans, or will they continue to sit there, with their hands over their eyes, pretending that people of color are not being refused their Constitutional right to vote?

Does Your Employer Have The Right To Tell You What Medications You Can Take?

HobbyLobbyStowOhio

Within weeks we will have a decision on a Supreme Court case that could destroy the entire employer provided healthcare system we have created. I am not opposed to destroying the current system if we are finally going to accept that we should adopt a national single payer system. Since many politicians are too afraid to talk about a single payer system, we will have to live within the system we have.

What would you do if your boss told you that your son’s immunization shot was no longer covered by the company health insurance policy?

You would probably say, “That is outrageous that would never happen!”

It has not happened, yet, that does not mean it will not happen.

What if your employer told you that the company healthcare policy no longer covered your ortho-tri-cyclen, otherwise known as birth control?

Suddenly these examples seem factual. Hobby Lobby took their case all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States arguing that because the owner of the corporation is an ultra-religious evangelical — who is adamant against any form of birth control– arguing they should not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act mandate for employer based insurance plans to fully cover birth control.

This is a continuation that “corporations are people”, now corporations can have religions too!

Churches have already been excluded from this mandate based on religious beliefs, though I disagree with that ruling too. The church is not giving the people birth control, or any other medications. They are paying a market-based fee to cover the medical costs of their employee. They are not paying for individual services, and therefore should not be allowed to dictate what is covered by the policy.

The same applies to Hobby Lobby. They are not paying for specific services, and should not be allowed to dictate what is covered.

There are also the obvious arguments that just because you work for Hobby Lobby does not mean you support the same evangelical beliefs as the owners. Does your employer’s religion dictate what you believe too?

The real question is would we be truly having this argument if the owners of Hobby Lobby were Satanists, or Wiccan?

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby, then your employer could say they will not pay for a doctor, unless you are seen by a wiccan medicine man first.

The fact is that a corporation does not have a religion. Only people can choose to have religion. You, as my employer, have no right to force your religious beliefs on me that is my “freedom of religion.”

The Supreme Court ruling will come down to who has more freedom, the corporation that has no soul and is made legal documents, or the employee who has the free will to choose what or if they want to be religious in any way.

We should know more by the end of the week.   Stay tuned!

“White House Summit On Working Families” Focuses On Working Women And Their Families

(Image by Din Jimenez FLIKR)

(Image by Din Jimenez FLIKR)

Working families across the nation are struggling to make ends meet.  Unemployment is still too high, wages are too low, and people are working more and more, while getting less and less.

This week, workers from all across our great nation will be meeting with President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, and the Department of Labor for the White House Summit on Working Families.

The summit is focused on building an economy, and a workplace, that works for all Americans, with a focus on issues that face women and their families.  The Summit will focus on key issues such as workplace flexibility, equal pay, workplace discrimination, worker retention and promotion, and childcare/early childhood education.

Anna Neighbor, a Philadelphia adjunct professor cobbles together teaching positions at as many as four different colleges in a sometimes futile attempt to make ends meet.  She said college students are paralyzed by student loan debt, while a majority of their professors—like herself—work part time, are underpaid and receive no benefits.

Anna mirrors the struggles of many working people who have continued to see an erosion of their pay as the cost of living continues to rise. Even though Anna has an advanced degree, and is a college level educator, she receives no benefits and gets paid as low as $10 per hour.

Priscilla Smith, a teacher’s aide in Lake View, N.Y., near Buffalo, had to take on extra evening, weekend and early morning jobs to help her family financially.

We need to change the way we treat, and pay, our educators. The people, who are educating the workers of tomorrow, should not be forced to work two and three jobs to avoid living in poverty.

Gloria Wright, a 20-year Detroit preschool paraprofessional/assistant teacher hasn’t seen a raise in more than five years. She thinks about leaving the profession, but the pull of the rewards she receives from her students’ accomplishments keeps her in the classroom.

For many people serving their community is very rewarding, however you cannot pay the bills with the smiles of happy four-year olds. Like Gloria, many continue to live on the edge of financial ruin because they truly love the kids, and love what they are doing for their community.

Kendra Liddell a Seattle single mother is paid so little as a 10-year early childhood educator that she has to earn supplemental income to get by. She plans to get a degree in a better-paying field to bring some financial stability to her family, and then return to the classroom because of her deep commitment to serving families and her community.

For decades policy makers have been trying to find solutions to the fact that women continue to earn less than men.  In spite of our best efforts women on average make $.77 on the dollar to a man.  For women of color, the problem is even worse. “African-American women are paid only 64 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.”

Women continued to be oppressed in the workplace. Across the board women represent 42% of the overall workforce. Yet women are often excluded from industries like the building trades, which pay much better than retail or office work.  In fact, only 2.6% of all construction workers are women, a number that has remained relatively unchanged for over 30 years.

Percent of Women in Workforce

Vanessa Casillas a bricklayer from Chicago, IL said, “I like being outside and working with my hands, and if I feel good doing it, why should I be limited if I’m a woman?”

Rocky Hwasta a carpenter of Cleveland, OH said, “I became a carpenter in 1985.  Women were not accepted then and are not accepted now.  Although I had a bachelor’s degree, as a single mom, I needed a good paying job with benefits to raise my family of three children.”

Women in the workplace 2

Recently eleven New Hampshire union building trades opened their doors in a special invitation for women to learn a lasting trade.  The Building Pathways NH program gave local women the chance to see what a career in the building trades would be with a rigorous, five week, hands-on introduction to the different skilled trades.  After they complete the Building Pathways program, they are invited to join a full apprentice program with any of the associated unions.

Elizabeth Skidmore, Business Agent for the Carpenters Local 118, helped create the Building Pathways NH program and will be speaking about the new and innovative program, as an invited guest at the Working Families Summit.

“I’m honored to be included in this summit and that the work a broad team has done over the last five years to increase the number of women working in union construction has been given to the White House as a national best practice,” said Skidmore. “Many partners, from labor to local, state and federal government, as well as union contractors and community partners, have worked together to identify and implement game changers, which has put more women to work in these high-skill, high-pay careers.”

The Working Families Summit will hopefully find solutions to some of the many problems that are plaguing working families.  Problems like low pay, good affordable healthcare, retirements, sick days, paid time off and pay equity.

Our economy does better when we all do better.  We need an America that works for everyone, businesses and workers alike.

NH Needs Two Senators Who Are Willing To Stand Up For Recent College Grads

Who Supports College Grads 2One New Hampshire Senator is standing up for students…

….while the other Senator is “not voting.”

“Across the country people are struggling with the increasing costs of higher education and that’s hurting our students and our economy,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has said. “This is especially true in New Hampshire, where an estimated 74 percent of students graduate with debt averaging nearly $33,000. Our plan represents an important step toward addressing the student loan crisis by helping borrowers refinance their student loans and pay down their debts.”

Where’s New Hampshire’s other Senator, on this issue? Can’t really tell; there seems to be some kind of a “Where’s Waldo?” thing going on.

When Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren filed her “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act” – which would drastically reduce the burden of debt for college grads – New Hampshire’s Sen. Shaheen was quick to co-sponsor the bill.

Sen. Warren was outraged that the federal government collects over “$66 billion in profits from student loans originated between 2007 and 2012.” “The government should not be making profits off the backs of our students,” she told the Huffington Post. “Period.”

“That is wrong. It is morally wrong. That is obscene,” Warren stated. “Let’s give [students] the same great deal that the banks get,”

But the Senate can’t act on the bill because of a filibuster.

Last week’s vote to end the filibuster came up four votes short. Sen. Shaheen voted to allow the Senate to consider the bill. But where was New Hampshire’s other Senator? While she could have been helping “get government off the backs” of debt-burdened students?

Here’s Sen. Shaheen’s statement, after the “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act” failed to overcome the GOP filibuster.

“I am disappointed that the Republican leadership in the Senate blocked a plan to help young people and families in New Hampshire and around the country see some relief from overwhelming student debt. Allowing eligible borrowers to refinance their student loans is the right thing to do for them and for our economy, and I will continue to fight for ways to make college more affordable and to help students get out of debt.”

Here’s what the Concord Monitor had to say: “Sen. Kelly Ayotte did not vote.”

And the Boston Globe: “Ayotte was in New Hampshire for a family event, her office says.”

And this is where it gets confusing.

According to her Facebook Page and her press releases, Sen. Ayotte was meeting with “David Lahme, President of TradePort USA, to discuss her ongoing efforts to protect businesses in New Hampshire.”

But then there are the roll calls. According to the US Senate,

Yet during that very same day, she was reportedly in New Hampshire for a “family event” and met with David Lahme at her office in Washington, D.C.

Got a really good travel agent? Racking up frequent flyer miles? Teleportation? In two places at once?

Or is it possible that just maybe Sen. Ayotte was purposely avoiding this vote?

Does Sen. Ayotte care at all about college students in New Hampshire, which ranks second highest in student loan debt?

I can’t help but wonder why Sen. Ayotte – who up until recently had one of the best voting records in the country – has missed seven votes within the last three months. That’s as many votes as she she had missed – total – in the three years between taking office and April 2014.

Senator Ayotte is not up for reelection until 2016. But between now and then, people should remember which Senators sided with millionaires over students, and which Senators were willing to let the federal government “pocket an additional $185 billion in profits on new student loans made over the next 10 years.”

Last week, one New Hampshire Senator stood up for students – and against using them as a source of federal revenue.

But where, exactly, was our other Senator?

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