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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2-18-17: Victory Over Right To Work, Edelblut’s Confirmation, and Looking Ahead

Yesterday was a good day, a very good day for us in the NH House. As you most likely know by now, a coalition of Democrats and courageous Republican representatives thwarted out-of-state corporate interests and defeated so-called ‘right to work’ legislation (SB 11) on a 200-177 vote. Defying Governor Sununu and his anti-worker agenda, Representatives also blocked Republican plans to bring forward another so-called ‘right to work’ bill in March, thereby effectively killing the issue for the next two years. This was a hard-fought victory, produced by the hard work of a broad coalition of labor unions, faith-based and community action organizations working together, designing an effective strategy, and carrying it out through the work of thousands of individuals writing and calling their State Representatives. The parliamentary maneuvers on the floor of the House were carried out with nary a hitch, but it all would be for naught without the work of so many of you. Thank you!

The defeat of so-called ‘right to work’ was not the only victory we had this week in the Legislature. In a surprisingly strong vote, the House adopted HB 413, which would require the State to begin paying 15% of the employer contributions into the NH Retirement System. The bill now goes to the Finance Committee where it will face close scrutiny before coming back to the House for a final vote, but any restoration of State contributions to the retirement system would be a blessing to sorely-pressed municipalities, counties and school districts. The road ahead will be difficult, but at least we have taken some initial steps.

Not all news was good news this week. Most important, the Executive Council voted 3-2 to confirm the inexperienced and unqualified Frank Edelblut as NH’s next Commissioner of Education. Despite concerns expressed by hundreds of constituents and education professionals, and despite even a letter from the State Board of Education expressing grave concerns, the three Republican members of the Executive Council voted to approve what is clearly a politically-motivated appointment by Governor Sununu, leaving NH with a Commissioner of Education who supports creationism over science, and who defends discredited “conversion” therapy targeting LGBTQ students and attempts to change their sexual orientation. AFT-NH will work with the new commissioner in all legitimate efforts to sustain and improve our traditional public schools in NH, but we shall also remain vigilant and wary of any efforts to undermine the public schools serving the vast majority of NH children.

In other education-related news, the House passed a voucher bill for parents of children with disabilities, thereby opening the door for broader voucher programs which would rob public schools of already insufficient State funding. The bill, HB 647-FN, sets up “education freedom savings accounts” for parents of children with disabilities. State education funds are then placed in these accounts, which parents can then use to pay to private and religious schools if they choose to remove their child from the traditional public schools. This is simply a foretaste of broad-based vouchers, which are contained in SB 193-FN, which passed out of the Senate Education Committee yesterday by a 3-2 party-line vote. Sponsored and supported by Republicans, SB 193 is a full-blown voucher system which would severely undermine funding for traditional public schools and funnels millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to private and religious schools in New Hampshire. The bill now goes to the floor of the Senate, where it will likely receive a hearty welcome from Republicans bent upon destroying our system of public schools, the bedrock of the American Dream and the incubator of democratic citizenship. Please contact your State Senator and ask them to vote NO on SB 193. To contact your state senator, please click WHO IS MY SENATOR? and enter the city or town where you reside. Once you have determined who is your state senator, go to the SENATE ROSTER to find out how to contact the senator. To put it simply, please tell them to vote against SB 193 and that money should not be diverted from our public schools.

Finally, we also saw the defeat this week of Richard Ames’ fine legislative proposals aimed at reforming the adequacy funding for public schools and creating a tax on capital gains, the revenues of which would have been applied to retirement fund payments, thereby easing local property tax burdens. Both proposals were detailed and carefully crafted, but the Republican majority has little interest in improving public school funding and no interest in creating or expanding taxes, especially those aimed at the wealthiest NH residents.

Looking Ahead. The NH House will not be meeting in session next week but committees will be continuing to wrap up their work to meet the March 2nd deadline to report on bills not going to a second committee and the March 9th deadline for the House to act on those bills. The House Education Committee will be meeting in executive session to act on a number of bills addressing charter schools (House Bills HB 494, HB 293, HB 341, and HB 505) as well as HB 339 (transportation costs for students attending career/technical education centers), HB 122 (withdrawal from a cooperative school district), HB 477 (free speech on college campuses), HB 210 (code of ethics for educational personnel), HB 620 and HB 396 (student assessment data privacy).

On the Senate side, the full Senate will be considering the following bills with a recommendation of Ought to Pass by the Education Committee: SB 8-FN (school attendance in towns with no school districts), SB 43 (non-academic surveys to students), SB 44 (prohibiting the state from requiring the implementation of common core standards), SB 103 (limiting food/beverage advertising/marketing on school property), SB 191-FN (definition of average daily membership attendance), and SB 228 (NH college graduate retention incentive partnership-GRIP)

The dangerous bill as mentioned in last week’s bulletin is HB 438 which would prohibit public employers from withholding union dues from a public employee’s wages. Yes, the bill would not allow voluntary union dues to be deducted from an employee’s paycheck. Locals would have to find other methods to collect dues from members. This is clearly a punitive measure aimed at Unions. We know there are dozens of other voluntary payroll deductions allowed such as insurance deductions, charitable contributions such as United Way or voluntary disability insurance plans, to name a few. Despite the title of the bill, this would affect all public employees and all of our locals. It is expected the House Labor Committee will now be hearing this bill on March 2nd and then this bill would go to the full House on March 9th. We will be sending out requests for action on this bill. We will need members to engage actively to help defeat this bill.

So the news is mixed, as always, but we are thankful for all the hard work so many of you put into the fight over so-called ‘right to work.’ Relish the victory, knowing it means you CAN make a difference. Other fights are coming and we will be asking for more support and engagement in the coming weeks. Please continue to encourage folks to “like us” at the AFT New Hampshire Facebook page for breaking news.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Right To Work Goes Down In The NH House, New Hampshire Labor Rejoices

To the great “disappointment” of Governor Sununu, SB 11, the so-called “Right to Work” for less bill, goes down in flames.  By a bi-partisan vote of 200 to 177 the members of the NH House voted to kill the bill.  “I am deeply disappointed today by the House’s failure to pass Right to Work,” stated Governor Chris Sununu.

“Today’s vote was a confirmation of what we determined in the House Labor Committee, where Democrats and Republicans worked together to recommend defeat of so-called ‘right to work,’” said Representative Doug Ley (D-Jaffrey), the Ranking Democrat on the House Labor Committee. “With a strong economy and the lowest unemployment rate in America, legislation that reduces wages and interferes with the employer/employee relationship is the last thing our state needs.  I am very pleased that the full House agreed with the bipartisan Labor Committee recommendation, and that we can finally put this issue behind us.”

“Today a bi-partisan majority confirmed that ‘Right to Work’ is still wrong for New Hampshire, and this vote should be the final nail in the coffin,” said NH AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett. “Across the Granite State, working people stood together against this corporate-backed legislation that would cripple our ability to speak up on job. We thank the legislators who let workers’ voices rise above special interests’.” 

AFT-NH, that represents 4,000 teachers, school support staff, city and town employees, police officers, library employees, and higher education faculty, was “extremely pleased” with Right to Work’s defeat.

“We are extremely pleased that the NH House defeated Right to Work by a 200-177 vote today,” said Doug Ley, President of AFT-NH. “The defeat of this bill was the result of cooperation across party lines and hard work by our members, fellow union brothers and sisters in the labor movement and community allies. The actions by the NH House today puts to bed this divisive legislation for at least another 2 years. We thank legislators who stood with working families.”

NEA-NH, the state’s largest public employee union, representing over 17,000 members, praised the vote.

“Educators’ working conditions are our child’s learning conditions,” said Megan Tuttle acting NEA-NH President. “By weakening the ability of educators to advocate for students, kids across New Hampshire stood to lose things like smaller class sizes, safe classrooms and drinking water, up-to-date resources, and expanded curriculum choices. Our ability to advocate for every public-school student was preserved today.”

“When out-of-state interests with pre-written legislation and lots of money try to set legislative priorities in New Hampshire, kids lose. Today’s vote prevented that from happening.”

“The 17,000 members of NEA-New Hampshire extend our thanks to those voting against SB11 today, especially those members who stood strong against the pressure applied by the majority leadership on this issue. Their resolve helped ensure that kids and educators across the state will continue to have a strong voice,” concluded Tuttle. 

Richard Gulla, President of the NH State Employees Association was “proud” of the legislators who stood with working families.

“Today, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted SB 11 Inexpedient to Legislate. We are proud of the legislators for standing with Granite State workers today and putting the so-called Right to Work bill behind us, where it belongs. The New Hampshire House recognized that there was no constituency supporting this legislation and proved out-of-state special interests have no place in our politics. It took courage to stand against the constant stream of pressure from outside funding – and Granite State families can now celebrate this accomplishment.”

“We are incredibly grateful to our elected officials for continuing to stand up for what is important. We look forward to working with Governor Sununu and the legislature to continue helping New Hampshire families,” Gulla added. 

Democrats also rejoiced as Sununu’s highest priority piece of legislation was defeated.

“New Hampshire proved once again that it’s a friend to workers’ rights. Despite Governor Sununu and NHGOP Chair Forrester’s brazen attempts, Republicans and Democrats in the State House stood together and made clear that this issue is above partisan politics,” said NHDP Chairman Ray Buckey. 

“Today’s defeat of the so-called Right to Work for Less legislation is a great victory for New Hampshire’s working families,” said Jeff Woodburn, NH Senate Minority Leader.  “Right to Work for Less makes it harder for people to earn a living, harder for people to make ends meet, and harder for people to support a family. I congratulate the bipartisan coalition in the House that recognized the damage it would have caused and came together to defeat this harmful legislation.”

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2-10-17: Right To Work (for less) And NH Retirement System

February 10, 2017  

Besides the snowstorms this week, the big news out of Concord is the current status of ‘right to work’ legislation, legislative action on the NH Retirement System, and the continuing saga of Frank Edelblut as NH’s own version of Betsy DeVos.

‘Right to Work’: The House Labor Committee held its mandatory hearing on so-called ‘right to work’ legislation this past Wednesday, a marathon hearing stretching from 10am until past 5 pm. Hundreds packed Reps Hall in the State House, and most of those who testified did so in opposition to so-called ‘right to work.’ There were numerous stories of how unions helped workers in the workplace and bettered their lives, along with testimonies on the need for workers to have a voice of their own. Many of the advocates of so-called ‘right to work’ were from outside NH, offering up slanted evidence and demonstrating virtually no understanding or familiarity with NH traditions, politics or even our economic situation in 2017. One such witness, when pressed, ultimately admitted that the reason business often supports so-called right to work is because it makes it harder to organize (translation: weaker unions, lower pay, fewer benefits). Interestingly, other than gun manufacturer Sturm Ruger (a non-union workplace) virtually no businesses testified in favor of so-called ‘right to work,’ and not a single employer who deals with unions testified in favor of so-called ‘right to work.’ AFT-NH local leaders submitted some fantastic written testimony for consideration by the Labor Committee. Please click here to review the testimony.

At the end of the long day, the Labor Committee then voted on the two identical bills (SB 11 and HB 520). Both bills will be sent to the House floor with the recommendation of “ITL”—Inexpedient to Legislate (in layman’s terms, “kill them”). Five Republicans voted with the nine Democrats on the Labor Committee, a strong bipartisan showing against legislation advocated by outside, non-NH organizations. As a result, SB 11 will come to the floor for a House vote on next Thursday, February 16, while HB 520 will come up later in the session. So, our challenge right now is to defeat SB 11 next Thursday—now is the time to act! Please, contact your State Representative and tell her/him to vote against SB 11 by following the Labor Committee’s recommendation of ITL. Do not delay—now is the time. Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t matter—we need to make our position known!

NH Retirement System: Another important legislative proposal dealing with the NH Retirement System will come before the House on Wednesday, February 15. The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee has recommended passage by a 10-9 vote. If approved by the full House, the bill would then be referred to the House Finance Committee. Sponsored by Representative Renny Cushing, HB 413 mandates that the State of NH reinstate payment by the state of 15% of retirement contributions, thereby providing some relief to cities, towns, counties and school districts, all of whom must bear the burden with employees of contributing to the NH Retirement System. Many years ago, when the State sought to persuade towns and cities to join the NHRS, it made the financial promise to pay 40% of the cost, a promise which has not been kept, thereby leaving towns and cities with increased burdens and higher property taxes to cover the payments reneged on by the State. The increased costs to local communities, especially in our locals such as Nashua, Newfound Area School District and Rochester dealing with tax and/or spending caps, this bill will provide some long-overdue relief and is strongly supported by AFT-NH. So, when you contact your State Reps about so-called ‘right to work,’ be sure to put in a good word for HB 413 as well, and remind them that even Governor Sununu has promised restoring some of the State aid promised to towns and cities.

Frank Edelblut: The Executive Council vote on Frank Edelblut was delayed this past week when it was revealed that a required consultation by the Governor with the State Board of Education had not actually occurred. That meeting was scheduled for yesterday but the snowstorm led to its cancellation, so the meeting will now be held on Tuesday, February 14th. In the meantime, video of Edelblut’s testimony in favor of discredited “conversion therapy” for gay teens is now circulating, leading one to wonder just how supportive he can be of our LGBQT students? There is also more material now available in which Edelblut is clearly identified as a denier of climate change. Combined with his previously noted affiliation with creationism (Patrick Henry College), it is sure to make one question just where science education will be headed under a Department of Education led by Frank Edelblut. So please, keep up the good work and contact your Executive Councilor and urge him to vote against Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education. Remind him—if you need to be certified to teach or licensed to drive, shouldn’t the Commissioner of Education meet the statutory requirement for appropriate education and experience?

A brief follow-up on two items noted in last week’s bulletin. First, HB 438 which would prohibit public employers from processing voluntary payroll deductions for union dues is scheduled for public hearing before the House Labor Committee on February 22nd. Secondly, the school voucher type bill, SB 193 had a public hearing and no action has yet been taken by the Committee.

Thank you for all you have done so far and thank you for all you will do this coming week. Please, reach out, participate, and encourage a colleague or friend to do likewise. Democracy is governance by the people, and YOU are the people!

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Testifies Against Frank Edelblut For Commissioner Of Education

Testimony in Opposition to Frank Edelblut Nomination as Commissioner of the State of New Hampshire Dept. of Education

Councilors,

Thank you for taking the time to hear my testimony and thank you for providing everyone here an opportunity to weigh in on this nomination.

As president of AFT-NH, I represent some 4000 education professionals, including teachers and para-educators. I mention those two groups because they form the largest portion of our membership and as education professionals they are required to be certified as competent to do their work and in many cases they must be highly qualified. Public education, filled with myriad of mandates and a maze of requirements and regulations, is a complex field. An individual charged with heading the NH Dept. of Education should be familiar with and have extensive experience in the educational arena. In fact, State statute (RSA 21-N:3) is quite clear: “The commissioner and deputy commissioner shall be qualified to hold their positions by reason of education and experience.” I am afraid that Mr. Edelblut, even with his success in business and his brief tenure in the NH House, does not reach this threshold of qualifications.

Mr. Edelblut has never served in any capacity in the public school systems of NH. He did not serve on the Education Committee in the NH House, nor has he ever served on a District School Board or even taken an active/visible interest in local educational issues, if election campaign media reports are to be believed. While personally educated in public schools, that is not sufficient to meet the statutory standard—otherwise, virtually everyone in this room would be qualified to serve as Commissioner. His post-secondary fields of endeavor were in business and in theology, not in any field related to education.

Choosing to home school his own children, he has had very little, if any, contact with local schools, whether public or even public charters, and one is left to wonder how he can carry out the statutory mandate to lead the Department in

  • Providing general supervision for elementary and secondary schools, teachers and administrators.
  • Providing a variety of educational services to schools and particular groups.
  • Providing vocational rehabilitation and social security disability determination services for persons with disabilities.

Our teachers and para-educators are required to be certified, and for good reason. The welfare of our children, the State’s most precious resource, is at stake. It seems foolish to entrust their welfare and the future of the State to an individual who is undeniably accomplished, but who has no record of accomplishment, nay, virtually no record at all, in the area of education. It is for these reasons, that on behalf of the members of AFT-NH, I ask that you vote to reject the nomination of Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of the NH Department of Education.

Thank you,

Douglas Ley
AFT-NH, President

1-27-17 AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Right To Work, Minimum Wage, And Frank Edelblut

January 27, 2017

Yesterday was a warm, almost Spring-like day, always welcome in January. The gold of the State House dome shone brightly in the sunshine, and I even took the time to sit for a short while on a bench on the State House grounds. Inside, however, the legislative session is just beginning to warm up, with a short session of the House to deal with a few legislative items, following an intensive week of public hearings on proposed bills, as committees work hard to push legislation to the floor for debates and votes.

The most important news of the week was the scheduling of hearings on so-called ‘right to work’ legislation by the House Labor Committee. The hearings on both the Senate (SB 11) and House (HB 520) versions of ‘right to work’ (virtually identical and almost entirely plagiarized from sample legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC), will be held in Reps Hall on Wednesday, February 8, beginning at 10 am. The hearings are expected to draw hundreds to the Hall, and it is likely the testimony will last for hours. More information on attending and testifying will be forthcoming, but if you can, start planning to join the fun! Battle-lines are being drawn now on this issue, between those who advocate for the working people of New Hampshire and their workplace voice versus those who seek to eradicate any vestiges of worker rights. Our focus will turn to reaching out to the members of the NH House and asking them to oppose so-called Right to Work in any and all forms. Please be sure to visit the AFT-NH website at www.aft-nh.org and utilize the resources on the Defeat Right to Work page.

Interestingly, the House Labor Committee also conducted hearings this week on proposed legislation HB 115 to increase the minimum wage in NH, from its current $7.25/hour up to an eventual $12.00/hour. Any increase would be welcome and long overdue, but those who clamor for so-called ‘right to work’ are also those who oppose any increase in the minimum wage, preferring to redesign the New Hampshire Advantage as one built on low wages and severe limitations on working people’s voice and rights.

In the background, there is also the dangerous proposed bill (HB 438) to ban payroll deduction of union dues by public employers, a strategy employed in Wisconsin to eviscerate public sector unions by making it very difficult for them to collect any member dues. This is actually the most severe threat facing organized labor and all working people in NH. Once unions are gone, can we expect employers to suddenly shower us with generous raises, expanded benefits, and kindly treatment? Remember, when employers exercise unilateral control over the workplace, it is not a recipe for happiness and harmony. Power seeks more power is the old axiom, and absolute power seeks more power absolutely.

Amongst the hundreds of bills now before the various committees of the House and Senate, a few stand out. There are over a half-dozen bills aiming to further reduce pensions or even nearly destroy the NHRS system, breaking every promise made to state, county, municipal, educational, and public safety employees. In a bright note, a bill to require the State to pay 15% of the annual cost of the NHRS survived its first committee test, but faces rough waters in the House. The State used to pay 35% of the costs of the NHRS, but now contributes nothing, a classic example of “downshifting” costs onto local taxpayers, so this bill would at least begin to right that wrong. AFT-NH remains an active partner and participant in the NH Retirement Security Coalition. It will take the combined effort of employee groups, stakeholders and members to protect the NH Retirement System as we know it.

There are also a number of bills to increase funding for charter schools, free them from property taxes, and further siphon off monies for public schools. Once again, there is a bright spot—the proposal to fund full-day kindergarten. The bill has had its public hearing in front of the House Education Committee, which is expected to act on it on February 8. Governor Chris Sununu loudly proclaimed his support for full-day kindergarten during his gubernatorial campaign, so it will be interesting to see if his support translates into Republican votes for it in the House.

In closing, I have two requests of you. First, I hope some of you can attend the January 31 public hearing on the nomination of businessman Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education. AFT-NH has already posted a “lesson plan” on Mr. Edelblut, and your testimony, whether in person or in writing, may help sway the Executive Council, which must approve his nomination. You can email the Executive Council members directly at gcweb@nh.gov. Second, please “Wear Red for Public Ed” on January 31. Let’s show our pride in public education! Dress in red, have your colleagues dress in red, take photos and send them to us for posting on-line. Be proud and say it loud, to paraphrase James Brown, and let’s celebrate one of America’s greatest accomplishments and contributions to the world—the idea of free, broad-based public education.

Your outreach to the legislators does make a difference and we are hearing back that you are contacting them. It matters. Please keep contacting them! We know when we act in unity, we can make a real difference.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Opposes Edelblut For Commissioner Of Education, Releases ‘Lesson Plan’ On Edelblut

NH Students Deserve a Commissioner of Education
Who Is
QUALIFIED and SUPPORTS Public Education

AFT-NH ‘Lesson Plan’ on Frank Edelblut

Objectives

  • Determine if the nominee for Education Commissioner is qualified to serve the 180,000+ public school students in NH;
  • Advise fellow citizens how to have their voices heard on the Edelblut nomination 

Background

  • Governor Sununu has nominated Frank Edelblut to be the next NH Commissioner of Education.
  • Mr. Edelblut served as a state representative for one term and then ran for Governor.
  • Frank Edelblut ran in the republican primary against Gov. Sununu and lost by 800 votes.
  • Mr. Edelblut has no background in education.
  • Mr. Edelblut has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies. He attended K-12 public school.
  • He home-schooled his 7 children.
  • His work experience includes Price Waterhouse Coopers, Niagara Corporation and his own business, Control Solutions International.
  • He supports school choice in all forms such as private, charter, religious, public schools, and home-school. As a legislator, he supported school choice legislation.
  • He has never served on a local school board. He did serve on the Water Commission in the Town of Wilton.

What is the job of the Education Commissioner?

  •  Department of Education Responsibilities

21-N:2 Establishment; General Functions. –
I. There is hereby established the department of education, an agency of the state under the executive direction of a commissioner of education.
II. The department of education, through its officials, shall be responsible for the following  general functions:
(a) Providing general supervision for elementary and secondary schools, teachers and administrators.
(b) Providing a variety of educational services to schools and particular groups.
(c) Providing vocational rehabilitation and social security disability determination services for persons with    disabilities.

  • RSA 21-N:3, I states in relevant part, “…The commissioner and deputy commissioner shall be qualified to hold their positions by reason of education and experience.”
  • The specific duties of the Commissioner of Education are outlined in law at RSA 21-N:4 Duties of Commissioner. The Commissioner needs to be qualified in order to efficiently and effectively run the NH Department of Education and support our schools across the state.

Who approves the nomination of Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education?

The five elected members of the NH Executive Council. The vote could occur as soon as January 31st. 

AFT-NH OPPOSES THE NOMINATION OF FRANK EDELBLUT.

NH STUDENTS, PARENTS AND TEACHERS DESERVE BETTER.

You can express your opinion about this nomination by sending an email to all five Executive Councilors at gcweb@nh.gov.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: ‘Right To Work’ Passes Senate, House To Hear Bills On NH Retirement

January 20, 2017

Yesterday, the NH Senate passed SB 11, the so-called ‘right to work’ bill, by a vote of 12-11. Ten Democratic senators were joined by Republican Senator Sharon Carson in opposing the bill, while one Republican Senator, Robert Guida, was absent and did not vote. By this action, the Republican majority in the NH Senate (excepting Senator Carson) makes clear where it stands. Their aim is to weaken organized labor and the ability of working people to negotiate collectively and have a powerful voice in the workplace. When organized labor is strong, working people are strong, wages rise, benefits improve, and there is greater mutual respect and equality in the workplace. ‘Right to work’ intends to reverse gains made in New Hampshire over nearly the past fifty years, and in tandem with other legislation, will turn New Hampshire into the low-wage haven of New England.

The battle over ‘right to work’ now moves to the NH House, where it is expected that the Senate bill (SB 11) and the identical House version (HB 520 ) will be examined jointly in a hearing before the House Labor Committee, possibly as early as February 8. When one of the bills would then reach the floor of the House for a vote is not yet clear, but at least one of the measures would likely be brought forward prior to the Legislature’s usual winter break in the final week of February.

What does this mean for us? It means we must redouble our efforts to rally public opposition to this anti-working families legislation and we must each commit ourselves and our co-workers to identify the NH House members who represent us, contact them, and make our position clear and our voices heard. Phone calls, emails, letters and petitions will all be in play over the next few weeks, so tighten your seat belts—it will be a rough ride! You can start by visiting the AFT-NH website, clicking on ‘State House News’ under the ‘2017 State House’ tab, and scroll down to where you can search out the names of your NH Senator and Representatives. Knowing who they are is Step 1, before we initiate further actions. And while there, please browse the AFT-NH website—there is much useful information on so-called ‘right to work’ and other issues of concern to us.

In other legislative news, HB 438, prohibiting public sector automatic union dues withholding from paychecks has yet to be scheduled for a hearing in front of the House Labor Committee. Advocates of so-called ‘right to work’ like to claim they are defending individual choice (to free-load) but with HB 438, no such figleaf or specious justification exists. This is direct and undisguised attempt to destroy the ability of labor unions to collect dues from their members in a convenient and simple manner, negotiated via their collective bargaining agreements. Keep this bill in your sights—it is crucial that we defeat it.

A number of bills regarding the NH Retirement System will have their House committee hearings next week. These early hearings are on bills that utilize a variety of strategies to reduce the heavy burdens being placed on public employers (cities, towns, school districts) across New Hampshire due to the State’s refusal to share the burdens and make ANY contributions into the NHRS. Assaults on the NHRS itself will come in future weeks, when proposed legislation reducing benefits or even dismantling the NHRS will come up for hearings.

The final deadline for House bills to be introduced is January 27th. The AFT-NH Bill Watch list is posted on our website and will be updated regularly.

Finally, in the area of education, we have had committee hearings on bills authorizing the State Board of Education to implement a code of ethics for certified teaching personnel, mandating a minimal two-week notice regarding curricular materials on human sexuality, and a proposal to repeal the education tax credit program benefiting charter and private schools. Education Committee actions have not yet been reported on these bills, and we will continue to monitor them as we move deeper into the legislative session. And no account of education-related activity in Concord would be complete without noting Governor Sununu’s nomination of Frank Edelblut as NH Education Commissioner. Given Edelblut’s complete lack of any education experience (he is an accountant by profession) and his clear support for siphoning public funds to pay for tuition at private schools, this is a nomination that deeply concerns AFT-NH and likely the entire education community in NH. So stay tuned—we will be asking your help to mobilize opposition to his confirmation by the Executive Council.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Says Frank Edelblut Lacks Experience To Be NH Commissioner Of Education

Governor Chris Sununu is reportedly set to tap former one-term State Representative Frank Edelblut as New Hampshire Commissioner of Education. Best known for his divisive statements in the legislature and during his brief run for the Republican nomination for governor last year, Edelblut is one of New Hampshire’s most extreme opponents of a strong public education system.

“Once again following Donald Trump’s playbook, Chris Sununu has decided to put into power an individual bent on undermining our public schools in any way he can,” said NHDP Press Secretary Zach McNamara. “As if this weren’t enough, Mr. Edelblut has absolutely no professional experience in public education and appears determined to force his far-right social views into our classrooms.”

“It’s shocking and dismaying that Chris Sununu, who during the campaign promised to support funding for full-day kindergarten, is now set to tap someone who opposes this crucial initiative to lead our Education Commission,” McNamara added.  

“Just as AFT on the national level has expressed strong opposition to the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, we are gravely concerned about a Commissioner of Education who, when running for governor, supported further diverting much needed funding and resources from our public schools,” said AFT-NH President Douglas Ley. “Our teachers and school district employees are trained professionals who have dedicated a lifetime to serving NH students. There is no evidence based on Mr. Edelblut’s public record that he either has the experience in education or public service on the local level that demonstrates the requisite knowledge and understanding to lead NH schools and serve more than 180,000 students, our State’s most precious resource.”  

Megan Tuttle, Vice-president NEA-New Hampshire released the following statement:

“We all-parents, educators, officials, community leaders-share the responsibility for the success of students.  We must all ask ourselves what we can do in our respective roles to make our schools better for kids and help to ensure their success. For educators, that means reaching and motivating every student.  For parents, that means instilling values of respect, responsibility and a love of learning.  And for elected and appointed officials, it means providing students and teachers with the tools and resources they need to help all students succeed-regardless of where they live or how much money their parents make.

If we’re serious about every child’s future, let’s get serious about doing what works. The research is clear about what works best for kids: learning opportunities that begin by age 4, safe schools, classes small enough for one on one attention, qualified and caring teachers, and community support services like nutrition and health care for children who need it. Well-resourced and cared for public schools are our best bet for setting every kid in New Hampshire off toward a great future.

We hope that the new Commissioner moves beyond any past statements, positions and rhetoric to support what works best in education, and protect the rights and dignity of every student and educator in the Granit State.”

See below for some of Frank Edelblut’s greatest hits on public education:

Frank Edelblut actively opposes funding full-day kindergarten in public schools.

“He doesn’t support increasing state adequacy aid for the districts that implement full-day kindergarten programs” – Valley News, 8/17/2016

Edelblut has never worked professionally in education in any capacity (not even local school board). His only experience in education has been homeschooling his seven children. – Concord Monitor, 8/30/2016

Edelblut’s conservative views on social issues – like defending conversion therapy on gay minors and trying to outlaw some forms of birth control – could threaten what our students learn in the classroom. – NHPR, 9/8/2016 and NHRTL endorsement, 2016

Edelblut wants to amend the NH Constitution to weaken the state’s obligation to fund schools.

“He supports a constitutional amendment to ensure the Legislature and governor have more control over public education policy, from the way the state fulfills its obligation to school funding to local control.” – Union Leader, 8/15/2016

Edelblut would succeed Dr. Virginia Barry and Lyonel Tracy as Education Commissioner, both of whom had extensive professional experience in education. Also at issue is state law concerning the Department of Education, which states that “The commissioner and deputy commissioner shall be qualified to hold their positions by reason of education and experience.” (Section 21-N:3).

“No matter how you spin it, Mr. Edelblut is a completely inappropriate choice for this role,” McNamara concluded. 

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Taking Action Against Right To Work

January 13, 2017

On Tuesday, January 10, hundreds packed Reps Hall in the State House for the Senate Commerce Committee public hearing on SB 11, the proposed “right to work” legislation. From 1 pm into the evening, a long line of witnesses, including Senators, Representatives, labor leaders, and working people (union and non-union) spoke against so-called “right to work” legislation. They pointed out that it would bring no new economic investment to NH, would inject the State into the negotiations process, and was simply an attempt to financially cripple labor unions and thereby weaken their ability to better the working conditions and the lives of those they represent. And then, at the end of the day, without taking any time to consider evidence presented, the Committee voted 3-2, along strict party lines, to send SB 11 onto the Senate, with a recommendation of “ought to pass.”

The full Senate is expected to vote on SB 11 (“right to work”) next week, in its session on Thursday, January 19. So what have we learned?

First, all the talk by Republican leaders regarding bipartisanship and cooperation “across the aisle” was just that, talk. It is clear that their strategy is to try to “fast track” and ram SB 11 through the NH Legislature as quickly as possible. Logic and reason and careful consideration of the issue are not part of the plan, because these would only slow down their anti-union and anti-working families agenda.

Second, we also see that many NH legislators are quite willing to do the bidding of out-of-state lobbying groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, the National Right to Work Committee, and ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). All three draw significant funding from corporate sources, and in the case of ALEC, they are the actual authors of much of SB 11. The sponsors of SB 11 don’t even do their own work; rather, they copied large swathes of ALEC’s model or suggested “right to work” legislation and pasted it directly into SB 11. So what we now have is anti-union and anti-working families legislation written by corporate interest groups being foisted upon New Hampshire with little to no reasoned consideration or careful examination. This is the “selling” of New Hampshire. Perhaps this is what Gov. Sununu meant in his inauguration speech when he announced “New Hampshire is open for business.”

Two other major anti-labor bills also came forward this week. One, HB 520, is simply another version of ‘right-to-work,’ introduced in the NH House to be taken up in case the Senate version, SB 11, fails. The other bill is HB 438, which would bar all public employers from agreeing to payroll deduction of union dues, thereby making it much more difficult for unions to collect dues from members. This latter bill was part of Governor Scott Walker’s assault on public-sector labor unions in Wisconsin and has proven highly successful. There are no arguments here about freedom or rights—this is a straightforward effort to effectively destroy public sector unions, your unions. If anyone had doubts as to the intentions of our opponents, those doubts should now be erased. Their goal is clear—destruction of organized labor in New Hampshire.

What is there to do? Email your Senator or even better, call your Senator. Tell them who you are, that you are a union member, you oppose “right to work” and you want your senator to do so as well.

Who is your Senator? Go here to find out: Find Your Senator.

Need their email address or a phone number (office or home)? Go here and click on your Senator’s photo or use the email or office phone number listed on this page: Senator Contact Information

You need not be fancy or incredibly articulate—just a short message of who you are, what town you live in, and you want her/him to oppose right-to-work. And do it in the next few days, before they vote on January 19!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH President Ley’s Testimony Against SB11, “Right to Work”

Testimony of Douglas Ley In Opposition to Senate Bill 11

I am president of AFT-NH, representing 4000 teachers, para-educators, school support staff, town and municipal employees, police officers and first responders. As such, I have been asked to present letters from a number of our local presidents regarding this proposed legislation and ask that you read these with care and consideration. I have letters from the Presidents of the Hillsboro-Deering Federation of Teachers, Hudson Federation of Teachers, Newfound Teachers’ Union and Timberlane Teachers’ Association.

My own testimony shall be brief, to the point, and is rooted in my long-standing public opposition to so-called ‘right to work’ legislation as well as my membership in a private sector union local with agency fee. Within that local at Franklin Pierce University, over 90% of bargaining unit employees are full members of the union. One full-time employee and a small number of part-time employees opt for the lower agency fee or a third option provided within our contract, ‘charitable contribution.’

Our ‘agency fee’ is really a ‘recovery cost payment,’ which helps defray the cost of negotiation and the enforcement of our contract. We have a good relationship with our employer, but nevertheless, there are constant questions of contract interpretation as well as various personnel issues which arise each year, all of which require investments of time and resources to resolve, whether it be through local activity, working with our state federation, or even calling upon the resources of our national offices. Like us, our employer also incurs costs to negotiate and enforce our collective bargaining agreement. They recover their costs by incorporating them into the operating expenses of the University, charged against students and others using the University. All we ask is the continued ability to act in similar but more limited fashion, to have employees who benefit from the collective bargaining agreement contribute to defraying the costs of negotiation and implementation.

I have worked at FPU for 26 years, and during that entire span there has been an “agency fee” option. In keeping with Federal and NH statutes, no one is required to join the union, but all must contribute in some form as mandated by our collective bargaining agreement. In twenty-six years, I know of no individual who declined employment due to this requirement, and as stated earlier, virtually every eligible employee has joined the union. Management agreed to this provision many, many years ago and has never brought forward a proposal in negotiation to eliminate agency fee. Similarly, in my experience working for AFT-NH, I can state that approximately half of our locals have agency fee, and no employer has ever proposed eliminating it. It is a provision freely agreed to by the two signatory parties to a contract, and the contract is then duly ratified via democratic process by employees in the bargaining unit and the governing body of the public employer after approval by the legislative body. Therefore, it is an excellent illustration of local flexibility and local control, long-standing NH traditions. To pass this legislation will only further inject the State into what is a localized and in many cases, private relationship and process, setting the stage for possible further restrictions upon employers and the bargaining agents of employees.

In sum, “right to work” interferes with the freedom to negotiate and engage in collective bargaining and resolves a problem which does not exist. Statute already prohibits requiring union membership as a condition of employment, and every potential employee already has the right to decide to accept a job, with all the conditions and requirements laid out by the employer, which in this case, could include support for maintaining the mutually-agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement. I respectfully ask that this Committee honor that freedom and local control, by rejecting so-called “right to work” legislation.

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