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Joyce Craig Releases Plan To Address Opioids and Crime While Gatsas Plays Games With Voters

This week, the Manchester mayoral race ratcheted up a notch as Joyce Craig unveiled her plan to address the opioid epidemic and the current Mayor, Ted Gatsas, looks to score political points with additional funding to the ‘Safe Station’ program and a new solar power project.

On Tuesday morning, Joyce Craig released her plan to address the opioid crisis and crime in the city, titled “Safe Streets, Opioid Crisis, and Recovery Services Plan.” The plan includes important provisions involving early education, support for expanded Medicaid, and receiving support from the state.

“The opioid crisis is continuing to harm Manchester. Programs like Safe Station are vital to our response, but we need to be doing more. I believe we need a comprehensive approach including early education, prevention, peer recovery support, strong enforcement, and increased advocacy. As the largest city in the state, Manchester needs to lead the effort to combat the opioid crisis. As mayor, I will fight for state and federal resources and empower our community service providers to respond effectively. The safety of every resident of Manchester is my first priority, and my plan reflects the steadfast approach I will take to addressing opioid and safety issues in our city,” Craig said.

Although the city of Manchester has been making efforts to combat the opioid crisis, the problem is as severe as ever and remains a top concern for residents. This past September saw the most overdoses in Manchester in a single month with 147, and every month this summer saw increased overdoses from last year. Policies such as Safe Station are important, but more must be done if we want to see an end to this crisis.

Craig’s plan includes:

  • Continue regular ride-alongs with the police and fire departments to understand the challenges our community and first responders face
  • Develop and implement an evidence-based substance use prevention education program for schools and the community
  • Hold landlords accountable for problem properties where drugs are being sold and used and crimes are committed
  • Lead weekly interdepartmental meetings between the mayor, fire, health, police, office of youth services, the superintendent and key community organizations to ensure we are working together to comprehensively address the opioid crisis
  • Track and report outcomes based on funding to identify the most effective programs and improve services that combat the opioid crisis
  • Monitor indicators such as arrest data, emergency room admission rates, respite center admission rates and average wait time to identify key areas that need improvement
  • Compile citywide overdose data and utilize the data to identify and target interventions to reduce overdoses and overall opioid misuse
  • Establish partnership with the state to address this statewide problem. Over 65% of Safe Station entrants come from outside of Manchester, we need the state to recognize and invest in this program as a statewide resource
  • Advocate for resources from state and federal agencies that city departments and community service providers need to make a lasting difference in this fight, such as recovery housing throughout the state
  • Maintain a full police complement at all times to ensure resident safety
  • Support and advocate for expanded Medicaid. Without it, Safe Station would end and treatment options in Manchester would significantly decrease
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive plan to address chronic homelessness

In a surprising announcement yesterday, Mayor Gatsas and Governor Sununu announced additional funding for the ‘Safe Station’ program.

“I want to thank Governor Chris Sununu, Drug Czar David Mara, and Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeff Meyers for working with the City of Manchester to ensure the continued success of the Manchester Safe Station program. The immediate $150,000 commitment by Governor Sununu and his leadership team will assure the continuation of Manchester Safe Station and the programs in place to provide the services to Safe Station. I am confident that as we move forward we will secure additional funding for the future,” Gatsas said.

This announcement is surprising because it was Mayor Gatsas who opposed an additional $50,000 requested by Chief Goonan to be moved to Serenity Place as part of the Safe Station program in July of this year.

Gatsas is hoping that with today’s announcement people will forget about all of the times he opposed increased spending on the Safe Station program.

During her campaign for mayor, Joyce Craig has advocated on multiple occasions for state funding for Safe Station. Joyce recognized that Safe Station is a statewide resource in the fight against the opioid crisis and should receive support from the state.

In a written statement, Craig said, “This is good news for Manchester’s Safe Station program and those dealing with substance misuse. Safe Station has been a great tool to help people receive recovery services and I am thankful to our first responders for implementing this program.

Unfortunately, Ted Gatsas didn’t bother to take action to make sure Safe Station is recognized as a statewide resource until three weeks before his next election. I’ve advocated for state recognition for months and I am glad Mayor Gatsas decided to take my lead and ask for funding in Concord this week. We need a mayor who works for Manchester every day, not just in the weeks leading up to an election.”

Another example of Gatsas playing games with the people of Manchester is his new solar power project.

“The proposal consists of a twenty five-year power purchase agreement for solar energy and the construction of a solar array on Mount Manchester, also known as the former city dump, that will generate at least three mega watts of power,” reported Girard at Large.

In 2015, Gatsas killed a proposal that was fully supported by the Board of Alderman to install solar panels at the former landfill in Ward 12.

Craig called out this proposal for what it is, a half-baked idea to “score political points” with voters just prior to the election.

“It was clear from the presentation this evening that this proposal was nowhere near ready to be presented to the full Board of Mayor and Alderman. Although he acknowledged being aware of the issue for weeks, Mayor Gatsas failed to provide any information to the Aldermen until tonight. Mayor Gatsas is attempting to rush this issue through the board to score political points before the election. He should have followed the usual protocol and sent this to the city’s energy committee for proper vetting.”

Craig was also quick to criticize Gatsas for his failure to support a similar proposal in 2015.

“Manchester would already be realizing energy savings and revenue if Mayor Gatsas didn’t kill a fully vetted and approved solar project for the landfill in Ward 12 that was overwhelmingly supported by the aldermen in 2015.

I’ve been a strong advocate for renewable energy as an alderman and during my campaign for mayor. While I appreciate Mayor Gatsas is finally endorsing renewable energy, the city would have been better served had the mayor supported a fully vetted project two years ago. Manchester needs a mayor who serves the city every day. Unfortunately, Mayor Gatsas is scrambling to fix his record with rushed plans three weeks before the election.”

Leo W Gerard: NAFTA Negotiators Send Corporate Whiners Back to Swamp

Photo by Gerenme on Getty Images

Giant corporations, loyal to coin and faithless to country, staged a public display of blubbering in the run up to this week’s fourth round of negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Whaa, whaaa, whaaaa, groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sniveled into the swamp from which they crawled to conduct their press conferences. President Trump isn’t doing what corporations want, they wailed.

The President’s trade priorities, which he repeatedly stated on the campaign trail, do not include groveling to the whims and whining of corporations or their toady, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. President Trump said he would create good, American jobs. To do that, he wants more stuff made in America and less stuff made in factories off-shored by greed-motivated American corporations.

“We’ve reached a critical moment,” Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue sobbed this week. “The Chamber has had no choice but to ring the alarm bells.”

He said it, by the way, from Mexico City, where the Chamber, which calls itself the U.S. Chamber, had gone to scheme with Mexican government officials to subvert the NAFTA negotiation goals of the U.S. government.

Chamber Vice President John G. Murphy, meanwhile, was carping from the place the President calls the swamp, “So we’re urging the administration to recalibrate its approach and stop and listen to the business community, the agriculture community, the people who actually engage in trade.”

That is the crux of it, right there. The president had failed to place corporate profits over American workers.

Really, what Murphy and Donohue were saying is that the President should ignore the hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost their jobs because of NAFTA and concentrate instead on the profits to be made by wealthy CEOs and shareholders. Those are the guys who uprooted American factories and transplanted them in Mexico, where corporations can more easily exploit both workers and the environment.

United Technologies (UT) is a good example. UT had two perfectly profitable factories in Indiana where American workers manufactured Carrier gas furnaces and electronic controls. UT decided, however, that it could make even more money if it moved the factories to Monterrey, Mexico.

After Vice President Mike Pence, then governor of Indiana, handed UT $7 million of the state’s tax dollars, the corporation agreed to keep some of the Carrier jobs in the United States, but in the end, it moved all 700 electronic controls jobs to Mexico and 632 of the furnace jobs.

In Mexico, UT can pay its new workers a dime for every dollar in wages earned by its skilled American workers in Indiana. U.S. corporations like UT that transplant factories and kick their American workers to the curb pocket the difference in wages.

NAFTA, which encourages this kind of move, doesn’t benefit Mexican workers either. The poverty rate in Mexico is 52.3 percent, virtually the same as it was in 1994, when NAFTA took effect. Wages there rose just 2.3 percent. Economic development in Mexico has fallen behind that of most other Latin American countries.

But, whaa, whaaa, whaaaa, the Chamber of Commerce cries about the President’s intention to keep his campaign promise to build a trade wall to stop corporations from sneaking across the border.

Emily Davis, a spokesperson for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, gave the Chamber a good smack upside the head after Donohue and Murphy told the President that he should stop listening to workers and do exactly what the Chamber and corporations tell him to do.

Here’s what Davis said: “The president has been clear that NAFTA has been a disaster for many Americans, and achieving his objectives requires substantial change. These changes, of course, will be opposed by entrenched Washington lobbyists and trade associations. We have always understood that draining the swamp would be controversial in Washington.”

The Wall Street Journal explained the problem for the likes of Donohue and Murphy. The newspaper quoted an outside trade adviser to the administration. He said that the administration wants to “create more uncertainty and reluctance for U.S. businesses to invest in Mexico. . . They want to change the decision making around outsourcing and the offshoring of investment.”

The U.S. negotiators, for example, want to weaken, or maybe even eliminate, the NAFTA-created Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system. Corporations love this thing. It’s a secret court presided over by corporate lawyers where corporations can sue countries for passing laws that CEOs claim take a bite out of profits.

So, for example, a corporation could claim that a U.S. safety regulation prohibiting a cancer-causing chemical in plastic baby bottles diminishes expected future profits from its Mexican chemical factory. The corporate lawyers acting as judges in the secret NAFTA court can order the United States to compensate the corporation.  And, to top it off, the amount that the secret court can order taxpayers to hand over to corporations is unlimited.

The secret court reduces risk for corporations moving American factories to Mexico, where they might not have the same confidence that they would in American courts to protect their property rights.

Eliminating or curbing the secret court would reverse one of the NAFTA incentives for corporations to transfer manufacturing to Mexico. The administration wants to change several other aspects of NAFTA for the same result.

For example, it wants the government to be able to insist that more of what it buys be made in the United States. That would mean U.S. tax dollars would create more jobs in the United States. That discourages offshoring because the government is a super consumer.

The administration also wants a higher percentage of a product, such as a car, to be made in the United States, or at least in one of the three partner countries, for it to attain NAFTA duty-free status.  Right now, it’s 62.5 percent. The administration is talking about 85 percent, which would deter offshoring to Asian countries.

The administration is also demanding labor rights for Mexican workers. Enabling them to form real, worker-run labor unions would raise their wages, and, as a result, make transplanting U.S. factories in Mexico less profitable.

Murphy told the administration that it should do none of this. It should, he said, follow the administration’s own guidelines and “do no harm.”

Basically, big corporations and the Chamber want no change to NAFTA. They’re fine with all harm falling on U.S. workers’ shoulders ­ – 800,000 of whom lost their jobs because of NAFTA. And that doesn’t include the 1,600 lost at Rexnord and the two United Technologies factories in Indiana this year.

President Trump isn’t fine with that outcome, however. And that’s why his spokesperson at the Office of U.S. Trade Representative told the Chamber this week to waddle back down to the swamp and shut up.

Berry Craig: Put A Little ‘Ludd’ In Your Life

The Battle Between Progress And Technology That Leaves Workers Without A Job

By BERRY CRAIG, AFT Local 1360

This senior citizen has a hard time figuring out computerized, check-yourself-in airport kiosks.

Like Blanche DuBois, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” So, I’m grateful to nice folks who are still around to check me in the old way.

“Thank you so very much,” I gushed with profound appreciation to the woman who sped my wife and me to our homeward flight from London’s Heathrow airport last summer. (I’m pretty sure she belonged to the UNITE union.)

“You’re welcome,” she smiled and replied. “One day I won’t be here. They want to get rid of us.”

She meant those kiosks would eliminate her job. Millions of people worldwide have already lost jobs to the kind of “progress” the kiosks represent.

As we headed for the gate, I thought of the Luddites, 19th-century English textile mill workers who wrecked machines that were taking their jobs. Factory owners equated mechanization with “progress” — meaning more profit for them. The workers’ supposed leader was Ned Ludd, hence the movement’s name.

Today, “Luddite” is a slam for somebody like me who dares suggest that “technology” is not necessarily synonymous with “progress.”

Don’t get me wrong. I like my PC a lot better than my ancient Royal manual typewriter I used in college going on 50 years ago. Nor am I proposing a Luddite solution to stanch the bleeding of jobs to technology.

I’m with my union brother, David Nickell. He says society needs to redefine its notion of “progress” to ensure that technology serves all of us, rather than enriching just the few.

“We’ve got to start asking ourselves, ‘How can we use technology to bring us the kind of world in which everybody has a job and a place?”” argued David, who teaches sociology and philosophy at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah.

David is the campus representative for AFT Local 1360, this old history teacher’s union office before he retired.

David, like me, is a lifelong resident of rural western Kentucky. We’re fans of Wendell Berry, the famous Bluegrass State writer, environmental activist and social critic.

“Wendell Berry wrote that we are creating a surplus population, with no role for them in society,” David said.

Berry meant farmers and farm workers. The same applies to blue- and white-collar workers who’ve lost–and are still losing–livelihoods to “progress.”

Added David: “I ask my students, ‘How many of you believe in progress? Every one of them holds up a hand. Then I ask, ‘What are we progressing toward?’”

Silence follows, he said.

David said the self-service check-in gizmos–common at U.S. airports, too–symbolize our seemingly insatiable demand for convenience at almost any cost.

“Somebody said the new American credo is ‘Give me convenience or give me death,’” he said.

Anyway, 19th-factory owners and managers on both sides of the Atlantic welcomed machines as profit enhancers.

Absent unions, factory and mill hands toiled long hours at low pay in jobs that threatened, and often claimed, lives and limbs. Most employers saw their employees as mere means to economic ends. They commonly fired workers as soon as they found machines to replace them.

Stateside and in Europe, self-check-out kiosks are also supplanting staffers at supermarkets and other big stores. Automatic answering devices have mostly replaced human telephone operators, too.

After I’m able to run the press-here-for-this-or-that gauntlet and finally reach a real person, I say, “Thank you for being there. Your company needs to hire more people to answer the phones. They need jobs; machines don’t.”

David also noted that many people are uncritically hailing computerized, self-driving cars and trucks as more examples of “progress.”

“With centralized computers with artificial intelligence, the computer can learn from what one truck encounters and instantly reroute all other trucks,” he said.

“The gains in efficiency will be tremendous, but how many truck and delivery drivers will be replaced?  This is one of the last good paying jobs that does not require a college degree, or any specialized training beyond a commercial driver’s license.”

Self-driving taxi cabs are also on the way.

In any event, David said there’s a big difference between finding meaningful work and merely “having a job.”

He explained, “The alienation of the worker has now become so expected that it seems extremist even to point it out.  If the technologies were used properly, they would replace the alienating, tedious, and back breaking jobs, and not the people.”

David recalled his dismay at hearing a Kentucky governor say “’the purpose of higher education is to meet the needs of business and industry.’

“I thought to myself, ‘Business and industry are supposed to succeed, or fail, based on whether they can meet the needs of the people.’”

To feed the greed of wealthy wool and cotton mill owners in the early 1800s, the British parliament, whose members were all rich and powerful men, passed laws to crush the Luddite movement. They also sent redcoat soldiers to shoot or arrest them; several Luddite leaders were hanged, imprisoned or transported to penal colonies in Australia.

In his maiden speech in the House of Lords, George Gordon, Lord Byron, the famous poet, defended the Luddites. While he “condemned” and “deplored” Luddite violence, he warned, “It cannot be denied that they have arisen from circumstances of the most unparalleled distress: the perseverance of these miserable men in their proceedings, tends to prove that nothing but absolute want could have driven a large, and once honest and industrious, body of the people, into the commission of excesses so hazardous to themselves, their families, and the community.”

So, more than a century later, is it “Time to reconsider the Luddites?” asked the headline on a 2014 story in the online U.S. edition of The Guardian, a British newspaper. The author, Robert Skidelsky, based his story on MIT research which showed that over the last 30 years, the share of wages in our national income has been shrinking.

Professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee said that during this “second machine age,” computer technology has pushed deeper “into the service sector, taking over jobs for which the human factor and ‘cognitive functions’ were hitherto deemed indispensable.”

At the airport, most of the old-fashioned check-in desks were unstaffed. So we had to stand in line–“queue” in the local lingo. But there were queues for the kiosks, too.

Not counting queuing time, the friendly staffer at the still open desk had us on our way about as quickly as the kiosk users were checking themselves in and heading for their flights.

Skidelsky, a professor of political economy at Warwick (England) University, pointed to Wal Mart and Amazon as “prime examples of new technology driving down workers’ wages. Because computer programs and humans are close substitutes for such jobs, and given the predictable improvement in computing power, there seems to be no technical obstacle to the redundancy of workers across much of the service economy.”

He acknowledged that “there will still be activities that require human skills, and these skills can be improved. But it is broadly true that the more computers can do, the less humans need to do. The prospect of the ‘abridgment of labour’ should fill us with hope rather than foreboding. But, in our kind of society, there are no mechanisms for converting redundancy into leisure.”

Skidelsky recalled the Luddites. “They claimed that because machines were cheaper than labour, their introduction would depress wages. They argued the case for skill against cheapness. The most thoughtful of them understood that consumption depends on real income, and that depressing real income destroys businesses. Above all, they understood that the solution to the problems created by machines would not be found in laissez-faire nostrums.”

In their headlong embrace of technology as a boon to their bottom lines, business and industry owners would do well to remember that jobless workers can’t afford to buy the products made by the computers, robots and machines that replaced them.

For sure, unemployed airport ground staff won’t have the wherewithal to fly the friendly skies.

 

Nashua Teachers Union Joins Local Fight To Reduce Childhood Food Insecurity

“Childhood food insecurity is a national problem, it occurs when children receive insufficient food on a regular basis; in many cases missing meals entirely. After a while, these children also experience “fear of hunger” that affects their behavior as much as physical hunger affects their bodies. There are more than 16 million food insecure children in America today,” wrote the coalition End 68 Hours of Hunger.

Nearly one in four children face food insecurity. The “68 hours” between child’s free lunch on Friday and their free breakfast on Monday are specifically what End 68 Hours of Hunger is working to address.

“That insecurity can lead to some behavioral disruptions,” writes End 68 Hours of Hunger. “On Monday mornings they return to school ill, often spending the day in the nurse’s office. They are unable to focus and concentrate until they once again are nourished.”

The work they are doing to eliminate those 68 hours of hunger is having a noticeable impact.

“Teachers report that children are more responsible, and their performance improves.  Actual documented increases in reading and math scores have been reported as well.”

During their meeting on October 10, the Nashua Teachers’ Union Board of Directors unanimously voted to support End 68 Hours of Hunger – Nashua with a donation of $3,000.00 to purchase the food needed to feed about 200 Nashua students during February vacation.

“It was the fastest discussion we’ve had in regards to making donations,” said Nashua Teachers’ Union President Adam Marcoux. “It was never a question of if we would do something, it was a question of how much do they need to help our students over that vacation week. We have worked closely with End 68 Hours Hunger before, and people really appreciate what their organization does for our students.”

End 68 Hours of Hunger provides food for students over the weekend as well as the three vacation weeks. “It’s 2017 and hunger is still a problem for our students.” Marcoux went on to say, “I was talking with a retired nurse and this came up. She recalled speaking with a student at her school, asking if they were excited about the upcoming vacation. The student answered no. When asked why, they responded ‘because I don’t get to eat at home.’ It is a heartbreaking situation to think about our students having to worry about food.”

“One of the goals of the Nashua Teachers’ Union is to be a community partner, supporting groups and organizations that work to help our students and schools. We are proud to once again support End 68 Hours of Hunger in their effort to help our students.”

Members of the Nashua Teachers’ Union will also pack the food prior to the vacation week. “Packing the food is a lot of fun, too! Last year, we had people seeing who could pack the bag the best. By the end, we had people competing with each other. It made for a fun afternoon,” Marcoux said.

For more information on End 68 Hours of Hunger – Nashua, please visit www.end68hoursofhunger.org.

Featured Image: STEM Outreach – Turnagain Elementary School – by Army Corp of Engineers FLICR CC

Trump’s Sabotage Of The Affordable Care Act Will Hurt New Hampshire Families

Trump’s ACA Sabotage, Executive Order Will Gut Protections, Force Sickest to Pay Skyrocketing Prices, Destabilize Health Care for New Hampshire Families

Following an Executive Order that will increase junk insurance plans, news follows that President Trump will immediately end cost-sharing payments and destabilize health insurance markets

Concord, NH Yesterday, President Trump issued a new executive order that will expand the availability of junk insurance plans in a direct attempt to trigger the collapse of the entire private health insurance market and destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last night, the Trump administration signaled that it would also immediately end cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies, which analysts and advocates agree will destabilize health insurance markets in New Hampshire and across the nation.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated back in August that ending cost-sharing reductions would increase insurance premiums by 20% next year alone, effectively kick a million Americans off insurance, and add $194 billion to the deficit.

“These partisan, political acts are part of Trump’s relentless campaign to sabotage the ACA by forcing premium increases, creating instability in the market, actively interfering with the ability of consumers to sign up for coverage, and rolling back the contraceptive coverage mandate,” said Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins. “These actions threaten the collapse of the entire individual health insurance market and leave our sick and most vulnerable to pay the price.”

“For years, Trump and Congressional Republicans have called for the repeal of the health care law without offering any viable replacement. Trump is now bent on destroying the one health care law that allowed millions of Americans to gain health insurance and improved coverage for essential health care benefits like maternity, mental health, and prescription drugs. Trump is stripping these important consumer protections and ending critical payments that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage. Any problems in our health care system from here on out rest solely at the feet of President Trump and other politicians who have created instability and skyrocketing premiums, and allowed the sale of junk plans without the essential health coverage people need when they are sick,” Rice-Hawkins added.

“Last night, Trumpcare became a reality. By refusing to continue cost-sharing reduction payments, President Trump has committed his most shameful act of sabotage on the insurance markets, threatening the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans and making premiums skyrocket for millions more,” said Raymond Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party.  “Governor Sununu’s self-proclaimed closeness with Trump and his administration hasn’t yielded any help for New Hampshire. Instead, Sununu’s constant praise and support of Trump is starting to look like blind flattery.”

Buckley continued, “Make no mistake, Governor Sununu has precipitated Trump’s sabotage by fueling the flames of ACA repeal,  opposing Medicaid expansion, supporting various forms of Trumpcare, proposing Medicaid block grants, rejecting a reinsurance program, and refusing to join a bipartisan group of governors in calling for the protection of key health care protections. Rather than actively campaigning against dangerous Republican health care ideas, Sununu has either stayed silent or belatedly voiced his opposition once and disappeared. That is not leadership. Sununu is engaging in political calculation when Granite Staters need its governor the most.”

In a letter to President Trump in August, Governor Chris Sununu called for Trump to continue the cost sharing reduction payments. One of the main requests in the letter:

“Commit to funding CSR reimbursements for 2017 and 2018: Carriers calculate their rates far in advance, so continued uncertainty about the reimbursements fuel dramatic increases and could lead them to exit the market. This hurts consumers – most of all, those who cannot get coverage through work and do not qualify for federal subsidies. While I am sympathetic to the argument that these payments are a subsidy, to withhold them at this late date as carriers are trying to calculate rates is resulting in significant instability and further rate increases and fewer options.”

“Despite the American people’s rejection of the Affordable Care Act repeal, this new order is part of a concerted effort by the Trump administration to unravel the law’s patient protections and to destabilize healthcare marketplaces,” said Senator Shaheen. “This order only introduces more unnecessary chaos into our healthcare system, which undermines the healthcare that Granite Staters, and all Americans, depend on. The President must abandon these political efforts to destabilize the ACA, and finally prioritize working with Congress to address and fix this manufactured crisis. There are Republicans and Democrats who are ready to move forward with bipartisan legislation that will provide stability in the insurance marketplace, increase access to care and lower cost sharing.”

Senator Shaheen is leading efforts in the Senate to provide marketplace stability by permanently continuing and increasing eligibility for cost-sharing reduction payments. Her bill, the Marketplace Certainty Act, would make cost-sharing reduction payments permanent and expand eligibility to more working Americans.

“By deciding to stop payments for so-called cost-sharing reductions – which help lower deductibles, co-pays, and other out-of-pocket expenses – President Trump is cruelly and intentionally raising health care costs for millions of Americans,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that stopping these payments would cause health insurance premiums to skyrocket for millions of Americans while also ballooning the federal deficit, yet the President moved forward with this plan out of political spite. I have pushed for months to get Congress to act to provide certainty around these payments and help block the Trump Administration’s blatant sabotage attempts, and now is the time to finally stop this madness.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter said that Trump should be “ashamed” for his actions that “will torpedo the individual insurance market”

“He is right to be so ashamed of this spiteful action he would only announce it in the dead of night. Stopping these payments won’t just hurt the lower-income people whose out-of-pocket costs are defrayed by CSRs, it will also hurt every one of the millions of Americans who buy their own coverage. That’s because insurance companies say they are going to charge everyone more to make up for the lost funding. Congress must act immediately to fund CSRs and protect our constituents from Trump’s vengeful and destructive actions.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster also spoke out against the order.

“President Trump’s announcement today sadly continues to take us in the wrong direction on health care. During the last several months, I have been encouraged by conversations with both Republicans and Democrats about how we can address the ongoing challenges with the Affordable Care Act.  I believe that there are areas where we can all agree on solutions to fix issues faced by some Americans. Today’s executive order simply reverts back to the failed repeal and replace mantra. This executive order will result in higher costs to consumers and less access to health care for Granite State families. I will continue to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to look for commonsense solutions to stabilize the individual marketplace and strengthen our health care system.”

This executive order is not about helping people gain insurance coverage it is outright sabotage.  Millions of hard working Americans will be harmed by this executive order.  Some will lose their coverage. Some will be force to go without coverage because the costs are too high. Some will be forced to pay outrageously high premiums as they have no other option for coverage.

The American People spoke out loud and clear against the Republican healthcare plan. The Senate rejected the measure over and over because even some Republicans know that this plan will due massive harm to the American people.  But President Trump does not care about the will of the people, he is running the country like a unhinged tyrant.


UPDATED to include statement from NH Democratic Leadership

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, Senate Deputy Democratic Leader Donna Soucy, House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff and House Deputy Democratic Leader Cindy Rosenwald issued the following joint statement:

“President Trump’s decision to end cost-sharing reduction payments will dramatically hurt New Hampshire families’ ability to afford and access the health insurance they need. The Trump administration’s varied attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and its protections are shameful and it is abundantly clear that this effort is an attempt to settle a political score rather than act in the best interest of the American people.

Today, we are calling on Governor Sununu and New Hampshire’s Republican legislative leaders to pass a reinsurance program to provide as much relief as possible to Granite Staters who will see premiums go up an average of 20% next year as a result of President Trump’s decision to cancel CSR payments. We are also calling on New Hampshire’s Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to join Attorneys General across the country who are promising to sue the Trump administration to protect cost-sharing reductions. We will work with anyone, anywhere to make sure Granite Staters continue to see the protections and guarantees they have received under the Affordable Care Act and fight back against President Trump’s destructive sabotage.”

Trinational Coalition Demands ISDS Be Removed From New NAFTA Proposal

As Battle Over NAFTA Investor Protections Heats Up, Trinational Coalition Delivers 400,000 Petitions Demanding Elimination of Corporate Rights and Tribunals

Investor-State Dispute Settlement Becomes Key Measure of Whether NAFTA Renegotiations Will Benefit Working People or Expand Corporate Power 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Growing public opposition to the expansive corporate privileges at the heart of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took center stage as the fourth round of NAFTA talks began today in Washington, D.C. U.S., Mexican and Canadian civil society organizations delivered more than 400,000 petitions demanding that NAFTA’s expansive corporate rights and protections and Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) be eliminated during renegotiations.

“If you want to know how trade deals like NAFTA have been rigged against working people and our communities, all you need to do is to look at the Investor-State Dispute Settlement process,” said Chris Shelton, president, Communications Workers of America.

“Americans want trade deals that will add new protections for our environment, create American jobs and raising wages, not another corporate giveaway by a phony populist like Trump, said CREDO political director Murshed Zaheed. “If Trump doesn’t use NAFTA renegotiation to eliminate the Investor State Dispute Settlement provision it will further expose his administration as craven crony capitalists masquerading as faux populists.”

“The Teamsters are North America’s supply chain union. With members in long-haul trucking and freight rail, air, at ports and in warehouses, as well as members in manufacturing and food processing, this union has a big stake in trade policy reform,” said Jim Hoffa, general president, Teamsters. “We will be monitoring the modernization of a flawed and failed NAFTA, and fighting to make sure that the new NAFTA works for working families.”

U.S. officials are expected to table a proposal on the controversial NAFTA investment chapter during this week’s negotiations. NAFTA’s investor protections and ISDS make it less risky and expensive for corporations to outsource jobs and empower them to attack domestic policies that protect public health and the environment by going before tribunals of three corporate lawyers who can order unlimited compensation to be paid to the corporations by taxpayers.

Last month, more than 100 small business leaders sent a letter calling for elimination of ISDS in NAFTA. Organizations representing U.S. state legislatures and state attorneys general and hundreds of prominent economics and law professors also have declared opposition to ISDS, as has a group of Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has warned about the threat of ISDS. But corporate interests are scrambling to defend the controversial regime they use to attack domestic laws and raid taxpayer funds.

While just 50 known ISDS cases were launched in the first three decades of this shadow legal system, corporations have launched more than 50 claims in each of the past six years. More than $392 million in compensation has already been paid out to corporations to date after NAFTA ISDS attacks on oil, gas, water and timber policies, toxics bans, health and safety measures, and more. More than $36 billion in NAFTA ISDS attacks are pending.

“People from the Yukon to the Yucatan are united in demanding an end to NAFTA’s corporate privileges that promote job outsourcing, lower wages and attacks on health safeguards,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “A NAFTA replacement deal that benefits people and the planet cannot grant corporations powers to skirt our laws and courts and demand unlimited taxpayer compensation from tribunals of corporate lawyers.”

“NAFTA is strewn with handouts to corporate polluters that must be eliminated, starting with the free pass for chronic job offshorers to attack air, water, and climate protections in tribunals of corporate lawyers,” said Ben Beachy, director of Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program. “Any NAFTA replacement must stop protecting multinational corporations and start protecting the workers and communities across North America who have endured decades of damage under this raw deal.”

“ISDS makes big corporations feel safer moving jobs around the globe to wherever workers are the most exploited and environmental regulations are the weakest, and it also puts democratically-enacted public interest laws in jeopardy both at home and abroad,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign. “While many changes are needed to make a NAFTA replacement deal work for working families and the planet, if trade negotiators maintain ISDS, we’ll know the NAFTA renegotiation has been hijacked by special interests intent on preserving corporate power.”

“ISDS effectively usurps democratic governance, and makes it impossible for elected governments to create policy that benefits ordinary citizens without the threat of a corporate lawsuit,” said Carli Stevenson, campaigner, Demand Progress. “As we fight to preserve the free and open internet in the United States, we stand with activists worldwide against attempts by any corporation to use trade agreements to make their profits sacrosanct and act against the interests of citizens, workers, and consumers. ISDS should not be a part of any trade agreement.”

“ISDS empowers mega-corporations to attack democratic values, human rights, and environmental protections and force governments to award their corruption and greed with unlimited payments of our tax dollars,” said Matt Nelson, Executive Director of Presente Action. “The reality is clear, forces pushing the ISDS have no loyalty to their governments or the people, only to their pipedreams to rule our public institutions like their own private castles.”

“Investor-State Dispute Settlement puts power in the hands of international tribunal that do not have the best interests of workers, public health, and the environment, but rather benefit corporations looking to make a profit or gain more power,” said Patrick Carolan, executive director, Franciscan Action Network. “This is not in line with Catholic Social Teaching and Franciscan values which emphasizes the need for just and fair laws for all people.”

“Big Pharma is already demanding more extensive provisions on intellectual property in NAFTA to extend their market monopolies on medicines even longer. At the same time, it’s also pushing to expand NAFTA’s investment chapter to include intellectual property claims. This would mean pharmaceutical giants could use the system of closed-door tribunals to try to overturn important, long-standing features of a country’s laws on patents or other aspects of intellectual property, in pursuit of yet more profits for the one of the most profitable industries in the world, said Richard Elliott, executive director, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

Sen Rand Paul Submits National Right To Work Bill (Again) As A Fundraising Ploy

Paul fund-raises on his ‘right to work’ bill, rates a zero on
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights report card

Image by Stump Source FLIKR CC

By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Rand Paul is all in for “right to work,” but he knows his national RTW bill is going nowhere.

Kentucky’s tea party-tilting junior senator never figured it would. He knows hogs will fly before the legislation winds up on the desk of President Trump, a fellow RTW fan.

Paul is clued in to the fact that the Democrats can filibuster the measure to death.

But passing the bill wasn’t Paul’s point. Putting his John Hancock on the legislation was.

Paul’s uber-conservative, well-heeled, union-despising donors are as crazy about RTW as he is. Paul proposed the bill to give himself a chance to burnish his anti-union creds with his bankrollers.

Koch Industries is the pseudo-populist Paul’s third largest contributor, according to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. The National Right to Work Committee piled $7,500 into Paul’s campaign coffers.

Charles and David Koch and other kleptocrats have also extended their largess to pro-RTW Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Bluegrass State’s senior senator.

Paul and McConnell realize that GOP-majority state legislatures are where RTW laws get passed. They were on Cloud Ten–the one above Nine–last January when the Republican-run Kentucky General Assembly approved a RTW bill at warp speed; GOP Gov. Matt Bevin lost no time in signing it.

Kentucky unions have filed suit to overturn the bill.

More than just union members understand that RTW laws are among the oldest union-busting tools around. “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work,’” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. cautioned in 1961. “It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.”

Added King: “Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”

Also in 1961, King warned that “the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth [italics mine].”

Last year, every Republican in the House and Senate got an “F” on a congressional report card issued by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, George F. Curry wrote in the Daytona, Fla., Times.

The LCCHR is an umbrella organization with more than 200 member groups. It graded all lawmakers on how they voted on legislation important to the civil and human rights community, explained Curry, editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine.

Paul rated a zero.

President Trump’s Approval Rating In Free Fall

Even when Trump won the Electoral College, after losing the popular vote, his approval ratings were slightly underwater. In fact, Trump somehow won the Electoral College with a 61% “unfavorable” rating, the “worst in presidential polling history,” according to Gallup Polling.

Today, Morning Consult, released the results of a new nationwide poll of more than 470,000 people showing a significant drop in the President’s approval ratings.

Morning Consult reported that after the election Trump had only a 46% approval rating and a 34% unfavorable rating. After the inauguration, Trump’s approval rating jumped slightly but never reached 50%.

Since January, Trump’s approval rating has fallen from 49% to 43% but his disapproval numbers went from 43% to 53%.

Below are two snapshots of Trump’s approval ratings from January and then what Morning Consult found today.

 

 

 

A majority of the states saw a drop in approval ratings, however key “battleground” states where Trump’s favorability was close to zero at the election have plummeted in 2017.

  • Michigan: -22% net percentage point change
  • Arizona: -26%
  • New Hampshire -18%
  • Wisconsin: -18%
  • Pennsylvania: -16%
  • North Carolina: -18%

It is not just “battleground” states that saw a significant drop in approval ratings. States that Trump carried in the general election have “soured” on Trump in 2017.

  • Tennessee -23%
  • Mississippi -21%
  • Kentucky -20%
  • Kansas -19%
  • Indiana -19%

The biggest drop in approval ratings came from traditionally “blue” states.

  • Illinois: -30%
  • New York: -30%
  • District of Columbia: -29%

The poll shows that the people of Washington D.C. disapprove of Trump the most with -60 net approval rating.

It appears that millions of people across the country are waking up and are realizing that Donald Trump is nothing more than a con man, who hoodwinked them in the general election. He continues to lie to the public about his connections to the Russian government. He continues to push policies that contradict his campaign promises. He also continues to fill the swamp with unqualified people, like Besty DeVos and Scott Pruitt.

Workers across the country are also starting to realize that while Trump campaigned on renegotiating NAFTA, to help bring back jobs and raise wages for working people, the fact is that his new NAFTA looks a lot like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that he claimed to be against.

Initial reports are showing that the new NAFTA will do nothing to help workers worldwide and will do nothing to stop the offshoring of American jobs. Because the new NAFTA negotiations are being held in secret, we do not really know how bad the overall agreement will be.

It is good to see that people are finally starting to wake up and see Trump as the con man he really is.

Documented Or Undocumented, Immigrants Are Human Beings And Deserve Care And Respect

Protestors at an anti-Trump rally (FLIKR CC Alisdare Hickson)

by Carol Backus and Eva Castillo Turgeon

Last Sunday’s editorial headline about police practices when encountering undocumented immigrants is deeply offensive to people of faith and good will across the Granite State. While we agree with the editor’s assertion, “State and local police should not be stopping people based on skin color or foreign accent,” we are troubled by language elsewhere in the editorial that dehumanizes immigrants.

Human beings are not fish or game to be caught and released. We are not domestic animals to be penned in barns. Actions, not people, can be illegal. To label immigrants as illegal is an attempt to dehumanize them. When people are dehumanized, they are easily targeted as undeserving of respect and basic human rights. Labeling people negatively may be unintentional, but it is nonetheless harmful.

People who are unable to produce citizenship papers are human beings and deserve the same care and respect as members of the Union Leader editorial board and staff or the authors of this op-ed.

A person may be in New Hampshire without documents for a variety of reasons: they may have overstayed a tourist visa; they may have jumped off a merchant ship; they may have crossed a border without stopping at a check point; they may be a victim of human trafficking; their abusive spouse may have taken their documents; they may have an expired student visa; or for any number of other reasons. Unless we know a person’s story, we don’t know why they are here without documents. When we know their story, we can decide whether they have committed an illegal act, and if so, whether it was justified.

The process for sorting out these situations must be humane. A humane attitude on the part of police and the larger community will lead to resolution of policies affecting the millions of people who live in the U.S. without documents. We at the Granite State Organizing Project, a New Hampshire faith-based community organization, laud the efforts of state and local police departments to clarify their roles regarding immigrants.

As a matter of public safety, it is crucial for everyone in our communities to feel safe reporting a crime, calling for help on the roadside, escaping from an abusive spouse, or cooperating with the police on community projects. As so many of our immigrant neighbors come from mixed status families (e.g. a parent without documents, children who are citizens, etc.) it is very important for everyone to know that casual contact with local police will not result in the catastrophic family separations we have been reading about in the news.

Decisions of local police departments not to act as enforcement agents on immigration issues that do not involve serious misdemeanors or felonies seems to us reasonable and a wise use of resources. We hope that the state police will also develop wise and humane policies.

Wise policies will also recognize that immigration has always strengthened our country. Wise policies will be good for our state’s economy as we seek to find workers that our employers tell us are needed to fill job vacancies.

Except for a handful of Native Americans, we are all descendants of immigrants. First came the European colonists who were undocumented from the perspective of the people already living here. After its establishment as a colony of Great Britain and later as a state, New Hampshire benefitted from waves of immigration as French-speaking, Irish, Italian, Greek and other immigrants came to live here. Each wave experienced its share of conflict as those longer settled resented the newcomers. With time New Hampshire gained the gift of diversity that resulted from this immigration.

Now we find ourselves with undocumented people living in our midst. Many of them have been here for years and even decades, living as quietly as they can, trying to keep their families together. Our challenge is not how to deport them, but how to offer a path for their legal integration into the social, economic, and civic fabric of our state. If we undertake this, New Hampshire and its citizens will not be diminished, but will grow stronger.

 

Carol is President of the Executive Committee of the Granite State Organizing Project and Eva is First Vice President.

Trump ‘Rolls Back’ Mandatory Birth Control Coverage

In their continued assault on women’s reproductive rights, the Trump administration just announced a new “roll back” of employer mandated coverage for birth control.

“The new regulations, effective immediately, would exempt all employers and insurers from covering or paying for coverage of contraceptives if they object “based on its sincerely held religious beliefs,” or have other “moral convictions” against covering such care,” wrote the Atlantic Magazine. “Employers were required to cover at least one of all of the 18 FDA-approved methods of birth control with no cost-sharing for the patient.”

The Affordable Care Act’s birth control provision saved women an estimated $1.4 billion on birth control pills in its first year alone. Thanks to this benefit, more than 62 million women now have access to birth control without copayments.

“The Trump administration just took direct aim at birth control coverage for 62 million women. This is an unacceptable attack on basic health care that the vast majority of women rely on,” said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood. “With this rule in place, any employer could decide that their employees no longer have health insurance coverage for birth control.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, after the Affordable Care Act’s birth control provision took effect, fewer than 4 percent of American women had to pay out of pocket for oral birth control. That number was more than 20 percent before the law’s passage. Specifically in New Hampshire, 58% of women get their healthcare from their employer.

“Birth control is not controversial — it’s health care the vast majority of women will use in the course of their lifetime. Two million women rely on Planned Parenthood health centers each year for birth control. Nine out of ten women of reproductive age will use birth control in their lifetime.  This administration is carrying out a full-scale attack on birth control— eliminating insurance coverage for birth control, eliminating programs that help women with low incomes access birth control, and moving to prohibit health care providers from even giving women information about birth control or abortion. We cannot allow President Trump to roll back the progress women have made over the past century,” added Richards.

“This administration’s obsession with rolling back women’s reproductive rights and access to care is dangerous and reflects a shallow understanding of women’s health,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “This order will undoubtedly increase unwanted pregnancies and abortions, at a time when both are at an all-time low. I will continue to fight for women’s access to coverage for preventative services, including birth control, and will oppose any effort that infringes on, or compromises, their reproductive freedom. I urge the President to consult health experts and reverse this ill-considered policy shift, and work with Democrats to improve access to healthcare, which includes reproductive health services. ”

Senator Shaheen is a dedicated advocate for women’s reproductive rights. Senator Shaheen has been fighting for years to increase coverage of women’s preventative care in the annual defense authorization bill, and just last month, added an amendment to an appropriations bill that would boost funding for international family planning and reproductive health programs, and repeal the Global Gag Rule.

“Protecting women’s rights to make their own reproductive health decisions is critical to ensuring that women can fully participate in our economy, and also in our democracy,” Senator Maggie Hassan said. “Rolling back full coverage, with no out of pocket costs, for birth control is a direct attack on women’s access to health care and on their right to make their own health care decisions. Nine out of ten women of reproductive age will use contraception at some point in their lives.  Since this benefit went into effect, women nationwide have saved over $1.4 billion on birth control, and this move by the Trump Administration would put a financial burden on hundreds of thousands of women. It is unacceptable that the Trump Administration has repeatedly worked to undermine women’s access to critical health services, and I will continue fighting back against these attacks, including working to ensure that all women have the essential preventative health services they need at no out-of-pocket cost.”

Earlier this year, Senator Hassan helped introduce the Save Women’s Preventative Care Act to ensure that coverage for preventative health care services, such as breast cancer screenings, birth control, and domestic violence screenings, can’t be revised or rolled back by the Trump Administration.

“I am outraged by the Trump Administration’s most sweeping attack yet on women’s access to health care,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “The vast majority of American women get their health insurance through an employer, and this rule will endanger their access to contraceptives, which are used by many women to treat medical conditions as well as to prevent unwanted pregnancy. We must defeat this rule and make it clear to President Trump that women and men reject this interference in access to birth control.”

“Birth control is an important medication for millions of women and efforts by the Trump Administration to limit access to contraceptives are appalling,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “The rule announced today would allow employers to deny coverage for contraceptives,  making them unaffordable for many women in New Hampshire and across the country. I will fight this misguided move by President Trump to deny access to what is truly basic health care.”

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