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The First In The Nation (#FITN) Campaign Is Underway (InZane Times)

Image by Arnie Alpert

Image by Arnie Alpert

Senators from opposite ends of the political spectrum took to lecterns on opposite ends of Manchester yesterday to test the waters for potential presidential runs.  At the NH Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders engaged in spirited  back-and-forth with 200 progressive activists on topics including campaign finance, excessive military spending, and the need for a “political revolution.”  Meanwhile, the Americans for the Prosperous Foundation and Citizens United hosted a parade of right-wing Senators and others trying out their stuff before an audience of several hundred conservatives at the Executive Court. 2014 04 12 freedom summit 005

Outside the conservative event, progressive activists – mistakenly identified with the Democratic Party by the Concord Monitor – held signs lambasting proposals to weaken retirement security.

It was perhaps the first in what will soon be a typical day on the trail to the 2016 New Hampshire Presidential Primary.

The conservative event was tickets-only, but I got my request in early enough to get a seat and hear speeches from leaders of Citizens United and Americans for the Prosperous, followed by NH Senator Kelly Ayotte, Senator Mike Lee, Do2014 04 12 freedom summit 008cropnald Trump, and a couple of local pols.  While Trump was entertaining, audience response to Senatorial speeches about low taxes and the evils of Obamacare drew tepid responses.  The speakers were ushered to the stage from behind a curtain, gave their prepared speeches, and disappeared again behind the curtain without taking any audience questions or comments.

Senator Kelly Ayotte, who seems to be on lots of lists of potential VPs, quoted former Governor Meldrim Thomson, equated freedom with low taxes, and equated the Affordable Care Act with freedom’s opposite.  Applause were somewhere south of excited. Senator Lee was teacherly and likewise failed to excite the crowd.

Trump was different.  Speaking without notes – and criticizing politicians who  depend on speech-writers and tele-prompters – Trump wandered from point to2014 04 12 freedom summit 028point, some of which departed from standard AFP scripts.  For example, he defended Social Security and Medicare in an apparent dig at proposals coming from Congressman Paul Ryan.  He said we need “to come up with a humane solution” to the country’s immigration system, but then drew applause for ridiculing Jeb Bush’s recent “act of love” statement and said he could build a physical barrier that would keep immigrants out.  Trump said we had spent $2 trillion on the Iraq war, “for what?,” but then implied maybe it would have been worth it if we had taken2014 04 12 freedom summit 020 over the country’s oil.

With no candidate Q&A, the event was rather boring.  My colleague Addy and I left during the introduction of Congressman Louie Gohmert and headed across town.

Senator Sanders had already finished his speech and was talking about Harry Truman when we arrived at the Institute of Politics.  The mood felt different, and it wasn’t just that we were in politically comfortable surroundings.  The seats were all filled, except for ones emptied by people standing in line to get their turns at microphones on the left and right sides of the stage.  Sanders handled questions comfortably, clearly at home in a town hall meeting environment.  Decrying “a Congress largely dependent on corporate2014 04 12 bernie sanders nhiop 011money,” Sanders called for development of a grassroots movement to demand change and then hold politicians accountable.

Sanders, a socialist who ran as an Independent and caucuses with the Democrats, is giving active consideration to a presidential run without saying whether he would run as an Independent or take the fight inside the Democratic Party.  “Somebody has got to be talking about these issues,” he told a group of labor activists who met with him in a small conference room after the main event.

We could have returned to the Freedom Summit and perhaps would have been able to hear Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, but I had had enough for one day.  I would have liked to hear Senator Paul criticize corporate welfare at a Koch-fueled forum.  But I’m pretty sure all these wannabe Presidents will be back, as will the progressive protests, grassroots activists, and the reporters who love to take it all in.

Does Havenstein Even Qualify For Candidacy In The NH GOV Race?

The NH Governor’s race just got a little more interesting, and more controversial.  Last week, multi-millionaire and former CEO of BAE Systems, Walt Havenstein, announced his candidacy for Governor.

“Our state is at a critical juncture, and I believe my experience, ideas, and leadership are what is needed to address the many challenges facing New Hampshire,” Havenstein told the Union Leader.

Havenstein has some major issues to deal with first.  After retiring from BAE, Havenstein moved to Maryland.  He still kept his house in Alton, but bought a multi-million dollar condo in Bethesda, Maryland where he has lived for the last few years.  Havenstein’s residency has created a firestorm of questions about his eligibility to run for office in New Hampshire.

The Nashua Telegraph explains, “The state constitution requires candidates for governor, state senate and Executive Council to live in the state for seven years before they run for the office.”

There is no doubt that Havenstein has owned property in New Hampshire for more than seven years, but did he “live” here?  The answer is resounding no.

After moving to Maryland, Havenstein filed for a homestead exemption on his million-dollar condo.  The tax exemption saved Havenstein thousands of dollars in Maryland property taxes.

Under Maryland law, “principal residence” has been defined to mean the “one dwelling where the homeowner regularly resides and is the location designated by the owner for the legal purposes of voting, obtaining a driver’s license, and filing income tax returns.”

A Maryland law was enacted in 2007 that requires all homeowners to submit an application stating that they meet the principal residence requirements, under penalty of perjury.  According to the Nashua Telegraph, “Havenstein said he didn’t recall signing that form.”

“Despite Walt Havenstein’s selective memory, in order to receive the tax breaks he received, Maryland law required Havenstein to certify that his Maryland home was his principal residence, including for voting, paying taxes, driver’s license and car registration,” said Julie McClain, NHDP Communications Director. “That certification and Maryland law clearly makes Havenstein ineligible to run for state office under New Hampshire’s Constitution. For him to state otherwise is to assert that he was committing tax fraud in Maryland, raising a whole other set of legal questions for Mr. Havenstein.”

So which is it? Is Havenstein eligible to run for NH Governor and committed tax fraud in Maryland, or is he ineligible to run because he is not a resident of New Hampshire?

Either way Mr. Havenstein is in deep trouble.  He could be facing legal problems for fraud and tax evasion in Maryland, but that is not the real problem.  How can anyone trust Mr. Havenstein as governor if he is willing to lie and cheat to run for office?  Every day that he continues to run for governor, his credibility continues to fall apart.

As former Senator Scott Brown is quickly learning, Granite Staters do not like people from other states telling them what to do.

[Fun fact: Scott Brown would be ineligible to run for NH Senate, Exec. Council, or Governor in NH due to residency requirements in NH Constitution, yet he can run for the representative from NH to the US Senate.]

We do not like these out-of-state carpetbaggers coming here and telling us, “We know how you feel, we are Granite Staters too.” No, you do not know how we feel! Just because you own a second home in New Hampshire does not make you a Granite Stater.  Did you have to shovel the 70+ inches of snow we in the Granite State got this winter? Mr. Havenstein, where were you last year when the winter thaw revealed our roads were falling apart?

Not here, that’s for sure!

How can anyone who does not truly live here begin to think that they know what real life is like in NH.  Mr. Havenstein, just go back to Maryland where you obviously live, and we will see you this summer with the rest of the tourists.

 

The GOP In The US House Make Changes To The 30 Hr Work Week In ACA. They Could Not Be More Wrong

Image from NObamaNoMas on Flickr

Image from NObamaNoMas on Flickr

This week marked the six-month anniversary of the Healthcare.Gov and healthcare exchanges going live.  The anniversary also marks the closing of the first open enrollment period for people to sign up for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act.  To the surprise of everyone, the healthcare exchanges signed up over 7.1 million people.  Including the millions of young adults who now have continuing healthcare coverage under their parents plan, the White House estimates that the ACA has helped nearly 10 million people gain quality affordable healthcare.

Aside from the great news about the ACA, the GOP is going full bore in their attempts to derail the ACA.  This week the US House voted for the 55th time to repeal key provisions of the law in an attempt to dismantle it piece by piece. Not to mention that the 55 different attempts to repeal the ACA has cost us the taxpayers over $50 million dollars.

This week, House Republicans voted to change the ‘full time work’ provision of the ACA.  Under the ACA employers must provide access to health insurance to all employees who work full time, or more than 30 hours a week.  The new bill that House GOP passed, mostly along party lines, changes the definition of full time to those who work 40 hours a week or more.

This is in response to GOP legislators, like NH congressional candidate Gary Lambert who told a group of college students at Plymouth State University, that the ACA is “killing the 40 hour work week.”  They claim that by forcing employers to offer healthcare coverage to employees that work 30 hours a week, employers have reduced employee work hours to less than 30 hours.  Corporations are doing anything they can to avoid offering healthcare to their employees.

It is not Obamacare that decides how much somebody works, it’s the person who runs the company,” Rep. James McDermott (D-Wash.) told the Washington Post Thursday.

The GOP is bowing down to their corporate masters by changing the law to allow corporations to have employees work full time, and still not be required to offer employees healthcare.

The Washington Post also reported that President Obama has already issued a veto threat to this bill – which has a snowballs chance in hell of getting through the Senate – due the fact that over 1 million people would loose healthcare coverage from their employers pushing the number of uninsured Americans up another 500,000 if this bill passed.

This move by House Republicans’ is exactly the opposite of what we needs to be done.  If they are afraid that workers are going to loose their full time status because the ACA says full time is 30 hours a week, they should remove the provision completely.  They should pass a law that requires employers to offer healthcare to all employees, not just those that are ‘full time’.

This is exactly what the AFL-CIO has been calling for since the law was first passed, and reaffirmed their position in a convention resolution passed in 2013.

The labor movement has pushed for a requirement in the ACA that all employers assume responsibility for contributing toward the cost of health care for their employees….

We all know full well that the corporate lobbyists in Washington would never agree to this, and that means the GOP would never entertain an idea to make access to healthcare a requirement.

House Republicans will continue to work to repeal this law….” stated Speaker John Boehner in a recent press release.

Mark my words, the GOP is going to use the Affordable Care Act as the major theme in their mid-term campaign strategy. Just like they did in 2012, they are going to stump around telling people if they are elected they will repeal the ACA.

It has already begun. “On April 1st Gary Lambert made a trip to Plymouth State University to meet with students,” said Brandon Lemay a student from PSU who attended Lambert’s meet and greet. “When discussing why he should replace Representative Anne Kuster, he cited his opposition to Obamacare as a great reason to remove her.”

Former Senator Lambert is no different than the hundreds of Republicans in Washington who do not want make incremental changes to the ACA and make it better; they only want to repeal it.  Over 55 times, the House GOP has voted to repeal the ACA.   By repealing the law they want to kick the 10 million people off their new health insurance, allow insurance companies to deny coverage to people when they get sick, take away the option for young adults to stay on their parents’ plan, take away the mandate for insurance companies to fully cover preventative care, and remove the cap on insurance companies profits.

Do we really want to go back to the way it was before? No of course not, but the GOP is obsessed with moving our country backwards, rather than pushing forward. The GOP believes that voters are stupid. We know that if they were elected that they couldn’t repeal the ACA, and we also know that repealing the law would hurt millions of Americans.

“I think the recent comments by Senator Lambert, and many of those in the GOP, about the ACA, show just how out of touch they are with real Granite Staters,” said Brandon Lemay.

This repeal Obamacare campaign strategy works great, just ask Mitt Romney.

After McCutcheon Case Our Democracy Is Dead! Or Is It?

An American flag festooned with dollar bills and corporate logos flies in front of the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.  Image by JayMallin.com

An American flag festooned with dollar bills and corporate logos flies in front of the Supreme Court during oral arguments in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.
Image by JayMallinPhotos.com

Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States issued their ruling on the McCutcheon vs. Federal Elections Commission deregulating personal spending on political campaigns.

“This ruling is an unwelcome sequel to the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United which will further erode the ability of 99 percent of our citizens to meaningfully participate in the political process and to have their voices heard in the governance of our country,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.

“Today’s Supreme Court McCutcheon decision is the worst affront to democracy since Citizens United,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter in a one-minute speech on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster echoed Shea-Porter’s comments by stating, “Today’s Supreme Court decision further erodes our campaign finance laws, which were already in desperate need of reform.”

It was only four years ago that the conservative majority on the bench of the Supreme Court ruled the ‘corporations are people’ and with that could donate vast amounts of money to political campaigns.  This was evident in the 2010 and 2012 elections as corporations spent hundreds of millions of dollars funding corporate friendly candidates.

Image by JayMallinPhotos.com

Image by JayMallinPhotos.com

The McCutcheon case was not about how much corporations could spend, but how much one individual can spend on political campaigns.  The new ruling did not change the amount of money that one person can spend on an individual candidate ($2,600 in the primary and another $2,600 in the general election), but it changed how much one individual can publicly spend on the overall election.

McCutcheon’s lawyers argued that Mr. McCutcheon wanted to give more donations to multiple candidates, and to the national party, than the current cap allowed, and that was a limit on his free speech.   It should be noted that the individual cap prior to the recent decision, was $126,000.  That is three times the average workers annual salary.

The SCOTUS lifted the cap to $3.6 million per election cycle.  This means that one wealthy individual could spread $3.6 million dollars, publicly, to over 1300 candidates without exceeding the $2,600 per candidate cap.

North Carolina AFL-CIO Secretary -Treasurer MaryBe McMillan said, “Today’s ruling in McCutcheon makes clear that in our battle against organized greed, working people cannot count on the Supreme Court to deliver justice.”

This ruling signals that our highest court has just put our democracy up for sale to the highest bidder.

“By striking down individual aggregate limits on First Amendment grounds, the Court has further tilted our political system in favor of corporations and the wealthy and against working people,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.  “Our founding fathers did not intend for our electoral process to be the façade for political auctions.”

“The Supreme Court has once again struck a blow to our democracy,” said the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) in a written statement. “This decision is a gift to billionaires like the Koch brothers that want to unduly influence public policy and an affront to working families who are having their voices drowned out by a monsoon of big money. Elections should not be like auctions—for sale to the highest bidder.”

“With this ruling, the voices of everyday Americans have gotten squashed again. We once had rules that allowed everyone a fair shot at the American dream and access to democracy, but now access to government is reserved for the most powerful and influential with millions and millions of dollars to buy elections,” stated American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.  “The avalanche of money spent on elections would be better spent creating jobs, improving our neighborhood public schools, fixing our disintegrating infrastructure and building a better future for our children.”

Our voice, in our democracy, is being stolen.  Without obscene amounts of money the working-man will not be heard in Washington or in our state capitols.  The problem compounds when you add in the unlimited amounts of money pushed from corporations after the Citizens United decision.

“Taken together, these two decisions will effectively drown out the voices of working people in the political process and deny them access to their elected officials,” stated SEIU President Henry.  “To a Supreme Court which equates speech with money, only the voices of the rich are entitled to protection under the First Amendment.”

“This action opens the floodgates for even more outside spending and undue influence on our elections, and underscores the need to pass new legislation to reduce the role of special interests in our political system,” said Rep. Annie Kuster.

Image by JayMallinPhotos.com

Image by JayMallinPhotos.com

So that is it, our democracy, as we know it is dead.  Money is speech, and the middle class cannot compete with business and the ultra-wealthy 1%.   If you truly believe there is nothing we can do, then yes our democracy is lost, however I do not think this is the end.  We have options.

First we must pass Constitutional amendments that remove the outside money from our political system.  The people at Public Citizen are working to pass these types of amendments in state houses across the country.  In New Hampshire over thirty towns have joined the fight calling for an amendment to the State Constitution.

We can also completely remove the influence that money has on our politicians by going back to publicly funded campaigns.  Each candidate gets the same amount of money to run his or her campaign, and that is it.  No outside special interest groups pushing lies and misleading advertisements.  No more corporate super PACs buying politicians before they are even elected.

We as the 99% have one thing that corporations and the ultra-wealthy will never have, people.  DEMOS is reporting that 60% of all individual super PAC donations, $360 million dollars, came from 132 wealthy donors.  There are more politically motivated people in my town’s school board meetings.   We have the ‘boots on the ground’; we just need to get them moving.

We need the middle class to rise up and take control of our democracy.  Pulitzer Prize winning author Hedrick Smith talks about this in his most recent book, Who Stole The American Dream. He talked about how it was labor, civil rights leaders, and the middle class who pushed our country forward during the 1960’s.  As he put it, “it was the middle class who were driving the political bus.” In the ‘60’s people believed they could make change, and they did.  We can do that again.

We need more politicians like Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter who refuses to take money from corporate PAC’s and D.C. lobbyists.  We need more leaders like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who is calling on Sen. Scott Brown to take the ‘People’s Pledge’ to keep special interest money out of their Senate race. Something that Sen. Brown did when he ran against Sen. Warren in Massachusetts.

There is no way for the middle class to match the obscene amounts of money that the ultra-wealthy and corporations are dumping into campaigns but that does not mean the fight is over.  Only together can we make the changes needed to keep the money out of politics forever, and all you have to do is vote.  We outnumber them a million to one, and if we vote, their money will make no difference at all.

Stand up for our democracy, get out and make your voice heard!
You can start taking action by adding your name below to join the call for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United, McCutcheon and related cases.

The American Enterprise Institute Says States Are Full Of “Public Pension Millionaires.” The Truth Is Very Different

Once again workers retirements are under attack. As many working Americans are loosing their pensions for a 401K-retirement style savings plan, those who still get a pension are once again under attack.

Last week the online magazine ‘MainStreet.com’ released their article titled “Some of the Richest Retirees are “Public Pension Millionaires”.  The article attempts to sway people into believing that public workers are collecting millions in pension earnings.

Full-career public employees retiring today receive pension benefits that place them among the highest-income retirees in their states,” writes Andrew G. Biggs, in a report for the American Enterprise Institute.

This is total garbage! The article even states that the average AFSCME retiree earns $19,000 per year.  The truth is that these AFSCME members are better off than New Hampshire state employees.  According to the NH Retirement System’s fact sheet, the average state employee retirement payout is $12,758 per year.  That is just over $1,000 dollars a month, now that is living large!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average New Hampshire State and municipal worker earns $874 per week or approximately $45,000 per year.  The police and fire department employees do get more in retirement due to the fact that they are not eligible for social security.  Even the police and fire retirements only average $36,000 a year.

It is obvious that Andrew Biggs is pushing an anti-worker agenda with a goal of stealing workers pensions and trading them in for 401K plans.

Mr. Biggs works for the American Enterprise Institute that is a well-known conservative think tank with strong ties to ALEC.  The website, RightWingWatch.com describes AEI as:

One of the oldest and most influential of the pro-business right-wing think tanks. It promotes the advancement of free enterprise capitalism, and has been extremely successful in placing its people in influential governmental positions, particularly in the Bush Administration. AEI has been described as one of the country’s main bastions of neoconservatism.

AEI’s Board of Directors is comprised of the heads of major corporations and Wall Street bankers. Right Wing Watch also noted that,  until his passing in 2006, Kenneth Lay, former CEO of Enron was on the board of directors of AEI. We all remember how Enron went belly up and left workers with nothing.

They want to gut our pensions and trade them for 401K’s to create more profits for the Wall Street gamblers.

This bogus report from AEI is not about how much public employee pensions are costing, but how much more their corporate funders can make by reducing their pension contributions.

Does anyone think it is a coincidence that this attack on public workers pensions was released just before the Ryan budget was announced? A budget plan that would force government workers to pay more of their hard earned money, towards their retirement programs. I don’t.  This is a coordinated attack on working families who are trying hold on to what little retirement security they have left.

The USPS Teams Up With Staples: Taking Good Union Jobs And Turing Them Into Part-Time, Low Wage Jobs

Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr

Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr

The US MAIL IS NOT FOR SALE. The manufactured crisis that is being used to destroy the postal service is taking a new turn this spring. As ongoing efforts to eliminate Saturday mail delivery have come to a standstill in our deadlocked Congress. The USPS is moving forward with a plan to place postal counters, without postal employees in 8o Staples stores. In time they want to expand this misguided plan to over 1500 stores nationwide.

These Staples stores will be manned strictly by non-union Staples employees. This is the right-wing dream scenario of turning thousands of solid middle class union jobs into part-time/low wage jobs. Would you rather have a trusted postal worker, who is sworn to protect the mail,  handling your transaction or would you rather roll the dice on the credibility of a  low wage staples worker?  Its one step closer to dismantling the worlds best Postal Service, and one more affront on the war on workers.

The Postal Service is kicking the door open to privatize retail operations,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein said. Staples is not a Mom-and-Pop operation, he pointed out, and, “If we don’t stop this program, we will soon get a letter from the Postal Service telling us management plans to contract out all of retail,”

A few weeks ago Staples announced its planning to close over 200 stores nationwide. This news did not deter USPS plans to pursue this contracting out program. This proves, more than ever,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein, “that it’s a bad idea to turn public services over to a private company that can close stores at will, with no public input and no public comment.

It’s easy to envision a scenario where a local post office is closed and its services placed in a nearby Staples store. Then without warning that Staples closes. Why would the Postal Service theoretically place its customers in that dire situation?

Instead of pursuing this misguided union busting partnership with Staples the USPS would be better off by working with Congress to provide banking services at the local Post Office. This would provide a valuable public service for millions of Americans, while at the same time providing a new revenue stream for the USPS.

There is a growing need for a postal banking system. With over 25% of the American public without bank accounts the demand is abundant. Currently they are being forced to pay exorbitant fees to non traditional banking services just to accomplish routine banking tasks.  These 68  million “unbanked” citizens paid over $89 billion in fees and interest in 2012, on average 10% of their income. The USPS is the only entity positioned in a way to provide these services.

The situation is especially acute in economically disadvantaged areas where banks have moved out leaving behind these shady businesses that profit off the misery of the poor. It is quite clear that establishing postal banking services is an idea whose time has come.

It’s not surprising to see in a country that is obsessed with money and power, that Congress would not take action on any legislation, like postal banking, that would help mitigate the exploitation of those in difficult economic situations.  Power rules in DC the marginalized are always further marginalized.

At a time when the USPS is making an operational profit you would expect them to look to build on that success. Instead, astonishingly,  they are looking at ways to dismantle the most efficient and popular agency of the US Government. The time is now to get involved and stop the next step of the sell off.

Please take part in the National Day of Action and join us at the  STOP STAPLES PROTEST – Thursday April 24th at the Staples on Ft Eddy Rd in  Concord from 4-6 PM

 

NATCA Honors Controllers For Quick Thinking And Lifesaving Decision Making At Archie League Awards

NATCA hosts annual ‘Communicating For Safety‘ convention and honors the air traffic controllers who went above and beyond durning the last year.

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi.  Image via NATCA on FLICKR, Credit Douglas Jones

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi.
Image via NATCA on FLICKR, Credit Douglas Jones

Last week I was honored to attend the National Air Traffic Controllers Association’s (NATCA) premier safety convention,  ‘Communicating For Safety’ (CFS).  The annual event drew 1,400 people from across the country.  Attendees included hundreds of  NATCA air traffic controllers, FAA management, and hundreds more from the aviation industry worldwide.

CFS is broken into two parts.  One part is a convention where NATCA, the FAA, and the aviation industry show how they are working together to make the National Airspace System more efficient and safer for everyone involved.  The second part is NATCA’s Archie League Medal of Safety Awards, which highlights some of the best lifesaving moments by NATCA controllers from across the country.

The safety convention part of CFS was as diverse as the people who attended the convention.  They had industry leaders, like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, who talked about new equipment they are designing to make it easier for controllers to interface with their radar equipment.

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi spoke at length about the political issues facing the National Airspace System.  NATCA and many other unions have been pushing back against the ‘sequester’ that is slowly starving federal organizations like the FAA.  The political gridlock in Washington is making it harder for controllers to do their jobs: major staffing shortages, cuts to equipment acquisitions budgets, and cuts to general maintenance budgets.  Politicians are putting unnecessary risk into the world’s most complex – but still the safest – air traffic system in the world.

The main focus of the CFS convention was to get real controllers together and talk openly about some of the issues facing controllers in the workforce.  These issues are the same as elsewhere in the transportation industry: including fatigue, workload-overload, complacency and distractions (i.e. cell phones and text messaging).  Controllers and managers discussed solutions to these problems.

Archie1

The Archie League Medal of Safety Awards

The Communicating for Safety convention concluded with NATCA’s annual Archie League Medal of Safety Awards banquet.  Archie League was credited as the first air traffic controller, who used two flags to signal pilots at the St. Louis Airport when it was safe to land.  NATCA honors Archie and his vision for a safer air traffic system, by highlighting some of the most dramatic, and lifesaving moments by air traffic controllers over the past year.

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi opened the awards banquet by saying, “Tonight you will laugh, you will cry, and most of all you will feel pride for your profession.”  And boy, was he right.

Watching these events unfold would make most people cringe, and vow to never fly again, until that moment where the air traffic controller comes in to save the day.  In Alaska, it was the quick thinking of the Anchorage Center controllers who used a pair of military bombers to help them make contact a lost airplane that was below their radio coverage.  In Miami, controllers averted disaster as an air carrier mistakenly taxied onto an active runway, just after another aircraft was cleared for takeoff.  In Houston, Stewart Pearcy helped guide the pilot of a single-engine Cessna 172 to safety, after the pilot was caught by a fast moving storm.

Jared Mike from Seattle Terminal Radar Approach Control safely guided a pilot through the steep mountaintops of Washington State, with precise vectors to Boeing Field, a small airport where the plane could land.  The entire time the pilot, Philip Bush, who admitted at the event that this flight “was the scariest moment in his entire life”, kept informing the controller that he could not see out front windows of the airplane because they were covered in ice.  Bush told the crowd of over 1,500 people that while he was trying to safely navigate through the mountains “it was the calming voice of Jared that helped him get through”.

Some of the presentations showed how controllers’ quick actions and professionalism during a crisis saved additional lives.

Last year Asiana flight 214 crashed at the San Francisco Airport.  Even as the tragic event unfolded, the controllers rerouted other aircraft that were on approach to the airport, and notified emergency services to get the fire equipment on the scene.

Listening to the audio replay from that day, you could hear the tears in the voice of Alexis Shirkey as she informed the surrounding air traffic facilities that the San Francisco Airport was closed due to an aircraft accident.

As the plane burst into flames, the smoke filled the sky.  Controllers in the tower watched in horror as the smoke rose and began to obscure their view of the crash site.  It was not until emergency crews arrived that the controllers in the tower knew that anyone had survived at all.

In fact, 307 passengers and crew from the Asiana flight survived the crash.  A brief moment of silence was held for the three people who lost their lives in that tragic crash.

If it was not for the quick action from this dedicated group of professionals, there is no telling how bad this could have been.  Their teamwork during this crisis showed what true professionals these men and women are.

The entire crew of the SFO Airport Tower on the tragic day.  David Caldwell, Dan Ferlito, Nicole Findlay, Russell Kipker, Dawn McMullin, Fred Naujoks, Joseph Okuda, Peter Sachs, and Alexis Shirkey Image via NATCA on FLICKR, Credit Douglas Jones

The entire crew of the SFO Airport Tower on the tragic day, in no particular order:
David Caldwell, Dan Ferlito, Nicole Findlay, Russell Kipker, Dawn McMullin, Fred Naujoks, Joseph Okuda, Peter Sachs, and Alexis Shirkey.
Image via NATCA on FLICKR, Credit Douglas Jones

The final award given at the Banquet is called the President’s Award.  This is the NATCA President’s choice for the best of the best this year.  NATCA President Paul Rinaldi had to choose between all of the dramatic life saving award winners and pick the one he thought was the best.  As you can see this was no easy task.

This year the Presidents Award went to Nunzio DiMillo from Boston’s Logan Airport.  Nunzio was working in the tower around 7pm on Sept 27th of last year.  This was a pretty typical day for Nunzio and all of the controllers at Boston Tower, with multiple aircraft looking to depart, and a line of aircraft waiting to land.

One of those aircraft waiting to depart was a Jet Blue Airlines Embraer (E)190.  The regional jet, which holds around 100 passengers, requested permission to depart and was taxing to the end of the takeoff end of the runway.  At the same time, Nunzio was working a small Cirrus (SR22) who was lining up to land, before the Jet Blue aircraft would be cleared for takeoff on the same runway.

As the Cirrus began to get closer to the runway end, Nunzio could tell something was wrong.  Nunzio a veteran controller of 23 years, quickly checked his tower radar to confirm his suspicions. The Cirrus was not lined up for the runway, but was actually about to land on the taxiway that the Jet Blue E190 was currently occupying.

Nunzio quickly told the Cirrus to ‘Go Around! Go Around!’  The Cirrus pilot did not question Nunzio; he gave the plane max power and initiated a climb.

T.R. Wood was the pilot of the Jet Blue E190 who saw the Cirrus coming at him and knew there was not much he could do to avoid it. Wood tried to maneuver the E190 off the side of the taxiway in hopes to minimize the impact with the Cirrus.  He heard the plane power up, and said as the plane passed overhead the sound from the propeller driven aircraft was “deafening”.

Wood told the crowd that his self-defense maneuver would not have saved the E190 if Nunzio had not acted.  In fact Wood talked about how his wife, and the mother of his children, was sitting right where the Cirrus would have impacted the E190.

When a complete review of the event was conducted, the Cirrus came within 30 feet of colliding with the Jet Blue aircraft.  After this event, Nunzio the consummate professional, continued to work the busy traffic session.  He worked over 90 aircraft in the hour surrounding the near disaster.

Click here to watch the video replay of Nunzio’s dramatic save.

Left to right: NATCA Executive VP Patricia Gilbert, Capt T.R. Wood, Nunzio Dimillo, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi. Credit: Douglas Jones

Left to right: NATCA Executive VP Patricia Gilbert, Capt T.R. Wood, Nunzio DiMllo, NATCA President Paul Rinaldi.
Credit: Douglas Jones

(You can see Nunzio’s acceptance speech of the Presidents Award and hear the full story from Capt Wood by clicking here.)

All of these controllers got up and accepted their awards, most of which had similar acceptance speeches.  They all thanked their co-workers, because air traffic controllers are part of a team.  They rely on each other, and they help each other in times of crisis.   They other thing they all said was, “I was just doing my job.”  Every one of these controllers went above and beyond to ensure the safety of these pilots and passengers – and all they can say is, “I was just doing my job.”

(You can view all of the award winners acceptance speeches and the video replays of their award winning events thanks to NATCA, here.)

As a member of the flying public, I would like to thank all the members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association for their hard work and dedication to make air travel the safest form of transportation in the world.

NATCA, thank you for all you do!

 

Can You Help Send Matt To Netroots Nation?

matt

Matt Murray

Here’s the thing: my friend Matt Murray runs New Hampshire Labor News on a strictly volunteer basis. All the hours he puts in – on the blog site, on the Facebook page, the Twitter Feed, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pintrest – all his time is donated.  And he usually ends up paying costs out-of-pocket. Matt does this because he believes in the Labor Movement.  He saw a communication gap and decided to fill it: all of New Hampshire’s labor-related news in one place, 24/7/365.

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Matt Murray and Richard Trumka
(President of the AFL-CIO)

But Matt hasn’t just “filled the gap” here in the Granite State, he’s given workers a voice.  He has helped hundreds of nurses in Orlando, Florida tell their stories.  Last year’s coverage of the Detroit bankruptcy went viral, and was quoted by the national AFL-CIO.  Privatization of the US Postal Service, public education, income inequality, CEOs dodging pension obligations at Patriot Coal and Hostess Brands, factory deaths in Bangladeshall these stories found a home at NH Labor News.

And Matt hasn’t taken home a penny for doing any of it.

NH Labor News Quoted

Matt has given the Labor Movement a lot.  I’d like to do something in return.  He wants to go to Netroots Nation 2014.  And I would like all those of us who benefit from Matt’s work at NH Labor News to chip in and send him there.

Matt Murray And Gov. Howard Dean

Gov. Howard Dean and Matt Murray at #NN13

Netroots is an annual convention of bloggers and social media communicators.  Matt has attended in past years, and he has brought home “best practices” and shortcuts.  He has also come back with renewed energy and enthusiasm (important things for a 24/7 volunteer to have). But in “real life” Matt is just another worker – he’s gotten hit by wage freezes, cutbacks, and increased pension contributions – and like most of the rest of us, his family budget is really tight. Can you help me raise enough money so that Matt can afford to go to Netroots Nation 2014?

Any amount, no matter how small, will help to get him there.

Thank you for helping me show Matt how much we value all his work on NH Labor News.

New White House Reports Shows Women Benefit The Most From A Minimum Wage Increase

The growing income inequality has become a major issue in the United States in recent years.  Much of this debate has surrounded by the failure of the minimum wage to keep up with the ever-growing cost of living.

There have been many studies done by numerous think tanks that show if we raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour it will lift millions of low-wage workers out of poverty.  While the opponents of a minimum wage increase like to say that many of the low-wage workers are just teenagers earning extra spending money, the truth could not be farther from the truth.

“Most people who would get a raise if we raise the minimum wage are not teenagers on their first job – their average age is 35.  A majority of lower-wage jobs are held by women.  These Americans are working full-time, often supporting families, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with our economy’s productivity, they’d already be earning well over $10 an hour today.  Instead, it’s stuck at $7.25.  Every time Congress refuses to raise it, it loses value because the cost of living goes higher, minimum wage stays the same.”

– President Obama, Remarks at Central Connecticut State University, March 5, 2014

The wage gap between men and women has also come to the forefront of the low-wage discussion with recent political pushes for legislation like paycheck fairness and the Lily Ledbetter Act.

The fact is that women are the majority of low-wage workers, over 55%, of the people who would be effected by a minimum wage increase.  This is even more evident when we talk about the tipped minimum wage.  Women make up 75% of workers in tipped occupations.

Women and the Minimum Wage

Many states have a reduced minimum wage for tipped workers. For example the tipped minimum wage in New Hampshire is $3.27 an hour.  This means the employer, the restaurant, only has to pay employees $3.27 an hour provided the employee makes enough in tips to ensure that they are paid the state minimum wage ($7.25).   19 states have a tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, while six states do not have any reduced minimum for tipped workers.

Tipped Minimum Wage by State

The truth is that workers in predominantly tipped occupations are twice as likely as other workers to experience poverty, and servers are almost three times as likely to be in poverty.  It is glaringly obvious that workers who rely on tips are not making enough to support themselves or their families.

Just like the minimum wage, the power of the tipped wage has eroded over the last 20 years since it was last increased.  Since 1991, the tipped minimum wage has declined by 40 percent in real terms.  Today, the tipped minimum wage equals just 29 percent of the full minimum wage, the lowest share since the tipped minimum wage was established in 1966.

 

Tipped wages lost value

Another major issue with the tipped minimum wage is that not all employees are making enough in tips to reach the minimum wage. When surveyed, more than 1 in 10 workers in predominantly tipped occupations report hourly wages below the full national minimum wage, including tips.

Raising the full minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage will help reduce poverty among women and their families, as well as make progress toward closing the gender pay gap.

  • About one-quarter (26 percent) of all workers who would benefit from increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 have dependent children, and 31 percent of female workers who would benefit have children.
  • 2.8 million working single parents would benefit from the President’s proposed increase in the full minimum wage, more than 80 percent of whom are women.
  • Research shows that raising the minimum wage reduces child poverty among female-headed households.
  • Increasing the minimum wage can also help women work their way out of poverty and into the middle class.
  • For every dollar that men earn, women earn just 77 cents. Estimates from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers suggest that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and indexing it to inflation could close about 5 percent of the gender wage gap.

Chances are that you know someone who works hard in a low-wage job who will benefit from an increase in the minimum wage.  Raising the minimum wage will help workers lift themselves out of poverty and reduce the amount of money they receive from government assistance programs.   Raising the minimum wage is common sense. America needs a long overdue raise, and the time is now.

 

Read the full White House report: THE IMPACT OF RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE ON WOMEN – March 2014

 

Right-Wing PAC Makes False Claims About Medicare Advantage To NH Seniors

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter  (image by MARCN Creative Commons On Flickr)

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter
(image by MARCN Creative Commons On Flickr)

We are a mere 241 days from the 2014 elections, and the hard right super PAC’s are already spreading lies throughout New Hampshire.

Recently the conservative super PAC YG Network sent an unsolicited mailer to the constituents of NH First Congressional district, currently represented by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

The YG Network describes themselves on their website as:

“A non-profit 501(c)(4) dedicated to supporting conservative center-right policies and the efforts of policymakers who fight for those policies. By seeking solutions that create jobs, encourage innovation, instill fiscal discipline, establish a patient-centered health care system and pursue energy security, we can foster the optimal environment for America’s businesses and entrepreneurs to succeed and flourish.”

The mailer is an attack on Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s stance on the Affordable Care Act and Medicare specifically.

You can see the full flyer here.

They make the claim that Rep Shea-Porter and President Obama are trying to cut $716 billion dollars from the Medicare Advantage program.   The irony in this right-wing attack is that the $716 billion dollars in savings to the Medicare Advantage program is a key part of the Ryan Plan, the budget proposal that everyone on the right is pushing.

YG Network also claims that;

  • Millions of seniors may be dropped from Medicare Advantage.
  • Higher premiums for care.
  • Higher prices for prescription drugs.
  • Cuts in coverage of dental and vision plans.

These claims by the YG Network are completely FALSE!  Time and time again multiple ‘fact checkers’ have busted these false accusations.

Neither Obama nor his health care law literally “cut” a dollar from the Medicare program’s budget.
Rather, the health care law instituted a number of changes to reduce the growth of Medicare costs. At the time the law was passed, those reductions amounted to $500 billion over the next 10 years. Time’s passage has only boosted that number.”  (Politifact, 9-6-12)

In reality, the $716 billion is not a “cut” in benefits but rather the savings in costs that the Congressional Budget Office projects over the next decade from wholly reasonable provisions in the reform law.” (New York Times 8-18-12)

The facts are undeniable; Granite Staters saved on average $800 a year in prescription drug charges thanks to the Medicare changes as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The truth is that seniors in New Hampshire, and throughout the country, are benefiting from the changes to the Medicare Advantage program. These changes are strengthening Medicare, while saving taxpayer dollars.   Congresswoman Shea-Porter was right to support these changes that add additional funds to the Medicare Trust fund, therefor boosting it’s solvency to 2026.

Unfortunately we are still 241 days away from the 2014 elections, which means that this is only the beginning when it comes to unsolicited lies from the right-wing super PACs.

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