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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.

Immigrants Generated $252 Million In The NH Economy

There is no denying that immigrants built this great nation and are continuing to shape her every passing day.  Every day immigrants are coming to America to create a better life for themselves and their families.  These immigrants are chasing their own American Dream by starting their own small businesses.

Immigration reform for america

Image by Sasha Y. Kimel on Flicker

According to research from the Immigration Policy Center, between “2006 to 2010, there were 4,253 new immigrant business owners in New Hampshire.”  The IPC also found that in 2010 over 5.7% of all business owners in New Hampshire were foreign-born.

If you listen to Fox News, the only immigrants in America are freeloaders who want to collect welfare and live off the government.  This could not be further from the truth.  Those ‘lazy immigrants’ account for a significant portion of New Hampshire’s net business income.

“In 2010, new immigrant business owners had a total net business income of $252 million, which is 5.8 percent of all net business income in the state.”

Immigrants are flocking to our country to start their own small businesses in the hopes that someday they will become rich! And for some, that is exactly how it worked.

  • New Hampshire is home to many successful companies with at least one founder who was an immigrant or child of an immigrant, including well-known companies such as the footwear company Timberland. Based in Stratham, Timberland currently employs more than 5,800 people and has over $1.5 billion in annual revenue.
  • Sonny Vu, originally from Vietnam, and Sridhar Iyengar, the son of immigrants from India, founded AgaMatrix in 2001. Based in Salem, New Hampshire, their company distributes what Vu and Iyengar call the “next generation” of blood glucose monitoring products for diabetes. AgaMatrix invented and in 2012 began producing the first FDA approved blood glucose meter that directly connects to the iPhone and iPod Touch.
  • In Manchester, refugees from Bhutan opened a market in July 2013. Himalayas General Store provides familiar products from Bhutan to refugees, but also markets a wider variety of goods to other under-served ethnic groups.

The list goes on and on.

We as Americans have always taken pride in being innovative and entrepreneurial.  Many Americans take that giant leap and start their own business. For some the business grows into Apple or Facebook, for others it falls apart after a couple of months.  That – the opportunity to at least try – is the American Dream.

Millions of immigrants are stuck waiting for Congress to give them the roadmap to citizenship they need to chase their own American Dream.  They are waiting for Congress to take the first step, and let them in.

Immigration is a part of who we are as Americans.  I am an Irish, English and Polish “mutt” with roots in New England for over 150 years.  Does that make me any less of an American?  Would it matter if my grandparents were born in Mexico instead of Ireland?  No, it would (and should) not.

People from around the world are coming to the United States; and for hundreds of years we have welcomed them.

Until now.

What are we waiting for?

Now is the time we should be welcoming immigrants with open arms once again – so they can bring their entrepreneurial spirit with them, to help our economy grow.

Great News: The New Hampshire Senate Passes Healthcare Expansion

“This is a momentous day in New Hampshire,” said Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen after the New Hampshire Senate passed SB 413, the healthcare (Medicaid) expansion.  “Today’s bipartisan vote for a Medicaid Expansion compromise in New Hampshire is a tremendous step forward for our state.  Governor Hassan worked with leaders of both parties to reach a compromise that placed hard working Granite Staters ahead of partisan ideology,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.

Today vote almost ensures the passage of this ‘healthcare expansion’ with a Democratic majority in the House, and Governor Hassan chomping at the bit to sign it.

“Today’s Senate vote in support of SB 423 brings New Hampshire one step closer to providing affordable health insurance to thousands of low-income residents,” said Deb Fournier, policy analyst for the NH Fiscal Policy Institute.

“This is also an important boost for our economy and our state budget, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into the New Hampshire economy and giving us the opportunity to save millions in the state budget,” added Fournier.

SB 413 creates a three-stage Health Protection Program to extend affordable health insurance to low income Granite Staters: the Health Insurance Premium Program, the Bridge to Marketplace Premium Assistance Program, and the Marketplace Premium Assistance Program. Federal funding will cover 100 percent of the costs associated with the Health Protection Program, which will be repealed at the end of 2016 unless future legislatures vote to extend it.

(More information about how the new program works by the NHFPI, here)

This new healthcare expansion will help more than 50,000 hard working low-income Granite Staters acquire healthcare.  This commonsense compromise is not only good health policy; it is good economic and fiscal policy too. Economists estimate that expansion will inject $2.5 billion into the New Hampshire economy, create new jobs, and save hard working Granite State taxpayers millions of dollars.

“With expansion, 50,000 Granite Staters will no longer have to fight cancer and bankruptcy at the same time. Instead they will have the economic security that only comes with health insurance coverage,” continued Buckley.

Senator Larsen worked with Senate President Morse to find a commonsense solution that helps the people of New Hampshire, while keeping costs in check.

“This is a momentous day in New Hampshire,” said Larsen. “This legislation will strengthen our state’s economy, prevent the sort of cost-shifting that drives up health care costs on businesses, and improves the lives of 50,000 hard-working Granite Staters. This is right thing to do for New Hampshire.”

“Our action on Senate Bill 413 shows the people of New Hampshire that we are committed to working together to solve our problems with common sense solutions. I thank the Senate President and Republican Majority Leader for working closely with us to pass this important bill,” continued Larsen.

Granite State Progress has been one of the many outspoken non-profit groups pushing for the expansion of Medicaid.

“We praise the Senate for its bipartisan vote to expand health coverage to 58,000 lower income Granite Staters who need it,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granit State Progress. “Democrats and Republicans worked together to make this program available. A small group of GOP State Senators like Andy Sanborn and John Reagan voted to leave money on the table instead of covering New Hampshire families because they kowtowed to special interests instead of representing their constituents.”

“Policymakers heard loud and clear from constituents, health policy experts, and consumer advocates that expanding Medicaid was a win-win for New Hampshire families, hospitals, community health centers, and our overall budget and economy,” continued Rice-Hawkins.

Labor unions like the State Employees Association have been behind the expansion of Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act from the beginning.  Beth D’Ovidio, spokeswoman for the State Employees’ Association (SEIU 1984) released the following statement.

“Today, the NH Senate achieved a balance of caring for the well-being of NH families and maintaining fiscal prudence in passing SB413. We applaud them for their commitment to bringing access to affordable health care to all NH families and in so doing moving the state forward. Healthy families generate healthy and productive workers; healthy children who do better in school; and healthier seniors who will lead fuller and happier lives during their retirement years.

Under the Affordable Care Act, everyone was supposed to have a way to get affordable health insurance. People with low incomes would get low-cost or free health insurance so long as their state leaders accepted the federal funds set aside for this purpose. Today, I proudly thank our Senate for fulfilling this promise to all the hard-working people who make too little money to get discounted health insurance in the ACA Marketplace and too much to qualify for Medicaid under the current criteria. Accepting this federal funding is essential to provide them with access to low-cost insurance. It’s time to pull people out of the coverage gap.”

This is a big step for the NH Senate, showing that they can work through the partisanship and do what is best for Granite Staters.  Will they be able to use this new found bipartisanship to push for a higher minimum wage? Only time will tell.

Senate Republicans Including Senator Ayotte Are Pitting Immigrants Against Veterans

Frag Out!Veterans have always been political bread and butter.  It has become a game: who supports Veterans more?  This debate has ratcheted up a couple of notches after the budget negotiation reduced the Cost of Living increases for working age retired Veterans (under 62 years of age).

The adjustment in the COLA for working age retired Veterans would save the government about $7 Billion dollars.  Of course the Veterans organizations were outraged over these cuts, and so was Senator Kelly Ayotte.

Here is a little background on Senator Ayotte.  She currently sits on the Veteran Affairs Committee in the Senate, and is married to Joe Daley who is a retired Air National Guard Lieutenant Colonel. This fight over retired Veterans COLAs is personal for Senator Ayotte because it directly affects her and her family. This cut will directly affect Joe and his retirement benefits.

I agree that we should not be making these COLA cuts to our brave men and women who retired from the military at a young age.  There are many possible solutions to restoring these cuts and the proposal that seems to be getting the most traction is the one to change the ‘Additional Child Tax Credit’ (ACTC).  It would require the person claiming the ACTC to file their taxes with the IRS under their Social Security Number.

Currently working immigrants file their federal taxes using a Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) because they cannot get a Social Security number until they are US Citizens.

This change is a direct assault on the millions of hard working immigrants who are paying their federal taxes and legally claiming their dependents under the ACTC program.  Once again, the only way to get a Social Security number is to be a US resident.  This means that if you are not a US Citizen (even if your children are), you still have to pay taxes, but you cannot claim the ACTC.

The Bipartisan Policy Center stated, “Effectively, this would allow the IRS to deny ACTC benefits to households headed by unauthorized immigrant parents, regardless of the child’s citizenship status.”

This is where the whole plan gets very complex.  For example, there are many households in the US right now headed by parents of a US citizen – but due to the immigration process, the parents are not US citizens themselves.  Even if the child is a natural born American citizen, their parents could not claim them under the proposed ACTC changes.

(Note: Senator Ayotte later amended her proposal to provide an exception for parents of US citizens.)

We are not talking about a few hundred people filing for these credits. According to the Treasury Department’s Inspector General, in 2010, ITIN filers reported $60 billion dollars in wages. The Bipartisan Policy Center reported that, “a large majority of unauthorized immigrants’ children are U.S. citizens.”

To me the issue could easily be resolved by passing a comprehensive immigration bill, like the one that has already passed in the US Senate.  We can clear up the tax questions quickly by allowing these parents of US citizens to become citizens themselves.  Making a roadmap to citizenship allows those people who are already living and working – and paying taxes – here in the United States a way to become citizens themselves.

We should stop trying to find ways to punish them for being undocumented, and find ways to help streamline the citizenship process. Some of them have been working on getting legal citizenship for years now, all the while living, working, and paying taxes like every other American.

Now our Congressional Representatives are waging war between Veterans and immigrants to find a way to restore the cuts to Veterans’ retirements.

Here is an idea to solve both problems: let’s stop building war machines that we do not need and put that money back into the budget where it can do some real good.  Like the F-35 fighter jet, which is billions over budget and still cannot fly at night.  Or the hundreds of tanks that the Army and Marine Corps do not want, which are being built just to stored in the desert boneyards, with no intent to actually use them.

By trimming the fat off the DOD budget, we can open our doors to all immigrants, feed our nation’s poor, and create a better education system through proper funding.

Or we can continue to build weapons of war that we do not want or need.

Manchester Newspaper Guild Files 7 Unfair Labor Practice Charges And Pickets Against NH Union Leader

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MANCHESTER, NH — The Manchester Newspaper Guild on Friday filed seven Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against The Union Leader Corp., which employs about 75 Guild members in its news, advertising, circulation, IT and accounting departments.

The charges, and one the company filed against the local, mark an unprecedented low in the 72-year history of labor relations between The Newspaper Guild local and The New Hampshire Union Leader.

Meanwhile, the members of TNG-CWA Local 31167 continue to pressure the company, the latest effort being an informational picket Saturday, March 1 from noon to 1:30 outside the Union Leader-sponsored state spelling bee at the Capital Center for the Arts in Concord. The union and company have been bargaining since September, with the company insisting on language that would gut job security and hamper the union’s ability to defend the contract, while seeking a huge pay cut and a more than doubling of health insurance deductibles. Employees have been working under a contract that expired Dec. 31.

MNG2The Guild’s charges to the labor board assert that the company has committed Unfair Labor Practices by violating the National Labor Relations Act, including engaging in surface bargaining with no real intention of arriving at a collective bargaining agreement with the union. Between September and Dec. 31, the company refused to alter the major contract retrogressions in its proposal while threatening it would withdraw those proposals Dec. 31, leaving a 20% wage reduction and even higher insurance costs on the table.

Without ever bargaining over that remaining proposal after Jan. 1, on Jan. 22 the company instead presented the union with a “Final Offer” that included an 18% wage reduction retroactive to Jan. 5, and reintroduced language that would eliminate workers’ seniority and job security language.

The union also charges that The Union Leader Corp. has refused to provide information relevant to subjects under negotiation and necessary to the union’s conduct of negotiations, has insisted upon an unreasonable confidentiality agreement before allowing union officials and their accountant to view the company’s financial records, and has refused to bargain the terms and conditions of such a confidentiality agreement.

According to the local’s charges, the union also says The Union Leader Corp. has committed an Unfair Labor Practice by insisting that a new collective bargaining agreement provide the company with complete discretion over reductions in force without any standards or guidelines.

The union also charges that the company’s retroactive wage and insurance deductible proposals — only just withdrawn on Wednesday — were illegal and impeded bargaining over wages since they were presented, and that the company’s proposals to severely curtail union activity are an unlawful restriction on employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

The company’s complaint against the Guild alleges the union has bargained in bad faith.

Recognizing the struggles faced by both the Union Leader Corp. and the news industry in recent years, Manchester Newspaper Guild members have made huge concessions in recent years, including pay cuts totaling 14.63 percent, a longer work week without additional compensation for the extra hours, elimination of personal days, reductions in sick time, increases in insurance deductibles and layoffs and buyouts of members.
Non-union and management employees — about half the total workforce — saw a smaller pay cut in 2012 and a smaller increase in health insurance deductibles in January. They currently do not face a pay cut.

The local has created a website questioning the fairness of the company’s proposal and strategy, with a petition to Publisher Joseph McQuaid that supporters can sign, at www.wtf-ul.org.

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