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Senator Shaheen Introduces Amendment To Transportation Bill To Repair Aging Bridges

 (Washington, DC) – As the Senate considers transportation funding legislation this week, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has introduced an amendment that would begin to address the more than 148,000 bridges across the country that are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The Strengthen and Fortify Existing Bridges Act (SAFE Bridges) would establish a program to provide funding specifically dedicated to repairing and replacing aging bridges.

“Communities all across New Hampshire have bridges that are literally falling apart,” said Shaheen. “Their disrepair hurts our economy, increases traffic, adds wear and tear to vehicles, and are a threat to public safety. My amendment provides long overdue investment in our nation’s bridges and will create jobs in the Granite State and across the country.”

In New Hampshire, more than 300 of the state’s bridges are listed as structurally deficient and more than 450 are listed as functionally obsolete. Nationally, the Federal Highway Administration has identified more than 148,000 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges, more than 20 percent of all bridges in the nation. Each day there are 200 million vehicle trips across these aging structures, many of which are approaching or already past their design lifespan. The SAFE Bridges Act authorizes an additional $2 billion annually, for the next three years, to enable states to repair and replace their structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges.

 

Text of Senator Shaheen’s amendment is available here.

New Report: High Pay Does Not Alway Mean Your Job Has Real Meaning

PayScale_ Most Meaningful Jobs [735 x 735]

Many people take great pride in their work, whether they are serving hamburgers or teaching our future generation.  However making lots of money does not always mean that you are happier with your career choice or that you feel you are helping to make the world a better place.

A new report from PayScale.com shows that the highest and most meaning full jobs, and conversely the highest paid and lowest meaningful jobs.

For example, with an average income of $35,000 a year, Directors of Religious Activities and Education ranked the highest in meaningful jobs with 98% agreeing that their jobs are making the world a better place.  The clergy are followed closely behind by; Firefighters ($43,500, 93% who find the job meaningful), primary school and pre-school educators ($32,000 – 35,000, 89% who find the job meaningful), and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors  ($35,000, 85% who find the job meaningful).

These are all great professions that are doing amazing work in their local communities.  Today it was announced by the Granite State Poll that the Heroin epidemic is one of the pressing issues facing Granite Staters right now.

Proving that money does not bring happiness and meaning to you job only 30% of advertising and promotional managers ($71,000) found their jobs meaningful.  37% of tax collectors and revenue agents ($80,500) found meaning in their jobs.  Shockingly only 40% of lawyers ($89,900) found meaning in their jobs.

The facts are hard to deny, sometimes the best jobs are not always the best paid. Take it from an unpaid blogger who devotes hours a day to help make our world a better place to live and work.

Jeb Bush Essentially Says To Federal Workers, Screw You!

Jeb Bush (Gage Skidmore FLIKR)

Can we all stop pretending that Jeb Bush is a “moderate” rather than the far-right wing extremist he really is?

“He [Jeb Bush] championed tax cuts that chiefly benefited business and the wealthy, trimmed the state’s payroll, stripped job protection from thousands of mid-level civil servants, gained more power over the judiciary, exploited his Washington connections to prevent the closing of military bases and launched the nation’s first statewide private-school voucher program,” wrote Linda Kleindienst of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 2007.

Jeb Bush has made it perfectly clear that he wants federal workers to give up more to pay for his brother’s tax cuts that should never have happened.

Yesterday the Hill published the article, Jeb Bush: Strip Feds of Automatic Pay Raises and Due Process, which is even worse than the title indicates.

He starts with yet another hiring freeze and reducing the number of dedicated public servants by eliminating positions as people retire. His plan is similar to Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan (replace one worker for every three who retire). So when Joe and Mary retire from OSHA that means will just have to make do with two fewer safety inspectors because the campaign contributors Bush caters to won’t care if OSHA is grossly understaffed and can’t fulfill its responsibilities.

In theory the Bush/Ryan plan would reduce the overall government workforce by 10% in five years. That’s 10% less Air Traffic Controllers, 10% less food safety inspectors in the Department of Agriculture, 10% less agents to help you in the Social Security Administration, 10% fewer scientists at NASA, 10% fewer prosecutors in the Department of Justice, 10% ….you get the idea.

That is only the beginning. Next he wants to go after workers’ paychecks!

Jeb argues that federal workers are overpaid and that the government rewards “longevity instead of performance.” He wants to eliminate annual increases and only give increases “based on performance.”

This is another classic union-busting tactic: pitting workers against each other for pay increases and rewarding those who oppose the union or suck up to their managers. What happens to workers who question their boss about safety violations in their workplace? What happens to workers who see something illegal going on? Do you think they will be getting pay raises next year?

How do you judge the performance of a food safety inspector? Is it the number of violations he caught and wrote up, which resulted in a lower number of facilities inspected, or is the employee who breezed through more facilities but missed more violations?

On top of pitting workers against each other, as Governor Jeb Bush incentivized managers who saved the government money or found ways for their departments to reduce spending. “Sorry no bonuses for you because I am showing Governor Bush that I am saving the government thousands of dollars.”

The political right loves to tell everyone that government workers are overpaid and are underserving of their paycheck. In fact the Washington Post reported the complete opposite.

White-collar federal employees on average earn 35.2 percent less than private-sector workers in comparable jobs.”

I actually agree with Jeb when he says: “Just like in the real world, compensation should depend on the type of work, and the quality of the work.” The Washington Post goes on to say that more educated federal workers are at a “disadvantage” to their private sector counterparts.

I think someone should inform Jeb that federal workers have already given more than their share from their paychecks. Over the last ten years alone federal workers have contributed over $159 billion dollars to debt reduction plans pushed by the Republicans who control Congress.

  • Federal workforce contribution_April 9 copy3-year pay freeze (2011, 2012, 2013) — $98 billion
  • 2012 UI extension which increased retirement contributions for 2013 hires to 3.1% — $15 billion
  • 2013 lost salaries of 750,000 employees furloughed because of sequestration — $1 billion
  • 2013 Murray-Ryan increased retirement contributions for post-2013 hires to 4.4% — $6 billion
  • 2014 pay raise of only 1%; lower than baseline of 1.8% — $18 billion
  • 2015 pay raise of only 1%; lower than baseline of 1.9% — $21 billion

Total Federal Employee Sacrifice Thus Far: $159 billion

In the 2016 budget they want to take even more!

Republicans are proposing another $238 billion in forced concessions by federal workers through higher retirement contributions and creating a voucher system for health benefits that are going to cost employees even more.

The 2016 budget will force federal workers to lose between $2,525 and $5,617 dollars. Each.

So far Jeb Bush wants slash the number of dedicated public servants, force workers to give back thousands of dollars from their own wallets to “reduce the debt,” give bonuses to managers who reduce spending in their departments, and then he wants to make it easier to fire employees for arbitrary reasons.

That’s right, Jeb Bush wants to strip away employees’ union rights, repealing the right to due process and turning federal workers into “at will employees” – all to make it easier to fire people.

Another classic union busting tactic is to “reduce spending” by firing higher-paid employees (before they can collect any retirement) and replacing them with lower-paid new employees.

As Governor, Jeb Bush used this same tactic to fire 16,000 workers from their jobs with the State of Florida. Jeb Bush gave agency heads to use their “sound discretion” to send people packing, and tied it to his “Service First” program that gave incentives to managers who found ways to reduce government spending.

This isn’t a “moderate” agenda.

Bush may not be insulting veterans or giving out people’s cell phone numbers – and he’s not trying to terrify the electorate with talk of apocalypse or an imagined invasion of Texas – but a lack of hard-core lunacy doesn’t make him a moderate candidate.

He’s part of the far-right wing.

His agenda would decimate federal services that we rely on.

And as this “clown car” primary season keeps getting weirder and weirder, we need to not lose sight of that.

U.S. Labor Against The War: The Alternative to Diplomacy Is War

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By Michael Eisenscher, National Coordinator, U.S. Labor Against the War

Some who oppose the agreement with Iran argue that John Kerry should go back to the bargaining table to get a better deal.This view is either woefully ignorant of reality or is simply a cover for those for whom no deal will ever be good enough.

If Congress rejects the agreement with Iran, the sanctions regime will quickly unravel.Russia, China and others will abandon sanctions.

The Iranians, who already believe the agreement violates their national sovereignty and who as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are entitled to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy, will refuse to return to negotiations. Iran will then be free to pursue any nuclear program it wants without any inspections. That will pave the road to war.

The agreement virtually forecloses Iran developing a nuclear weapon for at least 10 to 15 years. It subjects Iran to unprecedented inspections and oversight to which no other country in the world must submit.

Israel, which vehemently opposes the agreement, has as many as 200 undeclared nuclear warheads. It has never signed the NPT.Its facilities have never been inspected.

The answer is a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. But the country that provides the strongest incentive for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon – that has militarily attacked Iran in the past and threatens to do so again – won’t even acknowledge that is possesses nuclear arms, won’t submit to inspections and won’t sign the treaty to eliminate them. Israel is the principal barrier to a nuclear-free Middle East.

Another way to remove Iran’s incentive to pursue a nuclear weapon is to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If the US were to invest the same level of energy and commitment to that objective as it has to secure the Iran agreement, it would change the course of many Mideast conflicts. But to do so, it must become an honest broker rather than Israel’s enabler and apologist.

A decade invested in determined diplomacy supported by massive economic development and humanitarian aid could change the dynamic that drives much of the conflict in the region. In the course of which, the US-Iranian relationship would also be transformed. Who would have imagined ten years ago that the leader of the Vietnamese Communist Party would be welcomed to the White House?Patient diplomacy can achieve results that no amount of war can.

The alternative to diplomacy with Iran is a path that leads to war. We’ve had 14 years of that. It has not worked. We’ve spent trillions, killed hundreds of thousands and are now less secure and in greater debt. Let’s give peace a chance.Tell members of Congress to support the diplomatic road by approving the agreement with Iran

PFFNH and Berlin IAFF #1088 Proud to Receive Much Needed SAFER Act Grant

PFFNH Logo (Concord/Berlin, NH)- The Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, along with the IAFF Berlin Professional Fire Fighters Local #1088 are proud to announce that the Berlin Fire Department has received a 2015 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Act Grant. This federal grant, issued through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Agency, enables the city of Berlin to hire 4 additional full time fire fighters to the department.

In 2013, the city of Berlin left four fire fighter positions unfilled. This has caused years of dangerous staffing levels. With this grant, the department will be able to run four shifts of five fire fighters. This level of staffing will maintain that the “two in-two out” rule under OSHA regulations is in compliance. Berlin is the only full time fire department in all of Coos County, and serves the needs of almost 10,000 residents. This SAFER Act Grant pays for the hiring of 4 full time fire fighters in the city of Berlin for a total of two years, or three if they choose to hire a veteran.

“I’m pleased that with this federal grant, our department will be able to safely and effectively continue to serve the city of Berlin. For too long we were operating at dangerous staffing levels, but with four additional fire fighters we are able to provide the level of service our citizens deserve,” stated Roland Berthiaume, President Berlin L#1088.

The Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, and Berlin Professional Fire Fighters L#1088 are grateful that the city of Berlin will see an increase in public safety and thank Governor Hassan, North Country Elected officials, and the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation for all of their efforts in making this grant possible.

TTD Stands with United Flight Attendants Fighting for Fair Contract

TDDThousands of flight attendants at United Airlines hubs across the globe are standing up to say enough is enough — and we stand with them.

Yesterday, the Joint Negotiating Committee of AFA-CWA flight attendants held an International Day of Action to draw attention to the absurd refusal by United to bargain in good faith with its employees. Ed Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, joined flight attendants at Dulles International Airport, where he made a declaration of solidarity:

“United Airlines needs to invest in the workers who help make this company profitable and successful. Until management understands that and flight attendants at United secure a fair contract, I’ll be standing with you fighting for what’s right.”

United Airlines, which merged with Continental in 2010, is one of the largest airlines in the world. It’s also one of the most profitable. The company’s 2015 income will be five times higher than its income in 2013, and the company’s CEO, Jeff Smisek, recently enjoyed a 32-percent pay increase.

Despite these incredible figures, Smisek refuses to make good on a five-year-old promise to complete joint contracts with all workers by the end of 2011. Instead of fairly compensating employees — who have undoubtedly contributed to the company’s success — Smisek further insulted workers by recently announcing a $100 million investment in a Brazilian airline.

Meanwhile, United’s 24,000 flight attendants are still waiting for a fair contract that reflects the professionalism and pride they bring to their jobs daily.

“The bottom line problem is the company’s unwillingness to put the required economic resources into a Flight Attendant Contract,” AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson said. “That is unacceptable and we are going to stand up to make it clear to the company that we expect much more, especially now as United’s profits are soaring.”

Scientific Opinion Poll: Small Business Owners Support Paid Sick Days; Majority Offer Benefits to Employees

Washington, DC—A scientific opinion poll released today shows small business owners support implementing laws that would allow employees to earn paid sick days to use when they or an immediate family member is sick, and the majority also offer a variety of benefits to their employees.

“As a small business owner, I believe offering paid sick days makes good business sense because it increases employee retention and productivity and helps keep my business offerings competitive,” said Ed Snodgrass, president and founder of Emory Knoll Farms in Street, Maryland. “My employees who take advantage of paid sick days return to work not only focused, but also perform their jobs to the best of their ability.”

The telephone poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of Small Business Majority, found 50 percent of small businesses would support a law requiring employers to allow employees to earn paid sick days based on the hours they have worked, as opposed to 42 percent who say they would not support such a law. Additionally, the majority of microbusinesses support paid sick leave: 54 percent of businesses with 1-5 employees and 52 percent of businesses with 1-10 employees say they would support such a law.

“I invest a lot in training my employees, so I want them to stay with my business for a long time,” said Kelly Vore, owner of Downtown Home and Garden in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “I’ve found one of the best ways to reduce turnover and keep my employees happy is offering paid time off. They know I care about their wellbeing, and that helps strengthen their loyalty to my business.”

What’s more, many small employers offer family-friendly benefits to their employees to accommodate their responsibilities at home, including 61 percent of all small businesses and 71 percent of businesses with 11-100 employees that allow their employees to take time off from work for children’s school activities, such as parent-teacher conferences. Three in 10 small employers provide flexible work schedules or opportunities to work from home to accommodate family responsibilities, and nearly 1 in 5 of all small employers (18 percent) and nearly 3 in 10 (27 percent) of small businesses with 11-100 employees offer childcare benefits, such as subsidized childcare or onsite childcare facilities.

“Small business owners often think of their employees as family, and they believe in taking care of them in order to retain a happy and loyal workforce and to attract top talent,” said John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO of Small Business Majority. “They also know it’s important for their employees to address their and their family’s daily needs, and many have implemented family-friendly policies that allow their employees to balance their work and family responsibilities. We encourage small businesses to continue this practice and urge policymakers to pass laws that help small businesses offer additional benefits to keep their workforce happy and healthy.”

What’s more, many small businesses offer a variety of financial incentives, including 43 percent of small businesses that offer on-the-job training or financial assistance for education and training outside the job, such as tuition reimbursement. Nearly half (48 percent) of small businesses with 11-100 employees offer this benefit. Small business owners offer additional financial incentives to employees, including retirement benefits (19 percent) and financial counseling or access to financial institutions, products and services (19 percent).

Fifty-two percent of small businesses offer paid vacation to employees, and nearly 1 in 3 small businesses offer health insurance benefits to employees, either through an employer-sponsored plan or by paying a portion of employees’ own health insurance. Forty-four percent of small businesses with 11-100 employees offer health insurance benefits to their employees.

“These findings show that small businesses understand the importance of family friendly workplaces that afford working parents the flexibility they need to work and raise a family,” said Loren Harris, director of family economic security at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “At the Kellogg Foundation, we believe employers that invest in benefits like paid leave give working parents the opportunity to provide a better future for their families.”

Survey respondents were predominantly Republican, with 44 percent identifying as Republican, 29 percent as Democrat and 20 percent as independent or other. Funding for the poll was provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. For the full poll report, please visit: http://www.smallbusinessmajority.org/small-business-research/workforce/psd/

Leo W Gerard: Jeb! Cracks The Whip

Jeb! Bush, a boy born to wealth and privilege, whose family owns not a home but a compound of dwellings in Kennebunkport, Maine, and whose wife plunked down$25,600 for one pair of earrings, lectured last week that Americans should work longer hours.

If Americans would just work harder, every one of them could own a $600,000 getaway cottage, like the one Jeb! is building on a $1.4 million site in exclusive Kennebunkport.

And it’s not just longer hours. Jeb! believes Americans should work longer in life too. The rich boy wants to raise the retirement age to 70. But raising the federal minimum wage to help millions of struggling workers survive to age 70? No, Jeb! doesn’t see any need for that. His advice: Let working poor great-grandmas eat ramen!

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Art by DonkeyHotey on Flickr

As a result of Bush’s “work harder” scolding, Americans know exactly what that symbol is at the end of the name Jeb! on all of his presidential campaign literature. It’s a whip handle and blood splotch. As President, he’d crack Americans into shape!  Under a Jeb! administration, he’d demand they work more, get less and through it all gaze adoringly at another clueless, pampered Bush in the White House.

The wealthy like Jeb! made out like bandits over the past 40 years – Jeb! amassed $29 million in the eight years since he left the Florida governor’s mansion. But working Americans have not prospered. Their productivity rose, but not their wages. Part of the reason for that productivity increase is that Americans worked longer hours and corporations paid them nothing for it.

American workers put in more hours than those in any other large industrialized country, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In a Gallup poll late last year, full-time employees reported work weeks averaging 47 hours. That is nearly a full day beyond what is supposed to be a 40-hour work week. Forty percent said they work at least 50 hours.

Most of these workers don’t see an extra dime for all that extra work because the federal overtime regulation is so outdated, and many corporations won’t pay time and a half for hours worked beyond 40 unless forced. As it is now, the regulation requires corporations to pay time and a half only to workers earning salaries less than $23,660 a year. That is so low that only 8 percent of salaried workers qualify for overtime. It means corporations can take every cent of gain from 92 percent of salaried workers when they put in more than 40 hours a week.

Late last month, President Obama proposed increasing the overtime threshold to $50,440. Then 40 percent of salaried workers would qualify.

Jeb! opposes that. After he was ridiculed on Wednesday for saying, “people need to work longer hours,” he tried to backpedal by contending that what he really meant was that the proposed new overtime rule would push workers into part-time jobs when they needed to work longer hours.

Here’s what he said on Thursday: “I think people want to work harder, to be able to have more money in their own pockets – not to be dependent upon government. You can take it out of context all you want, but high, sustained growth means people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours, and that by our success they have money – disposable income for their families to decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in [a welfare] line.”

Silver-spoon Jeb! is just wrong. People don’t want to work harder. They’re working almost an extra day a week. What they want is to be paid fairly for the work they’re already doing. They want the minimum wage increased so that they can use their own paychecks for groceries instead of food stamps. They want the money that they’ve earned to be in their pockets – not in the pockets of 1 percenters like Jeb!

For decades after World War II, income rose in tandem with productivity. Then, in the mid 1970s, that stopped. Workers received less and less, and the top 1 percent took more and more. The result was wage stagnation for workers and income inflation for CEOs.

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The comments Jeb! made last week illustrate his complete misunderstanding of that.He said: “My aspirations for the country, and I believe we can achieve it, is for 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see .  .  . Which means we have to be a lot more productive. Workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we are going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”

Jeb! suffers from the Republican blame-the-worker syndrome. He says, “Workforce participation has to rise,” as if unemployed workers chose to be laid off and languish in a life of insecurity without regular paychecks.

Jeb! and his GOP buddies should blame those actually at fault: the nation’s highly profitable corporations that cheat America’s highly productive workers. Corporations need to rise to the occasion and hire workers at decent wages. Corporations must reward workers for their increased productivity by paying them time and a half when they work longer hours.

It’s the GOP that’s in a rut. It’s a mental ditch from which they fling mud on workers endlessly while shielding corporations and the rich, like Jeb!, from responsibility. Jeb! can go ahead and crack his whip. But he should make sure wage-stealing corporations and the idle rich are at the other end.

Partisan Commerce Committee Bill Should be Scrapped or Amended

Transportation Trade Department LogoWashington, DC — Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement on the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act of 2015, introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-SD):

“At a time when our country’s transportation infrastructure is failing and disenfranchised Americans are desperate for work, bipartisan support is crucial to fund our nation’s highway and transit systems and boost job creation.

“Instead of following a bipartisan model — as Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) of the EPW Committee demonstrated last month — Commerce Committee Republicans are unwisely using their section of the surface transportation reauthorization bill to advance a partisan agenda that harms workers.  

“The Thune bill includes a poorly veiled measure designed to blame workers and their unions for all port delays during a bargaining dispute. It also prematurely allows the use of hair specimens for drug testing of bus and truck drivers. These provisions have no place in any portion of the surface transportation reauthorization bill.

“Sen. Thune’s bill also fails to require rail carriers to provide emergency responders with information about the amount and type of hazardous materials moving through their localities — a commonsense measure that is critical to the efforts of first responders to save lives.

“The highway/transit reauthorization bill is one of the most important initiatives Congress will consider this year. Senate Commerce Committee Republicans must stop playing partisan politics with this already long-delayed transportation investment bill, and reject proposals that undermine the rights of employees and fail to support our transportation system.”


The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, provides a bold voice for workers in every mode of transportation devoted to protecting middle-class jobs, expanding collective bargaining, and ensuring modern, safe, and secure transportation operations and infrastructure. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org.

Manager Strikes Female Employee At NYC Panera Shop

What has happened to our society?

Two days ago in a Manhattan Panera Bread store a manager completely lost it and punched a female employee, throwing her into a post for quitting in the middle of her shift.

The video is disturbing to say the least.

According to eyewitness reports obtained by Gawker say that the woman was thrown down a flight of stair and out the front door before returning to the shop where the video begins.  She did also slap the manager, prior to him punching her and throwing her to the ground.

Workplace violence is a significant problem, with over two million reports of workplace violence reported annually, however the actually number could be much higher as not all cases are reported.

OSHA recommends, “One of the best protections employers can offer their workers is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. This policy should cover all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel.

A Panera spokesperson tells Gawker:

“Today there were reports of a physical altercation between two associates at our Park Avenue South bakery-cafe. We have a zero tolerance policy for violence and worked swiftly with authorities to investigate. The associates who were determined to be involved no longer work for Panera.”

I do not condone or agree with the woman slapping the manager as I believe that violence is never the answer. Additionally, the manager, obviously a much large man, could have easily restrained the woman until the proper authorities arrived and charges could have been filed.  It is obvious by the way that he tossed her like a rag doll that he did not need to escalate the violence by striking the woman.

I applaud Panera for speaking out against workplace violence of any kind and having a zero tolerance policy.

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