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April 27th NH-COSH Observe Workers Memorial Day In New Hampshire

WMD 2015 Cover PhotoSeven New Hampshire workers never made it back home in 2014. We would especially encourage the families and local unions who have suffered the loss of a member on the job in the last year, contact NH COSH at 603-232-4406 or nhcosh@nhcosh.org.

We would like you to join us for our memorial event on Monday, April 27 from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Governor Maggie Hassan will be among the guest speakers.

Every year on or near April 28, the NH Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health/NH COSH along with the national COSH groups and labor observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew our efforts for safe workplaces. This year the struggle continues to create good jobs in this country that are safe and healthy. It’s time for our country to fulfill the promise of safe jobs for all.

Four decades ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Organizations continue to fight hard to make that promise a reality—new protections to make jobs safer are won slowly. OSHA regulations have saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented millions of workplace injuries and illnesses. But our work is not done.

Many job hazards are unregulated and uncontrolled. Some employers cut corners and violate the law, putting workers in serious danger and costing lives. Workers who report job hazards or job injuries are fired or disciplined. Employers contract out dangerous work to try to avoid the responsibility of workers compensation insurance. As a result, each year thousands of workers are killed and millions more injured or diseased because of their jobs and families are left to fend for themselves.

We must press forward. Advocates, academia, local unions, and professionals remember those who have died on the job at the annual NH Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health’s memorial event on April 27.

Below is a flyer for the event, which you can download via PDF here, or just save the image below.

WMD 2015 Invitation (Final)

 

The “Fast Track” Bill For The Trans-Pacific Partnership Hit The Floor Of Congress Today, Labor Responds

It was only a matter of time until the multi-national corporations who helped fund the campaigns of many of the politician’s in Washington pushed for another trade agreement that will make them billions of dollars, and leave millions of American workers without a job.

Today the “Senate’s Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015” hit the Congressional floor. The deal was brokered by Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah), Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), and Chairman of House Ways and Means Committee Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).

The New York Times spelled it out pretty well:

“It would give Congress the power to vote on the more encompassing 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership once it is completed, but would deny lawmakers the chance to amend what would be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994, which President Bill Clinton pushed through Congress despite opposition from labor and other Democratic constituencies.”

President Obama has already said he will oppose the unions — who help him win two elections — and his fellow democrats to get this trade agreement passed.

Richard_Trumka“At a time when workers all over the country are standing up for higher wages, Congress is considering legislation that will speed through corporate-driven trade deals,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “For decades, we’ve seen how fast-tracked trade deals devastated our communities through lost jobs and eroded public services. We can’t afford another bad deal that lowers wages and outsources jobs. That’s why Congress must reject Fast Track (TPA-2015) and maintain its constitutional authority and leverage to improve the TPP and other trade deals.”

Trumka continued, “Trade deals have wide-ranging impacts and shouldn’t be negotiated behind closed doors and then rubber-stamped. The current Trans-Pacific Partnership deal under discussion would cover 40 percent of the world’s GDP. A deal this big should be debated in a full and open manner like every other piece of legislation. Working people are showing tremendous courage standing up to the low-wage, corporate agenda. It’s time for politicians to do the same.”

Labor unions and progressive advocates have been calling for more transparency in this ginormous trade agreement. The White House has been negotiating this deal in secret, while assuring everyone that this will not be another NAFTA. The problem is that every time new information about the trade agreement is leaked, it shows exactly the opposite. More gifts to Wall Street and Corporations while the American people suffer.

“The proposed Fast Track bill fails all the tests that Senator Ron Wyden said were critical: Trade Adjustment Assistance, transparency, action to combat currency manipulation, real enforcement of environmental and worker standards, and procedures to enable Congress ‘to right the ship if trade negotiators get off course,’ as Wyden put it. Since this legislation requires a supermajority, or 60 votes, for the Senate to remove the TPP or any subsequent deal from Fast Track consideration, this provision is virtually meaningless,” wrote the Communication Workers of America in a statement late this afternoon.

Larry Cohen CWA“We need to put the brakes on Fast Track or Trade Promotion Authority. Just like the TPP itself, there has been no transparency around Trade Promotion Authority. We’ve had the start of a Senate hearing even before a bill was finalized and introduced. Now, that legislation is headed to mark up and a floor vote in just days. Trade Promotion Authority pretends to be about trade, but in reality it is about protecting corporate profits above all else and defining our national security in terms of giving away our jobs, depressing our wages and then rewarding the responsible multinational corporations, often U.S. based, with guaranteed profits in the nations where they invest,” said CWA President Larry Cohen.

Leo W Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers union wrote in his weekly column about how “illegally subsidized steel” is coming into the United States and forcing more workers out on the streets. “American steel producers laid off thousands of workers in bedrock communities from Ohio and Illinois to Texas and Alabama. That’s in just the past three months.”

“NAFTA has led to the loss of 1 million American jobs,” said Senator Bernie Sanders on the floor of the US Senate in late February. “Since we signed NAFTA the United States has cumulative trade deficit of 8.8 trillion dollars. That is wealth that has left the U.S. and gone overseas.”

It is not just the manufacturing unions who are speaking out against the Fast Track and the TPP.

The UFCW supported the last major trade agreement with Korea because of its improved labor standards and potential to create 20,000 jobs in the meat sector. But in his op-ed, Perrone makes clear that this time is different.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not the Korea free trade agreement,” he writes. “It is neither free nor fair. And the UFCW is determined to see it defeated.”

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

AFT President Weingarten (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers and an outspoken progressive also spoke out against the agreement.

“At a time when we need to be focused on creating and sustaining good jobs for American workers, fast track would undermine these efforts, leading to trade deals that hurt everyday working people and stack the deck in favor of corporations. And it would do this in a secretive way, with limited public and congressional oversight and no effective enforcement,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

She continued, “Our nation’s trade policy should help put us on a path toward lifting all Americans’ quality of life—ensuring rights for workers, protections for consumers and safeguards for the environments. That’s why we need a democratic and transparent trade process that offers a fair shake for American workers. This bill is over-reaching and will fail to keep working families and our economy strong.”

“We send our elected leaders to Washington to be our voice,” said AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson. “Under fast track, Congress will have no say in selecting our trade partners, negotiating trade terms, or debating and amending trade agreements. This bill panders to corporate profiteers, while ignoring the voices of everyday American workers, who are fighting to oppose it.”

Now we need everyone to stand up and put an end to this monumental race to the bottom.

10492525_10153211806206153_8036817465541163150_nUses your cell phone to text TPP to 877877 and you can be connected directly to your Congressman or Senators office to tell them to vote no on this legislation. Or call the Senate directly at 1-855-790-8815 and tell them that “Fast Track means bad trade deals that ship American jobs overseas.”

Then take part in a National Day of Action to Stop Fast Track this Saturday, April 18th. Click here to find an event near you.

The AFL-CIO has more information on the TPP and “Fast Track” legislation on their website.

Over 5,000 Rally In Boston In The #FightFor15, Kicking Worldwide Day Of Action On Wages And Inequality

Massachusetts Kicked Off the Largest Ever
Global Mobilization of Underpaid Workers Protest on Six Continents;
Adjunct Professors, Home Care, Child Care, Transportation, Fast Food, Janitorial, and Walmart Workers to Rally Coast to Coast.

Thousands of underpaid workers frustrated by low wages rallied, walked out in strike, and marched throughout the city of Boston yesterday to call for higher wages and to kick off a global wave of protests against wage inequality. Two-and-a-half years ago Boston was one of the first cities in the Fight for $15 calling for higher wages for fast food workers.  The growing movement has spread across the country, and around the world, and now includes low wage workers from various occupations like home healthcare workers and adjunct professors. Boston became the launching point for the largest ever global mobilization of the underpaid when workers, students, and their supporters took to the streets on Tuesday.

(Time Lapse Video of March by @SEIU)

 

The two-and-half-year-old Fight for $15 has continued to grow on local college campuses as well.  Students from Boston University, Northeastern University, UMass-Boston, UMass-Amherst, Roxbury Community College, Harvard University, Emerson College, Tufts University, Clark University, Lesley University, Boston College, and Brandeis University joined with low wage workers to rally for higher wages.

 

College students are not the only ones who are feeling the pain of low wage jobs, many of the adjunct faculty at these colleges are paid just above minimum wage and are forced to live in poverty. In May of 2014 the Boston Globe reported:

“Nearly 15,000 contingent and adjunct faculty teach in greater Boston. Many work at multiple schools, trying to make enough to support themselves and their families on low pay with no benefits. All have advanced degrees, and many live at or below the poverty level.”

This is why adjunct professors from across the city joined the march and spoke out for higher wages. “We are supposed to be the college professors raising up the next generation,” said one adjunct professor in the video posted by Faculty Forward.

 

A recent Brookings Institution study shows that Boston is the third most inequitable city in the nation, with the top 5 percent of households earning 15 times what the bottom twenty make. Massive income disparity is badly hurting this country and on April 14, low wage workers and their allies will take action to address the growing wage inequality crisis.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts is leading the nation with three groundbreaking pieces of legislation intended to lift up low wage workers.

Home care workers bill

  • Provides $15 an hour to nearly 20,000 workers who provide home care to seniors and people with disabilities through “agency” home care employers.
  • Requires annual cost reporting from home care agencies, including detailed financial disclosures of executive compensation and overhead costs.

Fast food and big box retail workers bill

  • Requires big box retail and fast food corporations to pay their employees at least $15 an hour by 2018.
  • Applies to hourly wage workers at corporate fast food chains and Big Box stores over 25,000 square feet and with 200 or more employees in Massachusetts.

Tipped wage bill

  • Gradually eliminates the subminimum wage for tipped workers.
  • Mandates that after 2022, tipped employees would have the same hourly minimum wage as workers in all other industries in Massachusetts.

Following the global kick off event in Boston on April 14, protests will stretch around the globe the next day, with demonstrations expected in more than 200 U.S. cities, 100 international cities, in 40 countries, and on six continents, from Sao Paolo to Tokyo.  Follow the worldwide events on twitter at the #FightFor15 hashtag

Below are images from yesterday’s rally in Boston, provided by SEIU 1199 Massachusetts. All images were taken by Rose Lincoln, 1199SEIU.  More images and tweets of support for Massachusetts workers can be found on the #WageAction hashtag and on Youtube.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leo W Gerard: The High Cost Of Fighting For $15

2014 Fast Food Strike NYC (FLIKR Annette Bernhardt)

2014 Fast Food Strike NYC (FLIKR Annette Bernhardt)

This is no plea for pity for corporate kingpins like Walmart and McDonald’s inundated by workers’ demands for living wages.

Raises would, of course, cost these billion-dollar corporations something. More costly, though, is the price paid by minimum-wage workers who have not received a raise in six years.  Even more dear is what these workers have paid for their campaign to get raises. Managers have harassed, threatened and fired them.

Despite all that, low-wage workers will return to picket lines and demonstrations Wednesday in a National Day of Action in the fight for $15 an hour. The date is 4 – 15. These are workers who live paycheck to paycheck, barely able to pay their bills, and certainly unable to cope with an emergency. They know the risk they’re taking by participating in strikes for pay hikes. They’ve seen bosses punish co-workers for demonstrating for raises. To lose a job, even one that pays poverty wages, during a time of high unemployment is terrifying. Still, thousands will participate Wednesday. That is valor.

2015-04-12-1428857661-6865200-Fightfor15graphic.jpg

Kip Hedges exhibited that courage. He’s a 61-year-old with 26 years of service as a baggage handler for Delta at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. He wanted better wages for young workers and a union. He said so in a video, noting that “probably close to half make under $15 an hour.”

Delta fired him. The airline said he’d disparaged the company. Apparently Delta believes it has been disparaged if the flying public learns the truth about the way Delta treats workers.

Clearly, Delta planned to shut Hedges up and intimidate other workers. The message to his co-workers was clear: “You wanna talk about the paltry wages you get? Well, let’s talk about this pink slip.”

But when Delta messed with Hedges, it messed up big time. The firing failed to silence him. He continued to protest low wages. His co-workers rallied round him. The media covered his firing and his appeal. He looked like a low-wage worker hero. Delta looked like a vindictive heel.

Unlike Hedges, Shanna Tippen was no activist before she got fired from her minimum-wage job in Pine Bluff, Ark. She was just trying to get by, and falling short by about $200 a month. Her boss at the Days Inn where she worked as a night shift jack-of-all-trades asked her to talk to a Washington Post reporter who had dropped by the hotel to discuss the state’s newly instituted 25-cent increase to the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Fast Food Strike 2014 (FLIKR Annette Bernhardt)

Fast Food Strike 2014 (FLIKR Annette Bernhardt)

Tippen told the reporter, Chico Harlan, that she hoped the little bit of extra money would help her pay for her grandson’s diapers.

After the Post published the story, the manager of the Days Inn, Herry Patel, telephoned Harlan to complain about being quoted in it. Then he fired Tippen. She recounted it to Harlan:

“He said I was stupid and dumb for talking to [The Post].”  Even though, of course, Patel had told Tippen to talk to the reporter. Tippen continued: “He cussed me and asked me why you wrote the article. I said, ‘Because he’s a reporter; that’s what he does.’”

Patel told Harlan that Arkansas voters, who approved the pay increase in a referendum by 66 percent, should not have done it. “Everybody wants free money in Pine Bluff,” Harlan quoted him as saying.

Patel apparently did not understand that Tippen performed work that kept the hotel running every night, which means she earned the money. The truth is that Patel, like so many other employers, believes that employees should work for free.

The Post and other papers wrote about Tippen’s firing, making her an icon for ill-treated, low-wage workers and Patel the personification of miserly bosses.

 

Worker-exploiting employers like McDonald’s, Chipotle and Walmart have shown themselves to be craven in the face of courageous workers’ wage protests as well.

Over the past few months, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed charges against McDonald’s and Walmart alleging they violated workers’ rights, including threatening retribution against those who participated in strikes.

In December, the NLRB in California ruled that Walmart illegally punished workers for striking and seeking to unionize. The judge determined that Walmart managers illegally intimidated workers by, for example, telling one, who had tied a rope around his waist to pull a heavy load, “If it was up to me, I would put that rope around your neck.”

In the Chipotle case, the NLRB ruled that a manager in St. Louis illegally fired worker Patrick Leeper for participating in Fight for $15 demonstrations and for talking about wages at work. After the decision, a company spokesperson told the news website Think Progress: “Generally speaking, it is always a top priority for us to remain compliant with all local and federal labor laws.”

“Generally,” Chipotle tries. Generally. Not in this particular case involving low-wage workers demonstrating for better pay. But, you know, generally Chipotle tries to obey the law.

In the original Washington Post story about the tiny increase in the minimum wage in Arkansas, Dominic Flis, whose company owns 18 Burger Kings in central Arkansas, said raising the minimum wage pushes up pay for other workers too. Here’s what he said:

“If somebody was already making $7.50, and minimum wage goes to $7.50, they’ll have some expectation of a raise as well,” Flis said. “And I have to maintain my workforce.”

The Brookings Institute calls this the ripple effect. The pay increase at the bottom ripples all the way up the pay scale.

Hedges, the fired Delta worker, put it another way: “a lot of the better paid workers also understand that the bottom has to be raised otherwise the top is going to fall as well.”

If for no other reason than self-interest, join the gutsy minimum-wage workers at a Fight for $15 event Wednesday.

Stamp Your Money While You Eat Free Ice Cream!

2015-04-14 Free Cone DayToday, April 14th is “Free Cone Day” at Ben & Jerry’s nationwide.  At the 940 Elm Street location in Manchester, NH, ice cream lovers coming by for their free scoop between noon and 8:00 pm will also be able to Stamp their money and learn more about the Stamp Stampede.

StampStampede.org is tens of thousands of Americans supporting the movement to get money out of politics by legally stamping messages onto US currency.

Here in New Hampshire, more than 60 small businesses have already joined the Stampede and are hosting “stamping stations” where customers can stamp their currency and learn more about the issue.  Almost 1,000 Granite Staters are beautifying their bucks with messages like “Not to be Used for Bribing Politicians.”  Each stamped bill is seen by an estimated 875 people as it circulates through the local economy.

At the grassroots level, there is broad bipartisan support for overturning Citizens United and ending the influence of special interests. Four out of five New Hampshire Republicans think Congress is more interested in special interests than its constituents.  More than two-thirds of New Hampshire voters support a Constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United.  So far, 68 of the state’s cities and towns have passed local resolutions asking for a Constitutional amendment.

The state Legislature is considering two measures about Citizens United.  The House passed a bipartisan measure calling for a Constitutional Convention.  The Senate unanimously passed a bill calling for an amendment and setting up a study committee to recommend which proposed amendment to support.  So far, 16 other states have called for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get special interest money out of politics.

The Stamp Stampede was founded by Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

Free Cone Day & Stamp Your Money!
Tuesday, April 14th 12noon to 8:00 pm
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
940 Elm Street
Manchester, NH 03101

For other Ben & Jerry’s locations celebrating Free Cone Day, click here.

————————

The Stamp Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

SENATE DEMOCRATS TO MCCONNELL: BRING MIDDLE CLASS BILLS THAT RECEIVED BIPARTISAN SUPPORT DURING BUDGET VOTE-A-RAMA UP FOR A BINDING VOTE

In Letter To Leader McConnell, Lead Senate Dem Sponsors Of Four Budget Resolution Amendments That Garnered Strong Bipartisan Support Formally Request That The Legislative Version Of These Non-Binding Amendments Be Given Up-Or-Down Votes On The Senate Floor

 

Only Two Weeks ago, Majorities Supported Non-Binding Amendments that Provide Workers With Paid Sick Leave, Protect Pregnant Works From Discrimination, Ensure Same Sex Couples Have Equal Access To Federal Benefits And Enact Tax Cuts For Middle Class Families

 

Senate Dems To McConnell: These Policies Benefit The Middle Class, Have Bipartisan Support And Deserve A Vote In This Congress That Would Have a Real Impact on Working Families

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democrats formally called for an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor on four policies that garnered significant Republican support when they were considered as non-binding amendments to the Budget resolution only two weeks ago. Specifically, the senators called for up-or-down votes on legislation to provide paid sick leave for workers, protect pregnant workers from discrimination, ensure same sex couples have equal access to federal benefits and enact tax cuts for middle class families. The letter was signed by the chief Senate democratic sponsors of the legislation: Senators Dick Durbin (Working Families Tax Relief Act), Charles E. Schumer (American Opportunity Tax Credit), Patty Murray (Healthy Families Act, Child Care Tax Credit and 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act), Ron Wyden (Middle Class Tax Cut), Sherrod Brown (Working Families Tax Relief Act), Bob Casey (the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act), Jeanne Shaheen (Child Care Tax Credit, Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and Equal Access to Benefits for Same Sex Couples), Al Franken (Healthy Families Act) and Brian Schatz (Equal Access to Benefits for Same Sex Couples). 

 

In the letter, the senators stated that while they strongly oppose the underlying Senate Republican budget and the negative impacts it would have on middle-class and working families, they believe the four amendments represent important policies that deserve a vote in this Congress.

 

A full copy of the letter can be found below:

 

April 9, 2015

 

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Majority Leader

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Leader McConnell,

 

We write today to urge you to work with us to keep the momentum behind a series of non-binding budget resolution amendments moving forward. During budget “vote-a-rama,” a number of Senate Republicans supported Democratic amendments containing common-sense policies that will benefit hardworking Americans instead of special interests. As the sponsors of those amendments, we would like to assure you that we stand ready to work with you to bring real legislation separate from the budget to the floor for an up-or-down vote.

 

As you know, amendments to the budget that are voted on during vote-a-rama do not have the force of law. However, a bipartisan majority vote on an amendment can be an important mark of whether or not a certain policy can pass the Senate with a 60 vote affirmative threshold. Too often, the budget vote-a-rama is characterized as a partisan exercise that leaves no lasting policy impact. Working with you, we hope to make this Budget vote-a-rama different. While we strongly oppose the underlying Senate Republican budget and the negative impacts it would have on middle-class and working families, we believe the following four amendments represent policies that deserve a vote in this Congress.

 

  • Paid Sick Leave (passed 61-39) – Amendment No. 798 to improve workplace benefits and reduce health care costs, which may include measures to allow Americans to earn paid sick time to address their own health needs and the health needs of their families, and to promote equal employment opportunities.

 

  • Ending Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers (passed 100-0) - Amendment No. 632 to increase employment opportunities and prevent employment discrimination, which may include measures to prevent employment discrimination against pregnant workers, to provide pregnant workers with a right to workplace accommodations, and to ensure that employers comply with requirements regarding such workplace accommodations for pregnant workers.

 

  • Equal Access to Benefits for Same Sex Couples (passed 57-43) - Amendment No. 1063 to ensuring all legally married same-sex spouses have equal access to the Social Security and veterans benefits they have earned and receive equal treatment under the law pursuant to the Constitution of the United States.

 

  • Middle Class Tax Cuts (passed 73-27) – Amendment No. 968 to enacting middle class tax relief, including extending and expanding refundable tax credits, such as tax provisions and policies included in legislation like the Working Families Tax Relief Act, American Opportunity Tax Credit Permanence and Consolidation Act, Helping Working Families Afford Child Care Act, or the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act.

 

We respectfully request that you publicly announce a timetable for the prompt Senate consideration of these policies, which have clear bipartisan support.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dick Durbin

United States Senator

 

Patty Murray

United States Senator

 

Ron Wyden

United States Senator

 

Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senator

 

Sherrod Brown

United States Senator

 

Chuck Schumer

United States Senator

 

Bob Casey

United States Senator

 

Brian Schatz

United States Senator

 

Al Franken

United States Senator

Coalition Calls For A Reversal Of Texas Ruling Blocking Executive Action On Immigration

Latino American Immigration (Image by LBJ Foundation FLIKR)

(Image by LBJ Foundation FLIKR)

Unprecedented Coalition of Elected Officials, Advocates, Law Enforcement, Business Groups Ask Appellate Court to Reverse Texas Ruling Blocking President’s Immigration Initiatives

Immigration Policy Center logoWashington D.C. – The Texas federal district court order that blocked parts of President Obama’s executive action on immigration was based on unproven or incomplete presentations to the court and should be reversed, civil rights and immigration advocates argue in an amicus (“friend-of-the-court”) brief in the case of State of Texas v. United States. Texas and 25 other states have sued the federal government to stop the implementation of initiatives that will provide temporary relief from deportation, but advocates maintain the President’s actions are legally sound.

Multiple legal briefs defending the deferred action initiatives were filed Monday with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by a range of advocates, leaders, and elected officials. One of these briefs was filed on behalf of more than 150 civil rights, labor, and immigration advocacy groups, led by the American Immigration Council, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Si Se Puede - Immigration (Image by Claudia A. De La Garza FLIKR)

(Image by Claudia A. De La Garza  in 2014 FLIKR)

Briefs were also submitted to the court Monday by 15 states and the District of Columbia, 73 mayors, county officials from 27 states, 181 members of Congress, and 109 law professors, law enforcement, faith and business leaders. These briefs discuss the economic and community benefits that will result from expansion of the successful DACA program and the new DAPA initiative for parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.

“Collectively, the parties in these filings represent more than half of the foreign-born population in our country, which means they have a demonstrated track record of producing inclusive immigration policies,” noted Marielena Hincapié, NILC executive director, during a telephonic press briefing announcing the briefs. “We are confident that we will win because the law is on our side. But we also know that the wheels of justice often move slowly. In the meantime, our message to eligible immigrants and their families is to be patient, continue gathering the necessary documents to apply, save up for the application fee, and don’t lose faith,” added Hincapié.

“We are undeterred and we will continue in this campaign [to realize the start of the DACA and DAPA programs],” added Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. An early signer of the amicus brief by local officials, the mayor said the filing before the appellate court by mayors and counties has twice as many signers as an earlier brief submitted to the Texas district court. Citing the economic and community benefits that would come from allowing immigrants to come out of the shadows, Mayor Hancock added, “This is about our communities. This is about working with those who have chosen to call our cities ‘home.’”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, said the legal filing by 181 members of Congress argues the Texas court overturned Congress’ decision to give the executive branch authority to set immigration enforcement priorities.

“What the court has done is not only an affront to what the executive has done [in setting priorities] and to the authority we have – well-grounded in law and in precedent – but also an affront to what Congress has done,” Lofgren said. “There are millions of people living in fear, who have made our economy and lived here for decades, whose lives have been turned upside down by an erroneous ruling.”

Some states claimed that the administrative relief will harm them, but the legal briefs argue the judgment was incorrect.

“That is incorrect. The states have to show irreparable harm to get a preliminary injunction; they have not,” Noah Purcell, solicitor general in the Washington State Attorney General’s Office told reporters. “The president’s directives are good for states; they are not harming states.”

The human aspect of the case also was highlighted during Monday’s press call.

 Not 1 More 2014 (Image LBJ Foundatio FLIKR)

Not 1 More 2014 (Image LBJ Foundation FLIKR)

“Although I was disappointed by the news that a federal district judge blocked implementation of DACA expansion, I was not disillusioned,” said Jong-Min You, an immigrant from New York who would be eligible for relief under DACA expansion. “I know that eventually, I will be able to come forward and apply for relief from deportation and work authorization, and I’m not the only one. Other elder Dreamers, along with their parents and millions of others, are ready for the legal battle ahead and for the legal battle to end so that we can finally move forward.”

Rocio Saenz, SEIU international executive vice president, said advocates for expanded DACA and DAPA will never give up.

“The plaintiff states and Republicans who support this lawsuit can ignore the will of their own constituents and immigrants’ contributions, but we will continue to defend the immigration action in the courts. We will continue to fight for immigration reform. We will continue to inform future applicants and make sure that when the time comes – and it will come – that every eligible person applies for the immigration action. We are and will continue to send a strong message to the naysayers, to Republicans who stand in the way of progress: We are not the enemy. But we are ready – ready to fight back, ready for the immigration action, and ready to vote,” Saenz said.

“Amici and the government are clearly on the right side of the law, and we are confident that a stay [of the Texas order] will be granted, hopefully by the Fifth Circuit, one day very soon,” said Melissa Crow, legal director of the American Immigration Council.

A recording of Monday’s press call can be downloaded at http://nilc.org/document.html?id=1222 .

Senator Rand Paul Has No Idea Why The USPS Appears To Be Failing, But He Blames Unions

RAND PAUL (Stump Source FLIKR CC)

RAND PAUL (Stump Source FLIKR CC)

With much fanfare Rand Paul has officially kicked off his Stand with Rand presidential campaign.  He is arguably the most anti-worker candidate on the American political landscape.

Paul never strays from being a front man for the wealthy with his extreme anti-union beliefs. For Postal workers his message is clear as he advocates an  end to collective bargaining rights for postal workers when their current contracts expire.  He says he is not “opposed to all unions” he just believes unions are inappropriate for public service workers.

For other union workers, his thoughts are just as clear as he proudly introduced a National Right to Work Bill in the Senate. The National Right to Work Committee has given Paul $20,000 already this election cycle, which is 57% of all the money it has handed out to all other politicians combined.  So you can easily say that Rand Paul has essentially become the national spokesman for Right to Work. This kind of belies his “man of the people” messaging.

When speaking on Postal Reform a month ago in Florida he blasted the Postal Service:
“There are two sectors in the economy. The productive sector: you. And the non-productive sector: the people who live in Washington. They don’t make anything. They can’t even run the post office. They say we are going to project our power and we create new nations around the world.  We can’t run our own post office. They came to me last year on my committee and you know what they said, ‘we need bonuses for people at the post office.’ They said ‘you’ve got to pay people to retain talent. To get talented people you’ve got to pay them.’ I said ‘how much talent does it take to lose a billion dollars a quarter.’” I am not quite sure that Postal Bonuses were a major topic in the postal reform mark up. I am quite sure that postal  union workers do not receive any bonuses. Plus the USPS has turned an operational profit over the last few years.

(Michael Vadon - Carroll County Republican Committee Annual Lincoln Day Dinner with U.S. Senator Rand Paul - FLIKR CC)

(Michael Vadon
– Carroll County Republican Committee Annual Lincoln Day Dinner with U.S. Senator Rand Paul – FLIKR CC)

“So something has to change, but everybody opposes any changes that would allow the Post Office to make decisions like a business. Maybe if they were to have bankruptcy and renegotiate all of their labor contracts, they would have a chance. But there’s too many strong political, partisan voices up here to let that happen.  So I don’t know what the answer is. Privatization would be great but how we go about doing that is another story.”

Senator Paul’s main contribution to the Postal Reform hearings before his committee were not exactly constructive. He immediately proposed an amendment calling on the Postal Service to declare bankruptcy and reorganize. In the senator’s vision of reorganization, collective-bargaining agreements between USPS and its employee unions would be renegotiated, while existing no-layoff protections and the ability to bargain over wages would be banned.

Paul then tied up the committee with a lengthy barrage of questions about his failed amendment to “remove a federal ban on guns in the post offices.”  This prevented substantial debate on the problems with retiree pre-funding obligations that his Congress placed on the USPS. Senator Paul’s Postal Reform boils down to eliminating workers rights and enhancing gun owners’ rights in the post office. That is not Postal Reform, that’s Postal Destruction.

The real issue behind the Postal Service’s red ink is the  2006 Congressional mandate that the Postal Service fully fund 75 years of retiree health care costs in a 10 year period. This onerous mandate costs the USPS $5.5 Billion a year and is the only reason that the Postal Service doesn’t show a profit on its balance sheet. Even more outrageous is the fact that this payment is unnecessary as the USPS retiree fund has more than enough money for decades into the future. The hard-working union workers of the Postal Service are on their 3rd straight year of an operational profit.  It’s been an extraordinary turnaround that Paul fails to mention.

Rand Paul has some serious misconceptions not only about the productivity of  union workers but also their retirement and health care plans. ” Federal employees have almost double the compensation that private employees have. […] Maybe these government unions are going to have to contribute to their pension, maybe they’re going to have to pay something for their health care, like I’m having to pay, so when I hear regular taxpayers in Kentucky they don’t have a lot of sympathy because they’re paying high insurance premiums and they have to pay for their own retirements. “

(Video link)

He couldn’t be more misinformed. Public workers at all level of government have to contribute to their pension and health care plans. Federal employees contribute to the Federal Employment Retirement System (FERS), which requires them to contribute to the fund at a rate equivalent to one percent of their yearly salary. Also Federal workers participate in the Federal Group Health Care system where they buy their healthcare.  For some Postal Workers (CCAs and  PSEs) the price for health care almost make it unattainable while joining a retirement plan is not fiscally possible. The Postal Service does not contribute anything to their retirement plans. Paul had to know he was completely misrepresenting the facts, but that didn’t stop him. His overall dislike of public sector unions make any exaggeration of the facts acceptable, it seems.

Demonizing federal union workers is a Republican staple since Ronald Reagan fired Air Traffic Controllers. There is a profit to be made by decimating the Postal Service both politically and financially.  It’s no surprise that UPS and FedEx are among the top 10 contributors to his leadership PAC. With Paul it’s simple: you just follow the money. Whether it’s degrading public union workers or being the lead advocate for bills against private sector workers, it’s clear whose side Rand Paul stands with. His close ties with anti-union groups show his true allegiance.  He will offer an occasional  populist message on foreign policy or the war on drugs in an effort to disguise the fact that when it comes to economic issues he is firmly against working people.

Paul is the latest in the line of snake oil salesman running for President who under the guise of free markets/privatization, who want to further enrich the ultra-wealthy on the backs of  middle class workers.  The ultra-wealthy supporters of Paul never vote against their economic self-interest. Notice the record-breaking income inequality as proof. In spite of that Rand Paul is running for president hoping to fool working people in to voting against their economic well-being.  His Stand with Rand movement is clearly standing on the backs of union people.

Paul believes ordinary people should just be slaves for the rich and be thankful for it. He expounds on this in the video below.  For working people a more  accurate slogan describing their economic outlook under a President Rand Paul would be Fall With Paul.

Slavery and Human Rights Abuses Connected to Top Darden Seafood Supplier, Thai Union Frozen Products

darden_lgAP Investigation Reveals Olive Garden Parent Company Darden Restaurants Inc., the World’s Largest Full-Service Restaurant Corporation, Sourced Tons of Seafood Possibly Connected to Slave Labor

This week, The Associated Press released results of an investigation into slavery on Southeast Asian fishing trawlersthat supply major restaurants, supermarkets, seafood companies throughout the United States.

Thai Union, a leading seafood supplier named in the investigation, supplies Darden Restaurants Inc. (parent company to Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House) with a significant amount of its seafood.

According to US Customs Data, Darden has received more than 250 metric tons of frozen shrimp from Thai Union since July 2014. Darden is a long-time customer of Thai Union, even naming it a ‘William B. Darden Distinguished Supplier,’ its top award for vendor excellence, and distinguishing it as their number one vendor in their quality and food safety program with their ‘Gold Award.’

Details from the AP investigation reveal that workers were paid little or nothing while being forced to work 20 – 22 hour shifts with no days off.  They also said they were regularly beaten.

The AP report builds on a Guardian investigation released last June, which found that ships used to catch fish, which were then used to feed farmed prawns, were crewed by Burmese slaves who were sometimes beaten or killed and tossed overboard.

“It’s telling that as Starboard Value took control over Darden’s board in October, the Guardian investigation being out for a few months at this point, Darden didn’t do anything to look into possible slavery and human rights abuses in their own seafood supply chain, and instead turned a blind eye, focused aggressively on profit, and deployed a typical hedge-fund sale-leaseback strategy to leverage the company’s real estate portfolio,” said Lauren Jacobs, National Organizing Director at Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United. “It’s unconscionable that any company, let alone a huge restaurant company that literally serves millions of meals every year, touts a sustainability program–specifically a ‘seafood stewardship’ program–would continue to serve their customers seafood knowing that it may very well be connected to slave labor.”

In October of 2014, Starboard Value, an activist hedge fund and Darden shareholder, successfully replaced all 12 of Darden’s board members. Among its proposals to increase shareholder value were several labor cost cuts to Olive Garden, including laying off employees, increasing part-time scheduling, possible franchising, and passing more work onto subminimum wage employees. Leading up to the takeover current Darden employees of the Dignity At Darden campaign, concerned with the future of the company launched a petition asking to meet with Starboard’s leadership, calling attention to problematic labor practices, including the company’s elimination of auto-gratuities on large parties, unpredictable scheduling, and wages unable to sustain a family. Neither Starboard Value nor Darden’s management met with Darden employees.

“As a leading member of the National Restaurant Association, Darden has lobbied aggressively against wage increases and even paid sick day policies, sacrificing public health and the well-being of their employees to profit,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder/co-director of ROC United and Director of Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley. “If a company with the scope and influence of Darden lets ‘unlocking shareholder value’ steamroll even looking into massive human rights violations like connections to slavery, we should all be deeply concerned for the future of the entire restaurant industry.”

The Dignity At Darden campaign is a national community of current Darden restaurant workers and their supporters who agree that through raising industry standards at Darden, the largest full-service restaurant company in the word, the entire restaurant industry will be forced to improve their labor practices and provide livable wages.

Co-founded by leading workers’ rights advocate Saru Jayaraman (“One of the top 50 most influential people in the restaurant industry” – Nation’s Restaurant News) ROC United has grown to over 13,000 worker-members across 26 cities in the US, winning 15 worker-led campaigns, totaling $8 million in stolen tips and wages.

NH House Republicans Push Through Their Immoral Reckless Budget

 

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Today hundreds of Granite Staters filled the State Capitol building holding signs and asking legislators to oppose these reckless cuts to the New Hampshire budget.  Labor leaders, community activists and concerned citizens delivered over 800 signed petitions opposing these reckless budget cuts.

“A budget is a statement of our priorities as a community and in that sense it is an expression of our values,” explained the Rev. Jonathan Hopkins, President of the NH Council of Churches and pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church. “Our faith leads us to pay attention to the common good, not just to the interests of individuals. Our faith calls for a budget that is fair and just.”

One area of the proposed budget cuts that drew outrage today were the cuts to social programs to help people overcome their additions to drugs and alcohol. Hundred gathered and participated in a “die in” on the State House steps. (Images above of the ‘die in’ courtesy of Steve Kloppenburg)

Their voices and concerns were ignored as the House Republicans pushed through their budget with devastating cuts to a variety of state programs.

“In amending the House Finance Committee-recommended budget that already hurt families, undermined business growth and took our economy backward, Republicans in the House of Representatives managed today to make a reckless budget even worse,” stated Governor Maggie Hassan. (Full Statement Here)

“To gain the support of Bill O’Brien and the Koch Brothers, House Republicans passed a budget today that is so extreme that even the Republican House Finance Chair admitted that our state would suffer if it were actually enacted,” said Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

“The House did a fantastic job of making New Hampshire more free market and more competitive, and forth and for most it takes out all the tax increases,” said AFP State Director Greg Moore in an press conference last week.

During the debate on the House floor Representative William O’Brien, who pushed a similar budget cuts through the House in 2011 when he was Speaker, offered an amendment to raid the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” to find extra money to make their budget work.

“From raiding dedicated funds to downshifting costs onto local communities, the O’Brien-Jasper budget proves once again that New Hampshire Republicans can’t be taken seriously on fiscal responsibility,” said Buckley. “Possibly the most fiscally irresponsible action in the O’Brien-Jasper budget deal — and that’s saying something — is O’Brien’s floor amendment to empty the state’s rainy day fund.”

“As lawmakers entered the State House, today they were greeted by hundreds of protesters decrying the O’Brien-Jasper budget’s drastic cuts. But instead of listening to the outcry from every corner of the state, O’Brien and Jasper decided to wipe out the state’s rainy day fund and threaten a credit downgrade to make even deeper cuts, including cutting funding for community colleges, further cutting our already strained corrections system, and laying off nurses at New Hampshire hospital,” continued Buckley.

“Voters will not stand for the fiscally irresponsible Jasper-O’Brien budget that empties the state’s rainy day fund, raids dedicated funds, slashes critical economic priorities for small businesses and middle class families, and downshifts costs onto local property taxpayers,” concluded Buckley.

One of the budget tactics used by Republicans to fund their disastrous budget would reverse the pay increased negotiated by the State Employees Association. These are the same workers who are now facing the potential of massive layoffs.

“When I was a child growing up in NH, the state leaders were fiscally conservative and responsible,” said Richard Gulla, President of SEA/SEIU Local 1984. “The legislature was primarily Republican and when need be, they would find ways to raise revenue for items our state’s citizens needed and there was a good balance between revenue and spending. That is no longer the case.”

The Tea Party extremists have taken over the House and refuse to raise revenues even though the state desperately needs it.

“The members of SEA/SEIU 1984 want our state to be a safe place for everyone to live, work, and prosper. The NH House budget does not promote these priorities – it disrupts them,” wrote the State Employees Association. “Even though they did not prevail, we salute the legislators who voted in favor of funding the state employees’ contract.”

“While today’s vote was gravely disappointing, we now look to the NH Senate to prepare a budget that is frugal yet reasonable and responsible,” concluded the SEA.

Community groups and fiscal watchdogs were quick to blast Republicans in the House for passing this budget that is guaranteed to harm our state and our economy.

“The House version of the budget is foolhardy and shortsighted. It unnecessarily pits important state priorities against one another rather than making real investments in our community, our infrastructure, and our people,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “It kicks the can down the road on identifying reasonable revenue sources that ensure the wealthy and corporations are paying their fair share, and it turns its back on programs that, if funded today, will save our state money in the long run.”

“The House budget pits vital public services against one another in an attempt to achieve a misguided sense of balance. This budget puts many of our state’s most vulnerable residents at risk, forcing cities and towns — and local taxpayers – to take on greater responsibilities and to face higher costs in the long run,” said New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Jeff McLynch. (Full Statement Here)

Now we look to the New Hampshire Senate to see how they blend their two proposals together and craft the budget for the next two years. We already know that the Senate passed a business tax reduction that gives away millions to businesses while force deeper cuts to state agencies.

Will the Senate find a way to fix the cuts proposed by the House, or will they bend to the Tea Party extremists and force New Hampshire backwards?

 

Related article and recommended reading:

Republican Budget Cuts In New Hampshire Provoke Backlash From Clergy

 

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