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Congressional House Members Split On Omnibus Bill

Congress West Front

 

This week has been very busy in Washington as Congress created yet another manufactured crisis with threats to shut down the government over a divisive continuing resolution.

The good news is that, for now, the government will remain open as the House passed a omnibus bill to fund the government for another year. The House also passed a two-day continuing resolution allowing the Senate time to pass the House bill. The omnibus bill created a whirlwind of controversy with numerous amendments that outraged millions of Americans. There is a very small possibility that the Senate will amend or reject the House bill over these controversial amendments.

There are three main amendments that drew the biggest scrutiny and threatened to kill the bill.

1) The Wall Street Rollback

House Republicans added an amendment written by Citi Group stripping regulations on derivatives trading. This is just another handout to the big banks on Wall Street, putting the taxpayers on the hook for billions – or trillions – of dollars.

“TBTF (Too Big To Fail Banks) are now worth $53 trillion,” wrote Liz Iacobucci “Do the math. If there is another Wall Street meltdown; and another bailout; and this next bailout also requires the government to borrow an amount equal to one-third of what TBTF institutions are worth now…”

This provision drew strong opposition from the AFL-CIO:

“The AFL-CIO strongly opposes efforts to make it easier for too-big-to-fail banks to use taxpayer-backed funds to make risky bets in the derivatives markets,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

2) The Pension Reform Amendment

Labor groups were outraged that Republicans added an amendment that would drastically reduce pension benefits to millions of retirees.

“Today we have seen the ugly side of political backroom dealings as thousands of retirees may have their pensions threatened by proposed legislation that reportedly includes massive benefit cuts,” said Jimmy Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “Thousands of hard-working men and women deserve better than having their pensions slashed by a bill that can’t stand on its own merit.”

This provision would allow multi-employer pension plans to reduce payouts to retirees from and average of $50,000 a year to approximately $15,000 a year. The “unfunded liability” is largely due to the massive losses these plans took during the last two Wall Street crashes. But the underfunding will not become an issue for at least another ten years – so there is no need to rush this amendment through on a piece of must-pass legislation.

“Changing ERISA to allow cuts in promised benefits is a ticket to poverty and dependence on government asisstance,” IAM International President R. Thomas Buffenbarger wrote members of Congress last month.

“They’ve sneaked this in,” said Dave Erickson of Isanti, Minnesota. “They don’t have the guts to come out and tell us they’re taking our money. It makes me sick. The pension payment was something I counted on.”

(Read also: Another WIN for Wall Street… and a huge LOSS for the middle class)

3) Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign finance reformers were outraged when the bill was amended to allow millionaires and billionaires to push even more money into political campaigns. Currently a donor can give $32,000 a year to the party of their choice. The Omnibus spending amendment will allow wealthy donors to donate $777,600 per year or $1,555,200 in a two-year cycle.

“Another (amendment) would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices,” stated Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who voted against the Omnibus bill.

Neither party is taking credit for the campaign finance amendment that will benefit both parties. It is a win for the fundraisers – but a loss for working families, who are losing their voice in Washington to big money donors.

In a very close 219-206 vote the Omnibus bill did pass the House. The bill saw many Representatives from both parties oppose their own party leaders with their votes. Progressives were angered to see that 57 Democrats decided to support the Republican bill in spite of the “poison pills” in the bill.

The Congressional Representatives in my home state were split in their votes on the Omnibus bill. Both voiced their support for keeping the government open and stated their opposition to these amendments; however, they reached different decisions when it came time to vote.

“Of course Congress had to keep the government open, but it should have been done by passing a Continuing Resolution that funded the government, but didn’t contain these harmful provisions. I strongly opposed the CROmnibus bill, which would hurt working Americans by allowing big-money bailouts for banks and rolling back already-inadequate campaign finance laws,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

“In 2008, I voted against the bank bailouts and for policies that saved us from a depression. I am deeply concerned that this bill calls for a taxpayer-funded bailout for irresponsible institutions if they get themselves in trouble again. The bailout provision is just one of a number of special-interest victories in this bill. Another would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices. Putting American taxpayers on the hook and gutting campaign finance laws is unacceptable, so I voted no,” concluded Shea-Porter.

“While I remain concerned about certain aspects of the so-called “CRomnibus,” including a troublesome campaign finance provision that increases the donation-limits for party conventions and political parties, I believe that first and foremost it is our responsibility as Members of Congress to work across the aisle to keep the government running,” stated Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Last year’s government shutdown was devastating for Granite State families; it put approximately 800,000 Americans out of work and wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Congress should never allow politics to get in the way of doing what’s right for our constituents at home, so I’m pleased Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to pass this legislation and provide the certainty our country needs moving forward into the new year.”

I have – and will continue to – support Congresswoman Annie Kuster (and the other 57 Democrats); however, I completely disagree with her on this vote. I share her optimism that our elected representatives can put aside their partisan party politics and do what is needed for working families; however, this bill is not one of those opportunities. This bill will decimate what is left of our campaign finance regulations, and put the Wall Street gamblers in charge of our economy once again, using my taxes to hedge their risky bets.

If these 57 Democrats had voted against the bill, the Republicans would have had no choice but to remove these controversial amendments and offer the bill up for another vote. The Republican leadership knew the bill would not pass without Democratic support because the ultra-right wing (67 in all) planned to vote against it as well.

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Editor’s Notes:

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter’s strong leadership and dedication to working families will be greatly missed in Congress over the next two years. I hope she will consider running for the CD01 seat again in 2016, or even run against Senator Kelly Ayotte for a seat in the Senate.

 

There was one other little known amendment that was slipped into the omnibus bill that would reduce the mandatory rest periods for truck drivers – against Transportation Secretary Foxx’s strong opposition. The amendment reversed the required rest period allowing truckers to drive up to 82 hours a week.

Read more about this amendment, on Bloomberg.

Kuster Statement on Vote to Avert a Government Shutdown

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Washington, DC – This evening, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) released the following statement regarding her vote on the so-called “CRomnibus,” an end-of-year funding bill to keep the federal government running:

“While I remain concerned about certain aspects of the so-called “CRomnibus,” including a troublesome campaign finance provision that increases the donation-limits for party conventions and political parties, I believe that first and foremost it is our responsibility as Members of Congress to work across the aisle to keep the government running. Last year’s government shutdown was devastating for Granite State families; it put approximately 800,000 Americans out of work and wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Congress should never allow politics to get in the way of doing what’s right for our constituents at home, so I’m pleased Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to pass this legislation and provide the certainty our country needs moving forward into the new year.”

“Additionally, this bill contains important provisions that I’ve championed, including enhanced programs to reduce sexual assault in the military, and the renewal of critical job training programs that many Granite Staters rely on. It also includes legislation I fought for to establish a Network for Manufacturing Innovation to support the creation of new high-tech manufacturing jobs across the country.”

“In the new year, I will carry on my fight to reform our country’s campaign finance system and reduce the role of big money in politics. As we continue these funding discussions, I will work across the aisle to support New Hampshire priorities like 21st century job training, affordable higher education, transportation infrastructure, and other investments to grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.”

Shea-Porter Statement on CROmnibus Vote

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WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) voted against the so-called “CROmnibus” funding bill today because it is a win for special interests, and a bad deal for middle class taxpayers. The House passed the bill with a vote of 219-206.

“Of course Congress had to keep the government open, but it should have been done by passing a Continuing Resolution that funded the government, but didn’t contain these harmful provisions. I strongly opposed the CROmnibus bill, which would hurt working Americans by allowing big-money bailouts for banks and rolling back already-inadequate campaign finance laws,” said Shea-Porter.

“In 2008, I voted against the bank bailouts and for policies that saved us from a depression. I am deeply concerned that this bill calls for a taxpayer-funded bailout for irresponsible institutions if they get themselves in trouble again. The bailout provision is just one of a number of special-interest victories in this bill. Another would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices. Putting American taxpayers on the hook and gutting campaign finance laws is unacceptable, so I voted no.”

NH Retirement Security Coalition Further Responds To Today’s NH Supreme Court Ruling

NH Retirement Coalition

NH Retirement CoalitionEarlier today, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued its decision in the Professional Firefighters of NH v. State of NH “Rate Case” permitting firefighters, police officers, teachers, and public employees’ pension contributions to be increased.

The Coalition believes that the Court’s ruling focuses narrowly on the Legislature’s ability to change a “fixed contribution rate.” The Court relied on a Florida Supreme Court decision in a similar case, allowing a Legislative body “to amend a retirement plan prospectively, so long as any benefits tied to service performed prior to the amendment date are not lost or impaired.”  The Florida Court made clear that it was not authorizing the Florida Legislature to modify benefits.

Today’s ruling does not clearly come to terms with important policy considerations.   The ruling sends a strong negative message to younger workers who are required to join the retirement system, but do so without any protections against ever increasing costs that are deducted from their pay.

There is much left unsaid in this decision and we are hopeful that the Court, in their upcoming decisions on remaining Retirement System cases, will be more definitive and better explain their rationale so that Coalition members will know exactly where they stand before and after retirement.

The NH Retirement Security Coalition represents over 76,000 active and retired Firefighters, Police Officers, Teachers State and Municipal Employees

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Members of the NH Retirement Security Coalition:

Sandy Amlaw, New Hampshire Retired Educators Association

Steve Arnold, NE Police Benevolent Association

Dennis Caza, Teamsters Union Local 633

Laura Hainey, American Federation of Teachers – New Hampshire

Mark Joyce, NH School Administrators Association

Rich Gulla, State Employees Association of New Hampshire – SEIU Local 1984

Dave Lang, Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire

Mark MacKenzie, New Hampshire AFL-CIO

Harriett Spencer, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 93

Keith Phelps, New Hampshire Police Association

Scott McGilvray, NEA – New Hampshire

Marc Beaudoin, NH Troopers Association

Two Recent Court Rulings That Pit Legal Theories vs Workplace Realities

US Supreme Court Building

US Supreme Court BuildingCan’t help but think there’s a huge “disconnect” between recent court rulings and real-life work situations.

First Case: Yesterday, the US Supreme Court weighed in on the question of whether employees are entitled to be paid for time spent waiting for security screening as they leave the job each workday. Apparently, the Supreme Court doesn’t believe that routinely searching employees to see if they’re stealing anything is actually “integral and indispensable” to those workers’ jobs. And the law doesn’t require employers to pay wages for duties that aren’t “integral and indispensable.”

At one level, I agree with the Court wholeheartedly. Proving you’re not a thief, day after day, should not be an “integral and indispensable” part of anyone’s job.

But, in real life: what would happen if those workers refused to go through the security screening? My guess is: they’d be fired.

Which, in my mind, makes those daily screenings “integral and indispensable” – at least as long as the employer insists upon them. Myself, I would distinguish between investigating employees after a theft, and the practice of requiring workers to go through daily screenings “to prevent theft.”  And I don’t think workers should be required to donate their personal time, just because the employer mistrusts every single one if its employees.

Second Case:  This morning, the New Hampshire Supreme Court weighed in with a reverse-and-remand decision about the NH Retirement System.

The court case, Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire et al. v. State of New Hampshire, challenged the 2011 increase in public employees’ contributions to the NH Retirement System. That increase ranged from 2% to 2½ % of employees’ paychecks, depending on the job classification. This “pension reform” provision was included as part of the State’s biennial budget.

The plaintiffs and the NH Retirement Security Coalition are still reviewing this morning’s decision.  From their press release:

The NH Retirement Security Coalition has long contended that promises made to our member employees should be enforced because our members uphold their promises each and every day that they go to work. The Court’s decision today unfortunately allows public employers to renege on their promise of security in retirement. While this decision is disappointing, our members will continue to provide high quality service to the state and its cities, towns, and school districts.

We are deeply concerned about the long term impact of this decision on the people of NH. We are carefully reviewing this decision in detail with our attorneys and members of the Coalition and we will offer further in-depth comment as soon as we are able to do so.  

But as I read the decision, one thing jumped out at me: again, I see a disconnect between the legal reasoning and everyday workplace reality.

As I read the ruling – and I could be wrong on this, I am NOT a lawyer – it appears to me that the Court is viewing this from a purely theoretical perspective. It seems to me that the Court based its ruling on the theory that raising retirement contribution rates didn’t retroactively harm public workers because the retirement benefits they had already accrued (under the lower contribution rates) were still there – and the new contribution rates only applied to retirement benefits accrued going forward.

Or, in other words: if a public employee had retired on the day the new contribution rates went into effect, then he or she would still be entitled to all the retirement benefits accrued up to that point… and therefore (as I read the Court decision), the Justices do not see any unconstitutional retroactive impact.

Which I guess begs the question: what would have happened in 2011 if every single one of the public employees covered by the NH Retirement System had chosen retirement, rather than what was effectively an employer-imposed pay cut?

And in the real world, what does this do to NH RSA 273-A, the Public Employee Labor Relations Law, if public employers are now able to unilaterally change the terms and conditions of employment by increasing required “contributions” to the NH Retirement System?

The NH Supreme Court may be asked to reconsider today’s ruling. Stay tuned.

 

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Members of the NH Retirement Security Coalition include:
Sandy Amlaw, New Hampshire Retired Educators Association
Steve Arnold, NE Police Benevolent Association
Dennis  Caza, Teamsters Union Local 633
Laura Hainey, American Federation of Teachers – New Hampshire
Mark Joyce, NH School Administrators Association
Rich Gulla, State Employees Association of New Hampshire – SEIU Local 1984
Dave Lang, Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire
Mark MacKenzie, New Hampshire AFL-CIO
Harriett Spencer, American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 93
Keith Phelps, New Hampshire Police Association
Scott McGilvray, NEA – New Hampshire

President Obama Defies Unions And Fellow Democrats To Push For The TPP

StopTPP

In really crappy news, President Obama announced today that he is willing to defy Democrats and the labor unions that helped elect him to side with Republicans to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Those who oppose these trade deals ironically are accepting a status quo that is more damaging to American workers,” Obama said at the Business Roundtable. “There are folks in my own party and in my own constituency that have legitimate complaints about some of the trend lines of inequality, but are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to opposing TPP, and I’m going to have to make that argument.”

Barking up the wrong tree? Working families do not need another NAFTA that will continue to decimate American manufacturing. Since NAFTA we have lost millions of good high paying manufacturing jobs. The TPP will open the door for more manufacturers to offshore our jobs.

We do need to create a new trade agreement with our partners in the Far East, but we need to make it harder, not easier, for companies to offshore jobs. We also need to change our tax policies that reward corporations who build factories in China.

The biggest problem with opening up trade with China is that, we as Americans’ are buying billions of dollars worth of Chinese made stuff, yet China is not returning the favor. Comparatively China only buys a fraction of the U.S. made products creating a massive trade deficit.

If we want to see an economy that works for everyone again then we need to boost our own manufacturing base, and stop importing everything.

Look at Germany undoubtedly one of the strongest economies in the world, they have a trade surplus. A trade surplus leads to more jobs and higher wages.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership will do nothing for the millions of struggling workers here in the United States. As cheap Chinese products flood U.S. markets, American manufacturers will be forced to lower wages to compete with the slave labor wages in China. The TPP would only benefit the multi-national corporations who are only looking to boost their already obscene profits.

Any trade policy that does not turn our trade deficit to a trade surplus should be rejected. 

Walmart Could, And Should Be Paying $15 An Hour And Would Still Make $10 Billion In Profit

AFT VIDEO Screengrab

Working families are struggling and Walmart workers symbolize the struggles that millions of Americans are facing.  They work as many hours as their employer will give them and they are still living in poverty.

“If you are a man or woman working full-time in this country, it is a crime for you to still be poor,” said Rabbi Michael Feinberg.  “They (Walmart) have a 1-800 number where the workers call up in order for the corporation to help them connect to social benefits in their state, meaning Medicaid and welfare.”

Walmart workers alone cost the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars a year in social programs. The Americans for Tax Fairness “found that a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.

Walmart workers have had enough! They are walking out protesting Walmart’s poverty wages and failure to provide full-time employment.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “That’s why clergy, labor, school teachers, and workers from all over are here (and) all throughout the country to say to Walmart ‘you got to be fair, you got to be just’.”

Walmart is the largest private employer in the country and collected over $17 billion — yes that is with a B–  in profits in 2013. Let’s not forget that the CEO of Walmart collects an annual salary of $23 million.  To break it down further, that is “1,034 times more than the company’s average worker.”  Is this one man worth more than 1,000 workers? Can he stock the shelves of a 1,000 stores?

A 2013 UC Berkeley study showed that increasing wages to $12.00 an hour would add only $3.21 billion to Walmart’s annual labor costs.  That is not even half of what Walmart spent last year buying back their own stock to inflate their stock price.

If Walmart refused to take any cuts to their profit margin they could pass all of their labor costs on the consumer. This is what the Republicans say will cause the price of mile to jump to $10 a gallon!

The average Walmart customer would see an increase of $12.49 per year – about 46 cents per visit – if Walmart executives passed the total cost along, rather than cutting their profits.

Walmart can easily afford to pay workers $15 an hour, hell they could pay them $30 and hour if they really wanted to and still be a hugely profitable corporation.  In fact Fortune Magazine concluded that Walmart could give every worker a 50% increase in pay and still please their Wall Street investors.

The greed of Walmart is unmatched. Collecting millions of dollars a day in profits while asking  associates to donate to other associates so they can have food for Thanksgiving. (Of course they all had to work Thanksgiving too.)  That takes some really big cojones and a complete lack of respect for the people who are making your company a success.

 

Thanks to the American Federation of Teachers for this great video of solidarity for Walmart workers and the members of Making Change at Walmart (OUR Walmart – UFCW). 

Watch the video on YouTube

FairPoint Strikers Rallying in Portsmouth As Company’s Service Problems Mount

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter with Fairpoint Worker
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter with Fairpoint Worker

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter with Fairpoint Worker

 Workers and allies from across New England will mark Day 50 of FairPoint strike with a spirited rally in Portsmouth’s Market Square

 Company’s attack on skilled workers backfiring; customer complaints against FairPoint in N.H. are six times higher than before the strike

  Rally comes soon after three picketers hit in Keene; workers say it’s time for a Fair Deal for New England that ensures quality service and good jobs

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Striking workers and their allies will mark Day 50 of the strike at FairPoint Communications with a rally in Portsmouth’s Market Square. The rally today comes as service problems at FairPoint continue to mount.

In New Hampshire, customer complaints against FairPoint are running six times higher than before the strike, according to figures released on Monday by the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

“FairPoint’s attack on its skilled workers has backfired badly,” says Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320. “Their unqualified replacement workers are failing our customers, and now they’re even endangering the lives of our members.”

On Tuesday, three FairPoint strikers were hit by a replacement worker driving across a picket line in Keene, N.H. Though no one was seriously hurt, one worker was taken to the hospital with a back injury, and Keene police are conducting an investigation into the incident.

The striking workers are calling on FairPoint, which is headquartered in North Carolina, to reach a Fair Deal for New England. They say the company’s push to slash pay and benefits and outsource work to unqualified contractors would make it impossible to deliver quality service to customers.

“FairPoint provoked this strike and now they’re proving that they can’t serve their customers without us,” says Don Trementozzi, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1400. “This is what happens when you replace high-skilled workers with low-wage contractors, and it’s why we’re fighting so hard to make sure FairPoint executives can’t outsource work in the future.”

Since the strike began on October 17, FairPoint has been struggling to maintain its northern New England systems with replacement workers hired from out of state. On Monday, New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission reported that it received 164 complaints in October and 217 in November, up from 36 in September.

The negotiations for a new contract at FairPoint began in April, and from the outset company officials pressed to increase outsourcing, cut pay for new workers and slash benefits for all employees. The workers have offered more than $200 million in cost-saving compromises during the talks. But the company has not altered its initial demand for $700 million in deep and damaging cuts.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents nearly 1,700 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 represents nearly 300 FairPoint employees in the three states. For more information, visit www.FairnessAtFairpoint.com.

Republicans Push Right To Work In Missouri, New Hampshire And Wisconsin Admitting It Will Lower Wages

Right To Work 2

 

Yup, he said it! Missouri Republican State Representative Bill Lant actually admitted what labor advocates have been saying for decades, Right To Work laws reduce wages.

“In the states where right to work was passed recently, the hourly rates may have dropped 2 to 3 dollars an hour, but the amount of days per year that the workers actually got to put in on the job increased dramatically.” (Missouri Digital News)

 

View Progress Missouri’s short video on YouTube: http://youtu.be/iHzMu5CciBc

Proof positive that even the Republicans, who are peddling these ALEC inspired Right To Work laws, know exactly what Right To Work laws will do to workers. The corporations who fund ALEC want to pass Right To Work laws in every state to further suppress already low wages.

Rep. Lant is not the only one who knows that Right To Work laws crush wages. ALEC Co-Chair and Missouri State Senator Ed Emery said, “One of the things that will be advocated by the unions is look at all these right to work states, average wages all go down. Sure they go down…”

View on YouTube: http://youtu.be/zuzI8zzA8dw

This all out assault on worker and our wages is not limited to Missouri. New Hampshire will once again vote to make New Hampshire a Right To Work state. Like many other years in the past, Republicans in the House and Senate will pass a Right to Work bill and Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan will veto it. The only good thing is that everyone knows that the NH GOP does not have enough votes to override the Governor’s veto, but they will undoubtedly try anyway.

Just this week it became obvious that when the new “Wisconsin Right To Work” PAC popped up and began pushing press releases that Wisconsin workers will once again have to fight off Governor Walker and his Koch funded allies.

“The day after Wisconsin Right to Work launched, ALEC member Rep. Chris Kapenga announced that he would be introducing a right to work bill in 2015,” reported Brendan Fischer and Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy.

“All year round, we knock on doors in South Central Wisconsin and we ask people what is on their minds,” said Kevin Gundlach, head of the South Central (WI) Federation of Labor. “Never have I heard anyone say ‘we need right to work’. People are worried about low wages, health care, benefits and making ends meet in this economy. Right to work will take us in the opposite direction from where people want to go.”

Right To Work is not about worker freedom it is about crushing workers and the unions who they have chosen to represent them.

Huge hat-tip the Progress Missouri and the Center for Media and Democracy for their great coverage.  
UPDATE:

After posting this article, it was brought to my attention that the NH Senate has two Republican State Senators (Sen Carson and Sen Boutin) who voted against Right To Work in the past.  If they vote against it again this year, the bill would be deadlocked at 12-12.

Granite State Rumblings: Ten Ways to Teach Your Kids to Give Back this Holiday Season

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Happy-Thanksgiving-Day-Hd-Wallpaper-2013-001

1.    Support the Troops

Cards and letters from back home are some of the most important gifts you could send to our troops. Besides putting a smile on a soldier’s face, this is also a great opportunity to help your child learn to write a letter. Plus, it doesn’t cost a thing (other than domestic postage) if you mail it to an organization like SKIP to send to a soldier for you. SKIP’s mailing address is: Special Kindness In Packages, Inc., P.O. Box 276, East Bridgewater, MA 02333.

The United Service Organizations (USO) also offers various drives for soldiers. Sponsor the cost of a phone call home or call your local USO division to find out how you might help directly.

2.    Invite Someone Over

Know of a lonely relative? A neighbor far from home? A student unable to go home for the holidays? Consider offering up a seat at your dinner table this Thanksgiving. And don’t forget to ask your children to help you with the shopping list.

3.    Visit a Retirement Home

Retirement homes are likely to have at least some residents who won’t see family members during Thanksgiving. Determine what visiting hours are first, and have your child pick out a small gift or make a decoration to bring along if you so desire — or simply give the gift of good conversation.

4.    Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen

Soup kitchens see an influx of volunteers during the holidays, but it’s important to remember that hunger is a year-round problem. Still, most soup kitchens are grateful for the extra volunteers. Call local churches or check out Homeless Shelter Directory to find local shelters, pantries and soup kitchens.

5.    Donate to Food Banks

Chances are, you have extra cans of food in your pantry right now. Go look. Now consider donating those cans. First, find a local food bank, then determine what it needs. Think outside the box: Sometimes pantries are in need of non-edible supplies, like soap and toothbrushes.  The next time you are at the grocery store with your kids, ask them to imagine what children their age might want and pick one or two canned goods to donate to a Thanksgiving food drive or a food bank.

6.    Respect Your Elders

Look for opportunities to volunteer as a family. Devote time to neighbors or other family members by scheduling a group project to rake leaves for an elderly relative or cook a meal for someone who’s under the weather.

Meals on Wheels delivers daily more than 1 million meals to the home-bound, and many of those served by the program are elderly. According to data collected by Meals on Wheels, the number of food-insecure senior citizens increased by 88 percent between 2001-2011. The organization is always looking for volunteers.

7.    Visit a Hospital

Hospitals don’t take a break for the holidays. Call your local hospital to find out if it will accept volunteers for Thanksgiving. Offer to distribute food, bring small gifts to children or elderly, or simply sit and visit with someone. Ask your kids to pick out a gift they think a kid like them would love.

8.    Click a Button

Can’t get away from home this Thanksgiving? You can give gifts of individual food items, feed a family for several weeks, or even organize a virtual food drive through www.feedingamerica.org.

9.    Find Time for Four-Legged Friends

Take your son or daughter to an animal shelter to volunteer for a day, or sign up to volunteer once a week to spread the love throughout the year. PetFinder.com is one resource for people who want to learn how to volunteer with — or donate to — animal shelters. It even offers information on how to foster needy animals.

10. Embrace “Giving Tuesday”

After Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday this year, take Tuesday off from your looming holiday to-do list, and help raise funds and awareness for a charitable cause dear to your heart. Whether it is donating to a non-profit organization like Every Child Matters in NH, volunteering in your community, or spreading awareness via social media, your efforts will embrace the true spirit of the season.

Thank you for all that you do every day of the year for the children and families in our state.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Every Child Matters!

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