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Right To Work Hurts All Workers And Will Not Magically Create New Jobs

Our Legislature is once again considering the so-called “Right To Work” law that special interests have been pushing for more than 40 years.

Those lobbyists will tell you that “everyone should have the right to work” – but the so-called “Right to Work” law has nothing to do with getting a job. Passing “Right to Work” will not magically make new companies appear out of thin air.

Governor Scott Walker forced a “Right to Work” law through the Wisconsin Legislature in March 2015 by promising that it would create tens of thousands of new jobs. Instead, Wisconsin ended up losing more than 10,000 jobs by the end of the year.

Just across Wisconsin’s border, Minnesota has a pro-worker, progressive agenda. Minnesota created more than 12,000 jobs just in the last quarter of 2015 and was ranked the “Top State for Business in 2015.”

So why should our legislators believe the lobbyists’ spin about “job creation?”

Those lobbyists are also spinning “Right to Work” laws as “freedom from greedy union bosses.” Are they talking about the same “greedy unions” who ushered in workplace safety regulations, vacation time, retirement benefits, and the weekend itself? If those lobbyists had their way, our manufacturing facilities would be filled with 12-year-olds working 14 hours a day, six days a week, for pennies a day.

The lobbyists are also spinning “Right to Work” as “giving workers the freedom to choose if they want to join a union or not.” But the truth is that it’s already illegal to force someone to join a union.

And employers are the ones who choose whether or not workers pay agency fees in exchange for benefits under the union contracts. “Right to Work” takes that choice away from private businesses and substitutes the Legislature’s “wisdom” instead. Earlier this year, several employers testified that they want to keep that right.

Nevermind the lobbyists’ spin about “employee freedom.” All “Right to Work” does is get in the way of businesses making their own decisions.

And restricting employers’ rights is not going to encourage businesses to move here.

New Hampshire already has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. (At the other end of the scale, seven of the top ten states ranked by unemployment are “Right to Work” states.)

During the last “Right to Work” hearing, employers testified about that, too. They are concerned that passing “Right to Work” will lower average wages – and discourage highly-skilled workers from moving to New Hampshire. Employers testified that there is already a severe shortage of the types of skilled workers they need – and passing “Right to Work” would make their problems worse.

Is our Legislature listening more closely to out-of-state lobbyists than to our local employers who came to our State House to testify against “Right to Work?”

The National Right To Work Committee spends more than $11 million a year lobbying state legislatures to pass “Right to Work.” But none of the lobbyists who testified this year could name a single company that would move to New Hampshire if the law was passed. All they could point to was one company which decided to build a new facility in North Carolina – after being promised more than $10 million in economic incentives to build there.

So what, exactly, would New Hampshire gain if our Legislature passes “Right to Work?”

And why would our legislators want to give the out-of-state lobbying groups a “win” at the expense of our state’s employers?

 

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2-10-17: Right To Work (for less) And NH Retirement System

February 10, 2017  

Besides the snowstorms this week, the big news out of Concord is the current status of ‘right to work’ legislation, legislative action on the NH Retirement System, and the continuing saga of Frank Edelblut as NH’s own version of Betsy DeVos.

‘Right to Work’: The House Labor Committee held its mandatory hearing on so-called ‘right to work’ legislation this past Wednesday, a marathon hearing stretching from 10am until past 5 pm. Hundreds packed Reps Hall in the State House, and most of those who testified did so in opposition to so-called ‘right to work.’ There were numerous stories of how unions helped workers in the workplace and bettered their lives, along with testimonies on the need for workers to have a voice of their own. Many of the advocates of so-called ‘right to work’ were from outside NH, offering up slanted evidence and demonstrating virtually no understanding or familiarity with NH traditions, politics or even our economic situation in 2017. One such witness, when pressed, ultimately admitted that the reason business often supports so-called right to work is because it makes it harder to organize (translation: weaker unions, lower pay, fewer benefits). Interestingly, other than gun manufacturer Sturm Ruger (a non-union workplace) virtually no businesses testified in favor of so-called ‘right to work,’ and not a single employer who deals with unions testified in favor of so-called ‘right to work.’ AFT-NH local leaders submitted some fantastic written testimony for consideration by the Labor Committee. Please click here to review the testimony.

At the end of the long day, the Labor Committee then voted on the two identical bills (SB 11 and HB 520). Both bills will be sent to the House floor with the recommendation of “ITL”—Inexpedient to Legislate (in layman’s terms, “kill them”). Five Republicans voted with the nine Democrats on the Labor Committee, a strong bipartisan showing against legislation advocated by outside, non-NH organizations. As a result, SB 11 will come to the floor for a House vote on next Thursday, February 16, while HB 520 will come up later in the session. So, our challenge right now is to defeat SB 11 next Thursday—now is the time to act! Please, contact your State Representative and tell her/him to vote against SB 11 by following the Labor Committee’s recommendation of ITL. Do not delay—now is the time. Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t matter—we need to make our position known!

NH Retirement System: Another important legislative proposal dealing with the NH Retirement System will come before the House on Wednesday, February 15. The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee has recommended passage by a 10-9 vote. If approved by the full House, the bill would then be referred to the House Finance Committee. Sponsored by Representative Renny Cushing, HB 413 mandates that the State of NH reinstate payment by the state of 15% of retirement contributions, thereby providing some relief to cities, towns, counties and school districts, all of whom must bear the burden with employees of contributing to the NH Retirement System. Many years ago, when the State sought to persuade towns and cities to join the NHRS, it made the financial promise to pay 40% of the cost, a promise which has not been kept, thereby leaving towns and cities with increased burdens and higher property taxes to cover the payments reneged on by the State. The increased costs to local communities, especially in our locals such as Nashua, Newfound Area School District and Rochester dealing with tax and/or spending caps, this bill will provide some long-overdue relief and is strongly supported by AFT-NH. So, when you contact your State Reps about so-called ‘right to work,’ be sure to put in a good word for HB 413 as well, and remind them that even Governor Sununu has promised restoring some of the State aid promised to towns and cities.

Frank Edelblut: The Executive Council vote on Frank Edelblut was delayed this past week when it was revealed that a required consultation by the Governor with the State Board of Education had not actually occurred. That meeting was scheduled for yesterday but the snowstorm led to its cancellation, so the meeting will now be held on Tuesday, February 14th. In the meantime, video of Edelblut’s testimony in favor of discredited “conversion therapy” for gay teens is now circulating, leading one to wonder just how supportive he can be of our LGBQT students? There is also more material now available in which Edelblut is clearly identified as a denier of climate change. Combined with his previously noted affiliation with creationism (Patrick Henry College), it is sure to make one question just where science education will be headed under a Department of Education led by Frank Edelblut. So please, keep up the good work and contact your Executive Councilor and urge him to vote against Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education. Remind him—if you need to be certified to teach or licensed to drive, shouldn’t the Commissioner of Education meet the statutory requirement for appropriate education and experience?

A brief follow-up on two items noted in last week’s bulletin. First, HB 438 which would prohibit public employers from processing voluntary payroll deductions for union dues is scheduled for public hearing before the House Labor Committee on February 22nd. Secondly, the school voucher type bill, SB 193 had a public hearing and no action has yet been taken by the Committee.

Thank you for all you have done so far and thank you for all you will do this coming week. Please, reach out, participate, and encourage a colleague or friend to do likewise. Democracy is governance by the people, and YOU are the people!

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

NH Labor Leaders Speak Out About Today’s Hearing on So-Called “Right-to-Work” Legislation

Concord – Hundreds gathered to oppose the so-called “Right to Work” legislation in front of the New Hampshire House Labor Committee.  The testimony lasted for more than four hours.  

Unlike the Senate committee, the House committee actually listened to the people and voted the bills “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) 14-7.  Five Republicans joined the nine Democrats on the committee to oppose both “right to work” bills.

The bill and the committee’s recommendation of “ITL” will be in front of the entire NH House next week.  If the NH House concurs with the committee recommendation, the bills will be killed.

Following today’s public hearing in the New Hampshire House of Representatives’ Labor Committee, New Hampshire labor leaders spoke out on the ant-worker legislation:

Glenn Brackett, President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO: “The New Hampshire AFL-CIO was proud to stand with hundreds of working people across the state who are fighting to protect their rights at work. This legislation is an attack on working families by out-of-state special interests seeking to lower wages for everyone and undermine worker protections. The proponents of this legislation are playing politics with the future of our workforce, and New Hampshire working families deserve better.”

Richard Gulla, President of SEA/SEIU Local Union 1984: “So-called right to work has no place in the Granite State, and I’m proud we were able to pack this hall today with those who agree. Both of these bills are tired, recycled legislation that does nothing for the real problems facing our state. We need the House to reject these bills so we can get down to working together on legislation that helps – not hurts – New Hampshire families.”

Sarah Hirsch, President of the University of New Hampshire Lecturers Union: “The families of New Hampshire want the college students to be solidly prepared and ready to enter good careers. To do this, the faculty who teach and mentor them need to be protected, have job stability and security, good benefits, and a say in their working conditions!  Weakening unions ultimately weakens higher education, undercutting the development of a skilled workforce for New Hampshire at a time when we need more competitive workers in the state.”  

Frank Moroney, Executive Director AFSCME Council 93: “It’s a powerful statement that a majority of legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, voted against so-called “Right to Work” today. They stood together because they know protecting our right to speak up together on the job shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Right to Work would hurt working families across the Granite State, and we’ll continue to fight against this legislation as it moves to the House floor.”

Dennis Caza, President of Teamsters Local Union 633: “Today, hundreds of our brothers and sisters stood in Solidarity to defend the rights of New Hampshire’s workers. We hope that we have sent a message to the legislature that so-called “Right-to-Work” is not the solution that New Hampshire working families need. In the coming days, we urge workers in every industry across the state to contact their legislators and let them know that this so-called “Right-to-Work” legislation is wrong for New Hampshire.”

Testimony of New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett on So-called “Right to Work”

The submitted testimony of New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett at the hearing today on so-called “Right to Work”:

My name is Glenn Brackett. I’m the President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO and a 37-year member of IBEW Local 2320. In those 37 years, I was fortunate enough to raise 3 beautiful kids with my wife because we had stable careers that guaranteed if we worked hard, we would be able to support the ones we love most.

That’s the American Dream: if you work hard, you can provide a decent life for your family.  But if New Hampshire becomes a so-called “Right-to-Work” state, the guarantee of fair wages for honest work could become a thing of the past. The few supporters of this anti-worker legislation argue it will somehow attract businesses and create jobs, but there is simply no credible evidence to support that.

But let me tell you what we do have evidence of: working people in “Right to Work” states have a consistently lower quality of life.  When you compare “Right to Work” states to free bargaining states the differences are stark: the average worker makes about $6,000 less per year, they have less access to health care and poorer education systems for children, the poverty rate is higher, and the risk of workplace death is 49% higher.  When working people can’t freely speak up together, they can’t negotiate for higher safety standards, better training, and fair wages and health benefits. And that will impact all of us – union and non-union alike.  New Hampshire struggles to keep its youth from moving out-of-state to find work because we lack attractive job opportunities.  Will lower wages, higher workplace injuries, and increased poverty make our state more attractive? I don’t think so.

So why are some legislators so anxious to pass “Right-to-Work?” I’ll tell you why: because the out-of-state political interests and corporate CEOs that push anti-worker agendas have donated millions of dollars to candidates that pledge to support “Right-to-Work.” These out-of-state billionaires don’t know what’s right for New Hampshire; they just want to line their pockets at the expense of working people. 

“Right-to-Work” is not a solution for the many Granite Staters still recovering from the Great Recession and trying to provide for their loved ones. We need real solutions to bring businesses to New Hampshire and vitalize to our workforce. We need to address the concerns that businesses have about moving to our state, like the staggeringly high price of energy or our crumbling infrastructure. We need to invest in education and innovation so that we increase the prospects of finding a stable career in New Hampshire that will pay workers enough money to support a family and keep the heat on during the winter.

This bill will do nothing to improve New Hampshire’s economy, the lives of our friends and colleagues, or increase the freedoms of any worker in the Granite State. And it won’t keep our young people from moving to find higher paying jobs. Instead, it is an attack on all working families by special interests seeking to lower wages for everyone and undermine worker protections. The proponents of this legislation are playing politics with the future of our workforce, and we all deserve better.

We once again ask the legislature to remember that they were elected to advocate for the best interests of all New Hampshire working families. “Right-to-Work” is STILL wrong for New Hampshire, and on behalf of working families across our state, I urge you to vote “NO” on SB11.

Reps Shea-Porter And Kuster Join 112 Colleagues To Reintroduce Paid Family Leave Bill

Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act Would Strengthen New Hampshire Workers’ Economic Security

WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) joined 112 of their colleagues today to reintroduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, a bill to create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program and ensure that American workers no longer have to choose between a paycheck and caring for a family member.

“The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that still doesn’t guarantee working parents paid time off to care for their newborns,” said Shea-Porter. “I call on Speaker Ryan to allow a vote on the FAMILY Act, because New Hampshire workers shouldn’t have to choose between their family’s health and economic security.”

“No new parent should have to choose between providing for their family and spending important time caring for and fostering the development of a newborn,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Similarly, no one should lose their livelihood because they need to care for an ill family member. It’s just not right. We must enact policies that support hardworking families in New Hampshire and around the country with commonsense paid family leave policies. It’s good for families and businesses that will benefit from higher worker retention and less turnover.”

A recent University of New Hampshire study found that, “About one-third of New Hampshire workers have jobs without extended paid leave to tend to their own illness; about half lack access to parental leave; and two-thirds lack access to paid leave to care for an ill family member.”

Last week, Shea-Porter introduced another bill to support New Hampshire’s working families, the Child Tax Credit Improvement Act, which would boost the tax break’s value and ensure it keeps up with the costs working parents face, including the quickly-rising cost of childcare.

Shea-Porter previously co-introduced the FAMILY Act in 2013, but despite broad support for paid family leave, House Republicans never called a vote on the bill.

TEA Party Rep, Steve King Pushes A National Right To Work Bill And Repeal Of Davis Bacon

Labor unions respond to Rep King’s introduction of a National Right to Work (for less) law and a full repeal of the Davis Bacon Act that ensures a prevailing wage on all federal projects.

Once again TEA Party Representative, Steve King (R-IOWA) introduced a national Right to Work bill in Congress.

“So-called right-to-work has done enough harm to working people in the states where it is law. Forcing it upon every state in the country would be a national disaster,” said Robert Martinez, Jr., International President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

“Right to work is a lie dressed up in a feel-good slogan. It doesn’t give workers freedom—instead, it weakens our right to join together and bargain for better wages and working conditions. Its end goal is to destroy unions,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Numbers don’t lie. Workers in states with right to work laws have wages that are 12% lower. That’s because unions raise wages for all workers, not just our members. Its end goal is to destroy unions.”

“Right to work isn’t the will of the people, it’s legislation pushed on working people by out-of-touch corporations that want to ship jobs overseas, cut health and safety protections, and pay lower wages,” added Trumka.

“In introducing so-called “right to work” legislation, Republicans in Congress didn’t waste any time doing the bidding of corporate interests who have plotted for years to weaken the collective bargaining rights of working people,” wrote the Communication Workers of America. “Right to work doesn’t create jobs. It doesn’t improve economic development. It does result in lower wages – 3.1 percent lower, according to the Economic Policy Institute –and fewer benefits for working people. It weakens workers’ ability to join together and bargain collectively with their employer.”

To add further insult to working people, Rep King, and fellow TEA Partier, Senator Mike Lee, re-introduced a repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act.

The Davis-Bacon Act set a prevailing wage that must be met on all federal projects. Prevailing wages are set by regions to ensure that workers in the local area of the project are paid a wage comparable to other workers in their area.

“The introduction of national so-called “right to work” and anti-Davis Bacon legislation is a bid to further shrink opportunities for working class Americans and their families,” said Terry O’Sullivan, General President of the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA). “These pieces of legislation are a deceptive politically-motivated trick to deny millions of American workers the freedom to join together in a union for mutual benefit and to earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

“The bill to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act is a severe attack on the wages and living standards of millions of blue-collar workers and on taxpayers who expect quality construction work on public projects. For generations the Davis-Bacon Act has helped to prevent government projects from driving down wages and help to attract skilled, trained workers, and has given taxpayers the best deal for their money,” added O’Sullivan.

As the Koch Brothers and their political organization, the Americans For Prosperity, push Right to Work at the state level, this new federal bill is just another ideological partisan attack on working people.

“The political motives for right-to-work laws are clear: transfer even more money and power to corporate elites who don’t give a damn about the middle class,” said IAM President Martinez. “November’s election should have made this clear to the political class—American workers are sick and tired of having their wages slashed, and all too often, their jobs shipped overseas. Taking away their right to a strong voice at the bargaining table will hurt the same people Congress is supposed to represent.

“Working people were loud and clear in this past election. We want an economy that works for all, not just corporations. We know we need to rewrite the rules of the economy so that policies like bad trade deals and right to work aren’t the new norm. President Trump has said he supports unions and the people who are our members. He has stood up to corporate Republicans on trade. We call on him to do the same on right to work, and to stand up for every worker’s right to join a union,” Trumka added.

AFL-CIO, LiUNA, CWA and IAM all agree that Congress should once again reject the passage of so-called Right to Work legislation and oppose the repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act.

US House Democrats Voice Opposition To Trump’s Nominee For Secretary Of Labor Andy Puzder

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) along with Democratic Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY), Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) released the following statements after holding a press conference voicing opposition to President Trump’s Secretary of Labor nominee, Andy Puzder. Andy Puzder has made a name for himself by peddling the idea that minimum wage hikes would force fast food companies to replace workers with robots and has consistently opposed attempts to raise wages for individuals living below the poverty line.

 “Andy Puzder has consistently stood on the side of big business and failed to support workers,” Rep. Mark Pocan said. “Since 2004, the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division found Puzder’s businesses committed over 1,000 violations. Being Secretary of Labor is about making sure working men and women of this country are treated with decency. The nomination of Andy Puzder is another broken promise to the American people. President Trump likes to talk and tweet about putting hard-working Americans first, but at the end of the day, he wants to make sure only big business and special interests have seats at the table.”

 “Andy Puzder is exactly the opposite of who we want running the Department of Labor,” Congressman Joe Crowley said. “There is no doubt in my mind that as Labor Secretary, he would consistently back the interests of corporations above the interests of working families. I’ve long fought for a higher minimum wage and better protections for working Americans – the very things Andy Puzder has made a career working against. American working families need better than Andy Puzder.”

“The American people deserve a Secretary of Labor who can be counted on to enforce wage and hour laws, workplace safety protections, and workers’ civil rights,” said Congressman Bobby Scott. “In light of Mr. Puzder’s record, he has failed to carry the burden of proving that he will vigorously and effectively enforce the very laws his company has been found to violate. Therefore, the Senate HELP Committee has no choice but to reject his nomination.” 

“President Trump promised to serve the American worker in his inaugural address, yet in nominating Mr. Puzder to lead the Department of Labor, the American worker would be betrayed. Mr. Puzder has an extensive record of engaging in marketing tactics that degrade women, fighting against paying workers their hard earned overtime, opposing expansion of the Affordable Care Act, and even allegedly failing to pay some of his workers,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. “Mr. Puzder is the wrong choice to lead the Department of Labor and the Senate should not confirm him.”

“Of all the cruel jokes played by President Trump on the working people who voted for him, the nomination of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor is the cruelest yet,” said Congressman DeSaulnier. “Mr. Puzder has a proven record of exploiting his employees by making 487 times more than his lowest wage worker while refusing to pay a living wage; withholding overtime pay; favoring automation over working people; and running a chain of restaurants where 60 percent of the establishments where found to be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. These actions should automatically disqualify Mr. Puzder from running the Department of Labor. So much for helping the 150 million working families that depend on the Department to protect them.” 

“Working people need a champion at the Labor Department,” said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre. “At best, Andy Puzder is an adversary. At worst, he is an enemy. We simply cannot afford to have a Labor Secretary who does not respect workers. We are opposing his nomination with the full weight of the labor movement.” 

 A live stream of the press conference can be found here.

 

US Department of Labor Rules in Favor of Workers in Job Corps Center Contracting Dispute            

                                                                           Manchester – The United States Department of Labor has ruled in favor of the New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council on a contracting dispute involving the Manchester Job Corps Center construction project. The Building Trades alleged in a 2015 complaint to US DOL’s Wage and Hour Division that project “wage determinations” had been improperly applied, allowing the project contractor to potentially pay workers less would have otherwise been required by the federal Davis Bacon Act, the law that sets wages for federally funded construction contracts. The Wage and Hour Division conducted an investigation, and announced their ruling in favor of the Building Trades in a letter dated January 5, 2017 (attached).

The Manchester Job Corps Center was the subject of an intense debate over the utilization of a “Project Labor Agreement,” or PLA. PLAs are pre-hire collective bargaining agreements used for publicly and privately funded construction projects. Labor leaders and workers in New Hampshire advocated for a PLA to be used for the Job Corps Center construction project, making the case that a PLA would ensure construction workers would receive a fair wage with good benefits. The original Job Corps Center contract in 2009 included a PLA requirement, but after intensive lobbying by anti-union groups, then-Senator Kelly Ayotte and then-Representative Frank Guinta, the PLA requirement was removed.

“We feel vindicated, but we’re angry this had to happen,” said New Hampshire Building Trades President Steve Burk. “The Building Trades fought for years to try to ensure the Job Corps Center construction project benefited local workers. We knew that workers would get the short end of the stick when the project went forward without a Project Labor Agreement. As it turned out, wage protections were weakened after the PLA was removed, and it took this ruling to prove that.”

Employment law attorney and New Hampshire Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky had this to say: 

“This is an important ruling from the US Department of Labor that will have a positive impact on workers in the Granite State and across the country. This ruling makes clear that contractors on federally funded construction projects must pay the prevailing wage and may not game the DOL’s ‘wage determination’ to pay workers less than the law requires. The ruling underscores why the fight over a Project Labor Agreement for the Manchester Job Corps Center project was so important. A Project Labor Agreement would have protected the workers who built the Job Corps Center from an after-the-fact reclassification that enabled the contractor to pay the workers less than required and to pocket the difference. Project Labor Agreements also ensure that all contractors who bid for a job have an even playing field on which to compete.” 

The New Hampshire Building Trades is an organization of 16 New Hampshire labor unions, representing more than 2,000 New Hampshire workers in the construction industry.

Over 100 Food And Farm Groups Oppose Puzder For Labor Secretary

Image by Chris Potter ccpixs.com

Coalition urges senators to reject nominee, citing long track record of workers’ rights violations and conflicts of interest with role as CEO of CKE Restaurants

Washington, DC — Today, 105 food and agriculture organizations, representing more than 10 million people across the food system, sent a letter to Capitol Hill urging senators to oppose the confirmation of fast food CEO Andrew Puzder as secretary of labor. 

This clarion call from the nation’s farmers, food-system workers and public health advocates, led by Corporate Accountability International, Food Chain Workers Alliance, Friends of the Earth, and Real Food Media, comes on the heels of growing opposition and controversy surrounding Trump’s pick to head the Department of Labor. A recent Capital & Main investigation found that under Puzder’s watch as CEO, CKE Restaurants faced more federal employment discrimination lawsuits than any other major fast food chain. The corporation violated workers’ rights, including wage theft and failed to provide employees with overtime pay.

“Andrew Puzder is dangerous for working families and bad for our food system,” said Jose Oliva, co-director, Food Chain Workers Alliance. “The country needs a labor secretary who will protect working families, not corporate interests. Puzder’s track record as CEO of CKE Restaurants proves that he should be kept as far away from Washington as possible.”

The letter calls the nomination of Andrew Puzder a betrayal of the president’s promise to “improve the lives of working people” and urges senators to reject Puzder’s nomination. It expresses grave concern with the conflicts of interest between Puzder’s tenure at CKE Restaurants and the responsibilities of a labor secretary, including the fact that:

“Putting an outspoken critic of worker protections and a living wage in charge of the Department of Labor is straight out of an Orwellian nightmare,” said Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of food and technology, Friends of the Earth. “The Senate must reject the nomination of Puzder if it cares at all about the basic rights of working people.”

Since Puzder’s nomination, advocacy groups have documented numerous workers’ rights violations under the watch of the former fast food CEO. For instance, research released by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United reveals a long history of labor violations at CKE Restaurants during Puzder’s tenure. Surveys from hundreds of CKE employees reveal that women working at CKE reported more than 1.5 times the rate of sexual harassment as reported for the industry overall.

“The choice of Andrew Puzder for secretary of labor is a dangerous one for this country’s working families,” said Sriram Madhusoodanan, Value [the] Meal campaign director, Corporate Accountability International. “If President Trump truly wants to ‘drain the swamp’, why is he nominating people like Puzder, who have played an outsized role creating the swamp in the first place?”

In January, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s workers joined the Fight for $15 in opposing Puzder’s nomination, taking part in actions in more than two dozen cities. Widespread opposition and questions surrounding Puzder’s company’s labor practices have prompted Congress to postpone the nomination hearing until February.

“Across the country, millions of people are demanding real change when it comes to our food system and the people who work in it,” said Anna Lappé, founder, Real Food Media. “Our Department of Labor must reflect those people — not corporate bottom lines. It is unacceptable to nominate someone who has such a callous attitude to the struggles of working families to head the labor department.”

The organizations signed onto the letter represent a broad cross-section of the food and labor movement, uniting groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists, Earthjustice, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Workers’ Center of Central New York, among many others. The unprecedented nature of this coalition underscores the unique threat Puzder faces to people advocating for environmental protection, workers’ rights, and healthy food.

The full letter, released today, is available here. Andrew Puzder’s senate confirmation hearing will begin on February 7, 2017.

Puzder Sign-on Letter

1-27-17 AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Right To Work, Minimum Wage, And Frank Edelblut

January 27, 2017

Yesterday was a warm, almost Spring-like day, always welcome in January. The gold of the State House dome shone brightly in the sunshine, and I even took the time to sit for a short while on a bench on the State House grounds. Inside, however, the legislative session is just beginning to warm up, with a short session of the House to deal with a few legislative items, following an intensive week of public hearings on proposed bills, as committees work hard to push legislation to the floor for debates and votes.

The most important news of the week was the scheduling of hearings on so-called ‘right to work’ legislation by the House Labor Committee. The hearings on both the Senate (SB 11) and House (HB 520) versions of ‘right to work’ (virtually identical and almost entirely plagiarized from sample legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC), will be held in Reps Hall on Wednesday, February 8, beginning at 10 am. The hearings are expected to draw hundreds to the Hall, and it is likely the testimony will last for hours. More information on attending and testifying will be forthcoming, but if you can, start planning to join the fun! Battle-lines are being drawn now on this issue, between those who advocate for the working people of New Hampshire and their workplace voice versus those who seek to eradicate any vestiges of worker rights. Our focus will turn to reaching out to the members of the NH House and asking them to oppose so-called Right to Work in any and all forms. Please be sure to visit the AFT-NH website at www.aft-nh.org and utilize the resources on the Defeat Right to Work page.

Interestingly, the House Labor Committee also conducted hearings this week on proposed legislation HB 115 to increase the minimum wage in NH, from its current $7.25/hour up to an eventual $12.00/hour. Any increase would be welcome and long overdue, but those who clamor for so-called ‘right to work’ are also those who oppose any increase in the minimum wage, preferring to redesign the New Hampshire Advantage as one built on low wages and severe limitations on working people’s voice and rights.

In the background, there is also the dangerous proposed bill (HB 438) to ban payroll deduction of union dues by public employers, a strategy employed in Wisconsin to eviscerate public sector unions by making it very difficult for them to collect any member dues. This is actually the most severe threat facing organized labor and all working people in NH. Once unions are gone, can we expect employers to suddenly shower us with generous raises, expanded benefits, and kindly treatment? Remember, when employers exercise unilateral control over the workplace, it is not a recipe for happiness and harmony. Power seeks more power is the old axiom, and absolute power seeks more power absolutely.

Amongst the hundreds of bills now before the various committees of the House and Senate, a few stand out. There are over a half-dozen bills aiming to further reduce pensions or even nearly destroy the NHRS system, breaking every promise made to state, county, municipal, educational, and public safety employees. In a bright note, a bill to require the State to pay 15% of the annual cost of the NHRS survived its first committee test, but faces rough waters in the House. The State used to pay 35% of the costs of the NHRS, but now contributes nothing, a classic example of “downshifting” costs onto local taxpayers, so this bill would at least begin to right that wrong. AFT-NH remains an active partner and participant in the NH Retirement Security Coalition. It will take the combined effort of employee groups, stakeholders and members to protect the NH Retirement System as we know it.

There are also a number of bills to increase funding for charter schools, free them from property taxes, and further siphon off monies for public schools. Once again, there is a bright spot—the proposal to fund full-day kindergarten. The bill has had its public hearing in front of the House Education Committee, which is expected to act on it on February 8. Governor Chris Sununu loudly proclaimed his support for full-day kindergarten during his gubernatorial campaign, so it will be interesting to see if his support translates into Republican votes for it in the House.

In closing, I have two requests of you. First, I hope some of you can attend the January 31 public hearing on the nomination of businessman Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education. AFT-NH has already posted a “lesson plan” on Mr. Edelblut, and your testimony, whether in person or in writing, may help sway the Executive Council, which must approve his nomination. You can email the Executive Council members directly at gcweb@nh.gov. Second, please “Wear Red for Public Ed” on January 31. Let’s show our pride in public education! Dress in red, have your colleagues dress in red, take photos and send them to us for posting on-line. Be proud and say it loud, to paraphrase James Brown, and let’s celebrate one of America’s greatest accomplishments and contributions to the world—the idea of free, broad-based public education.

Your outreach to the legislators does make a difference and we are hearing back that you are contacting them. It matters. Please keep contacting them! We know when we act in unity, we can make a real difference.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

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