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AFGE And TTD Push For Passage Of Transportation Security Officers Act

AFGE members of the Local 556 Orlando (2010). Image by AFGE FLIKR

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) both announced their support of a bill granting Title 5 rights to TSA Officers from Representatives Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Nita Lowey of New York.Introduced last year as The Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act, this year’s bill finally grants transportation security officers (TSOs) the same workplace rights as all federal employees, including their colleagues in the Department of Homeland Security.

“Implementing basic worker protections for those charged with protecting our skies is a necessary step to increase security and improve workforce morale. TSA’s current personnel system has not served the agency well and lacks the means to attract and retain a strong workforce,” said Rep. Thompson. “This legislation we introduced today will ensure TSA’s personnel and labor management systems are brought in line with the rest of the federal government under Title 5.  I hope my colleagues will agree that these frontline security workers should receive the rights and benefits they earned.”

“More than 42,000 Transportation Security Officers who serve on the front lines of aviation security at airports across the United States are denied worker rights and protections, including full collective bargaining, the right to a fair grievance and arbitration system, and statutory civil rights protections. Transportation Security Officers should be treated like their fellow employees across the Federal government. Our bill would grant TSO these rights, enhancing America’s security by retaining experienced and dedicated officers with improved workforce morale. To truly provide comprehensive transportation security, we must take care of those who take care of us,” said Rep. Lowey.

The new legislation would put TSOs on the General Schedule pay scale and provide them with much needed statutory worker protections like the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Being recognized as equal counterparts to their fellow federal employees would greatly improve workplace conditions and boost morale – which fell to an all-time low last year – at the agency.

“Thank you to Representatives Thompson and Lowey for once again recognizing how important it is to offer fair treatment to the men and women who risk their lives guarding our airports every day,” said AFGE TSA Council President Hydrick Thomas. “Last year our TSA Officers stopped a record number of firearms, dealt with a massive influx in passenger volume while being understaffed, and once again kept our flying public safe – all while being treated like second class citizens in their workplace. Being offered fair pay, workplace protections, the right to appeal adverse decisions to a third party, and full collective bargaining rights are long overdue and will help boost morale for the working people who safeguard our skies,” he added.

“Last year our TSA Officers were faced with a nearly insurmountable task, but they rose to the occasion and got the American traveling public to where they needed to be,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. Adding, “We are thrilled that Representatives Thompson and Lowey have once again introduced legislation that will finally offer our officers the same rights and protections as the rest of the federal workforce. TSA Officers have safeguarded our airports for 16 years, and have done an admirable job. Equal treatment by the federal government is desperately needed and very appreciated by the men and women who make sure you can fly without fear.”

“We applaud Reps. Bennie Thompson, Nita Lowey and Bonnie Watson Coleman for introducing legislation that gives our nation’s hardworking Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) the workplace rights and protections they deserve,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD).

“Every day, our nation’s 45,000 TSOs play a critical role in keeping our nation’s transportation system safe from security threats. Yet, because of a loophole in federal law, these men and women lack the basic protections afforded to other federal employees. The legislation introduced today will right these wrongs and bring much-needed reforms to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that will boost employee morale and retention rates and improve the agency’s ability to protect us from security threats.

“As Congress debates reauthorization of the TSA, lawmakers must standup for our nation’s transportation security officers who play an indispensable role in keeping our country safe,” Wytkind concluded.

AFGE and TTD both urge Congress to pass the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act to recognize the daily sacrifices TSA Officers make to protect the flying public.

#WomensWorkersRising Coalition Issues Call for Stories of Women Workers in Solidarity with International Workers Day

Coalition Strengthens Call to End Workplace Violence, Pay Inequality, Unfair Labor practices and paid leave policies, and for a livable wage for all through stories of women from around the country

Washington, DC — In solidarity with International Workers’ Day, #WomensWorkersRising is sending out a call to women workers to share their own personal stories of not only violence, pay inequity and unfair labor practices but also victory, celebration and joy — to continue the momentum created by hundreds of thousands of workers who took to the streets and marched across the country on May 1st. The coalition is calling for broad-based solidarity with women workers who are fighting for an end to workplace violence and harassment and to promote pay equity, one fair living wage, paid leave, and labor rights at work  Already the coalition has collected stories from women across the country as we continue to create a living archive of the voices of women workers.

These stories include a women from OUR Walmart who had to leave her special needs son with a friend for fear of losing her a job and an employee at Comcast who lost her benefits after taking a leave to take care of her child who suffered a stroke.

The hallmark of the #WomensWorkersRising rally in Washington D.C. on International Women’s Day demonstrated a collective energy, solidarity, and interconnectivity in the face of massive deregulations, continued rampant abuse, deportations, economic hardship and cutbacks to services and programs. That spirit is urgently needed to push forward a platform for and by women workers, and by collecting these stories, #WomenWorkersRising is broadening the scope of their undertaking – remaining vigilant in lifting up women workers across the wider resistance narrative and continuing to build their alliance by showing up for one another in actions online and in the streets.

“Sexual harassment and violence against women workers, including trans women and gender nonconforming individuals, takes place every day at workplaces across the country, in every occupation and industry. From restaurant workers, teachers, retail workers, domestic workers, and at-home mothers to nurses, farmworkers, factory workers, workers with disabilities, federal workers, actors, office workers, company executives, and more, workplace violence is part of making a living for many women. In many cases, women don’t or can’t speak out or seek justice for fear of losing their jobs. All of this is happening in a global economic reality where it is increasingly difficult for women to earn a livable wage” states the Women Workers Rising Coalition.

In her story, which is already featured on the site, Regina Mays of OUR Walmart states,“We shouldn’t have to choose between our jobs and our families. We need paid leave and sick time. I want to let my voice be heard so people know what is happening at Walmart. What gives me hope: I know with time and effort it can be changed. Even if it isn’t for me – it will change for others so they aren’t making choices between families and job. That is the worst feeling in the world,”

#WomenWorkersRising coalition includes: One Billion Rising in Coalition with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the African American Policy Forum, American Federation of Teachers, Family Values @ Work, International Labor Rights Forum, Jobs with Justice, National Nurses United, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Organization for Women, OUR Walmart, Good Jobs Nation (List in formation).

For more information please go to: http://www.womenworkersrising.org/workers-stories/

Leo W Gerard: Another GOP Tax Plan For Captains

Donald Trump
Image by DonkeyHotey CC FLIKR

It’s based on the same voodoo economics we’ve heard many times before.

As he ran for office, Donald Trump repeatedly reminded audiences that he was “really, really rich,” but assured voters that as president he would be a working man’s champion, a blue-collar Superman.

He said he would stop corporations from offshoring manufacturing jobs with a border adjustment tax on imports. He would end trade cheating and declare China a currency manipulator on his first day in office. He would launch within his first 100 days a $1 trillion infrastructure improvement program to create millions of jobs fixing the nation’s airports, bridges and roads.

Trump’s record of promise-keeping to America’s working men and women in his first 100 days is this: So far, no good. The tax plan, well, the one-page tax sketch that the administration released last week is symbolic. While it would slash federal levies on fat cats and corporations, administration officials refused to say it would help the middle class at all. And it contains no border adjustment tax.

The tax plan rewards the captains of industry, the captains of Wall Street, the captains of real estate, like, well, like Trump himself. But the middle class, not so fast. The poor, not at all. Someone needs to tell Donald Trump that banksters and real estate tycoons sporting navy golf polos aren’t blue-collar workers. The tax scheme, like so many of Trump’s other pledges to workers, is a stab in the back of that indigo shirt.

On the campaign trail, Trump said rich people like him should pay more in taxes. Yet, the tax plan he offered last week would cut his taxes – by tens of millions a year. That’s because it would eliminate the alternative minimum tax. This is a levy intended to require billionaires like Trump to pay at least something after subtracting their multitude of special-rich-people deductions.

Trump has refused to release his tax returns – the first American president to keep them secret since Gerald Ford, who provided summaries. But Trump’s 2005 return, uncovered in part by a newspaper, shows that he had to pay $31 million as a result of the alternative minimum tax.

Trump’s plan also calls for eliminating the estate tax. That is paid only by people who inherit more than $5.5 million – as Trump’s children will. And it calls for cutting by more than half, to 15 percent, the tax paid by entities called pass-through corporations. Trump’s attorneys indicated in his presidential financial disclosures that his approximately 500 businesses are almost all pass-throughs.

Trump will be hobnobbing with his country club buddies in benefitting from this break. A 2015 study by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research found that the top 1 percent gets 69 percent of pass-through income.

Right now, a worker can’t get in on that low 15 percent tax rate unless reporting income below $37,950. But doctors and lawyers and investment bankers would get that special discount rate, no matter how much they make, as long as they pay a few bucks to establish a pass-through corporation. Trump’s plan would allow a lawyer paid $1 million a year to cut his taxes by $180,000 by setting up a pass-through.

Certainly, with all of those perks going to the nation’s most wealthy, Trump’s tax men would assure workers that they will benefit too.

Not really. When asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last week whether the middle class would pay more under the plan, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “I can’t make any guarantees.”

And the director of Trump’s National Economic Council, Gary D. Cohn, could not say how much of a break – if any­ – a middle-income American would get under the plan.

If it’s not absolutely clear who Trump’s tax plan would benefit, there’s also this from George Callas, the senior tax counsel for the Speaker of the House. Callas wants a permanent break for corporations, saying of a temporary one:

“It would not alter business decisions. It would not cause anyone to build a factory. It would just be dropping cash out of helicopters on corporate headquarters for a couple of years.”

Lots of small towns in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania – towns that suffered when corporations offshored factories, towns that voted for Trump – would really benefit from cash dropping out of helicopters for a couple of years.

But that’s not Trump’s plan.

Trump’s money men, Mnuchin and Cohn, said slashing levies on the wealthy will pay for itself because giving the rich more cash will spur economic growth. So, no need to worry about Trump’s tax cuts ballooning the national debt, they assured.

This is called the Laffer Curve. Really.

Economist Arthur Laffer, an adviser to Trump, explained to the Washington Post last week that it works like this: “When you think about cutting that corporate rate, let’s say, from 35 to 15, that’s not going to cost you any money.”

He convinced the likes of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush this hocus-pocus would work. And now, he has bamboozled Trump.

Both Reagan and Bush cut taxes. Both also left the country with larger deficits and uneven economic growth. Reagan raised taxes several times after his initial 1981 cut. Bush gave the country the Great Recession.

Laffer still insists his curve works, contending, “It’s a no-brainer.”

No. It’s voodoo economics. That’s what George H.W. Bush called it.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that advocates fiscal restraint, estimated that Trump’s Laffer tax plan could reduce federal revenue by $3 trillion to $7 trillion over a decade. The economy would need to grow at a rate of 4.5 percent to make that proposal self-financing.

It grew at a pathetic 0.7 percent during Trump’s first quarter in office. In President Obama’s last quarter, the fourth of 2016, it increased at 2.1 percent. To rise at 4.5 percent would be phenomenal. Maybe paranormal.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, put it this way: “It seems the administration is using economic growth like magic beans: the cheap solution to all our problems.”

Ronald Reagan, who like Trump was adored by blue-collar workers, promised that benefits from his massive tax cuts for the rich would trickle down to the rest. That never worked. But now Trump is taking advice from the same Svengali and promoting the same flim-flam plan.

Those heartland workers can’t tolerate another hit. But it’s not just taxes. The health insurance proposal Trump is pushing would cost many low- and middle-income workers thousands of dollars more a year. Trump has proposed eliminating the Chemical Safety Board, which prevents workplace deaths. He delayed rules protecting workers from deadly silica and beryllium. He signed a law ending a requirement that large federal contractors disclose and correct serious safety violations. Trump has no federal infrastructure plan and reneged on naming China a currency manipulator.

These are all the actions of a president protecting the captains of commerce, not one championing blue-collar workers.

NewsGuild Members Take A Stand Against Profiteering In Day Of Action

Guild workers at Digital First Media and GateHouse Media stand together against profiteering owners on World Press Freedom Day, May 3

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — A broad coalition of 1,500 unionized news workers will conduct a joint day of action on May 3 — World Press Freedom Day — as part of a national campaign to protest the corporate-led assault on quality journalism.

The coordinated effort by NewsGuild members will span 29 newspapers owned by GateHouse Media and Digital First Media. It will support the fight for quality journalism at those papers and highlight the damage wrought by draconian cuts in their newsrooms and other departments.

Now, union leaders say the focus on profits threatens journalism at a critical time of politicized attacks on the news media.

“Reliable information is the foundation of our democracy,” said Bernie Lunzer, president of The NewsGuild-CWA, based in Washington, D.C. “Corporate owners have a duty to invest in the essential work done by newspaper workers and not to simply strip-mine newspapers for profits.”

The joint effort by GateHouse and Digital First Media workers marks an unprecedented NewsGuild campaign to demand that corporate owners invest in quality jobs and fair contracts after years of layoffs, furloughs, pay freezes and benefit cuts. Contract negotiations are under way or expected to resume soon at both companies, but managements have shown little interest in changing course.

Workers at GateHouse and Digital First Media have endured some of the most vicious staff reductions in the news business.

Alden Global Capital, a secretive New York hedge fund, owns DFM and has slashed staffing levels by more than twice the national average during the past five years, while pocketing millions by selling off the company’s real estate assets.

GateHouse owns and/or manages 564 community print publications, including more than 130 daily newspapers, under the New Media Investment Group umbrella. New Media is a publicly traded company, externally managed by Fortress Investment Group.

Under New Media’s business model, the company buys newspapers, strips them down to maximize cash flow, and uses that money to pay dividends, pay bonuses to corporate officers and fund more acquisitions.

As the company gets bigger, Fortress collects larger management fees — roughly $54 million the previous two years alone.

The 13 Digital First bargaining units represent workers at 12 newspapers, including the Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News, St. Paul Pioneer Press, and suburban publications in the Bay Area, Philadelphia, and Detroit markets. Last week, DFM announced that it would lay off more than 20 percent of the Guild-covered newsroom staff at the East Bay Times, just one week after it was awarded journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize, for breaking news coverage of the deadly “Ghost Ship” warehouse fire in December.

The 15 GateHouse bargaining units represent 580 workers at 17 newspapers, including the Providence (RI) Journal, Worcester (MA) Telegram and Gazette, Erie (PA) Times-News, Peoria (IL) Journal Star, Springfield (IL) State Journal-Register, Rockford (IL) Register Star, Utica (NY) Observer Dispatch, The Herald News (Fall River, MA), The Enterprise (Brockton, MA), The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA), Lakeland (FL) Ledger, and the Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune. The staff of the Herald-Tribune, a newly organized Guild unit, shared the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting with the Tampa Bay Times for their five-part series “Insane. Invisible. In Danger.” That collaborative project detailed horrific conditions in Florida’s mental hospitals.

In the new campaign, the Guild is pushing back nationwide before media profiteers cause further wreckage to the communities they are supposed to serve.

The May 3 World Press Freedom Day action will include the display of pro-journalism literature at desks and other work stations, and appeals for public support in local communities and online. The theme: “Democracy Depends on Journalism” and “Invest in Us.”

The action will mark the first coordinated effort by news workers at the two companies to demonstrate solidarity in the workplace and remind the public that quality journalism matters.

NewsGuild members are reaching out to allies, including journalists working for other employers – both union and non-union – as well as community advocates concerned about the corporate gutting of newsrooms across the United States.

To sign a petition supporting news workers and press freedom, click here.

150 People A Day Die On The Job: AFL-CIO Releases Blistering New Report

(Washington, D.C.) In 2015, 150 workers died from preventable work-related injuries and illnesses every day in the United States, on average, according to a report released today by the AFL-CIO. 4,836 workers died due to workplace injuries, and another 50,000-60,000 died from occupational diseases. The number of immigrant workers killed on the job reached a nearly 10-year high.

“Corporate negligence and weak safety laws have resulted in tragedy for an astonishing and unacceptable number of working families,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Instead of working for stronger protections, too many Republican politicians in Washington, including the Trump administration, are trying to roll back commonsense regulations that enable workers to return home safely to their families. These are more than numbers; they are our brothers and sisters, and a reminder of the need to continue our fight for every worker to be safe on the job every day.”

The report, titled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 26th year the AFL-CIO has reported on the state of safety and health protections for workers in the United States. The report shows the highest workplace fatality rates are in North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Nebraska and West Virginia.

According to the report, Latino workers have an 18% higher fatality rate than the national average. Deaths among Latino workers increased to 903, compared with 804 in 2014. Overall, 943 immigrant workers were killed on the job in 2015—the highest number since 2007.

The report also finds that construction, transportation and agriculture remain among the most dangerous sectors. 937 construction workers were killed in 2015—the highest in any sector. Older workers also are at high risk, with those 65 or older 2.5 times more likely to die on the job. Workplace violence continues to be a growing problem for workers, resulting in 703 deaths.

The report also highlights the fact that OSHA is underfunded and understaffed to handle the 8 million workplaces across the country.

  • There are only 1,838 inspectors (815 federal and 1,023 state) to inspect the 8 million workplaces under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s jurisdiction.
  • Federal OSHA has enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 159 years.
  • State OSHA plans have enough inspectors to inspect workplaces once every 99 years.
  • There is one inspector for every 76,402 workers.
  • The current OSHA budget amounts to $3.65 to protect the safety and health of each worker in America.

Not only is OSHA unable to keep up with growing number of workplaces, the penalties are too weak.

The federal penalty average for the death of a worker on the job is $6,500 dollars.  The state penalties are even worse. The state penalty average for the death of a worker on the job is only $2,500.  Serious OSHA violations carry an average penalty of $2,402 for federal and $1,747 from the state.

Instead of working to strengthen worker protections the Trump administration is rolling back regulations and slashing funding to the Department of Labor.

  • Executive Order 13771, issued Jan. 24, 2017, requires that for every new regulatory protection issued, two existing safeguards must be repealed.
  • Repeal of OSHA’s rule clarifying an employer’s obligation to keep accurate injury and illness records.
  • Repeal of a rule that would have required companies to disclose safety and health and labor violations in order to qualify for federal contracts.
  • Delay in the effective date of OSHA’s new beryllium standard and delay in the enforcement of OSHA’s silica standard in the construction industry. The delay in the silica rule will allow continued high exposures that will lead to 160 worker deaths.
  • Budget proposals to slash the Department of Labor’s budget by 21%, eliminate worker safety and health training programs, eliminate the Chemical Safety Board and cut the job safety research budget by $100 million.

After decades of work, OSHA has helped to save the lives of countless workers and yet there is so much more we can do.  We need the President to take strong and swift actions to strengthen OSHA protections, increase the penalties, hire additional inspectors, and address the growing problems facing workers today.

Read the AFL-CIO’s full report here

 

UNH Spends Almost $200K To Block Union Organizing Efforts

University reports close to $200,000.00 in payments to law firm to prevent employees from exercising legal right to organize.

CONCORD, April 12, 2017 – The University of New Hampshire has finally provided a partial response to Representative Cushing’s Right to Know request. Earlier this year, Rep. Cushing sent two Right to Know requests to the University seeking, among other things, the names of any outside vendors advising management on anti-union efforts, the amounts paid to these organizations, and copies of communications with these organizations.

In their partial response, the University reported spending $193,565.13 on legal fees and expenses with Jackson Lewis Law Firm from June 2016 to March 2017.

“I’m shocked to find that UNH has spent a couple hundred thousand dollars to hire outside help to fight university employees who simply want to exercise their legal right to collectively bargain,” said Representative Cushing.

“We can assume that there will be additional payments made to Jackson Lewis as the University continues to fight their employees’ efforts to organize,” stated Megan Tuttle, NEA-New Hampshire President. “Is this really the best use of the University’s funds?”

The University noted in their response that “this expense is not being paid from any of the following: state appropriation, tuition dollars or operating funds.”

“Regardless of where the money is coming from, at this point the University has chosen to spend close to $200,000.00 on things other than tuition reduction, campus improvements, or to help make the salaries and benefits of the dedicated OS and PAT staff more competitive,” continued Tuttle.

In addition to asking for information regarding management’s anti-organizing efforts, Rep. Cushing’s request also sought information regarding the University’s outsourcing plans.

“We are aware that the University has hired consultants to find ways to save money.  Far too often, these savings are balanced on the backs of OS and PAT employees,” said Tuttle.

The University declined to provide any information on these topics.

State Representative Cushing stated that he will be looking to take further action to determine the actual source of the funds used to pay Jackson Lewis, and to address the lack of disclosure with the rest of his request for public information.

“I don’t see union busting as a line item anywhere in their budget,” stated Cushing.

A copy of Rep. Cushing’s Right to Know request is available here and below.

RepCushing Right To Know

Women Honored On “Equal Pay Day”

Yesterday, April 4th, was Equal Pay Day, the day when women finally earn as much as their male counterparts did in the previous year.

“Pay discrimination undermines our country’s fundamental principles of equality. As long as millions of American women continue to only earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, we have to keep fighting,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “Equal Pay Day is an important reminder that, despite recent progress, we still have a long way to go to end pay discrimination. A recent study projected that the wage gap in New Hampshire will close in 2079. Waiting 62 years to close the wage gap is just unacceptable, hurting Granite State women, their families and our economy. It’s time to make equal pay for equal work a reality.”

In the U.S. Senate, Senator Maggie Hassan joined Senator Shaheen and 40 other Senators in reintroducing the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963, guaranteeing that women can challenge wage discrimination and hold employers accountable. Despite making up half of the workforce in the country, women still make only 80 cents, on average, for every dollar earned by a man. The gap widens for women of color: African-American women only earn 63 cents on the dollar and Hispanic only earn 54 cents, on average, compared to white men. 

“It’s long past time for women to earn an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work,” Senator Hassan said. “Wage discrimination is unacceptable and it strains the financial security of thousands of Granite State families and threatens our economic well-being in New Hampshire. I am proud to reintroduce the Paycheck Fairness Act to help ensure that all hard-working Granite Staters and Americans can earn a fair pay check and have the opportunity to get ahead and stay ahead.” 

The Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen and close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by holding employers accountable for discriminatory practices, ending the practice of pay secrecy, easing workers’ ability to individually or jointly challenge pay discrimination, and strengthening the available remedies for wronged employees.

In the U.S House, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter today co-introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act and highlighted the gender pay gap on Equal Pay Day. 

“Working women are America’s mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives. We’re America’s factory and office workers, health care professionals and scientists, business executives and teachers,” said Shea-Porter. “Women are working everywhere, but in America, in 2017, women still make only 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. Equal pay for equal work is a fairness issue and an economic issue: New Hampshire families rely on women’s wages to make ends meet, and when women are paid less than men for the same work, it affects the whole family.”

Compared to national figures, the disparity in New Hampshire is even greater – the state ranks 47th in the nation for paycheck fairness, according to the National Women’s Law Center, with women in New Hampshire losing an average of $534,120 over a 40-year career due to the gender pay gap.

One key way to start closing the pay gap is for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which Shea-Porter has co-introduced in each of her four terms. The Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen the 1963 Equal Pay Act, close loopholes in the law, and provide effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal pay for equal work.

Shea-Porter is a strong advocate for issues that are important to women and families. She co-introduced the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which became law on Jan. 29, 2009 and ensured that Americans subjected to unlawful gender-based pay discrimination can effectively assert their rights under the federal anti-discrimination law. This February, Shea-Porter co-introduced 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 must choose between a paycheck and caring for a family member, and 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.

“In 2017, it is simply unacceptable that women on average earn 80 cents to every dollar men earn,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “This is an injustice not only to women, but also to the many American families that count a woman as the primary or co-breadwinner. It’s long past time we correct this injustice, and I will continue my efforts in Congress to end the pay gap and ensure women receive the compensation they deserve.”

Since taking office, Congresswoman Kuster has been a strong advocate for equal pay for women.  She is a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help reduce wage disparities between men and women across the country. In addition, she authored a Women’s Economic Agenda, a plan for Congress to prioritize initiatives to reduce pay disparities based on gender and support Granite State women and their families. She has also hosted a series of roundtables to hear directly from women business owners and other professionals all across New Hampshire about what more Congress can do to help Granite State women succeed and receive fair pay in the workplace.

The women senators of the NH Senate Democratic Caucus also released a statement in recognition of Equal Pay Day: 

“Despite decades of research and advocacy, pay discrimination between male and female workers continues to undermine our nation’s fundamental principles of equality. Today, American women on average earn just 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. That disparity increases significantly for women of color. This isn’t just a women’s issue–it’s a family issue and an economic issue.”

“In fact, research conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research finds that ensuring equal pay for every woman in America would cut poverty among working women and their families by more than half and add an estimated $482 billion to the national economy. In New Hampshire, where women earn 76.4 cents for every dollar earned by men, recent studies of the wage gap anticipate that it will take 62 years for working women and men to reach pay parity in our state. And in that time, another generation of women will come and go without receiving just compensation for their contributions.”

“It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. We’re not willing to wait until 2079 to resolve the issue of equal pay for equal work. The women of this country and our state have waited long enough.”

Iron Workers and Contractors Announce Paid Maternity Leave Benefit

IMPACT Conference Attendees Cheer Announcement at the 2017 Conference 

Washington – The Iron Workers (IW) and the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT), announced a new paid maternity leave benefit at the 2017 Iron Workers/IMPACT Conference in San Diego last Tuesday. The organization is the first to introduce a generous paid maternity leave benefit in the building trades. It is a laudable move considering that the U.S. lags behind its European counterparts when it comes to paid maternity leave and most industries in the country do not offer adequate paid maternity leave. It’s virtually unheard of in the building trades. 

The Iron Workers’ paid maternity leave includes 6 months of pre-delivery maximum benefit and 6 to 8 weeks of post-delivery benefit. Regardless of what was covered pre‐delivery, the ironworker member will be eligible for up to six weeks of paid leave after the birth of the child and two additional weeks for Cesarean deliveries. The challenges of physical work associated with the ironworking trade create unique health challenges that can jeopardize a pregnancy.

“I’m extremely excited about this policy and I think it’s going to help with retention of ironworker women and encourage them to build a career,” said Vicki O’Leary, an Ironworker representative who made the announcement during a panel focused on the role of women ironworkers. “It’s one more step in achieving greater diversity in our trade.” 

The announcement was well received by the ironworkers and contractors in attendance. “It’s a relief to know that female ironworkers don’t have to choose between work and family anymore,” said Blue Coble an ironworker woman from IW Local 75 in Phoenix.  

“We are very proud to be the first to introduce a paid maternity program in the building trades,” said General President of the Iron Workers Eric Dean. “It’s about time we make our industry a level playing field for women and make diversity and inclusion a priority”. 

“When we first started talking about it, I wasn’t sure how we’d pull it off and what it would cost, but we realized that it’s an investment because we want our well-trained ironworker women to come back to work,” said, CEO of Ben Hur Construction Co. and Co-Chair of IMPACT Bill Brown.   

The IW became a trailblazer in diversity and inclusion in the building trades with its announcement of the remarkable paid maternity leave.  

Senator Hassan Presses DOL Nominee Alex Acosta on Workplace Safety

Senator Also Highlights Importance of Job Training
and New Hampshire’s Job Corps Center

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan participated in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing for Alex Acosta, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Labor.

Senator Hassan highlighted the importance of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and OSHA inspections, which reduce injury rates at inspected workplaces and lower worker compensation costs.

The Senator noted that there are only seven OSHA inspectors to oversee safety and health at 50,000 worksites throughout New Hampshire, and voiced concerns with President Trump’s budget proposal to cut the Department of Labor’s budget by 21 percent. Senator Hassan asked Mr. Acosta, “Can you commit that if confirmed as Secretary that you will advocate for and seek funding that will maintain OSHA’s enforcement budget at no less than current levels?” Mr. Acosta responded, “I would be very concerned in a situation like you mentioned where there are only seven inspectors because going from seven to six has a substantial impact.” However, despite acknowledging the negative impact of a shortage of OSHA inspectors, Mr. Acosta wouldn’t commit to fighting to prevent harmful cuts that would exacerbate the situation.

Senator Hassan also pressed Mr. Acosta on his commitment to creating a more inclusive work environment for Granite Staters and Americans who experience disabilities. Citing that federal law allows employers to pay subminimum wages to workers who experience disabilities, Senator Hassan asked Mr. Acosta if he “supports individuals who experience disabilities being paid a subminimum wage.” Mr. Acosta declined to directly answer the Senator’s question or commit to supporting individuals who experience disabilities, saying, “I think this is a very difficult issue.”

In her opening statement, Senator Hassan also expressed her concern with President Trump’s proposed budget cuts that would decimate job training programs throughout the nation, and highlighted the importance of job training programs and the new Job Corps Center in New Hampshire that is helping build a stronger workforce that businesses throughout the state need to grow and compete. The Senator urged Mr. Acosta to do everything in his power should he be confirmed “to support both job training and our Job Corps Centers.”

After the Senate hearing, Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, released the following statement:

“Alex Acosta’s testimony today raises serious questions and doubts whether he is committed to making life better for working families. Mr. Acosta’s nomination was a major improvement over the previous nominee, based on his qualifications, yet he offered no indication that he would use those qualifications to stand up for workers.

 The Labor Secretary is not just another Cabinet member – his or her actions directly impact our wages, safety, retirement security and rights on the job every single day. Working people wanted to hear how Mr. Acosta would enforce and uphold labor laws to benefit us and not further tilt the balance of power toward corporate CEOs. Today, presented with the opportunity, he failed to do so and ensure America’s workers he’s on our side.”

Watch Senator Hassan question Alex Acosta below.

Watch video of Senator Hassan’s questioning here.

Senator Hassan Reintroduces Paid Sick Leave Bill

 Healthy Families Act would help hard-working Americans, protect public health, and strengthen the economy

WASHINGTON – This week, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined her colleagues in the Senate and House in introducing the Healthy Families Act, which would allow Granite State workers to earn paid sick leave to use when they are sick, to care for a loved one, to obtain preventative care, or to address the impacts of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. Currently, 41 million workers across the nation do not have access to paid sick leave, forcing them to take time off with no pay, and at times even risk their jobs when they or a loved one is sick. 

“Ensuring that our workers have the flexibility to support themselves and their families during times of need is critical to maintaining a healthy and productive workforce and a strong economy,” Senator Hassan said. “I’m proud to join in reintroducing the Healthy Families Act to help ensure that no hard-working American is forced to choose between their health and economic security. I’ll continue working across the aisle to expand paid family leave in order to strengthen our families, our businesses, and our economy.”

The Healthy Families Act would allow workers at businesses with at least 15 employees to earn up to 56 hours, or seven days, of paid sick leave each year. This would allow workers to stay home when they are ill, to care for a sick family member, seek preventive medical care, or seek assistance related to domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. 

Businesses that already provide paid sick leave would not have to change their current policies, as long as they meet the minimum standards of the Healthy Families Act. Studies show that paid sick leave can reduce the spread of contagious diseases like the flu and a national paid sick day policy would reduce emergency room visits by 1.3 million annually, saving $1.1 billion a year.

Senator Hassan is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

 

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