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A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service

GrandAlliance_LogoAn exciting new voice has joined the conversation to save the Postal Service. More than 60 national organizations have formed “A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service.”  This alliance is made up of national  religious coalitions, retiree groups, progressive groups, and a wide array of unions. These organizations are united in the demand that the public good must not be sacrificed for the sake of private investment and profit.  All Americans have much at stake as the future of America’s Postal Service is at a crossroads.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein stressed the importance of building a Grand Alliance from the moment he was elected in 2013. “Writing Congress is important,” he said, “but it’s not enough. Lobbying for legislation is important, but it’s not enough.” To succeed, he said, postal workers must build a movement. “Building the grand alliance is the only way we will ensure that a vibrant, public Postal Service exists for many years to come.”

“This new alliance is a good complement to the one the NALC and the other postal unions have been working closely with over the past 18 months,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said, “a group made up of postal union and mailing industry stakeholders with a mission to advance in Congress a multi-point postal strategy that includes a comprehensive solution to pre-funding, freedom to offer new products, fair treatment on pension valuations, strengthened service standards and a moratorium on plant closings.”

Though the Postal Service is in the midst of an economic turnaround many in Congress envision the Postal Service as a sort of pinata to be broken apart  so the corporate sector can further enrich themselves. They disregard three straight years of an operational profit and ignore the stunning economic report issued last week. Greed has no boundaries.

The Postal Service can build upon this turnaround and expand service. One example of this is the the successful recent introduction of package delivery on Sundays and Holidays. It has made the lives of working people more convenient as customers can elect to get their parcels delivered at a time that fits their busy schedules.

Another area of possible growth is expanding into Postal Banking. Senator Elizabeth Warren is a strong proponent of this popular idea.  The Postal Service can help rebuild the wounded infrastructure that many economically disadvantaged people in our country navigate on a daily basis. Postal Banking would be an instrument that can take some of the financial pressure off the more than 25% of households that do not have bank accounts.   Rather than have a predatory banking service profit off of outrageous fees for basic banking services . The Postal Service can offer these services as a public service.

This Grand Alliance offers much hope that they can further advance a bright future for the Postal Service. Please watch the attached video by acclaimed actor-activist  Danny Glover and sign the pledge to support the fight to protect and enhance vibrant public postal services now—and for many generations to come. With a new Congress about to take action on the Postal Reform, the time is now to take action.

Danny Glover: Our Postal Service from A Grand Alliance on Vimeo.

You Will Not Believe What Wal-Mart is Doing

Image via WikiCommons

Image via WikiCommons

You have got to be kidding me.  

Wal-Mart is rewarding associates who donate money to the Wal-Mart PAC, which works to elect candidates like Speaker John Boehner and Senator Ted Cruz who vehemently oppose raising the minimum wage.

In this excellent article (Wal-Mart’s Unusual Rewards for Employees Who Give to Its PAC) by Josh Eidelson, he reports:

“Liberal groups and a union-backed Walmart worker group are asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate Wal-Mart Stores’ (WMT) policy of rewarding contributions to its political action committee with donations to charity. Under the policy, every $1 an employee donates to Wal-Mart’s PAC, which supports such probusiness candidates as Ohio Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, and Arkansas Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, triggers a $2 donation to a charity for Wal-Mart employees in need.”

Using charitable contributions to reward PAC donations has become a widespread practice among U.S. corporations, which are restricted by law from donating directly to their PACs. At least seven times over the past two decades, FEC commissioners have been divided over whether to restrict companies from matching the political donations with philanthropic cash.

While such companies as Coca-Cola (KO) and Boeing (BA) also match PAC dollars with charity dollars, Wal-Mart’s policy is unusual. Rather than just a 1-to-1 match, it offers 2 to 1. And instead of giving employees a choice of charities to support, it sends all the matching money to its Associates in Critical Need Trust, which benefit employees facing “extreme economic hardship due to situations outside of their control, including natural disasters.”

That’s right, for every one dollar that workers give to the Wal-Mart PAC, the corporation will donate two dollars to their own charity organization for workers who are suffering financial difficulties.

The Associates in Critical Need Trust is a 501 (c)(3) charity that provides “up to $1,500 to employees facing challenges such as homelessness or illness.”

Here are three suggestions for Walmart. 1) Start by paying your workers a living wage so they aren’t forced into homelessness. 2) Provide workers with paid sick time so they can heal without the fear of losing their job for being sick. 3)  Provide workers with healthcare so they will not be forced into financial ruin when they become sick or injured. (Note: Wal-Mart just cut another 30,000 part time workers out of their employee healthcare, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act they can get coverage through their state exchange.)

I hope the FEC tears Wal-Mart apart for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act.

State Employees Association (SEIU 1984) Bargaining Senate Approves Tentative Agreement On New Contract

SEIU 1984 LogoConcord, NH – Last evening the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Master Bargaining Team presented the details of a potential tentative agreement to the organization’s Collective Bargaining Senate (CBS).  Following Collective Bargaining Advisory Committee Chair, Jim Nall’s presentation of new changes to the contract, the standing room only crowd rewarded the team with a standing ovation.

Following a lengthy Q&A session, the CBS overwhelmingly voted to adopt the proposal as a Tentative Agreement and to send it out to the general membership for a vote with the recommendation to ratify.

“This team worked long and hard to get to this point,” said Jim Nall.  “I can tell you this is the best team I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  They dug in, they gave each point due diligence, and they kept their cool throughout this long process.  And, I assure you the fruit of their labor is not a concessionary Tentative Agreement .”

“I congratulate the members of the bargaining team for a job well done,” said Rich Gulla, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 president.  “I think few people realize the level of commitment that serving fellow union members in this capacity takes.  It takes countless hours of their time; it involves hundreds of hours of research and discussion; and it involves potentially difficult conversations with the state’s team. I salute each member for their dedication and the Tentative Agreement they have brought forward.”

“I would also like to commend the state’s Bargaining Team for their efforts,” said Gulla. “Working together, the respective bargaining teams arrived at a fair contract that supports state workers for their many daily contributions to the citizens and visitors of the state.  The Tentative Agreement will now go to our members at large and if it is expediently ratified, the changes will be incorporated in the Governor’s budget proposal.”

Governor Maggie Hassan issued the following statement:

“Our hard-working state employees and the critical services that they provide make a positive impact on the lives of New Hampshire’s citizens each and every day. Despite a smaller workforce with fewer positions and a higher vacancy rate since 2008, they continue to serve our citizens well and do more with less in the face of ever-tightening budgets.

“This is a fair agreement for both employees and taxpayers that will provide modest cost-of-living raises for employees that will be included as part of our upcoming biennial budget. In addition, we have maintained the coordination of health care that strengthens the well-being of state employees and helps generate significant savings for the state, while protecting both parties should a potential ‘Cadillac tax’ on health insurance benefits cause undue financial impact.

“This agreement is another important step toward maintaining fiscal responsibility while supporting our hard-working state employees, and I thank the SEA leadership team and state negotiators for their good-faith efforts to find common ground and reach a deal that is fair to all parties.”

Key points include:

  • A 2% wage increase in January 2016; and a 2% wage increase in January 2017
  • No increases in healthcare deductibles, co-payments or prescriptions
  • The immortalization of lay-off procedures
  • A small increase in dental contributions, which will result in significantly increased coverage
  • An increase in term life benefits at no cost to employees
  • Moving longevity pay from December to November
  • A footwear reimbursement for applicable positions of up to $200 per two year contract cycle

The agreement is subject to ratification by a vote of SEA membership, and the changes will be incorporated in the Governor’s upcoming budget proposal.

The Tentative Agreement will now be mailed to all members of the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Executive Branch bargaining unit with a ballot for their vote.  SEA/SEIU Local 1984 represents the majority of state employees

An Argument For Eliminating The Tipped Minimum Wage

(Screenshot College Humor YouTube)

(Screenshot College Humor YouTube)

Every morning millions of Americans wake up and get ready to go to work as servers in restaurants, hoping that today will be a busy day, and that they will have extra generous patrons who tip very heavy. These workers must rely on the generosity of strangers because their employer only pays them $2.13 an hour.   That is right servers are paid far below minimum wage, and 43 states approve of this.

The restaurant industry is one of the fast growing markets in the entire country bringing in over $600 billion dollars annually, and that trend does not appear to be stopping any time soon. Even during the Great Recession the restaurant industry continued to grow by an average of 9%.

This thriving industry relies on the fact that they can legally pay workers below minimum wage, which in most cases barely covers their taxes. The time has come to end this antiquated idea that servers should not be covered by the same wage requirements as every other employer.

Would you pay an extra dollar for that Chicken Parm if you knew that the server was being paid properly even before your tip? Would you even notice if they increased all their prices a dollar? Did you notice that they most like already raised their prices from this time last year? Servers in California are paid at least $8.00 an hour and people still go out to eat regularly.

Before you freak out over the idea of eliminating the tipped minimum wage, consider these facts from the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United):

  • Above-average employment growth occurs in the seven states that have already abolished the subminimum wage (Alaska, Montana, Nevada, Minnesota, California, Oregon, and Washington)
  • Per capita restaurant sales increase as the tipped minimum wage increases. Growth in tipped restaurant worker as a percentage of total state employment tends to be higher in the states that pay tipped workers above $5 per hour, and is higher still in states that have abolished the subminimum wage.
  • Eliminating subminimum wage does not decrease employment. In fact, the restaurant industry projects employment growth over the next decade of 10.5% in the seven states without a tipped subminimum wage, compared to 9.1% in states with a subminimum wage
  • Since 2009, tipped restaurant workers have grown in importance as a percentage of total employed workers in $2.13 states, states where tipped worker wages are higher than $5.00, and states without subminimum wage—but growth of tipped restaurant workers as a percentage of total employment is highest in states without subminimum wage.

Eliminating the tipped minimum wage would boost our local economy and help lift millions of people out of poverty. Here in New Hampshire, Representative Jackie Cilley has proposed a bold new minimum wage increase that would eliminate the tipped minimum wage and raise the floor to $14.25 over the next three years.

Enough of my facts and statistics about the tipped minimum wage, watch this hilarious video from College Humor that shows exactly why we need to eliminate the tipped minimum wage.

View the video on YouTube

Warning: Language!

One The Biggest Problems Facing Our Local Economy And You Probably Never Even Knew About It

Screen shot 2015-01-18 at 5.14.33 PM

Image is a screen shot from the video below. Credit to NERCC

One of the biggest problems facing our economy is hardly being discussed in Washington or in many of the State Capitols throughout the U.S.  Millions of workers are working 50-60 hours a week, nights and weekends, and being paid under the table or in cash to avoid labor laws, overtime, and taxes.

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters have been fighting the mis-classification of workers for many years now.  Immigrant workers are being classified as independent contractors allowing their employer to avoid paying taxes, having to provide workman’s compensation insurance, and paying drastically reduced wages.

Screen shot 2015-01-18 at 5.15.42 PM

Julio Beldi Image is a screen shot from the video below. Credit to NERCC

Take Julio Beldi who has been working in construction for many years.  Now Julio is a member of the the Carpenters Union local #33, but prior to that he worked for many unscrupulous employers throughout New England.  In the video below, Julio told tells the story of how he was working on the new VA hospital in Rhode Island.  He would go weeks and even months without being paid.  He said he was paid $18 an hour, even though he should have been paid close to the $50 per hour Prevailing Wage for the job.  National Drywall violated countless labor laws, and federal mandates on this VA hospital alone.

The problem goes much deeper. When “sub-contractors” are violate the law by illegally hiring workers under the table or off the books it hurts everyone.  It hurts the worker who is not being paid fairly. It puts the worker’s safety at risk as the fail to meet OSHA requirements and provide workman’s compensation insurance. It hurts the community because it depresses the wages of all workers, and cheats the community from the taxes they are owed.

Screen shot 2015-01-18 at 5.15.02 PMThe only people who are getting anything from this situation are the unscrupulous employers who are cheating the system.  The bigger problem is that we know that this happens all the time, but which “sub-contractors” are responsible creates a bigger legal nightmare for these workers.

Personally I think that the General Contractor should be responsible for every sub-contractor he hires.  If the GC hires National Drywall who is caught violating the law, then both would be liable.  This would ensure that the GC would ensure that all sub-contractors are following the law.

Screen shot 2015-01-18 at 5.15.22 PM

Julio is much happier now that he has found his home with the Carpenters Union.  There is no way of knowing how much money Julio has lost out on because his employers were cheating the system.  Julio knows that will not happen to him, ever again.

Listen to Julio’s story in this great video from the NERCC!

Safety Groups Call for OSHA Reforms

Workers and Public Should Have Enhanced Access

to Review Commission, says National COSH

NCOSH 300X250LONGMEADOW, MA – The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) has filed a petition before the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), calling for greater worker and public participation in Commission proceedings.

“Workers know best how to prevent the hazards that cause injuries, illnesses and death on the job,” said Mary Vogel, Executive Director of National COSH. “To make sure our workplaces are safer, workers’ voices must be heard loud and clear. And we need to shine as much light as possible on what is too often hidden from view – the unsafe practices that put workers at unnecessary risk on every shift, day and night, every day of the week.”

“For 44 years, the OSH Act has explicitly given workers the clear right to be involved when employers appeal OSHA citations,” said Eric Frumin, Health and Safety Director for the labor union coalition Change to Win. “As conditions change and employers try to narrow worker participation, the Commission must keep its rules current and preserve this fundamental right.”

“When employees appear before the Review Commission, they should get a fair shake and be full participants,” said Randy Rabinowitz, Co-Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Law Project.

According to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 4,400 workers died in 2013 following on-the-job incidents. BLS data shows more than 3 million non-fatal workplace injuries in 2013, and a University of California study estimates more than 50,000 U.S. deaths annually from long-term illnesses related to workplace exposure.

The Review Commission, created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, hears appeals of OSHA violations and penalties issued against employers following OSHA inspections. With OSHA doing nearly 40,000 inspections annually, the Commission hears some 2,700 employer appeals every year. Many of these cases involve critical issues for the workers affected. The outcome can literally determine whether workers will suffer serious injury or die if employers don’t fix the violations.

The OSHRC is currently considering revisions to its procedural rules. In a petition filed Friday, Jan. 23rd by the Occupational Safety and Health Law Project, National COSH joined North America’s Building Trades Unions, Change to Win and the United Steelworkers, calling for specific changes to enhance worker and public participation.

National COSH and its partners in this petition filing are calling for:

An expanded definition of “affected employee”

As of now, only a worker who is directly employed by an employer with a case before the Review Commission can participate as a party to OSHRC proceedings. With more and more companies using temporary and contract workers — who may be “directly” employed by a different company such as a staffing agency– National COSH and fellow petitioners argue that OSHRC should allow full participation by any worker at a multi-employer worksite who is affected by the hazard or violation under appeal.

This is similar to the existing standard used by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when assessing safety hazards at construction sites, which typically involve multiple employers.

A consistent right for workers to select their own representatives at Review Commission hearings

Although the OSH Act allows employees the right to select individuals or organizations to represent them during Commission proceedings, this provision of Federal law is not always honored in practice. “OSHRC judges,” the petition states, “have expressed skepticism, if not downright hostility, to the individuals who have sought to represent workers before OSHRC, or have imposed unreasonable limits on a representative’s participation.”

The petitioners seek to clarify that the Review Commission’s existing rules allow a worker to choose an attorney, pastor, community organization, union or other representative to act on their behalf, with no limits placed on participation by chosen representatives.

More sunlight on Review Commission proceedings:

Under current Commission rules, any statement or information offered during settlement talks regarding major cases before the Review Commission is treated as confidential, regardless of the source of the information.

This overly restrictive confidentiality rule, petitioners point out, is narrower than Federal Rules of Evidence.  It has the unfortunate side effect of preventing workers from using information obtained outside of Review Commission proceedings as part of ongoing efforts to improve workplace conditions. As petitioners argue, employees

“[L]earn about everyday working conditions, hazards employees face and violations during their daily work activities. They… have a right to demand improvements in working conditions and to bargain with employers to gain safer workplaces. They also have a right to communicate with the public in their efforts to improve their working conditions.”

“No worker should be silenced just because his or her employer tries to hide unsafe practices behind a cloak of so-called ‘confidentiality’ while trying to settle an OSHA citation,” said Vogel. “As the Review Commission seeks to update its procedures, the common sense reforms we are suggesting will help it function more effectively for all parties and uphold the public’s interest in creating safer workplaces.” 

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace.  “Preventable Deaths 2014,” a National COSH report, describes workplace fatalities in the United States and how they can be prevented. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.  Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.

McCain Amendment to Keystone Pipeline Bill Blasted as a Job Killer by Sea Captains’ Union

John McCain (Image by Gage Skidmore CC Flikr)

(Image by Gage Skidmore CC Flikr)

 International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots Asks:       If Keystone is a “Jobs Bill” Why Would Congress Want to Send 400,000 Maritime Jobs in 26 States Overseas? 

WASHINGTON  –  S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, has been described as a “jobs bill” by the pipeline’s proponents since Keystone XL was first proposed, but a new amendment introduced by Arizona Sen. John McCain would turn S.1 into a “job killer” of epic and irreversible proportions.  The McCain amendment would gut a significant part of the Jones Act, a set of laws dating back to the 1920s that has helped build and maintain a domestic shipbuilding industry. Maritime unions and maritime industry groups are now mobilizing against the amendment’s passage. Among those actively opposing passage are the Maritime Labor Alliance and its coalition of maritime unions, and others in maritime and transportation labor, along with the Shipbuilders Council of America and the American Maritime Partnership.

“In Washington sometimes up is down and offense is defense, but an amendment that seeks to eliminate highly-skilled steady middle-class jobs employing hundreds of thousands of our countrymen should never be called good for America,” said Captain Don Marcus, who serves as the President of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, a union representing sea captains and deck officers on U.S. flagged vessels. “This is beyond hypocrisy,” he added.

McCain’s amendment, which has nothing to do with a pipeline that traverses the largely landlocked states of the Great Plains, seeks to repeal the build provisions of the Jones Act, the cabotage laws that require ships plying domestic waters to be built in the United States.

If S.1 is passed with McCain’s amendment included, it would decimate the nation’s shipping industry, eliminating as many as 400,000 U.S. jobs spread over 26 states, lead to the closing of shipyards and related industries, reduce GDP by an estimated $36 billion and erase $24 billion in American workers’ wages and benefits, according to figures compiled by the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department.

Using Florida as an example, 21,890 shipyard jobs generating $1.6 billion in annual economic activity would be at risk, including more than $1 billion in labor income, according to the U.S Maritime Administration.

The economic threat to their state’s largest private sector business is why Mississippi Senators, Republicans Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, have publicly opposed McCain’s amendment. Shipbuilding represents 23,450 jobs in Mississippi. The industry’s economic impact to the Gulf Coast state’s GDP is $2 billion, according to figures from the American Maritime Partnership.

Senators from across the aisle, including Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), oppose the change to the Jones Act.  Both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have significant shipbuilding industries.

The parties that would most benefit from this amendment are heavily subsidized foreign shipping competitors not subject to U.S. laws, regulations, environmental standards and taxes.  Inexplicably, Senator McCain and his supporters would rather see fuel and cargo hauled in U.S. waters on tankers and freighters built overseas and operated by foreign crews rather than American-made ships staffed by U.S. citizens. “It’s outrageous that John McCain is doing this,” said Marcus.

Beyond the threat to the domestic economy, this amendment would also threaten national security by destabilizing the military’s strategic sealift needs. The Jones Act ensures that the U.S. has a reliable source of domestically built ships and skilled American crews available for its military and humanitarian aid operations. “Without the sealift capability and American maritime jobs provided by the Jones Act and the Maritime Security Program,” said Marcus, “the U.S. Armed Forces would be forced to rely on foreign-flag ships and crews with unknown loyalties to transport critical military cargo and personnel to overseas operations. Bad idea.” Among the groups that have voiced opposition to the McCain Amendment is the Navy League of the United States.

For more information on the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, please visit www.bridgedeck.org

MLK Day Message: the Power of the People can be Stronger than the Power of Money (InZane Times)

Dr Martin Luther King

I was honored once again to be invited to offer the “community update” at Southern New Hampshire Outreach for Black Unity’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Breakfast.  Here’s what I said on January 19 at the Alpine Grove in Hollis:

Honor and pleasure to be invited back. Thanks to Irving, Linda, Ray, and Governor Hassan. And congratulations to OBU for the 31st annual breakfast.

I want to begin by saying a few words about inequality, and I’ve learned that a trick to effective public speaking is to tell people stuff that they already know.

We know that for most families, most workers, most ordinary people, take home pay has been stagnant since the 1970s, two generations.

At the same time we know that the rich are getting richer.

The ultra rich are getting ultra richer.

The mega rich are getting mega richer.

And the giga rich are getting giga richer.

This has caused economic inequality to rise to record levels.

And we know that when race is added to the equation the situation is even more unequal. Net worth of white families is five times that of black families.

I think we know what Dr. King would say about that. He would say,

“The misuse of capitalism can lead to tragic exploitation.”

We know what Martin Luther King would do because we know what he did. We know what he was doing at the time he was killed. He was supporting working people in a strike for dignity in the workplace and calling on the federal government to take sides with the locked out, the cast out and the left out.

What else do we know?

We know that fifty years ago at this time Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were engaged in a dramatic campaign in Selma Alabama to win the right to vote for Black people who had been denied their rights.

We know that after marches, arrests, beatings, and several murders of voting rights activists that the Congress approved the Voting Rights Act. At last it became possible for African Americans to use the ballot to elect people who would respond to their interests.

What’s the state of voting rights now? It’s not good.

We know that in state after state – including New Hampshire – legislatures have adopted laws like photo ID requirements and other restrictions that make it harder for people to vote when we ought to be making it easier.

We know that the US Supreme Court struck down an essential element of the Voting Rights Act.

And we know that five years ago this Wednesday, the Supreme Court declared that since corporations are people (really) and money is speech (yup), that restricting the ability of corporations to invest their money in the electoral system violates the first amendment protection of free speech. This widened the gates for floods of corporate cash into our electoral system. Instead of one person one vote we are getting a one dollar one vote democracy.

We know what Dr. King would say, something like, “Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. If you are going to be a truly great nation you must solve this problem.”

I want to suggest a couple ways we can help solve this problem.

First, at the State House this year there will be a mighty fight over the state budget. The question our lawmakers will face is whether they will protect the interests of the well off or take the side of the locked out, the left out, the least of these. They will also consider a range of bills dealing with voting rights, some to make it harder to vote, some to make it easier, and some to reduce the influence of money in our elections.

You may have heard about a group in North Carolina, headed by Rev. Dr. Barber of the North Carolina NAACP, that brings a prayerful presence into their state capitol every week. They call it “Moral Mondays.

We’ve got a group like that here. We call ourselves “New Hampshire Voices of Faith.” Mondays are pretty quiet up in Concord, so we’re more likely to show up for “Witnessing Wednesdays,” bringing a multi-faith, prayerful presence for justice into the State House. We’ll be calling on our lawmakers to let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Look for us on Facebook at NH Voices of Faith. And if you are not receiving my weekly “State House Watch” newsletter by email, let me know and I’ll add you to our mailing list.

But we’ve got another big opportunity, one that comes around every four years.

New Hampshire has the eyes of the world on us because of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. The candidates are already among us. You might need to set some extra tables for next year’s breakfast. That means we’ve got the opportunity – and with that the responsibility – to let them know what’s on our minds. As Governor Hassan said, “democracy is not an every other year sport.”

At the American Friends Service Committee, we’ve got a new project we call “Governing Under the Influence.” It’s about the excessive power in the hands of big corporations – corporations that profit from violence, corporations that profit from prisons, corporations that profit from war. It’s about demanding that the democracy believe in is rooted in the one person, one vote principle, not in rule by those with the most money. We’ll be keeping track of the candidates’ whereabouts. Get in touch if you want to get involved.

But by all means use every opportunity to tell the presidential wannabes what is on your mind.

We who lift up the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. know that the struggle can be hard. We know the struggle can be long, but that ultimately we have faith that the power of the people can be stronger than the power of money, that justice can prevail over injustice, that love can prevail over hate.

Will we let anybody turn us around?

What Do Workers Want To Hear About In The State Of The Union Address?

Leading up to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, the AFL-CIO is releasing a unique, creative preview highlighting the issues America’s workers will be listening for. Through video and audio platforms, the AFL-CIO and workers in their own voices have clear messages for the President and are engaging the broader public.

WORKER VIDEO MESSAGE: http://youtu.be/jHAPREwu8tU

In this new video, workers talk about the issues they most want to hear the President address. In their own unscripted voices, these workers highlight issues including trade, immigration, collective bargaining, social security and more.

“I would like to be assured that Fast-Track will not be the means by which any trade agreement is reached,” says Marcos Velez, a member of USW 13-227. “Everyone has the right to collective bargaining,” AFSCME 1427 member Lisa James-Henson tells the President. “Wages, Mr. President, that is a big subject in my home,” she continues.

PRESIDENT TRUMKA AUDIO MESSAGE: https://soundcloud.com/afl-cio/sotu2015

AFL-CIO President Trumka delivers a clear message on what working people will be listening for. While highlighting many of the President’s success this past year, Trumka also underscores the challenges working people still face and the work needed to be done.

“President Obama has accomplished a lot this past year,” Trumka says. “But that’s not enough… After all, while President Obama is hard at work preparing his biggest speech of the year, most families are hard at work stretching their budgets to make ends meet…Working people want to hear not only what he thinks about raising wages, but what he’ll do about it. That is the ultimate standard of accountability.”

Kuster Reiterates Call for Manufacturing Innovation Institute in New Hampshire

In Advance of State of the Union, Calls for Swift Implementation of New Law 

Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) urged President Obama to expand the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and to extend this successful initiative to New Hampshire.  In a letter to the President in advance of next week’s State of the Union address, Kuster urged the swift implementation of a newly-enacted law to expand the Network, and reiterated the case for prioritizing the establishment of a manufacturing innovation institute in the Granite State.

“As a proud cosponsor of the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act, I urge you to swiftly implement this legislation,” said Kuster.  “Our state boasts a robust system of universities and community colleges, which have already formed successful partnerships with local employers to better prepare our students for advanced manufacturing jobs. I know your Administration would find many partners eager to help extend the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation to New Hampshire, and I stand ready to work with you to that end.”

Jumpstarted in 2012 through the establishment of a pilot in Youngstown, Ohio, the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation will consist of a series of institutes across the country dedicated to improving the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing.  These manufacturing hubs will bring together employers, academics, and other stakeholders to collaborate on research and development, the commercialization of new innovations, and the training of a highly-skilled workforce.

During her first term in Congress, Congresswoman Kuster cosponsored the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act, legislation to fund the continued development of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.  By partnering with Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of Congress, Kuster and her colleagues successfully passed this legislation into law last month as part of the agreement to avoid a federal government shutdown.

Since first taking office in 2013, Congresswoman Kuster has continuously advocated for the establishment of a manufacturing innovation institute in New Hampshire.  Kuster included the creation of a Granite State manufacturing hub in her Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Agenda, her blueprint for strengthening our economy compiled from conversations with constituents across New Hampshire Second Congressional District.

The text of Congresswoman Kuster’s letter is below:

The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

Thank you for your continued dedication to strengthening the American manufacturing sector.  In New Hampshire and nationwide, advanced manufacturers are adopting cutting-edge technology to bring new products to market and create high-quality jobs.  I look forward to continuing to work with your Administration and both parties in Congress to support this important field so that more families and small businesses can compete and succeed across America.

As you prepare to deliver next week’s State of the Union address, I urge you to use this opportunity to recommit your Administration to expanding the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.  As you know, Congress recently reaffirmed its bipartisan support for this initiative by passing the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act into law.  As a proud cosponsor of the RAMI Act, I urge you to swiftly implement this legislation, which authorizes funding for the continued development of a network of regional manufacturing institutes.  Working in tandem with the existing network of innovation hubs, these centers will bring together employers, educators, and other stakeholders to strengthen U.S. leadership in manufacturing research, increase American competitiveness, and accelerate the training of our workforce for 21st century careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

In addition, as you continue this effort, I reiterate my request for you to prioritize the establishment of a manufacturing innovation hub in New Hampshire.  Home to world-class researchers and manufacturers, the Granite State is ideally qualified to host such an institute.  In addition, our state boasts a robust system of universities and community colleges, which have already formed successful partnerships with local employers to better prepare our students for advanced manufacturing jobs.  I know your Administration would find many partners eager to help extend the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation to New Hampshire, and I stand ready to work with you to that end.  Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Ann McLane Kuster
Member of Congress

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