Alliance For Retired Americans says “Harris v. Quinn Decision Harms Millions of Low-Wage Workers”

Alliance For Retired Americans

Alliance For Retired AmericansThe following statement was issued today by Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans in response to the Harris v. Quinn Supreme Court decision:

“Today’s decision hurts millions of low-wage workers and the people they serve, often the most frail and vulnerable in America.

“All workers deserve a voice. Home health care workers’ right to a voice on the job took a wrong-headed hit today, and that harms the home health care that seniors and people with disabilities receive.

“Corporations, the Koch brothers and their extremist allies continue to pursue anti-retiree, anti-worker legislation in the states and in the courts. Instead of using the courts to take away the rights of working Americans like caregivers, we need to reduce income and wealth inequality and to enhance Americans’ economic security in both working years and in retirement.

“Fortunately, the Court upheld the right of other public employees to have a voice at work. That means they can continue to serve their communities and retire with dignity.”

[Most of these workers are women, it is not a good day for women in America!]

NH Labor Leaders Speak Out On Harris vs Quinn Ruling

NH AFL-CIO Logo

Home Care Workers Vow to Stand Up for Good Jobs and Quality Services in Wake of Harris v. Quinn Ruling

Work with States and Consumers to Ensure a Strong Voice Will Continue

Concord, NH, June 30, 2014 – Today, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Harris v. Quinn. In a 5-4 decision drafted by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, the conservative majority of the Court dealt a blow to the partnership forged between the State of Illinois and homecare workers through their union, SEIU Health Care Illinois-Indiana (SEIU HCII). In a closely divided ruling, the conservative wing of the Court overruled the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and held that the First Amendment bars Illinois homecare workers from adopting a fair share requirement (also known as ‘agency fee’) to ensure that everyone shares in the costs of the bargaining. The particular workers affected by this decision have a non-traditional relationship with their employer in Illinois and the court used the term “partial public employees” when referring to them. The workers are jointly employed by the state of Illinois and individual patients for whom they provide care.

This means that traditional public employees can continue to join together in a union and retain the right to negotiate a fair share contract provision.

While there are no such “partial employee” organized workers in New Hampshire, NH labor leaders agree that this is a about attacking workers’ rights.

This case was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an extreme anti-worker group. It is the latest in a decades-long attack on the rights of working people to join together to improve their jobs and the quality of services they provide.

SEIU 1984 Logo“Any decision that infringes on the rights of homecare workers to join together and make decisions regarding their workplace is bad for the economy, bad for workers and the people they serve, and bad for America,” said Diana Lacey, president of SEIU Local 1984. “As our population ages, providing a stable, qualified workforce that meets the growing need for healthcare is critical to ensuring that New Hampshire seniors receive adequate care. Home care jobs are one of America’s fastest growing industries, yet the average wage for workers is around $21,000 a year.”

AFSCME_Logo-2Color“This ruling to allow state-based challenges to the legality of agency fees skirts the question of whether these workers deserve dignity and basic rights on the job and exposes taxpayers to footing the bill for future challenges and litigation,” said Harriett Spencer, Coordinator for AFSCME Council 93.

aft sqaure“AFT-NH members want great neighborhood public schools that are safe welcoming and are fully funded. We want all public schools to have teachers who are well-prepared, well-supported, and who have manageable class sizes and time to collaborate,” said Laura Hainey President of AFT-New Hampshire. “We want our schools to be centers of our communities and to ensure that children and families have access to wraparound services to meet their social, emotional and health needs. We want curriculum that focuses on teaching and learning, not just testing, and that includes art, music and the sciences.”

“When workers can come together and negotiate for better pay, more benefits, and necessary training, turnover goes down, and our elderly receive better care,” said Mark NH AFL-CIO LogoMacKenNH AFL-CIO Logozie, president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO. “Ensuring that this workforce has a voice on the job and is not mired in poverty is the single best way to guarantee that seniors and people with disabilities can get safe, quality care in their homes.”

“New Hampshire’s workers will not be discouraged,” President MacKenzie continued. “We will continue to fight for improvements in our workplaces. The fate of workers cannot be decided by one Supreme Court decision. It will be decided at workplaces and industries across the country by those who get up every morning and make our country run.”

The NH Alliance For Retired Americans Score NH Senators On Issues Effecting Seniors

Old woman retirement

Please take a look at how your Representatives and Senators in the United States Congress voted on issues of concern to senior citizens and their families.

The New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans has sent this letter to the editor to papers around the state:

When it comes to support for the senior safety net, New Hampshire’s two Senators could not be more different.  The Alliance for Retired Americans produces a voting record to show how committed our elected representatives are to retirees and older Americans. Votes chosen for 2013 were*:

Seniors Program Cuts
Health Care Repeal
Estate Tax Repeal
Anti-Retiree Budget
Mandatory Benefit Cuts
Limit Victims’ Rights
Limit Voters’ Rights
Cut Emergency Phone Service
Pro-Retiree Budget
Cut Nutrition Programs

Senator Shaheen received a score of 100%, which did not surprise the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans, since we have had opportunities to speak with her in person both in her office and at events around the state, and to hear her pledge her support for the programs that not only benefit us, but our children and grandchildren now and in the future.

Senator Ayotte received a score of 10%, which, sorry to say, did not surprise us. She has, her staff tells us, been much too busy to meet with us at her office, despite repeated requests. Individual members have attended events she held, despite the short notices, but have not gotten any questions answered.

We at the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans believe that all New Hampshire retirees and all New Hampshire citizens who care about our retirees or hope to be retired some day should have this information.  Please visit our website for more information and how to contact us.

*http://retiredamericans.org/issues/congressional-voting-record

Lucy Edwards, President, for the Board of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans.

The AFL-CIO And The NH AFL-CIO Endorse APWU’s Boycott Of Staples Inc

Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr

Momentum behind by the American Postal Workers Union “Stop Staples” campaign is growing by leaps and bounds. 

Over the last few weeks, the American Federation of Teachers in California and Michigan adopted resolutions to boycott Staples stores for their back to school shopping.

Last week AFT-NH President Laura Hainey announced that AFT-NH would also join in the boycott of Staples

“The decision to outsource neighborhood post offices across the country to a big-box retailer means potentially fewer good jobs and poorer service for our communities,” said Hainey. “Staples workers will staff these new postal counters, rather than trained, uniformed postal employees who are background-checked and take an oath to protect our mail.”

Then, just yesterday the AFL-CIO nationally has added Staples to their national boycott list, and the NH AFL-CIO adopted the resolution (view in PDF) to join the boycott of Staples stores.

The conclusion of the resolution states:

Therefore be it resolved that:

  • The NH AFL-CIO support the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) in its efforts to protect good-paying jobs and its insistence on the highest possible standards of customer service; 
  • Be it further resolved that the NH AFL-CIO opposes efforts by the U.S. Postal Service to privatize operations and to sell off valuable public assets; 
  • Be it further resolved that the NH AFL-CIO will urge friends, colleagues and family members, to no longer shop at Staples stores until further notice;
  • Be it finally resolved that this call to boycott Staples will be communicated immediately to affiliates of the NH AFL-CIO, our community allies, to our sister unions and to the news media.

“The New Hampshire AFL-CIO fully and enthusiastically supports our sisters and brothers working in real post offices across our state and nation, and we will be boycotting staples until this unfair program is ended,” said New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie.

The Postal Service and Staples are refusing to staff the postal counters with unionized, uniformed U.S. Postal Service employees who have the training and experience to properly handle U.S. mail, and who have passed back ground checks and sworn an oath to uphold the highest standards of public service.

“These Staples postal counters are staffed by low-wage, low benefit employees with little training and no credentials to handle U.S. mail. We can do better,” MacKenzie said.

“We are thrilled to have the support of the AFL-CIO in our ongoing struggle to keep the Postal Service Public. Acting together we can save this great public service from being privatized,” said Janice Kelble, Legislative Director, NH Postal Workers Union.

“Our local post offices belong to our towns and to the people of New Hampshire,” said Hainey. “Our members can decide where to buy school supplies, and we won’t shop at Staples until they reconsider this misguided program.”

Who will be the next to join the APWU’s call to Stop Staples.

The national AFL-CIO is a labor federation comprised of 56 unions representing 12.5 million members.

(If your local would like to adopt a resolution in support of the APWU’s Stop Staples campaign and need assistance, contact Janice Kelble at jkelble (at) apwu.org, or just send me the press release and details after it is adopted to NHlabor (at) Gmail.com  ATTN: Stop Staples)

Paycheck Fairness Advocates Applaud House Vote to Approve the NH Paycheck Fairness Act

Equal Pay for Equal Work (lilly ledbetter act)

 

Equal Pay for Equal Work (lilly ledbetter act)Paycheck Fairness Act has one last stop at House Criminal Justice Committee before being sent to Governor’s desk 

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 187 to 134 today to pass SB 207, the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act. The entire Democratic caucus present* and eleven House Republicans joined the unanimous and bi-partisan vote from the Senate in support of the legislation that will eliminate loopholes, increase transparency in wages, and ensure that all workers have the appropriate tools and resources to help them earn a fair and equal paycheck, without fear of retaliation. The legislation has one last stop at the House Criminal Justice Committee and another floor vote before being sent to the Governor’s desk; Governor Maggie Hassan has previously indicated her support for the bill.

The NH AFL–CIO, NH Citizens Alliance for Action, Granite State Progress, NH Civil Liberties Union, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the New Hampshire Women’s Initiative, Women’s Fund of New Hampshire, and the National Women’s Law Center applaud the New Hampshire House’s bi-partisan adoption of SB 207, the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act. The organizations released the following statements on today’s House vote:

Mark MacKenzie, President, New Hampshire AFL-CIO: “We applaud the 187 members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives who today stood with working families by voting to pass the New Hampshire Paycheck Equity Act. Senate Bill 207 will help close the gender wage gap in the Granite State by giving women access to the tools and information they need to make sure they are being paid fairly. New Hampshire AFL-CIO is proud to be a leader in the diverse coalition of women’s organizations, labor unions, and grassroots action groups that led the fight to win this important and timely progress for New Hampshire’s working women.”

Kary Jencks, Executive Director, NH Citizens Alliance for Action: “Today the NH House voted for a New Hampshire and an America that works for all of us, with liberty and justice for all.  Ensuring equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, heritage, or marital status is a critical component in protecting and expanding our state’s middle class and driving a successful economy.”

Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress: “We commend the House bipartisan adoption of the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act. This law will give employees the tools they need to challenge wage gaps and help create a climate where wage discrimination is no longer tolerated. We are eager to see the legislation move through the final steps in the House and then to the desk of paycheck fairness supporter Governor Maggie Hassan.”

Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union: “Today the House took New Hampshire one step closer toward eliminating unfair gender paycheck inequities in our state. The New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act will help provide women with the tools they need to get fair pay in the workplace, and the NHCLU welcomes its passage by both chambers of the New Hampshire legislature.”

Dawn Andonellis, Public Policy Chair for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) of New Hampshire: “Closing the wage gap in New Hampshire is an economic return on investment that will help to keep our college graduates, particularly women, in the state. We applaud the New Hampshire House for passing the Paycheck Fairness Act and for taking this important step toward ending gender discrimination in the workplace.”

Mary Jo Brown, Chair of the New Hampshire Women’s Initiative: “Today we have moved one giant step closer to eliminating the gender wage gap in New Hampshire. We would like to thank our stakeholder partners, the Senate and the legislative champions of SB 207 in the House for all of their hard work to make New Hampshire an even better place to retain employees and for all families across the state. We look forward to Governor Hassan signing this important piece of legislation.”

Marianne Jones, Executive Director, Women’s Fund of NH: “The paycheck transparency that is addressed in SB 207 is one more tool that can help minimize the persistent wage gap in New Hampshire. We know that this will ensure that women and girls prosper in the future, and that entire communities will have the potential to thrive.”

Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center: “Pay discrimination is alive and well across America.  Millions of working women suspect they’re being paid less than their male counterparts but have no way of confirming it. And some don’t realize they’re being shortchanged because company policies prevent them from discussing their wages. We applaud the New Hampshire House for moving swiftly to improve their pay discrimination laws and call on Congress to follow its lead.”

SB 207 sponsors include all Senate Democrats along with House Speaker Terie Norelli, Rep. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst), Rep. MaryAnn Knowles (D-Hudson), and Rep. Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsboro).

 

* The sole House Democrat in opposition was Free State Project member Tim O’Flaherty.

Expanded Gambling Is About Creating Jobs (Testimony by NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie)

NH AFL-CIO Logo

NH AFL-CIO LogoAs president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the state, I speak to workers and community leaders every day about the difficulties facing our state’s working families as we continue to struggle in the aftermath of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Now is the time for our elected leaders to step up to the plate and take real, immediate and concrete steps to create good new jobs for thousands of workers in our state.

This Committee and the entire New Hampshire House now have the opportunity to do just that. In fact, legislators have been presented with a bill, SB 366, that will guarantee the creation of a half-billion-dollar construction project, every penny of which would come from private investment.

SB 366 would create more than 2,000 jobs for New Hampshire construction workers and more than 1,000 good, permanent jobs. Furthermore, this bill will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in non-tax revenue for the state and our municipalities, allowing us to keep critical programs like education, public safety and infrastructure off the budgetary chopping block. Plus, polls show that a big majority – nearly 60 percent – of Granite Staters favor the approach SB 366 takes.

SB 366 would bring expanded casino gaming to New Hampshire. Now, I know some members of this committee personally don’t approve of gambling, and that’s certainly your prerogative. But we must come to terms with the fact that we are stuck in a situation where job growth continues to be sluggish and the state budget continually presents our elected officials with extremely difficult choices between cutting programs and finding needed revenue.

The fact is, New Hampshire will be experiencing the downside of casino gaming whether or not we build a new casino within our borders. Our state already has a $75 million-per-year casino industry under the guise of “charitable gaming,” and there will soon be several casinos just over the border in Massachusetts. Without SB 366, we’ll leave thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.

SB 366 was amended in the Senate to include provisions drafted by the bipartisan, multi-agency Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority as part of last year’s state budget process. In consultation with independent experts, the authority reviewed best practices in the gaming industry across the country to develop a true New Hampshire solution for expanded gaming.

This bill was crafted specifically to address concerns lawmakers had with previous gaming proposals, concerns we shared in many cases. We believe that SB 366 includes a comprehensive regulatory structure and robust provisions to ensure that the jobs will go to New Hampshire workers.

Although we have always supported creating good jobs for Granite State workers, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO has never officially endorsed a casino proposal before. Our executive committee recently voted unanimously to fully endorse gaming legislation this year because we are convinced the current proposal represents what’s best for New Hampshire’s working families and for our state

Creating jobs shouldn’t just be a talking point or a political slogan. Growing our economy and putting people to work should be real, tangible goals for our elected leaders. SB 366 is legislation that would accomplish these goals, and I urge the committee to support it. Together we can help rebuild New Hampshire’s middle class by focusing on creating good jobs for workers in our state. Passing this bill will contribute to that cause.

Thank you for your consideration.

Mark MacKenzie
President of the NH AFL-CIO

Much Rejoicing As NH Senate Unanimously Passes Paycheck Fairness Bill

sylvia larsen

“This definitive, bipartisan action by the full Senate affirms that both Republicans and Democrats agree we must act to close the wage gap in New Hampshire,” said Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen.

Senate Bill 207 has been cited by Senate and House Democrats as a top priority for the 2014 legislative session. All Senate Democrats have sponsored the legislation with House Speaker Terie Norelli serving as the leading House sponsor along with co-sponsors Rep. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst), Rep. MaryAnn Knowles (D-Hudson), and Rep. Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsboro).

sylvia larsen

Senator Sylvia Larsen

“The New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act will give the more than 60% of women working in today’s economy, as the primary or co-breadwinners for their families, the much needed tools they need to combat the wage gap,” stated Larsen.

“It’s distressing that, in the year 2014, women in New Hampshire, who are working full-time jobs, still earn only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. National studies have found that a pay gap exists between men and women in nearly every occupation. However, with this bipartisan, unanimous vote, we are sending a crystal clear message that the Legislature is on the side of all workers guaranteeing fair and equal paycheck, without fear of retaliation.”

Senator Larsen concluded her statement by saying, “I look forward to a quick House action, so New Hampshire can renew our commitment to the fundamental principle of, an equal day’s work deserves an equal day’s pay.”

“Today’s unanimous Senate vote to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act is an overwhelming, bipartisan affirmation of the principle that an equal day’s work deserves an equal day’s pay,” stated Governor Maggie Hassan. “This common-sense measure to help eliminate the pay gap between women and men will strengthen our economy and the financial security of working families across our state. I applaud the Senate for today’s bipartisan vote and encourage the House to pass this critical legislation in order to help all of New Hampshire’s workers earn a fair and equal paycheck.”

“We commend members of the Senate for voting unanimously to remove a remaining barrier to pay equity in New Hampshire,” stated Mark MacKenzie, President of the NH AFL-CIO. “Passing SB207 was the right thing to do for fairness and equality, and the right thing to do for the majority of Granite State working families who depend on women’s earnings to get by.”

“We commend the Senate’s unanimous adoption of the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act,” stated Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “This law would give employees the tools they need to challenge wage gaps. Data shows that New Hampshire women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Coupled with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act already in law, these two acts can help to create a climate where wage discrimination is no longer tolerated.”

Along with the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate, community groups helped push legislators to pass this Paycheck Fairness bill.  Below are statements from some of the other organizations celebrating today’s vote.

Kary Jencks, Executive Director, NH Citizens Alliance for Action: “The Senate recognized today that ensuring equal pay for equal work is important to protecting New Hampshire working families.  A woman’s earnings, whether she is married or not, are crucial to family support. Closing the wage gap is the right action for New Hampshire to take for the economic security of Granite Staters.”

Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union: “We applaud the Senate’s bipartisan approval of the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act. In approving this critical legislation, the Senate has taken an important step towards eliminating unfair gender paycheck inequities in the state of New Hampshire.”

Dawn Andonellis, Public Policy Chair for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) of New Hampshire: “We applaud the New Hampshire State Senate for passing the Paycheck Fairness Act in a bipartisan fashion and for taking this important step toward closing the wage gap and ending gender discrimination in the workplace. Moving this bill forward would give the women of New Hampshire a reason to actually celebrate Equal Pay Day on April 8. Finally, women are closer to achieving equal pay for equal work.”

Mary Jo Brown, Chair of the New Hampshire Women’s Initiative: “The New Hampshire Women’s Initiative applauds the Senate’s unanimous adoption of SB 207. SB 207 is a great step toward reducing the wage gap and promoting pay equity for all Granite Staters. The bill, which includes provisions towards paycheck transparency, honors NHWI’s agenda and findings from our 2013 statewide listening sessions with NH citizens. We are proud to thank Senator Larsen and her cosponsors for the bipartisan support of the bill. We are excited that the Senate has passed this important piece of legislation and look forward to working with the House.”

Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center: “This bipartisan vote reflects the simple fact that giving women tools to combat pay discrimination and close the wage gap is a common sense solution that everyone should be able to get behind.”

The NH Senate was realistically the only hurdle this bill faced in getting passed in New Hampshire.  The GOP controlled Senate was the only truly unknown in this bills likelihood of passing.  The bill will now moved to the Democrat controlled house, where I should pass with ease.  I expect the Governor could be signing this bill before May first.

 

NH Seniors Teach Frank Guina About Healthcare At His Local Listening Session

by Jennifer Kenny of the NH Alliance for Retired Americans
20140303-213035.jpg
DOVER, N.H. — With only two days advance notice, New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans members made time to attend former Congressman Frank Guinta’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “listening” session at the Dover Community Senior center.

Aside from his staff person, six people attended the session. Guinta did not seem surprised by the poor turnout. When asked by one attendee how to learn about these “listening” sessions in advance Guinta was not clear in his response.

Guinta’s account of this session on Facebook differs from the recollection of at least five of those present. Guinta says he “had a great time this morning talking with a group of seniors at the Dover Community Senior Center, the most recent stop on my health care listening tour. We discussed the effects that the Obama Administration’s proposed 3.55% cut to Medicare Advantage will have on their ability to receive the care they have come to expect, and the overall negative impacts of Obamacare.

In fact, when Guinta asked who in the room supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, all audience members indicated their support.

At first Guinta tried to play the 3.55% cut to Medicare Advantage (MA): as a cut to Medicare. But a participant brought out the true fact that this is a reduction in payments to private insurance companies that sell Medicare Advantage plans, not to beneficiaries. Then the conversation quickly changed.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare Advantage private insurance companies will receive a decrease in income from the federal government. The way it used to work: under a sweetheart deal with a prior administration, private insurance companies who engaged in the sale of Medicare Advantage plans received a monthly payment per customer from the federal government. This payment was in addition to any premiums that the customer paid to the private insurance company. Talk about your Government subsidy!

Under the new law the average payment to private insurance companies of $1000 per MA customer has been cut by 3.55%. In addition, companies selling Medicare Advantage plans are still paid a bonus based on federal guidelines. Medicare Advantage companies who choose to make a business decision to continue sales of their product line still receive a substantial subsidy per patient each calendar month but at the reduced rate of 3.55%.

Please read the bulleted item below. This is a concise explanation about the seldom spoken about practice of government enabling private business to profit from all Medicare customers.
The Department of Health and Human Services website, discussing “Overpayments to Big Insurance Companies and Strengthening Medicare Advantage,” says “Today, Medicare pays Medicare Advantage insurance companies over $1,000 more per person on average than is spent per person in Traditional Medicare. This results in increased premiums for all Medicare beneficiaries, including the 77% of beneficiaries who are not currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. The law levels the playing field by gradually eliminating this discrepancy. People enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan will still receive all guaranteed Medicare benefits, and the law provides bonus payments to Medicare Advantage plans that provide high quality care. Effective January 1, 2011. Learn more about Medicare and the Affordable Care Act.

It is disappointing that Frank Guinta’s account of the “listening” session is so misleading, and ignores the facts brought out by participants in the session.

Every Medicare customer needs to know that ObamaCare closes the part D “donut hole”, expands coverage for seniors who need help at home or are in nursing homes and increases access to preventive care. It also reforms Medicare advantage, the private insurance program that is costing the tax payers millions.

New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans members say that they continue to support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also known as ObamaCare because, after all, President Obama does care.

NH AFL-CIO Pres MacKenzie: Casino Bill Means Good Jobs And Serious Revenue

NH AFL-CIO Logo

As president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the state, I speak to legislators and community leaders every day about the difficulties facing our state’s working families as we continue to struggle in the aftermath of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Now is the time for our elected leaders to step up to the plate and take real, immediate and concrete steps to create good new jobs for thousands of workers in our state.

The New Hampshire House will soon have the opportunity to do just that. In fact, our legislators will be presented with a bill, HB 1633, that will guarantee the creation of a half-billion-dollar construction project, every penny of which would come from private investment.

HB 1633 would create more than 2,000 jobs for New Hampshire construction workers and more than 1,000 good, permanent jobs. Furthermore, this bill will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in non-tax revenue for the state, allowing us to keep critical programs like education, public safety and infrastructure off the budgetary chopping block. Plus, polls show that a big majority – nearly 60 percent – of Granite Staters favor the approach HB 1633 takes.

HB 1633 would bring expanded casino gaming to New Hampshire. Now, I know some members of our Legislature don’t personally approve of gambling, and that’s their prerogative. But we must come to terms with the fact that we are stuck in a situation where job growth continues to be sluggish and the state budget continually presents our elected officials with extremely difficult choices between cutting programs and finding needed revenue.

The fact is, New Hampshire will be experiencing the downsides of casino gaming whether or not we build a new casino within our borders. Our state already has a $75 million-per-year casino industry under the guise of “charitable gaming,” and there will soon be several casinos just over the border in Massachusetts. Without HB 1633, we’ll leave thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.

HB 1633 was drafted by a bipartisan, multiagency independent panel known as the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority as part of last year’s state budget process. In consultation with independent experts, the authority reviewed best practices in the gaming industry across the country to develop a true New Hampshire solution for expanded gaming.

This bill was crafted specifically to address concerns lawmakers had with last year’s gaming bill. As such, HB 1633 includes a comprehensive regulatory structure and robust provisions to ensure that the jobs will go to New Hampshire workers.

Although we have always supported creating good jobs for Granite State workers, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO has never officially endorsed a casino proposal before. Our executive committee recently voted unanimously to fully endorse HB 1633 because we are convinced this bill represents what’s best for New Hampshire’s working families and for our state.

We had questions about whether that was true of previous bills, but our concerns have been addressed in HB 1633.

Creating jobs shouldn’t just be a talking point or a political slogan. Growing our economy and putting people to work should be real, tangible goals for our elected leaders. HB 1633 is the only bill before the New Hampshire Legislature this year that would accomplish those goals, and I urge lawmakers to support it. Together we can help rebuild New Hampshire’s middle class by focusing on creating good jobs for workers in our state. Passing this bill will contribute to that cause.

New Hampshire Retirees hold Sen. Ayotte accountable

NH Alliance For Retired Americans Ayotte Protest

NH Alliance For Retired Americans Ayotte Protest

by Jennifer Kenny

MANCHESTER, NH — The voting record of Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte has drawn the ire of New Hampshire retirees.  Unable to secure an appointment with her, they are demanding that Social Security be improved by picketing in front of her Manchester and Nashua offices.

The retiree members of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans (NH ARA) have been  requesting to meet with Ayotte since the summer of 2013.  Initially this seemed like an easy ask.  Considering that the U. S. Senate designates multiple days for travel, in-district workshops, holiday and summer recess, the NH ARA members thought their request was reasonable.

Top that off with the fact that Ayotte holds a post on the prestigious U.S. Special Committee on Aging, and NH ARA represents over 13.000 retirees — a meeting just makes good sense.  After all, wouldn’t this type of meeting help her to better understand her constituency?

But stopping by her office, calling for an appointment, speaking with staff, requesting a meeting through mutual acquaintances, showing up at town hall meetings did not work.  Even holding signs in front of the Senator’s Manchester and Nashua offices in the summer heat and the winter cold and snow has not resulted in a meeting.

Ayotte apparently does not want to be held accountable for her votes on 49 health care related bills, most of which have to do with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  The bills range from anti-choice measures, delaying portions of enacting the Affordable Care Act, and wiping out the law in whole or in part.

Ayotte is a co-sponsor of S. 1711 the State Health Care Choice Act which allows states to opt-out and limit required coverage.  The NH ARA wants to know why.  Does Ayotte want to reopen the dreaded donut hole that caused financial hardship to seniors and other Medicare recipients that rely on expensive prescription medications?

Perhaps she is not in favor of the clause that prevents insurance companies from arbitrarily canceling a customer’s policy when the customer becomes ill, or maybe it is the free preventative care wellness doctor appointments that she objects to.

The NH ARA is left guessing if Senator Ayotte would deny our grandchildren the right to remain on their parents health plan until they turn 26 years of age or perhaps the lifetime and yearly coverage limits that the insurance companies were allowed to  impose prior to the Affordable Care Act?

Maybe Ayotte objects to holding insurance companies accountable to their customers by proving 80% of the premium paid is used for the purpose of insurance and that only 20% of the premium is allowable for CEO pay and profits.   Considering her unwillingness to meet with the NH ARA, they may never know.

The retirees also want to learn how their Senator justifies raising the eligibility age for full retirement Social Security benefits, and why she hasn’t signed on to S 567.  This bill would establish a price index that reflects actual costs of items for Social Security recipients and insures Cost of Living increases  keep pace with inflation.

The occasional town hall meetings hosted by Ayotte are well scripted and controlled. She makes a slide show presentation and only takes questions that are pre-printed on index cards prior to the start of the meeting. Late comers are not allowed access to a card.

The NH ARA monitors legislation. These retirees have ideas and questions and remain hopeful that one of these days, Senator Ayotte will meet with them.  In  the meantime, they continue to show up with signs and keep asking for a meeting with the Senator at one of her many New Hampshire locations.

Ayotte is not up for re-election in 2014.  New Hampshire’s Democratic senior Senator Jeanne Shaheen is one of the 36 Senators up for election this year.  Shaheen’s race is one of the top targets by the Republican Party.  They want to grab control of the U. S. Senate and impose Ayotte’s agenda on our nation’s retirees and people.  New Hampshire retirees already have their walking shoes ready to make sure this does not happen.