Below are the remarks as prepared by NH AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett delivered at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention on Saturday.
Thank you, Chairman Buckley. Delegates, honored guests and friends.
I would like to take a few minutes this afternoon to talk to you about the Labor movement in New Hampshire. As many of you know, in my previous position as Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320, I, along with President Don Trementozzi of CWA Local 1400, represented the telecommunications workers of New Hampshire. In February of this year, the IBEW & CWA declared victory and won a hard-fought, five month long strike against Fairpoint Communications. Now you all need to understand that Fairpoint is a North Carolina based, anti-union company. Their negotiating strategy was to present, on Day 1 of bargaining, a comprehensive package of contract proposals, each of which was completely and totally concessionary in nature. They didn’t respond to any of our counter-proposals and they didn’t budge off any of their initial proposals. In effect, their initial proposals were a “take it or leave it” proposition. After 6 weeks of what I can only describe as “surface bargaining”, Fairpoint declared that we were at contract impasse and they imposed their original terms and conditions on the workers. And it was ugly.
They took away our pension. They took away our healthcare. They took away much of our benefit package. They took away virtually everything we had bargained for over the past 30 years. But what they couldn’t take away, and they tried, was the solidarity and strength of our collective memberships. By utilizing good, old fashioned grassroots organizing and mobilizing, we stood as one unit and we went to battle for our families.
And our friends stood with us. From Senator Shaheen to Congresswoman Kuster, to Governor Hassan, to the Executive Council, along with all the Democratic State Senators and many, many of our Democratic State Reps, the support we received was awesome.
The family of unions in New Hampshire had our backs in a big way. From the teachers, to the fire fighters, to the postal workers, to the building trades, they all stood with us. We had the Teamsters, the CWA, all of the IBEW locals, AFSCME, the UAW, the SEIU and if I forgot anybody I apologize, but the New Hampshire union family all joined us and provided tremendous support. In short, our friends and our allies stuck together with us and they made it possible for us to successfully bargain for our pensions, our healthcare and our benefits. All of us, sticking together, made it possible for us to win that strike. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, as our allies and partners, for what you did to help us. We may not have succeeded without you. Thank you, on behalf of the telecommunications workers of New Hampshire.
But succeed, we did and this collective victory has now set the stage that will allow great things to happen. We have proven that a strong, grass-roots movement, supported by partners and allies is a VERY powerful tool. The New Hampshire AFL-CIO is committed to continue to build, to expand and to educate this grass-roots movement. We are committed to utilizing this army of grass-roots supporters to turn out the vote and to elect like-minded representation, on both the state and federal level. We are committed, with the help of our partners and our allies, to affect policy changes that will improve the lives of New Hampshire citizens and their families. Some of these policy changes include:
A minimum wage that is a living wage, not a poverty wage.
Equal pay for equal work. Because wage discrimination hurts New Hampshire families.
The establishment of a much needed and long ignored prevailing wage rate for the State of New Hampshire.
And the ability for every citizen of New Hampshire to have access to quality, affordable healthcare.
We are also committed, to communicate clearly, Labor’s position on each piece of legislation in which we have an interest. We are committed to an open and constant dialogue between Labor and our partners and our allies. And we are committed, on behalf of our grass-roots army, to seek accountability from those whom we have supported but did not support us in return.
We ARE going to continue to mobilize. We ARE going to continue to organize. We ARE going to turn out the vote to elect those that support us. We can do great things, if we stick together. Labor, in New Hampshire, has shown that it will stick together. I ask all of you here today to join us, as partners and allies. Because, together, we ARE going to do great things.