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Public Employees: Speak Up Knowing You Are Protected!

NH House Committee Hearing (Image by Christopher Schmidt CC on FLIKR)

Written by
Terri D. Donovan, Esq.,
Director of Collective Bargaining and Field Services
American Federation of Teachers-NH

NH House Committee Hearing (Image by Christopher Schmidt CC on FLIKR)

NH House Committee Hearing (Image by Christopher Schmidt CC on FLIKR)

All of a sudden there are many meetings in our cities, towns and school districts consumed with budget hearings and deliberative sessions where funding decisions will be made about our schools and vital public services. You read the headlines. The loud voices to slash budgets seem to be heard above all. Will you sit on the sidelines or speak up about important public services and your schools?

You go to work every day and teach your students, plow the roads, answer a burglary call or respond to a house fire. You wonder do these naysayers really know what is happening every day in your workplace. Do your fellow community members realize the pride you take in your work? Or are you just a line item in a budget?

This time of year there are many questions from our members and other public employees if they are allowed to speak at a public meeting. If they speak, can they be disciplined? Fired? The answer is NO. As a public employee in NH you have a right to free speech. Just because your paycheck is from a city, town or school district does not diminish your right to be heard.

If you are covered by a union contract you have protections. In fact, AFT-NH Local #6214, Pittsfield Town Employees, filed an Unfair Labor Charge at the NH Public Employees Labor Relations Board in 2012 which addressed a gag order which had been imposed by the Pittsfield Board of Selectmen. The gag order was passed when union members spoke out against an egregious budget cut and actions taken to implement this cut. The Selectmen retracted this order shortly thereafter but the Union pursued the claim to stand up for public employees’ free speech rights. The NH PELRB was clear in supporting public employees in their rights to speak public about their collective bargaining agreements and their working conditions.

The NH PELRB ordered the following, “The Town shall cease and desist from any activity, including the development and enforcement of any policy, that would prohibit bargaining unit employees’ communications with the public or media on the issues related to collective bargaining or the terms and conditions of their employment.”

Also as a public employee in New Hampshire you have unique statutory protection under Chapter 98-E, Public Employee Freedom of Expression. If your employer is a county, city, town, school district, SAU, precinct or water district you are protected.

 98-E:1 Freedom of Expression. – Notwithstanding any other rule or order to the contrary, a person employed as a public employee in any capacity shall have a full right to publicly discuss and give opinions as an individual on all matters concerning any government entity and its policies. It is the intention of this chapter to balance the rights of expression of the employee with the need of the employer to protect legitimate confidential records, communications, and proceedings. 

Please check for important meetings in your city and town. Deliberative sessions and budget hearings are happening now! You may not be comfortable speaking but jot down a few notes so you feel more comfortable. Speaking from the heart and with sincere concerns will resonate with fellow community members. Your opinion does matter to them. Be sure to avoid disclosing any confidential information you may know as a result of your work. You should rely on your Union to advise when it is appropriate in the collective bargaining process to speak out publicly. Once a contract is presented to the voters for approval, it is very important for you to reach out for support in the community.

You can speak to what you would believe to be the impact of budget cuts and speak proudly of the work done in your district or municipality. When you speak out you offer encouragement and support for others in the community to also have their voices heard.

Please don’t be silenced!

 

 

 

Granite State Rumblings: Combating Homelessness

Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões on FLICKR CC
Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões on FLICKR CC

Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões on FLICKR CC

“If they don’t get sheltered, some of them will die.”

These were the words spoken by my doctor yesterday at my annual check-up. We were talking about the impending blizzard and some of his patients who are homeless. The pain on his face as he said that sentence was hard to see.

As I write, the wind driven snow is piling up outside of my kitchen window. I am warm, dry, and comfy and I have the generator ready to go should the need arise. But my doctor’s words are running through my mind.  “If they don’t get sheltered, some of them will die.”

And so I begin this newsletter and I wonder. How many homeless families and individuals are there in the state? Have they found shelter? Where will they go? Many of the businesses that could provide shelter are closed because of the storm – even the Dunkin Donuts is closed. The schools are locked up tight and the library’s shuttered. With all of the media reporting on the storm I have heard nothing about the homeless. Have you?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities to conduct sheltered counts of people living in emergency shelter or transitional housing and unsheltered counts of people living in a place unfit for human habitation (such as in an abandoned building or in a park) biennially. This is known as the Point-in-Time Count.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, January 28th) the count to identify homeless people in New Hampshire will be conducted. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ Bureau of Homeless and Housing Services (BHHS), together with service providers who serve homeless individuals and families, will identify the number of sheltered and unsheltered persons within a 24-hour period.

These counts are critical for homelessness providers, researchers, funders, and advocates, as they are the only source of national data on the homeless population. But, counting unsheltered homeless people is a daunting task.

Not only are many unsheltered homeless people hard to find, but members of some homeless subpopulations, like homeless youth and LGBTQ individuals, congregate in different areas than larger populations and may try to avoid being identified as homeless, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Locating them requires different strategies. And in New Hampshire that task falls on the combined efforts of the three local homeless Continuums of Care (Nashua, Manchester and the “Balance of State”) along with the NH Coalition to End Homelessness.

The most recently available state data on homelessness comes from the January 2014 State of New Hampshire Official Point-In-Time Count. Data from the 2014 count show that 1,635 people experienced homelessness in New Hampshire on a given night.

Significant findings from the 2014 count include:

  • Families with children comprise 43 percent of the overall homeless population (a total of 704 people, composing 258 households).
  • Slightly more than a third of the single adult homeless population is considered chronically homeless (341 people).
  • Veterans comprise 11 percent of New Hampshire’s homeless population (183 people).

Source: The State of Homelessness in New Hampshire 2014, NHCEH

Although many people still perceive homelessness to be a problem primarily among single men, and to a lesser extent single women, homelessness among families is a growing concern in many communities. Family homelessness in New Hampshire increased sharply in the years following the most recent economic recession. In recent years, however, the state has seen gradual decreases in the number of families living in shelters or on the streets on the day of the Point-in-Time Count.

The state’s population of homeless people in families decreased by 10 percent from 779 persons in 2012 to 704 persons in 2014. Seven counties saw decreases in family homelessness. However, Strafford County, where I live and my doctor has his practice, saw a 47 percent increase in family homelessness according to the NHCEH report, a 13,5 percent increase in student homelessness, and a nearly 67 percent increase in unsheltered homeless people between 2012 and 2014.

My doctor should not be the only one worried.

GROWING UP GRANITE

What is homelessness?

The NH Coalition to End Homelessness states the following:

Homelessness is a highly complex issue that may assume a range of scenarios and have varying effects on each person that experiences it. Social service providers, policy makers and researchers continue to have ongoing dialogue about what it means to be homeless; yet, the responses remain inconsistent.

Health centers funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) use the following:

A homeless individual is defined as “an individual who lacks housing (without regard to whether the individual is a member of a family), including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility (e.g., shelters) that provides temporary living accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing.” A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation.
[Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C., 254b)]

An individual may be considered to be homeless if that person is “doubled up,” a term that refers to a situation where individuals are unable to maintain their housing situation and are forced to stay with a series of friends and/or extended family members. In addition, previously homeless individuals who are to be released from a prison or a hospital may be considered homeless if they do not have a stable housing situation to which they can return. A recognition of the instability of an individual’s living arrangements is critical to the definition of homelessness.
(HRSA/Bureau of Primary Health Care, Program Assistance Letter 99-12, Health Care for the Homeless Principles of Practice)

Programs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) use a different, more limited definition of homelessness.
[found in the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-22, Section 1003)]

  • An individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence;
  • An individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport, or camping ground;
  • An individual or family living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including hotels and motels paid for by Federal, State or local government programs for low-income individuals or by charitable organizations, congregate shelters, and transitional housing);
  • An individual who resided in a shelter or place not meant for human habitation and who is exiting an institution where he or she temporarily resided;
  • An individual or family who will imminently lose their housing [as evidenced by a court order resulting from an eviction action that notifies the individual or family that they must leave within 14 days, having a primary nighttime residence that is a room in a hotel or motel and where they lack the resources necessary to reside there for more than 14 days, or credible evidence indicating that the owner or renter of the housing will not allow the individual or family to stay for more than 14 days, and any oral statement from an individual or family seeking homeless assistance that is found to be credible shall be considered credible evidence for purposes of this clause]; has no subsequent residence identified; and lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing; and
  • Unaccompanied youth and homeless families with children and youth defined as homeless under other Federal statutes who have experienced a long-term period without living independently in permanent housing, have experienced persistent instability as measured by frequent moves over such period, and can be expected to continue in such status for an extended period of time because of chronic disabilities, chronic physical health or mental health conditions, substance addiction, histories of domestic violence or childhood abuse, the presence of a child or youth with a disability, or multiple barriers to employment.

Hence different agencies use different definitions of homelessness, which affect how various programs determine eligibility and services for individuals and families at the state and local level.

This point is made again in The NH Coalition to End Homelessness’ December 2014 report, The State of Homelessness in New Hampshire 2014, which states, “it is clear that inconsistencies about the definition of homelessness do have serious implications for the state’s ability to adequately respond to the problem and to serve those who are in need.”

Senator Shaheen Says “We Cannot Play Politics With Dept. Of Homeland Security Funding”

Image from Senator Shaheen's Website

At New Hampshire Information and Analysis Center (NHIAC), Shaheen highlights importance of homeland security resources for public safety and preparedness

(Concord, NH) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) this morning toured the New Hampshire Information and Analysis Center (NHIAC) to highlight the importance of approving homeland security funding for the remainder of this fiscal year in the interest of public safety and preparedness. While congress is currently facing a February 27th deadline to fund the Department of Homeland Security, certain lawmakers are threatening to add extraneous legislative riders to a funding bill that could lead to a potential agency shutdown.

At this morning’s tour, Shaheen was briefed by New Hampshire Department of Safety Commissioner John Barthelmes, New Hampshire State Police, Division Director Colonel Robert Quinn and New Hampshire Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Perry Plummer on the capabilities of the center, which provides strategic and tactical information regarding threats facing New Hampshire and its citizens.

“We cannot play politics with homeland security funding,” said Shaheen. “The work being done at the New Hampshire Information and Analysis Center and by the entire New Hampshire law enforcement community is so important for keeping New Hampshire and its residents safe. And it’s a perfect example of why these resources are so critical.

“In the coming days and weeks I’ll continue highlighting why we must pass a clean funding bill for the remainder of this fiscal year, and I hope lawmakers will refrain from using this bill as a vehicle to score political points on entirely unrelated issues,” she added.

This morning’s visit comes following Shaheen’s recent appointment as Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of Homeland Security. The Homeland Security Subcommittee oversees funding for the Department of Homeland Security and its related agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, among others. The Subcommittee also supports the DHS’ efforts to protect the nation’s security against terrorism and other hazards in five core issue areas:

  • preventing terrorism and enhancing security.
  • securing and managing U.S. borders.
  • enforcing and administering federal immigration laws.
  • safeguarding and securing cyberspace.
  • ensuring resilience to disasters.

Granite State Rumblings: Talking Poverty (Part 1) — The Public Perception Of People Who Live In Poverty

poor child poverty hunger

I spent 4 days last week in several workshops listening and talking about poverty. The themes that ran through each workshop were basically the same. What is poverty? What are the causes of poverty? What are the pathways out of poverty? What is the public’s perception of the people who live in poverty?

In future newsletters I will attempt to address all four of the above questions. But let’s start with the last question first.

There seemed to be a recurring opinion of a few attendees at each conference -

If people want to escape poverty, all they need to do is get themselves motivated and get a job. The economy is getting better and there are jobs available for those who want them.

Is it really that simple?

The following article by Neil Irwin and published in June in The New York Times helps to shed some light on the topic.

Growth has been good for years. So why hasn’t poverty declined?
by Neil Irwin

The surest way to fight poverty is to achieve stronger economic growth. That, anyway, is a view embedded in the thinking of a lot of politicians and economists.

“The federal government,” Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “needs to remember that the best anti-poverty program is economic growth,” which is not so different from the argument put forth by John F. Kennedy (in a somewhat different context) that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

In Kennedy’s era, that had the benefit of being true. From 1959 to 1973, the nation’s economy per person grew 82 percent, and that was enough to drive the proportion of the poor population from 22 percent to 11 percent.

But over the last generation in the United States, that simply hasn’t happened. Growth has been pretty good, up 147 percent per capita. But rather than decline further, the poverty rate has bounced around in the 12 to 15 percent range — higher than it was even in the early 1970s. The mystery of why — and how to change that — is one of the most fundamental challenges in the nation’s fight against poverty.

The disconnect between growth and poverty reduction is a key finding of a sweeping new study of wages from the Economic Policy Institute. The liberal-leaning group’s policy prescriptions are open to debate, but this piece of data the researchers find is hard to dispute: From 1959 to 1973, a more robust United States economy and fewer people living below the poverty line went hand-in-hand. That relationship broke apart in the mid-1970s. If the old relationship between growth and poverty had held up, the E.P.I. researchers find, the poverty rate in the United States would have fallen to zero by 1986 and stayed there ever since.

“It used to be that as G.D.P. (Gross Domestic Product) per capita grew, poverty declined in lock step,” said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at E.P.I. and an author of the study. “There was a very tight relationship between overall growth and fewer and fewer Americans living in poverty. Starting in the ′70s, that link broke.”

Now, one shouldn’t interpret that too literally. The 1959 to 1973 period might be an unfair benchmark. The Great Society social safety net programs were being put in place, and they may have had a poverty-lowering effect separate from that of the overall economic trends. In other words, it may be simply that during that time, strong growth and a falling poverty rate happened to take place simultaneously for unrelated reasons. And there presumably is some level of poverty below which the official poverty rate will never fall, driven by people whose problems run much deeper than economics.

But the facts still cast doubt on the notion that growth alone will solve America’s poverty problem.

If you are committed to the idea that poor families need to work to earn a living, this has been a great three decades. For households in the bottom 20 percent of earnings in the United States — in 2012, that meant less than $14,687 a year — the share of income from wages, benefits and tax credits has risen from 57.5 percent of their total income in 1979 to 69.7 percent in 2010.

The percentage of their income from public benefits, including Medicaid, food stamps, Social Security and unemployment insurance, has fallen in that time.

The fact that more of poor families’ income is coming from wages doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re getting paid more, though. In fact, based on the E.P.I.’s analysis of data from the Census Bureau, it appears that what income gains they are seeing are coming from working more hours, not from higher hourly pay.

Indeed, if you adjust for the higher number of hours worked, over the 1979 to 2007 period (selected to avoid the effects of the steep recession that began in 2008), hourly pay for the bottom 20 percent of households rose only 3.2 percent. Total, not per year. In other words, in nearly three decades, these lower-income workers saw no meaningful gain in what they were paid for an hour of labor. Their overall inflation-adjusted income rose a bit, but mainly because they put in more hours of work.

The researchers at E.P.I. also looked at demographic factors that contribute to poverty, including race, education levels and changes in family structure (such as the number of one-parent versus two-parent households). This look at the data also shows rising inequality as the biggest factor in contributing to the poverty rate, dwarfing those other shifts.

Debates over what kind of social welfare system the United States ought to have are always polarizing, from the creation of the Great Society in the 1960s to the Clinton welfare reforms of the 1990s to the Paul Ryan budgets of this era. Conservatives tend to attribute the persistence of poverty, even amid economic growth, to the perverse incentives that a welfare state creates against working.

But the reality is that low-income workers are putting in more hours on the job than they did a generation ago — and the financial rewards for doing so just haven’t increased.

That’s the real lesson of the data: If you want to address poverty in the United States, it’s not enough to say that you need to create better incentives for lower-income people to work. You also have to devise strategies that make the benefits of a stronger economy show up in the wages of the people on the edge of poverty, who need it most desperately.

And we need to stop blaming the poor for being poor.

Labor Unions And Financial Reform Groups Push For “Postal Banking” With New Coalition

postal image USPS

postal image USPS

Expanding Low-Cost Financial Services through the United States Postal Service is a Way to Put More Money into the Pockets of Low-Wage Workers and to Provide Banking to Americans in Rural and Urban Areas with Few Banking Options

United for a Fair Economy, One of the Coalition’s Founding Members, Releases New Report On Martin Luther King’s Birthday, that Shows that Nearly 100 Million Poor and Working Class Americans Pay $89 Billion Each Year to Payday Lenders, Pawn Shops and Check Cashers 

WASHINGTON – Financial reform groups, joined by postal unions and others from organized labor, announced today the creation of a national campaign to expand banking services. “The Campaign for Postal Banking” proposes to expand access to affordable financial services through the United States Postal Service’s 31,000 retail branches.

Today, 28 percent of U.S. households, representing 93 million people, do not have access to affordable financial products such as the ability to cash a check, transfer money or pay a bill at a reasonable fee. Americans who lack these services, what some call the “unbanked” or the “underbanked,” find that traditional banks are out of reach due to geography or because of high fees and other obstacles. Limited access drives millions to rely on costly, predatory services such as check cashing stores and payday lenders, trapping many in a cycle of debt. Some payday lenders charge as much as 400 percent in annual interest. The average low-wage worker using these “legal loan sharks” pays an incredible $2,400 per year in fees for these services.

“Much of the national debate has focused on how wages have lagged for working Americans in recent years,” said American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein. APWU is one of the coalition’s members. “As a society we need to find ways to boost wages and create and keep living wage jobs,” said Dimondstein.  “We also need to find ways to cut costs for low-wage Americans. Postal banking is a way to cut costs and put money back into the pockets of people barely getting by.”

The APWU and other partner organizations that have formed the Campaign for Postal Banking find that the United States Postal Service (USPS) is in a unique position to provide basic, affordable, consumer-driven financial services to these underserved communities and individuals who live in what are often called “bank deserts.”  The USPS has more storefronts than any other retailer. A third of the nation’s zip codes have access to a post office but lack a traditional bank.

A report released today by another one of the coalition partners, United for a Fair Economy, entitled Underbanked and Overcharged, makes the case for how postal banking will benefit the poor and low-wage workers.

A report released last year by USPS’ Inspector General called Providing Non-Banked Financial Services for the Underserved explains how an expansion of financial services would fill a great social need and strengthen the finances of the Postal Service.

USPS is not a latecomer to banking services. From 1911 to 1967, the U.S. Post Office offered savings deposit accounts and currently sells more money orders than any other institution. Anyone who goes to a postal window and pays with a debit card anywhere in the United States also is offered the option of getting cash back.

Postal systems around the world – including France, Italy, Japan, China, Brazil, India, and New Zealand offer financial services and play important roles in advancing financial inclusion and literacy.

Campaign for Postal Banking is a coalition of consumer, worker, financial reform, economic justice, community, civic, and faith-based organizations building a movement to inform and mobilize the public to call on the United States Postal Service to take the necessary steps to restore and expand postal banking at its branches across the country.  Founding members include:

Alliance for Retired Americans

Americans for Financial Reform

American Postal Workers Union

Center for Study of Responsive Law

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

Commonnomics

Essential Information

Interfaith Worker Justice

National Association of Letter Carriers

National People’s Action

National Postal Mail Handlers Union

National Rural Letter Carriers Association

Public Citizen

United for a Fair Economy

USAction

Remembering My Father Who Fought For The Union Benefits That Former Postmaster General Donahoe Wants To Take

Bob Dick

Editors Note: This is a special editorial from John Dick, a Letter Carrier in Detroit (NALC Branch 3126, Royal Oak Merged).  

Bob Dick

Bob “Moses” Dick

Yesterday was a milestone for me. Not a day of sadness as much as a day of reflection. January 12th, 2015, was the fifth anniversary of my father’s death. His demise came suddenly. A massive heart attack, then poof; he disappeared from our lives. I remember vividly getting the phone call from Big John. I was setting up my route and my phone kept ringing over and over. I was too busy to answer the damn thing but something didn’t feel right. I answered the fourth time John called. “You have to get to the hospital right away. Something’s wrong with Bob.” I dropped my mail and rushed to the emergency room. My heart sank and then shattered into a million shards when the doctor told me, “There was nothing we could do.” I felt like an orphan.

Bob “Moses” Dick was a proud union man. He had worked at the Ford Utica Trim Shop for thirty years. From 1963 to 1993 he sewed seats for the automobile giant. He was not a fan or a great example of what you might call the “work ethic.” He told me many times as I was growing up that his bosses and even the Ford family only cared about what he could do for them, and he was sure enough gonna return the favor. He said “I got a contract with those folks. I do my thirty years sewin’ those goddam car seats, and in return I have a decent paying job and a secure retirement. I don’t have to like them, and they don’t have to like me. Don’t ever fool yourself, son. You’re just a number to them. A cog in the wheel. I don’t give them any more than I have to.”

He would regale stories to me and my brother about working at the plant. He was outrageously honest, and claimed to have the worst discipline record at the Trim Shop. His temper was legendary, and if he thought a supervisor was acting prickly it was not unusual for him to threaten the health of his bosses. According to Pops, at one discipline meeting his exasperated steward exclaimed, “We have no defense for his actions. We plead insanity!” He loved the UAW, but I am not sure the feeling was completely mutual.

He was proud when I became a letter carrier on October 7th, 2000. The first question he asked me was if I had joined the union. He loved reading my Dicktations and we had him added to our mailing list so that he would receive his own personal copy. He said something to me about my writing that I will never forget. He said I was profound. It was not his style to talk in that way, and all I could say was “Thanks”. His death was premature at the age of 70, but he at least was able to retire at the age of 54 and enjoy 16 years of a Ford pension.

Much has changed in the five short years since my father died. Michigan is now a right- to-work state and America is sliding backwards from the promises it had made to previous generations. The middle class is stagnating economically and the wealth gap between the richest and the poorest is dramatic. Many companies no longer make promises to their workers. My employer, the United States Postal Service, still does. But I have to wonder “For how much longer?”

Our Postmaster General, Patrick R. Donahoe, is retiring in February after a nearly forty year postal career. He started as a mail clerk and worked his way up to the head honcho position of the Service. At a recent speech at the National Press Club honoring his retirement, I was shocked to hear these comments from him: “Most young people aren’t looking for a single employer over the course of their careers. In today’s world, does it really make sense to offer the promise of a government pension to a 22-year-old who is just entering the workforce? And how reliable is that promise?”

Postmaster Donahoe went on to say what the future of the mail would look like. He said “It will not be a person putting a piece of mail in a blue mailbox, but rather a far leaner organization, with a smaller workforce and less generous health care and pension benefits, that competes for e-commerce business, online advertising and other Internet based services.” It is hard to imagine these comments being made from a man who spent his entire career at one organization. Guess he wasn’t wearing his party hat at this retirement dinner!

Postmaster Buzz Kill made some other parting shots at the postal unions for single mindedly fighting to preserve jobs and benefits and the myopic shortsightedness of the mailers for trying to keep postal rates affordable. Rumor has it he kicked a dog and pushed an old lady before the speech was over. For those of us who have been trying to understand the decisions and direction this man has taken the Postal Service over the last several years, this one speech wrapped it all up in a tidy package and put a bow on it for us. He is a true believer in the ‘New America’, where workers have no guarantees or contracts and bounce from job to job every few years. This is the philosophy of our very own Postmaster General.

In February, Megan Brennan will become the new Postmaster General. She has shattered the glass ceiling at L’enfants Plaza and will become the first female to assume that position. I hope she has differing aspirations for what is possible for the United States Postal Service and its workers. We are the nation’s second largest employer, and we are vital to this nation’s economy. The ‘twenty somethings’ I work with deserve a promise from our employer for the hard work they do every do. This is not a job; this is a profession and a career.

A photo of my old man sits on the shot glass shelf of the bar I have in my basement. I will do tonight as I have done many nights in the past; I will raise a glass of strong libation and toast to his memory and honor. The toast will be one of his favorite and I will look at him with a salty tear in my eye; “God Bless the Union!” And for good favor;” Work Sucks!”                                                                                                                                                                                                        Sad to see you go, Donahoe          

        John “Cementhead” Dick

NH Senate Democrats Condemn Sen. Paul’s Demonization Of Disabled Workers

Rand Paul (image via Rand Paul For Senate FLIKR)

Woodburn calls on Senator Kelly Ayotte
& NH GOP Senate to Join Him

Rand Paul (image via Rand Paul For Senate FLIKR)

Rand Paul (image via Rand Paul For Senate FLIKR)

CONCORD, NH — New Hampshire Senate Democrats condemn KY Senator Rand Paul’s comments suggesting half of the people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance are cheating the system faking a disability.

“Senator Paul’s comments demonize injured workers who are getting only what they paid for through an insurance program,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn of Dalton. “I call upon my Republican State Senate colleagues and Senator Paul’s colleague Senator Kelly Ayotte to join me in setting the record straight and stand up for working families.”

While up in New Hampshire, yesterday Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, said the following, “Everybody in this room knows somebody who is gaming the system. What I tell people is if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check. Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts, join the club.”

Senator Rand Paul’s comments are eerily similar to failed Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s 47% comments that nearly half of Americans back President Obama because they rely on government support.

“Social Security Disability Insurance is public insurance program that can only be accessed by work and payment into the system,” said Sen. Woodburn. “The vast majority are hard-working, older people who have paid into the system for decades and receive a small share of what they earned.”

“I am sick and tired of Republicans attacking the most vulnerable sector of our population, especially when such attacks have no basis in fact,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth).

“For decades, we’ve made progress toward the goal of full societal inclusion for persons with disabilities,” added Senator Dan Feltes (D-Concord), “Senator Paul’s comments don’t serve that goal.  His comments were divisive and reflect nothing more than the tired assumptions of a bygone era.”

Republicans Vote To Block President Obama’s Executive Action On Immigration

House Speaker John Boehner

House Speaker John BoehnerYesterday, the US House voted along party lines to block President Obama’s Executive Action on immigration and deferred deportations of those aspiring Americans currently residing in the US.

The House voted to fund the Department of Homeland Security with a couple of major caveat’s.  The Immigration Policy Center reported:

“The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the $39.7 billion funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, including five amendments that attacked parts of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.”

This is another misguided attempt by the House Republicans to connect deferred deportation with the massive influx of migrant children from South America.

Congressman Frank Guinta released the following statement that shows how the GOP does not understand how or why these children are coming to the United States and what deferring deportations would really do.  Congressman Guinta is also trying to push the idea that President Obama’s Executive Action is unconstitutional.

“Unfortunately, the President’s unlawful executive orders run counter to this.  I made a promise to Granite Staters to uphold our Constitution and work diligently to strengthen and reform our broken immigration system.  The passage of H.R. 240 is a common-sense first step in modernizing our system to reward those who enter our borders the lawfully while holding those whom break our laws accountable.”

The American Federation of Teachers President Rani Weingarten condemned the Republican move to defund President Obama’s immigration Executive Action.

“President Obama used his legal authority to sign an executive order last year because the Republican-controlled House failed to do its job by passing legislation on immigration reform. Rather than offer solutions that address our comprehensive immigration crisis, Republicans are waging war—in courts at the state level and in Congress—on families who want to live the American dream.

“Defunding DHS is not only irresponsible—because it jeopardizes our national security by leaving our borders more porous and undermanned—it’s bad policy. The president’s executive action will save lives, keep families together and expand our economy—a formula that will help reclaim the promise of the American dream.”

The House Republican’s have shown us all once again that they are not interesting in helping these aspiring Americans and are only interested in opposing President Obama.  This week the AFL-CIO released a new report that shows a direct connection between the failed “free trade agreements” with Central American countries is leading to the influx of unaccompanied minors last summer.

The real question is how will the Senate react to the ideologically misguided legislation passed by the House?  Initial reports say the Senate will pass a clean funding authorization and strip the controversial amendments.

Support Grows For Patrick Arnold For Manchester Mayor

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patrick-arnold-3MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Today the Arnold for Mayor campaign announced the endorsements of sitting Aldermen Ron Ludwig and Barbara Shaw.

“Patrick brings determination, passion and vision to his campaign for mayor of Manchester,” says Ludwig. “Patrick ran a strong campaign in 2013, focusing on issues most important to working families. I’m proud to support Patrick in 2015 as he continues efforts to move our city forward,” Ludwig continued.

Alderman Ludwig represents Ward 2 on the city’s Board of Aldermen. Alderman Shaw represents Ward 9 at city hall, and is currently serving her 8th term as a State Representative in the New Hampshire Legislature, where she represents Hillsborough County District 16.

“I’m honored to have continued support from Alderman Ludwig and Alderman Shaw,” says Arnold. “We worked hard in 2013 to bring new leadership to Manchester, and I look forward to working even harder this year to discuss our city’s challenges and plans to meet those challenges with new leadership in the corner office at City Hall.”

Patrick Arnold is a candidate for mayor of Manchester, New Hampshire. Arnold served as a Manchester Alderman from 2009 until 2014. In 2013, he was the Democratic candidate for mayor against Mayor Ted Gatsas, the Republican incumbent. Gatsas held off Arnold’s challenge in 2013 by 943 votes. In March 2014, the Manchester Board of Aldermen unanimously confirmed Arnold’s appointment to the city’s Conduct Committee. An attorney by trade, Arnold earned his law degree at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. He and his wife, Kathy, have a daughter, Abigail.

New Report Show NH Tax Policy Hurt Low Income Families Most

(Image by Leonid Mamchenkov on FLIKR)

New Analysis: Low-Income Taxpayers in New Hampshire Pay Three Times the Tax Rate Paid by the Wealthiest Granite Staters

CONCORD, NH – A new study released today by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) finds that the lowest income Granite Staters pay an effective tax rate that is three times that paid by the state’s wealthiest residents. The report, titled Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States, factors in all major state and local taxes, including personal and corporate income taxes, property taxes, sales and other excise taxes.

“This report provides important context for New Hampshire policymakers as they endeavor to build the next state budget,” said Jeff McLynch, executive director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI). “Our tax system asks much more of those individuals who are least able to pay, making it even harder for them as they struggle to get ahead. Policymakers should explore reforms that will make the tax system more fair to hard working Granite Staters.”

 Who Pays? examines how state and local tax systems affect non-elderly individuals and families at all income levels and finds that New Hampshire’s low- and middle-income residents pay a significantly higher percentage of their income in taxes than those in the top one percent. NHFPI has published an updated fact sheet to provide context for the Granite State. Key findings for 2012 include:

  • Individuals and families that comprised the poorest fifth of taxpayers in New Hampshire, on average, paid 8.3 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes.
  • Individuals and families in the middle of the income distribution, those with incomes between $44,000 and $70,000, paid 6.6 percent in taxes.
  • The top 1 percent of income earners experienced an average effective tax rate of 2.6 percent, with an average income of slightly more than $1.3 million.

New Hampshire’s tax structure will be the focus of a panel discussion at NHFPI’s upcoming conference, Building a Better Budget: Meeting Today’s Needs, Preparing for Tomorrow. Participating panelists include Carl Davis, senior policy analyst for ITEP. Building a Better Budget will be held on Friday, January 23, 2015 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, NH. The event registration fee is $45. Pre-registration is required via the NHFPI website; online registration is available through January 14. Complete details and links to register may be found at  www.nhfpi.org/nhfpi-policy-conference.

The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to exploring, developing, and promoting public policies that foster economic opportunity and prosperity for all New Hampshire residents, with an emphasis on low- and moderate-income families and individuals. Learn more at www.nhfpi.org.

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