The SEA-SEIU 1984 Respond To The Veto Of SB 391, The Juvenile Justice Advisory Board

Sununu Youth Services-Manchester (image by Prime Roofing Corp)

Concord, NH, July 28, 2014 – Earlier today, Governor Maggie Hassan vetoed SB 391, which would have revitalized a legislative oversight committee for Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC) and called for the appointment of a director of juvenile justice services at SYSC.

Through the Bill, the inactive Juvenile Justice Advisory Board would be revived, strengthened in composition, and would be given more of an oversight role over the center.  SYSC management changed in 2012 and was placed under the State Director of Children, Youth & Families.

Employees testifying in support of this bill reported numerous concerns about the management of the institution, safety, financial irresponsibility, and employer retaliation. Most recently, on-campus arson and incidents involving youth to youth conflicts have also been reported.

In response to budget cuts, nine staff members at SYSC were reassigned in lieu of layoff (in most instances demoted) or laid off last week.  Six of the nine affected workers were teachers.  This action decimates the education department as a whole.

“We’ve talked with half of the affected employees so far,” said Sean Bolton, SEA/SEIU 1984 Grievance Representative. “Based on our initial analysis, SYSC management inappropriately applied the state’s personnel rules to every affected employee except for one part-time teacher.” SEA/SEIU 1984 will be investigating the matter and taking subsequent action to protect the workers in question.

“The situation at SYSC seems to go from bad to worse,” said Diana Lacey, President SEA/SEIU 1984. “There have been three rounds of significant lay-offs over the last five years; all following shifts in management, philosophy and employees speaking out about their concerns. SYSC seems to be a target for retaliation.  This bill would have leveled the debate and created a balanced approach to management oversight.”

“It’s interesting that the Governor who is the ‘education governor’ and all about special education would support the gutting of the education program.  I guess it’s fine for kids with special education needs who can afford it, but not necessary for these kids,” said Will Flowers sarcastically, one of the teachers who was not affected by the budget cuts.

The veto comes the same day Governor Hassan also vetoed another bill, HB 591, that would have improved management oversight statewide.

Governor Hassan’s Veto Message Regarding SB 391 (Juvenile Justice Advisory Board)

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CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan released the following message after vetoing SB 391 today:

“By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on July 28, 2014, I have vetoed Senate Bill 391, an act relative to the juvenile justice advisory board, the policies and procedures of the youth development center and a reduction in appropriation to the Sununu Youth Services Center.

“The original legislation was well intentioned; however, a last-minute decision in conference committee resulted in a bill that I cannot support. As passed, Senate Bill 391 fundamentally shifts New Hampshire juvenile justice policy in a direction that could too strongly emphasize incarceration. This shift raises serious concerns and merits significant public debate and discussion, which unfortunately the final version of this bill did not receive.

“At the direction of the legislature through Senate Bill 349 in 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services has been working to integrate the Division of Children, Youth and Families and Juvenile Justice. That integration has not always been smooth, and it has also been challenged by legislatively mandated budget cuts specific to the Sununu Center. But, as the legislature decided just two years ago, there is significant value in integrating our system for helping children in need, and moving away from an institutional/incarceration model to the extent possible.

“This bill would require a separate director of Juvenile Justice, equivalent to the director of the Division of Children, Youth and Families. The legislation requires that the director of Juvenile Justice also be the director of the Sununu Youth Services Center.

“My office, and the department, had worked hard with legislators and supported a compromise that would have clarified the membership and responsibilities of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and would have provided a meaningful opportunity for continued review and evaluation in the integration of these essential services.

“Unfortunately, this legislation abruptly reverses state policy by once again isolating juvenile justice services from other services to children and youth, and it goes a step further by emphasizing the “incarceration” component of these services. As a state, we recognize the potential long-term negative impacts of incarceration on the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.

“While institutionalization is sometimes unavoidable given the danger some youthful offenders represent to themselves and to others, as a state we have worked to increase community placements and reduce the length of stays for children at the Sununu Center. Of the 1400 children currently under the supervision of juvenile justice services, only about 60 are in the Sununu Center.  Yet, this legislation places the director of the Sununu Center in charge of all juvenile services. Such a fundamental shift in policy comes with a high cost to both children and taxpayers and would take New Hampshire in the wrong direction.

“The original legislation began as an effort to re-establish and clarify the responsibilities of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board. That is an effort I do support, and I will work to implement to the extent possible that portion of the legislation through an Executive Order.

“In addition, the Commissioner of Health and Human Services and I share a belief that we do need a fundamental examination of our juvenile justice system and the Sununu Center, especially as we prepare to return 17-year-olds to New Hampshire’s juvenile justice system. Therefore the Department of Health and Human Services will engage an independent, organization with national expertise to conduct a review of the Sununu Center and juvenile justice services, and to make recommendations on how we can improve our juvenile justice structure, management and policies.

“An integrated, community-based approach is both the most likely to help youthful offenders put their lives back on track, and the most cost-effective for the state. This bill would undo our efforts to move in that direction. Therefore, I have vetoed Senate Bill 391.”

State Employees Association Responds To The Governor’s Veto Of SB 591 (Bullying Bill)

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SEIU 1984 LogoConcord, July 28, 2014 – Earlier today, Governor Maggie Hassan vetoed HB 591 which would have provided for a workplace free of abuse and a healthy, safe environment for state workers.

We are very disappointed in the Governor’s action.  HB 591 originated from SEA/SEIU 1984’s highest governing body in 2012 because the issue of worksite bullying is real and present across state agencies.

A committee of concerned members worked with legislators to draft the Bill.  State workers who had been on the receiving end of mistreatment provided hours of public testimony at legislative hearings and both chambers approved the bill. They also had several meetings with legislators following the hearings.

Governor Hassan has been opposed to this bill from its inception. She acknowledged there are workplace problems that are serious and yet has made only a token effort to address them on a permanent basis.

The Governor has the power to issue an Executive Order and truly lead a robust healthy workplace program that turns this situation around.  Yet, we have not seen a single draft policy or proposal come forward from the Governor’s Office in the two years that this legislation has been under consideration. Instead, the Governor’s solution was to direct the Dept. of Administrative Services to develop a “Respect in the Workplace” training for all managers and employees to view. This training consists of a PowerPoint presentation that is akin to classroom rules. It does not address or suggest remedies for the actions that are plaguing state workers in nearly every agency.

In her statement about the veto, the Governor said, “I have additionally heard numerous concerns from the business community, including the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association, which opposed the bill and are concerned about the impact of such provisions if extended to private sector employers statewide.” This statement makes it clear that Governor Hassan is far less interested in the well-being of the public servants who carry out the business of the state than the interests of private industry. It is in stark contrast to her nearly instantaneous support of striking Market Basket employees.

This bill provided a decent framework from which the Governor could have made incredible progress on this issue. Instead we are just seeing more stalling tactics, this time couched as a favor to the BIA.

SEA/SEIU 1984 will be convening its governing body to discuss next steps related to the veto.

Kuster Urges House Colleagues to Pass the Bring Jobs Home Act

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) today released the following statement urging her colleagues to pass the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would help American companies bring back jobs that have been sent overseas. Kuster is a cosponsor of the legislation:

“I’m very disappointed the Bring Jobs Home Act has not yet advanced in the House. This common sense bill would eliminate tax incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas, and instead provide a tax credit to our great American companies working to bring jobs back home. I’m a proud cosponsor of this legislation, which would help create more vitally important jobs for New Hampshire workers. I urge my colleagues in the House to put aside petty party differences and vote to pass this legislation now.”

A member of the U.S. House Small Business Committee, Congresswoman Kuster has prioritized efforts to grow the economy and create jobs here at home. She helped unveil a “Make it in America” agenda that puts forth common sense proposals to help revitalize our manufacturing sector and help American companies succeed. She included the Bring Jobs Home Act in her Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Agenda, a blueprint based on meetings with Granite State residents, families, business owners, and others, that outlines a plan to foster innovation and create jobs in New Hampshire and around the country. Kuster also routinely visits small businesses and economic development projects across the state through her Congress-At-Your-Company series to hear how she can help support their success, and she’s hosted a series of job fairs in New Hampshire to match employers with job seekers.

Gov. Hassan Rejects HB 591 (A Bill About Abusive Work Environments)

Maggie Hassan

CONCORD – Governor Maggie Hassan released the following message after vetoing HB 591 today:

“By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on July 28th, 2014, I vetoed House Bill 591, relative to an abusive work environment and the health and safety of public employees.

“In New Hampshire, our hard-working and skilled state employees consistently execute the responsibilities of state government with great competence and ability. They deserve our admiration and respect for their public service and should always be afforded, along with their private sector counterparts, the opportunity to work in a respectful and dignified environment.

“HB 591, while well-intentioned, contains a number of poorly defined and unworkable provisions that will inevitably lead to a dramatic increase in unwarranted workplace-related litigation which, in turn, will materially disrupt workplace supervision and hinder productivity within state agencies. The bill also attempts to legislate politeness, manners and the interpersonal relationships of co-workers. Ultimately, it would head us in a direction toward extending these onerous and unnecessary directives to our private sector business community, making our state an undesirable destination for expansion and economic development.

“The Attorney General, Commissioners and my office worked diligently with legislators and the State Employees Association and developed a reasonable compromise that would have served our employees well without greatly undermining the continuity and effectiveness of state government.

“However, the Senate ultimately rejected the compromise and instead elected to send an extremely flawed bill to my desk.

“Among its most onerous provisions, this legislation defines “abusive conduct” in a broad and unworkable manner based on an individual employee’s subjective perception, not on an unbiased objective standard. While I know it was not the intent of its sponsors, this bill, as written, may make the most routine workplace interactions – and the human give-and-take they entail – potential causes of action. Under this bill:

  • An individual may claim workplace abuse if an employee believes he or she has an “unreasonable” workload, even if it is a workload similar to their co-workers.
  • An individual may claim workplace abuse if his or her supervisor or co-worker uses language that “criticizes” the employee in public – even if the criticism is constructive, appropriate and done within the confines of the workplace.
  • An individual may claim workplace abuse if he or she feels his or her co-workers are not answering emails in a timely manner, and therefore “ignoring” a request for information or assistance. Given the workloads of employees, they are likely to have very different definitions of what amounts to a reasonable amount of time to respond to a non-urgent request.
  •  An individual may claim workplace abuse if a supervisor gives what the employee feels is “unreasonable criticism” outside of the typical evaluation process. Under the proposed legislation if an employee, for example, fills out the same form wrong every day, or returns late from a break every day, a supervisor who offers corrective guidance outside an annual review could be accused of bullying.
  • An individual may claim workplace abuse if a co-worker or a supervisor shows “constant and harsh displays of disrespect,” even though the legislation offers no guidance of what it means by “constant” or “harsh” or “disrespect.” For example, under this legislation, an employee would be able to claim abuse if a co-worker regularly failed to say hello in the morning.

“While many specious complaints would ultimately be dismissed by the courts, the state would still incur the time and expense of litigation. In addition, the specter of claims would create a culture of fear where supervisors are unable to manage, and a handful of employees could push their workloads onto their co-workers by filing bullying complaints.

“This bill also creates an entirely new – and expensive – system for addressing public employee complaints, without any funding to establish it. Under existing state rules, personnel complaints are expected to be made first to a supervisor and then through the agency head.

“In circumstances where employees are either uncomfortable making a complaint to their immediate supervisor or the complaint is about their immediate supervisor, existing rules also provide other avenues for redress for employees. In such cases, employees are also able to bring their complaints to other supervisors, their agency head, their human resources officers or the Division of Personnel.

“This bill effectively nullifies those standard lines of mediating workplace disputes.  In doing so, the legislation effectively ignores the fact that many instances of alleged “abusive conduct” under this legislation may not involve supervisors but instead involve co-workers. The bill would allow employees with complaints against a co-worker to circumvent the employee’s supervisor, who is often the very person best suited to address the concern.

“Under the current system, the Division of Personnel, which has limited resources, conducts investigations into sexual harassment, and some other serious cases of workplace misconduct. The Department of Labor has no experience, no expertise and no personnel for mediating such inter-personnel disputes. This legislation does not provide the Department with any funding or staff to take on this major new role. And, even if it did, HB 591 is silent on what the remedies might be, and what authority the department has to enforce a remedy.

“In proposing to enact this new set of policies, HB 591 ignores current remedies in place provided through existing personnel rules, existing administrative practices and the existing right to a private cause of action for those instances that are the most extreme in nature.

“I have additionally heard numerous concerns from the business community, including the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association, which opposed the bill and are concerned about the impact of such provisions if extended to private sector employers statewide.  In addition to the fact that this legislation will hurt state government’s ability to effectively and efficiently manage its workforce, the possibility of its application to the private sector would be counter-productive to the efforts of our innovative businesses to grow and create good jobs.

“I believe a respectful workplace is important to ensure productivity and fairness to all of our state employees. In response to the concerns I heard from employees soon after I took office, I tasked the Division of Personnel with developing a new “Respect in the Workplace” training initiative aimed at promoting a respectful and civil work environment for the benefit of all employees. Administered through the Division of Personnel in conjunction with the Employee Assistance Program, the “Respect in the Workplace” initiative provides training for both employees and supervisors to ensure that we are providing a high-quality work environment.

“Every state employee should work in a safe and respectful environment and I remain willing to work with our employees to move forward to build on and improve on these efforts.

“This legislation, however, does not accomplish that goal. It would create an expensive and likely litigious system; would incite conflicts between co-workers; and would make it difficult for supervisors to reasonably and fairly manage employees, making state government less efficient and effective. This legislation is not funded, nor are the necessary positions authorized, to perform such significant new tasks. In addition, there are reasonable – and I believe better – approaches to addressing this issue, which I remain open to working with employees to accomplish. Therefore I have vetoed HB 591.”

*           *            *

UPDATE:

The State Employees Association response to the veto message.

Rep. Jan Schmidt responds to the veto message.

Tell Governor Christie No Social Security or Medicare Cuts

Hands off my social security

Hands off my social security Rally to Oppose Cuts to Social Security and Medicare earned benefits

As budget hawks once again turn up the pressure to balance the federal budget on the backs of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, activists demanding income security for New Hampshire’s seniors will take their case to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and GOP Leaders. Gov. Christie wants to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. Our rally is to tell Christie and GOP Leaders how important Social Security is to our communities and our lives.  Medicare and Social Security are earned benefits—not welfare—and seniors are counting on our leaders to protect these benefits, not cut them. New Hampshire Seniors deserve better New Hampshire’s economy is threatened by cuts to Social Security benefits which bring $4 billion to our local communities serving 270,000 residents each year.

In New Jersey, Social Security accounts for over $24 billion of spending into the economy for 1.5 million of its residents.Social Security provides a lifeline to beneficiaries, families, and the local businesses which serve them. While some in Washington claim America can’t afford programs like Social Security and Medicare, the truth is states like New Hampshire can’t afford to lose the economic benefits they provide to every community in the state.

WHO:          Volunteers with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the Alliance for Retired Americans, the Granite State Organizing Project, and the New Hampshire Citizens Alliance

WHAT:        Rally to Oppose Cuts to Social Security and Medicare

WHEN:        Thursday, July 31 at 5:30pm

WHERE:     Fisher Cats Stadium, 1 Line Dr, Manchester, New Hampshire 03101

With millions of members and supporters across America, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare is the nation’s #1 advocacy group fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare for all citizens from younger workers and baby-boomers to the nation’s 40 million seniors. The National Committee informs its members and other citizens about legislative and regulatory proposals, which will affect their working and retirement life. In turn, we take their concerns directly to the White House and the Congress with our staff of professional lobbyists and grassroots advocates.

For more information about the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare call 1-800-966-1935

The National Committee, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization acts in the interests of its membership through advocacy, education, services, grassroots efforts and the leadership of the Board of Directors and professional staff. The work of the National Committee is directed toward developing better-informed citizens and voters.

Granite State: Political Influencers Moving In because we’re ‘Manageable in Size’

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Can’t help but see similarities between the Free Staters and Peter T. Paul, the California mortgage guy who seems to be trying to buy a seat in Congress for his friend, Dan Innis.

Here’s how the Free Staters describe why they chose New Hampshire to be their Petri dish:

On October 1, 2003 we announced that our participants had chosen New Hampshire as the future Free State. New Hampshire’s small population factored heavily in the selection process. Our research showed that 20,000 activists can heavily influence states, like New Hampshire, with populations of less than 1.5 million and our early movers report that even a few hundred can make a significant difference.

And here’s Peter Paul, explaining to the NH Business Review why he is getting into New Hampshire politics:

As for his Super PAC, Paul said he has never been involved politically before. “I prefer to watch.” So when he “dipped his toe” in the political waters at the end of January by setting up the NH Priorities PAC, a $500,000 Super PAC, it was primarily to help Innis… The PAC is also considering donating to like-minded candidates in more local races, such as the state Senate. “I like New Hampshire,” Paul said. “Because it is more manageable in size.”

So far, Paul’s PAC has reportedly spent more money than Innis’ actual campaign has – $226K spent by the PAC, compared to $187K spent by the campaign. The Washington Post calls it a “Must-have accessory for House candidates in 2014: The personalized super PAC.” So let’s follow that money. Where did it come from?

  • “Where did Peter T. Paul get his money? The man whose name adorns the UNH business school is a financier who helped create securitized low-doc loans.” Read the NH Business Review story here.
  • Read the NH Gazette story “Vulture Capitalism Comes Home to Roost” here.

“Small population.” “More manageable in size.”

That’s what they think about New Hampshire. That’s why they’re here.

Really?

 

 

Hat-Tip to Arnie Arnesen for writing the Op-Ed on Peter Paul. 

For more on the Free State Project read Matt Murray’s editorial in the Nashua Telegraph or the Concord Monitor

Beware Of The Free Staters Running For Office

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In case you missed it, the Nashua Telegraph (http://bit.ly/1tJQE9j) and the Concord Monitor (http://bit.ly/1tJQPRU) both ran an Op-Ed written by me, about the Free State Project and Dan Hynes a “Free State Mover” who is running for the NH Senate in Merrimack, Amherst, and Milford.

Here is an excerpt from the Op-Ed. Please visit one of these two site to read the full editorial.

You see, New Hampshire is the focus of a unique political experiment, started in 2001 by then-Yale University doctoral student Jason Sorens. His idea was to get 20,000 activists to move to a single state with a small population and an easily-accessible government.

As he said in his introduction to The Free State Project: “Once we’ve taken over the state government, we can slash state and local budgets, which make up a sizeable proportion of the tax and regulatory burden we face every day. Furthermore, we can eliminate substantial federal interference by refusing to take highway funds and the strings attached to them. Once we’ve accomplished these things, we can bargain with the national government over reducing the role of the national government in our state. We can use the threat of secession as leverage to do this.”

Snowplowing? Bridge safety? An adequately-funded judicial system? Public colleges? These things are nowhere on the Free Staters’ priority list.

Free Staters – at least those in Keene – seem more interested in marijuana and videotaping the city’s parking enforcement officers.

Congresswoman Kuster Urges Acting VA Secretary Gibson to Address Systemic Issues of Integrity at VA

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning during a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) questioned Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson about his plan to restore integrity to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Mr. Gibson was chosen to head up the VA after former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amidst reports of extreme mismanagement at VA medical centers across the country. Congresswoman Kuster was one of the first members of the Committee to call for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation, and during today’s hearing she pushed Acting Secretary Gibson to immediately address the issues that led to his predecessor’s resignation.

“For the past few months, witnesses have testified before the Veterans’ Affairs Committee about the appalling conditions at some of our nation’s VA medical centers, including long wait times, manipulated wait lists, and lying, deceitful employees who put their own monetary interests before the needs of our nation’s veterans,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “This mismanagement is absolutely unacceptable, and today I urged Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson to outline his plan to restore integrity to the VA so nothing like this can ever happen again. First and foremost, the VA must completely overhaul its system for awarding bonuses, and must fire any employees who made veterans wait for care in order to receive higher bonuses – and I was proud to cosponsor legislation that would give the VA power to do just that.”

“Our veterans put their lives on the line to fight for the American ideals we Granite Staters all hold dear. We owe every one of our veterans an extreme debt of gratitude, and they should never – under any circumstances – have to wait for the care they need and deserve. I hope Acting Secretary Gibson takes my concerns to heart, and does everything in his power to ensure that every employee has both the resources and the intent to do what they were hired to do – provide our nation’s veterans with excellent, high quality physical and mental health care services.”

Since allegations of long wait times at the Phoenix VA were first discovered by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Congresswoman Kuster has joined her fellow Committee members in leading an investigation into any and all allegations of mismanagement at VA centers across the nation. She has repeatedly called for increased oversight and immediate action at the VA to prevent any further mismanagement, and was one of the first members to call for a thorough, nationwide audit to uncover any other instances of abuse.

Kuster has also provided strict oversight over the VA medical centers serving New Hampshire, and she has called on the New England VA Network Director to conduct a complete review of wait times and to provide whistleblower protection for staff who come forward with information about mismanagement. She also held a roundtable discussion with Veteran Service Organizations and veteran leaders to hear about their experiences at the VA medical centers, and she continues to monitor their care in New Hampshire.

The NH State Employee’s Association (SEIU 1984) Announce The Endorsement Of Jennifer Daler For NH Executive Council District 5

Jennifer Daler

Jennifer DalerThe SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Board of Directors announced its endorsement of Jennifer Daler in the race for the open Executive Council seat in District 5. Daler lives in Temple and is running to represent Executive Council District 5, which includes 33 communities, extending along the state’s southern border, from Richmond and Swanzey in the west to Nashua and Hudson in the east, and as far north as Hillsborough and Dunbarton.  The Executive Council seat opened up when Debora Pignatelli announced she would not be seeking re-election.

After interviewing and reviewing records of the candidates, the organization’s Political Education Committee selected Daler, a former state representative, as the candidate who will best represent the district’s constituents and SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members.  Originally elected to the state House of Representatives in 2006, Daler’s special election win in 2011 became a pivotal point in helping turn the tide against the attacks on working families of the Bill O’Brien-led legislature.

“We believe Jen’s experience in the House will serve her well on the Executive Council, as she understands the value of civility and the importance of working together,” said Ken Roos, chair of the committee. “In addition, we know she is committed to making the best use of our tax dollars and keeping our economy moving in the right direction.”

While serving in the House, Daler worked hard for our most vulnerable citizens, serving on the Health and Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee.  Daler fought for working people across the state by voting against the right to work for less bill, which drives wages and benefits lower for those families that work hard and struggle to keep their homes.

“In 2011, at a critical time for our state, Jen prevailed in a tough House district despite facing crushing attacks for her stand against right to work for less,” Roos said. “She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, and we’re confident she’ll always put our families ahead of partisan politics.”

The five-member Executive Council is a critical body for SEA members and their families.  The council votes on all state expenditures over $10,000, approves all appointments of civil commissions, judges and commissioners and directors in state government. Each council district represents around 250,000 voters and is elected every two years.

Committee members said Daler is the candidate that best represents the organization’s electoral vision for the state – the Granite Strong Vision. This vision is comprised of ten points SEA/SEIU 1984 has identified as essential for the success of the state’s working families. The points are:

  • Good full-time jobs
  • Robust small and large business environment
  • Quality, affordable and accessible health care
  • Quality, affordable public education from early childhood through post-secondary
  • Clean air and water
  • Public safety
  • Strong infrastructure
  • Strong consumer protections
  • Worker rights and protections
  • Strong safety net for our most vulnerable