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.

AFL-CIO President Trumka On The 5th Anniversary of Last Minimum Wage Increase

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Today is a reminder of what is possible with just an ounce of political will.  If our leaders have the courage, they can lift millions of hardworking Americans out of poverty by raising the minimum wage. It’s a tragedy that workers have been trapped in a poverty-level minimum wage for five years. It must not go a day longer.

We are working harder than ever, while our wages are flat or falling. Over the past five years, the cost of living has continued to increase across the country, while the federal minimum wage has stayed flat. Raising the minimum wage is a critical and simple way to address a crucial underlying weakness in our economy. It will create jobs, grow our economy and increase the purchasing power of millions of workers.

The movement to raise wages is happening all around us. States are doing it. Cities, counties and little towns are doing it. Smart business owners are doing it. It’s time for Congress to get it done.

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

Save The MET: Metropolitan Opera’s Management Threatens To Lock Out Workers

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Save The Met IATSE 1Statement by Joe Hartnett, Assistant Dept. Director Stagecraft for I.A.T.S.E.

On Metropolitan Opera Management’s Threat to Lock out Performers and Backstage Employees

We want the show to go on. Our bargaining teams are very serious about hammering out an agreement with opera management. Several negotiating sessions have been scheduled over the next week. Management and their legal team have drawn red lines through our contracts, but seem to have very little understanding about what items cost or even how the opera functions backstage.  This has slowed contract talks.

A lockout would be an opera tragedy, likely resulting in a lost season and a long-term loss of operagoers and subscribers for years to come. A lockout would not only leave theater seats empty in Lincoln Center — it would result in movie theaters going dark around the globe where the Met is simulcast.

Most of all, a lockout would be an indication of management’s failure to manage productions and manage negotiations. We all should be working together to save the Met, not locking out artists and shuttering this opera house.

Joe Hartnett, I.A.T.S.E’s Assistant Department Director of Stagecraft, is coordinating negotiations for the six IA locals at the Metropolitan Opera.

Ayotte, Brown, Guinta, Garcia Call for Massive 74% Health Care Tax Hike on Granite State Working Families

Senator Kelly Ayotte Official Portrait

GOP Politicians Vow to Push a Massive 74% Tax Hike for Tens of Thousands of Granite Staters Already Using Affordable Care Act Tax Credit

Concord, NH – In light of one of yesterday’s court rulings, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown, and Congressional candidates Frank Guinta (CD1) and Marilinda Garcia (CD2) vowed to push for a massive 74% health care tax hike on the 31,000 Granite Staters already using Affordable Care Act tax credits. Up to 48,000 Granite Staters overall are eligible for the subsidy.

“Senator Ayotte, Scott Brown, Frank Guinta, and Marilinda Garcia want to repeal the health care tax credit for working families and raise health care premium costs by a whopping 74 percent,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “If these politicians had their way, more than 30,000 Granite Staters would see their premiums rise by an average of $3,480 annually. That’s even before addressing the fact that these same politicians would take away free preventative care check-ups and young adult coverage up to age 26 as part of their extreme ideological opposition to health care reform.”

The ruling trumpeted by Ayotte, Brown, Guinta, and Garcia – all Republicans – would raise costs on average $3,480 for Granite Staters who use the Affordable Care Act subsidy to afford quality health care coverage. Already, 31,000 Granite Staters use the health care tax credit; overall 48,000 are eligible to do so.

“This wouldn’t even be an issue if New Hampshire Republicans hadn’t blocked a state-based exchange out of political spite. New Hampshire would have been able to craft its own exchange, manage the enrollment process, and conduct public education to inform residents about their health care options. We wouldn’t be facing any concerns over the tax credit now,” Rice Hawkins said.

Conservatives are celebrating a federal district court ruling in Washington, D.C. yesterday that would take away health care tax credits from families and small businesses that live in states where conservative Republicans blocked a state-based exchange. It is questionable whether the district court ruling will be upheld though; the ruling was made by a majority conservative 3-judge panel and may be overturned by the full DC Circuit en banc panel, especially in light of a separate, unanimous ruling yesterday by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that upholds the subsidies. The Obama Administration has indicated tax credits will continue until a final determination is made.

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Sources:

Kaiser Family Foundation. A State-by-State Look at How the Uninsured Fare Under ACA. Accessed 7.22.14 http://kff.org/interactive/uninsured-gap/

Department of Health and Human Services, ASPE Research Brief: Profile of Affordable Care Act Coverage Expansion Enrollment for Medicaid/CHIP and the Health Insurance Marketplace, 10-2-2013 to 3-31-2014. April 2014. http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2014/MarketPlaceEnrollment/Apr2014/pdf/nh.pdf

Department of Health and Human Services, ASPE Research Brief: Premium Affordability, Competition, and Choice in the Health Insurance Marketplace, 2014. June 2014. http://aspe.hhs.gov/health/reports/2014/Premiums/2014MktPlacePremBrf.pdf

 

GOP Candidates in New Hampshire Celebrate Potential Tax Hike on Granite State Working Families

Frank Guinta 1 (Image by Mark Nassal)

 Frank Guinta 1 (Image by Mark Nassal)

Scott Brown, Frank Guinta, Andrew Hemingway, Bill O’Brien celebrate court ruling that would raise taxes for 48,000 NH working families while sending their money to other states; Potential tax hike only possible because NH Republicans refused to create a New Hampshire-run health care exchange

Concord, NH – GOP candidates up and down the ballot in New Hampshire are celebrating a potential tax hike on Granite State working families. A federal district court in Washington, D.C. today issued a ruling in the Halbig v. Burwell case that would take away health care tax credits from families and small businesses that live in states where conservative Republicans blocked a state-based exchange.

The ruling trumpeted by U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown, Congressional candidate Frank Guinta, Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Hemingway, and Speaker of the House candidate Bill O’Brien – all Republicans – would raise costs on average $3,480 for the 48,000 Granite Staters who currently use the Affordable Care Act subsidy to afford quality health care coverage or who are eligible to do so.

“On average, these Granite Staters stand to lose an annual $3,480 tax credit and yet politicians like Scott Brown and Frank Guinta are cheering,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “Scott Brown voted to continue $24 billion in tax breaks for the five largest oil companies in the United States, but he supports taking away a $3,480 tax credit from tens of thousands of New Hampshire working families. Worse, New Hampshire taxpayers would continue to pay for health care coverage for residents of other states.”

“Some of the same politicians celebrating this ruling are the very ones who got us in this predicament to start. Bill O’Brien and Andrew Hemingway worked to block New Hampshire from creating and running its own health care exchange; doing so would have allowed us to have our own uniquely New Hampshire approach and would have guarded us against this court decision,” Rice Hawkins said.

Despite the celebratory campaign statements, it is questionable whether the district court ruling will be upheld. Today’s ruling was made by a majority conservative 3-judge panel and may be overturned by the full DC Circuit en banc panel, especially in light of a separate unanimous ruling today by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that upholds the subsidies.

Poultry Inspectors Union Calls for Public Review of USDA Outsourcing Plan

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AFGE Logo 2AFGE urges government to allow public comment on rule before enactment

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees says the public should be allowed to review and comment on a U.S Department of Agriculture plan to overhaul the poultry inspection system before the rule takes effect.

By gran  [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)  Wiki Common

By gran [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) Wiki Common

USDA submitted a revised version of the rule to the Office of Management and Budget on July 10, seeking final review and approval. USDA officials have stated that “significant changes” have been made to the original proposed rule, which has been strongly criticized by AFGE and other labor and consumer groups, members of Congress, and other federal agencies.

USDA has refused to reveal what changes have been made to the proposal until the final rule is published in the Federal Register.

AFGE today sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Howard Shelanski, administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, urging a full public review of the rule before it is finalized. Specifically, AFGE is calling on the agencies to publish the revised version of the proposed rule, open it up for a 120-day public comment period, and hold public meetings on the revised proposed rule.

“Considering the importance of this rule, stakeholders and the public should be given the opportunity to comment on the ‘significant changes’ made to the proposed rule before it is finalized,” AFGE Legislative and Political Director Beth Moten wrote.

The USDA plan, which was first proposed in January 2012, would remove most federal inspectors from the slaughter line and turn over inspection activities currently performed by federal inspectors to untrained employees hired by the poultry processing plants. The proposal also would allow plants to increase their line speeds up to 175 chicken carcasses per minute, meaning that the lone remaining federal inspector on the slaughter line will have one-third of one second to examine each chicken carcass for disease, infection and contamination.

“The USDA’s original plan has been roundly criticized as a blatant attempt to cut costs without regard to the serious ramifications on the health and safety of consumers and plant workers,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “The public has a right to see what changes USDA has made to its cost-cutting plan and be able to respond to the revised plan before any action is taken.”

The chief goal of the USDA’s plan has been to save money, not to increase safety for consumers or workers, Cox said. The plan as originally proposed would save USDA about $90 million over three years, while poultry plants would reap more than $250 million a year in profits from increasing line speeds, according to the agency’s own documents.

AFT Hails Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Law

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WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s signing of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act:

“Career and technical education programs provide incredibly important pathways to success. The bipartisan bill that President Obama signed today extends the ladder of opportunity to middle-class Americans by providing the guidance, skills and training needed to compete for good 21st-century jobs. The law will help young people, the disabled, the long-term unemployed and those barely getting by on hourly wages to become economically self-sufficient.

“The workforce law provides a blueprint for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act, which has been a lifeline for job training opportunities and focuses on career and technical education programs and collaborative partnerships among employers, communities, schools and labor. We hope that as Congress works on the Perkins reauthorization, it provides much-needed funding for guidance counselors, who can help students explore career options as they contemplate their futures.

“I have witnessed how great career and technical education high schools change lives, such as New York City’s Aviation High School; New York City’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-Tech, which has IBM and the City College of New York as core partners; and the Toledo (Ohio) Technology Academy, whose partners include the United Auto Workers union. The Albert Shanker Institute and the AFT have been stalwart advocates of career and technical education programs, and we will continue our efforts to help high-quality CTE programs flourish to create innovative pathways to a high school diploma and college and career readiness.”

AFL-CIO Statement On Obama’s Executive Order To Protect Employees From Gender Discrimination

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Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on President Obama’s Executive Order Protecting Federal Employees from Gender Identity Discrimination

Working people believe in equality and fairness. That’s why we are happy to stand with President Obama in supporting protections for workers who are discriminated against on the basis of gender identity.

It is wrong for any employer to discriminate against or fire a worker based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination in the workplace has no place in the United States. That’s why it’s difficult to believe that in many parts of the country, it’s legal to fire workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

America’s unions and working families are dedicated to bringing fairness and dignity to the workplace—and will continue this work until every worker is treated with dignity and respect on the job.

We are proud to come together for a more just America.

Kuster Helps Introduce Constitutional Amendment to Reform Campaign Finance System

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Democracy for All Amendment would restore state and federal authority to limit money in political campaigns

Ann kuster head shot LGWASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), has helped introduce a constitutional amendment that would reform the campaign finance system by giving Congress and state governments the right to pass legislation to limit the influence of money in federal elections. H. J. Res. 119, the Democracy for All Amendment, would largely overturn the controversial Supreme Court decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC., which ruled that corporations and Super PACs can spend unlimited amounts of money to benefit political campaigns.

“The Citizens United and McCutcheon Supreme court decisions made a bad situation much worse by opening the floodgates for even more outside spending and undue influence on our elections,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “For our democratic government to be truly accountable and responsive to the American people, we must reform our electoral system so that every American can play an active and equal role in our elections. This amendment will go a long way towards restoring the voices of everyday people in our democracy.”

“I additionally urge Congress to pass the Government by the People Act, which would help return the power to the people by implementing a number of initiatives to boost the voices of small, grassroots donors. Together, this bill and the Democracy for All Amendment would help return us to the days when individuals, not corporations, had the greatest sway over our election results,” Kuster continued.

The Democracy for All Amendment is the House companion to S. J. Res. 19, an amendment that passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 10, 2014, and is scheduled for a vote in the U.S. Senate later this year.

In January, 2014, Congresswoman Kuster helped introduce the Government by the People Act, legislation that would amplify the voices of individuals by creating a number of public financing alternatives for grassroots donors and candidates. As part of her commitment to curbing special interests in the electoral system, Congresswoman Kuster also hosted a roundtable earlier this year with Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-03) and other stakeholders to discuss the importance of campaign finance reform.

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