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.”

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

Save The Met IATSE 1

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.

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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.”