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AFL-CIO, Allies Award Grants to Innovating Community Organizers

Los Angeles Black Worker Center

The LIFT Fund is the first-of-its-kind to support collaboration and innovation around new forms of worker organizing.

(Washington, DC, Jan. 29, 2015)— Today, the AFL-CIO announced the third round of LIFT Fund grants, which will be awarded to a diverse group of organizations who are organizing workers outside of traditional models.  Past recipients include the Los Angeles Black Worker Center which helps workers such as LeDaya Epps to find good-paying jobs through apprenticeship programs. LeDaya was recently invited to the 2015 State of the Union address by First Lady Michelle Obama.

“In Oregon, we stand up for all workers and are proud to help support innovative partnerships that help with that fight,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain. “We’re proud to be a labor partner in the LIFT Fund’s grant process and even more excited to help fuel worker empowerment.”

The fund was established in 2011 as a partnership between the AFL-CIO and philanthropic institutions that share the federation’s vision for a world in which workers are treated by employers with the dignity they deserve.  Partners include the General Service Foundation, the New World Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Solidago Foundation, and the Discount Foundation. The LIFT Fund is the first-of-its-kind to support collaboration and innovation around new forms of worker organizing between Worker Centers and traditional labor.

This year’s grantees comprise a diverse set of workers and sectors, including domestic workers in Connecticut fighting to strengthen legal protections and day laborers in California working to learn new skills. The primary purpose of all grants is to support work at the local or state level and are focused on helping develop power among vulnerable populations of workers, including immigrants, African Americans, women, and rural workers. The money goes exclusively to the worker center, but envisions on the ground collaboration with the local labor movement to expand local power.

“We recognize that our struggle is inextricably linked to the fight for economic justice,” said Montague Simmons, Director of Organization for Black Struggle. “The LIFT grant will support our work to engage and organize those who have been at the forefront of our fight and who also tend to be the most vulnerable to the economic violence waged against our communities.”

Grantees are:

  • Organization for Black Struggle, St Louis, MO (Labor Partner: International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 58)
  • CLEAN Carwash, Los Angeles, CA (Labor Partner: United Steelworkers Local 675)
  • Chinese Progressive Association, San Francisco, CA (Labor Partner: UNITE HERE Local 2)
  • Community Voices Heard, New York, NY (Labor Partner: AFSCME District Council 37)
  • Lynn Worker Center for Economic Justice (Labor Partner: North Shore Labor Council)
  • Make the Road/NYCC (Labor Partner: RWSDU)
  • NDLON, Los Angeles, CA (Labor Partner: LA County Federation)
  • NDWA/Brazilian Immigrant Center, CT (Labor Partner: United Auto Workers Region 9A)
  • National Guest Workers Alliance, New Orleans, LA (Labor Partner: Ironworkers Union)
  • ROC-United, National (Labor Partners: UFCW Western States Council)
  • Sunflower/Kansas People’s Action, Wichita, KS (Labor Partner: Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation and CWA)
  • VOZ Worker Center (Labor Partner: Oregon AFL-CIO)
  • Vermont Worker Center (Labor Partner: Vermont State Labor Council)
  • Warehouse Workers Resource Council (Labor Partner: UFCW Western States Council)

Worker Wins Update: From the Casino to the Classroom, Workers Earn Critical Victories

AFL-CIO_Headquarters_by_Matthew_Bisanz2

WASHINGTON, DC– Workers across the country have stood up in the past month to fight for better wages and working conditions.

Casino Workers Hit Jackpot With Major Organizing Wins: More than 12,000 workers have organized through UNITE HERE in 2014, surpassing a goal of 10,000 set during the union’s convention. These victories include workers at hotels, airports and casinos around the country.

Nurses Win the Right Prescription for Higher Pay: Approximately 18,000 nurses in California will receive a 14 percent raise over the next three years, additional workplace protections and improved employer 401(k) contributions after reaching a tentative contract agreement with Kaiser Permanente this month. As part of the agreement, Kaiser has committed to hiring hundreds of new RNs and to providing training and employment opportunities for RN graduates.

Seatbacks, Tray tables, and Solidarity All Up for Delta Flight Attendants: Earlier this month, Delta flight attendants filed approximately 12,000 election request cards with the National Mediation Board, formally requesting a union representation election that could result in more than 20,000 workers joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). If successful, this win by Delta flight attendants would represent the largest ever organizing victory by transportation sector workers.

Bluegrass State Workers See Green With Minimum Wage Increase:Members of the Louisville Metro Council voted to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2017, making Louisville the first city in the South to raise their minimum wage, and the 12th city to raise it in 2014.

Louisiana Hospital Employees Serve Up a Big Plate of Respect: Shortly before the Christmas holiday, approximately 250 Sodexo cafeteria staff members at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport have joined AFSCME Local 2649, citing a lack of respect on the job and an opportunity to improve working conditions.

Silver Airlines Flight Attendants Strike Gold Through Organizing: Flight attendants from Silver Airways, a Fort Lauderdale, FL based airline partnered with United, voted to join the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA earlier this month. Flight attendants will now work on improving working conditions and safety standards through a new contract.

Big Easy Hospitality Workers Score Big Organizing Win: Late last year, approximately 900 employees at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino organized with UNITE HERE and entered contract negotiations. This win doubles the amount of organized hospitality industry workers in New Orleans.

Today’s Lesson: How to Raise Wages for Professors: Earlier this month, over 400 part-time adjunct professors have voted to form a union at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The newly unionized professors cited raising wages, job security, and benefits as reasons for organizing.

Sysco Drivers Deliver Better Working Conditions Through Organizing Campaign: Last month, more than 400 Sysco drivers, warehouse workers, fleet and facility maintenance workers, and shuttle yard drivers organized in response to unfair working conditions and uncertain job security.

Safety Groups Call for OSHA Reforms

NCOSH 300X250

Workers and Public Should Have Enhanced Access

to Review Commission, says National COSH

NCOSH 300X250LONGMEADOW, MA – The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) has filed a petition before the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), calling for greater worker and public participation in Commission proceedings.

“Workers know best how to prevent the hazards that cause injuries, illnesses and death on the job,” said Mary Vogel, Executive Director of National COSH. “To make sure our workplaces are safer, workers’ voices must be heard loud and clear. And we need to shine as much light as possible on what is too often hidden from view – the unsafe practices that put workers at unnecessary risk on every shift, day and night, every day of the week.”

“For 44 years, the OSH Act has explicitly given workers the clear right to be involved when employers appeal OSHA citations,” said Eric Frumin, Health and Safety Director for the labor union coalition Change to Win. “As conditions change and employers try to narrow worker participation, the Commission must keep its rules current and preserve this fundamental right.”

“When employees appear before the Review Commission, they should get a fair shake and be full participants,” said Randy Rabinowitz, Co-Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Law Project.

According to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 4,400 workers died in 2013 following on-the-job incidents. BLS data shows more than 3 million non-fatal workplace injuries in 2013, and a University of California study estimates more than 50,000 U.S. deaths annually from long-term illnesses related to workplace exposure.

The Review Commission, created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, hears appeals of OSHA violations and penalties issued against employers following OSHA inspections. With OSHA doing nearly 40,000 inspections annually, the Commission hears some 2,700 employer appeals every year. Many of these cases involve critical issues for the workers affected. The outcome can literally determine whether workers will suffer serious injury or die if employers don’t fix the violations.

The OSHRC is currently considering revisions to its procedural rules. In a petition filed Friday, Jan. 23rd by the Occupational Safety and Health Law Project, National COSH joined North America’s Building Trades Unions, Change to Win and the United Steelworkers, calling for specific changes to enhance worker and public participation.

National COSH and its partners in this petition filing are calling for:

An expanded definition of “affected employee”

As of now, only a worker who is directly employed by an employer with a case before the Review Commission can participate as a party to OSHRC proceedings. With more and more companies using temporary and contract workers — who may be “directly” employed by a different company such as a staffing agency– National COSH and fellow petitioners argue that OSHRC should allow full participation by any worker at a multi-employer worksite who is affected by the hazard or violation under appeal.

This is similar to the existing standard used by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when assessing safety hazards at construction sites, which typically involve multiple employers.

A consistent right for workers to select their own representatives at Review Commission hearings

Although the OSH Act allows employees the right to select individuals or organizations to represent them during Commission proceedings, this provision of Federal law is not always honored in practice. “OSHRC judges,” the petition states, “have expressed skepticism, if not downright hostility, to the individuals who have sought to represent workers before OSHRC, or have imposed unreasonable limits on a representative’s participation.”

The petitioners seek to clarify that the Review Commission’s existing rules allow a worker to choose an attorney, pastor, community organization, union or other representative to act on their behalf, with no limits placed on participation by chosen representatives.

More sunlight on Review Commission proceedings:

Under current Commission rules, any statement or information offered during settlement talks regarding major cases before the Review Commission is treated as confidential, regardless of the source of the information.

This overly restrictive confidentiality rule, petitioners point out, is narrower than Federal Rules of Evidence.  It has the unfortunate side effect of preventing workers from using information obtained outside of Review Commission proceedings as part of ongoing efforts to improve workplace conditions. As petitioners argue, employees

“[L]earn about everyday working conditions, hazards employees face and violations during their daily work activities. They… have a right to demand improvements in working conditions and to bargain with employers to gain safer workplaces. They also have a right to communicate with the public in their efforts to improve their working conditions.”

“No worker should be silenced just because his or her employer tries to hide unsafe practices behind a cloak of so-called ‘confidentiality’ while trying to settle an OSHA citation,” said Vogel. “As the Review Commission seeks to update its procedures, the common sense reforms we are suggesting will help it function more effectively for all parties and uphold the public’s interest in creating safer workplaces.” 

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace.  “Preventable Deaths 2014,” a National COSH report, describes workplace fatalities in the United States and how they can be prevented. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.  Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.

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.

Governor Hassan Declares State of Emergency, Closes State Government on Tuesday in Advance of Winter Storm

Maggie Hassan

Governor Also Encourages Granite Staters to Avoid Travel and to Take Precautions

CONCORD – In advance of a major winter storm that is expected to bring heavy snowfall and high winds, Governor Maggie Hassan today declared a State of Emergency and announced that state government will be closed on Tuesday, January 27, for personnel not essential to public safety, public health or the storm response.

“In advance of the major winter storm that is expected to bring heavy snowfall and high winds, we have been working with state emergency management officials, other state agencies, local communities and utilities to take every precaution to ensure the safety of our people and communities,” Governor Hassan said. “I am declaring a State of Emergency and closing state government tomorrow for personnel not essential to public safety, public health or the storm response, and I encourage private companies and local governments to do the same.”

 “With possible whiteout and blizzard-like conditions throughout the day, Granite Staters should stay at home if at all possible and avoid the roads, as they will be dangerous,” Governor Hassan said. “People should make sure that they have emergency supplies and are prepared to stay at home for one or two days, and I ask you to check on your neighbors, especially the elderly or people with disabilities, throughout the course of the storm.”

The state Emergency Operations Center will open at midnight and remain open as long as necessary depending on the duration and severity of the storm, and National Guard personnel have been notified to be ready to assist with storm response as well.

Governor Hassan and state emergency management officials have been communicating directly with local emergency response agencies, school districts and utilities. Widespread power outages are not expected, but the utilities have emergency plans in place and extra response crews on standby.

State public safety and emergency management officials are working with local entities to open warming stations and shelters as needed. For more information about shelters, including the closest pet-friendly shelter, residents can contact 2-1-1 NH toll-free by dialing 2-1-1 in state or 1-866-444-4211 from out of state.

The storm will begin tonight, with the heaviest snowfall expected between midnight tonight and noon tomorrow, with up to one or two inches of snow per hour. Visibility will be low, with possible whiteout conditions throughout the day, and winds are expected to exceed 50 miles per hour.

By 7 p.m. Tuesday night, the southeastern part of the state could receive 14-20 inches of snow, while central New Hampshire could receive 10-14 inches and northern New Hampshire up to 10 inches. In addition to a blizzard warning for eastern Hillsborough, Rockingham and Strafford Counties and winter storm warning for all other counties except for northern Coos, the National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood warning.

In addition to stocking up on emergency supplies, such as water and canned food, in advance of the storm, New Hampshire residents are encouraged to take the following precautions:

  • Monitor weather conditions via news media, NOAA weather radio or Internet sources.
  • Avoid road travel if at all possible during the storm to allow public works crews to clear and treat the roads.
  • Anyone who has to drive should slow down, allow extra space between vehicles and follow all traffic signs and notices. Drivers could experience sudden whiteout conditions during high wind gusts and should be prepared to be stranded in cold temperatures.
  • Keep vehicle fuel tanks at least half full.
  • Monitor snow loading, especially on flat roofs.
  • Be a good neighbor and check on the well-being of relatives and acquaintances, especially the elderly or others with special needs.
  • If the power goes out:
    • Use flashlights and battery-powered lanterns, not candles, for emergency lighting.
    • Operate emergency generators safely, with exhaust directed away from buildings.
    • Never use outdoor cooking appliances indoors because of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • Report the outage to your electric utility.
    • Stay clear of downed wires. Always assume downed power lines are live.

Additional information, including safety and preparedness tips, is available at http://www.nh.gov/readynh/.

Building a Better Budget Examines State Budget Priorities, State Tax System; Strategies to Strengthen NH’s Middle Class

Taxes Cartoon

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI) today convened Building a Better Budget: Meeting Today’s Needs, Preparing for Tomorrow to provide a forum for dialogue around how to build a budget that allows the Granite State to create, maintain, and restore the public structures that are vital to a vibrant economy.

“New Hampshire’s budget is a statement of priorities, a reflection of the values that we hold as a state, as a society, as a people,” said NHFPI Executive Director Jeff McLynch. “It is time to begin a thoughtful dialogue around how the state sets priorities and how we can ensure that New Hampshire is a place where everyone has access to opportunities to thrive and prosper.”

The event opened with a panel discussion which examined several key elements of New Hampshire’s state budget, with an emphasis on current and long-term needs pertaining to transportation, higher education, mental health, and income support programs. Panelists included Christopher Clement, former commissioner, New Hampshire Department of Transportation; Amy Messer, legal director, Disability Rights Center; Kristyn Van Ostern, associate vice chancellor and chief financial officer, Community College System of New Hampshire; and Ife Floyd, policy analyst, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

A second panel of national tax policy experts examined New Hampshire’s revenue system and offered insights into how other states approach taxation and practices that would make the Granite State’s revenue system more sound and more fair. Panelists included Norton Francis, senior research associate, Urban Institute; Carl Davis, senior policy analyst, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy; and Dan Bucks, former director for the Montana Department of Revenue.

The nearly 140 participants, which included New Hampshire legislators, nonprofit and community leaders, and concerned citizens, were provided with an opportunity to engage in dialogue around how New Hampshire could build a budget that better meets the needs of low- and moderate-income families and individuals struggling to get by.

The event concluded with a keynote address by Anna Chu, director of the Middle-Out Economics project at the Center for American Progress, who illustrated how a strong and stable middle class is the key driver of economic growth and outlined strategies to help New Hampshire support its middle-class and increase economic opportunities for all Granite Staters.

NHFPI’s second annual policy conference, Building a Better Budget was made possible with the support of lead event sponsor the National Education Association-NH (NEA-NH) and the following partner organizations: Child and Family Services, American Federation of Teachers-NH (AFT-NH), New Futures, Full Circle Consulting, Louis Karno and Company, and Kieschnick Consulting Services.

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.

 

McCain Amendment to Keystone Pipeline Bill Blasted as a Job Killer by Sea Captains’ Union

John McCain (Image by Gage Skidmore CC Flikr)
John McCain (Image by Gage Skidmore CC Flikr)

(Image by Gage Skidmore CC Flikr)

 International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots Asks:       If Keystone is a “Jobs Bill” Why Would Congress Want to Send 400,000 Maritime Jobs in 26 States Overseas? 

WASHINGTON  –  S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, has been described as a “jobs bill” by the pipeline’s proponents since Keystone XL was first proposed, but a new amendment introduced by Arizona Sen. John McCain would turn S.1 into a “job killer” of epic and irreversible proportions.  The McCain amendment would gut a significant part of the Jones Act, a set of laws dating back to the 1920s that has helped build and maintain a domestic shipbuilding industry. Maritime unions and maritime industry groups are now mobilizing against the amendment’s passage. Among those actively opposing passage are the Maritime Labor Alliance and its coalition of maritime unions, and others in maritime and transportation labor, along with the Shipbuilders Council of America and the American Maritime Partnership.

“In Washington sometimes up is down and offense is defense, but an amendment that seeks to eliminate highly-skilled steady middle-class jobs employing hundreds of thousands of our countrymen should never be called good for America,” said Captain Don Marcus, who serves as the President of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, a union representing sea captains and deck officers on U.S. flagged vessels. “This is beyond hypocrisy,” he added.

McCain’s amendment, which has nothing to do with a pipeline that traverses the largely landlocked states of the Great Plains, seeks to repeal the build provisions of the Jones Act, the cabotage laws that require ships plying domestic waters to be built in the United States.

If S.1 is passed with McCain’s amendment included, it would decimate the nation’s shipping industry, eliminating as many as 400,000 U.S. jobs spread over 26 states, lead to the closing of shipyards and related industries, reduce GDP by an estimated $36 billion and erase $24 billion in American workers’ wages and benefits, according to figures compiled by the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department.

Using Florida as an example, 21,890 shipyard jobs generating $1.6 billion in annual economic activity would be at risk, including more than $1 billion in labor income, according to the U.S Maritime Administration.

The economic threat to their state’s largest private sector business is why Mississippi Senators, Republicans Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, have publicly opposed McCain’s amendment. Shipbuilding represents 23,450 jobs in Mississippi. The industry’s economic impact to the Gulf Coast state’s GDP is $2 billion, according to figures from the American Maritime Partnership.

Senators from across the aisle, including Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), oppose the change to the Jones Act.  Both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have significant shipbuilding industries.

The parties that would most benefit from this amendment are heavily subsidized foreign shipping competitors not subject to U.S. laws, regulations, environmental standards and taxes.  Inexplicably, Senator McCain and his supporters would rather see fuel and cargo hauled in U.S. waters on tankers and freighters built overseas and operated by foreign crews rather than American-made ships staffed by U.S. citizens. “It’s outrageous that John McCain is doing this,” said Marcus.

Beyond the threat to the domestic economy, this amendment would also threaten national security by destabilizing the military’s strategic sealift needs. The Jones Act ensures that the U.S. has a reliable source of domestically built ships and skilled American crews available for its military and humanitarian aid operations. “Without the sealift capability and American maritime jobs provided by the Jones Act and the Maritime Security Program,” said Marcus, “the U.S. Armed Forces would be forced to rely on foreign-flag ships and crews with unknown loyalties to transport critical military cargo and personnel to overseas operations. Bad idea.” Among the groups that have voiced opposition to the McCain Amendment is the Navy League of the United States.

For more information on the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, please visit www.bridgedeck.org

Shaheen, Kuster, and NH Democrats Praise Pres. Obama’s State Of The Union Address

SOTU

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) released the following statement on President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address:

“Every time I’m in New Hampshire, the message I hear from people throughout the state is clear: people want Congress to work across the aisle to strengthen our middle class and expand economic opportunity. While we’ve seen economic improvement in recent years, too many are being left behind, and more must be done to move our economy forward.

“We should all be encouraged by many of the proposals unveiled this evening that will promote economic growth and job creation. Whether it’s efforts to make higher education more affordable for young people, reforming our tax code, or investing in alternative energy sources to lower costs and create jobs, Congress should now renew our commitment to growing our economy and helping small businesses succeed. I look forward to working across the aisle this year to act on these types of proposals on behalf of our economy and middle class.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) released the following statement following President Obama’s annual State of the Union address:

“Since taking office, I’ve been focused on helping create more jobs and opportunity for our Granite State workers. Although we’ve come a long way, too many Granite Staters continue to struggle. This year, we must continue to focus on strengthening economic security for our middle class families.”

“There are a number of steps I believe we must take in order to support our middle class. First of all, we must work together to make college more affordable for our students, so every Granite Stater can go on to successful jobs and careers. But we also must ensure that those jobs stay here at home – and that’s why we must eliminate tax loopholes for companies that ship good American jobs overseas.  Instead, I support cutting taxes on our middle class, so our families take home more money at the end of the day, which they can reinvest in our economy and help move our nation forward.”

“From fighting to raise the minimum wage, to supporting equal pay for equal work for all men and women, to supporting the expansion of paid family leave, I’ve made fighting for the middle class a priority this year and every year ahead. I encourage the President and my fellow members of Congress to join with me in fighting for the issues that matter to all of us at home in New Hampshire, and I look forward to continuing to work across the aisle to fight for initiatives that will strengthen our middle class and help our economy grow.”

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley released the following statement on President Obama’s State of the Union Address:

“The President once again laid out the clear differences between the Democratic vision of strengthening our middle class and expanding opportunity for all and the Republican plan to continue putting the interests of big businesses first while middle class families pay the price.”

“Middle class economics have helped put our economy back on the right track over the past six years, and Democrats will keep fighting to build on our progress to ensure that all Americans are included in our shared success.”

“We have much more work to do, and Granite Staters know that Senator Shaheen and Congresswoman Kuster will keep working tirelessly to bring our New Hampshire traditions of bipartisan problem solving to Washington in order to move our economy forward.”

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka on the State of the Union Address

Richard_Trumka

President Obama eloquently and forcefully advocated for working families throughout his State of the Union Address this evening. The President’s focus on raising wages through collective bargaining, better paying jobs, a fairer tax code, fair overtime rules, and expanded access to education and earned leave sent the right message at the right time. So did his embrace of union apprentices and immigrants who want to achieve the American Dream. The President has again demonstrated his strong commitment to creating an economy that truly works for all working people.

Fighting income inequality is one of the biggest challenges of our time. As Oxfam recently reminded us, the world’s wealth continues to be increasingly concentrated in the hands of a very few. If we are serious about solving this monumental challenge, the size of the solutions must meet the scale of the problem. We must have a similarly vigorous response to the barriers to raising wages: our opposition to fast-tracked trade deals that are giant giveaways to big corporations must be resolute. We can’t face the competitive challenge of China with a trade deal that fails to adequately address currency manipulation, climate change or that gives corporations rights that people don’t have.

Now is the time for politicians to champion a Raising Wages agenda that ties all the pieces of economic and social justice together. America has now heard what the President thinks about this agenda. We thank the president for his passion and his advocacy. We are ready to see what he and Congress will do about it. That is the ultimate standard of accountability.

New England Lawmakers Call For Assessment Of FairPoint Emergency Network Capabilities

FairPoint Communications

Call follows outages of both New Hampshire and Vermont emergency communication networks 

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Annie Kuster (D-NH) are calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to assess the ability of FairPoint Communications to operate emergency communications networks in New Hampshire and Vermont. In a letter to Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, the lawmakers specifically cited concerns about outages in both New Hampshire and Vermont that have caused lapses in emergency communications services, including a six-hour outage of Vermont’s E-911 system and a four-hour outage of Portsmouth, New Hampshire 911 services. A majority of Fairpoint Communications workers have been on strike since October 17, 2014.

“Since this labor impasse began, FairPoint’s networks and equipment have failed with increasing frequency and complaints from the company’s customers have soared,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are particularly alarmed that problems with FairPoint’s network have caused service outages for police departments, fire departments, and other critical public safety agencies across both New Hampshire and Vermont.”

“Any 911 call that is not connected to emergency responders is a matter of significant concern and potentially serious consequence, which is why we very much appreciate the FCC’s recent focus on addressing vulnerabilities in critical emergency communications networks to reduce 911 outages,” they continued.

“We urge you to immediately request that FairPoint provide the Federal Communications Commission with a full assessment of the causes of the recent system outages in Vermont and New Hampshire and to identify remedies to prevent similar problems in the future,” they concluded.

The ongoing strike by nearly 2000 FairPoint employees across New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont has been accompanied by disrupted service for a number of public safety agencies as well as hundreds of customers throughout the region, potentially jeopardizing emergency communications and police and fire services.

The full text of the lawmaker’s letter is included below:

 January 21, 2015

The Honorable Tom Wheeler
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20536

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

We write regarding recent FairPoint Communications service outages that have impacted the Vermont E911 system and public safety agencies in both Vermont and New Hampshire.

As you may be aware, the majority of FairPoint’s workforce in Vermont and New Hampshire has been on strike since October 17, 2014. Since this labor impasse began, FairPoint’s networks and equipment have failed with increasing frequency and complaints from the company’s customers have soared. We are particularly alarmed that problems with FairPoint’s network have caused service outages for police departments, fire departments, and other critical public safety agencies across both New Hampshire and Vermont.

For example, a November 28 hardware failure – that was unrelated to weather events – caused an almost six-hour outage of Vermont’s E-911 system. FairPoint’s failure to report, respond and repair the equipment failure in a timely manner resulted in more than 80 missed calls from Vermonters to emergency dispatchers at the State Police, Montpelier City Police, and Vermont Gas, potentially endangering lives and property across the state.  As a result of this outage, the Vermont Department of Public Service has initiated a service quality investigation.  In New Hampshire, a December 3 service failure resulted in a four-hour outage in 911 service in Portsmouth.

Any 911 call that is not connected to emergency responders is a matter of significant concern and potentially serious consequence, which is why we very much appreciate the FCC’s recent focus on addressing vulnerabilities in critical emergency communications networks to reduce 911 outages. Consistent with that effort, and given FairPoint’s critical role supporting emergency communications throughout Vermont and New Hampshire, we respectfully request that the FCC evaluate whether FairPoint remains capable of providing emergency communications services that our citizens and first responders can depend on in times of crisis. We hope that the FCC will act swiftly in this regard, particularly considering the frequent inclement weather in Northern New England during winter and the potential for both further damage to FairPoint’s network and weather-related public safety emergencies.

We urge you to immediately request that FairPoint provide the Federal Communications Commission with a full assessment of the causes of the recent system outages in Vermont and New Hampshire and to identify remedies to prevent similar problems in the future. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator

Patrick Leahy
United States Senator

Bernard Sanders
United States Senator

Peter Welch
United States Representative

Ann McLane Kuster
United States Representative

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