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Sen. Shaheen Blasts House GOP Over Partisan Attacks On Women’s Healthcare

Shaheen Calls for End to Politically Motivated Attacks Against Women’s Healthcare Providers and Researchers at House Committee Hearing 

April 20, 2016 – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen testifying at House Committee hearing

April 20, 2016 – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen testifying at House Committee hearing

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) appeared before a House panel, established by Republicans in Congress, to investigate women’s healthcare providers and health researchers. Shaheen testified on the need to end the politically motivated investigations that were formed based on highly edited and discredited videos.

Over the weekend, Senator Shaheen penned an op-ed with Governor Maggie Hassan denouncing the attacks in New Hampshire and across the country on Planned Parenthood, including the five separate taxpayer-funded investigations launched by Republican leadership in Congress in the last year.

Senator Shaheen’s full testimony is included below and her remarks can be viewed here.

Senator Shaheen:

Thank you very much Chairwoman Blackburn, Ranking Member Schakowsky and members of the Committee, I very much appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning but I do so with great concern.  

I know you will hear from my colleague, Senator Sasse from Nebraska, and I respect his deeply held personal beliefs. 

But if we want to have a civil discussion on this issue, we should begin with the facts. Already, news articles today have called into question the validity of the exhibits that will be presented to the panel.   

This Committee’s very existence was founded on the basis of highly deceptive, edited videos. These videos have since been proven to be misleading and false by multiple independent investigations across the country. 

In January, after thorough investigations into the videos, a Texas grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing and indicted the individuals responsible for their creation. In fact, twelve other states have also cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing, and eight additional states have declined to investigate, citing a lack of evidence.   

I believe it’s now time for the special investigations to end.

I’d also like to point out that fetal tissue research has long had bipartisan support. In 1993, Congress passed the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act, which permits fetal tissue research. That bill passed with overwhelming support:  94-4 in the Senate and 290-130 in the House. And I think it is important to note, that that bill was based on recommendations of a blue-ribbon panel convened under President Reagan which was tasked with studying the ethics of fetal tissue research. 

Millions of people have benefitted from fetal tissue research. Vaccines for polio and rubella were developed as a result of research done on fetal tissue. And research on health issues that touch so many of us— Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, eye disorders and spinal cord injuries have also benefitted from the 1993 law.

If it the panel’s desire to change the law, obviously you as legislators are able to do that. But I believe it would be a grave error.   

Sadly, it’s my belief that this panel was formed with political motivations. There is very little real interest in an unbiased investigation to uncover facts related to women’s health or research. 

Instead, I believe that this panel serves as an opportunity for some to once again attack the health care providers whom millions of women and families depend on. 

In February, I joined with colleagues in both chambers to ask House and Senate leadership to disband this panel and all other Congressional investigations that would undermine women’s access to health care.  

Not only do I believe that this panel is an inappropriate and wasteful misuse of federal resources, but I am gravely concerned that it also puts researchers, providers and patients across this country at risk.   

Unfortunately, as a result of the political rhetoric surrounding this issue, we’ve seen violent acts and threats against women’s health providers and researchers across the country.  

And I’m very sad to report that this fall – the same month that this panel was formed—a women’s health clinic in Claremont, New Hampshire, was vandalized not once, but twice. The second attack caused so much damage that the clinic was forced to close for nearly six weeks. This was a real disservice to the women, men and families who rely on the full range of services that the clinic provides.  

And unfortunately, New Hampshire is not alone. After the release of the deceptive, highly-edited videos, incidents of harassment against some health centers increased nine fold in just one month. 

I don’t believe that today’s hearing is a fact-based objective investigation, but rather it is a taxpayer funded political attack based on discredited evidence. I hope it will finally be time to move on.

Bipartisan Senate Energy Bill Will Strengthen Economy and Unlock Good Jobs and Clean Energy

 Washington, D.C.  – Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – made the following statement today on Senate passage of S. 2012, The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2012 crafted by Senators Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Portman (R-Ohio), Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Cantwell (D-Washington):

“On behalf of the 500,000 members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, I commend the Senate on their bipartisan vote (85-12) in favor for much needed energy legislation that will strengthen our economy and unlock good jobs and clean energy.

The bill streamlines the process for construction of pipelines on federal land and the natural gas export permit application process, which will help position the United States to lead globally as a clean energy super power, bring affordable energy to U.S. consumers, and create good jobs. It will also increase investment in renewable energies such as wind, solar, and hydropower and amend the Federal Power Act to encourage hydropower development by extending the total period for preliminary permits.

The bill has important provisions to incentivize energy efficiency for new state and commercial building construction; including a requirement that the Department of Energy work closely with manufacturers to invest in the research, development and commercialization of updated energy efficient technologies.

Senate Bill 2012 also addresses critical gaps in America’s nuclear energy research and production. LIUNA strongly believes that nuclear energy is not only integral to a clean energy economy, but it provides good jobs for workers across the country.

LIUNA urges the Senate and House to work together so that this bill can be conferenced and presented to the President and become law.” 

Planned Parenthood Votes Releases Scathing New Ad Targeting Kelly Ayotte

Kelly Ayotte PPNNE AD“Enough is enough. Kelly Ayotte’s bad politics could have repercussions for a lifetime.” 

Washington, DC — Planned Parenthood Votes has gone on-air with its first ad buy of the 2016 Senatorial election cycle — a nearly $400,000 TV ad buy hitting New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte on her abysmal record on women’s health, and her obstruction of the Supreme Court nomination process.

 

The ad, “Lifetime,” focuses on Kelly Ayotte’s long-time opposition to reproductive health, in particular her previous assertion that the right to safe, legal abortion should be overturned, and that it should be done via the Supreme Court. The ad is paid for by Planned Parenthood Votes, a national independent expenditure political committee. Though Planned Parenthood Votes has previously gone on-air in the 2016 presidential election, this is the committee’s first time going on air for a senate race in the 2016 cycle. It will be running on broadcast and cable in New Hampshire. 

Kelly Ayotte is one of the key Senators preemptively calling to block the president’s Supreme Court nominee before ever holding a hearing. While she has met with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Kelly Ayotte is still refusing to do her job and give the president’s nominee a fair hearing with an up-or-down vote. The American people deserve a full court and a justice appointed by the president they elected for four years — not three—and Kelly Ayotte’s extreme position abdicating her constitutional duty in order to obstruct the creation of a fully functional branch of our government is unconscionable.

Kelly Ayotte has voted repeatedly to “defund” Planned Parenthood, and has even voted against equal pay legislation. This Senator has spent years calling for an end to safe, legal abortion and for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, and even went so far as to circulate a letter urging support for a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks that included extreme provisions for rape survivors. Furthermore, Kelly Ayotte won’t protect access to birth control coverage, and proposed a plan that would make more women pay for birth control by undermining the health law that gave nearly 300,000 New Hampshire women access to no-copay birth control.

Statement from Deirdre Schifeling, Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood Votes:

“Kelly Ayotte may try to paint herself as pro-woman, but her record tells a very different story. Every chance she’s gotten she’s voted to ‘defund’ Planned Parenthood and cut women off from essential health care like birth control and breast and cervical cancer screenings. She has been advocating for years to ban women’s access to safe, legal abortion, and it’s clear she now sees her chance in the Supreme Court process. Kelly Ayotte is refusing to do her job, and abdicating her constitutional duty, in order to push an extreme agenda that no one in New Hampshire wants. Enough is enough. Kelly Ayotte’s bad politics could have repercussions for a lifetime.”

Statement from Jennifer Frizzell, Vice President, Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund:

“Kelly Ayotte continues to advance an extreme agenda which would deprive New Hampshire women of critical reproductive health services in direct contrast to the wishes of the citizens of New Hampshire who demonstrate strong bipartisan support for access to safe, legal abortion and for access to Planned Parenthood health services. Ayotte’s latest obstruction in refusing to even consider the President’s Supreme Court nominee will have real life consequences for New Hampshire women and could jeopardize access to safe and legal abortion for women across this country for generations to come.”

Kelly Ayotte is facing a contentious race to keep her Senate seat this fall, which is understandable considering her record in New Hampshire includes voting to make college more expensive and voting to repeal health coverage for nearly 50,000 Granite Staters.

According to the polls, Ayotte’s dismal record of voting consistently to “defund” Planned Parenthood will have an even more negative impact on her already at-risk Senate race. 

A survey conducted in 2015 by Hart Research shows that voters in the battleground state of New Hampshire strongly support Planned Parenthood, and oppose Ayotte’s position to “defund” the organization — blocking patients who rely on federal funding from accessing preventive health services, including the cancer screenings and family planning services like birth control that Planned Parenthood provides to millions of women in communities across the country.

Key findings from the survey includes:

  • 66 percent of New Hampshire voters oppose blocking patients from accessing Planned Parenthood’s preventive health services, including 72 percent of Independents.
  • 75 percent of voter polled in New Hampshire, including majorities of Republican voters, have an unfavorable reaction to the idea of shutting down the federal government to block any funding for Planned Parenthood.
  • By a two to one margin, voters in battleground states including New Hampshire are less likely to vote to re-elect their senators if they vote to block patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood.

Fourteen separate national polls conducted since last June show strong support for Planned Parenthood and extraordinarily strong opposition to blocking patients from care.

Ayotte Skipped Nearly Half Of Her Committee Meetings On Substance Abuse And Homeland Security

Ayotte Confirms She Skipped Hearings on Substance Abuse & National Security While Making Time for Campaign Fundraiser, Other Unspecified “Conflicts” 

Ayotte Pressed on Missing 47% of Homeland Security Committee Meetings, Including 45% on Border Security, Two-Thirds on Drug Trafficking 

Concord, N.H. – WMUR reported today on Kelly Ayotte’s skipped hearings, noting that Ayotte confirmed that while she skipped several hearings on national security and substance abuse, she made time for campaign fundraisers and other unknown “scheduling conflicts.” 

WMUR reported: “Ayotte missed a hearing that focused on ‘curbing prescription drug abuse’ on June 24, 2013 before her campaign held a fundraiser for the telecommunications industry…. a month earlier, on May 13, 2013, Ayotte missed a hearing on the nomination of a new deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Ayotte was listed as a co-host earlier that day for a National Republican Senatorial Committee fundraiser lunch in New York City.”

Two other missed hearings mentioned by the WMUR report include a May 14, 2014 Homeland Security Hearing related to chemical facilities anti-terrorism standards and another Homeland Security Committee Hearing on October 28, 2015 to assess the state of America’s biodefense. Ayotte’s campaign failed to disclose what “scheduling conflicts” kept the Senator from these hearings on the United States’ national security. 

This report comes on the heels of a story in Politico that revealed that Ayotte missed 47% of Homeland Security Committee Meetings, including 45% of those on border security and two-thirds on drug trafficking.

“Skipping hearings while making time to attend fundraisers shows just how much Kelly Ayotte is willing to put her special interest backers and party leaders before the people of New Hampshire who elected her to do her job,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “It’s troubling that Ayotte found time to fundraise for her reelection campaign while skipping hearings focused on protecting public health and safety. The people of the Granite State deserve better.”

Open Democracy Announces New Executive Director, Olivia Zink

Open Democracy

CONCORD – Olivia Zink has been named as executive director of Open Democracy, the nonpartisan nonprofit organization founded in 2009 by New Hampshire’s legendary campaign finance reformer Doris “Granny D” Haddock.

Zink, who lives in Franklin and was recently elected to the Franklin City Council, will oversee the work of Open Democracy and support the continuing work of the New Hampshire Rebellion in their joint mission of  “Political equality for all and an open, honest and trusted government ‘of, by, and for’ the people in New Hampshire, free of the corruption of big-money politics.”

“We are so pleased to welcome back Olivia and so fortunate to have someone of her incredible expertise, accomplishments, energy, and commitment leading the way in restoring the right of political equality and an equal voice for all NH citizens,” said Gordon Allen, Co-Chair of the Board.

  “I am excited to join Open Democracy and New Hampshire Rebellion, working to strengthen New Hampshire’s democracy movement and stop the corrupting influence of special interest money in politics,” Zink said.  “It will be an honor to lead the efforts to educate and engage New Hampshire citizens through nonpartisan grassroots campaigns, film and theatrical events, a national speaker series, research and publications, and local and state advocacy initiatives.”

Open Democracy recently moved its main office from Manchester back to its 4 Park St. office in Concord.  Zink replaces Daniel Weeks, who is running for a seat on the N.H. Executive Council from District 5. 

Zink worked most recently as the Grassroots Engagement Coordinator for the Governing Under the Influence project organized by the American Friends Service Committee’s Concord office.  Prior to that she was the Program Director for Open Democracy for four years. 

She has been a community organizer in New Hampshire for 16 years, working on a broad range of campaigns for economic and social justice, and has worked with groups including the New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and the Priorities NH Campaign.  She spent a year in Bolivia working with the Democracy Center.  

In 2008, she was named one of New Hampshire’s “40 under 40,” by the Union Leader. 

She is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, earning a degree in political science and a minor in Sustainable Living. She holds master’s degree in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University.

High Praise From NH’s Elected Leaders After Governor Signs Two-Year Medicaid Reauthorization

Leaders Across the State Applaud Governor’s Signing of Bipartisan Bill Reauthorizing New Hampshire Health Protection Program 

CONCORD – After Governor Maggie Hassan signed today House Bill 1696, bipartisan legislation reauthorizing the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, stakeholders in the fight against the heroin and opioid crisis from across the state – including law enforcement, fire fighters, advocates, the medical community, local officials and business leaders – applauded the work of the Governor and members from both parties:

“The New Hampshire Health Protection Program is critical to helping law enforcement stem the tide of the heroin and opioid epidemic. Renewing this vital program ensures that we can continue to tackle the heroin and opioid crisis with a comprehensive approach that focuses on prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts. I thank Governor Hassan for her commitment to renewing this important program.” – Strafford County Sheriff David Dubois 

“As Sheriff, I see the devastating effects of the heroin and opioid crisis every day. The New Hampshire Health Protection Program has been vital in allowing our law enforcement officials to work with treatment and recovery centers to help one of our most vulnerable populations. The reauthorization of this legislation will help us to stem the tide of this epidemic, and I am grateful to Governor Hassan for her work to make this reauthorization a reality.” – Cheshire County Sheriff Eli Rivera

“Each day, fire fighters throughout New Hampshire are on the front lines of combating the heroin and opioid crisis, and it is critical we have every resource available to help in those efforts. Reauthorization of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program is a critical step forward in this fight, as it will help increase access to treatment and prevention programs.  I am grateful Governor Hassan and state legislators were able to work across party lines to get this done for our state.” – Goffstown Fire Chief and New Hampshire Association of Fire Chiefs President Richard O’Brien 

“House Bill 1696 is an important step forward in maintaining access to health care for hard-working New Hampshire residents in a fiscally responsible manner.” – State Representative Joseph Lachance, House Bill 1696 Prime Sponsor 

“Health care costs are commonly cited by our small business members as a challenge to growth. By re-authorizing the NH Health Protection Program through HB1696 not only are we creating healthier communities by ensuring more than 48,000 low-income individuals continue to have access to health care coverage, but we are also taking a positive step to address the health care costs facing small businesses. This program is reducing the uncompensated care costs in our health care system and will put downward pressure on health insurance premiums in the future.” – Mike Skelton, President & CEO, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce 

“Like other illnesses, positive outcomes are more likely to occur for people with mental illness the sooner they get into treatment.  Providing health insurance coverage to close to 50,000 Granite State residents by reauthorizing the NH Health Protection Program will continue to result in many of them seeking out mental health and substance misuse treatment before it becomes a crisis. NAMI NH is deeply appreciative of the bipartisan support of the Legislature and Governor in passing this important piece of legislation.” – Ken Norton, Executive Director, NAMI NH – The National Alliance on Mental Illness 

“Today’s signing of HB 1696 by Governor Hassan represents a continuation of New Hampshire’s commitment to ensure that people suffering from addiction will have access to critically needed treatment and recovery services, and assures substance use disorder treatment providers who want to expand capacity that reimbursement for services provided to thousands of Granite Staters will continue.  The NH Health Protection Program is the most important tool NH has in its fight against the opioid epidemic and more broadly the substance misuse crisis ravaging our state.” – Linda Paquette, Executive Director, New Futures 

“Today, thousands of Granite Staters can rest assured that they will continue to have access to critical substance use treatment and recovery support services. And providers can continue their work to expand treatment and recovery access to individuals and families struggling with the opiate epidemic.” – Tym Rourke, Chair, Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery

“We know that we cannot arrest our way out of the heroin and opioid crisis, and that strengthening prevention, treatment and recovery efforts is critical to a comprehensive approach. The New Hampshire Health Protection Program has provided substance misuse and behavioral health services to thousands of Granite Staters, and its reauthorization will help us increase treatment capacity. The collaboration that made reauthorization possible is a strong example of how we must all work together to combat the heroin and opioid crisis.” – James Vara, Senior Assistant Attorney General, New Hampshire Drug Prosecuting Unity and Incoming Governor’s Advisor on Addiction and Behavioral Health 

“Hospitals applaud the strong, bipartisan efforts from the Governor, Senate and House leadership and stakeholders across the State to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program (NHHPP) so that the more than 48,000 Granite State residents can continue to count on the private health insurance coverage that is allowing them to get the primary and preventative care they need to become and remain healthy. The NHHPP has successfully reduced the number of uninsured patients seeking care in emergency rooms; reduced the amount of uncompensated care provided by hospitals to those without insurance; and reduced the cost shift to those with insurance.  It is a significant step forward for patients, providers, businesses and our state’s economy.” – Steve Ahnen, President, New Hampshire Hospital Association 

“I thank Governor Hassan and the legislature for their tireless work to reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program. Their efforts will enable people in Nashua and across the state to continue to seeking and receiving treatment to achieve recovery from opioid addiction. The success of this bipartisan plan shows again how Governor Hassan and the legislators know how to get things done the Granite State way—by rolling up her sleeves and working across the aisle to find common ground and move the ball forward.” – Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess 

“I applaud Governor Hassan and Senator Woodburn for their tireless efforts to renew the New Hampshire Health Protection Program. The New Hampshire Health Protection Program has been particularly critical to our citizens in Coos County, where the program has helped 1,800 Granite Staters access quality, affordable health insurance. The program also provides vital resources to combat the heroin and opioid crisis in our state, providing access to substance abuse treatment and recovery centers for those who would not be able to afford these services otherwise. Reauthorization will give these families the flexibility to move forward with their lives and in our communities.” – Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier

“I applaud Governor Hassan and the bipartisan coalition of State House Members and Senators whose dedicated efforts made the renewal of our Medicaid Expansion program possible. This vital reauthorization will allow nearly 50,000 of our fellow Granite Staters to keep their health insurance and access the healthcare they need – everything from cancer screenings and preventative care to substance abuse recovery and treatment. Through this program, thousands of Granite Staters have been able to access substance abuse and behavioral health services, and it is an important part of increasing treatment capacity.” – Mayor Dana Hilliard, Somersworth

“Fighting New Hampshire’s devastating opioid and substance abuse crisis is a priority Governor Hassan and I share, and I salute her for her leadership in passing the New Hampshire Health Protection Program to protect access to treatment and recovery for tens of thousands of Granite Staters. Her hard work and careful stewardship of this bill will save lives by renewing health insurance for nearly 50,000 people across our state and improving access to substance abuse treatment for many more.” – Keene Mayor Kendall Lane

Worldwide Protests And Strikes In #FightFor15 Scheduled For April 14th

On Eve of Tax Day, Underpaid Workers to Wage Biggest-Ever Global Strikes, Protests as Fight for $15 Turns up Heat

From AFGE in 2015

From AFGE in 2015 

Protests Planned in Record 300 U.S. Cities, 40 Countries, on Six Continents

Fast-Food, Home Care, Child Care, Higher Ed, Manufacturing Workers to Protest Against Low Pay, Tax Avoidance by Companies

Workers Across the Service Economy Zero in on McDonald’s Role in Undercutting Pay for Everyone

Momentum Builds off $15 wins in CA, PA, Showing Power of Workers Organizing 

WORLDWIDE – Days after millions of workers in California and thousands in Pennsylvania won historic pay increases to $15/hr and amidst ongoing negotiations for $15/hr for millions more in New York, the unstoppable momentum for $15 and union rights continued to build as underpaid workers across the globe said they would wage the biggest-ever day of strikes and protests on April 14.

Fast-food workers will go on strike in a record 300 cities and tens of thousands of underpaid workers—including home care, child care and higher education workers—will lead hundreds of protests from Manchester, NH to Memphis, Tenn. to Marina Del Rey, Calif. Around the world, workers will join in, with protests expected in more than 40 countries on six continents. 

Who’s the Real Problem?

American families are being forced to scrape by because big corporations are ripping off workers, ripping off taxpayers, and ripping off communities. To get richer and richer, big corporations manipulate the rules to avoid paying fair wages and their fair share of taxes, forcing working people and taxpayers to foot the bill. As a result, workers and communities are being starved of the money needed to build a bright future, and left with impossible choices over how to care for their children and elderly parents and how to meet their basic expenses.  

The workers’ protests, timed to hit just before Tax Day, will zero in on McDonald’s, highlighting how the world’s second-largest employer and the industry leader in the fast food and service economies is driving a race to the bottom that is undercutting wages across the economy and resulting in nearly 64 million workers being paid less than $15. The workers will also highlight how McDonald’s tax avoidance around the globe hurts governments, workers, taxpayers and consumers. 

“McJobs cost us all,” said Brenda Lozada, a home care worker from Aurora, Colo. who is paid just $11/hr after 12 years on the job. “McDonald’s is holding everyone back, not just fast-food workers. The company influences pay, how people are treated at work and how people run businesses, both large and small. The Fight for $15 isn’t just about fast-food workers getting higher pay. It’s about workers in every industry, all over the world being held back because of McDonald’s desire to make bigger profits.” 

Fast-food, home care, child care, university, airport, retail, building service and other workers will demand McDonald’s change its business model and use its massive economic power to lift up working families across the globe instead of dragging them down. 

“There are undocumented immigrant mothers in my city who work hard and pay taxes, but McDonald’s, America’s second-largest employer, does not pay its fair share,” said Rolanda McMillan, who has worked at McDonald’s in Richmond, Va. for four years. “McDonald’s cheats its workers, pays the bare minimum and dodges taxes despite making billions in profits and paying out millions to top executives. Meanwhile, workers can’t afford child care for our kids and grandkids. That’s just wrong.” 

The announcement comes as workers fighting for $15 and union rights prepare to go on strikeWednesday night and Thursday at eight airports across the country and as fast-food workers in Chicago calling for $15 and union rights prepare to walk off their jobs Friday. The Chicago workers will join with striking teachers to highlight how low pay forces fast-food workers’ to rely on food stamps and other public assistance programs—money that could be spent on schools. Members of the California Faculty Association who are demanding a 5% raise are also expected to be on strike April 14—on all 23 campuses of the state university system— in what would be the largest higher education strike in U.S. history. 

“Fast-food workers may have started this movement, but now the Fight for $15 is for everyone because it’s about a living wage for all,” said Michael O’Bryan, an adjunct at Washington University in St. Louis. “Our momentum is unstoppable. Our movement proves that when workers in all industries come together and speak out, we produce real change.” 

The Choices We Face

Because of the wage and tax schemes of greedy corporations like McDonald’s, workers, consumers and taxpayers face a series of impossible choices. American workers aren’t paid enough to afford child care and we don’t have the public resources we need to fund quality child care programs; people who provide critical home care and nursing home care for seniors and persons with disabilities can’t afford to take care of themselves, and we can’t provide access to quality long-term care for the growing number of Americans who need it; and adjunct professors and other faculty who educate our young people at public universities can barely make ends meet, while the schools themselves are starved for funding, putting higher education out of reach for too many people. 

Workers chose April 14 – the day before Tax Day – to emphasize that McDonald’s low wages force more than half the company’s workers to rely on public assistance, costing U.S. taxpayers more than $1 billion every year. In addition, the company’s manipulation of loopholes and offshore schemes to avoid taxes means there is less money for child care, health care and public universities.

Industrywide, low pay forces more than half of fast-food workers to rely on public assistance to support their families, costing taxpayers $7 billion a year. And across the economy, nearly three-quarters of people aided by public assistance are members of a family headed by a worker, costing taxpayers more than $150 billion.  

“McDonald’s matters to everyone, because it hurts just about everyone,” said Kimmie DeVries, a child care worker from Kansas City, Mo. “Its influence is huge, but instead of using its global scale to support good jobs and lift pay, McDonald’s uses its enormous footprint for just the opposite. When McDonald’s pays workers as little as it possibly can, it pushes wages down throughout the service sector, making it impossible for workers across the economy to get ahead.” 

The effects of low pay reach deep. Earlier this month, Burger King worker and Fight for $15 member Jeffrey Pendleton was found dead in a New Hampshire jail cell. He had been arrested on a minor marijuana possession charge, and was held because he could not afford $100 bail. In USA Today, his co-worker Andy Fontaine wrote, “We may not yet know the cause of death, but we do know this: Jeffrey might be alive if he had been able to afford justice in our society. And his death tragically illustrates that the lives of black men caught up in our criminal justice system matter far less than they should.”

The Fight for $15 is dedicating the April 14strike to Pendleton, a vocal proponent for higher pay and union rights, who participated in the first-ever fast-food strike in New Hampshire last month.

Workers in California, Pennsylvania Win Historic Raises; New York Could be Next

The April 14 strike comes on the heels of an unprecedented series of pay increases this week, with workers in California winning $15/hr and the largest employer in Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, announcing it will pay workers $15/hr. Negotiations around $15 in New York are ongoing.  

With wins piling up across the country, the Fight for $15 is building a growing awareness that $15/hr is the minimum wage level American workers in every part of the country need to survive and pay for the necessities to support their families. And the workers in the Fight for $15 are demonstrating the power of coming together in an organization to fight for higher pay. 

“There has never been a stronger case for why workers need an organization to help them improve their lives,” said Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry. “Millions of people are being lifted out of poverty because workers joined together and acted like a union.”

Cities including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have raised their minimum wage to $15/hr. And home care workers in Massachusetts and Oregon won $15/hr statewide minimum wages. Companies including Facebook, Aetna, Amalgamated Bank, and Nationwide Insurance have raised pay to $15/hr or higher; and workers in nursing homes, public schools and hospitals have won $15/hr via collective bargaining.

The Democratic Party adopted a $15/hr platform, the Democratic candidates for president have lined up in support of the workers in the Fight for $15, and elected leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Kristen Gillibrand back a $15/hr federal minimum wage. It’s a far cry from the situation when the campaign started—when discourse on the economy was limited to talk of debt and deficits and two lone Democrats in Congress (former Sen. Tom Harkin and former U.S. Rep. George Miller) were the only ones brave enough to even call for $10.10/hr. 

Slate wrote that the Fight for $15 has completely “rewired how the public and politicians think about wages; the New York Times declared that “$15 could become the new, de facto $7.25;” and the Washington Post said that $15/hr has “gone from almost absurdly ambitious to mainstream in the span of a few years.”

It all started on Nov. 29, 2012, when 200 New York City McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC cooks and cashiers walked off their jobs, demanding $15/hr and union rights, in what theNew York Times called, “the biggest wave of job actions in the history of the fast-food industry.” Few gave the workers a chance, but their calls for higher pay caught on and spread across the country. Within months, workers walked off their jobs in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Milwaukee, sowing the seeds of a national movement that would eventually spread beyond fast food to workers in home care, child care, higher education and other industries. 

McDonald’s Under Fire on Both Sides of the Atlantic

The movement is also gaining momentum overseas, as workers across the globe are increasingly joining together to hold McDonald’s accountable. Workers in 40 countries on six continents are expected to protest at McDonald’s restaurants on April 14, with marches in cities ranging from Sao Paolo to Seoul and London to Lagos. 

The global protests come as McDonald’s is facing scrutiny by federal regulators from South America to Europe. Late last year, the European Commission opened an investigation into McDonald’s following allegations by trade unions and NGOs that the company has dodged more than one billion euros in taxes since 2009. In January, Italian consumer groups filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission, alleging exorbitant rents and onerous contracts thrust upon franchisees give the company an unfair advantage.

In March, Brazilian prosecutors said they were investigating alleged “fiscal and economic crimes” committed by McDonald’s, including suspected tax avoidance and violations of Brazil’s franchise and competition laws. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the federal governmentcontinues to prosecute its case against the company for violating federal labor laws, charging both McDonald’s and its franchisees with illegally threatening, intimidating, firing and otherwise retaliating against workers who had joined together in the Fight for $15.

Changing the Debate 

The strike also comes as workers have made $15 and union rights a hot button political issue in the race for the White House. Everywhere candidates go this primary season, workers in the Fight for $15 have followed closely behind, forcing White House hopefuls to address the demands of the nearly 64 million Americans paid less than $15/hr.

Ahead of debates in cities like Milwaukee, Detroit, Flint, Miami, Houston, and Charleston, fast-food workers went on strike for $15 and union rights and marched on the debates, calling on candidates to “come get our vote.” The massive protests forced candidates on both sides of the aisle to address workers’ growing calls for higher pay and union rights. On four occasions in the debates, candidates were pressed by moderators to respond to workers in the Fight for $15, including in November, when the first question directed at GOP candidates asked them to respond to the demands of fast-food workers outside the Milwaukee Theatre demanding $15/hr and union rights. 

The New York Times and USA Today both warned candidates who ignore the growing movement that they do so “at their own peril.” Meanwhile, the Associated Press said underpaid workers are flexing, “increasingly potent political muscle,” and that they have “made low wages a hot political issue; and BuzzFeed said they “could make up a powerful new voting bloc.”

A recent poll of workers paid less than $15/hour commissioned by the National Employment Law Project showed that 69% of unregistered voters would register to vote if there were a candidate who supported $15/hour and a union; and that 65% of registered voters paid less than $15/hour would be more likely to vote if there were a candidate who supported $15/hour and a union. That’s 48 million potential voters paid less than $15 who could turn out if there were candidates who backed higher pay and union rights.

National Advocacy Groups Call For An End Of The Tipped Minimum Wage

On 25th Anniversary of Last Tipped Minimum Wage Increase, Prominent National Advocacy and Research Groups Call for Nation to Adopt One Fair Wage for All Workers

One Fair Wage logoWashington, D.C. – This Friday, April 1st marks 25 years since the last change in the federal minimum wage for tipped employees, which was increased from just $2.09 to $2.13 per hour in 1991. This two-tiered system of a separate, lower minimum wage for tipped workers has left nearly 4.5 million workers across the country struggling to survive on poverty wages. Two-thirds of tipped workers are women, and of the restaurant workers who make up more than half of the tipped workforce about 70 percent are women.

To mark a quarter century that tipped workers have been paid a base wage as low as $2.13 an hour, a growing number of national organizations are calling for the complete elimination of the subminimum wage for tipped workers in favor of paying one fair minimum wage to all working people.  There are currently seven states where tipped workers receive the regular minimum wage. In these states, restaurant job growth is stronger and poverty rates among tipped workers are dramatically lower, than in states where tipped workers are paid $2.13 – demonstrating that one fair wage is good for both our economy and our families.

This anniversary is especially timely as the minimum wage is being debated in cities and states across the country.  D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently called for an increase in the citywide minimum wage to $15 by 2020, but remained silent on the inclusion of tipped workers who currently earn just $2.77 an hour in the District. Meanwhile, lawmakers in California, which has done away with the subminimum wage for tipped workers, earlier this week announced a deal to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“$2.13 an hour isn’t enough for a single person to survive on, much less a family. That’s what we’re talking about here: a majority of tipped workers are women, and many are the heads of their households,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. “Without a stable base wage to depend on, these women can be forced to choose between child care and medical care, because while their income fluctuates their bills don’t. Even worse, tipped workers in states that pay as low as $2.13 an hour experience sexual harassment at twice the rate of their counterparts in states where there’s one fair minimum wage for all workers.” 

“Twenty-five-year anniversaries are normally joyous, but the fact that the federal subminimum wage for tipped workers has been stuck at $2.13 per hour for the last 25 years is a national disgrace. Workers across a range of industries and occupations as diverse as restaurant servers, airport wheelchair attendants, and barbers and stylists perform work that is exacting and often strenuous, and compensated largely through tips. That’s unfair to workers and customers alike: tipped workers deserve a fair wage, with a floor on par with employees in other industries. And customers shouldn’t be stuck paying employees’ wages when it’s the employer’s responsibility,” said Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project. “In seven states, tipped workers must be paid at least the full minimum wage as their base pay. These states have thriving economies and rising employment. It’s time for the nation to follow their lead: eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers, and pay one fair minimum wage to all workers.”

“The tipped wage is a legacy of slavery whose ugly origins are rooted in a time when American employers didn’t want to pay newly freed African Americans a proper wage,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Today, our paltry, subminimum tipped wage of $2.13 an hour has institutionalized an unequal, two-tiered wage gap that keeps millions of working Americans trapped in poverty and disproportionately harms working people of color and their families. This is unacceptable anywhere, but it’s unconscionable in a country that prides itself on being a land of opportunity.”

“No wonder there’s a wage gap—and no wonder so many of the workers who serve our food can barely afford food themselves,” said Fatima Goss Graves, Senior Vice President for Program at the National Women’s Law Center. “At just $2.13 an hour, the shamefully low federal tipped minimum cash wage leaves tipped workers with no stable income to depend on when their tips vary from week to week. And most of the workers who rely on tips to support themselves and their families are women, disproportionately women of color. But in the states that already have one minimum wage for tipped and non-tipped workers alike, the average poverty rate among women tipped workers is 33 percent lower—and the average wage gap is 14 percent smaller—than in states with a $2.13 tipped minimum wage. Women and families across the country deserve one fair minimum wage.”

“Paying women and all workers fairly and well enough to keep food on the table and their families out of poverty is essential to our nation’s well-being,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “Women in the United States today head more than 15 million households and are breadwinners in most families, yet they also make up the majority of tipped workers who often suffer from low wages and have no paid sick days, paid family or medical leave, or access to other family friendly policies. Eliminating the grossly outdated tipped minimum wage, raising the federal minimum wage and making paid leave available to all workers should be top priorities for every lawmaker who supports strengthening families and our economy.”

“Tipped work is one of the fastest-growing occupations and one of the lowest-paid, especially for women and for workers of color,” said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs. “Increasing the federal minimum wage for tipped workers would lift 700,000 people out of poverty, and over half of these individuals would be workers of color. In addition, more than $12 billion would be pumped into our economy because of workers’ having more spending power, leading to more jobs and more economic growth. Doing right by these workers isn’t just good for the workers – it’s good for the economy.”

The tipped minimum wage has not only failed to increase along with national wages, it has been artificially suppressed by the extensive lobbying efforts of the National Restaurant Association, whose then-President Herman Cain struck a deal in 1996 to freeze the rate at the current $2.13 per hour, maintaining the restaurant industry’s status as the absolute lowest paying in the nation. 

List of supporting organizations:

Center for Community Change

Coalition on Human Needs

CREDO

Food Chain Workers Alliance

Food Shift

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Maine AFL-CIO

National Employment Law Project

National Family Farm Coalition

National Jobs for All Coalition

National Partnership for Women & Families

National Women’s Law Center

Progressive Congress

Public Citizen

Real Food Media

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United

Slow Food USA

Small Planet Institute

Transport Workers Union, Local 100

United Methodist Women

Voices for Progress

Women’s Media Center

Working Families Party

Note: partial list of signing organizations — see full list at: http://rocunited.org/news/roc-press-releases/

The Ayotte-Trump Agenda: Criminalizing Abortion Edition

Ayotte-Trump Agenda

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday Donald Trump announced that women in this country should be “punished” if they get an abortion — before recanting, using the same language anti-choice groups have been using for years to whitewash their true agenda, which is taking away a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health care decisions and control her own body. But the truth is that Donald Trump’s comments only pulled back the curtain on what the GOP has already been doing for years: punishing women through draconian laws and restrictions on their right to have an abortion. Republicans can try to spin that reality any way they want, but they can’t deny the truth. Punishing women is and always has been the point of their extreme policies. Despite all of this, vulnerable Republican Kelly Ayotte still refuses to denounce Trump or say she won’t support him as the Republican nominee putting the extreme anti-woman agenda they both share into the spotlight.

“Donald Trump is leading the GOP charge to prevent women from making their own health care decisions,” said EMILY’s List Communications Director Marcy Stech. “First Ayotte and Trump supported an unconstitutional abortion ban that would criminalize doctors, and now she’s standing by the Republican frontrunner who said he wants to ‘punish’ women who get abortions. Elections matter, and Kelly Ayotte is linking arms with Donald Trump at the expense of New Hampshire women and families.” 

The Ayotte-Trump Agenda

Both Trump and Ayotte Supported An Abortion Ban. Trump supported a national abortion ban and said pro-choice policies “goes against our core values.” In September 2015, Ayotte voted for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill that “would have banned abortion nationwide after 20 weeks ‘post-fertilization,’ or about 22 weeks’ gestation […] Opponents of HR 36 attacked the bill on the grounds that it is unconstitutional; violates the rights of women in desperate situations, including rape and incest victims; and threatens doctors with criminal penalties for trying to do what’s best for their patients […] Opponents of HR 36 attacked the bill on the grounds that it is unconstitutional; violates the rights of women in desperate situations, including rape and incest victims; and threatens doctors with criminal penalties for trying to do what’s best for their patients […] Under the GOP-backed bill, rape and incest victims would have to further delay abortion care by seeking counseling from doctors who do not perform abortions, or who do not even share an office with a doctor who does. Incest victims under the age of 18 would also have to file a police report.” The bill failed in the Senate 54-42 with 51 GOP voting for it. [HR 36, Vote #268, 9/22/15; RH Reality Check, 9/22/15; CBN News, 7/22/15]

Both Trump and Ayotte Opposed Raising the Minimum Wage. During the fourth Republican presidential debate, Trump insisted that wages were “too high,” and he was opposed to raising the minimum wage. In 2014 and 2015 Ayotte voted against increasing the federal minimum wage. [New York Times, 11/11/15; S. 2223, Vote 117, 4/30/14; S.Con.Res.11, Vote 93, 3/26/15]

Both Trump and Ayotte Would Deny Women Equal Pay At an October 2015 convention in New Hampshire, Trump said of equal pay, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Ayotte has voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act four times. In June 2012, Ayotte voted against a procedural vote to move forward with S. 3220, Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (also known as the Equal Pay Act), “to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages.” The Paycheck Fairness Act would require a clarification in reasons for differences in wages paid to men and women doing the same work. The motion was rejected 52-47. In April 2014, Ayotte voted against a motion to address the Paycheck Fairness Act. According to Congressional Quarterly the vote was a “Motion to invoke cloture (thus limiting debate) on the Reid, D-Nev., motion to proceed to the bill that would require employers to demonstrate that wage gaps between men and women with similar qualifications and in similar jobs have a business justification. It would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information and authorize the Labor secretary to seek additional compensatory or punitive damages in a sex discrimination action. The bill also would require the Labor Department to provide training and collect wage information.” The motion was rejected by a vote of 53-44. In September 2014, Ayotte voted against a bill to strengthen federal equal pay laws for women. In March 2015, Ayotte voted against Senator Mikulski’s proposal to “establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to amending the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to allow for punitive damages, limit the any factor ‘other than sex’ exception, and prohibit retaliation against employees who share salary information.” The amendment failed 45-54. [S. 3220Vote #115, 6/05/12; S 2199Vote #103, 4/09/14; S. 2199, Vote #262, 9/15/14; S. Con. Res. 11, Vote #82, 3/24/15]

Members Of The NH Rebellion Walk From Philadelphia to Washington, DC To End #MoneyInPolitics

NH RebellionPHILADELPHIA – In 1999, New Hampshire’s Doris “Granny D” Haddock began a walk from California to to Washington, DC at age 89. And she made it. Haddock spread the word among ordinary Americans on how Washington’s politicians had been corrupted by a campaign finance system which benefits campaign donors, not voters. Two years later, with U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold on one arm, and Sen. John McCain on the other, Granny D walked up the Capitol steps. 

This Saturday, members of the New Hampshire nonprofit NH Rebellion, along more than 150 other walkers, begin another audacious march, this time from Philadelphia to Washington, DC as part of a national protest of big money politics called Democracy Spring.

“It’s my time to do my part,” said Zoe Picard, of Webster. “I believe in democracy. I really believe that all voices should be heard. And in honor of Granny D, I’m challenging like-minded individuals to rise up and force our politicians to reform our system,” she said. Picard is joining the walk in Baltimore for the last 40 miles

The Democracy Spring march will take 9 days and arrives in Washington on April 11, when nonviolent sit-ins around the U.S. Capitol building are planned. Joe Magruder, retired Concord news editor, said he is willing to get arrested for the cause.

“Making us all equal citizens when it comes to choosing our leaders is the moral issue of our time, and this is a way to make that happen,” Magruder said. Magruder, a Vietnam veteran, added that he has walked in other NH Rebellion walks in New Hampshire, but felt compelled to go to Washington to send a strong message directly to Congress.

Following the Democracy Spring actions, a large rally is planned for April 17 on the mall in Washington, and tens of thousands are expected from all over the country. Over 140 groups are mobilizing their members to attend Democracy Awakening, with buses streaming in from up and down the eastern seaboard. Groups supporting the rally, and actions the following day, include democracy and voting rights groups, the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, church organizations, senior groups, and environmental activists.

Asked why he was walking all 140 miles from Philadelphia, Lyme, NH’s Rick Bourdon responded, “I think that the people of this country need to do more than complain. Now it’s time to take action. I’m walking and protesting, but you can write a letter, call up your representatives or get active in your community. But we can’t afford to do nothing,” he said. “Our democracy has to be saved.”

More information about Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening is available on the NH Rebellion website, NHRebellion.org in the “Take Action” section, or by going directly to the event sites, DemocracySpring.org and DemocracyAwakening.org.

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