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

Richard_Trumka

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

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

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

Long Island Railroad Workers Prepare For Upcoming Strike on July 20th

SMART Protest

International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Long Island Rail Road General Chairperson Anthony Simon has issued the following statement on the deteriorating labor situation at the commuter railroad:

“I regret to report that negotiations have collapsed with New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and all eight unions are now proceeding with strike plans for July 20. MTA rejected the counter offer we presented last Thursday (July 10). It presented no counter proposal. It continues to insist that the unions agree to a contract worth less than the value of the compromise recommendations of Presidential Emergency Boards 244 and 245.  MTA has clearly decided that provoking a strike is the course of action it intends to pursue. No further negotiations are scheduled.

Please go here to ask NY Governor Cuomo to intervene in order to prevent a strike that would be disastrous to Long Island commuters, workers and local communities.

The strike will begin at 12:01 a.m. this Sunday (July 20). Riders should be aware that service will begin winding down well before then, perhaps as early as Wednesday (July 16), as the railroad needs to secure its equipment.  The strike will be limited to Long Island Rail Road. It will not affect Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, Metro-North Railroad or PATH rail operations. Joint entrances will not be picketed.

Make no mistake about it. The timing of this strike, with its devastating impact on Long Island’s summer season, is MTA’s decision. The unions repeated our offer to agree to the requests of the New York Congressional delegation, area residents and businesses to delay the strike until September. MTA would not agree.  The onus of this deadlock is solely on the MTA. Two boards of renowned and experienced arbitrators have recommended a fair compromise settlement. We are willing to accept the recommendations. MTA is not. MTA admitted to us that they know that historically, the PEB recommendations are the basis for settlement. They told us they understand that the only way they can break this historical precedent is to take a strike. That is the course that they have chosen.”
-  Anthony Simon, SMART LIRR GO 505 General Chairperson and Union Coalition spokesperson

Please go here to ask NY Governor Cuomo to intervene in order to prevent a strike that would be disastrous to Long Island commuters, workers and local communities.

RN’s To Picket Lawrence General Hospital For Patient Safety And New Contract

Nurses Make a Difference

Mass Nurses Association

When:       Thursday, June 26 from 2 – 4 p.m.
Where:     Outside the entrance to Lawrence General Hospital (on the corner of Marston and General Streets.)

In response to excessive patient assignments for nurses and the hospital’s refusal to provide safe RN staffing to ensure appropriate patient care, the registered nurses of Lawrence General Hospital plan to conduct an informational picket outside the entrance to the hospital on Thursday, June 26 from 2 – 4 p.m. to take their concerns directly to the public. The nurses, who are in negotiations for a new contract, are also concerned about the hospital’s plan to cut the nurses time off benefits and recent dramatic cuts to their health insurance benefit that has increased the cost of their own health care – issues the nurses believe are essential to recruiting and retaining the nursing staff needed to preserve the quality and safety of patient care.

Maintaining appropriate staffing levels is a constant struggle at the facility, which is causing nurses on a number of units to take on excessive patient assignments, particularly in the hospital’s emergency department where the lack of staff is causing longer wait times for patients, lack of proper care and attention from nurses, and the boarding of patients for hours and sometimes for days waiting for a bed. Nurses are also concerned about patient assignments for nurses on the night shift, where nurses are assigned six to seven patients at one time, a staffing level that research shows places these patient at a 14-21 percent increased risk of death. Also, the hospital employs a staffing practice of understaffing the maternity unit by sending nurses home on many days, leaving the unit short staffed when mothers are admitted for deliveries. This same practice recently contributed to the deaths of two newborns and a mother at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, where they have stopped the practice after an investigation into the deaths by the Department of Public Health.

In March a delegation of nurses delivered a petition signed by more than 90 percent of the nurses to the hospital’s administration seeking safer staffing levels and patient assignments.
The nurses are now seeking contract language, similar to the legislation and ballot initiative pending in the legislature that would establish safe patient limits for nurses on all units to ensure safe patient care.

The 400 nurses, who are represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United, recently engaged a federal mediator in an attempt to break the logjam in negotiations for a new union contract. The second negotiation session with a Federal mediator will be held on June 24. The parties began negotiations in late October, 2013 and to date 15 sessions have been held. The contract expired on October 7, 2013 but has been extended until June 24, 2014.

Senators Introduce Legislation To Protect Motorcycle Riders Rights

Motorcycle rider (image Philo Nordlund)

Motorcycle rider (image Philo Nordlund)Bipartisan amendment would prohibit
motorcycle-only checkpoints for one year
 

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) today introduced a bipartisan amendment to the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill that would prohibit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from issuing grants to states for motorcycle-only checkpoints for one year. The amendment is similar to legislation introduced by the Senators earlier this year. The NHTSA initiated the Motorcycle Law Enforcement Demonstration Program in 2009, which provides states with funds to conduct discriminatory, motorcycle-only checkpoints where riders are specifically targeted by police to check that their vehicles meet state standards for noise, handlebar length, tire condition and a range of other legal requirements.

The bipartisan effort would block federal resources for one year from being used to fund these types of discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints. Currently, motorcycle riders are already subject to state registration, inspection, licensing and helmet laws and must stop at sobriety check points like all other motorists.

“Laconia Motorcycle Week in New Hampshire is a perfect reminder of how important motorcycles are to our state’s identity and economy,” Shaheen said. “These checkpoints unfairly discriminate against motorcyclists who already must comply with registration and inspection requirements like all motorists.”

“I often hear Wisconsin motorcyclists refer to their passion for the ‘freedom of the road,’” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, those freedoms would be severally, and I would argue unconstitutionally, hindered by the presence of federally funded motorcycle-only checkpoints. Bikers should not be stopped, searched and inspected by law enforcement solely because they’re on two wheels and not four.”

“Requiring bikers to drive through motorcycle-only checkpoints is not only an ineffective use of taxpayer dollars, but it also raises legitimate questions about discrimination against motorcyclists,” Manchin said. “In West Virginia, bikers travel near and far to drive on our winding roads and enjoy the beautiful scenery, which attracts tourism and helps boost both our local and state economies. As a Harley owner myself, I am pleased to work with my colleagues on this bipartisan legislation that simply would prohibit yet another senseless and unreasonable federal regulation which could harm states’ economies.”

“With motorcyclists from across the region in New Hampshire this week for Laconia Motorcycle Week, we renew our opposition to the use of federal funds to pay for discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints,” Ayotte said. “Motorcyclists shouldn’t be unfairly targeted just because they’re driving a motorcycle and not a car, and our amendment would protect their rights to abide by the same laws as other motor vehicles.”

Evidence suggests that motorcycle-only checkpoints do not effectively reduce motorcycle injuries or fatalities and do not address the factors that are the main contributors to motorcycle accidents. Accordingly, NHTSA does not list the practice in its own 2013 Highway Safety Countermeasure Guide for State Highway Offices, which details policies and activities that the agency considers effective at reducing crash injuries and fatalities.

Pappas Surpasses 2012 Fundraising Benchmark

Chris Pappas, via Pappas2012.com

Chris Pappas, via Pappas2012.com

Over $100k Raised In First Filing Of Election

Manchester, NH– In the first financial report of the election, Chris Pappas’s campaign for Executive Council disclosed receipts totaling $111,093 from 762 separate contributions, with an impressive $101,581 cash on hand. Pappas, who is finishing his first term in office, surpassed the fundraising totals of any previous District 4 candidate at this point in the campaign and surpassed his own record setting fundraising totals from his winning 2012 campaign.

“I’m proud to have the support of Republicans, Democrats and Independents from all 19 communities in District 4,” said Councilor Pappas. “People want leaders in Concord to work together. Our campaign’s success to date is a reflection of Granite Staters’ desire to keep New Hampshire moving forward with pragmatic leadership on the Executive Council. Thanks to the enthusiasm of my supporters, our campaign will be able to effectively communicate our message to voters across the district.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster Hosts Third Career and Opportunities Fair

image003

image003CLAREMONT, NH – As part of her commitment to helping create jobs and opportunity for middle class families, this afternoon Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) hosted her third Career and Opportunities Fair to help connect local residents with jobs and employment opportunities throughout the Granite State. The fair, which was held at the Common Man restaurant in Claremont, featured employers from the financial, medical, manufacturing, retail, and hospitality industries, among others.

“I was proud to host the third in my series of career fairs today, where I got the chance to help job seekers make real connections with New Hampshire employers,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Creating jobs and increasing opportunities for Granite State residents is my number one priority in Congress, and we must ensure that those looking for work actually have access to and are aware of new career opportunities. I sincerely thank all of today’s participants for joining me at today’s fair, and I encourage you to reach out to me if my office can provide any additional assistance in your job search.”

This fair is the third in a series of Career and Opportunity Fairs that Kuster has hosted since the beginning of the year. More than 100  job seekers were matched with nearly 20 employers and service agencies during today’s Fair. Participating organizations included UPS, U.S. Small Business Administration, Creare LLC, Work Ready NH, Dartmouth College, Black River Produce, and many others.

As a member of the House Small Business Committee, Kuster has prioritized efforts to foster job creation, grow the economy, and improve workforce development. She authored a Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Agenda, a blueprint based on meetings with Granite State residents, families, business owners and others, that outlines common sense steps to help grow the economy and create jobs in New Hampshire and around the country. She routinely visits small businesses and economic development projects across the state through her Congress-At-Your-Company series to hear how she can help support their success, and she continues to host her series of career fairs to match Granite State job seekers with employers.

Mass Nurses: 23% Of RN’s Report Patient Death Due To Inadequate Staffing

Nurse in training. Image by codnewsroom Flickr

Nearly One in Four MA Registered Nurses Report Patient Deaths That Are Directly Attributable to Unsafe Patient Assignments

Nurse in training. Image by codnewsroom Flickr

Nurse in training. Image by codnewsroom Flickr

Outraged Legislators Claim the Results Sound the Alarm for Immediate Action on Pending Legislation to Ensure Safe Patient Limits for Safer Patient Care

CANTON, Mass.  A study of bedside registered nurses in Massachusetts released today by State Representative Denise Garlick, RN (D-Needham) and State Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) establishes that hospital administrators are assigning too many patients to registered nurses resulting in significant harm and even death for patients. According to the survey, nearly 8-in-10 registered nurses report that the quality of patient care in Massachusetts hospitals is suffering because hospital administrators are requiring nurses to care for too many patients at once and, by more than a 2-1 margin, RNs report that unsafe patient assignments have become worse in recent years, with devastating results for their patients:

  • Alarmingly, nearly one in four nurses (23%) report patient deaths directly attributable to having too many patients to care for at one time.
  • 46% report injury and harm to patients do to understaffing
  • 51% report longer hospital stays for patients;
  • 56% report readmission of patients due to unsafe patient assignments;
  • 57% report medication errors due to unsafe patient assignments;
  • 59% report complications for patients due to unsafe patient assignments;
  • 68% report RNs don’t have the time to educate patients and provide adequate discharge planning.
  • 82% report RNs don’t have the time to properly comfort and care for patients and families due to unsafe patient assignments

The release of this statewide data on the impact of unsafe patient assignments for nurses on patient mortality follows a recent report by DPH that linked inadequate nursing care and unsafe patient assignments for nurses as a contributing factor in the deaths of two infants and one mother at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.

“It is unacceptable that erratic staffing decisions lead to medical errors, complications, readmissions and death. Patients in Boston and the Berkshires, teaching hospitals and community hospitals, union and non-union facilities need and deserve quality care. All the work of the Legislature, in this decade, on access and cost containment fails if patients do not receive safe, quality care,” said Garlick, who presented the survey results at a press conference at the State House today.

Garlick is a co-sponsor of H.1008, The Patient Safety Act, which would address this patient safety crisis by establishing safe maximum limits on nurses’ patient assignments, while providing the flexibility to adjust staffing based on patient needs. A similar ballot question, H.3843, is also pending before the Legislature.  The legislature has until July to act on the measure, or the measure will go on the ballot in November.

Video of State Rep. Denise Garlick’s compelling presentation of the shocking findings from a new survey of RNs in Massachusetts

Survey Highlight’s the Industry’s Willful Neglect of Patient Safety Concerns

The new study also highlights the underlying causes of these dangerous conditions and the industry’s lack of effort to adjust nurse’s patient assignments to ensure patient safety. For example:

  • By a 2 to 1 margin (48% to 23%), nurses report staffing level decisions are more often based on financial concerns than assessments of patient needs.
  • 40 percent of nurses in teaching hospitals and 53 percent of those working in community hospitals report that their administrators are not responsive to their concerns about excessive patient assignments.
  • And only 30 percent of nurses report that their administrators consistently adjust their patient assignments based on the needs of their patients.

For nurses, the solution to the patient safety crisis in our hospitals is clear and unequivocal, as nearly 9-in-10 (88%) of nurses support the Patient Safety Act. 

The survey detailing the views of our state’s nurses on the quality and safety of patient care follows dozens of research studies that provide irrefutable evidence that Massachusetts’ low standards for patient safety and the lack of safe maximum patient limits for nurses are the key reason Massachusetts ranks 42nd worst in the nation for avoidable hospital readmissions, which wastes more than $700 million annually, according to the state’s Health Policy Commission.

In fact, at a recent hearing on the Patient Safety Act, Boston College Research Judith Shindul-Rothschild presented groundbreaking findings of two recently published studies that for the first time provide concrete, peer-reviewed data comparing standards of nursing care and patient outcomes for hospitals in Massachusetts, where there is no limit on nurses’ patient assignments, and California, where such a law has been in place for nearly a decade.  Rothschild’s study provides conclusive evidence that Massachusetts hospital nurses are caring for significantly more patients than their counterparts in California and that patients in Massachusetts are receiving over three hours less care per day from registered nurses than patients on the West Coast (just over six hours of care for patients in our hospitals vs. over nine hours of care per day in California).

“From the public’s perspective, it is absolutely in their interests to support this ballot initiative so that when they’re in the hospital or a loved one is in the hospital, there is no doubt there will an adequate number of registered nurses to care for them to assure they get safe, quality nursing care,” says Shindul-Rothschild, whose article in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality showed an association between nurse staffing in Massachusetts and a higher rate of readmissions for heart failure.  She points out that heart failure is the most common and the most expensive condition for which patients are admitted to hospitals, and the number one cause of death in America.

The new survey of Massachusetts nurses was commissioned by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United and conducted between May 8 and May 15, 2014 by Anderson Robbins Research., an independent research firm headquartered in Boston.  The 2014 survey respondents were all nurses currently working in Massachusetts hospitals randomly selected from a complete file of the 92,000 nurses registered with the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing. According to the researchers, the survey results can be assumed to be representative of the 92,000 nurses to within ±7% at a 95% confidence interval.

Sen. Shaheen Introduces Veterans Access To Care Accountability Act

Senator Shaheen on the Senate Floor 4-29-14  (Screen Shot)

In Response to Inspector General Report, bill addresses gaps in VA health system, prohibits bonuses for VA officials 

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced legislation today designed to address the gaps and gross mismanagement of Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) resources that were recently identified in an Office of Inspector General (OIG) report and have led to delayed care for veterans. Shaheen’s bill, the Veterans Access to Care Accountability Act, includes numerous provisions to remedy identified instances of veterans being delayed care, strengthen VA accountability and hold individual VA officials responsible, including through precluding bonuses from being paid to VA officials involved in mismanagement.

“The problems we’ve seen at VA hospitals across the country are unacceptable,” Shaheen said. “We need to do everything we can to make sure that veterans are getting timely access to the quality medical care they’ve earned. If there are problems, we need to know immediately, and those responsible need to be held accountable. This bill will go a long way toward improving oversight of the VA and ultimately providing our veterans with the care they deserve.”

Shaheen’s bill would implement a new random auditing requirement by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Office of Inspector General and other watchdog agencies for VA medical facilities and would require veterans be contacted within 48 hours and scheduled an appointment with an outside medical facility within one week if a report determines veterans have been delayed access to care. The Veterans Access to Care Accountability Act also includes provisions to hold VA officials involved in potential delays accountable, specifically banning the distribution of bonuses to VA officials who may have been involved in mismanagement.

The bill builds off bipartisan legislation Shaheen is co-sponsoring that has been included as an amendment to the FY 2015 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to give the Secretary the authority to fire or demote senior level employees based on their performance. Shaheen, who called for the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki following the release of the OIG report, has also requested a full briefing on the findings of rapid audit teams deployed across the VA enterprise, including at the Manchester and White River Junction VA Medical Centers that serve New Hampshire’s veterans.

Governor Hassan Issues Executive Order to Protect State Budget

Maggie Hassan

Order Directs Freeze in Generally Funded Hiring, Equipment, Purchasing and Out-of-State Travel

CONCORD – In order to help protect taxpayer dollars and the state’s budget, Governor Maggie Hassan today issued an Executive Order directing a freeze in generally funded hiring, equipment, purchasing and out-of-state travel, a preventative and preemptive measure to keep the state’s bipartisan commitment to a balanced budget.

Governor Hassan presented the Executive Order, which requires prior approval of the Fiscal Committee of the General Court, at the committee’s meeting today. The Fiscal Committee unanimously voted to approve the Executive Order.

Through March of this year, the state was running approximately $25 million ahead of it is conservative revenue plan, but general and education fund unrestricted revenues, driven principally by shortfalls in revenues from business taxes and the interest and dividend tax, came in nearly $22 million below plan in April. Despite this drastic drop, state revenues remain above plan for the fiscal year to date, but the revenue surplus was reduced to $3.9 million.

“Given the fact that revenues remain ahead of plan for the year, this is an unprecedented action that will help protect our budget,” Governor Hassan said. “We are taking the fiscally responsible, preemptive step of putting a freeze into place now so we are prepared in case the revenue trends seen in April continue.”

The Department of Revenue Administration continues to analyze data to determine the reasons for the sudden drops in revenue and whether this is a long-term trend. The decreases appear to be related, at least in part, to a number of changes in the state tax code in recent years, as well as to businesses beginning to apply various tax credits and carry forwards accrued during the recession, changes that the Governor proposed to postpone during the last budget process.

“Unfortunately, this Executive Order may only be the first step in the efforts necessary to ensure a balanced budget,” Governor Hassan said. “If June revenues perform similarly to April, we will need to take further action to reduce the state budget. We are examining options for cuts, and I will implement them where necessary and possible through Executive Orders. But some steps may require full legislative approval, and a special session of the full legislature to make reductions may be necessary over the summer. We will continue to communicate with you [the legislature] about these issues as they develop, and as we work to responsibly manage the state’s budget.”

 

Shea-Porter Sends Letter to FCC Chairman Demanding Net Neutrality

Carol Shea Porter Official Photo

Carol Shea Porter Official PhotoWASHINGTON, DC – Ahead of tomorrow’s Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) meeting regarding new Internet speed and pricing policies, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) joined with 35 of her colleagues to send a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler urging strong consumer protections that will prevent anti-competitive behavior and promote innovation.

“As you develop a proposal to oversee access to the Internet, we urge you to adopt strong and enforceable open Internet rules that proactively protect Internet users from unfair practices, including the blockage of lawful traffic or discrimination among content providers by Internet Service Providers,” the letter states.

The letter supports net neutrality, which would prevent Internet service providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, from discriminating against some content providers. It means these Internet service providers shouldn’t be able to create a “two-speed” Internet, where bigger companies pay for faster speeds, or where customers have to pay more to receive quick service.

As the letter continues: “Recognizing our nation’s communications providers as common carriers under the law is common sense. Reclassification would also complement the Commission’s efforts to promote innovation, competition and investment in universally available, reliable and affordable broadband infrastructure. Over one million people have already gone on the record in support of reclassification.”

On Tuesday, Shea-Porter published an Op-Ed in the Union Leader where she noted that “without the guarantee of network neutrality, the Internet superhighway’s rules of the road will favor big tech businesses over newer startups.”

Shea-Porter is a cosponsor of the Open Internet Preservation Act of 2014, a temporary fix to allow the FCC time to rewrite its rules and defend net neutrality.

The text of the letter is below. A PDF with signatures is available at http://1.usa.gov/1mYLx13.

+++

May 14, 2014

The Honorable Thomas Wheeler
Chairman Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC20554

Dear Chairman Wheeler,

As you develop a proposal to oversee access to the Internet, we urge you to adopt strong and enforceable open Internet rules that proactively protect Internet users from unfair practices, including the blockage of lawful traffic or discrimination among content providers by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The rules must preserve the Internet as the open platform that it is today by recognizing our nation’s communications providers as common carriers. Without strong protections, the Internet could devolve into a closed platform in which those who pay the most can overwhelm other views and ideas.

We agree with your previous statements and those from President Obama that expressed similar concerns. ISPs will continue to explore ways to boost revenue by imposing discriminatory charges that will decrease the openness of the Internet. There is ample evidence that protecting the open Internet against such threats is critical for users and businesses alike. However, reports indicate that the current FCC proposal creates an Internet fast lane that would prioritize some Internet traffic and allow ISPs to discriminate against everyone else. The FCC cannot protect the open Internet by allowing discrimination.

We urge the FCC to use its clear authority under Title II of the Communications Act to reclassify the transmission component of broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service.  Recognizing our nation’s communications providers as common carriers under the law is common sense. Reclassification would also complement the Commission’s efforts to promote innovation, competition and investment in universally available, reliable and affordable broadband infrastructure.

Over one million people have already gone on the record in support of reclassification.  We urge the FCC to consider this support for strong, enforceable open Internet rules as it moves forward with the rulemaking process.

Sincerely,

 

CC:      Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

Ajit Pai, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

Michael O’Reilly, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission