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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 2-10-17: Right To Work (for less) And NH Retirement System

February 10, 2017  

Besides the snowstorms this week, the big news out of Concord is the current status of ‘right to work’ legislation, legislative action on the NH Retirement System, and the continuing saga of Frank Edelblut as NH’s own version of Betsy DeVos.

‘Right to Work’: The House Labor Committee held its mandatory hearing on so-called ‘right to work’ legislation this past Wednesday, a marathon hearing stretching from 10am until past 5 pm. Hundreds packed Reps Hall in the State House, and most of those who testified did so in opposition to so-called ‘right to work.’ There were numerous stories of how unions helped workers in the workplace and bettered their lives, along with testimonies on the need for workers to have a voice of their own. Many of the advocates of so-called ‘right to work’ were from outside NH, offering up slanted evidence and demonstrating virtually no understanding or familiarity with NH traditions, politics or even our economic situation in 2017. One such witness, when pressed, ultimately admitted that the reason business often supports so-called right to work is because it makes it harder to organize (translation: weaker unions, lower pay, fewer benefits). Interestingly, other than gun manufacturer Sturm Ruger (a non-union workplace) virtually no businesses testified in favor of so-called ‘right to work,’ and not a single employer who deals with unions testified in favor of so-called ‘right to work.’ AFT-NH local leaders submitted some fantastic written testimony for consideration by the Labor Committee. Please click here to review the testimony.

At the end of the long day, the Labor Committee then voted on the two identical bills (SB 11 and HB 520). Both bills will be sent to the House floor with the recommendation of “ITL”—Inexpedient to Legislate (in layman’s terms, “kill them”). Five Republicans voted with the nine Democrats on the Labor Committee, a strong bipartisan showing against legislation advocated by outside, non-NH organizations. As a result, SB 11 will come to the floor for a House vote on next Thursday, February 16, while HB 520 will come up later in the session. So, our challenge right now is to defeat SB 11 next Thursday—now is the time to act! Please, contact your State Representative and tell her/him to vote against SB 11 by following the Labor Committee’s recommendation of ITL. Do not delay—now is the time. Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t matter—we need to make our position known!

NH Retirement System: Another important legislative proposal dealing with the NH Retirement System will come before the House on Wednesday, February 15. The House Executive Departments and Administration Committee has recommended passage by a 10-9 vote. If approved by the full House, the bill would then be referred to the House Finance Committee. Sponsored by Representative Renny Cushing, HB 413 mandates that the State of NH reinstate payment by the state of 15% of retirement contributions, thereby providing some relief to cities, towns, counties and school districts, all of whom must bear the burden with employees of contributing to the NH Retirement System. Many years ago, when the State sought to persuade towns and cities to join the NHRS, it made the financial promise to pay 40% of the cost, a promise which has not been kept, thereby leaving towns and cities with increased burdens and higher property taxes to cover the payments reneged on by the State. The increased costs to local communities, especially in our locals such as Nashua, Newfound Area School District and Rochester dealing with tax and/or spending caps, this bill will provide some long-overdue relief and is strongly supported by AFT-NH. So, when you contact your State Reps about so-called ‘right to work,’ be sure to put in a good word for HB 413 as well, and remind them that even Governor Sununu has promised restoring some of the State aid promised to towns and cities.

Frank Edelblut: The Executive Council vote on Frank Edelblut was delayed this past week when it was revealed that a required consultation by the Governor with the State Board of Education had not actually occurred. That meeting was scheduled for yesterday but the snowstorm led to its cancellation, so the meeting will now be held on Tuesday, February 14th. In the meantime, video of Edelblut’s testimony in favor of discredited “conversion therapy” for gay teens is now circulating, leading one to wonder just how supportive he can be of our LGBQT students? There is also more material now available in which Edelblut is clearly identified as a denier of climate change. Combined with his previously noted affiliation with creationism (Patrick Henry College), it is sure to make one question just where science education will be headed under a Department of Education led by Frank Edelblut. So please, keep up the good work and contact your Executive Councilor and urge him to vote against Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education. Remind him—if you need to be certified to teach or licensed to drive, shouldn’t the Commissioner of Education meet the statutory requirement for appropriate education and experience?

A brief follow-up on two items noted in last week’s bulletin. First, HB 438 which would prohibit public employers from processing voluntary payroll deductions for union dues is scheduled for public hearing before the House Labor Committee on February 22nd. Secondly, the school voucher type bill, SB 193 had a public hearing and no action has yet been taken by the Committee.

Thank you for all you have done so far and thank you for all you will do this coming week. Please, reach out, participate, and encourage a colleague or friend to do likewise. Democracy is governance by the people, and YOU are the people!

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

NH Labor Leaders Speak Out About Today’s Hearing on So-Called “Right-to-Work” Legislation

Concord – Hundreds gathered to oppose the so-called “Right to Work” legislation in front of the New Hampshire House Labor Committee.  The testimony lasted for more than four hours.  

Unlike the Senate committee, the House committee actually listened to the people and voted the bills “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL) 14-7.  Five Republicans joined the nine Democrats on the committee to oppose both “right to work” bills.

The bill and the committee’s recommendation of “ITL” will be in front of the entire NH House next week.  If the NH House concurs with the committee recommendation, the bills will be killed.

Following today’s public hearing in the New Hampshire House of Representatives’ Labor Committee, New Hampshire labor leaders spoke out on the ant-worker legislation:

Glenn Brackett, President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO: “The New Hampshire AFL-CIO was proud to stand with hundreds of working people across the state who are fighting to protect their rights at work. This legislation is an attack on working families by out-of-state special interests seeking to lower wages for everyone and undermine worker protections. The proponents of this legislation are playing politics with the future of our workforce, and New Hampshire working families deserve better.”

Richard Gulla, President of SEA/SEIU Local Union 1984: “So-called right to work has no place in the Granite State, and I’m proud we were able to pack this hall today with those who agree. Both of these bills are tired, recycled legislation that does nothing for the real problems facing our state. We need the House to reject these bills so we can get down to working together on legislation that helps – not hurts – New Hampshire families.”

Sarah Hirsch, President of the University of New Hampshire Lecturers Union: “The families of New Hampshire want the college students to be solidly prepared and ready to enter good careers. To do this, the faculty who teach and mentor them need to be protected, have job stability and security, good benefits, and a say in their working conditions!  Weakening unions ultimately weakens higher education, undercutting the development of a skilled workforce for New Hampshire at a time when we need more competitive workers in the state.”  

Frank Moroney, Executive Director AFSCME Council 93: “It’s a powerful statement that a majority of legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, voted against so-called “Right to Work” today. They stood together because they know protecting our right to speak up together on the job shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Right to Work would hurt working families across the Granite State, and we’ll continue to fight against this legislation as it moves to the House floor.”

Dennis Caza, President of Teamsters Local Union 633: “Today, hundreds of our brothers and sisters stood in Solidarity to defend the rights of New Hampshire’s workers. We hope that we have sent a message to the legislature that so-called “Right-to-Work” is not the solution that New Hampshire working families need. In the coming days, we urge workers in every industry across the state to contact their legislators and let them know that this so-called “Right-to-Work” legislation is wrong for New Hampshire.”

1-27-17 AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Right To Work, Minimum Wage, And Frank Edelblut

January 27, 2017

Yesterday was a warm, almost Spring-like day, always welcome in January. The gold of the State House dome shone brightly in the sunshine, and I even took the time to sit for a short while on a bench on the State House grounds. Inside, however, the legislative session is just beginning to warm up, with a short session of the House to deal with a few legislative items, following an intensive week of public hearings on proposed bills, as committees work hard to push legislation to the floor for debates and votes.

The most important news of the week was the scheduling of hearings on so-called ‘right to work’ legislation by the House Labor Committee. The hearings on both the Senate (SB 11) and House (HB 520) versions of ‘right to work’ (virtually identical and almost entirely plagiarized from sample legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC), will be held in Reps Hall on Wednesday, February 8, beginning at 10 am. The hearings are expected to draw hundreds to the Hall, and it is likely the testimony will last for hours. More information on attending and testifying will be forthcoming, but if you can, start planning to join the fun! Battle-lines are being drawn now on this issue, between those who advocate for the working people of New Hampshire and their workplace voice versus those who seek to eradicate any vestiges of worker rights. Our focus will turn to reaching out to the members of the NH House and asking them to oppose so-called Right to Work in any and all forms. Please be sure to visit the AFT-NH website at www.aft-nh.org and utilize the resources on the Defeat Right to Work page.

Interestingly, the House Labor Committee also conducted hearings this week on proposed legislation HB 115 to increase the minimum wage in NH, from its current $7.25/hour up to an eventual $12.00/hour. Any increase would be welcome and long overdue, but those who clamor for so-called ‘right to work’ are also those who oppose any increase in the minimum wage, preferring to redesign the New Hampshire Advantage as one built on low wages and severe limitations on working people’s voice and rights.

In the background, there is also the dangerous proposed bill (HB 438) to ban payroll deduction of union dues by public employers, a strategy employed in Wisconsin to eviscerate public sector unions by making it very difficult for them to collect any member dues. This is actually the most severe threat facing organized labor and all working people in NH. Once unions are gone, can we expect employers to suddenly shower us with generous raises, expanded benefits, and kindly treatment? Remember, when employers exercise unilateral control over the workplace, it is not a recipe for happiness and harmony. Power seeks more power is the old axiom, and absolute power seeks more power absolutely.

Amongst the hundreds of bills now before the various committees of the House and Senate, a few stand out. There are over a half-dozen bills aiming to further reduce pensions or even nearly destroy the NHRS system, breaking every promise made to state, county, municipal, educational, and public safety employees. In a bright note, a bill to require the State to pay 15% of the annual cost of the NHRS survived its first committee test, but faces rough waters in the House. The State used to pay 35% of the costs of the NHRS, but now contributes nothing, a classic example of “downshifting” costs onto local taxpayers, so this bill would at least begin to right that wrong. AFT-NH remains an active partner and participant in the NH Retirement Security Coalition. It will take the combined effort of employee groups, stakeholders and members to protect the NH Retirement System as we know it.

There are also a number of bills to increase funding for charter schools, free them from property taxes, and further siphon off monies for public schools. Once again, there is a bright spot—the proposal to fund full-day kindergarten. The bill has had its public hearing in front of the House Education Committee, which is expected to act on it on February 8. Governor Chris Sununu loudly proclaimed his support for full-day kindergarten during his gubernatorial campaign, so it will be interesting to see if his support translates into Republican votes for it in the House.

In closing, I have two requests of you. First, I hope some of you can attend the January 31 public hearing on the nomination of businessman Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education. AFT-NH has already posted a “lesson plan” on Mr. Edelblut, and your testimony, whether in person or in writing, may help sway the Executive Council, which must approve his nomination. You can email the Executive Council members directly at gcweb@nh.gov. Second, please “Wear Red for Public Ed” on January 31. Let’s show our pride in public education! Dress in red, have your colleagues dress in red, take photos and send them to us for posting on-line. Be proud and say it loud, to paraphrase James Brown, and let’s celebrate one of America’s greatest accomplishments and contributions to the world—the idea of free, broad-based public education.

Your outreach to the legislators does make a difference and we are hearing back that you are contacting them. It matters. Please keep contacting them! We know when we act in unity, we can make a real difference.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Professor, Small Business Owner, and Union Member’s Testimony Against Right To Work

The NH Senate has already passed SB11, mostly along party lines (Thank You Senator Carson for being the one Republican to oppose SB11).  Soon the NH House will begin debate on their version of the so-called ‘Right to Work’ legislation.  Below is testimony from a small business owner and a proud UAW member opposing SB 11.


Testimony on SB 11 “Right to Work.” January 10, 2016

Here we go again. In predictable partisan moves, the New Hampshire Legislature is once again considering the deceptively named “right to work” bill.

I’m Tess George. I live in Nashua where I run a small business, offering communication, supervision and leadership training to businesses all over the state. I also teach part-time at the University of Massachusetts, where I am a proud union member of the UAW. That’s right – the UAW –it may surprise you to know that the UAW represents a large number of adjunct faculty and graduate students all across the country. At UML, I teach in the Manning School of Business and the Honors College. So, I am here today as someone with both a business background and as a union member.

One of the classes I teach is Critical Thinking. In critical thinking, when we’re considering a course of action, one of the first things students are taught is to clearly define the problem, and to study the implications of any suggested solution.

Proponents of this bill say that the problem is that people are forced to join a union and forced to pay union dues. The facts do not bear this out. No one is forced to join a union. However, unions are forced, by law, to represent everyone in their union, and everyone in the union shares in the benefits and wages won by collective bargaining. Those who don’t want to pay union dues pay an agency fee, that covers the union’s duty to represent them in grievances and in bargaining. In all my work as a trainer all across NH, I have not heard one business leader, HR specialist or worker talk about this as concern What leaders do worry about is finding enough talented, trained workers and maintaining a business climate that will attract and keep educated young workers.

It’s clear that its real intent and its probable effect will be to dis-empower and de-fund unions, so as to remove any resistance to the agenda of large multi-national corporations. These agendas are often not good for the New Hampshire economy and result in less economic freedom for the working citizens of New Hampshire.

So, this is a “solution” to a problem that doesn’t exist. It doesn’t make good business sense and it, in fact, will hurt the business climate in New Hampshire.

I urge you to vote “NO” on Senate Bill 11.

Tess George, Professor, UMass Manning School of Business, Small Business Owner, Union Member (UAW)

President Trump’s Federal Hiring Freeze Will Cost Taxpayers and Hurt Americans, AFGE Says

Executive Order slashing federal workforce will trigger increase in costly contractors

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump is backtracking on campaign pledges to create American jobs and cut wasteful government spending by issuing an executive order to freeze federal employee hiring across the country, which will result in more work being outsourced to more expensive contractors, the American Federation of Government Employees said today.

“President Trump’s action will disrupt government programs and services that benefit everyone and actually increase taxpayer costs by forcing agencies to hire more expensive contractors to do work that civilian government employees are already doing for far less,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

More than 85 percent of federal employees live and work outside the nation’s capital, so a hiring freeze targeting civilian workers will be felt in cities and towns across the country.

The number of federal employees has been frozen at about 2 million for the past 50 years, since John F. Kennedy was president. Meanwhile the number of contractors employed by the government has grown to at least twice the number of full-time federal employees, and trillions of dollars have been wasted on service contracts and mismanaged weapons systems.

“Numerous studies have shown that contractors are two to three times more costly than each federal employee they replace,” Cox said. “President Trump’s federal hiring freeze will result in more government waste as agencies are forced to hire high-priced contractors to do the work that federal employees can and should be doing.”

President Trump’s executive order excludes employees working on national security and defense issues, which accounts for roughly two-thirds of the current federal workforce. That means the hiring freeze will disproportionately affect domestic agencies and programs, many of which have already endured severe budget cuts this decade.

“This hiring freeze will mean longer lines at Social Security offices, fewer workplace safety inspections, less oversight of environmental polluters, and greater risk to our nation’s food supply and clean water systems,” Cox said.

“All Americans should be outraged that President Trump is gutting federal programs and funneling their taxpayer dollars into the hands of less-regulated private companies who answer to their corporate shareholders and not the American people,” Cox said.

Trump Signs Executive Order To Withdraw From TPP, Wants To Renegotiate NAFTA

Today, President Trump signed an Executive Order to withdraw from the 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.  As of right now, we are unsure of what the order says as it has yet to be released by the White House.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who made his opposition to the TPP a cornerstone in his campaign for President, was “glad” to see the TPP go down in flames.

“I am glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone. For the last 30 years, we have had a series of trade deals – including the North American Free Trade Agreement, permanent normal trade relations with China and others – which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs and caused a ‘race to the bottom’ which has lowered wages for American workers. Now is the time to develop a new trade policy that helps working families, not just multi-national corporations. If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers then I would be delighted to work with him.”

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO called this an “important first step” in building a “fair and just global economy.”

“Last year, a powerful coalition of labor, environmental, consumer, public health and allied groups came together to stop the TPP. Today’s announcement that the US is withdrawing from TPP and seeking a reopening of NAFTA is an important first step toward a trade policy that works for working people. While these are necessary actions, they aren’t enough. They are just the first in a series of necessary policy changes required to build a fair and just global economy. We will continue our relentless campaign to create new trade and economic rules that end special privileges for foreign investors and Big Pharma, protect our planet’s precious natural resources and ensure fair pay, safe conditions and a voice in the workplace for all workers.” 

The Hill is also reporting that President Trump plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has “dispatched his son-in-law and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner to Calgary on Tuesday to begin talks with the cabinet of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.”

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich was quick to point out on facebook that Trump’s feudal attempt to renegotiate NAFTA is only a distraction from the Republican attacks on working people.

“Trump stirs up symbolic controversies as diversions from what he and the Republicans are really up to.

Take NAFTA for example. He’s gearing up to “renegotiate” it, whatever that means. Expect lots of angry talk on both sides of our southern border.

But NAFTA’s a hill of beans relative Trump’s and the Republican’s pending repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). That will directly hurt millions of working Americans. But Trump wants to distract attention.

Same with Obama’s overtime rule, now hung up in the courts, which Trump is going to axe. It have delivered $12 billion of wage gains over the next decade to American workers.

Ditto labor unions. Trump’s Republicans are busily killing off unions with so-called “right-to-work” laws. The result is less bargaining power for workers to get better wages. But Trump doesn’t want to talk about labor unions. He’d rather beat up on Mexico.

And keep a careful watch on Medicare and Social Security, which have been in Paul Ryan’s cross-hairs for years. We don’t even know what Trump and the Republicans are planning for them, but whatever it is, average working people will take the brunt.”

So the question now becomes will withdrawing and renegotiating the TPP and possibly renegotiating NAFTA really help working people or will it be another chance for Trump and his billionaire buddies to cash in on unbalanced trade agreements?  Only time will tell.

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: ‘Right To Work’ Passes Senate, House To Hear Bills On NH Retirement

January 20, 2017

Yesterday, the NH Senate passed SB 11, the so-called ‘right to work’ bill, by a vote of 12-11. Ten Democratic senators were joined by Republican Senator Sharon Carson in opposing the bill, while one Republican Senator, Robert Guida, was absent and did not vote. By this action, the Republican majority in the NH Senate (excepting Senator Carson) makes clear where it stands. Their aim is to weaken organized labor and the ability of working people to negotiate collectively and have a powerful voice in the workplace. When organized labor is strong, working people are strong, wages rise, benefits improve, and there is greater mutual respect and equality in the workplace. ‘Right to work’ intends to reverse gains made in New Hampshire over nearly the past fifty years, and in tandem with other legislation, will turn New Hampshire into the low-wage haven of New England.

The battle over ‘right to work’ now moves to the NH House, where it is expected that the Senate bill (SB 11) and the identical House version (HB 520 ) will be examined jointly in a hearing before the House Labor Committee, possibly as early as February 8. When one of the bills would then reach the floor of the House for a vote is not yet clear, but at least one of the measures would likely be brought forward prior to the Legislature’s usual winter break in the final week of February.

What does this mean for us? It means we must redouble our efforts to rally public opposition to this anti-working families legislation and we must each commit ourselves and our co-workers to identify the NH House members who represent us, contact them, and make our position clear and our voices heard. Phone calls, emails, letters and petitions will all be in play over the next few weeks, so tighten your seat belts—it will be a rough ride! You can start by visiting the AFT-NH website, clicking on ‘State House News’ under the ‘2017 State House’ tab, and scroll down to where you can search out the names of your NH Senator and Representatives. Knowing who they are is Step 1, before we initiate further actions. And while there, please browse the AFT-NH website—there is much useful information on so-called ‘right to work’ and other issues of concern to us.

In other legislative news, HB 438, prohibiting public sector automatic union dues withholding from paychecks has yet to be scheduled for a hearing in front of the House Labor Committee. Advocates of so-called ‘right to work’ like to claim they are defending individual choice (to free-load) but with HB 438, no such figleaf or specious justification exists. This is direct and undisguised attempt to destroy the ability of labor unions to collect dues from their members in a convenient and simple manner, negotiated via their collective bargaining agreements. Keep this bill in your sights—it is crucial that we defeat it.

A number of bills regarding the NH Retirement System will have their House committee hearings next week. These early hearings are on bills that utilize a variety of strategies to reduce the heavy burdens being placed on public employers (cities, towns, school districts) across New Hampshire due to the State’s refusal to share the burdens and make ANY contributions into the NHRS. Assaults on the NHRS itself will come in future weeks, when proposed legislation reducing benefits or even dismantling the NHRS will come up for hearings.

The final deadline for House bills to be introduced is January 27th. The AFT-NH Bill Watch list is posted on our website and will be updated regularly.

Finally, in the area of education, we have had committee hearings on bills authorizing the State Board of Education to implement a code of ethics for certified teaching personnel, mandating a minimal two-week notice regarding curricular materials on human sexuality, and a proposal to repeal the education tax credit program benefiting charter and private schools. Education Committee actions have not yet been reported on these bills, and we will continue to monitor them as we move deeper into the legislative session. And no account of education-related activity in Concord would be complete without noting Governor Sununu’s nomination of Frank Edelblut as NH Education Commissioner. Given Edelblut’s complete lack of any education experience (he is an accountant by profession) and his clear support for siphoning public funds to pay for tuition at private schools, this is a nomination that deeply concerns AFT-NH and likely the entire education community in NH. So stay tuned—we will be asking your help to mobilize opposition to his confirmation by the Executive Council.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Machinists Union Call For Election At Boeing’s South Carolina Factory

North Charleston, S.C. – The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) today will file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a secret-ballot union election for approximately 2,850 production employees at the Boeing Co. in North Charleston, S.C.

Workers have remained in contact with IAM organizers in recent months regarding numerous workplace concerns that remain unaddressed, including subjective raises, inconsistent scheduling policies and a lack of respect on the shop floor.

“Boeing workers just want to be treated with the respect they deserve,” said IAM Boeing SC Lead Organizer Mike Evans. “Why should they be subject to a different set of standards and rules than folks building the exact same plane in Seattle?”

The filing comes after the IAM was forced to postpone a scheduled April 22, 2015 union election due to unprecedented political interference on the part of South Carolina lawmakers and the rampant spread of misinformation among Boeing workers.

“It was impossible to hold a free and fair election in an environment so ripe with mistruths and outright lies. Unfortunately, we’ve now heard numerous reports of the company walking people off the job for seeking a voice,” said Evans. “Despite the obstacles, we feel this group is ready to take a stand. The only way to secure the workplace improvements they deserve is through a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement.”

The NLRB is expected to issue election dates and locations in the coming weeks. The IAM is committed to ensuring Boeing workers have the opportunity to make their voice heard in an atmosphere free of intimidation and harassment.

“I can unequivocally say there will be a vote this time around,” said Evans. “We’ve met with numerous workers at Boeing in recent months and are confident they will see through any attempts by the company to divert attention away from the numerous workplace issues that need fixed.”

The IAM is the U.S.’s largest aerospace union, representing approximately 600,000 members at the likes of Lockheed Martin, General Electric and United Technologies. The IAM represents more than 35,000 Boeing employees at 24 locations nationwide. For more information about the campaign visit BoeingWorkers.com.

Sen. Carson Joins Senate Democrats In Opposition To SB11, Right To Work

Today the NH Senate to the first step in making New Hampshire a Right to Work for less state.

In a 12-11 vote the Senate passed SB 11 a so-called “right to work” bill that would strip employers and unions of their rights to negotiate an agency fee provision in their contracts.

Republican Senator Sharon Carson was the only Republican to stand up for the working families in New Hampshire by opposing SB 11.  All of the Senate Democrats were in attendance and voted against the bill.  (Republican Senator Bob Guida, was absent from todays vote.)

“I’m disappointed that instead of focusing on legislation that expands opportunity and increases wages for everyone, Republicans are rushing to pass a divisive bill that makes it harder for people in New Hampshire to earn a living and support a family,” said Deputy Democratic Leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester). “We know that in states with ‘Right to Work for Less’ laws, incomes stagnate or decrease and the standard of living declines.” 

“We should be proud of our state’s record of low unemployment and strong economic growth and we should not pass laws that interfere with the relationship between employers and their employees,” added Senator Soucy. “That’s why Democrats and Republicans have come together to defeat this flawed, right-wing proposal for decades – it’s simply wrong for New Hampshire, our workers, our businesses and our economy.”

Last week, over 100 people and community organization testified against SB 11 showing how it would reduce wages, lower safety within the workplace, reduce workers chances of having any type of retirement, and ultimately result in a loss of good paying NH jobs.  The year after passing Right to Work, Wisconsin lost over 10,000 jobs.

The leaders of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO and its Affiliates, the National Education Association of New Hampshire, the State Employees Association, the New Hampshire Carpenters, and the New Hampshire Teamsters released a joint statement following the Senate passage of so-called “Right-to-Work” legislation:

“Today the New Hampshire Senate passed the so-called “Right-to-Work” bill.  This bill is not about improving New Hampshire’s economy or increasing the freedoms of any worker in the Granite State. Instead it is an attack on all working families by special interests seeking to lower wages for everyone and undermine worker protections. This bill is designed to do one thing and one thing only:  limit employees’ ability to advocate on behalf of what’s best for their families and communities. 

This bill will silence the teachers who advocate on behalf of smaller class sizes for our children, the transportation employees who negotiate for the equipment they need to keep the roads clear after a blizzard and the police and firefighters who negotiate for the staffing levels they need to keep us safe. It would take away the voices of tradespeople like ironworkers, pipe-fitters and line workers who negotiate the safety standards that keep entire industries safe.

When working people aren’t able to have a voice in what’s best for our communities, we all lose.

New Hampshire deserves real solutions to real problems, not attempts to limit working people’s voice in their communities.  The legislature was elected to advocate for the best interests of all New Hampshire working families, and we urge them to remember that. As the bill moves to the House we’ll continue to do what we’ve always done: Stand with working families across the state to create a New Hampshire that works for everyone.”

 Along with a strong labor showing at the state house today, members of the New Hampshire Voices of Faith lobbied Senators as they entered the chamber. 

The working people of New Hampshire deserve better than to be steamrolled by out of state special interest groups pushing a bill that will not help New Hampshire workers in any way.

The so-called Right to Work bill will move to the NH House, where hopefully cooler heads will prevail and the bill will be killed.

Leo W Gerard: Speak Loudly And Carry A Big Aluminum Bat

During this very month last year, aluminum smelters across the United States were closing, one after another. It was as if they produced something useless, not a commodity crucial to everything from beverage cans to fighter jets.

In January of 2016, Alcoa closed its Wenatchee Works in Washington State, costing 428 workers their jobs, sending 428 families into panic, slashing tax revenue counted on by the town of Wenatchee and the school district and devastating local businesses that no longer saw customers from the region’s highest-paying manufacturer.

That same month, Alcoa announced it would permanently close its Warrick Operations in Evansville, Ind., then the largest smelter in the country, employing 600 workers, within three months.

2017-01-15-1484522908-8150456-Alumphoto1.JPG

Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick smelter in Evansville, Ind., before it closed in 2016. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

Then, Noranda Aluminum fell. It laid off more than half of the 850 workers at its New Madrid, Mo., smelter in January, filed for bankruptcy in February and closed in March. The smelter was a family-supporting employer in a low-income region, and when it stopped operating, the New Madrid County School District didn’t get tax payments it was expecting.

This devastation to workers, families, communities and corporations occurred even after Ormet had shuttered a smelter in Ohio in 2013, destroying 700 jobs and Century closed its Hawesville, Ky., smelter, killing 600 jobs, in August of 2015.

It all happened as demand for aluminum in the United States increased.

That doesn’t make sense until China’s role in this disaster is explained.

That role is the reason the Obama administration filed a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization (WTO) last week. In this case, the president must ignore the old adage about speaking softly. To preserve a vital American manufacturing capability against predatory conduct by a foreign power, the administration must speak loudly and carry a big aluminum bat.

The bottom line is this: American corporations and American workers can compete with any counterpart in the world and win. But when the contest is with a country itself, defeat is virtually assured.

In the case of aluminum, U.S. companies and workers are up against the entire country of China. That is because China is providing its aluminum industry with cheap loans from state-controlled banks and artificially low prices for critical manufacturing components and materials such as electricity, coal and alumina.

By doing that, China is subsidizing its aluminum industry. And that is fine if China wants to use its revenues to support its aluminum manufacturing or sustain employment – as long as all of the aluminum is sold within China. When state-subsidized products are sold overseas, they distort free market pricing. And that’s why they’re banned.

China agreed not to subsidize exports in order to get access to the WTO. But it has routinely and unabashedly flouted the rules on products ranging from tires to paper to steel to aluminum that it dumps on the American market, resulting in closed U.S. factories, killed U.S. jobs and bleak U.S. communities.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick Operations in Evansville, Ind., before the smelter closed in 2016. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

In 2000, China produced about 11 percent of the aluminum on the global market. That figure is now 50 percent. A big part of the reason is that China quadrupled its capacity to produce aluminum from 2007 to 2015, and increased its production by 154 percent.

When China threw all of that extra, cheap, state-subsidized aluminum on the global market, it depressed prices. In that eight-year period, the price sank approximately 46 percent.

To compete, American smelters tried cutting costs and getting better deals on electricity. But even as U.S. demand increased, U.S. production declined 37 percent. And capacity decreased 46 percent.

What capacity decrease means is closed plants. The number of smelters dropped from 14 in 2011 to five last year, with only one operating at full volume.

Many of these manufacturing workers, thrown out of their jobs by what is clearly unfair trade, saw President-elect Donald Trump as a champion. Donald Trump said he would hold China to account on trade. He promised he would impose massive tariffs on goods imported from China. He said he would confront Beijing on currency manipulation, a practice that makes Chinese goods artificially cheap.

Many of those manufacturing workers voted for Donald Trump. Monroe County, Ohio, is a good example. That was the home of the Ormet smelter. The workers, who belonged to my union, the United Steelworkers, and the company asked Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2012 and 2013 to intervene with the utility to get lower rates to help Ormet survive.

Kasich refused. The smelter closed. Monroe County’s unemployment rate now is the highest in Ohio at 9 percent, nearly twice the national rate.

Monroe County voters didn’t forget. Theirs was among the counties in Ohio that went for Donald Trump in the Republican primary. Though Trump didn’t win the Ohio primary, he got 35.9 percent in the crowded GOP field, and he took virtually all of the places in Ohio that, like Monroe, would say Kasich and other politicians turned their backs on them.

President-elect Trump carried 29 of Ohio’s Appalachian counties in the primary, those described as “geographically isolated and economically depressed.” These are counties that, like Monroe, lost family-supporting jobs in steel, manufacturing or mining. For the workers who haven’t left, the jobs that remain, in retail and fast food, don’t pay much, don’t provide benefits and aren’t secure.

When Donald Trump came to town talking tough about China, that sounded a hell of a lot better to those workers than their governor telling them he wouldn’t help with electrical rates – especially after they watched the governor in New York work a deal to save an Alcoa smelter and 600 jobs for 3 years in Massena.

And, of course, Donald Trump won Ohio in the General Election.

Workers across America, from Sebree, Ky., and Mt. Holly, S.C., where Century smelters are threatened to Wenatchee, Wash., where Alcoa has held out the possibility that the smelter could be restarted, were galvanized to support Donald Trump by his promises to confront China on its predatory trade practices.  If he fulfills those pledges, he will have the back of the blue-collar workers who had his.

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Worker at Alcoa’s Warrick smelter in Evansville, Ind., before it closed last year. Photo by Steven Dietz, Sharp Image Studios, Pittsburgh.

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