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Richard Trumka on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Annual Union Membership Report

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Today’s release of the annual union membership numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in this economic recovery, people are either seeking out good union jobs or taking matters into their own hands by forming unions to raise wages and ensure that new jobs are good jobs.

In 2014, workers made great strides and confronted great challenges, including major organizing wins at American Airlines, multiple state legislative victories on the minimum wage and innovative campaigns conducted by carwash workers, among others. We recognize, however, that right-wing billionaires’ extremist politics, a rapacious Wall Street and insufficient advocacy from political leaders thwarted further progress.

In the State of the Union this week, President Obama celebrated the fact that our economy has benefitted from 58 consecutive months of job growth and reiterated the need for laws that strengthen unions and give workers a voice. But the most important question is not simply how many jobs we’re creating, but are we creating jobs that raise wages for all? A strong recovery must be built on family-sustaining, not poverty-level jobs. Today’s news confirms what most of us already knew: workers are finding good union jobs despite political ideologues — and jobs are coming back as the economy slowly rebounds, but neither are nearly enough.

Key trends include:

  • Union density edged up for workers 16 to 24 from 4.2 to 4.5%
  • Public sector union density growth largely due to women
  • Union density growth in Leisure and Hospitality
  • Union membership increased among Latino men
  • Largest growth, 1.8% among Asian American women
  • Union membership increased for Black women and men
  • Black men and women remain the groups with the highest union density

Noteworthy 2014 Worker Wins

  • More than 92,000 workers chose to join AFSCME, including 20,000 home health care workers who were recently the target of Harris v Quinn. This was double AFSCME’s organizing goal for the year.
  • 14,500 customer service agents who work for American Airlines voted for union representation with CWA after the merger with US Airways. This victory was especially significant for 9,000 former American Airlines agents who have been part of a 19-year long organizing effort.
  • Workers at an Alabama Copper parts plant voted to organize as members of the United Steelworkers despite extensive political intimidation and efforts by Governor Robert Bentley to dissuade workers from unionizing.
  • Mechanics, technicians, and maintenance personnel at the Red River Army Depot near Texarkana, TX successfully organized into the IAM.  This victory follows successful campaigns by workers earlier in the year where 925 employees joined the union at the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Corpus Christi, Texas.
  • Nurses and hospital workers voted to form unions at two hospitals in Connecticut. The workers, who will be represented by AFT Connecticut, had to overcome attempts by hospital administrators to intimidate the workers.

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

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

(Image by Gage Skidmore CC Flikr)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Fifth Anniversary of Citizens United, Citizens Want ‘Money Out, Voters In’

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Today, on the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, 5 million citizens are telling Congress: “We want money out and voters in.” Ordinary Americans are signing petitions, contacting their members of Congress and standing against the takeover of our democracy by the 1 percent.

The high court’s Citizens United decision wasn’t the first court action to allow big money to influence our politics, but it did significant harm by enabling a flood of dollars from corporations and the wealthiest Americans to cripple our political process. Add last year’s McCutcheon decision, and the Court now has allowed virtually unlimited political spending. Corporations and the wealthiest now are able to buy our elections, aggressively lobby Congress and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.

The Democracy Initiative, a broad movement of 50 environmental, community, labor and citizen organizations representing more than 30 million activists, sees this flood of money in politics as one of the critical blocks to true democracy and the issues on which progressives want real progress. We support federal legislation that will reform our campaign finance process through small donor public financing. We’re backing a constitutional amendment that makes it clear: corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech. We are pressing for transparency in campaign funding and full disclosure, along with stronger enforcement of election law. And we’re fighting for these goals on the state and local level too, where there already have been major changes in moving to a fair and open campaign finance system.

The federal elections of 2012, a presidential year, cost $7 billion, the highest to date. Spending in the 2014 mid-term elections broke new records too, at $4 billion.

The danger of allowing corporations and the wealthiest to take away the people’s voice is all around us.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable are pushing a trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that would result in an even bigger corporate power grab. The TPP would place the “expected future profits” of multinational corporations ahead of U.S. citizens, communities, our health and security. Corporations could challenge any laws and regulations that they believe jeopardize their profits in secret, international tribunals.

Forget the Supreme Court’s determination that corporations are people. Under the TPP, corporations get some of the power of national governments.

Today, more than 5 million Americans are on record opposing this corruption of our political process and this number is growing bigger and stronger everyday, as we stand up to get money out of politics and to take back our democracy.

Mass Nurses Warn Of Harmful Cuts To Newton Wellesley Hospital

Nurses Make a Difference

Newton Wellesley Hospital Nurses Go Public With Concerns
About Patient Safety in Response to Plan by Partners to Cut Staffing and Increase Patient Loads for Nurses in the Hospital’s Busy ED

Plan to Cut Staff Comes as the ED Nurses Struggle to Confront a Growing Flu Epidemic and After NWH and Partners has Posted a Healthy Profit in Recent Years

Wellesley, Mass. ¾ The registered nurses of Newton Wellesley Hospital represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United (MNA/NNU), recently began a leafleting/advertising campaign to alert the public about a potentially dangerous plan by Partners Health Care, the multi-billion dollar owner of our hospital, to reduce RN staffing levels and increase nurses’ patient assignments in the facility’s busy emergency department, which the nurses believe will impact the quality and safety of care.  The cuts come as the facility continues to make a healthy profit and the census in the ED has increased over the past year, and as the facility struggles to cope with a growing flu epidemic.

Newton Wellesley Hospital operates a busy and efficient emergency department that treats more than 58,000 patients a year who are experiencing a variety of illnesses and injuries, many of them potentially life threatening, where timely care is essential.

According to Laurie Andersen, a longtime ED nurse at the facility and chair of the nurses’ local bargaining unit, “The patients of our hospital have been fortunate as, until now, our emergency department was staffed with a safe complement of expert nurses, with safe patient loads that allowed us to provide the timely care you expect and deserve.  Unfortunately, our administration has announced a plan to reduce the number of nurses on staff, cutting a least one nurse per shift, which will increase the number of patients assigned to each nurse.  This plan will decrease our ability to be flexible and efficient in providing the safe patient care the public needs.”

According to data gathered by the nurses, visits to the emergency department have increased by 2 percent in the past year, and in recent months, the hospital has been flooded with patients visiting the ED, which is being exacerbated by an increase in patients suffering from flu like illnesses.

“Even without these cuts we have had several days where we are boarding patients, including intensive care patients, in the emergency department because we have no beds available to move patients to, and we have more patients coming in our doors all the time.  We have had to initiate care for sick emergency patients young and old in the hallways to make sure that they receive safe care.” Andersen explained. “On numerous occasions we have been on ‘Code Orange’ which means we have no inpatient beds but the Emergency department never closes or turns away sick patients.  We are a busy hospital and when inpatient beds are full, the emergency department must continue to care for those patients as well as caring for all other sick or injured patients from our community.  The nurses at Newton-Wellesley want to provide excellent, timely safe care to our patients and that is why we are so concerned about these cuts.”

According to official financial reports, these changes are being proposed at a time when the hospital posted profits in excess of $27 million and when Partners Health Care, the corporate owner of our hospital, recorded profits of more than $700 million over the last two years.

The nurses have been actively engaged in efforts to convince management to maintain the current staffing levels.  More than 85 percent of the ED nurses signed a petition last year opposing this plan, and earlier this year more than 20 nurses attended a meeting with management to speak out against the plan and what it would mean for the safety of our patients.  Beginning last week, the nurses began an effort to hand out leaflets to the public explaining their concerns, and this week the MNA/NNU has placed ads in local papers about the situation.  The flyers and the ads ask for community members to call the NWH President to ask him to maintain the current staffing levels at the hospital.  For a copy of the leaflet, contact David Schildmeier at dschildmeier@mnarn.org.

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

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

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

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

New England Lawmakers Call For Assessment Of FairPoint Emergency Network Capabilities

FairPoint Communications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 January 21, 2015

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

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Jeanne Shaheen
United States Senator

Patrick Leahy
United States Senator

Bernard Sanders
United States Senator

Peter Welch
United States Representative

Ann McLane Kuster
United States Representative

AFT President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s State of the Union Address

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“Unions give workers the voice they need, and public education gives our children the opportunity they deserve.” 

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s statement on President Obama’s State of the Union address:

“Tonight, the president invoked our shared values, reminding us what unites us as a nation. He asked us to turn the page, to ensure shared prosperity, to pave the road to middle-class economics so that all who want a chance to succeed get that chance. He affirmed that every child in every neighborhood matters. And he reinforced that unions give workers the voice they need, and public education gives our children the opportunity they deserve.

“All workers deserve a pathway to a good job with a living wage—one that covers the cost of healthcare and child care, and allows them to pay down exorbitant student loans, save for their retirement, provide the basic necessities for their family, like food and housing, and still have a little left over. Working families see that the economy is getting better, but too many have yet to feel it. That must change, and the president raised many ideas tonight to change it. We need to ensure that all families can climb the ladder of opportunity. And to do that, we need our government to reinvest in public education and support our educators. The tools the president advanced tonight—providing free community college and greater access to early childhood education, raising the minimum wage, offering child care and paid sick leave to parents—all will help if they are enacted.

“The president summoned us all to come together, to think bigger, to aim higher. That’s what the teachers, nurses and public workers, those who are and want to be the middle class in America, do every day. This is our credo. We want to do what’s best for our communities and our country. We want to reclaim the promise of America.”

Statement by the Communications Workers of America on President Obama’s State of the Union Message

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Washington, D.C. – The President spoke with confidence about where America is headed. In many areas, he laid out an encouraging vision for our nation – expanding education opportunities for working and middle class families, improving the ability to better balance work and family responsibilities, tax fairness, improving children’s health, and more.

CWA has supported the President in these and similar initiatives throughout his presidency. However, we cannot stand with the President in his alliance with Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable to send more U.S. jobs offshore, undermine U.S. communities and weaken U.S. sovereignty under the guise of “free trade.”  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has much more to do with protecting the investment of multinational corporations and maneuvering around China than lowering trade barriers.

Public opposition to “fast track” authority and the TPP is strong, and growing more vocal everyday. Consumer groups, workers, environmentalists, people of faith, students and more have united to stop this attack on U.S. jobs and communities. Conservatives, who do not believe that nations should relinquish their sovereign power to secret tribunals, also are on board.

Over the past 20 years, millions of U.S. jobs have been lost. The jobs U.S. workers had been promised over those years of course never materialized. In fact, just two trade deals – NAFTA and the Korea Free Trade Agreement — have resulted in the loss of nearly 800,000 jobs. The promoters of the TPP are again promising job gains through growth in U.S. exports. But we can do the math. Any new jobs will be dwarfed by the flood of jobs that go offshore.

We believe in trade, but U.S. communities and working families deserve fair trade that gives workers’ rights, environmental standards, consumer rights and other issues the same standing as corporate profits. 21st century fair trade will balance our imports and exports, lead to job growth and protect all our rights, not just those of the 1 percent.

Instead, through the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process, the TPP gives multinational corporations special guarantees and the right to challenge a country’s laws and regulations that could affect future profits in a secret tribunal. Corporations don’t have to wait for six years, like workers in Guatemala did, for the U.S. to raise trade complaints over the abuse of workers in that country. Corporations don’t have to accept the judgment of the Australian Supreme Court that the government has every right to regulate cigarette packaging. The secret tribunals and ISDS process would handle corporate complaints quickly.

The TPP has been negotiated in secret, but it’s no secret that we’re taking this fight to the Obama administration and to Congress, where activists and organizations across the political spectrum are pushing members of the House and Senate to stand up for jobs, fairness and our communities. Congress must reject “fast track” authority and give trade deals like the TPP the full review that the American people deserve.

LiUNA Member Gets A Seat Next To Michele Obama At SOTU

LIUNA - The Laborers' International Union of North America

LIUNA Training and Apprenticeship Leads Mother to Family-Supporting Construction Career – and a Seat With the First Lady During the State of the Union Speech

(Washington, D.C.)  LeDaya Epps built a family-supporting construction career through LIUNA’s training and apprenticeship program – and tonight she will find herself with First Lady Michelle Obama during the President’s State of the Union remarks.

Epps, 38, is a proud nine-year member of LIUNA Local 300 in Los Angeles. The Compton, Ca., native is currently working on a project to expand the light rail train line for LA Metro to Los Angeles International Airport. Epps credits LIUNA’s training and apprenticeship programs with providing the skills needed to take advantage of job opportunities in the construction industry and to improve her standard of living.

“The skills training I received through my union has done more than teach me a trade. It’s renewed my life,” Epps said. “It has been a lifeline to a career I am proud of and allowed me to provide for myself and my three children.

Epps was invited to be a guest of the First Lady by Labor Department Secretary Tom Perez as a way for the Administration to highlight the positive impact of the training programs of LIUNA and other Building Trades unions. In addition to joining the First Lady, Epps met with the Labor Secretary while in Washington, D.C.

“We are deeply proud of LeDaya and that a member of the Laborers’ International Union of North America has been chosen for this honor,” LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan said. “It is a testament to the dedication and perseverance of LeDaya, to the positive difference LIUNA Local 300 makes in the lives of our members and their families, and to the significance and power of our training and apprenticeship programs.”

LIUNA operates more than 70 fixed and mobile training centers which provide classroom and hands-on skills training for 140,000 workers a year in both construction and environmental remediation. The construction skills taught prepare workers to build the critical infrastructure of the U.S., including roads, bridges, transit systems, pipelines, power plants, buildings and other projects.

Shaheen Hosts NH First Responder And Member Of The Profession Firefighters Of NH At State Of The Union

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U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) will host Bill McQuillen, a Portsmouth firefighter and Secretary-Treasurer of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, as her guest at next week’s State of the Union address. The State of the Union will be delivered by President Obama Tuesday, January 20 at 9:00 PM. Shaheen selected McQuillen as her guest this year as a way to show her appreciation for New Hampshire’s first responders.

“New Hampshire’s first responders are some of the nation’s best, putting their lives at risk every day to keep us and our communities safe,” Shaheen said. “It’s an honor to host Bill in Washington to show my appreciation for all that he and his fellow first responders do for New Hampshire year round.”

Bill McQuillen is a 25 year veteran of the fire service and is a current Lieutenant at in the City of Portsmouth. He began his career in at the Portsmouth Fire Department in 1990 as a firefighter and was promoted to Fire Lieutenant in 2008. He has been a member of both IAFF Local 1313 Portsmouth Fire Fighters Association, and IAFF Local 4039 Portsmouth Professional Fire Officers Association. He has been elected by his peers to serve as Local 1313 President for 13 years, and has served on Local 4039’s the Executive Board as President and currently Secretary-Treasurer.

McQuillen has also been a member and leader of his state association, the Professional Fire Fighters of NH. He was selected as PFFNH Trustee in 1996 then served as District Vice President in 2000. In 2002, Bill was elected to his current role of Secretary-Treasurer to the organization.

In 2010, Bill was elected to the Governor’s Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council, and currently serves as Vice Chair of the Council. He currently lives in Portsmouth with his wife Molly and their two children, Liam and Brendan.

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