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Leo W Gerard: Another GOP Tax Plan For Captains

Donald Trump
Image by DonkeyHotey CC FLIKR

It’s based on the same voodoo economics we’ve heard many times before.

As he ran for office, Donald Trump repeatedly reminded audiences that he was “really, really rich,” but assured voters that as president he would be a working man’s champion, a blue-collar Superman.

He said he would stop corporations from offshoring manufacturing jobs with a border adjustment tax on imports. He would end trade cheating and declare China a currency manipulator on his first day in office. He would launch within his first 100 days a $1 trillion infrastructure improvement program to create millions of jobs fixing the nation’s airports, bridges and roads.

Trump’s record of promise-keeping to America’s working men and women in his first 100 days is this: So far, no good. The tax plan, well, the one-page tax sketch that the administration released last week is symbolic. While it would slash federal levies on fat cats and corporations, administration officials refused to say it would help the middle class at all. And it contains no border adjustment tax.

The tax plan rewards the captains of industry, the captains of Wall Street, the captains of real estate, like, well, like Trump himself. But the middle class, not so fast. The poor, not at all. Someone needs to tell Donald Trump that banksters and real estate tycoons sporting navy golf polos aren’t blue-collar workers. The tax scheme, like so many of Trump’s other pledges to workers, is a stab in the back of that indigo shirt.

On the campaign trail, Trump said rich people like him should pay more in taxes. Yet, the tax plan he offered last week would cut his taxes – by tens of millions a year. That’s because it would eliminate the alternative minimum tax. This is a levy intended to require billionaires like Trump to pay at least something after subtracting their multitude of special-rich-people deductions.

Trump has refused to release his tax returns – the first American president to keep them secret since Gerald Ford, who provided summaries. But Trump’s 2005 return, uncovered in part by a newspaper, shows that he had to pay $31 million as a result of the alternative minimum tax.

Trump’s plan also calls for eliminating the estate tax. That is paid only by people who inherit more than $5.5 million – as Trump’s children will. And it calls for cutting by more than half, to 15 percent, the tax paid by entities called pass-through corporations. Trump’s attorneys indicated in his presidential financial disclosures that his approximately 500 businesses are almost all pass-throughs.

Trump will be hobnobbing with his country club buddies in benefitting from this break. A 2015 study by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research found that the top 1 percent gets 69 percent of pass-through income.

Right now, a worker can’t get in on that low 15 percent tax rate unless reporting income below $37,950. But doctors and lawyers and investment bankers would get that special discount rate, no matter how much they make, as long as they pay a few bucks to establish a pass-through corporation. Trump’s plan would allow a lawyer paid $1 million a year to cut his taxes by $180,000 by setting up a pass-through.

Certainly, with all of those perks going to the nation’s most wealthy, Trump’s tax men would assure workers that they will benefit too.

Not really. When asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” last week whether the middle class would pay more under the plan, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “I can’t make any guarantees.”

And the director of Trump’s National Economic Council, Gary D. Cohn, could not say how much of a break – if any­ – a middle-income American would get under the plan.

If it’s not absolutely clear who Trump’s tax plan would benefit, there’s also this from George Callas, the senior tax counsel for the Speaker of the House. Callas wants a permanent break for corporations, saying of a temporary one:

“It would not alter business decisions. It would not cause anyone to build a factory. It would just be dropping cash out of helicopters on corporate headquarters for a couple of years.”

Lots of small towns in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania – towns that suffered when corporations offshored factories, towns that voted for Trump – would really benefit from cash dropping out of helicopters for a couple of years.

But that’s not Trump’s plan.

Trump’s money men, Mnuchin and Cohn, said slashing levies on the wealthy will pay for itself because giving the rich more cash will spur economic growth. So, no need to worry about Trump’s tax cuts ballooning the national debt, they assured.

This is called the Laffer Curve. Really.

Economist Arthur Laffer, an adviser to Trump, explained to the Washington Post last week that it works like this: “When you think about cutting that corporate rate, let’s say, from 35 to 15, that’s not going to cost you any money.”

He convinced the likes of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush this hocus-pocus would work. And now, he has bamboozled Trump.

Both Reagan and Bush cut taxes. Both also left the country with larger deficits and uneven economic growth. Reagan raised taxes several times after his initial 1981 cut. Bush gave the country the Great Recession.

Laffer still insists his curve works, contending, “It’s a no-brainer.”

No. It’s voodoo economics. That’s what George H.W. Bush called it.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that advocates fiscal restraint, estimated that Trump’s Laffer tax plan could reduce federal revenue by $3 trillion to $7 trillion over a decade. The economy would need to grow at a rate of 4.5 percent to make that proposal self-financing.

It grew at a pathetic 0.7 percent during Trump’s first quarter in office. In President Obama’s last quarter, the fourth of 2016, it increased at 2.1 percent. To rise at 4.5 percent would be phenomenal. Maybe paranormal.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, put it this way: “It seems the administration is using economic growth like magic beans: the cheap solution to all our problems.”

Ronald Reagan, who like Trump was adored by blue-collar workers, promised that benefits from his massive tax cuts for the rich would trickle down to the rest. That never worked. But now Trump is taking advice from the same Svengali and promoting the same flim-flam plan.

Those heartland workers can’t tolerate another hit. But it’s not just taxes. The health insurance proposal Trump is pushing would cost many low- and middle-income workers thousands of dollars more a year. Trump has proposed eliminating the Chemical Safety Board, which prevents workplace deaths. He delayed rules protecting workers from deadly silica and beryllium. He signed a law ending a requirement that large federal contractors disclose and correct serious safety violations. Trump has no federal infrastructure plan and reneged on naming China a currency manipulator.

These are all the actions of a president protecting the captains of commerce, not one championing blue-collar workers.

NewsGuild Members Take A Stand Against Profiteering In Day Of Action

Guild workers at Digital First Media and GateHouse Media stand together against profiteering owners on World Press Freedom Day, May 3

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — A broad coalition of 1,500 unionized news workers will conduct a joint day of action on May 3 — World Press Freedom Day — as part of a national campaign to protest the corporate-led assault on quality journalism.

The coordinated effort by NewsGuild members will span 29 newspapers owned by GateHouse Media and Digital First Media. It will support the fight for quality journalism at those papers and highlight the damage wrought by draconian cuts in their newsrooms and other departments.

Now, union leaders say the focus on profits threatens journalism at a critical time of politicized attacks on the news media.

“Reliable information is the foundation of our democracy,” said Bernie Lunzer, president of The NewsGuild-CWA, based in Washington, D.C. “Corporate owners have a duty to invest in the essential work done by newspaper workers and not to simply strip-mine newspapers for profits.”

The joint effort by GateHouse and Digital First Media workers marks an unprecedented NewsGuild campaign to demand that corporate owners invest in quality jobs and fair contracts after years of layoffs, furloughs, pay freezes and benefit cuts. Contract negotiations are under way or expected to resume soon at both companies, but managements have shown little interest in changing course.

Workers at GateHouse and Digital First Media have endured some of the most vicious staff reductions in the news business.

Alden Global Capital, a secretive New York hedge fund, owns DFM and has slashed staffing levels by more than twice the national average during the past five years, while pocketing millions by selling off the company’s real estate assets.

GateHouse owns and/or manages 564 community print publications, including more than 130 daily newspapers, under the New Media Investment Group umbrella. New Media is a publicly traded company, externally managed by Fortress Investment Group.

Under New Media’s business model, the company buys newspapers, strips them down to maximize cash flow, and uses that money to pay dividends, pay bonuses to corporate officers and fund more acquisitions.

As the company gets bigger, Fortress collects larger management fees — roughly $54 million the previous two years alone.

The 13 Digital First bargaining units represent workers at 12 newspapers, including the Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News, St. Paul Pioneer Press, and suburban publications in the Bay Area, Philadelphia, and Detroit markets. Last week, DFM announced that it would lay off more than 20 percent of the Guild-covered newsroom staff at the East Bay Times, just one week after it was awarded journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize, for breaking news coverage of the deadly “Ghost Ship” warehouse fire in December.

The 15 GateHouse bargaining units represent 580 workers at 17 newspapers, including the Providence (RI) Journal, Worcester (MA) Telegram and Gazette, Erie (PA) Times-News, Peoria (IL) Journal Star, Springfield (IL) State Journal-Register, Rockford (IL) Register Star, Utica (NY) Observer Dispatch, The Herald News (Fall River, MA), The Enterprise (Brockton, MA), The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA), Lakeland (FL) Ledger, and the Sarasota (FL) Herald-Tribune. The staff of the Herald-Tribune, a newly organized Guild unit, shared the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting with the Tampa Bay Times for their five-part series “Insane. Invisible. In Danger.” That collaborative project detailed horrific conditions in Florida’s mental hospitals.

In the new campaign, the Guild is pushing back nationwide before media profiteers cause further wreckage to the communities they are supposed to serve.

The May 3 World Press Freedom Day action will include the display of pro-journalism literature at desks and other work stations, and appeals for public support in local communities and online. The theme: “Democracy Depends on Journalism” and “Invest in Us.”

The action will mark the first coordinated effort by news workers at the two companies to demonstrate solidarity in the workplace and remind the public that quality journalism matters.

NewsGuild members are reaching out to allies, including journalists working for other employers – both union and non-union – as well as community advocates concerned about the corporate gutting of newsrooms across the United States.

To sign a petition supporting news workers and press freedom, click here.

LiUNA’s Statement On International Workers Day

Washington, D.C. (May 1, 2017) – Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, today made the following statement on International Workers’ Day:

As we mark the May Day Holiday, it is time to reflect on the struggles that gave birth to the Labor movement and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the battle for dignity and justice while also re-dedicating ourselves to win justice and basic rights for all workers.

The Haymarket Uprising in May of 1886 in Chicago was a turning point in the Labor movement and in our nation; marking a point when workers of all creeds united together as one to win their rightful place in our society.   On that fateful day in Haymarket Square some workers and police were tragically killed in the violence and chaos.

Workers stood fearless and united against tyranny and greed to win better working conditions.  Many of the men and women who gathered in the square that day were immigrant workers. They came to America filled with hope and eager for opportunity. And, once here they fought for a better, safer, more dignified way of life.

Today, an increasing number of workers in America are just like those of Haymarket, whether immigrants who are here seeking a better life or native workers who are struggling just to hold on.

Then as now, workers face the same greed and immorality. And, the most vulnerable workers, immigrants, often find themselves targeted with the most vicious abuses of their rights as workers. And, it is the politicians and their special interest backers who have failed to fix our flawed immigration system, who are answerable for the pain and hardship they are wreaking not only on America’s newest immigrants but on all working people; for in denying any class of people their basic rights and subjecting them to exploitative conditions, it is an injury to all.

LIUNA has been a tireless advocate for fair and just comprehensive immigration and we will continue that fight; recommitting ourselves to a movement that never backs up and never backs down in the fight for civil rights, human rights, workers’ rights and union rights.

VA Executive Order Can Only Succeed if Workers’ Rights Are Preserved

AFGE supports new tools to reduce mismanagement and misconduct but cautions against law changes that silence frontline employees

WASHINGTON – In response to President Trump’s Executive Order on Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protection at the Department of Veterans Affairs, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. issued the following statement:

“We fully support and appreciate new tools to ensure the correct response to mismanagement, bad managers, and underperforming employees at the VA. When employees are found to have engaged in misconduct or performance that fails to meet the highest standards required by the VA, they should be terminated.

“Today’s order addresses the potential bad actors and chronically underperforming managers, reduces layers of management, and allocates new resources to protect employees who report mismanagement and other risks to veterans – all of which are supported by AFGE.

“But, we are concerned that so-called accountability legislation introduced by Sen. Rubio of Florida that is also supported by the administration will destroy the best accountability tools: the voices of frontline workers – and potentially turn the VA into an at-will workforce that could lead to the agency’s demise.

“Any new office created by this order must be staffed by individuals who are free of political affiliation and can render bias-free judgments, and can only be effective if the frontline employees who want to come forward with their concerns keep their due process rights and rights under their collective bargaining agreements.

“The VA – and all federal agencies – must present evidence that misconduct or performance failure has occurred. And those who judge that evidence must be an impartial third party. If those conditions are not met, we risk harming the innocent and encourage corruption and politicization of the agency – consciously or not.

“Time and again it’s the frontline employees who have come forward and spoken up against management covering up wait times. We cannot risk providing cover for incompetent or malicious managers.

“Veterans care is paramount to the focus of the VA – including the one-third of the workforce who are veterans themselves. All future actions must consider the needs of the veterans being cared for at the hospital, as well as those who work there. Although this is a positive step toward improving veterans’ care, there are still 45,000 vacancies that must be addressed.”

Stamp Out Hunger: NALC Celebrate 25th Annual Food Drive May 13th

The National Association of Letter Carriers (AFL-CIO) will be holding their 25th annual food drive on Saturday, May 13th. On that day letter carriers will pick up non-perishable food as they deliver mail on their postal routes. The food donations collected will stay in the towns and cities where they are collected.

Last Spring the Food Drive collected a record 80 million pounds of food. You wouldn’t think that the nation’s most successful one-day food drive could continue its record-setting pace but that would be underestimating the commitment of the UFCW who are once again bringing their energy and enthusiasm towards helping the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive smash collection records.

Anthony M. Perrone, President of the UFCW United stated that “our union family is committed to making a difference in the life of any person who feels like they are struggling alone. When we see, and hear about hard-working men and women who are unable to put food on their table, we are inspired to step up and help them. Which is why we are proud to once again join with the National Association of Letter Carriers and be a part of the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

“When we decided to take our food drive nationwide more than two decades ago, food banks and community service organizations told us that the best time for us to do it would be when people aren’t really thinking about it”, NALC President Fred Rolando noted, “to remind people who, sadly, the need for food is year-round.”  In November and December— around the holidays—many folks get caught up in a spirit of giving, so food pantries and other such organization see a major upswing in food donations,” he said. “But by May, their shelves begin to empty out.” It has become the Largest One Day Food Drive in the country.

“Too many people in this country are going hungry,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “We know this to be true because we see it as we deliver to every address in America at least six days a week.” Sadly, statistics back this up. Nearly 49 million Americans—1 in 6—are unsure where their next meal is coming from. This includes 13 million children as well as about 5 million seniors over age 60—many of whom live on fixed incomes and often are too embarrassed to ask for help.

National Rural Letter Carriers President explained why the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is so important “When you consider that each bag of donations represents a meal for a family in need., it quickly becomes clear how such a small act of charity on the part of one person can resonate so profoundly in the community’s in which we work and live”

 

United Way President Brian Gallagher echoed the sentiment of many involved “It is our privilege to join with organized labor, an indispensable partner in our broader mission to create real and lasting change in communities throughout the United States”

Residents are asked to leave non-perishable food donations in a bag by their mailbox on Saturday May 13th before their letter carrier arrives. It will be picked up and delivered to a local food bank.  PLEASE JOIN US!

Workers Pay The Price: National COSH Releases 2017 “Dirty Dozen” Employers

SAN DIEGO, CA – The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) announced today “The Dirty Dozen” employers of 2017, highlighting companies that put workers and communities at risk due to unsafe practices. The Dirty Dozen 2017 report is being released in observance of Workers’ Memorial Week, honoring workers who lost their lives on the job, as well as those who suffered workplace injuries and illnesses.  

“Every day in the United States, workers are getting hurt, getting sick and dying from preventable causes,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “We know how to make our workplaces safer. We’re calling on these companies to implement effective health and safety programs including, which must include worker participation. These firms need to eliminate workplace hazards and take action so that every worker can return home safely at the end of his or her shift.”

The “Dirty Dozen” for 2017 are:

  1. Atlantic Drain Services Roslindale, MA: Two workers died in a trench; manslaughter indictments; new Boston ordinance to revoke permits for companies with poor safety records.
  2. California Cartage Long Beach, CA: Death of a driver; serious violations in GA and CA; lack of machine safeguards, faulty brakes and other hazards.
  3. Dedicated TCS Lansing, IL: Worker died inside a confined space; company cited three times for similar violations; $226,000 in OSHA fines.
  4. Dollar General Goodlettsville, TN: “A fire disaster waiting to happen”; over 100 citations and $1 million in fines for blocked exits; former Labor Dept. official calls for criminal prosecution.
  5. Environmental Enterprises, Inc. Spring Grove, OH: Worker killed in a chemical explosion; OSHA describes a “complete disregard for employee’s safety”; indictment for involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide.
  6. Fuyao Glass America Dayton, OH: Workers exposed to broken glass without proper protection; 23 serious OSHA violations; extensive complaints from workers, who are exposed to risk of amputation.
  7. Nissan USA Franklin, TN: Five workers dead in five years; $99,000 in proposed OSHA fines; workers say they fear losing their jobs if they report injuries.
  8. Pilgrim’s Pride Greeley, Colorado: Death in a poultry processing plant; worker loses fingers because management “did nothing” to address amputation risk; exposure to toxic ammonia.
  9. PrimeFlight Nashville, Tennessee: Exposure to blood borne pathogens; 22 OSHA violations in three years; OSHA cites conditions “likely to cause death or serious harm.”
  10. TransAm Trucking Olathe, Kansas: “Frozen Trucker” fired for protecting his own safety; company wages seven-year court battle; Worker wins $280K in back pay.
  11. Samsung Seoul, South Korea: 200+ serious illnesses, 76 deaths; refusal to disclose information, claiming “trade secrets”; secret plan to “dominate employees” and “punish leaders.”
  12. Valley Garlic Coalinga, CA; X-Treme AG Kerman, CA: Four migrant workers dead after crash of illegal transport van; U.S. Dept of Labor lawsuit; contractor enjoined from transporting agricultural workers.

“The dangerous conditions at these “Dirty Dozen” companies show why we need more enforcement of our safety laws, not less,” said Jordan Barab, former deputy assistant secretary for occupational safety and health at the U.S. Department of Labor. “Proposed budget cuts for OSHA and other safety agencies are penny wise and pound foolish. Preventing injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the workplace not only reduces a terrible toll of human suffering – it also saves billions of dollars for employers and taxpayers.”

Data presented in the National COSH “Dirty Dozen” report show that the decline in deaths from workplace trauma since the original Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed in 1970 are reducing costs to employers and taxpayers by over $200 billion a year. If workers were still dying at the rate experienced in 1970 – 18 per 100,000 full-time workers, as opposed to 3.4 per 100,000 in 2015 – the U.S. workforce would experience more than an additional 23,000 deaths per year. Each workplace death costs a projected $8.7 million in legal and medical expenses, lost productivity and other costs.

During the last two years, however, deaths from workplace trauma have increased significantly, from 4,585 deaths in 2013 to 4,836 deaths in 2015, demonstrating the urgent need for stronger and more effective safety measures. In addition, Latino/a workers continue to suffer a higher rate of workplace fatalities than other ethnic groups, with four deaths for every 100,000 full-time employees.

Intimidation by employers is a major obstacle to accurate reporting injuries and workplace safety hazards, making it more difficult to correct unsafe conditions. “At Nissan, I’ve seen workers hurt so bad they are crying, but they are afraid to report their injuries,” said Everlyn Cage, a former employee at Nissan USA in Canton, MS. “They saw what happened to other workers and they are afraid of losing their jobs.”

The tragic events outlined in the “Dirty Dozen” report can also be a catalyst for action, said Jeff Newton, Membership and Communications Coordinator at the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH). “We’re going to remember Kelvin Mattocks and Robert Higgins during Workers’ Memorial Week,” said Newton. “And we’ve also taken action to prevent further tragedies. From now on in Boston, construction firms with poor safety records are not just putting workers at risk – they’re at risk of losing their building permits.”

Mattocks and Higgins drowned in a trench in Boston last October when their employer, Atlantic Drain, failed to follow basic safety precautions. The city of Boston responded with a new ordinance tightening requirements for construction firms. The state of Massachusetts is considering legislation to increase penalties for work-related fatalities and Atlantic Drain and its owner, Kevin Otto, have been indicted for manslaughter.

The Dirty Dozen report includes recommendations to make U.S. workplaces safer, including:

  • Implementation of comprehensive workplace health and safety programs
  • Ensuring all workers the right to freely organize
  • Stronger protections for workers of color, immigrants, temporary workers and other vulnerable populations
  • Thorough investigation of workplace safety and health incidents and stronger enforcement mechanisms to hold employers accountable and deter future violations.

The “Dirty Dozen 2017” report is available on the National COSH website here and below.

Workers Memorial Week infographics are available in English here and in Spanish here.

Workers’ Memorial Week is a global event to honor workers who lost their lives on the job and their families, and also recognizing those who suffer from occupational injuries and illnesses. In the United States, dozens of activities in 35 states will remember fallen workers. A listing of events is available on the National COSH website.  

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Even Trump Voters Oppose Eliminating Prevailing Wage Laws

National Poll: Most Voters Support Prevailing Wage
on Public Infrastructure Projects

A new national survey shows that strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans each oppose the elimination of prevailing wage laws, which establish local-market minimum wages for different skilled crafts on government funded construction projects.

The new polling comes as several states consider changes to their prevailing wage laws, and the Trump Administration prepares to roll out a national infrastructure plan.

“While voters may have disagreed on many issues this past November, they agree that prevailing wage laws should be preserved by a wide margin,” said pollster Brian Stryker. “Only 21% of voters want to eliminate prevailing wage lawseven after hearing a commonly referenced argument for doing so. And support for prevailing wage extends to large majorities of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Trump voters.”

The polling also shows that support for labor unions is growing as 52% had a favorable opinion of labor unions.  33% of self proclaimed Trump supporters had a favorable opinion of labor unions.

When it comes to the prevailing wage, 54% of Trump voters and 69% of likely 2018 voters, oppose legislation to eliminate the prevailing wage.

Construction is America’s fourth largest industry, and directly supports more than 6.6 million jobs. About a quarter of annual construction output, or $363 billion, is spent on government owned construction projects—including roads, bridges, schools, transit systems, water projects and municipal buildings.

Prevailing Wages are determined by surveys of existing market wage and benefit rates for skilled craft workers—such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, ironworkers, cement masons, heavy equipment operators and othersin more than 3,000 communities across America. The Davis Bacon Act requires prevailing wage on most federally funded construction projects while about thirty states have laws requiring prevailing wages on state or locally funded projects.

Most peer-reviewed research has linked prevailing wage laws with increased local hiring, lower poverty, safer worksites and better economic outcomes. These studies have concluded that prevailing wage laws have no significant impact on public construction costs because they boost workforce productivity and efficiency, while reducing spending on Medicaid, Food Stamps and other public assistance programs for construction workers.

Research has also revealed that these laws disproportionately benefit military veterans, prevent skilled workforce shortages by increasing apprenticeship training, and help to close wage gaps for women and people of color.

Despite the overwhelming public support for prevailing wage laws, three states have recently eliminated these standards (West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky) on state funded public works, and  proposals to weaken or repeal these laws have been introduced in at least three other states (Missouri, Wisconsin, and Ohio).

The Federal Davis-Bacon Act was written by Republicans and signed into law by Republican President Herbert Hoover in 1931. The law has long enjoyed broad bi-partisan support. In 2015, fifty-four House Republicans joined with Democrats to reaffirm support for the Davis Bacon Act.

Click Here to read a summary of the polling results.


This story based on a press release from Smart Cities Prevail.

Smart Cities Prevail is a non-partisan, national non-profit research and education organization, focused on construction industry wage and contracting standards. Learn more at www.smartcitiesprevail.org

AFGE President Cox: “In a government shutdown, it’s the American people who pay the price.”

AFGE president calls for Congress to pass budget to keep government open past April 28

WASHINGTON – J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the nation’s largest federal employee union, today called on Congress to pass a federal budget and keep the government open for business.

“Congress shouldn’t be playing chicken with funding federal programs and services that veterans, seniors, and other hardworking people rely on,” Cox said. “In a government shutdown, it’s the American people who pay the price.”

Unless Congress passes legislation to fund the government past April 28, when the current continuing resolution expires, federal agencies will be forced to shut down most operations.

“The casualties during a government shutdown are endless,” Cox said. “There will be no more federal loans issued to small businesses or new home buyers. Federal research into cures for cancer or other deadly diseases will abruptly end. No more applications will be accepted for new Social Security cards, veterans’ benefits, and housing assistance. Our national parks, monuments, and museums will be forced to close.”

Cox also called on Congress to reject a White House proposal to cut $18 billion from federal agency budgets this fiscal year.

“The administration wants to slash funding for programs that help Americans find affordable housing, protect our environment, educate our children, and deliver mental and public health services to millions,” Cox said. “Those who need our help the most would be hit the hardest by these cuts.”

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 4-21-17: Protecting Public Schools From Edelblut’s Power Grab

In terms of public activity, this was a relatively quiet week at the State House, but be assured, wheels are turning. The House met in session yesterday for only two hours, passing a number of smaller or less important bills, while work continues on the big pieces of legislation. Probably the most noteworthy moment was the brief set of comments offered by Representative Kat Rogers in commemoration of the Columbine school shooting. Her remarks were brief, pointed, and applauded by many, but not all (you can imagine what ideological element of the House refused to honor her efforts). In similar fashion, the Senate also met and rendered decisions on a number of pieces of legislation, each important to certain constituencies but none of major, state-wide importance. The big issues and the controversial legislation is yet to come forth; likewise, work continues on the Senate’s budget proposal.

Protect Public Schools   The Senate will convene next week (April 27) while the House will not convene again until May 4, 2017. In the meantime, committee work continues. The House Education Committee held a working session on SB 193, the voucher bill, this week, and it was a rather contentious occasion. Much of the energy focused upon a potential amendment/rewrite of the bill being put together by supporters of vouchers and those who wish to starve the public schools of funding. Thus far, it does not appear they have solved either of two major problems—the fact that NH’s Constitution bars use of public monies to support religious schools, and the reality that vouchers will siphon money from public schools and thereby lead to higher local property taxes. The Attorney General’s office again warned of constitutional problems with SB193, and there was continuing discussion regarding the financial impact of this legislation. What hampered the committee, however, was the lack of any actual language or text of an amendment, meaning that member were debating and arguing over ideas lacking any specificity or detail. Voucher proponents have yet to reveal their grand plans to rescue SB193 and it now appears that time is running out. The committee will vote on SB193 and any amendments on April 25, recommending the House either pass or kill the bill. Don’t be surprised, however, if the committee decides to instead “retain” the bill, allowing it to be re-introduced in 2018 and providing time to work on the myriad problems bedeviling this bad piece of legislation.

Actions Needed   Let us be sure to maintain contact with members of the NH House Education Committee and ask them to defeat SB 193 in any form. You can contact the entire committee at the following address: HouseEducationCommittee@leg.state.nh.us

Also, please also take just a moment to tell your state representatives to vote NO to SB 193.  

More Edelblut  One strong advocate for SB193 is Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut. To no one’s surprise, the man who claimed in his confirmation hearing that he would be a mere administrator and not a policy-maker is now out waving the voucher flag and slamming public schools. At the same time, he continues to push for legislation granting him broad powers over budgets and personnel in the Department of Education, so as to remake it into a State agency leading the fight for vouchers and privatization of education. Having no experience or interaction with public schools in his entire adult life, Edelblut unsurprisingly advocates what he knows best, homeschooling and private schools. What is fascinating is that while voucher advocates demand accountability and transparency for all those supposed cheaters using food stamps, they are ready to give millions to private and religious schools and home-schoolers, with nary a peep about accounting for how the money is spent or providing any transparency in the expenditure of public funds. The inconsistencies abound.

NH Department of Education   The Senate Education Committee heard the amendment from Sen. Reagan which is a power grab by Education Commissioner Edelblut to completely revamp the Department of Education. The Committee will meet next week on Tuesday, April 25th on HB 356 to consider this non-germane and rushed amendment. Senator David Watters has submitted a revision that would properly slow down this last minute amendment and have the matter studied thoroughly. And we learned this week that Governor Sununu will not reappoint State Board of Education Chair, Tom Raffio and instead has nominated conservative consultant, Drew Cline, who worked for the Union Leader for 14 years. Edelblut is working hard to consolidate power so he can move forward with his extreme agenda. We must keep a watchful eye on the actions at the Board of Education.

Voting Rights   Finally, there are two other legislative issues of note. SB 3, the voter suppression bill, has yet to come out of the House Election Law Committee, but action will soon be forthcoming. Don’t be surprised if the committee recommends passage to the full House, where we will assuredly hear more tales of ghostlike busloads of Massachusetts citizens crossing into New Hampshire, buying cigarettes and liquor, and then going to cast illegal ballots on election day.

NHRS- Double-Dipping   Lastly, the Senate is still considering the fate of HB 561, a bill to limit ‘double-dipping’ into the NH Retirement System by providing enforcement penalties for those who exceed hourly work limitations and establishing greater accountability by having towns and cities pay into the system when reclassifying positions as part-time or interim. The bill easily passed through the House but is facing opposition in the Senate, despite being supported by an odd coalition of organized labor and conservative legislators. Politics does indeed lead to strange bedfellows at times, and the wheels continue to turn!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

UNH Spends Almost $200K To Block Union Organizing Efforts

University reports close to $200,000.00 in payments to law firm to prevent employees from exercising legal right to organize.

CONCORD, April 12, 2017 – The University of New Hampshire has finally provided a partial response to Representative Cushing’s Right to Know request. Earlier this year, Rep. Cushing sent two Right to Know requests to the University seeking, among other things, the names of any outside vendors advising management on anti-union efforts, the amounts paid to these organizations, and copies of communications with these organizations.

In their partial response, the University reported spending $193,565.13 on legal fees and expenses with Jackson Lewis Law Firm from June 2016 to March 2017.

“I’m shocked to find that UNH has spent a couple hundred thousand dollars to hire outside help to fight university employees who simply want to exercise their legal right to collectively bargain,” said Representative Cushing.

“We can assume that there will be additional payments made to Jackson Lewis as the University continues to fight their employees’ efforts to organize,” stated Megan Tuttle, NEA-New Hampshire President. “Is this really the best use of the University’s funds?”

The University noted in their response that “this expense is not being paid from any of the following: state appropriation, tuition dollars or operating funds.”

“Regardless of where the money is coming from, at this point the University has chosen to spend close to $200,000.00 on things other than tuition reduction, campus improvements, or to help make the salaries and benefits of the dedicated OS and PAT staff more competitive,” continued Tuttle.

In addition to asking for information regarding management’s anti-organizing efforts, Rep. Cushing’s request also sought information regarding the University’s outsourcing plans.

“We are aware that the University has hired consultants to find ways to save money.  Far too often, these savings are balanced on the backs of OS and PAT employees,” said Tuttle.

The University declined to provide any information on these topics.

State Representative Cushing stated that he will be looking to take further action to determine the actual source of the funds used to pay Jackson Lewis, and to address the lack of disclosure with the rest of his request for public information.

“I don’t see union busting as a line item anywhere in their budget,” stated Cushing.

A copy of Rep. Cushing’s Right to Know request is available here and below.

RepCushing Right To Know
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