• Advertisement

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 3-17-17: School Vouchers And Kindergarten Bills

March 27, 2017

 

After concluding business in a rush back on March 10, the NH House reconvened this past Thursday for a short session. The most notable action of the day concerned HB 647, the so-called voucher bill for children with disabilities. The bill had previously passed the House on policy grounds, but on Thursday, came to the floor with a strong, bi-partisan recommendation of “Inexpedient to Legislate” from the Finance Committee. Nevertheless, in what looks to have been a party-line vote (it was not a roll-call but a division vote, meaning only the totals are recorded, not individual votes) the bill was tabled rather than killed. The motion to table came from Republican leader Dick Hinch, who asked the House to table on grounds that voting to kill the bill would prejudice the fate of SB 193, the broader, full-scale education voucher bill. With a vote of 193-161 (closely resembling party numbers in the House) HB 647 was tabled. The bill itself is essentially dead for 2017 but can be revived in 2018, and may also make an appearance in the 2018-19 budget bill still under construction by the House Finance Committee.

School Voucher Bill   As for SB 193, the broad-based education voucher bill, it has been referred to the House Education Committee but no public hearings have as yet been scheduled. As we have stated before, SB 193 is a very dangerous piece of legislation and could have dire consequences for public education in New Hampshire, reducing funding and ultimately raising property taxes in towns and cities across New Hampshire. A fine piece by Mark Fernald, recently published in the Keene Sentinel and Nashua Telegraph, quite clearly makes the case for SB193 as legislation that will increase property taxes AND harm public education. According to Fernald, the immediate impact of SB 193 will be to drain $25 million in funds from public schools, and the eventual costs will range much higher. Nearly all the benefits of the bill will go to families in upper-income brackets, since the amount per student per voucher is merely a fraction of the cost of sending a student to private or charter schools. In other words, the only “choice” to be offered is for those who can already afford it, while the cost will be borne by the rest of us in higher property taxes to support our public schools. (The full piece by Mark Fernald can be accessed at Vouchers for the Wealthy). This is not a good or sensible approach to public education, and the costs must be made clear when the bill comes before the House Education Committee. In the meantime, we must also remain vigilant that this proposal is not dropped into the upcoming budget bill coming from House Finance Committee (a often-utilized method of hiding unpopular or controversial proposals). 

Action Needed   We are requesting that you reach out to your state representative(s) and ask them to vote no on SB 193. Here’s the link, Protect NH Public Schools, so you can take direct action and have your opinion heard. Please share far and wide! For more resources to help defeat vouchers, please visit our website at Defeat School Vouchers

Kindergarten   Speaking of the House Finance Committee and the upcoming budget bill, the Republican majority on the committee voted this past week to remove funding for full-day kindergarten. This was an initiative proposed by Governor Sununu, but it was made clear that in the eyes of House Republicans the governor knows very little regarding education. House Speaker Shawn Jasper, when questioned about the Finance Committee vote, replied that “The capacity of a 6-year-old to be attentive in a classroom for a full day is pretty much non-existent,” hence his opposition to State-funding towards full-day kindergarten. And so, New Hampshire remains adamant in its stance against full-day kindergarten, unless localities or individual parents & families wish to pay for it (as has been proposed by some in places such as Nashua).

The focus this week in the State House will be on the final construction of the House budget bills, which must be reported by March 30. What must be remembered is that the budget bill for 2018-19 can contain or include all sorts of policy initiatives, so long as they have a fiscal impact. Therefore, proposals such as HB 647, tabled by a House vote, are not yet dead, but may surreptiously re-appear in the House budget bill. So stay tuned.

In Memoriam   On a final sad note, we mourn the untimely passing of Senator Scott McGilvray. Only 51 years of age, Senator McGilvray had just been elected to the NH Senate in November 2016 after serving for many years as president of NEA-NH, and his passing is a major blow to Democrats in the NH Senate and to the labor movement in NH. Upon learning of the tragic news, I released the following statement on behalf of AFT-NH:

“AFT-NH is shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of State Senator Scott McGilvray. On behalf of AFT-NH members, we express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of Scott McGilvray, and to our colleagues at NEA-NH.” 

“Scott dedicated his life to advocating for New Hampshire’s children, public education, educators and working families. He was a strong labor leader and his career was marked by public service at its finest culminating with his election to the NH State Senate this past fall.” 

“The passing of Senator McGilvray is a great loss to public education, the labor movement and the entire state of New Hampshire.  He was taken from us far too soon, and leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.” 

I wish you all good health as Spring slowly makes its way to NH, and let’s keep up the good fight!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin 3-10-17: Updates On Labor Bills, Minimum Wage, and School Vouchers

 Once again, the NH House acted like so many of my students do, allowing work to pile up and waiting until the final hour to do the work that needs to be done. This week, the House met for two long days, and because it had not met the prior week, faced a deadline for acting on over 100 proposed pieces of legislation. Given how long some debates can take, never mind the time consumed in roll call votes and all kinds of maneuvering, it made for very long days. Near the end late on Thursday, tempers began to fray and the Republican majority used their power in an increasingly aggressive manner. When it was done, all legislation had been acted upon, and the House will not meet again for two weeks.

Labor Bills. In regards to issues of concern to the labor community and to working people in general, it was not a great week. On the bright side, right to work was finally put to rest for 2017-2018, when the House refused by a strong majority to take up the House version of so-called Right to Work legislation. So ends that saga for 2017-18 and we owe a great debt of thanks to all the representatives, especially our Republican friends, who stood with us under intense pressure and defeated this nefarious legislation, aimed solely at weakening the labor movement and its ability to speak out on behalf of working people across New Hampshire.

Minimum Wage Increase. The defeat of so-called Right to Work was good news. On a more disappointing or sour note, the House rejected a proposed increase to the minimum wage, once again protecting New Hampshire’s status as the only New England state (and one of only 18 states nationally by the end of 2017) to still adhere to the ridiculously low Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr. Remember, when the minimum rises (and keep in mind, 70% of those who work for the minimum are above age 20 and not teenagers); the money is almost all spent locally, helping local businesses and boosting our state economy. And even if you and I don’t work for minimum, raising the floor puts upward pressure upon all wage levels, which benefits all working people. So it was disappointing that the increase was once again rejected on a relatively close, largely party-line vote.

Employment Bills. Other proposed labor legislation, including limitations on credit history checks and criminal background checks (all with necessary exemptions for certain occupations and businesses), failed to pass the Republican majority in the House. This same majority, however, made sure to maintain NH’s minimum marriage age for girls at age 13, refusing to raise it to age 18. Combine that with our low minimum wage, and you really have to start wondering just where it is we are living! The House also refused to acknowledge basic civil rights for the transgender population, turning an innocuous protection of basic rights into a ‘bathroom bill’ and in the process, legitimizing discrimination and possible harassment of members of the transgender community. Change is not easy, and the battles are long and hard, but these issues will not go away and should not be forgotten in the future.

Education. In the realm of education legislation, any proposals deemed to put any sort of restraints or accountability upon charter schools were rejected by the House. More dangerously, a bill passed allowing towns without a public school or missing certain grades (for example, have a grade school but no high school) to contract to use public funds to send students to private schools, including sectarian or religious schools. Like the voucher proposal working its way through the Senate, this sort of legislation aims to weaken public schools by eroding the public sector’s financial base. The result of these diversions of public funds is higher local taxes, which further inflames anger at public schools, or declining facilities, which are then pointed to as reasons why there needs to be “more competition,” as if public education is like choosing between fast-food burgers, chicken, or tacos. We are asking members and supporters to reach out personally to their legislators and request they oppose any form of vouchers and specifically Senate Bill 193 and HB 647. For more information on the proposed legislation, please visit our website at STOP SCHOOL VOUCHERS IN NH.

NH Retirement System. Lastly, in regards to the NH Retirement System, the House defeated an effort to increase the retirement pension age and passed a bill to halt the raiding of pension fund monies to pay for fiscal analyses of said pension funds! These were good moments, but progress in this area was counterbalanced by passage of a whole series of bad legislation in the area of election law, all of which will have the effect of clamping down on students’ ability to vote as part of a wide assault on voting rights here in NH. So, good with the bad. HB 413FN which would have the state meet its obligation and pay 15% of the retirement costs back to local communities is scheduled before the House Finance Committee for Executive Session on Monday.

In Memoriam. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not pass along a sad note. We learned yesterday of the passing of Brian Costa, the Keene Chief of Police. Chief Costa came up through the ranks and was a good union man, serving in the Keene Police Officers Association, and later as president of the Keene Police Supervisors, both being AFT-NH locals. Even as chief, he never forgot his union roots and worked tirelessly on behalf of the men and women of the Keene Police as well as improving the safety and security of the entire Keene community. We will miss him dearly, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

PLEASE NOTE: There will be no Legislative Bulletin next week due to the hiatus in House activity but will be on alert for breaking news.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Dues Deduction, Voting Rights, And The NH Retirement System

Bow, NH

March 3, 2017

This past week the House was once again, not in session, while House committees finished work on a tidal wave of bills, which will hit the House floor for votes beginning Wednesday, March 8. Still, even without the House in full session, there were some interesting developments, including some good news! March 9th is the last day for the House to act on house bills not referred to a second committee. March 16th is the last day to act on all bills going to a second committee except budget bills. In addition, the last day for budget bills to be acted upon is April 6th.

HB 438: banning public sector voluntary payroll deduction of union dues: This bill, a companion piece to so-called ‘right to work,’ was sponsored by nearly the entire Republican leadership team, headed by Majority Leader Dick Hinch. The defeat of so-called ‘right to work’ in the House some two weeks ago, however, signaled the death knell for this unwanted piece of legislation as well. On Wednesday morning, before a hearing room crowded with working people opposed to HB 438, Labor Committee Chair Steve Schmidt proposed to cut the hearing short and in turn, would take immediate steps to ensure “death with dignity” for HB 438 by having the committee ‘retain’ the bill. Democrats agreed to this approach but only after asking the Chairman to repeat his promise to ensure the bill is not resurrected. With such assurances, the Labor Committee voted 20-0 to retain the bill.

What does this mean? HB 438 will stay with the Labor Committee for 2017, and at the end of the year, the Committee will vote to recommend the bill be sent to “interim study.” That motion will then go to the House and presumably be accepted, meaning the bill will remain under study until the end of 2018, when the legislative session ends and the Committee recommends “no further legislative action.” Yes, a quiet way to kill a bill, a bill for which not a single one of its sponsors had the temerity to appear before the Labor Committee to present at the start of Wednesday’s hearing. So, while it is sounds complicated, even Republican leadership has now decided to consign HB 438 to the same graveyard as the 30+ versions of so-called ‘right to work’ defeated in NH since the 1970s.

Education: The most controversial educational issue currently in front of the NH Legislature is that of vouchers. As previously noted, SB 193 would establish a full-blown voucher system in NH, taking taxpayer money and placing it in individual accounts for parents to expend at any charter, private or religious school. Good news for parents who already voluntarily choose to educate their children in that manner, bad news for the taxpayers who will face higher property tax bills to maintain public school facilities, programs and support systems. Put simply, money going to vouchers is taxpayer money funneled away from public schools and into the private sector, creating subsidies for a small portion of the population and imposing greater burdens on the majority. Not good policy, but both SB 193 and a smaller House version, HB 647, have passed their first test in their respective chamber and are now under consideration in the Finance Committees. So, there will be further action and the need for our membership and allies to take action once we determine next steps as these bills work their way through the respective finance committees.

HB 210 which is the bill regarding establishing a code of ethics for educational personnel is slated for a vote by the House on March 9th. This bill has been recommended Ought to Pass with Amendment. This bill requires the NH Board of Education to promulgate rules on or before July 1, 2018.   The bill as amended requires the rules shall address “shall address four key certified educator responsibilities that include responsibility to: (1) the students, (2) the educator profession and professional colleagues, (3) the school community, and (4) the use of technology as it relates to students, professional colleagues and the school community.” Adam Marcoux, Nashua Teachers’ Union President and I have been serving on the Department of Education Advisory Committee on this issue and we have argued that such matters need to remain in the control of the local school districts. We have advocated vigorously for the voices of teachers to be heard on this matter and to avoid unnecessary top down regulation. We will remain vigilant throughout this process.

Voting Rights: Two bills, SB 3 and HB 372, would restrict or narrow the definition of ‘domicile’ in relation to the right to vote or to register to vote. These bills are aimed at the fictional hordes of campaign workers who supposedly flood into NH to vote in November, or the fictional busloads of Massachusetts residents who President Trump believes voted illegally in NH. The real intent of the proposed legislation is to make it more difficult to vote, particularly for those who have only recently moved to a town or who lack a long-established permanent domicile. HB372 will be coming to the House floor within the next week or two, while SB3 is still in committee. Both bills will need to be monitored closely and will likely be subject to grassroots action against passage. Remember, democracy can only flourish when voting rights are kept sacrosanct, and when there is no evidence of voter fraud, one can only wonder at the motives of those who seek to limit and restrict those who can vote. Without the right to vote, the voice of the people cannot be heard, and if it cannot be heard, then the rights and lives of working people and working families will only suffer.   

Our work continues in protecting our NH Retirement System and promoting HB 413 which would bring much needed retirement dollars from the state back to our local communities. Much like the issue of funding for full-day kindergarten, these measures are now being reviewed through the House Finance Committee.

And, please mark Tuesday, March 14th on your calendar—it is Town Election Day. You can make a real difference in your community. We have important AFT-NH local contracts being presented to voters in the following school districts: Farmington, Hillsboro-Deering, Newfound, Raymond and Timberlane. Also, in Raymond, there are two questions on the school ballot addressing outsourcing of school cafeteria jobs to a for profit company. 100% of these café employees live in Raymond! We are asking voters to vote No on Article 9 and Yes on Article 10.

We also need to make sure responsible budgets are approved to fund our schools and provide essential public services. If for some reason you will be unavailable to vote on March 14, please make sure to go to your town hall and vote by absentee ballot. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Breaking news and other important information will be posted at AFT-NH FACEBOOK. Please be sure to like us.

Thank you for staying engaged and speaking out on these very important issues.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

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

AFT-NH Testifies Against Frank Edelblut For Commissioner Of Education

Testimony in Opposition to Frank Edelblut Nomination as Commissioner of the State of New Hampshire Dept. of Education

Councilors,

Thank you for taking the time to hear my testimony and thank you for providing everyone here an opportunity to weigh in on this nomination.

As president of AFT-NH, I represent some 4000 education professionals, including teachers and para-educators. I mention those two groups because they form the largest portion of our membership and as education professionals they are required to be certified as competent to do their work and in many cases they must be highly qualified. Public education, filled with myriad of mandates and a maze of requirements and regulations, is a complex field. An individual charged with heading the NH Dept. of Education should be familiar with and have extensive experience in the educational arena. In fact, State statute (RSA 21-N:3) is quite clear: “The commissioner and deputy commissioner shall be qualified to hold their positions by reason of education and experience.” I am afraid that Mr. Edelblut, even with his success in business and his brief tenure in the NH House, does not reach this threshold of qualifications.

Mr. Edelblut has never served in any capacity in the public school systems of NH. He did not serve on the Education Committee in the NH House, nor has he ever served on a District School Board or even taken an active/visible interest in local educational issues, if election campaign media reports are to be believed. While personally educated in public schools, that is not sufficient to meet the statutory standard—otherwise, virtually everyone in this room would be qualified to serve as Commissioner. His post-secondary fields of endeavor were in business and in theology, not in any field related to education.

Choosing to home school his own children, he has had very little, if any, contact with local schools, whether public or even public charters, and one is left to wonder how he can carry out the statutory mandate to lead the Department in

  • Providing general supervision for elementary and secondary schools, teachers and administrators.
  • Providing a variety of educational services to schools and particular groups.
  • Providing vocational rehabilitation and social security disability determination services for persons with disabilities.

Our teachers and para-educators are required to be certified, and for good reason. The welfare of our children, the State’s most precious resource, is at stake. It seems foolish to entrust their welfare and the future of the State to an individual who is undeniably accomplished, but who has no record of accomplishment, nay, virtually no record at all, in the area of education. It is for these reasons, that on behalf of the members of AFT-NH, I ask that you vote to reject the nomination of Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of the NH Department of Education.

Thank you,

Douglas Ley
AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Taking Action Against Right To Work

January 13, 2017

On Tuesday, January 10, hundreds packed Reps Hall in the State House for the Senate Commerce Committee public hearing on SB 11, the proposed “right to work” legislation. From 1 pm into the evening, a long line of witnesses, including Senators, Representatives, labor leaders, and working people (union and non-union) spoke against so-called “right to work” legislation. They pointed out that it would bring no new economic investment to NH, would inject the State into the negotiations process, and was simply an attempt to financially cripple labor unions and thereby weaken their ability to better the working conditions and the lives of those they represent. And then, at the end of the day, without taking any time to consider evidence presented, the Committee voted 3-2, along strict party lines, to send SB 11 onto the Senate, with a recommendation of “ought to pass.”

The full Senate is expected to vote on SB 11 (“right to work”) next week, in its session on Thursday, January 19. So what have we learned?

First, all the talk by Republican leaders regarding bipartisanship and cooperation “across the aisle” was just that, talk. It is clear that their strategy is to try to “fast track” and ram SB 11 through the NH Legislature as quickly as possible. Logic and reason and careful consideration of the issue are not part of the plan, because these would only slow down their anti-union and anti-working families agenda.

Second, we also see that many NH legislators are quite willing to do the bidding of out-of-state lobbying groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, the National Right to Work Committee, and ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). All three draw significant funding from corporate sources, and in the case of ALEC, they are the actual authors of much of SB 11. The sponsors of SB 11 don’t even do their own work; rather, they copied large swathes of ALEC’s model or suggested “right to work” legislation and pasted it directly into SB 11. So what we now have is anti-union and anti-working families legislation written by corporate interest groups being foisted upon New Hampshire with little to no reasoned consideration or careful examination. This is the “selling” of New Hampshire. Perhaps this is what Gov. Sununu meant in his inauguration speech when he announced “New Hampshire is open for business.”

Two other major anti-labor bills also came forward this week. One, HB 520, is simply another version of ‘right-to-work,’ introduced in the NH House to be taken up in case the Senate version, SB 11, fails. The other bill is HB 438, which would bar all public employers from agreeing to payroll deduction of union dues, thereby making it much more difficult for unions to collect dues from members. This latter bill was part of Governor Scott Walker’s assault on public-sector labor unions in Wisconsin and has proven highly successful. There are no arguments here about freedom or rights—this is a straightforward effort to effectively destroy public sector unions, your unions. If anyone had doubts as to the intentions of our opponents, those doubts should now be erased. Their goal is clear—destruction of organized labor in New Hampshire.

What is there to do? Email your Senator or even better, call your Senator. Tell them who you are, that you are a union member, you oppose “right to work” and you want your senator to do so as well.

Who is your Senator? Go here to find out: Find Your Senator.

Need their email address or a phone number (office or home)? Go here and click on your Senator’s photo or use the email or office phone number listed on this page: Senator Contact Information

You need not be fancy or incredibly articulate—just a short message of who you are, what town you live in, and you want her/him to oppose right-to-work. And do it in the next few days, before they vote on January 19!

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

AFT-NH President Ley’s Testimony Against SB11, “Right to Work”

Testimony of Douglas Ley In Opposition to Senate Bill 11

I am president of AFT-NH, representing 4000 teachers, para-educators, school support staff, town and municipal employees, police officers and first responders. As such, I have been asked to present letters from a number of our local presidents regarding this proposed legislation and ask that you read these with care and consideration. I have letters from the Presidents of the Hillsboro-Deering Federation of Teachers, Hudson Federation of Teachers, Newfound Teachers’ Union and Timberlane Teachers’ Association.

My own testimony shall be brief, to the point, and is rooted in my long-standing public opposition to so-called ‘right to work’ legislation as well as my membership in a private sector union local with agency fee. Within that local at Franklin Pierce University, over 90% of bargaining unit employees are full members of the union. One full-time employee and a small number of part-time employees opt for the lower agency fee or a third option provided within our contract, ‘charitable contribution.’

Our ‘agency fee’ is really a ‘recovery cost payment,’ which helps defray the cost of negotiation and the enforcement of our contract. We have a good relationship with our employer, but nevertheless, there are constant questions of contract interpretation as well as various personnel issues which arise each year, all of which require investments of time and resources to resolve, whether it be through local activity, working with our state federation, or even calling upon the resources of our national offices. Like us, our employer also incurs costs to negotiate and enforce our collective bargaining agreement. They recover their costs by incorporating them into the operating expenses of the University, charged against students and others using the University. All we ask is the continued ability to act in similar but more limited fashion, to have employees who benefit from the collective bargaining agreement contribute to defraying the costs of negotiation and implementation.

I have worked at FPU for 26 years, and during that entire span there has been an “agency fee” option. In keeping with Federal and NH statutes, no one is required to join the union, but all must contribute in some form as mandated by our collective bargaining agreement. In twenty-six years, I know of no individual who declined employment due to this requirement, and as stated earlier, virtually every eligible employee has joined the union. Management agreed to this provision many, many years ago and has never brought forward a proposal in negotiation to eliminate agency fee. Similarly, in my experience working for AFT-NH, I can state that approximately half of our locals have agency fee, and no employer has ever proposed eliminating it. It is a provision freely agreed to by the two signatory parties to a contract, and the contract is then duly ratified via democratic process by employees in the bargaining unit and the governing body of the public employer after approval by the legislative body. Therefore, it is an excellent illustration of local flexibility and local control, long-standing NH traditions. To pass this legislation will only further inject the State into what is a localized and in many cases, private relationship and process, setting the stage for possible further restrictions upon employers and the bargaining agents of employees.

In sum, “right to work” interferes with the freedom to negotiate and engage in collective bargaining and resolves a problem which does not exist. Statute already prohibits requiring union membership as a condition of employment, and every potential employee already has the right to decide to accept a job, with all the conditions and requirements laid out by the employer, which in this case, could include support for maintaining the mutually-agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement. I respectfully ask that this Committee honor that freedom and local control, by rejecting so-called “right to work” legislation.

Hudson Federation Of Teachers President’s Testimony Opposing SB 11 “Right To Work”

Honorable Daniel Innis, Chairman
Senate Commerce Committee
107 North Main Street
Concord NH 03301 

Re: Written Testimony In Opposition to Senate Bill 11

Dear Honorable Chairman Innis and Members of the Committee,

Due to work obligations, I am unable to attend the hearing on Senate Bill 11. However, I would like my letter entered into the record.

I have been an educator in New Hampshire for over fifteen years. Today’s educators face many challenges, as the expectations placed on teachers have increased to issues beyond the classroom over the past decade. We no longer just need to be concerned with curriculum and assessment; we now need to often act as surrogate parents. Without the protection of a union, teachers could be exposed to unrealistic expectations as districts struggle to solve cultural problems through the classroom.

Unions help towns be competitive when they are seeking qualified applicants. Unions provide employees with fair wages and benefits, which can’t be changed through the whim of temporary board members. Unions allow employees to have a voice, without the fear of repercussions, which creates an environment where the best solutions can be sought to create the best outcomes for students.

As president of the Hudson Federation of Teachers, we have over 98% of our members choosing to join the union. They understand what being a union member provides for them. No member is forced to join, but our members appreciate having supplemental insurance, members who negotiate contracts for them, and members who will represent them should they request it. Unions make working situations better for everyone.

With all the challenges facing New Hampshire, such as the opioid crisis, it seems that there are other issues that requires the time and energy of our legislators rather than fix something that is not broken.

I ask that you vote Inexpedient to Legislate on Senate Bill 11 so we can move forward with a positive agenda for NH. If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Lavoie

President, Hudson Federation of Teachers Local 2263

Republican, Teacher, and Union President, Opposes So-Called Right To Work In NH

Written Testimony From  Richard (Alex) Luhtjarv, President, Hillsboro-Deering Federation of Teachers, Opposing SB 11

Dear Senator Avard,

I am writing to you as my State Senator and asking you to vote no on SB 11. I am a Republican, but also the President of a local teachers’ union. While many may feel that those two positions are contradictory, I do not. The reasons why I am both are very similar – I feel the Republican party AND labor unions protect the value of hard work. I was taught that the key to lifelong success was giving it 110% in school and at work.

As a teacher, I pass on those values. However, in my 17 years as an educator, I have been a witness to many situations where quality teachers have been subjected to unfair decisions in which the union was their only defender. There is value in that service to defend hard work.

I have also been a part of three different negotiating teams and each time, we worked together with the district to negotiate fiscally responsible contracts with fair pay and benefits while trying to mitigate the burden on taxpayers. There is value in that service to reward families of workers who have dedicated their careers to helping their students become productive members of the community.

Right to work bills are shortsighted. Our union currently has 100% participation among the teachers of our district. All of our teachers have benefited from the services provided by their local union. We use dues to help support that local work in advocacy of member interests and through collective bargaining. We also use dues to contribute to local charities and organizations, such as the food pantry and local youth athletic association.

Right to work would undermine our ability to continue to be a positive presence in our community. I hope that as a fellow Republican, you will read this letter, and 1. Consider voting against SB 11, but 2. Realize that the stereotypes that exist about unions in 2017 are just not accurate.
Thank you for your time and consideration,

Richard (Alex) Luhtjarv

President, Hillsboro-Deering Federation of Teachers

Newfound Teachers Union President: “Right To Work” Will Not Improve The NH Economy

Newfound Teachers Union President’s Testimony Against
So-Called “Right To Work” Legislation

Honorable Daniel Innis, Chairman
Senate Commerce Committee
107 North Main Street
Concord NH 03301 

Re: Testimony In Opposition to Senate Bill 11

Dear Honorable Chairman Innis and Members of the Committee,

My name is Deirdre Conway. I am a second-grade teacher in the Newfound Area School District where I have taught for over 25 years. I am the president of our local teachers’ union, where we do not have agency fee, and believe local control is of utmost importance. I am a proud negotiator for all the teachers in Newfound and I also work for each and every one of them, member or not.

I am writing to urge you to vote against Senate Bill 11, the so-called “Right To Work” legislation.

I would ask you to determine the reasons you are in favor of it, and then consider these facts:

Granite State business experts agree that the “Right To Work” legislation does not address the factors employers say are most important. Under current laws (both state and local), no worker can be forced to join a union or pay union dues, so why do you feel the need for this legislation? “Right To Work” in other states has NOT increased jobs or improved their state’s economy.   Do you have reason to believe NH will be different? From what I have read, there is no compelling reason to believe so.

I would urge you to vote no on this and concentrate your efforts on issues that affect all of New Hampshire’s citizens and taxpayers.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Deirdre B. Conway

President, Newfound Teachers’ Union, AFT#6557

  • Subscribe to the NH Labor News via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 199 other subscribers

  • Advertisement

  • Advertisement