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Public Employees: Speak Up Knowing You Are Protected!

NH House Committee Hearing (Image by Christopher Schmidt CC on FLIKR)

Written by
Terri D. Donovan, Esq.,
Director of Collective Bargaining and Field Services
American Federation of Teachers-NH

NH House Committee Hearing (Image by Christopher Schmidt CC on FLIKR)

NH House Committee Hearing (Image by Christopher Schmidt CC on FLIKR)

All of a sudden there are many meetings in our cities, towns and school districts consumed with budget hearings and deliberative sessions where funding decisions will be made about our schools and vital public services. You read the headlines. The loud voices to slash budgets seem to be heard above all. Will you sit on the sidelines or speak up about important public services and your schools?

You go to work every day and teach your students, plow the roads, answer a burglary call or respond to a house fire. You wonder do these naysayers really know what is happening every day in your workplace. Do your fellow community members realize the pride you take in your work? Or are you just a line item in a budget?

This time of year there are many questions from our members and other public employees if they are allowed to speak at a public meeting. If they speak, can they be disciplined? Fired? The answer is NO. As a public employee in NH you have a right to free speech. Just because your paycheck is from a city, town or school district does not diminish your right to be heard.

If you are covered by a union contract you have protections. In fact, AFT-NH Local #6214, Pittsfield Town Employees, filed an Unfair Labor Charge at the NH Public Employees Labor Relations Board in 2012 which addressed a gag order which had been imposed by the Pittsfield Board of Selectmen. The gag order was passed when union members spoke out against an egregious budget cut and actions taken to implement this cut. The Selectmen retracted this order shortly thereafter but the Union pursued the claim to stand up for public employees’ free speech rights. The NH PELRB was clear in supporting public employees in their rights to speak public about their collective bargaining agreements and their working conditions.

The NH PELRB ordered the following, “The Town shall cease and desist from any activity, including the development and enforcement of any policy, that would prohibit bargaining unit employees’ communications with the public or media on the issues related to collective bargaining or the terms and conditions of their employment.”

Also as a public employee in New Hampshire you have unique statutory protection under Chapter 98-E, Public Employee Freedom of Expression. If your employer is a county, city, town, school district, SAU, precinct or water district you are protected.

 98-E:1 Freedom of Expression. – Notwithstanding any other rule or order to the contrary, a person employed as a public employee in any capacity shall have a full right to publicly discuss and give opinions as an individual on all matters concerning any government entity and its policies. It is the intention of this chapter to balance the rights of expression of the employee with the need of the employer to protect legitimate confidential records, communications, and proceedings. 

Please check for important meetings in your city and town. Deliberative sessions and budget hearings are happening now! You may not be comfortable speaking but jot down a few notes so you feel more comfortable. Speaking from the heart and with sincere concerns will resonate with fellow community members. Your opinion does matter to them. Be sure to avoid disclosing any confidential information you may know as a result of your work. You should rely on your Union to advise when it is appropriate in the collective bargaining process to speak out publicly. Once a contract is presented to the voters for approval, it is very important for you to reach out for support in the community.

You can speak to what you would believe to be the impact of budget cuts and speak proudly of the work done in your district or municipality. When you speak out you offer encouragement and support for others in the community to also have their voices heard.

Please don’t be silenced!

 

 

 

The Colbert Report Highlights The FREE KEENE Robin Hoods

Screen shot of the Colbert Report 11-19-14 show on Free Keene
Screen shot of the Colbert Report 11-19-14 show on Free Keene

Screen shot of the Colbert Report 11-19-14 show on Free Keene

Last night the Colbert Report covered something that we in New Hampshire have been talking about at length for years, the Free Staters, specifically Free Keene.

The Colbert Report focused on the Free Keene Robin Hooders and their harassment of parking attendants.  The NH Labor News was one of the first to break the story about the harassment of Keene police officers in our story, “Free Keene from ‘Free-Keene': A Story Of Harassment In The Workplace.

I am glad to see that The Colbert Report is bringing some national attention to the outrageous and threatening actions of the Free Keene Robin Hoods.

American Federation of Teachers-NH Endorses Governor Maggie Hassan and Strong Education Record for Re-Election

Hassan_AFT_Endorsement_2014

Hassan_AFT_Endorsement_2014MANCHESTER—Citing her unwavering commitment to expanding opportunity for New Hampshire’s working families, the American Federation of Teachers-New Hampshire (AFT-NH) announced its endorsement of Governor Maggie Hassan for re-election.

“Governor Maggie Hassan has been a relentless fighter for the priorities of working families, particularly for strengthening our schools and making it easier for families to afford college. We must re-elect her so that we can continue striving to ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed,” said AFT-NH President Laura Hainey. “It’s all too clear that Walt Havenstein does not share the priorities of working Granite Staters as he pushes a so-called ‘plan’ that would create a $90 million hole in the state’s budget to give more tax breaks to big businesses at the expense of middle class families. From working across party lines to expand health coverage to 50,000 Granite Staters, to freezing in-state tuition and preserving funding for K-12 education, Governor Hassan has proven that she will always be there for our state’s children and working families, and that’s why we’ll be there for her this November.”

“It’s an honor to have earned the support of AFT-NH, whose members help educate our children, protect our citizens, and strengthen our communities each and every day,” said Governor Maggie Hassan. “Over the past year and a half, we have proven that we can come together to balance our budget without a sales or income tax and invest in the priorities that will help create good-paying jobs and expand middle class opportunity. Our children and our state simply cannot afford to let my opponent take us back to the same devastating cuts to education, health care and public safety that hurt our economy and middle class families during the Bill O’Brien era. We must keep our New Hampshire moving in the right direction toward a brighter economic future for all children and families.”

Governor Hassan worked across party lines to pass a fiscally responsible, balanced budget that maintained funding for K-12 education and restored funding for higher education – making it possible to freeze in-state tuition at the university system and reduce tuition at our community colleges.

The Governor created a Science Technology Engineering and Math Task Force to modernize STEM education in our public schools, and launched a new effort to partner manufacturing companies directly with classes at local schools, building relationships that can lead to a stronger workforce pipeline. She also established a public-private initiative with Manchester-based Media Power Youth aimed at reducing the risk of violence and crime in our schools and communities.

The Governor will continue working to ensure that we maintain New Hampshire’s status as one of the safest states in the nation, and that our children have access to a world-class education in order to be prepared for success in the 21st century economy.

About AFT-NH

AFT-NH is the State Affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. The AFT has over one million members with nearly 4,000 members here in New Hampshire. These members are teachers, school support staff, police, higher education faculty and town employees. AFT-NH is a member of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO which represents over 45,000 working men and women.

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NH Labor Leaders Speak Out On Harris vs Quinn Ruling

NH AFL-CIO Logo

Home Care Workers Vow to Stand Up for Good Jobs and Quality Services in Wake of Harris v. Quinn Ruling

Work with States and Consumers to Ensure a Strong Voice Will Continue

Concord, NH, June 30, 2014 – Today, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Harris v. Quinn. In a 5-4 decision drafted by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, the conservative majority of the Court dealt a blow to the partnership forged between the State of Illinois and homecare workers through their union, SEIU Health Care Illinois-Indiana (SEIU HCII). In a closely divided ruling, the conservative wing of the Court overruled the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and held that the First Amendment bars Illinois homecare workers from adopting a fair share requirement (also known as ‘agency fee’) to ensure that everyone shares in the costs of the bargaining. The particular workers affected by this decision have a non-traditional relationship with their employer in Illinois and the court used the term “partial public employees” when referring to them. The workers are jointly employed by the state of Illinois and individual patients for whom they provide care.

This means that traditional public employees can continue to join together in a union and retain the right to negotiate a fair share contract provision.

While there are no such “partial employee” organized workers in New Hampshire, NH labor leaders agree that this is a about attacking workers’ rights.

This case was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an extreme anti-worker group. It is the latest in a decades-long attack on the rights of working people to join together to improve their jobs and the quality of services they provide.

SEIU 1984 Logo“Any decision that infringes on the rights of homecare workers to join together and make decisions regarding their workplace is bad for the economy, bad for workers and the people they serve, and bad for America,” said Diana Lacey, president of SEIU Local 1984. “As our population ages, providing a stable, qualified workforce that meets the growing need for healthcare is critical to ensuring that New Hampshire seniors receive adequate care. Home care jobs are one of America’s fastest growing industries, yet the average wage for workers is around $21,000 a year.”

AFSCME_Logo-2Color“This ruling to allow state-based challenges to the legality of agency fees skirts the question of whether these workers deserve dignity and basic rights on the job and exposes taxpayers to footing the bill for future challenges and litigation,” said Harriett Spencer, Coordinator for AFSCME Council 93.

aft sqaure“AFT-NH members want great neighborhood public schools that are safe welcoming and are fully funded. We want all public schools to have teachers who are well-prepared, well-supported, and who have manageable class sizes and time to collaborate,” said Laura Hainey President of AFT-New Hampshire. “We want our schools to be centers of our communities and to ensure that children and families have access to wraparound services to meet their social, emotional and health needs. We want curriculum that focuses on teaching and learning, not just testing, and that includes art, music and the sciences.”

“When workers can come together and negotiate for better pay, more benefits, and necessary training, turnover goes down, and our elderly receive better care,” said Mark NH AFL-CIO LogoMacKenNH AFL-CIO Logozie, president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO. “Ensuring that this workforce has a voice on the job and is not mired in poverty is the single best way to guarantee that seniors and people with disabilities can get safe, quality care in their homes.”

“New Hampshire’s workers will not be discouraged,” President MacKenzie continued. “We will continue to fight for improvements in our workplaces. The fate of workers cannot be decided by one Supreme Court decision. It will be decided at workplaces and industries across the country by those who get up every morning and make our country run.”

6-16-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: The Session Comes To A Close, A Look Back At What We Have Done

AFT NH Legislative Update

AFT NH Legislative Update

We succeeded in defeating, once again, the so called “’right to work—for less” bill. Over the past two years hundreds of NH citizens voiced opposition to this bill with only a handful of people speaking in support. This attack on working people like you is led by out of state interests such as the National Right to Work Committee and ALEC.

We succeeded in defeating a bill that would have permitted audio and video recording of a public official while in the course of performing his or her official duties. All employees, both public and private, should have a reasonable understanding that when they are performing their jobs that they are not intimidated or harassed and should have a safe working environment.

We succeeded in passing a bill relative to the filing with a registry of deeds of a fraudulent document purporting to create a lien or claim against real property. As public employees just wanting to do our jobs we should not have to worry that someone unhappy with us could go the county’s Register of Deeds and file a million dollar false claim against your property.

We succeeded in defeating retirement legislation that would hurt public employees even more that the bad legislation passed by the Republicans in the 2010-2011 sessions. AFT-NH believes that:

  • Security in retirement is something every worker deserves after a long, successful career in public service. These workers, after dedicating their working life to educating children, enforcing the law, fighting fires and helping our communities run every day, have earned a benefit that must allow them to retire with dignity.
  • The benefit should ensure a predictable cost for the employers and employees, and it should create, and sustain, a high-quality workforce that is attractive to younger workers to invest a lifetime in public service, in turn adding value to the state’s economy.
  • In exchange for a lifetime of service, workers need to rely on defined and predictable retirement security that is protected against inflationary pressures. Their benefit should ensure sound investment options and strategies that will result in post-retirement stability, even against the economic concerns of today.
  • Public sector workers need to be able to look forward to long productive service. Retirement security should be defined through investments and contributions made over a long-term investment horizon.
  • Instead of encouraging the idea that working for the public sector is less valuable than working for the private sector, New Hampshire’s retirement system benefit for public workers should set a standard, and be something larger employers in New Hampshire should emulate.
  • Public service should be viewed as a respectful vocation; a commitment by workers of service and dedication to their home state. It is service that adds value to the quality of life for NH citizens and visitors. Public service is an investment in New Hampshire and retirement security creates a financial cornerstone of the NH economy.

We were not totally successful with the following but will be advocating for comparable bills to pass in the upcoming session.

AFT-NH supported bills that would have increased transparency within charter schools. We need laws and regulations requiring full transparency in how charter schools operate and making them directly and openly accountable to the public for student performance and their admissions and enrollment policies.  We need stronger policies mandating respect and support for teacher and staff voices in school policies and programs, identification of potential conflicts of interest via disclosure requirements, and the use of public funds by charter schools in the same rigorous manner required in our public schools.

AFT-NH supported a bill that would make sure we have the necessary resources, staff development and support in moving forward with Common Core and Smarter Balance. If these Standards are to succeed, we need to ensure that in each district the following are in place when implementing the Standards:

  • There needs to be planning time for understanding the Standards and time to put them into practice,
  • We need opportunities to observe colleagues implementing Standards in class.
  • We need to provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards.
  • We must ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards.
  • We must communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students.
  • We need to develop best practices and strategies along with providing coaching to help teachers teach content more deeply.
  • We need to ensure all districts have the equipment and bandwidth to administer computer-based assessments.
  • We must make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers.
  • We must be work to align Assessments to Standards indicating mastery of concepts.
  • We must insist that professional development and training in the Standards be offered.
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards.

To read AFT-NH full statement click here.

AFT-NH supported the passage of SB 322: relative to the renomination of teachers. It is time we move back to supporting our teachers in New Hampshire. Three years is long enough to deny teachers their due process when non-renewed. When decisions with such high stakes are being made, all staff should be given reasons why, and should be given time to improve through an improvement plan.

AFT-NH supported bills that would have increased School Building Aid from the state for local districts. Keep in mind that 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment. We also supported a bill that would lift the current cap of 72% on catastrophic special education funds and fully fund it.

We were not successful in passing our real pension reform bill, SB 364: relative to group II service retirement allowances and relative to establishing a supplemental savings plan in the retirement system. If nothing is done, New Hampshire will be in a situation where 30 years down the road, we are going to have public employees – at the end of a career – eligible to apply for food stamps, and other social services. This puts a strain on working families by forcing our public employees into social services. This is financially irresponsible for New Hampshire and undignified for our public employees.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit AFT-NH.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”?
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!

To read the full listing of EDUCATION BILLS click here

To read the full listing of LABOR BILLS click here

To read the full listing of RETIREMENT BILLS click here

To read the full listing of MISCELLANY BILLS click here

The AFL-CIO And The NH AFL-CIO Endorse APWU’s Boycott Of Staples Inc

Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr

Momentum behind by the American Postal Workers Union “Stop Staples” campaign is growing by leaps and bounds. 

Over the last few weeks, the American Federation of Teachers in California and Michigan adopted resolutions to boycott Staples stores for their back to school shopping.

Last week AFT-NH President Laura Hainey announced that AFT-NH would also join in the boycott of Staples

“The decision to outsource neighborhood post offices across the country to a big-box retailer means potentially fewer good jobs and poorer service for our communities,” said Hainey. “Staples workers will staff these new postal counters, rather than trained, uniformed postal employees who are background-checked and take an oath to protect our mail.”

Then, just yesterday the AFL-CIO nationally has added Staples to their national boycott list, and the NH AFL-CIO adopted the resolution (view in PDF) to join the boycott of Staples stores.

The conclusion of the resolution states:

Therefore be it resolved that:

  • The NH AFL-CIO support the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) in its efforts to protect good-paying jobs and its insistence on the highest possible standards of customer service; 
  • Be it further resolved that the NH AFL-CIO opposes efforts by the U.S. Postal Service to privatize operations and to sell off valuable public assets; 
  • Be it further resolved that the NH AFL-CIO will urge friends, colleagues and family members, to no longer shop at Staples stores until further notice;
  • Be it finally resolved that this call to boycott Staples will be communicated immediately to affiliates of the NH AFL-CIO, our community allies, to our sister unions and to the news media.

“The New Hampshire AFL-CIO fully and enthusiastically supports our sisters and brothers working in real post offices across our state and nation, and we will be boycotting staples until this unfair program is ended,” said New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie.

The Postal Service and Staples are refusing to staff the postal counters with unionized, uniformed U.S. Postal Service employees who have the training and experience to properly handle U.S. mail, and who have passed back ground checks and sworn an oath to uphold the highest standards of public service.

“These Staples postal counters are staffed by low-wage, low benefit employees with little training and no credentials to handle U.S. mail. We can do better,” MacKenzie said.

“We are thrilled to have the support of the AFL-CIO in our ongoing struggle to keep the Postal Service Public. Acting together we can save this great public service from being privatized,” said Janice Kelble, Legislative Director, NH Postal Workers Union.

“Our local post offices belong to our towns and to the people of New Hampshire,” said Hainey. “Our members can decide where to buy school supplies, and we won’t shop at Staples until they reconsider this misguided program.”

Who will be the next to join the APWU’s call to Stop Staples.

The national AFL-CIO is a labor federation comprised of 56 unions representing 12.5 million members.

(If your local would like to adopt a resolution in support of the APWU’s Stop Staples campaign and need assistance, contact Janice Kelble at jkelble (at) apwu.org, or just send me the press release and details after it is adopted to NHlabor (at) Gmail.com  ATTN: Stop Staples)

AFT-NH Joins Growing Movement Of Teachers Boycotting Staples Over USPS Privatization Scheme

stop-staples-400X400

AFT-New Hampshire Calls for Boycott on Staples over Deal with U.S. Post Office Privatizing Work of Local Post Offices

Teachers union urges educators and school staff not to purchase school supplies from Staples

aft sqaureConcord, New Hampshire – The Board of Directors of AFT-New Hampshire, representing  4000 teachers, school staff, and public employees, announced today to boycott office supply and bulk goods retailer Staples. AFT-New Hampshire leaders said the union has taken this action to support the American Postal Workers Union’s battle against a deal struck between the United States Postal Service and the giant office supply chain for an 82-store pilot program in which postal counters providing most of the same services as local post offices would operate in Staples stores. In recent weeks, the USPS/Staples partnership has drawn outrage across the country, and a May 21 Boston Globe story indicated that Staples may want to consider backing out of the arrangement if public and labor opposition persist.[1]

“The decision to outsource neighborhood post offices across the country to a big-box retailer means potentially fewer good jobs and poorer service for our communities,” said AFT-New Hampshire President Laura Hainey. “Staples workers will staff these new postal counters, rather than trained, uniformed postal employees who are background-checked and take an oath to protect our mail.”

Hainey noted that, while official data on Staples pay is not available, one source puts the average wage of a Staples sales associate at $8.53 an hour, just $1.28 above the federal minimum wage.[2] Hainey said that according to the APWU, roughly one-third of Staples’ revenue come from the sale of school supplies.[3] “Our members teach and serve New Hampshire’s working families,” she said. “They don’t want to spend their money to transform decent-paying, living-wage jobs for New Hampshire families into low-wage jobs at Staples.”

Hainey cautioned that the USPS/Staples pilot program could be expanded across the country. “It could mean the death of your town’s post office,” she said. The Michigan and California affiliates of AFT have already moved to boycott Staples.

“Our local post offices belong to our towns and to the people of New Hampshire,” said Hainey. “Our members can decide where to buy school supplies, and we won’t shop at Staples until they reconsider this misguided program.”

Click here to read AFT-NH Resolution: Support U.S. Postal Workers; Boycott Staples

“President Coletti [NH Postal Workers Union & Manchester Area Local] & I are thrilled at the show of solidarity from our brothers and sisters at NH AFT. Their support and willingness to join in our boycott of Staples can really make a difference” said Janice Kelble, APWU NH Legislative Director.  “The executives at Staples were already watching when teachers in California, and Michigan came out vowing not to shop at Staples, in support of the postal workers. New Hampshire teachers and other labor supporters joining in support will help to spread our message. We wholeheartedly agree with making services convenient for our customers, but will not shop at a store seeking to privatize our services.  The U.S. Mail is NOT for sale. We will fight to Keep the Postal Service Public.”

AFT-NH Legislative Update: NH Retirement Lawsuits, and Finishing Up Education Bills

AFT NH Legislative Update

It is that time in the 2014 legislative session for Committees of Conference. Bills that were amended by either chamber will need a recommendation of concur, non-concur, or non-concur with a request for a Committee of Conference from the committee in which the bill originated.  At the moment, the following bills will be moving to Committees Of Conference, and both chambers have till June 4th to act on these bills.

HB 1128, establishing a committee to study issues related to students receiving special education services while attending a chartered public school. AFT-NH is in support of the bill’s intent.

Around 2011-2012 the state passed a bill which mandated that local districts must pay for support services for special education students enrolled in Charter schools. This means that a district must send someone to the Charter school, contract out the service, or pay the Charter school to provide the services. All of which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. We need to have a clear picture on what it is costing districts to educate special education students enrolled in a Charter school in or out of their home district. Because this is a mandate from the State we also need to have the discussion on who should be paying for these services.

HB 1494-FN, relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees.We were originally opposed to this bill but when amended we came out in support.  This bill moves to a committee of conference, AFT-NH will monitor this process.

The original bill was a policy overreach by the NHRS, but Rep. Goley’s amended version ensures this is just a housekeeping bill that establishes a procedure for the determination of the costs of purchase of service credits, clarifies the ability to earn service credit while on a salary continuance plan, changes the date for the approval of the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), adds a penalty for employers who fail to timely remit data on compensation paid to retired members, and repeals obsolete provisions.

RETIREMENT LAW SUITS

This past Thursday, May 15, 2014 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on our Merrimack County I (rate case).

In this case, the Superior Court found that the recently imposed rate increases were substantial and were not justified by any particular public policy requirements.   The rate increases were, thus, improper for any employee vested in the Retirement System under the Contract Clause of the NH Constitution.  The Contract Clause prohibits the state from breaching its contracts.  The judge, however, found that employees do not become vested in the Retirement System until they complete ten (10) years of service.

The Retirement Coalition appealed because it believes employees become vested upon achieving permanent status, not at ten years.  The State appealed because it claims employees do not ever vest or do not vest until they actually retire.   The Retirement System also filed a brief in which they claim not to take any positions, but at the same time claim that the Retirement System should not be required to refund any monies that become due.  The NH Municipal Association and the NH School Boards Association filed a brief that essentially sides with the State.

It will be a few months until the Supreme Court issues its written decision; once it is out I will send out a summary as to their ruling.

RETIREMENT LAW SUITS STILL WORKING THEIR WAY THROUGH THE COURTS

Merrimack County II (COLA and Special Accounts).In this case, the Superior Court found that employees do not have vested rights in their COLAs and no right to challenge the defunding of special accounts.  The judge also repeated his findings about a ten (10) year vesting period for other aspects of the Retirement System.

The state’s brief are due May 20, 2014, our response is now due July 7, 2014, their response to us is now due August 5, 2014. The next step will be for the Supreme Court to schedule oral arguments.

Hillsborough County (Definition of Earnable Compensation, Benefit Structure).In this case, the Superior Court found that employees vest in the Retirement System upon achieving permanent status.   The judge ruled, however, that she cannot tell without a trial whether definitional changes made by the Legislature regarding factors such as what constitutes “earnable compensation” are substantial enough to have violated petitioners’ rights.   (Merrimack I and II were determined on an agreed statement of the facts, without a trial).

Case Status:  Over our objection, the Hillsborough County judge stayed proceedings in this case pending the outcome of the Supreme Court appeals.  As a result, there is not pending activity in this case.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit www.aft-nh.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”?
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS

TUESDAY, MAY 20

LEGISLATIVE ADMINISTRATION, Room 104, LOB
10:00 a.m. Interim study subcommittee work session on HB 1440-FN, including the writing, promoting, or distributing of model legislation to elected officials as lobbying and requiring disclosure of scholarship funds, money, or other financial support received from such lobbyists by elected officials.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Full committee work session on Revenue Updates.

THURSDAY, MAY 22

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4

10:00 a.m. House in Session

NH Retirement Security Coalition Comments on First Oral Arguments in “Pension Reform” Case in Supreme Court

NH Retirement Coalition

NH Retirement CoalitionCONCORD – The New Hampshire Supreme Court heard oral arguments the morning of Thursday, May 15th in regards to the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition (NHRSC) lawsuit challenging so-called “pension reforms” passed by the Legislature in 2011 (Professional Firefighters of NH, et al vs. State of N.H.).

In response to litigation following the disastrous legislation passed in 2011, a Superior Court judge ruled that the increase was unconstitutional for workers who had ‘vested’ in the pension fund. Attorney Andru Volinsky, lead counsel for the NHRSC, argued Thursday to the Supreme Court that public employees ‘vest’ in the New Hampshire Retirement System immediately after accepting the job, not after 10 years (which some have claimed is precedent).

Volinsky asked the justices to think of the pension benefit as an annuity, agreed upon as part of the terms of employment, and something that cannot be changed unilaterally.  The fact that pension annuities are considered not to ‘vest’ for ten years would seem to undermine the growing necessity to attract skilled young people to government work in this state, especially when the pension fund participation is mandatory. The current approach adopted by the 2011 Legislature will scare off, not attract young people to government service.

“When a police officer responds to a potentially life-threatening situation, as we see happen all too often, he or she goes in with 100% commitment to protecting the public interest. The deal is made on day one – that’s the job, that’s the commitment”, said Keith Phelps, President of the New Hampshire Police Association (NHPA).

“What’s to stop them [the Legislature] from raising the price to 25% or higher in the years ahead if the Court allows this broken promise to stand?” said Laura Hainey, President of the American Federation of Teachers – NH.

At stake for the approximately 48,000 public employees in the pension system is $75 million per year in higher costs.  Diana Lacey, President of the largest state employees’ union SEA/SEIU commented, “It’s been almost three years.  They’ve charged us almost $225 million more than they were supposed to for our annuities.  We don’t have the right to strike when they take from us.  If the Courts let this stand, to what end will legislators be able to steal from taxpayers?  That’s what we are and we’re being targeted unfairly.”

For more information on the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition, please visit nhretirementfacts.com and follow us @NH_RSC

5-12-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Legislative Session Is Finishing Up, Still A Few Bills To Watch

AFT NH Legislative Update

Both legislative chambers are finishing up on their work for this session. They have till May 15th to act on all remaining bills. Any bill amended by the Senate or House will need a recommendation of concur, non-concur, or non-concur with a request for a Committee of Conference from the committee the bill originated in. As of right now the only bill that AFT-NH has been monitoring that might go to a Committee of Conference is SB 343: relative to the areas of assessment in the statewide education improvement and assessment program. To see where AFT-NH stands on SB 343 click here. If there are any more bills that will be sent to a Committee of Conference an update will be sent out.

The full senate will be voting on HB 1449, relative to the requirements for filing a charter school application. The committee recommended that this bill be defeated. AFT-NH is asking that this recommendation not be accepted and a recommendation of passage be voted on. We believe that this bill enhances both transparency and accountability to charter schools

What we need are laws and regulations requiring full transparency in how charter schools operate and making them directly and openly accountable to the public for student performance and their admissions and enrollment policies.  We need stronger policies mandating respect and support for teacher and staff voice in school policy and program, identification of potential conflicts of interest via disclosure requirements, and the use of public funds in the same rigorous manner required in our public schools.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

Thank you!

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit www.aft-nh.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”?
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS

WEDNESDAY, MAY 14

10:00a.m. House in session

THURSDAY, MAY 15

10:00a.m. possible House session

10:00a.m. Senate in session

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