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5-20-15 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Restoring Budget Cuts In The Senate

AFT NH Legislative Update

The Senate has had several hearings and meetings regarding their work on the state budget. When they held a public hearing several hundred citizens of New Hampshire showed up and spoke. Many expressed concern over the lack of funding in the House budget and its many cuts to programs needed by our most vulnerable citizens.

The Senate seems to have worked through much of what they want to do even before convening the Finance Committee meetings.  They have started with many noncontroversial items.

Again, I must repeat that we know that in New Hampshire we have few revenue sources and we have a regressive tax system, meaning that citizens who have the least to spare pay the most. To read more on this click here. AFT-NH supports incremental, common-sense reforms designed to make NH’s existing tax system fairer and to produce the revenue needed to preserve the public services essential to NH’s residents, businesses, and visitors.  All of this is vital to our shared economic success.

Once I know more on what the Senate is recommending I will send out an update.

This past Thursday the full Senate passed HB 507: relative to teacher personally identifiable data. This bill adds provisions relating to the protection of teacher personally identifiable data and adds in language that no school shall record in any way a school classroom for any purpose without school board approval after a public hearing, and without written consent of the teacher and the parent or legal guardian of each affected student. AFT-NH is very pleased that both chambers have passed this bill and we ask that the governor signs this bill into law.

The full Senate will be voting on HB 323: relative to the administration of the statewide assessment program. AFT-NH believes that this will allow for some district flexibility with regards to state wide assessment. We have seen an over-emphasis on high stake testing across the country and think New Hampshire is moving in the right direction.

AFT-NH believes that assessments should support teaching and learning, and that they should be aligned with curriculum rather than narrow it.  Assessments should be focused on measuring growth and continuous development of students instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn. Assessments should be diverse, authentic, test for multiple indicators of student performance and provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools improve, not sanctions that undermine them.  Development and implementation of such tests must be age appropriate for the students, and teachers need to have appropriate computers to administer such assessments.

Further, AFT-NH believes that assessments should support teaching and learning. They must contribute to school and classroom environments that nurture growth, collaboration, curiosity and invention—essential elements of a 21st-century education that have too often been sacrificed in favor of test prep and testing. We know that collaboration with educators is necessary to ensure that high-quality instruction and content are given their proper emphasis.

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

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

Have you visited the AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”? Please do so today!
You can also follow us on Twitter at @8027aftnh.
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UPCOMING HEARINGS

Wednesday, May 20

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
9:00 a.m. EXECUTIVE SESSION ON PENDING LEGISLATION

Thursday, May 21

10 am Senate in Session

JUDICIARY, Room 208, LOB
10:00 a.m. Continued public hearing on CACR 5, relating to legal actions. Providing that taxpayers have standing to bring actions against the government.

Friday, May 22

In recognition of your support, the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Association cordially invites you to the 23rd Annual New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony. The ceremony will be held on Friday, May 22, 2015, beginning promptly at 10:00 a.m., on the Memorial Site in front of the Legislative Office Building. The ceremony will proceed rain or shine. Refreshments will be served immediately the ceremony. Please do not hesitate to contact Major Kevin Jordan of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at 602-271-3128 if you have any questions.

Thursday, May 23

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
3:00 p.m. EXECUTIVE SESSION ON PENDING LEGISLATION

Tuesday, May 26

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. Subcommittee work session on retained bills
HB 527, establishing guidelines for school districts relative to the use of school resource officers,
HB 538-FN-L, relative to the implementation of new statewide education annual assessments,
HB 581-FN, requiring schools to continue the education of a child during the child’s suspension or expulsion, and
HB 243, changing the definitions of “focus school” and “priority school” in the school performance and accountability law.
1:00 p.m. Continued subcommittee work session on retained bills
HB 218-FN, relative to additional funding for third grade proficiency in mathematics,
HB 549-FN-A-L, allowing school building aid grants for certain authorized projects,
HB 242, relative to the statewide improvement and assessment program, and
HB 231, relative to applications for school building aid.

Monday, June 1

TASK FORCE ON WORK AND FAMILY (RSA 276-B:2, I), Room 207, LOB
1:15 p.m. Regular meeting.

Wednesday, June 3

10 am House in Session

Thursday, June 4

10 am House in Session

AFT’s Weingarten Celebrates Teachers, Nurses and Public Employees

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WASHINGTON—Statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the occasion of Teacher Appreciation Week, National Nurses Week and Public Service Recognition Week. The AFT represents teachers, nurses and public employees from across the country.

“Many of us have had teachers who changed our lives, nurses who saved our lives or public employees who improved our lives. For me, I often talk about Mr. Swift at Clarkstown High School North, who taught me how to be both confident and responsible, while opening the door to theater and art. Then there’s Jill Cohenour, a chemist from Montana who keeps the drinking water safe for her neighbors. And Christina Enriquez, a public health nurse in Washington who provides support services to expecting and new moms. This week is our chance to say ‘thank you’ to these teachers, nurses and public employees who make a difference every day in the lives of kids, families and communities.

“As our economy bounces back from the recession, it is increasingly clear that great education, healthcare and public services are rungs on the economic ladder to the American dream. That’s why we are celebrating teachers, nurses and public employees this week: They are the heart of our communities, providing vital public services, healing the sick and paving a path of opportunity for all children.

“Unfortunately, these workers have too often been the scapegoat for larger problems—like poverty in our communities, understaffing in our hospitals and austerity measures in our states. Or worse, these workers have been the target of attacks by those who wish to silence their voices and eliminate these essential public services. Let me be clear: Appreciation alone is not enough. As we celebrate these workers, we need to listen to them. We need to give them the tools, resources and support they need to do their jobs well. That’s the way to really show our gratitude.

“All this week, we will join parents, students and communities in lifting up teachers, nurses and public employees both in person and online. So, #thankateacher, #thankanurse and support a public employee by sharing how #governmentworks for you.”

Olney Charter Teachers Vote Overwhelmingly to Join Teachers Union

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Teachers Cite Need for a Voice to Advocate for Students and Their Profession at
Philadelphia High School that’s Part of National ASPIRA Charter Chain

PHILADELPHIA—Last night, teachers and support staff at Olney Charter High School in Philadelphia voted overwhelmingly to form a union. They voted by a near three-to-one margin to join with the Philadelphia Alliance of Charter School Employees to gain a voice in how classrooms are resourced and school decisions are made. They also sought greater input into teacher evaluations and professional development.

Olney Charter High School (located on West Duncannon Ave.) is one of five charters run by ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania within the Philadelphia School District. It was carved out of the public system following the state takeover of public city schools in 2001, which handed control of public schools to private operators under a corporate education reform model.

ASPIRA Inc. of Pennsylvania is an affiliate of the national ASPIRA Association, a nonprofit organization focused on education for Latino and other underserved youth. ASPIRA Association operates in eight states and Puerto Rico.

As Olney teachers and staff began organizing, management hired a union-avoidance firm, National Consultants Associated, which has a history of questionable ties to organized crime and individuals charged with federal corruption and racketeering. In the days leading up to the union vote, National Consultants Associated held mandatory anti-union meetings, costing parents face time with teachers, students hours of instruction during annual exam prep, and untold dollars that could have been put to use in classrooms.

The victory for teachers and support staff at Olney is the latest in a string of successful organizing efforts. Teachers at charter schools across the country increasingly are uniting to challenge the conditions that lead to incredibly high turnover in their schools and to improve education for their students. Often, in spite of aggressive anti-union tactics from their employers, teachers vote to join together in a union when given the choice.

“Teachers at charter schools want what other teachers want: respect for the job they do and a real voice in their schools,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6-million member American Federation of Teachers. “Increasingly, they see how joining a union of professionals is the vehicle to do that. That’s what today’s overwhelming vote was about.”

A total of 172 teachers and support staff are now represented by the union and will soon begin negotiating a first collective bargaining agreement. They also are calling for organizing and collective bargaining rights for teachers and staff at all ASPIRA Inc. schools. On May 12, teachers and staff at John B. Stetson Charter School, another ASPIRA school, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board requesting a union vote. The Board has yet to rule on the request.

“We look forward to forging a new relationship with ASPIRA of Pennsylvania,” said Ted Kirsch, president of AFT Pennsylvania and an AFT vice president. “By opening its planning and decision-making process to teachers, staff and parents, ASPIRA has an opportunity to make its schools a model for innovation and collaboration in K-12 charter schools.”

The AFT represents teachers and support staff in more than 120 public charter schools in 12 states.

4-21-15 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Common Core Standards And Pension Reform

Things moved slowly this week at the State House. The full House met on Wednesday and passed the following bill:

SB 101: prohibiting the State from requiring implementation of Common Core standards. This bill prohibits the Department of Education and the State Board of Education from implementing the Common Core standards in any school or school district in this state. This bill clarifies that districts don’t have to adopt the Common Core Standards but a district still needs to have high quality standards. AFT-NH believes that if any standards are to work we need to ensure that in each district the following are in place when implementing them:

  • 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,
  • Provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards,
  • Ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards,
  • Communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students,
  • Develop best practices and strategies along with coaching to help teachers teach content more deeply,
  • We need to ensure all districts have the equipment and bandwidth to administer computer-based assessments,
  • Make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers,
  • Assessments need to be aligned to Standards indicating mastery of concepts,
  • Professional development and training in the Standards need to be offered,
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards

This coming Thursday, April 23, 2015 the Special Committee On Employee Pensions will be meeting at 10 am in LOB 104. They have two bills that they will be discussing

  • HB 369: establishing a defined contribution retirement plan for public employees and
  • HB 556: establishing a cash balance plan for public employees in the retirement system.

We need to keep in mind the following about our pension system:

  • New Hampshire’s retirement system benefit for public workers should set a standard, and be something for larger employers to mirror in the state.
  • Public service should be viewed as a respectable vocation; a commitment by workers of service and dedication to their home state.  Public service is an investment in New Hampshire and retirement security creates a financial cornerstone of the NH economy.
  • The current annual pension benefit is just over $19,000.  Nearly 70% of the state’s 28,000 pensioners receive less than $25,000 per year.
  • Each dollar “invested” by New Hampshire taxpayers in the pension system supports $7.55 in total economic activity in the state
  • Studies have found that public sector workers’ compensation – including benefits – is slightly lower than that of their peers in the private sector with the same education and experience.
  • Police officers and fire fighters are not eligible for Social Security.
  • All of our public employees contribute their own money into pension funds.
  • Defined-benefit pensions held by public employees are much more cost effective than 401(k)-style retirement plans, costing roughly half as much to provide the same level of retirement benefit to workers such as police officers and firefighters, librarians and teachers, and other public-sector workers.
  • Pensions help reduce employee turnover and thus boost worker productivity.

AFT-NH will continue to advocate for:

Security in retirement is something every worker deserves after a long, successful career in public service.  Our workers, after dedicating their working life to educating children, enforcing the law, fighting fires and helping our communities function 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, who pay into it throughout their careers. It should create, and sustain, a high-quality workforce. It should attract talented 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, our workers need to rely on defined and predictable retirement security that is protected against inflationary pressures. Their benefit should ensure sound, long-term investment options and strategies that will result in post-retirement stability, despite the economic concerns of today.

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 for larger employers to mirror in the state.

Public service should be viewed as a respectable 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 for the NH economy.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

Have you visited the AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”? Please do so today!
You can also follow us on Twitter at @8027aftnh.
Late breaking news appears on Facebook!

Upcoming Hearings

Monday, April 20

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
AGENCY PRESENTATIONS ON THE BUDGET AS PASSED BY THE HOUSE
Department of Health and Human Services:
9:00 a.m. Budget Overview
10:00 a.m. Public Health
11:00 a.m. Medicaid Business & Policy (including Medicaid Managed Care)
12:00 p.m. Break
1:00 p.m. Continuation of Medicaid Business & Policy
2:00 p.m. Commissioner’s Office
3:00 p.m. Office of Human Services
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

Tuesday, April 21

Senate EDUCATION, Room 103, LOB
Sen. Reagan (C), Sen. Stiles (VC), Sen. Avard, Sen. Kelly, Sen. Watters
9:00 a.m. HB 347, relative to payment of wages of certain hourly school district employees.
9:20 a.m. HB 604, relative to the use of mixed use school busses by special education pupils.
9:40 a.m. HB 610, relative to a school board vote on the reassignment of a pupil.
10:00 a.m. Hearing on proposed amendment #2015-1333s – establishing a children’s savings account program, and relative to the bonding authority of the city of Dover to HB
577-FN-A-L, establishing a children’s savings account program.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
2:00 p.m. EXECUTIVE SESSION ON PENDING LEGISLATION

House CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY, Room 204, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on
SB 72, relative to confidentiality of police personnel files and establishing a commission to study the use of police personnel files as they relate to the Laurie List,

House LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
1:00 p.m. Executive session on SB 186, reestablishing the commission to study soft tissue injuries under workers’ compensation and to study the feasibility of developing a first responder’s critical injury fund.

House MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
10:15 a.m. SB 242-L, relative to amending the budget in towns that have adopted official ballot voting. The public hearing will include consideration of a non-germane amendment which ratifies the result of a warrant article in the town of Franconia. Copies of the amendment are available in the Sergeant-at-Arms’ office and online.

House TRANSPORTATION, Room 203, LOB
11:00 a.m. SB 234, establishing a committee to study the use of law enforcement details and flaggers for traffic control on municipally maintained roads.

House WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Full committee work session on SB 113-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table gaming.
2:00 p.m. Executive session on SB 113-FN-A-L, relative to video lottery and table gaming.

Wednesday, April 22

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
AGENCY PRESENTATIONS ON THE BUDGET AS PASSED BY THE HOUSE
9:00 a.m. Department of Transportation
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

House FINANCE – (DIVISION II), Room 209, LOB
1:00 p.m. Work session on SB 151-FN, requiring inclusion of home educated pupils in the definition of average daily membership in attendance.

Thursday, April 23

House MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on
SB 242-L, relative to amending the budget in towns that have adopted official ballot voting,

House SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYEE PENSION PLANS, Room 104, LOB
10:00 a.m. Full committee work session.

Tuesday, April 28

House WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Continued public hearing on SB 213-FN-A-L, establishing a committee to study the formula for distribution of meals and rooms tax revenues.

Wednesday, April 29

10 am House in Session

Thursday, April 30

10 am Senate in Session

Tuesday, May 5

Senate FINANCE, Representatives’ Hall, SH
Sen. Forrester (C), Sen. Little (VC), Sen. Morse, Sen. Reagan, Sen. D’Allesandro, Sen. Hosmer
3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. HB 1-A making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017.
HB 2-FN-A-L relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. HB 1-A making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017.
HB 2-FN-A-L relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.
Please note: These hearings will be streamed live via the Internet at the following web address:
http://nhgencourt.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=1

House HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES AND ELDERLY AFFAIRS, Rooms 205-207, LOB
10:00 a.m. Kids Count presentation.

Friday, May 15

Every Child Matters in NH and Child and Family Services of NH are pleased to extend an invitation to all members for “Walk a Month in My Shoes” Poverty Simulation on Friday, May 15th at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord. Breakfast and registration will open at 8:00 a.m. The simulation will begin at 8:30 a.m. and end by noon. Please stay for lunch and an afternoon discussion about poverty in our state with NH experts on this topic. Our goal is to simulate the challenges faced by low-income children and their families as they try to survive from month to month on limited resources. We guarantee that this event will have you talking and thinking about poverty in new ways. There is no cost to attend this event. Breakfast and lunch will be provided to our guests. Space is limited so please RSVP by April 24th by calling (603) 856-7517 or emailing mlbeaver@everychildmatters.org

Friday, May 22

In recognition of your support, the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Association cordially invites you to the 23rd Annual New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony. The ceremony will be held on Friday, May 22, 2015, beginning promptly at 10:00 a.m., on the Memorial Site in front of the Legislative Office Building. The ceremony will proceed rain or shine. Refreshments will be served immediately following the ceremony. Please do not hesitate to contact Major Kevin Jordan of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department at 602-271-3128 if you have any questions.

The “Fast Track” Bill For The Trans-Pacific Partnership Hit The Floor Of Congress Today, Labor Responds

It was only a matter of time until the multi-national corporations who helped fund the campaigns of many of the politician’s in Washington pushed for another trade agreement that will make them billions of dollars, and leave millions of American workers without a job.

Today the “Senate’s Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015” hit the Congressional floor. The deal was brokered by Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah), Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), and Chairman of House Ways and Means Committee Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).

The New York Times spelled it out pretty well:

“It would give Congress the power to vote on the more encompassing 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership once it is completed, but would deny lawmakers the chance to amend what would be the largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994, which President Bill Clinton pushed through Congress despite opposition from labor and other Democratic constituencies.”

President Obama has already said he will oppose the unions — who help him win two elections — and his fellow democrats to get this trade agreement passed.

Richard_Trumka“At a time when workers all over the country are standing up for higher wages, Congress is considering legislation that will speed through corporate-driven trade deals,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “For decades, we’ve seen how fast-tracked trade deals devastated our communities through lost jobs and eroded public services. We can’t afford another bad deal that lowers wages and outsources jobs. That’s why Congress must reject Fast Track (TPA-2015) and maintain its constitutional authority and leverage to improve the TPP and other trade deals.”

Trumka continued, “Trade deals have wide-ranging impacts and shouldn’t be negotiated behind closed doors and then rubber-stamped. The current Trans-Pacific Partnership deal under discussion would cover 40 percent of the world’s GDP. A deal this big should be debated in a full and open manner like every other piece of legislation. Working people are showing tremendous courage standing up to the low-wage, corporate agenda. It’s time for politicians to do the same.”

Labor unions and progressive advocates have been calling for more transparency in this ginormous trade agreement. The White House has been negotiating this deal in secret, while assuring everyone that this will not be another NAFTA. The problem is that every time new information about the trade agreement is leaked, it shows exactly the opposite. More gifts to Wall Street and Corporations while the American people suffer.

“The proposed Fast Track bill fails all the tests that Senator Ron Wyden said were critical: Trade Adjustment Assistance, transparency, action to combat currency manipulation, real enforcement of environmental and worker standards, and procedures to enable Congress ‘to right the ship if trade negotiators get off course,’ as Wyden put it. Since this legislation requires a supermajority, or 60 votes, for the Senate to remove the TPP or any subsequent deal from Fast Track consideration, this provision is virtually meaningless,” wrote the Communication Workers of America in a statement late this afternoon.

Larry Cohen CWA“We need to put the brakes on Fast Track or Trade Promotion Authority. Just like the TPP itself, there has been no transparency around Trade Promotion Authority. We’ve had the start of a Senate hearing even before a bill was finalized and introduced. Now, that legislation is headed to mark up and a floor vote in just days. Trade Promotion Authority pretends to be about trade, but in reality it is about protecting corporate profits above all else and defining our national security in terms of giving away our jobs, depressing our wages and then rewarding the responsible multinational corporations, often U.S. based, with guaranteed profits in the nations where they invest,” said CWA President Larry Cohen.

Leo W Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers union wrote in his weekly column about how “illegally subsidized steel” is coming into the United States and forcing more workers out on the streets. “American steel producers laid off thousands of workers in bedrock communities from Ohio and Illinois to Texas and Alabama. That’s in just the past three months.”

“NAFTA has led to the loss of 1 million American jobs,” said Senator Bernie Sanders on the floor of the US Senate in late February. “Since we signed NAFTA the United States has cumulative trade deficit of 8.8 trillion dollars. That is wealth that has left the U.S. and gone overseas.”

It is not just the manufacturing unions who are speaking out against the Fast Track and the TPP.

The UFCW supported the last major trade agreement with Korea because of its improved labor standards and potential to create 20,000 jobs in the meat sector. But in his op-ed, Perrone makes clear that this time is different.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not the Korea free trade agreement,” he writes. “It is neither free nor fair. And the UFCW is determined to see it defeated.”

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

AFT President Weingarten (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers and an outspoken progressive also spoke out against the agreement.

“At a time when we need to be focused on creating and sustaining good jobs for American workers, fast track would undermine these efforts, leading to trade deals that hurt everyday working people and stack the deck in favor of corporations. And it would do this in a secretive way, with limited public and congressional oversight and no effective enforcement,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

She continued, “Our nation’s trade policy should help put us on a path toward lifting all Americans’ quality of life—ensuring rights for workers, protections for consumers and safeguards for the environments. That’s why we need a democratic and transparent trade process that offers a fair shake for American workers. This bill is over-reaching and will fail to keep working families and our economy strong.”

“We send our elected leaders to Washington to be our voice,” said AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson. “Under fast track, Congress will have no say in selecting our trade partners, negotiating trade terms, or debating and amending trade agreements. This bill panders to corporate profiteers, while ignoring the voices of everyday American workers, who are fighting to oppose it.”

Now we need everyone to stand up and put an end to this monumental race to the bottom.

10492525_10153211806206153_8036817465541163150_nUses your cell phone to text TPP to 877877 and you can be connected directly to your Congressman or Senators office to tell them to vote no on this legislation. Or call the Senate directly at 1-855-790-8815 and tell them that “Fast Track means bad trade deals that ship American jobs overseas.”

Then take part in a National Day of Action to Stop Fast Track this Saturday, April 18th. Click here to find an event near you.

The AFL-CIO has more information on the TPP and “Fast Track” legislation on their website.

Public Employees: Speak Up Knowing You Are Protected!

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!

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFT’s Weingarten: New Model for Unionism Requires Organizing With Community for Economic Justice, Political Power, Workers’ Dignity

“We can no longer operate as if we’re in a factory. The knowledge era has arrived. As circumstances change, our nation changes,
the world changes and we too must change.”

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten today laid out a framework for a renewed American labor movement. She was joined by U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and others at an Albert Shanker Institute conference called “The American Labor Movement at a Crossroads.”

The labor movement is at a crossroads, Weingarten said, because of globalization, technological changes, diminished union density, and aggressive, well-funded legislative and judicial challenges by anti-union forces who understand the potential power of American labor.

“We can no longer operate as if we’re in a factory. The knowledge era has arrived. As circumstances change, our nation changes, the world changes and we too must change,” Weingarten said. “And make no mistake: This is on us. It’s our responsibility.”

Secretary Perez reminded the audience that the growth of the middle class was linked to a strong labor movement. “President Obama understands that the labor movement and prosperity go hand in hand,” he said.

Weingarten highlighted four areas of work that the AFT has rethought in significant ways:

  • engagement with community;
  • focus on the quality of the public services its members provide;
  • “internal” organizing and member mobilization; and
  • “external” organizing of the unorganized.

“We know that the enduring values of the American labor movement provide a strong foundation for a renewed American unionism that will give collective voice to working people in a 21st-century global knowledge economy,” Weingarten concluded.

Read the full speech here.

AFT’s Weingarten on White House Summit on Early Childhood Education

WASHINGTON –American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten participated in a panel today at the White House Summit on Early Childhood Education, where President Barack Obama announced more than $1 billion in public and private spending on early learning programs, including roughly $700 million in already appropriated federal funds.

Following is a statement from Weingarten on behalf of AFT, which represents more than 90,000 early childhood educators in every type of early learning setting across the country:

“Access to high-quality early childhood care and education is key to giving all children a running start. High-quality early learning not only helps to bridge the achievement gap for low-income children, but it’s also a strong economic investment in our nation’s future. As President Obama mentioned today, every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood programs saves us up to eight dollars in the future.

“The most important determinant of a high-quality early learning program is the educator who nurtures, guides and educates our children. Right now, many early educators aren’t getting a living wage. Nearly half rely on public assistance, costing taxpayers $2.4 billion annually. That’s why it’s vital that we give the early child care workforce the resources, working conditions and wages they need to help put our nation’s early learners on a path to success.

“We are proud to work with the White House on this important effort, and we will continue our efforts to ensure that all children have access to high-quality early childhood education. As these public and private partners commit to invest in early childhood education today, we hope that they will invest in the educators who are giving our nation’s early learners a strong start on life.”

AFT’s Weingarten on Human Rights Day and Recent Events

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WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, which the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 1948:

“The United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 66 years ago, yet we still have a long way to go before every community throughout the world affords all citizens respect, dignity and impartial justice. This has been made clear in recent months, from the abject disregard for life demonstrated by the murder of civilian hostages by terrorists in the Middle East, to the grand jury decisions to not find any culpability in the deaths of unarmed black men in Staten Island, N.Y., and Ferguson, Mo. The time to act for justice is now.

“Nations, cities and towns should use the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard for dignity, freedom and human rights of all men, women and children. We must work to fully realize the declaration so that all people from every corner of society are treated equally and with dignity and worth.”

The AFT is working with Educational International and teacher unions in Egypt, Georgia, Honduras and Zimbabwe to provide educators with the information they need to be advocates for human rights in their classrooms and their communities. For more on this project, see www.tarc.ei-ie.org.

The AFT also has free human rights resources for the classroom, including lesson plans and other teaching materials, at www.teachhumanrights.com and www.sharemylesson.com.

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