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Kids Or Corporations? Which Do We Value More?

Image by Rocksee (Flickr CC)

Image by Rocksee (Flickr CC)

From Pennsylvania, this story:

Governor Tom Corbett cut corporate taxes by $1.2 billion.  Then he cut nearly $1 billion dollars from the state’s education budget.  Then he acted shocked when schools from Philadelphia to Pittsburg were forced to close.

Then a child died.

From the AFT: “We don’t know if a school nurse could have saved this young boy. But we do know every child deserves a full-time nurse in his or her school. We do know all parents deserve to know that their child will be safe and his or her most basic needs will be tended to at school. We do know that all Philadelphia children deserve better.”

The boy wasn’t the first child who died.  Twelve-year-old Laporshia Massey died from asthma complications that started while she was at school.  Could her death have been prevented there had been a school nurse on staff?

Of course, Governor Corbett responded by attacking the teachers’ unions – without mentioning the budget hole created by his corporate tax cuts.

Yep, another politician who wants our teachers to make “sacrifices.”

(But not the corporations.  Somehow, they never ask the corporations to make “sacrifices.”)

But it’s not just Pennsylvania.

A friend of mine is an elementary school art teacher, whose classroom is out of supplies and whose budget is out of money.  How do you teach elementary school art without construction paper and glue sticks?

A middle school student complains about seeing her teachers outside of school.  “It’s really embarrassing when you run into your teacher in a restaurant,” she says.  “But it’s even more embarrassing when your teacher is your server at the restaurant.  Why can’t we pay teachers enough that they don’t need a second job to survive?”

All across the country we hear stories of states being forced “make the hard choices” when it comes to budgets.  They try to make us believe that they have no other choice than to cut programs to keep their budgets balanced.  They never mention the possibility of restoring revenues that were given away as tax cuts.

A strong public education is vital to our communities.  A strong education is the foundation of the American Dream.  Public schools provide the tools necessary to lift people up, to find good high paying work, and to get that little house with the white picket fence.  A strong public education system — which I believe should include higher education — is the key to countering America’s poverty problems, too.

But budget cuts have forced some schools to close completely, leaving children and their parents scrambling.  Teacher layoffs have led to larger class sizes, and less time to help students.  Budget cuts are forcing teachers and parents to supply schools with basic necessities like paper, pens, chalk, and paper towels out of their own pockets.

Cuts to school lunch programs mean that too many teachers are reaching into their own pockets to buy lunch for students who would otherwise go hungry.

Yet corporations keep their tax cuts.

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are on the front lines of this fight to protect and preserve our public education system.  AFT is running a new campaign entitled “reclaim the promise” that challenges people to stand up for public education.

Stand up and fight to ensure that children in all communities get access to a high quality education.

Stand up and say “NO” to the government leaders who would rather cut funding to schools than ask businesses to pay their taxes.

Stand up and say: “NO MORE hungry children.”

And “NO MORE children dead, without a school nurse around.”


(Special Hat-Tip to my friends Kevin Mahoney and Sean Kitchen at Raging Chicken Press for always keeping the light shining on the atrocity of Governor Corbett’s attack on public schools and public workers.)

Jobs Corp Groundbreaking Today. Thanks To An Anti-Union Congressman It Is Three Years Late

2013-08-20 Manchester Jobs Corp CenterToday was the big ground breaking ceremony of the long, long, long awaited Manchester Jobs Corp center.

Senator Shaheen released a statement today after the event:

“U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today celebrated the new Manchester Job Corps Center with a bipartisan coalition of federal and local officials at a ceremonial groundbreaking event. Shaheen was joined by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Governor Maggie Hassan, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Mayor Ted Gatsas where the group celebrated the investments in New Hampshire’s youth and economic future that the groundbreaking represented. Once complete, the center will provide low-income youth with education and job training to build successful careers in today’s economy.

Over the past 15 years, Senator Shaheen has led bipartisan efforts to build the new Job Corps Center in Manchester. As Governor, she created the state’s first ever economic development plan and one of its key recommendations was pursuing a Job Corps Center. Subsequently, Shaheen led the effort through her Workforce Opportunity Council to submit the proposal to the Department of Labor in 2001. In the Senate, Shaheen has continued her leadership on the project’s development and construction. Recently, she secured report language in an appropriations bill for construction of the project. The bill was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee in July.

Since its inception in 1964, over two million youth have received academic and career training through Job Corps. The Manchester Job Corps Center, which will provide educational opportunities youth ages 16 to 24, is scheduled to be completed in December 2014 and enroll 150 students by June 2015. The Manchester Job Corps Center will provide vocational instruction in the advanced manufacturing, construction, health care, homeland security, hospitality and information technology industries.

I want to make something very clear. I have been a fan of Senator Shaheen since she was Governor Shaheen. My great uncle was the President of the NH chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE). He would tell me stories of how he and Governor Shaheen had a very close working relationship. He was at her inauguration and that picture hung in his home office until he passed last year.

However I am not as happy about this new Jobs Corp center as she is or some of the other elected officials who were at the event. That is because I know the true story of the Manchester Jobs Corp center.

You may remember that it was bid out in 2009. Since the Jobs Corp center was going to be build with federal dollars that required a Project Labor Agreement and a prevailing wage. Then the Associated Builders and Contractor (ABC) raised their dirty hands in protest.

This angered Joe Casey President of the NH Building Trades Council.

“The selfish actions of North Branch and the ABC stand to harm hundreds of people in New Hampshire: Young people will not be able to benefit from participation in Job Corps programs. Area businesses will not benefit in the long term from a greater number or professionally trained workers and in the short term from the economic boost of a $35 million project. And construction workers that are struggling through one of the worst down periods in our lifetime will continue to struggle to find work.

The problems did not stop there. After ABC helped to get then Mayor Guinta elected to the US House of Representatives, Guinta went right after the unions and Project Labor Agreements.

Congressman Guinta used his new power to block the Jobs Corp Center. He had the entire project rebid without a PLA. Of course it is going to come back cheaper. When companies do not pay for worker safety equipment or workers’ compensation insurance or apprentice training, then they can obviously charge less money. Corporations don’t care about the workers, they only care about the profits.

One of the key points to blocking the PLA on the Jobs Corp center was the fact that New Hampshire has a very small unionized population, and that the union workers would not be local to New Hampshire. Just because our percentage is smaller than Massachusetts does not mean we do not have good workers. I know there are at least 4,000 union carpenters here in New Hampshire.

There are already rumors flying around that the sub-contracts for the Jobs Corp Center are going to out of state corporations.

So while everyone else is celebrating today, I remember the real story behind this Jobs Corp Center. I am glad that Congresswoman Shea-Porter is back in her seat in Washington, because she would have never screwed the hard working men and women the way that Congressman Guinta did.

To be fair, I am glad that the project is actually being completed. We need a place for these people to go and get good training in a field they can make a career. College is not for everyone and this could really be a stepping stone in the right direction for some people. Maybe after they learn some of the basics at the Jobs Corp center, they can join the largest training program in the entire country: the building trades union apprentice program.

Congressman Guinta Is Gone But His Anti-Union Legacy Remains

Today it was announced that Eckman Construction of Bedford won the contract to build the Department of Labor ‘Job Center’ in Manchester.  I use the term won, very loosely because in actuality they were the lowest bidder, therefore winning the contract.

The residential education and job training complex will serve low-income youth ages 16 to 24, with a focus on homeland security, health care and hospitality jobs.” (AP)

The job corp center became an issue for the unionized trade workers in New Hampshire when then Congressman Guinta wanted the bid changed to remove the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that was required by President Obama on all Federal Projects.

In 2009 shortly after the project was announced the bid was pulled to remove the PLA.  This drew a large protest from Joe Casey President of the the New Hampshire Building Trades Council.

“The selfish actions of North Branch and the ABC stand to harm hundreds of people in New Hampshire: Young people will not be able to benefit from participation in Job Corps programs. Area businesses will not benefit in the long term from a greater number or professionally trained workers and in the short term from the economic boost of a $35 million project. And construction workers that are struggling through one of the worst down periods in our lifetime will continue to struggle to find work.”

“Project labor agreements, also known as Community Workforce Agreements, have a long history of protecting both project owners  and the workers who build them. In addition to setting clear, uniform, negotiated standards for all workers on a project, they also have  been shown to improve safety, minimize delays, and save owners money,”

Guinta ABC Award

Guinta Receives Award From ABC

In spite of the numerous benefit to workers and the community the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) worked with Congressman Guinta after he was elected in 2010, to get the project scrapped until it was re-bid without a PLA.   Even though Guinta’s amendment was rejected the ABC praised his efforts with an award.

Guinta’s connection to the ABC was again brought to the forefront durning his last election campaign.  ABC donated $20,000 to the reelection campaign on top of sending out mailers to all of Guinta’s district.

Guinta ABC Mailer

So even though Congressman Guinta is no longer in Washington his anti-union policies are still hurting New Hampshire.

NH Carpenters Union Business Agent John Jackson said of ABC  “If they had their way, all government regulation would be eliminated – no safety laws, no requirement to pay wages for all hours  worked, no requirement for worker’s comp coverage for all workers. Their anti-competition argument covers up business practices that decimate our community.”

Well Congressman Guinta, you got your way this time and the New Hampshire workers are going to suffer because of it.

Once Again Former Speaker Bill O’Brien Spews Hate Filled Anti-Union Propaganda

Bill O'brienOver the last two years Bill O’Brien has never ceased to amaze when it comes to the garbage that he spews.  Do you remember when he blamed the ‘Union Thugs’ at the USPS for delaying his mail?  O’Brien used his facebook account to attack the hard working men and women at the USPS for what turned out to be his own mistake.

Once again the TEA Party leader used his Facebook account to go after another respected profession, Teaching.

From O’Brien’s Facebook page:

Screen shot 2013-02-12 at 6.54.42 PM“Government schools are failing in NH and throughout the country for one fundamental reason: teacher unions. 

Teacher unions maintain incompetence and inefficiency on the local level through collective bargaining and school district-based political activism. They don’t bargain for the children. Like any union they bargain for more pay for less work.

Teacher unions constantly fight to structure our state laws to obtain funding for their jobs and monopolistic control of our children.”

It is obvious that O’Brien is already pushing back against the possible repeal of the School Voucher program that he forced through.

O’Brien continues….

Who would not, if they could afford it, get their child out of a government school so he can obtain a useful education?

The mantra of the teacher union bosses and lobbyists is that it is all for the children; but that claim as a lie is personified in Maggie Hassan, who opposes a tax credit funded charitable scholarship program for the poor….”

He is using this statement as a way to get himself media attention and bring he opposition of voucher repeal to the front page.

The truth is that vouchers are wrong for NH schools and the different teachers unions throughout the state have been opposed to it from the beginning.  Schools need to be properly funded, yet the legislature continues to cut funding forcing towns to cut programs like art and music and staff increasing class sizes.  This is not a result of teacher bargaining, in many cases the collective bargaining has helped teachers and schools.  Teacher bargain for such outrageous things as like solid professional evaluations, professional development programs to help create effective teachers, class sizes, aside from pay, healthcare and other items.

It has also been proven that state with collective bargaining for teachers have a higher graduation rate than those who are “Right To Work States” and not support collective bargaining.

Vouchers take money away from the state through a tax credit.  Those credits result in a loss to local schools only making it harder for schools to pay their bills.  What O’Brien also omitted is that vouchers (or tax credits as he calls them) take public money to pay for private religious schools.

O’Brien and others like to say that Charter Schools provide a better or “useful education.” This is another fundamental flaw in O’Brien’s rant, there is no real evidence that charter schools are better than public schools.  Actually Diane Ravitch, a well known education advocate, reports that in Milwaukee public schools fare better than private schools.

Teachers unions are not to blame for O’Brien’s idea that education in New Hampshire is failing.  I wonder what changes would have been made in NH education if instead of making massive cuts he would have pushed more money to public education?

Telling the Truth About Unions And Hurricane Sandy

photo by Dan DeLuca via Flikr
Have you heard the story about non-union utility crews getting turned away, after Hurricane Sandy?

The story isn’t true – but it’s still being spread.

It started before the election.  The story spread so far and so fast that five utility companies issued public statements saying it wasn’t true.

A full week later, the story was still being spread – by an anti-union newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Does this remind you of anything?  Maybe Mitt Romney’s infamous allegations about Jeep moving production to China?  Again, that story was immediately and thoroughly debunked – by the company – but Romney’s campaign kept spreading it, through television and radio ads.

Truth? Romney’s pollster said it didn’t matter:  “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”

Yes, there’s a connection here.  Romney’s campaign was funded by many of the same people and corporations that have invested millions in the “union avoidance” industry.  Take a few minutes and read this analysis of the 2010 electionsIt’s the very same players, now:

  • Karl Rove, of election night meltdown fame, toured the country in 2009 opposing the Employee Free Choice Act;
  •  “Americans for Job Security” is a secretive group run out of a mail-drop box in a UPS store, but they spend millions on false advertising attacking candidates who support labor unions;
  •  “Americans for Prosperity” is run by the Koch brothers, spends tens of millions on misleading ads; and in 2009 sponsored a multi-state publicity tour opposing the Employee Free Choice Act;
  • and the list goes on, and on.

The “union-avoidance” industry doesn’t care about the truth – it just cares about results.  Haven’t heard of the industry before?  Read more about it here and here.

Looking for the truth about how labor unions responded to Hurricane Sandy?
  Read more here and here, and updates on the Teamster’s blog here.


[Top image of ConEd workers is by Dan DeLuca via Flickr/Creative Commons]


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