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USPS Workers To Rally Against Postal Units In Staples Stores On 4-24-14

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Please join the Postal Workers on Thursday April 24, from 4-6 pm in Concord NH for a peaceful demonstration near the Concord Staples on Fort Eddy Road (across from LL Bean at exit 14 off of 93 N). Help us to STOP the privatization & destruction of The U.S.P.S. before it’s too late. 

A recent agreement between the USPS and Staples established postal counters in 82 Staples stores — staffed with low-wage, non-union Staples employees rather than postal workers. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and Staples CEO Ron Sargent plan to expand the program to Staples’ 1,500 stores nationwide.

We fully support the expansion of postal services, but we are adamantly opposed to USPS plans to replace good-paying union jobs with non-union low-wage jobs held by workers who have no accountability for the safety and security of the mail. This is nothing less than a direct assault on our jobs and on public postal services.

For more information call Janice at 513-8176 or Dana at 669-2414.

You can also join the Facebook Event and share the details through Facebook!

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RALLY April 5th: Not One More Deportation, Not One More Family Split Apart

NH groups join thousands across U.S. April 5 to demand an end to deportations now

Immigration reform for americaNASHUA – The NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, the American Friends Service Committee and the NH Conference of the United Church of Christ will join thousands across the country on Saturday April 5, 2014 to demand that President Obama end deportations.

“This Administration is deporting more than 1,000 immigrants every day.  It’s time to stop the practice of tearing families apart. President Obama can and should act immediately to halt deportations. The purpose of this action is to strengthen his will to do so,” said Eva Castillo of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees.

The New Hampshire event will be held in the parking lot at St. Aloysius of Gonzaga Church, 48 W. Hollis Street, Nashua from 10 to 11 am, with art, music and reflections from families who have experienced deportation.  There will be parking available in designated areas.  In case of rain, the event will be held indoors.  All are welcome.

Across the country, immigrants and allies are taking action – including detainees refusing food in Tacoma, WA and Conroe, TX detention centers operated by for-profit GEO Group, Inc. – to stop the destruction of communities and the erosion of civil and human rights.

“New Hampshire people are raising our voices in support of our immigrant brothers and sisters who simply want to work hard and be with their families.  We say ‘Not one more deportation,’ ” said Maggie Fogarty of the American Friends Service Committee’s NH Program.

The USPS Teams Up With Staples: Taking Good Union Jobs And Turing Them Into Part-Time, Low Wage Jobs

Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr

Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr

The US MAIL IS NOT FOR SALE. The manufactured crisis that is being used to destroy the postal service is taking a new turn this spring. As ongoing efforts to eliminate Saturday mail delivery have come to a standstill in our deadlocked Congress. The USPS is moving forward with a plan to place postal counters, without postal employees in 8o Staples stores. In time they want to expand this misguided plan to over 1500 stores nationwide.

These Staples stores will be manned strictly by non-union Staples employees. This is the right-wing dream scenario of turning thousands of solid middle class union jobs into part-time/low wage jobs. Would you rather have a trusted postal worker, who is sworn to protect the mail,  handling your transaction or would you rather roll the dice on the credibility of a  low wage staples worker?  Its one step closer to dismantling the worlds best Postal Service, and one more affront on the war on workers.

The Postal Service is kicking the door open to privatize retail operations,” APWU President Mark Dimondstein said. Staples is not a Mom-and-Pop operation, he pointed out, and, “If we don’t stop this program, we will soon get a letter from the Postal Service telling us management plans to contract out all of retail,”

A few weeks ago Staples announced its planning to close over 200 stores nationwide. This news did not deter USPS plans to pursue this contracting out program. This proves, more than ever,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein, “that it’s a bad idea to turn public services over to a private company that can close stores at will, with no public input and no public comment.

It’s easy to envision a scenario where a local post office is closed and its services placed in a nearby Staples store. Then without warning that Staples closes. Why would the Postal Service theoretically place its customers in that dire situation?

Instead of pursuing this misguided union busting partnership with Staples the USPS would be better off by working with Congress to provide banking services at the local Post Office. This would provide a valuable public service for millions of Americans, while at the same time providing a new revenue stream for the USPS.

There is a growing need for a postal banking system. With over 25% of the American public without bank accounts the demand is abundant. Currently they are being forced to pay exorbitant fees to non traditional banking services just to accomplish routine banking tasks.  These 68  million “unbanked” citizens paid over $89 billion in fees and interest in 2012, on average 10% of their income. The USPS is the only entity positioned in a way to provide these services.

The situation is especially acute in economically disadvantaged areas where banks have moved out leaving behind these shady businesses that profit off the misery of the poor. It is quite clear that establishing postal banking services is an idea whose time has come.

It’s not surprising to see in a country that is obsessed with money and power, that Congress would not take action on any legislation, like postal banking, that would help mitigate the exploitation of those in difficult economic situations.  Power rules in DC the marginalized are always further marginalized.

At a time when the USPS is making an operational profit you would expect them to look to build on that success. Instead, astonishingly,  they are looking at ways to dismantle the most efficient and popular agency of the US Government. The time is now to get involved and stop the next step of the sell off.

Please take part in the National Day of Action and join us at the  STOP STAPLES PROTEST – Thursday April 24th at the Staples on Ft Eddy Rd in  Concord from 4-6 PM

 

3-31-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Smarter Balance Testing and A ‘Thank You’ To Legislators

Now that crossover has come and gone both chambers will start working on each other’s bills.  Both chambers have till May 15th to act on these bills.

I would like to thank all the representatives that supported us on the following bills:

AFT-NH supported the recommendation of Ought To Pass as amended on HB 1494-FN, relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees. The 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.

AFT-NH was also in support of the Inexpedient To Legislate on HB 1228, establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee collective bargaining. There have been many committees/commissions that have studied this issue and too often, it only seems to open the door for destructive legislation.  Rather than risk opening a Pandora’s Box with a study commission, let’s prepare specific legislation to remedy some of the problems already identified in previous study committees.

We are disappointed that the following bills were defeated: 

HB 1105-FN-L, relative to aid to school districts for costs of special education. AFT-NH supported this bill because it would have lifted the current cap of 72% on catastrophic special education funds and fully funded it. With this cap of 72% the state has downshifted roughly $8 million to communities. Catastrophic aid is a state fund that helps local district with exorbitant special education costs for our severely disabled children.

HB 1114: which sought to establish a minimum state expenditure for school building aid of $50,000,000 per fiscal year. This bill would have put a floor to building aid not a cap. For the past six years many district have not been able to afford completing upgrades, repairs or build new buildings because of the cost. Keep in mind, 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

Common Core and The Smarter Balance State Assessment

There were several bills voted on in the House that were related to the Common Core and the Smarter Balance state assessment. Knowing that both of these will be moving forward in New Hampshire we need to ensure that all schools have the following in place:

  • 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 must 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, AND
  • 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, AND
  • 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 needs to be offered, AND
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards.
  • We need to make sure the assessments inform teaching, not impede teaching and learning.
  • Assessments need to support teaching and learning, and must align 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.
  • The development and implementation of assessments must be age appropriate for the students, and teachers need to have appropriate computers to administer such assessments.
  • These assessments 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.

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, APRIL 1

Senate FINANCE, Room 103, SH
1:00 p.m. HB 1146, establishing a committee to study the feasibility of funding a kindergarten
to college/career ready program and a universal college savings account.
1:30 p.m. HB 1489-FN-A-L, establishing a committee to study the establishment of a fund to
reimburse costs associated with firefighters who have cancer.
Executive Session May Follow

Senate JUDICIARY, Room 100, SH
10:30 a.m. HB 1435, requiring law enforcement officials to disclose specific information relating
to a police checkpoint.

House EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306
10:30 a.m. SB 395-FN, relative to the retirement classification of the Director of the Division
of Forests and Lands.
11:30 a.m. SB 418, relative to the proclamation of firefighters memorial day.

House MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
11:30 a.m. SB 236, relative to delivery of the final budget and recommendation of the municipal
budget committee to the governing body.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2

Senate EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 100, SH
9:30 a.m. HB 1152-FN, terminating the benefit program for call, substitute or volunteer firemen
administered by the New Hampshire retirement system.
10:00 a.m. HB 1398-FN, allowing the retirement system to make payments in lieu of payments
to estates in certain instances.
10:30 a.m. HB 1617-FN, permitting the retirement system to access death, marriage, and
divorce records of the division of vital records administration for the administration of
RSA 100-A.
Executive Session May Follow

House ELECTION LAW, Room 308, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 120-FN, relative to political contributions and expenditures and relative to
reporting by political committees.

House LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
1:30 p.m. SB 295, prohibiting an employer from using credit history in employment decisions.

THURSDAY, APRIL 3

Senate HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:00 a.m. HB 1488-FN, establishing the New Hampshire program on educational support for
military children.
9:20 a.m. HB 1587-FN-L, relative to the collection and disclosure of student data.
Executive Session May Follow

House FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
11:15 a.m. SB 339-FN, relative to instituting a credit card affinity program in which fees
received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability.

House FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
1:30 p.m. Work session on SB 339-FN, relative to instituting a credit card affinity program in
which fees received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability.

TUESDAY, APRIL 8

House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
11:00 a.m. SB 335-FN, (New Title) establishing a commission to study career and technical
education centers.

LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
10:15 a.m. SB 207-FN, relative to paycheck equity.

12:30 p.m. LOB 305-307: All legislators are invited to a showing of the acclaimed documentary “Inequality for All” which features Robert Reich, economics professor, best-selling author, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, as he demonstrates how the widening income gap is having a devastating impact on the American economy. The film is described as “a passionate argument on behalf of the middle class.” The showing is open to all. This event is part of the film’s “50 State Capitals Tour” this winter and spring, designed especially for Legislators and policy-makers.

THURSDAY, APRIL 10

Senate JUDICIARY, Room 100, SH
9:00 a.m. HB 1624-FN, modernizing the juvenile justice system to ensure rehabilitation of
juveniles and preservation of juvenile rights.
Executive Session May Follow

House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 343, relative to the duties of the statewide education improvement and
assessment program legislative oversight committee and repealing the school
administrative unit legislative oversight committee.
11:00 a.m. SB 350, relative to the transfer of adequacy aid calculation data from the
Department of Education to the Department of Revenue Administration.
1:15 p.m. SB 348, establishing a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in
elementary and secondary schools.

TUESDAY, APRIL 15

House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 355, relative to access to social media by educational institutions.
11:00 a.m. SB 414-FN, relative to Medicaid-funded services provided as a part of a child’s
individualized education program.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16

12:30 p.m. 62 North Main Street:  Big Money and Politics – New Hampshire is the highest per-capita recipient of outside special-interest money. Learn about the efforts to address this issue at the state level, understand the federal landscape and what you can do about it. This presentation, including a panel discussion led by the Coalition for Open Democracy and Americans for Campaign Reform, is part of New England College’s education series to take place at the college’s new Concord facility. Walk south on North Main, Located on the clock tower side, near the Norway Bank, three-minutes from the steps of the State House.

THURSDAY, APRIL 17

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

MONDAY, APRIL 21

CHARTER SCHOOLS AND OPEN ENROLLMENT LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE (RSA 194-B:21), Room 100, State House
11:30 a.m. Regular meeting. Presentation by Paul Leather, Deputy Commission Department of Education on HB 435.

Can You Help Send Matt To Netroots Nation?

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Matt Murray

Here’s the thing: my friend Matt Murray runs New Hampshire Labor News on a strictly volunteer basis. All the hours he puts in – on the blog site, on the Facebook page, the Twitter Feed, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pintrest – all his time is donated.  And he usually ends up paying costs out-of-pocket. Matt does this because he believes in the Labor Movement.  He saw a communication gap and decided to fill it: all of New Hampshire’s labor-related news in one place, 24/7/365.

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Matt Murray and Richard Trumka
(President of the AFL-CIO)

But Matt hasn’t just “filled the gap” here in the Granite State, he’s given workers a voice.  He has helped hundreds of nurses in Orlando, Florida tell their stories.  Last year’s coverage of the Detroit bankruptcy went viral, and was quoted by the national AFL-CIO.  Privatization of the US Postal Service, public education, income inequality, CEOs dodging pension obligations at Patriot Coal and Hostess Brands, factory deaths in Bangladeshall these stories found a home at NH Labor News.

And Matt hasn’t taken home a penny for doing any of it.

NH Labor News Quoted

Matt has given the Labor Movement a lot.  I’d like to do something in return.  He wants to go to Netroots Nation 2014.  And I would like all those of us who benefit from Matt’s work at NH Labor News to chip in and send him there.

Matt Murray And Gov. Howard Dean

Gov. Howard Dean and Matt Murray at #NN13

Netroots is an annual convention of bloggers and social media communicators.  Matt has attended in past years, and he has brought home “best practices” and shortcuts.  He has also come back with renewed energy and enthusiasm (important things for a 24/7 volunteer to have). But in “real life” Matt is just another worker – he’s gotten hit by wage freezes, cutbacks, and increased pension contributions – and like most of the rest of us, his family budget is really tight. Can you help me raise enough money so that Matt can afford to go to Netroots Nation 2014?

Any amount, no matter how small, will help to get him there.

Thank you for helping me show Matt how much we value all his work on NH Labor News.

NH-GOP GOV Candidate Walt Havenstein Has Major Eligibility Issues

Walt Havenstein Between a Rock and a Hard Place with Ballot Eligibility Questions

Candidate Pushed by Washington Republicans Either Ineligible to Run in NH or Committed Tax Fraud in MD 

walt havensteinConcord, NH–Yesterday, a front-page Nashua Telegraph expose outlined how potential NHGOP gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein took Maryland property tax breaks that required his principal residence to be in that state, raising a host of questions and putting his potential candidacy in doubt. But this much is clear: Havenstein either is ineligible to run in New Hampshire or he committed tax fraud in Maryland.

New Hampshire’s Constitution requires candidates for Governor to “have been an inhabitant of this state for 7 years next preceding.” The Telegraph uncovered that Havenstein “saved $5,354 from 2008-11 by getting a homestead exemption from local property taxes in Bethesda, Md. He also paid a lower state property transfer tax while buying the property in that state. To get both, Havenstein had to acknowledge that his $1 million condominium was his ‘principal residence.’”

Under Maryland law, ”Principal residence” has been defined to mean the “one dwelling where the homeowner regularly resides and is the location designated by the owner for the legal purposes of voting, obtaining a driver’s license, and filing income tax returns.”

A Maryland law was enacted in 2007 that requires all homeowners to submit an application stating that they meet the principal residence requirements, under penalty of perjury. According to the Telegraph, “Havenstein said he didn’t recall signing that form.”

“Despite Walt Havenstein’s selective memory, in order to receive the tax breaks he received, Maryland law required Havenstein to certify that his Maryland home was his principal residence, including for voting, paying taxes, driver’s license and car registration,” said Julie McClain, NHDP Communications Director. “That certification and Maryland law clearly makes Havenstein ineligible to run for state office under New Hampshire’s Constitution. For him to state otherwise is to assert that he was committing tax fraud in Maryland, raising a whole other set of legal questions for Mr. Havenstein.”

Havenstein admitted to the Telegraph that he did in fact register a car in Maryland, but continued to vote in New Hampshire, despite the requirement under his homestead property tax credit that he vote in Maryland. Havenstein did not indicate where he filed his income taxes.

McClain continued, “The questions surrounding Walt Havenstein’s actions are quite serious and could suggest misconduct. Why did Havenstein think it was acceptable to vote in New Hampshire when he was claiming his residence for voting purposes in another state? Does he realize that by continuing to vote in New Hampshire, he was likely committing tax fraud in Maryland? Was he also using New Hampshire as an income tax shelter, or did he file his taxes in Maryland as required? If Havenstein – the handpicked candidate of Washington Republicans – were to run for governor, he would have an extremely difficult time explaining his actions to the Ballot Law Commission and Maryland authorities, not to mention Granite State voters.”

Senate GOP Sentences Future Retirees onto Social Services

Image by Marc Nozell (CC Flickr)

Image by Marc Nozell (CC Flickr)

CONCORD – THURSDAY, on a party-line vote, the Republican-controlled Senate killed SB 364, a bill sponsored by Sen. Sylvia Larsen, (D-Concord), to create real pension reform for employees hired on or after July 1, 2011. Hard-working new public employees harmed by the disastrous retirement changes in 2011’s HB2 told their personal stories during the bill’s committee hearing. Today they came back to Concord in hopes to convince their Senators to vote for their families, for the economy, and against resource-shifting to the social services net.

“It’s a sad day in New Hampshire when our legislators refuse to listen to their constituents, kicking the can of real pension reform down the road again to burden a  future generation. Our public employees deserve better than partisan politics being  placed ahead of common sense and dignity.” said Laura Hainey, President of AFT-NH.

Chris Cummings, representing NH Troopers’ Association, noted the impacts this low new member benefit program is having on recruiting and retaining high-quality employees in the Granite State. “This bill would have given us an opportunity to compete for the best and brightest recruits to address today’s law  enforcement challenges. With this vote, Senate Republicans have turned their backs on the public safety of New Hampshire.”

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

UPDATED 1715

Senator Larsen Comments on Senate Bill 364

CONCORD – Senator Sylvia Larsen released the following comments after the defeat of Senate Bill 364 which would create real pension reform for newly hired public employees.

“I am disappointed we could not get a Senate majority to help pass SB 364. This bill would not change the fact that new hires are now required to work longer, retire at an older age, and pay more for their retirement benefit. It does however, include a compromise in the form of a defined contribution plan for Group I, which until recently has long been opposed by workers. I believe this bill represents real pension reform.”

“I believe there were unintended consequences during the 2011 legislative changes to the New Hampshire Retirement System, that’s why I introduced Senate Bill 364. After reviewing data last year from the New Hampshire Retirement System, I came to the conclusion that the Legislature must act now or else there will be a substantial social cost down the road.”

The current retirement plan creates a future generation of impoverished public employee retirees. It will provide only 45-49% salary replacement in retirement. Experts say that all retiring workers whether in the private or public sector need to receive between 80-85% of your last working year’s salary. Current law leaves the average firefighter retiring in 25 years with only $34,000 and teachers averaging $24,000 in retirement pay. That’s hardly a liveable wage now, let alone 25 years from now”

“Under the changes made in 2011, retired police, firefighters, and teachers thirty years from now could qualify for social services. It’s unacceptable to think that firefighters – who don’t receive social security and who spent decades running into burning buildings – would now be forced to survive on food stamps. We know we have problem now and have the advantage of years to offset the shortfall,” said Senator Larsen. “If we don’t act now, the Legislature will be kicking the can down the road and hoping a future Legislature will find a way to foot the bill and avoid thousands of police officers, firefighters, and teachers living on social services.”

“By failing to address the problem now and pass real pension reform, we are pushing costs for the state and taxpayers further into the future.”

Much Rejoicing As NH Senate Unanimously Passes Paycheck Fairness Bill

“This definitive, bipartisan action by the full Senate affirms that both Republicans and Democrats agree we must act to close the wage gap in New Hampshire,” said Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen.

Senate Bill 207 has been cited by Senate and House Democrats as a top priority for the 2014 legislative session. All Senate Democrats have sponsored the legislation with House Speaker Terie Norelli serving as the leading House sponsor along with co-sponsors Rep. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst), Rep. MaryAnn Knowles (D-Hudson), and Rep. Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsboro).

sylvia larsen

Senator Sylvia Larsen

“The New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act will give the more than 60% of women working in today’s economy, as the primary or co-breadwinners for their families, the much needed tools they need to combat the wage gap,” stated Larsen.

“It’s distressing that, in the year 2014, women in New Hampshire, who are working full-time jobs, still earn only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. National studies have found that a pay gap exists between men and women in nearly every occupation. However, with this bipartisan, unanimous vote, we are sending a crystal clear message that the Legislature is on the side of all workers guaranteeing fair and equal paycheck, without fear of retaliation.”

Senator Larsen concluded her statement by saying, “I look forward to a quick House action, so New Hampshire can renew our commitment to the fundamental principle of, an equal day’s work deserves an equal day’s pay.”

“Today’s unanimous Senate vote to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act is an overwhelming, bipartisan affirmation of the principle that an equal day’s work deserves an equal day’s pay,” stated Governor Maggie Hassan. “This common-sense measure to help eliminate the pay gap between women and men will strengthen our economy and the financial security of working families across our state. I applaud the Senate for today’s bipartisan vote and encourage the House to pass this critical legislation in order to help all of New Hampshire’s workers earn a fair and equal paycheck.”

“We commend members of the Senate for voting unanimously to remove a remaining barrier to pay equity in New Hampshire,” stated Mark MacKenzie, President of the NH AFL-CIO. “Passing SB207 was the right thing to do for fairness and equality, and the right thing to do for the majority of Granite State working families who depend on women’s earnings to get by.”

“We commend the Senate’s unanimous adoption of the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act,” stated Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “This law would give employees the tools they need to challenge wage gaps. Data shows that New Hampshire women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Coupled with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act already in law, these two acts can help to create a climate where wage discrimination is no longer tolerated.”

Along with the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate, community groups helped push legislators to pass this Paycheck Fairness bill.  Below are statements from some of the other organizations celebrating today’s vote.

Kary Jencks, Executive Director, NH Citizens Alliance for Action: “The Senate recognized today that ensuring equal pay for equal work is important to protecting New Hampshire working families.  A woman’s earnings, whether she is married or not, are crucial to family support. Closing the wage gap is the right action for New Hampshire to take for the economic security of Granite Staters.”

Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union: “We applaud the Senate’s bipartisan approval of the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act. In approving this critical legislation, the Senate has taken an important step towards eliminating unfair gender paycheck inequities in the state of New Hampshire.”

Dawn Andonellis, Public Policy Chair for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) of New Hampshire: “We applaud the New Hampshire State Senate for passing the Paycheck Fairness Act in a bipartisan fashion and for taking this important step toward closing the wage gap and ending gender discrimination in the workplace. Moving this bill forward would give the women of New Hampshire a reason to actually celebrate Equal Pay Day on April 8. Finally, women are closer to achieving equal pay for equal work.”

Mary Jo Brown, Chair of the New Hampshire Women’s Initiative: “The New Hampshire Women’s Initiative applauds the Senate’s unanimous adoption of SB 207. SB 207 is a great step toward reducing the wage gap and promoting pay equity for all Granite Staters. The bill, which includes provisions towards paycheck transparency, honors NHWI’s agenda and findings from our 2013 statewide listening sessions with NH citizens. We are proud to thank Senator Larsen and her cosponsors for the bipartisan support of the bill. We are excited that the Senate has passed this important piece of legislation and look forward to working with the House.”

Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center: “This bipartisan vote reflects the simple fact that giving women tools to combat pay discrimination and close the wage gap is a common sense solution that everyone should be able to get behind.”

The NH Senate was realistically the only hurdle this bill faced in getting passed in New Hampshire.  The GOP controlled Senate was the only truly unknown in this bills likelihood of passing.  The bill will now moved to the Democrat controlled house, where I should pass with ease.  I expect the Governor could be signing this bill before May first.

 

The New Hampshire House Passes Minimum Wage Increase

The New Hampshire House of Representatives today by a vote of 173 to 118 approved HB 1403, a bill to increase the state minimum wage to $9.00 an hour over two years and apply cost of living adjustments in future years. New Hampshire’s current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and the wage has remained at this level since 2008.

“New Hampshire’s current minimum wage leaves workers struggling to get by,” said New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Jeff McLynch. “Raising the minimum wage and ensuring it is adjusted for the cost of living in future years would help families make ends meet, boost sales at local businesses, and put New Hampshire on a path towards an economy that works for everyone.”

HB 1403 would increase the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour on January 1, 2015, and to $9.00 per hour on January 1, 2016. Beginning January 1, 2017, it would automatically increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage to account for inflation (based on the Consumer Price Index).

An analysis conducted by the Economic Policy Institute indicates that HB 1403 would either directly or indirectly increase the wages of 76,000 Granite Staters. Of those who would be affected, 72 percent are adults age 20 and older; 32 percent work full-time; 59 percent are women; and 14 percent are parents.

On average, those who would be affected by a $9.00 minimum wage would see their pay go up by $870 per year. As minimum wage workers spend every dollar they earn, this spending will boost the bottom lines of stores, shops, and businesses in communities across the state while adding $64 million to the New Hampshire economy over the next two years.

The WMUR Granite State Poll released on February 6 found that 76% of state residents support increasing the minimum wage to $9.00. The poll question asked respondents if they supported an increase to $8.25 in 2015 and to $9 an hour in 2016. Across the political spectrum, the majority of Democrats (91%), Republicans (64%), and Independents (70%) favored this proposed increase to the minimum wage.

“I applaud members of the House of Representatives for their recognition of the need to restore and increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage,” said Governor Hassan. “In order for economic growth to truly accelerate, working families and individuals must be confident in their own financial circumstances and able to afford critical goods and services.”

Governor Hassan continued, “This measure will help improve the financial security of working families and people of all ages and will support businesses by putting more money in the pockets of their consumers. I look forward to working with members of the Senate, as well as workers, businesses and all stakeholders, to strengthen our state’s economic future by restoring and increasing New Hampshire’s minimum wage.”

“The legislators were not swayed by false testimony or attempts to weaken the bill,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “We all know that a strong minimum wage means more money in the pockets of families and more money in the cash registers of local businesses. Raising the wage is a win-win situation for our whole economy and we strongly encourage the Senate to support it.”

“The vote in the House today signals a strong desire to help working people and we are proud of the legislators who voted with us,” continued Rice-Hawkins.  “Three-quarters of Granite Staters, including majorities of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats, also support increasing the minimum wage to $9 per hour.”

Now everything lies in the Senate.  Will they do what is right for Granite Staters or hold fast to the anti-worker ideology of the current Republican Party?
UPDATED: The NH Senate rejected this House bill therefor killing the Minimum Wage increase in 2014.

Updated 2015: State Rep Jackie Cilley proposes a new minimum wage increase to $14.25 per hour and eliminates the “tipped minimum wage”. 

Pres. Obama’s Budget Puts Working Families And Education First

President Obama released his 2015 budget last week. He calls it “A Roadmap for Growth, Opportunity, and Fiscal Responsibility.”

Image by Pete Souza White House Images

Image by Pete Souza White House Images

The White House says that “the Budget adheres to the 2015 spending levels agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act and shows the choices the President would make at those levels.  But it also shows how to build on this progress to realize the nation’s full potential with a fully paid for $56 billion Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative, split evenly between defense and non-defense priorities.”

In this budget he outlines very clearly his priorities for investments in workforce development, education and training, early childhood and family support programs, youth programs, and employment generation.

From our friends at CLASP, here is a breakdown of some of the elements of the President’s budget that make up the components of an integrated, multi-faceted anti-poverty agenda:

Child Care and Early Education
The President reaffirmed his commitment to expanding high-quality early learning for all young children by proposing investments across birth to five programs in the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education, including child care, home visiting, Head Start and Early Head Start, and pre-kindergarten.  The President called again for his Preschool for All plan proposed in last year’s budget. This includes preschool services for all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds and an expansion of voluntary home visiting programs financed by an increase in the federal tobacco tax as well as other expansions divided between the base budget and the Opportunity Growth and Security Initiative.

Job Quality, Paid Family Leave, Working Conditions
President Obama’s budget proposal sends a strong endorsement of policies that support working families.  The budget reiterates the President’s support of legislation to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 as soon as possible. He recommends a total of $105 million to support a State Paid Leave Fund, with $100 million in the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative and $5 million in the base budget for the paid leave fund. The base budget also strengthens enforcement of existing laws, including the unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), minimum wage, and overtime laws, by calling for an increase of more than $41 million for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

Earned Income Tax Credit
The President proposes expanding and strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income childless workers, including non-custodial parents. His budget doubles the maximum credit for childless workers to about $1,000 and increases the income limit to qualify for the credit from less than $15,000 to $18,000. In addition, the President proposes to make the EITC available for young workers age 21 and over (currently it is only available to workers age 25-65) and older workers up to age 67, consistent with the rising Social Security full retirement age. The proposed changes would have a significant impact on low-income workers who do not currently have access to the EITC. The EITC expansion is recommended in the base budget; because it is a tax provision, it does not have to fit under the discretionary caps – but these changes would require the passage of legislation through Congress.

Workforce Training and Skill Development
The President’s budget also calls for new investments that prepare people for jobs in demand and put unemployed people back to work. His Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative includes $750 million to restore recent cuts to Workforce Investment Act formula grants to states, increase support for research and innovation, and make targeted investments in programs that serve individuals with barriers to employment. It also includes $1.5 billion for the first year of a four-year Community College Job-Driven Training Fund, which will provide competitive grants designed to increase the number of training programs and apprenticeships supported by employers and focused on jobs in demand. In addition, the proposal includes $125 million (in addition to $25 million in the base budget request) to expand the research-based Jobs Plus model, which connects public housing residents with jobs and training.  The proposal also envisions $20 million for Skills Challenge grants to support and implement bridge strategies and other models that integrate basic skills preparation with occupational skills training.

Higher Education
The budget reaffirms the President’s commitment to making college affordable and increasing the number of Americans with a postsecondary credential. It allows the maximum Pell Grant to increase to $5,830 for the 2015-2016 academic year and takes steps to shore up the program’s funding gap in future years. It restores federal student aid for students without a high school diploma in career pathway programs who are able to demonstrate their ability to benefit from postsecondary education. These career pathway programs, which include bridge programs and co-enrollment approaches, help low-income, low-skilled adults and out-of-school youth improve their basic skills while simultaneously working toward a postsecondary credential in a high-demand industry or sector. The budget also simplifies income-based repayment options to one single plan and extends it to all student borrowers. Two new programs included in the budget are the College Opportunity and Graduation Bonus, a mandatory funding proposal that would provide $7 billion to reward colleges that successfully enroll and graduate a significant number of low- and moderate-income students on time; and the State Higher Education Performance Fund, a $4 billion competitive grant program to encourage and support systemic efforts to improve college attainment and affordability, especially for low-income students. Finally, the budget requests a permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and prevents the taxation of Pell Grants.

Job Creation
The budget includes several provisions to expand the availability of subsidized employment for unemployed and disadvantaged workers.  These include a proposed $2.5 billion in mandatory funding for Summer Jobs Plus, which will fund summer and year-round job opportunities for 600,000 youth as well as innovation grants aimed at improving skills and career options for disadvantaged youth, and a plan to shift $602 million from the TANF contingency fund to support state-subsidized employment programs for low-income individuals.  Subsidized employment was shown to be an effective and well-received strategy when funding was available under the TANF Emergency Fund. Because these proposals are in line items that are in the “mandatory” rather than “discretionary” category in the federal budget, they do not have to fit under the cap – but they would require additional legislation beyond the budget to be enacted.

Disadvantaged and Disconnected Youth
Of significant importance is the Administration’s continued focus on equity and opportunity for disconnected and disadvantaged youth and students of color – advancing positive outcomes for young people, elevating effective practice, as well as addressing the federal government’s role in improving its administration of the range of programs through which young people are served.  The budget includes a new $300 million Race to the Top Equity and Opportunity competition centered on increasing the academic performance of high-need students and closing the achievement gap. This competition is based on recommendations from the Equity and Excellence Commission’s report, “For Each and Every Child.”  Through the Performance Partnership Pilots Initiative, the budget request builds on the newly established initiative authorized in the 2014 appropriations act – designed to enhance administrative flexibility to improve outcomes and accountability for disconnected youth.  The budget also acknowledges the President’s recent launch of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative that will charge an interagency task force to evaluate public and private efforts that are working for young men of color, gauge how to expand effective interventions, and address how Federal policies and programs can better support the overall development of young men of color.

Pay for Success
President Obama continues to signal his Administration’s interest in and support for “pay-for-success” models under which private investors provide up-front funding for preventive services and are paid by government agencies only if and when the programs achieve desired outcomes.  The budget re-proposes a $300 million pay-for-success fund at the Treasury department to support state and local initiatives, as well as approval to support such efforts with existing funding in areas including job training, education, criminal justice, and housing.

While I applaud the President for putting forth a budget that proposes ending sequestration cuts in 2015 and 2016, strengthens programs for children and families, will reduce inequality, and strengthen the economy, I am disappointed that he did not include funding to overturn the two recent cuts to SNAP (food stamps), and he makes a deep cut to the LIHEAP (heating assistance) program.

Congress will be working on their 2015 spending bills. Let’s hope that they include many of the President’s proposals.

GROWING UP GRANITE

Here is a more detailed look at what the President has proposed for improving the health, education, and safety of America’s children and youth.

They include:

  • The Preschool for All initiative, a partnership with the states, to provide all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds with access to high-quality preschool, while encouraging states to expand those programs to reach additional children from middle-class families and establish full-day kindergarten policies.
  • Access to high-quality infant and toddler care to a total of more than 100,000 children through Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, and support of Head Start grantees who are expanding program duration and investing in teacher quality, through additional funding in the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.
  • An expansion of evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs, which enable nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services to support the child’s health, development, ability to learn, and to prevent abuse and neglect.
  • A substantial commitment to both maintain the number of children served by the Child Care Development Fund and improve the quality of care, with sufficient mandatory funding to support more than 1.4 million children for a full ten years while investing in significant quality improvements.
  • Help for 100,000 teachers in 500 districts to make effective use of new broadband connectivity as the Administration works to achieve the President’s goal of connecting 99 percent of American students to the digital age through broadband and wireless in schools and libraries.
  • A modernization of the Child Support Enforcement Program, which touches the lives of one-quarter of the Nation’s children and helps secure contributions toward their financial and emotional well-being from non-custodial parents.
  • $299 million for the Justice Department’s Juvenile Justice Programs which include evidence-based investments to prevent youth violence.
  • The ongoing implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 with an increased investment of $35 million in school equipment grants to aid in the provision of healthy meals and continued support for other school-based resources.
  • $20 billion for the Housing Choice Voucher program to help more than 2.2 million low-income families afford decent housing in neighborhoods of their choice.
  • A strengthening of Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by providing tools to States, Territories, and the Federal Government to fight fraud, waste, and abuse, and make it easier for eligible children to get and maintain coverage. The Budget also includes other program improvements aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness as States expand Medicaid.

Congress needs to act on the budget and give each proposal an up or down vote. Click here to contact your Member of Congress and tell them to support the children and youth initiatives in the President’s budget.

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