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Senators Fight to Protect Medicare for Seniors

Senator Warren (image by Department of Labor)

Senator Warren (image by Department of Labor)

WASHINGTON D.C. -U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (AR), Sherrod Brown (OH), Jeanne Shaheen (NH) Jeff Merkley (OR), Al Franken (MN), Brian Schatz (HI), Tom Udall (NM), and Elizabeth Warren (MA) today introduced the Medicare Protection Act, legislation expressing strong opposition to changes in Medicare that would reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or raise the eligibility age for hard-working seniors. Today, more than 46 million Americans rely on Medicare.

“We’ve seen an irresponsible few in Washington try to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors by recklessly voting to turn Medicare into a voucher system and raise the eligibility age for benefits,” Pryor said. “I refuse to let that happen. That’s why I’m proud to lead the charge on the Medicare Protection Act, a responsible solution that will protect the health, safety, and financial security of nearly 600,000 seniors in my state alone.”

“Seniors cannot afford cuts to their Medicare benefits,” Brown said. “As the cost of living continues to rise, the budgets of many are already stretched to the breaking point. Instead of privatizing Medicare, we should focus on ensuring the health and wellness of our country’s seniors. The Medicare Protection Act would protect Medicare as we know it so that we aren’t reducing the deficit on the backs of our seniors.”

“I want to make sure that Medicare can continue to provide New Hampshire seniors with the care they need,” Shaheen said. “Preserving Medicare is crucial to the health and financial security of our seniors.”

“Raising the Medicare eligibility age would be absolutely disastrous. In my town halls, I hear from a lot of Oregonians who are in their early 60s and are praying they make it to 65 to receive their Medicare benefits. If anything, we should be lowering the eligibility age. Medicare is an important lifeline for our seniors, and must be protected from hostile attacks to privatize it or weaken it,” said Merkley.

“About 700,000 Minnesota seniors rely on Medicare to cover most of their health care costs,” said Franken. “It not only keeps them healthy and out of poverty, but also brings peace of mind to their families who don’t have to worry about whether they can afford to see a doctor. I disagree with those who want to turn Medicare into a voucher program, slash benefits, and tell seniors that they’re out on their own. This legislation will help protect this important program that millions of Americans depend upon.”

“Since the program’s creation, Medicare has been a vital lifeline for our seniors, ensuring access to health care for people who need it the most,” Schatz said. “Yet time and time again, changes to the Medicare program are wrongfully used as a bargaining chip. This bill will help us protect seniors’ Medicare benefits. In Hawai‘i, generations take care of each other and it is our responsibility in Congress to make sure benefits are there for America’s seniors.”

“Our seniors rely on Medicare, they paid into Medicare, and they deserve to know they can count on Medicare when the need it,” Tom Udall said. “I have been proud to fight for Medicare, and will continue to push for measures like this that will keep this program strong.”

“Millions of seniors rely on Medicare to pay for critical health care services, and we should not cut these essential benefits for people who need them most,” said Warren. “Cutting benefits will not stop people from getting sick, it will only shift more of the cost of health care onto our seniors. We should be focused on bringing down the costs of health care, not slashing benefits for people who need care. I’m pleased to support the Medicare Protection Act, which will help protect older Americans from irresponsible benefits cuts and efforts to turn Medicare into a voucher program.”

The Medicare Protection Act would amend the Congressional Budget Act to define any provision included in reconciliation legislation that makes changes to Medicare to reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or restrict eligibility criteria as extraneous and an inappropriate use of the reconciliation process. The bill would also express the sense of the Senate that 1) the Medicare eligibility age should not be increased and 2) the Medicare program should not be privatized or turned into a voucher system.
Full text of legislation

Right-Wing PAC Makes False Claims About Medicare Advantage To NH Seniors

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter  (image by MARCN Creative Commons On Flickr)

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter
(image by MARCN Creative Commons On Flickr)

We are a mere 241 days from the 2014 elections, and the hard right super PAC’s are already spreading lies throughout New Hampshire.

Recently the conservative super PAC YG Network sent an unsolicited mailer to the constituents of NH First Congressional district, currently represented by Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

The YG Network describes themselves on their website as:

“A non-profit 501(c)(4) dedicated to supporting conservative center-right policies and the efforts of policymakers who fight for those policies. By seeking solutions that create jobs, encourage innovation, instill fiscal discipline, establish a patient-centered health care system and pursue energy security, we can foster the optimal environment for America’s businesses and entrepreneurs to succeed and flourish.”

The mailer is an attack on Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s stance on the Affordable Care Act and Medicare specifically.

You can see the full flyer here.

They make the claim that Rep Shea-Porter and President Obama are trying to cut $716 billion dollars from the Medicare Advantage program.   The irony in this right-wing attack is that the $716 billion dollars in savings to the Medicare Advantage program is a key part of the Ryan Plan, the budget proposal that everyone on the right is pushing.

YG Network also claims that;

  • Millions of seniors may be dropped from Medicare Advantage.
  • Higher premiums for care.
  • Higher prices for prescription drugs.
  • Cuts in coverage of dental and vision plans.

These claims by the YG Network are completely FALSE!  Time and time again multiple ‘fact checkers’ have busted these false accusations.

Neither Obama nor his health care law literally “cut” a dollar from the Medicare program’s budget.
Rather, the health care law instituted a number of changes to reduce the growth of Medicare costs. At the time the law was passed, those reductions amounted to $500 billion over the next 10 years. Time’s passage has only boosted that number.”  (Politifact, 9-6-12)

In reality, the $716 billion is not a “cut” in benefits but rather the savings in costs that the Congressional Budget Office projects over the next decade from wholly reasonable provisions in the reform law.” (New York Times 8-18-12)

The facts are undeniable; Granite Staters saved on average $800 a year in prescription drug charges thanks to the Medicare changes as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The truth is that seniors in New Hampshire, and throughout the country, are benefiting from the changes to the Medicare Advantage program. These changes are strengthening Medicare, while saving taxpayer dollars.   Congresswoman Shea-Porter was right to support these changes that add additional funds to the Medicare Trust fund, therefor boosting it’s solvency to 2026.

Unfortunately we are still 241 days away from the 2014 elections, which means that this is only the beginning when it comes to unsolicited lies from the right-wing super PACs.

Immigrants Generated $252 Million In The NH Economy

There is no denying that immigrants built this great nation and are continuing to shape her every passing day.  Every day immigrants are coming to America to create a better life for themselves and their families.  These immigrants are chasing their own American Dream by starting their own small businesses.

Immigration reform for america

Image by Sasha Y. Kimel on Flicker

According to research from the Immigration Policy Center, between “2006 to 2010, there were 4,253 new immigrant business owners in New Hampshire.”  The IPC also found that in 2010 over 5.7% of all business owners in New Hampshire were foreign-born.

If you listen to Fox News, the only immigrants in America are freeloaders who want to collect welfare and live off the government.  This could not be further from the truth.  Those ‘lazy immigrants’ account for a significant portion of New Hampshire’s net business income.

“In 2010, new immigrant business owners had a total net business income of $252 million, which is 5.8 percent of all net business income in the state.”

Immigrants are flocking to our country to start their own small businesses in the hopes that someday they will become rich! And for some, that is exactly how it worked.

  • New Hampshire is home to many successful companies with at least one founder who was an immigrant or child of an immigrant, including well-known companies such as the footwear company Timberland. Based in Stratham, Timberland currently employs more than 5,800 people and has over $1.5 billion in annual revenue.
  • Sonny Vu, originally from Vietnam, and Sridhar Iyengar, the son of immigrants from India, founded AgaMatrix in 2001. Based in Salem, New Hampshire, their company distributes what Vu and Iyengar call the “next generation” of blood glucose monitoring products for diabetes. AgaMatrix invented and in 2012 began producing the first FDA approved blood glucose meter that directly connects to the iPhone and iPod Touch.
  • In Manchester, refugees from Bhutan opened a market in July 2013. Himalayas General Store provides familiar products from Bhutan to refugees, but also markets a wider variety of goods to other under-served ethnic groups.

The list goes on and on.

We as Americans have always taken pride in being innovative and entrepreneurial.  Many Americans take that giant leap and start their own business. For some the business grows into Apple or Facebook, for others it falls apart after a couple of months.  That – the opportunity to at least try – is the American Dream.

Millions of immigrants are stuck waiting for Congress to give them the roadmap to citizenship they need to chase their own American Dream.  They are waiting for Congress to take the first step, and let them in.

Immigration is a part of who we are as Americans.  I am an Irish, English and Polish “mutt” with roots in New England for over 150 years.  Does that make me any less of an American?  Would it matter if my grandparents were born in Mexico instead of Ireland?  No, it would (and should) not.

People from around the world are coming to the United States; and for hundreds of years we have welcomed them.

Until now.

What are we waiting for?

Now is the time we should be welcoming immigrants with open arms once again – so they can bring their entrepreneurial spirit with them, to help our economy grow.

Great News: The New Hampshire Senate Passes Healthcare Expansion

“This is a momentous day in New Hampshire,” said Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen after the New Hampshire Senate passed SB 413, the healthcare (Medicaid) expansion.  “Today’s bipartisan vote for a Medicaid Expansion compromise in New Hampshire is a tremendous step forward for our state.  Governor Hassan worked with leaders of both parties to reach a compromise that placed hard working Granite Staters ahead of partisan ideology,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley.

Today vote almost ensures the passage of this ‘healthcare expansion’ with a Democratic majority in the House, and Governor Hassan chomping at the bit to sign it.

“Today’s Senate vote in support of SB 423 brings New Hampshire one step closer to providing affordable health insurance to thousands of low-income residents,” said Deb Fournier, policy analyst for the NH Fiscal Policy Institute.

“This is also an important boost for our economy and our state budget, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into the New Hampshire economy and giving us the opportunity to save millions in the state budget,” added Fournier.

SB 413 creates a three-stage Health Protection Program to extend affordable health insurance to low income Granite Staters: the Health Insurance Premium Program, the Bridge to Marketplace Premium Assistance Program, and the Marketplace Premium Assistance Program. Federal funding will cover 100 percent of the costs associated with the Health Protection Program, which will be repealed at the end of 2016 unless future legislatures vote to extend it.

(More information about how the new program works by the NHFPI, here)

This new healthcare expansion will help more than 50,000 hard working low-income Granite Staters acquire healthcare.  This commonsense compromise is not only good health policy; it is good economic and fiscal policy too. Economists estimate that expansion will inject $2.5 billion into the New Hampshire economy, create new jobs, and save hard working Granite State taxpayers millions of dollars.

“With expansion, 50,000 Granite Staters will no longer have to fight cancer and bankruptcy at the same time. Instead they will have the economic security that only comes with health insurance coverage,” continued Buckley.

Senator Larsen worked with Senate President Morse to find a commonsense solution that helps the people of New Hampshire, while keeping costs in check.

“This is a momentous day in New Hampshire,” said Larsen. “This legislation will strengthen our state’s economy, prevent the sort of cost-shifting that drives up health care costs on businesses, and improves the lives of 50,000 hard-working Granite Staters. This is right thing to do for New Hampshire.”

“Our action on Senate Bill 413 shows the people of New Hampshire that we are committed to working together to solve our problems with common sense solutions. I thank the Senate President and Republican Majority Leader for working closely with us to pass this important bill,” continued Larsen.

Granite State Progress has been one of the many outspoken non-profit groups pushing for the expansion of Medicaid.

“We praise the Senate for its bipartisan vote to expand health coverage to 58,000 lower income Granite Staters who need it,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granit State Progress. “Democrats and Republicans worked together to make this program available. A small group of GOP State Senators like Andy Sanborn and John Reagan voted to leave money on the table instead of covering New Hampshire families because they kowtowed to special interests instead of representing their constituents.”

“Policymakers heard loud and clear from constituents, health policy experts, and consumer advocates that expanding Medicaid was a win-win for New Hampshire families, hospitals, community health centers, and our overall budget and economy,” continued Rice-Hawkins.

Labor unions like the State Employees Association have been behind the expansion of Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act from the beginning.  Beth D’Ovidio, spokeswoman for the State Employees’ Association (SEIU 1984) released the following statement.

“Today, the NH Senate achieved a balance of caring for the well-being of NH families and maintaining fiscal prudence in passing SB413. We applaud them for their commitment to bringing access to affordable health care to all NH families and in so doing moving the state forward. Healthy families generate healthy and productive workers; healthy children who do better in school; and healthier seniors who will lead fuller and happier lives during their retirement years.

Under the Affordable Care Act, everyone was supposed to have a way to get affordable health insurance. People with low incomes would get low-cost or free health insurance so long as their state leaders accepted the federal funds set aside for this purpose. Today, I proudly thank our Senate for fulfilling this promise to all the hard-working people who make too little money to get discounted health insurance in the ACA Marketplace and too much to qualify for Medicaid under the current criteria. Accepting this federal funding is essential to provide them with access to low-cost insurance. It’s time to pull people out of the coverage gap.”

This is a big step for the NH Senate, showing that they can work through the partisanship and do what is best for Granite Staters.  Will they be able to use this new found bipartisanship to push for a higher minimum wage? Only time will tell.

Granite State Rumblings: The Earned Income Tax Credit Is A Boost To Working Families

TaxesWell we are coming up on tax season again. If you are like me, you are thinking about how nice a refund check would be this year!

More than 1 in 5 children (22%) nationwide live in families with incomes below $22,000/year, and 1 in 10 children live in families with incomes of $11,000 a year or less. Did you know that for many low and moderate income families there are several tax credits that many do not take advantage of when filing their taxes? The Child Tax Credit is one.

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) is a partially-refundable tax credit designed to help those families with the cost of raising those children, helping reduce the hardship and expand opportunities for those children. Like the Earned Income Tax Credit, the CTC is also designed to incentivize work.

The CTC is the largest tax code provision benefiting families with children.  By reducing the income tax liability of low-income families with children, and offering a refund of up to $1,000/child to some families, this credit helps offset the cost of raising children. It is estimated that a $1,000 increase in family income helps increase child math scores by 2 percent and reading scores by 3.5 percent. We also know this credit goes right towards bettering the lives of children. Data shows that low-income families spend a larger share of their pre-tax income directly on their children than those with higher incomes (25 percent v.16 percent for middle class families and 12 percent for wealthy families).

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is another. Here is information from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities about the EITC.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal tax credit for low- and moderate-income working people. It is designed to encourage and reward work as well as offset federal payroll and income taxes. The EITC is “refundable,” which means that if it exceeds a low-wage worker’s income tax liability, the IRS will refund the balance.

Single or married people who worked full-time or part-time at some point in 2013 can qualify for the EIC, depending on their income.

  • Workers who were raising one child in their home and had income of less than $37, 870 (or $43, 210 for married workers) in 2013 can get an EIC of up to $3,250.
  • Workers who were raising two children in their home and had income of less than $43, 038 (or $48,378 for married workers) in 2013 can get an EIC of up to $5,372.
  • Workers who were raising three or more children in their home and had income of less than $46, 227 (or $51,567 for married workers) in 2013 can get an EIC of up to $6,044.

The EITC is designed to encourage and reward work. Beginning with the first dollar, a worker’s EITC grows with each additional dollar of earnings until the credit reaches the maximum value. This creates an incentive for people to leave welfare for work and for low-wage workers to increase their work hours.

This incentive feature has made the EITC highly successful. Studies have shown, for example, that the EITC — especially in the presence of a strong labor market — has encouraged large numbers of single parents to leave welfare for work. The Committee for Economic Development, an organization of 250 corporate executives and university presidents, concluded in 2000 that “The EITC has become a powerful force in dramatically raising the employment of low-income women in recent years.”

Next to Social Security, the EITC combined with the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit constitutes the nation’s most powerful anti-poverty program.  These two credits lifted 10.1 million people out of poverty in 2012, including 5.3 million children

The EITC reduces poverty by supplementing the earnings of workers with low wages and low earnings. There has been broad bipartisan agreement that a two-parent family with two children with a full-time, minimum-wage worker should not have to raise its children in poverty. At the federal minimum wage’s current level, such a family can move above the poverty line for an average family of four only if it receives the EITC as well as SNAP (food stamp) benefits.

For young children, moving out of poverty is particularly important. Research has found that lifting income in early childhood not only tends to improve a child’s immediate educational outcomes, but also is associated with more schooling, more hours worked, and higher earnings in adulthood. One such study showed a link between an increase in the EITC for families with more than two children and an increase in achievement in middle childhood for children in these families.

 Growing Up Granite

This year many New Hampshire workers will qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for the first time because their income declined or they became unemployed; tax refunds through the EITC and Child Tax Credit can help low- and moderate-income families cover day-to-day expenses such as utilities, rent, and child care.

EITC and the Child Tax Credit are not considered as income in
determining your eligibility for benefits like TANF, food stamps, and Medicaid.

The number of New Hampshire families that claimed the EITC in 2013, (for tax year 2012), were 78,000. The average EITC dollar amount was $1,882.

The total EITC dollar amount that NH families received was $147 million. The IRS estimates, however, that one in five of eligible people could miss out on the EITC because they don’t know about it, don’t know that they qualify, or don’t know where to find free tax filing assistance.

Yes you read that correctly. Free tax filing assistance is available for some families and individuals in New Hampshire. Below you will find several ways to get help filing your tax return:

Visit a local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site, The Vita Program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income ($51,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns.

Visit a local American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) tax preparation site. The IRS certifies volunteers to provide free tax help through the Tax-Aide Program.

The majority of the VITA and TCE sites are open annually from late January/early February to April 15. During this time, you can locate a site near you using the above locator tools.

To have your tax return(s) prepared at a VITA or TCE site you need to bring the following information with you:

  • Proof of identification – Picture ID
  • Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration or
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for you, your spouse and dependents
  • Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns if available
  • Proof of bank account routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit, such as a blank check
  • Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number) if appropriate
  • To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

You could do your taxes yourself, by going online to The Internal Revenue Service web site www.irs.gov.

NH AFL-CIO Pres MacKenzie: Casino Bill Means Good Jobs And Serious Revenue

As president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the state, I speak to legislators and community leaders every day about the difficulties facing our state’s working families as we continue to struggle in the aftermath of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Now is the time for our elected leaders to step up to the plate and take real, immediate and concrete steps to create good new jobs for thousands of workers in our state.

The New Hampshire House will soon have the opportunity to do just that. In fact, our legislators will be presented with a bill, HB 1633, that will guarantee the creation of a half-billion-dollar construction project, every penny of which would come from private investment.

HB 1633 would create more than 2,000 jobs for New Hampshire construction workers and more than 1,000 good, permanent jobs. Furthermore, this bill will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in non-tax revenue for the state, allowing us to keep critical programs like education, public safety and infrastructure off the budgetary chopping block. Plus, polls show that a big majority – nearly 60 percent – of Granite Staters favor the approach HB 1633 takes.

HB 1633 would bring expanded casino gaming to New Hampshire. Now, I know some members of our Legislature don’t personally approve of gambling, and that’s their prerogative. But we must come to terms with the fact that we are stuck in a situation where job growth continues to be sluggish and the state budget continually presents our elected officials with extremely difficult choices between cutting programs and finding needed revenue.

The fact is, New Hampshire will be experiencing the downsides of casino gaming whether or not we build a new casino within our borders. Our state already has a $75 million-per-year casino industry under the guise of “charitable gaming,” and there will soon be several casinos just over the border in Massachusetts. Without HB 1633, we’ll leave thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.

HB 1633 was drafted by a bipartisan, multiagency independent panel known as the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority as part of last year’s state budget process. In consultation with independent experts, the authority reviewed best practices in the gaming industry across the country to develop a true New Hampshire solution for expanded gaming.

This bill was crafted specifically to address concerns lawmakers had with last year’s gaming bill. As such, HB 1633 includes a comprehensive regulatory structure and robust provisions to ensure that the jobs will go to New Hampshire workers.

Although we have always supported creating good jobs for Granite State workers, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO has never officially endorsed a casino proposal before. Our executive committee recently voted unanimously to fully endorse HB 1633 because we are convinced this bill represents what’s best for New Hampshire’s working families and for our state.

We had questions about whether that was true of previous bills, but our concerns have been addressed in HB 1633.

Creating jobs shouldn’t just be a talking point or a political slogan. Growing our economy and putting people to work should be real, tangible goals for our elected leaders. HB 1633 is the only bill before the New Hampshire Legislature this year that would accomplish those goals, and I urge lawmakers to support it. Together we can help rebuild New Hampshire’s middle class by focusing on creating good jobs for workers in our state. Passing this bill will contribute to that cause.

Senate Republicans Including Senator Ayotte Are Pitting Immigrants Against Veterans

Frag Out!Veterans have always been political bread and butter.  It has become a game: who supports Veterans more?  This debate has ratcheted up a couple of notches after the budget negotiation reduced the Cost of Living increases for working age retired Veterans (under 62 years of age).

The adjustment in the COLA for working age retired Veterans would save the government about $7 Billion dollars.  Of course the Veterans organizations were outraged over these cuts, and so was Senator Kelly Ayotte.

Here is a little background on Senator Ayotte.  She currently sits on the Veteran Affairs Committee in the Senate, and is married to Joe Daley who is a retired Air National Guard Lieutenant Colonel. This fight over retired Veterans COLAs is personal for Senator Ayotte because it directly affects her and her family. This cut will directly affect Joe and his retirement benefits.

I agree that we should not be making these COLA cuts to our brave men and women who retired from the military at a young age.  There are many possible solutions to restoring these cuts and the proposal that seems to be getting the most traction is the one to change the ‘Additional Child Tax Credit’ (ACTC).  It would require the person claiming the ACTC to file their taxes with the IRS under their Social Security Number.

Currently working immigrants file their federal taxes using a Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) because they cannot get a Social Security number until they are US Citizens.

This change is a direct assault on the millions of hard working immigrants who are paying their federal taxes and legally claiming their dependents under the ACTC program.  Once again, the only way to get a Social Security number is to be a US resident.  This means that if you are not a US Citizen (even if your children are), you still have to pay taxes, but you cannot claim the ACTC.

The Bipartisan Policy Center stated, “Effectively, this would allow the IRS to deny ACTC benefits to households headed by unauthorized immigrant parents, regardless of the child’s citizenship status.”

This is where the whole plan gets very complex.  For example, there are many households in the US right now headed by parents of a US citizen – but due to the immigration process, the parents are not US citizens themselves.  Even if the child is a natural born American citizen, their parents could not claim them under the proposed ACTC changes.

(Note: Senator Ayotte later amended her proposal to provide an exception for parents of US citizens.)

We are not talking about a few hundred people filing for these credits. According to the Treasury Department’s Inspector General, in 2010, ITIN filers reported $60 billion dollars in wages. The Bipartisan Policy Center reported that, “a large majority of unauthorized immigrants’ children are U.S. citizens.”

To me the issue could easily be resolved by passing a comprehensive immigration bill, like the one that has already passed in the US Senate.  We can clear up the tax questions quickly by allowing these parents of US citizens to become citizens themselves.  Making a roadmap to citizenship allows those people who are already living and working – and paying taxes – here in the United States a way to become citizens themselves.

We should stop trying to find ways to punish them for being undocumented, and find ways to help streamline the citizenship process. Some of them have been working on getting legal citizenship for years now, all the while living, working, and paying taxes like every other American.

Now our Congressional Representatives are waging war between Veterans and immigrants to find a way to restore the cuts to Veterans’ retirements.

Here is an idea to solve both problems: let’s stop building war machines that we do not need and put that money back into the budget where it can do some real good.  Like the F-35 fighter jet, which is billions over budget and still cannot fly at night.  Or the hundreds of tanks that the Army and Marine Corps do not want, which are being built just to stored in the desert boneyards, with no intent to actually use them.

By trimming the fat off the DOD budget, we can open our doors to all immigrants, feed our nation’s poor, and create a better education system through proper funding.

Or we can continue to build weapons of war that we do not want or need.

Manchester Newspaper Guild Files 7 Unfair Labor Practice Charges And Pickets Against NH Union Leader

MNG 1

MANCHESTER, NH — The Manchester Newspaper Guild on Friday filed seven Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against The Union Leader Corp., which employs about 75 Guild members in its news, advertising, circulation, IT and accounting departments.

The charges, and one the company filed against the local, mark an unprecedented low in the 72-year history of labor relations between The Newspaper Guild local and The New Hampshire Union Leader.

Meanwhile, the members of TNG-CWA Local 31167 continue to pressure the company, the latest effort being an informational picket Saturday, March 1 from noon to 1:30 outside the Union Leader-sponsored state spelling bee at the Capital Center for the Arts in Concord. The union and company have been bargaining since September, with the company insisting on language that would gut job security and hamper the union’s ability to defend the contract, while seeking a huge pay cut and a more than doubling of health insurance deductibles. Employees have been working under a contract that expired Dec. 31.

MNG2The Guild’s charges to the labor board assert that the company has committed Unfair Labor Practices by violating the National Labor Relations Act, including engaging in surface bargaining with no real intention of arriving at a collective bargaining agreement with the union. Between September and Dec. 31, the company refused to alter the major contract retrogressions in its proposal while threatening it would withdraw those proposals Dec. 31, leaving a 20% wage reduction and even higher insurance costs on the table.

Without ever bargaining over that remaining proposal after Jan. 1, on Jan. 22 the company instead presented the union with a “Final Offer” that included an 18% wage reduction retroactive to Jan. 5, and reintroduced language that would eliminate workers’ seniority and job security language.

The union also charges that The Union Leader Corp. has refused to provide information relevant to subjects under negotiation and necessary to the union’s conduct of negotiations, has insisted upon an unreasonable confidentiality agreement before allowing union officials and their accountant to view the company’s financial records, and has refused to bargain the terms and conditions of such a confidentiality agreement.

According to the local’s charges, the union also says The Union Leader Corp. has committed an Unfair Labor Practice by insisting that a new collective bargaining agreement provide the company with complete discretion over reductions in force without any standards or guidelines.

The union also charges that the company’s retroactive wage and insurance deductible proposals — only just withdrawn on Wednesday — were illegal and impeded bargaining over wages since they were presented, and that the company’s proposals to severely curtail union activity are an unlawful restriction on employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

The company’s complaint against the Guild alleges the union has bargained in bad faith.

Recognizing the struggles faced by both the Union Leader Corp. and the news industry in recent years, Manchester Newspaper Guild members have made huge concessions in recent years, including pay cuts totaling 14.63 percent, a longer work week without additional compensation for the extra hours, elimination of personal days, reductions in sick time, increases in insurance deductibles and layoffs and buyouts of members.
Non-union and management employees — about half the total workforce — saw a smaller pay cut in 2012 and a smaller increase in health insurance deductibles in January. They currently do not face a pay cut.

The local has created a website questioning the fairness of the company’s proposal and strategy, with a petition to Publisher Joseph McQuaid that supporters can sign, at www.wtf-ul.org.

Free-Keene ‘Robin Hooders’ Featured On Inside Edition (VIDEO)

In May of last year there was a lot of buzz about the ‘Robin Hoods’ in Keene who were feeding the parking meters of random cars before they got ticketed.

The group of Free Staters from the ‘Free Keene’ division want you to think that they are just ‘merry men’ (and women) out help the poor people of Keene whose parking meter has run out.  That is what they want you to believe. The truth is far from that.  What they are doing  is harassing the parking enforcement officers.

The facts are very simple; the Free Staters go around following the parking enforcement officers (PEO) and then feed the meter just before the PEO can write a ticket.  They also like to videotape the PEO’s while they are trying to do their jobs.  They have been known to bump the officers or ‘nearly touch’ the officers (think of the game ‘I am not touching you’ that you probably played with your sibling).

(If you are still unfamiliar with the story, you can read Free Keene from ‘Free-Keene’: A Story Of Harassment In The Workplace, and Keene City Manager Opposes Harassment of PEOs By Free-Keene ‘Robin Hoods’.)

Unfortunately when the city of Keene took the Free Staters to court the city lost their case.  WMUR reported in December 2013:

“In dismissing the case Wednesday, Cheshire Superior Court Justice John Kissinger wrote, “Their free speech rights under the First Amendment of the federal Constitution will be violated by permitting the city to move forward.”

Kissinger also said that even though the tactics involved are covered by the First Amendment, “the court does not mean to suggest that the targeting of hardworking (parking enforcement officers) is appropriate or laudable.”
As I understand it, the city is appealing the decision.

This week Inside Edition the nation media outlet highlighted the ‘Robin Hoods’ in one of their investigative reports.   It shows exactly how the Free Keene ‘Robin Hoods’ is acting, and the way that some have reacted to them as well.

I will let you decide, helpful ‘merry men’ or harassing antagonists.

I do not know what their reasoning behind this is? Why are they continuing to harass workers doing their jobs?  If you have a problem with the city government, that is fine, do not take it out on the workers, run for office and then try to make the changes you want.

I am glad to see that people from the city of Keene are standing up to these bullies.  Hopefully soon there will be enough evidence to actually convict them for harassing city workers.

2-23-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update : Issues of the Week — Charter Schools and Common Core

The House Education Committee held several hearing and made recommendations on many bills this week, but many more bills remain to be worked on by the Committee.

Several of these bills dealt with charter schools. I will start calling them public charter schools when they:

•    Accept all children that walk through their doors,
•    The entire teaching staff should be certified,
•    They would take on all the responsibility of educating special education students and not rely on the local school system to offer services,
•    They would take on the responsibility of transporting the students to school.
•    In short they would have to follow all the laws and rules that current public schools follow.

Let’s keep in mind that the funding for charter schools comes from Federal grants, the state of New Hampshire, and in some cases from local property tax dollars.  Unlike public schools, most charter schools are approved by the State, not the local community,in which they operate, thus eliminating local control but requiring local taxpayer support.

When a charter school opens, your local tax dollars, taken from your local school district budget, must pay for services for special education students attending the charter school.  If a charter school opens in your community your tax dollars are going to transport any student that lives in your community attending the charter school.  All of this is mandated by State law, and in a time when budgets are tight charter schools seem to be coming back and asking for more and more. And you have no say in the matter unless our local elected state leaders stand up and say “No more!”

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

After their Winter break the House Education Committee will be making recommendations on several Common Core and Smarter Balance assessments and data collections.  Let me repeat where we stand on this issue:

We believe in assessments that support teaching and learning, and that are 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.  Because each district is at different stages in their teacher/staff development and student curriculum changes that meet Common Core Standards and the assessment of their students, the Department of Education should waive the Smarter Balance testing deadline for at least another two years. – See more at: http://nh.aft.org/legislation/aft-nh-legislative-update-february-9-2014-0#sthash.wtI9u20y.dpuf
Elsewhere, the full Senate voted to defeat SB 322: relative to the renomination of teachers. AFT-NH believes it is time we move back to supporting our teachers in New Hampshire. Three years is long enough to deny teachers their due process when non-renewed. When decisions with such high stakes are being made, all staff should be given reasons why, and should be given time to improve though an improvement plan.  We are disappointed in this vote and would like to thanks all the Senators who did vote with us. To see which senators voted with us click here.

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


MONDAY, MARCH 3

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
1:00 p.m. Subcommittee work session on HB 492-FN-L, relative to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

TUESDAY, MARCH 4

CHILDREN AND FAMILY LAW, Room 206, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on
HB 1206, relative to juvenile placement in shelter care facilities and at the youth development center,
HB 1236, establishing a committee to study supervised visitation centers,
HB 1260-FN-L, relativeto communication of the cost of services provided under the children in need of services (CHINS) program to parents.

EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
9:00 a.m. subcommittee:
HB 1239-FN-L, relative to the implementation of new educational standards,
HB 1508-FN, terminating state participation in the common core educational standards.

10:00 a.m. subcommittee
HB 1239-FN-L, relative to the implementation of new educational standards.

10:30 a.m. Subcommittee
HB 1586-FN, relative to student and teacher information protection and privacy,
HB1587-FN-L, relative to the collection and disclosure of pupil data.

11:00 a.m. subcommittee:
HB 1432, delaying implementation of certain statewide assessments and studying the effects of delaying implementation of certain curriculum changes in the public schools,
HB 1238, relative to access to assessment materials.

1:00 p.m. Executive session on
HB 1432, delaying implementation of certain statewide assessments and studying the effects of delaying implementation of certain curriculum changes in the public schools,
HB 1239-FN-L, relative to the implementation of new educational standards,
HB1587-FN-L, relative to the collection and disclosure of pupil data,
HB 1508-FN, terminating state participation in the common core educational standards,
HB 1262, relative to student assessment data privacy,
HB 1496, relative to the objectivity and validity of student assessment materials,
HB 1238, relative to access to assessment materials,
HB 1586-FN, relative to student and teacher information protection and privacy.

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 306, LOB
11:00 a.m. Executive session on
HB 1101-FN, relative to the recovery of overpayments by the retirement system and establishing a committee to study the policies and procedures of the retirement system for benefits wrongfully paid,
HB 1130-FN-L, relative to the Northeastern Interstate Forest Fire Protection Compact,
HB 1152-FN, terminating the benefit program for call, substitute or volunteer firemen administered by the New Hampshire retirement system,
HB 1493-FN-L, relative to members of the retirement system working after retirement, and relative to membership of political subdivision officials appointed for fixed terms.

FINANCE – (DIVISION III), Rooms 210-211, LOB
10:00 a.m. Work session on HB 1624-FN, modernizing the juvenile justice system to ensure rehabilitation of juveniles and preservation of juvenile rights.

LABOR, INDUSTRIAL AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES, Room 307, LOB
10:15 a.m. Executive session on
HB 1189, relative to temporary worker rights,
HB 1228, establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee collective bargaining.

MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on
HB 1285, relative to recommendations by the department of revenue administration regarding municipal fund balance retention,
HB 1560-FN-L, prohibiting the use of funds received from a political subdivision of the state to lobby.

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on
HB 1633-FN-A-L, relative to expanded gaming in New Hampshire.

WEDNESD AY, MARCH 5

Senate Executive Departments and Administration, Room 100, SH
9:00 a.m. EXECUTIVE SESSION ON PENDING LEGISLATION

10:00 a.m. House in session

THURSDAY, MARCH 6
1:00 p.m. House in session

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:30 a.m. Full committee work session on
HB 1415-FN, establishing a robotics education fund in the department of education.

TUESDAY, MARCH 18
WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:00 a.m. Executive session on
HB 1415-FN, establishing a robotics education fund in the department of education.

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