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Congressional Response to Airport Wait Times Falls Far Short, TSA Union Says

AFGE says Congress must lift arbitrary workforce cap
and fund 6,000 additional security officers

AFGE TSA WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing Transportation Security Officers at our nation’s airports, says recent Congressional actions to reduce passenger wait times are a good step but that the permanent solution remains hiring an additional 6,000 full-time screeners.

Congress on Monday approved shifting $28 million within the Transportation Security Administration’s current budget to convert 2,784 part-time officers to full-time positions and accelerate the hiring of 600 additional officers by the end of the fiscal year. This follows a similar action in May that enabled TSA to expedite the hiring of 768 new officers and pay additional overtime for current workers.

“The reprogramming requests that Congress has approved should provide some short-term relief to TSA officers who are clearly overworked and a flying public that is understandably frustrated,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

“However, the funding shifts fall far short in addressing the underlying issue, which is the failure of Congress to provide TSA with sufficient resources to meet its staffing needs and ensure the safety and security of the flying public,” Cox said.

Congress has set an arbitrary cap on the number of officers that the agency can hire, limiting TSA to no more than 45,000 screeners – although TSA can’t even meet the cap due to budget cuts.

Cox praised a group of 70 House lawmakers who sent a letter to leaders of the Homeland Security budget committee on June 8 calling the cap “arbitrary” and “illogical” and urging appropriators to remove it from the 2017 spending bill.

“Congress has set TSA up for failure by restricting how many workers it can hire and then slashing its budget to the point that it can’t even hire up to the arbitrary cap,” Cox said. “This results in passengers waiting two or three hours to get through checkpoints at peak times, while security lanes remain closed because there’s no staff to run them.

“Congress must lift this arbitrary worker cap and provide TSA with enough money to hire 6,000 additional officers, which would restore staffing levels to what they were in 2011.”

Earth Day 2016: An In Depth Look At Climate Change And NH’s Congressional Delegation

Happy Earth Day

Where New Hampshire’s Elected Representatives Stand On Combating Climate Change 

Today we celebrate the “46th anniversary of the 1st Earth Day, in which 20 million Americans–Democrats and Republicans–took to the streets to rally for a healthy, sustainable future and demonstrated against the deterioration of the environment” said Catherine Corkery, Executive Director of the NH Sierra Club.

“Unfortunately, today the bipartisan spirit of the original Earth Day has been lost, even as the evidence mounts that not only is our planet experiencing Climate Change on an unprecedented scale, but that everyday Americans care deeply about laying the foundation for a sustainable future for their children and grandchildren,” continued Corkery.

Across the nation Democrats have been pushing for better regulations to protect our natural resources and reverse the effects of Climate Change on our planet.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans have rejected scientific proof of the effects of Climate Change and have pushed legislation to further strip away our natural resources.

“In 2014 Politifact looked at the 278 Republicans in Congress and found that only 8 had publicly accepted climate change science” state Corkery.

“As a professor emeritus at the University of New Hampshire’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, I’ve spent years studying climate change’s impact on the Granite State and I can tell you this without a doubt: climate change is the gravest threat facing our state, country and planet today” said UNH Environmental Science Professor Barrett Rock.

“Persistently high temperatures are causing the massive ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica to melt at an accelerated pace, causing rising sea levels on the Seacoast and presenting a major threat to New Hampshire’s economy,” added Rock.

What are we to do? Is there anything that can stop this global trend that will eventually eradicate life on Earth as we know it?

“We need to invest in renewable energy sources like solar and wind, implement energy efficiency measures and start weaning ourselves off high carbon use. We need to use treaties like the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Rock advised. “We need to elect public servants who not only recognize that climate change is a clear and pressing danger, but who are willing to actually do something about it.”

Currently New Hampshire has two Democrats and two Republicans representing us in Washington D.C. The two groups could not be further apart on climate issues.

 

Senator Kelly Ayotte

Ayotte3This week, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) wrote an op-ed for the Nashua Telegraph claiming, “Earth Day should be every day.”

Ayotte tries to make the case that because she likes hiking and running through Mines Falls Park that she is hero to the environment. The truth is that she has been working to repeal environmental protections since she took office in 2011.

In 2011, Ayotte voted for legislation the League of Conservation Voters called at the time “the greatest legislative assault ever on the environment” after the Koch Brothers political arm urged senators to do so. The bill included the “virtual elimination of the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” the premier fund dedicated to preserving land and water sites across the United States for both conservation and recreation.

And when it comes to air pollution, Ayotte voted for an amendment that would “repeal the scientific finding by the EPA that greenhouse gases endanger human health and the environment,” and permanently block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, again after the Koch Brothers’ political arm urged senators to do so. During her first 4 years in Washington, Ayotte voted with the Koch Brothers nearly 90% of the time.

“Kelly Ayotte’s political spin is out of line with the reality of her true environmental voting record and not fooling anyone,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “New Hampshire voters know that Ayotte has consistently stood with special interest backers like the Koch Brothers against protecting our planet and conserving New Hampshire’s natural resources. Her attempts to pretend otherwise fly in the face of reality.”

Ayotte is facing fierce competition from New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan for her seat in the Senate. Hassan is a strong proponent of green energy and taking immediate action to combat Climate Change.

As a State Senator, and now as Governor, Hassan has pushed for New Hampshire to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to lower carbon pollution.

“From sponsoring New Hampshire’s original Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and helping pass the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard in the State Senate, to signing legislation to strengthen those efforts and establish a long-term Energy Strategy as Governor, Maggie Hassan has always been a strong champion for New Hampshire’s environment,” said Campaign Communications Director Aaron Jacobs.

“Under Governor Hassan, New Hampshire was ranked among the top 5 states for renewable energy,” said NH State Senator David Watters.

 

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

Shaheen-021109-18432- 0009This week, Senator Shaheen (D-NH) celebrated a significant environmental win as the Senate finally passed the Shaheen-Portman Comprehensive Energy Efficiency bill, which was introduced in the Senate over five year ago. The bill pushes for expanded use of green energy solutions to address our growing energy problems and works to reverse the effects of Climate Change.

The Clean Distributed Energy Grid Integration Act, identifies and addresses obstacles limiting the use of clean energy technologies, thereby reducing energy costs and improving the power quality and resiliency of the electric grid. Specifically, the legislation directs the Department of Energy to identify the technical and regulatory barriers to integrating clean distributed energy sources on the grid, and to strive to overcome these barriers through research, stakeholder working groups and demonstrations.

Shaheen has put Climate Change and protecting the environment at the top of her legislative agenda. She recently praised the Paris Summit to address Climate Change.

“This agreement is an unprecedented achievement and affirms New Hampshire’s leadership reducing carbon emissions,” said Shaheen. “‎The United States must capitalize on this success and continue to lead by supporting stronger policies that speed the transition to a clean energy economy.‎ We owe it to our children and grandchildren to start today so we can avoid the worst impacts of climate change, while building strong communities resilient to the changes already underway.”

 

Congressman Frank Guinta

Frank Guinta (Image by Mark Nassal)

Frank Guinta (Image by Mark Nassal)

In the US House, Congressman Frank Guinta (R-01) is one of the many climate deniers in the US House. Guinta denies Climate Change science that has the support of 97% of the scientific community. “I’m not sure the science is accurate or complete on this issue,” Guinta said.  As a politician who has received major funding from the Big Oil and the Koch Brothers he would know better than 97% of the scientific community.

During the 2014 GOP Primary Congressman Guinta was videotaped saying “No” to the question, “Do you believe that the theory of man-made climate change has been scientifically proven?”

During Guinta’s time in office he voted to expand drilling rights on the outer continental shelf, block the EPA from regulating Greenhouse Gases, license new nuclear plants, and supported the Keystone Pipeline.

Guinta even went as far to oppose any legislation relating to Climate Change.

 

Congresswoman Annie Kuster

Ann kuster head shot LGNot everyone in Washington believes that Climate Change is a hoax.

In 2013, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH) took a bold stance to push for more action addressing Climate Change.

“We have a fundamental responsibility to confront the challenge of climate change head on – for the health of our environment, the strength of our economy, and the future of our children. I am eager to partner with members of both parties to take responsible, common sense steps that will reduce carbon emissions, make America more energy independent, and advance the development of renewable energy sources. Inaction on these fronts is simply not an option.”

Kuster continues to push back against proposals that will harm our environment like the Northeast Energy Direct (Kinder-Morgan NED) pipeline.

Yesterday, Kinder-Morgan announced they would no longer pursue the construction of the NED pipeline.

Kuster was overjoyed to hear the news.

“I was proud to lead the fight against the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, which, after countless site visits, forums, and meetings with constituents, I deemed a poor deal for New Hampshire – both for our natural environment and the safety of our neighborhoods.  While we must pursue smart energy policies that lower energy costs for New Hampshire, this particular project would have taken advantage of our natural resources without providing sufficient benefits for our state,” said Kuster.

Earth Day 2016

Earth Day - No YearThis Earth Day we need to look at who is representing us in Washington and what they are doing to reverse the effects of Climate Change. We need local and national policy changes that work to clean our air and reserve all of our natural resources for generations to come. As the 2016 elections are quickly approaching we must use our voices by electing representative who will make positive change in Washington, not work to repeal all of the environmental gains we have made in the last 46 years since the first Earth Day.

Congress Must Act Immediately to Meet Obligations of Failing Coal Country Pensions and Health Benefits

 Time is Running Out for Retired Miners and Families

UMWA President Cecil Roberts Tells Senate Finance Committee that Bipartisan Legislation is “Least Expensive” Option for U.S. Government 

UMWA United Mine Workers LogoWASHINGTON – Testifying today before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts said Congress must act immediately to meet the nation’s obligations to retired miners and their families. 

America’s mine workers, Roberts said, “spent decades putting their lives and health on the line every single day, going into coal mines across this nation to provide the energy and raw materials needed to make America the most powerful nation on earth.”

Through no fault of their own, Roberts told the senators, retired miners and their surviving spouses now face an imminent loss of modest pension benefits – averaging $530 per month – as well as health care benefits that are literally a matter of life and death for many miners who confront work-related illnesses and injuries. 

Roberts appeared before the Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), to urge immediate passage of S. 1714, the Miners Protection Act. The bipartisan legislation, backed by members of both parties, will ensure that America meets its often-stated obligations to America’s coal miners, who risked their lives and well-being for decades to meet our nation’s energy needs.

“UMWA retirees have a much higher level of cardio-pulmonary diseases than the general population,” said Roberts. “They have more musculo-skeletal injuries. They have higher rates of cancers. Many of them have black lung to at least some degree, and thousands have severe cases.”

Because pension funds for retired miners are backed by the taxpayer-guaranteed Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PGBC), said Roberts, any delay in Congressional action now will cause even larger problems later.  The miners’ pension fund is one of the largest in the country.  If it is unable to pay its bills and the PBGC if forced to step in, the PBGC itself could go bankrupt, putting tens of millions of other pensioners all across the country at risk.

Immediate passage of S. 1714, Roberts told the senators, “is less expensive to the government than any other outcome.” 

“Senators and Representatives from both sides of the aisle have worked to secure passage of this vital legislation because they know the disaster that awaits us in the coalfields if we fail to act,” said Roberts. “I’m here today to remind you that we are running out of time.”

Shawn O’Connor Begins To Build His Campaign On Strong Progressive Values

Shawn O’Connor  Claims To Be “The Pragmatic Progressive New Hampshire Needs.”

shawn o'connor

Shawn O’Connor

Painting himself as a true outsider and riding the economic, populist movement of Senator Bernie Sanders, businessman Shawn O’Connor is laying the ground work for very competitive race for NH’s First Congressional District.

This week, O’Connor released a new web video, “Shawn O’Connor – The Pragmatic Progressive New Hampshire Needs,” highlighting his progressive agenda if elected.

Like Senator Sanders, who O’Connor endorsed in early January, is pushing a strong and progressive economic agenda founded on raising the minimum wage, taking on Wall Street, and strengthening the rights of workers.

“I am proud to endorse Bernie Sanders because he will steadfastly fight each day to raise the incomes of over half of America’s workers by passing a $15 minimum wage, a true liveable wage,” said O’Connor. “And I am endorsing Senator Sanders because only he can take on Wall Street and break up the banks that are once again too big to fail and threaten the world economy.” 

In September of 2015, O’Connor signed a binding pledge, which he has denoted as “The People’s Pledge,” to accept only the minimum wage salary of $15,080 for his service in Congress until this legislation is enacted. A Citizens’ Commission will distribute the remaining $158,920 of Shawn’s salary to New Hampshire charities. O’Connor also pledged to pay all his campaign staff $15 or more per hour.

“Shawn is exactly the action-oriented, ethical leader for which the people of the First Congressional District have been clamoring,” said State Senator David Watters of Dover.

In the video, Sue Chretien, a retired Manchester teacher, says “I don’t think that Washington is working.”  O’Connor vows to be the change that Granite Staters want and need in Washington to help rebuild the middle class.

Check out his new video below.

 

If Rep Guinta Won’t Resign, Shawn O’Connor Is Ready To Beat Him In Election

shawn o'connor

BEDFORD, N.H. – Shawn O’Connor, Democratic Congressional Candidate in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District, released the following statement concerning news that Rep. Frank Guinta has repaid over $350,000 in illegal loans to his campaign.

“I was the second Democrat, after Chairman Buckley, to call on Congressman Guinta to resign, and I made every effort to deliver 5,000 petition signatures from citizens of the First District asking Representative Guinta to take this honorable path at his first town hall following the scandal in Alton. I reiterate that call for him to resign today. The news that Representative Guinta has repaid the loan and the associated fine does nothing to change the fact that he betrayed the trust of all Granite Staters and is unfit to serve.”

Shawn is the only proven job creator in the race and is committed to only accepting the current federal minimum wage salary of $15,080 as his congressional salary until we enact legislation to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15. The rest of his Congressional salary ($159,000 annually) will be donated to New Hampshire charities chosen by a citizen’s commission.

With ~5 times as much cash on hand as his primary opponent, Shawn is the only Democrat with the resources and strategic plan and vision to beat Rep. Guinta in the fall and put New Hampshire’s First Congressional District firmly back into Democratic control.

Republicans In Congressional Committee Continues Attack On Workers Rights

Government Reform Committee passes bills to strip federal employees of due process rights

WASHINGTON – The House committee charged with overseeing the federal workforce passed bills on Tuesday that would strip hardworking employees of long-held rights and protections.

“By bringing up these ill-conceived bills just two weeks into the new year, it’s clear that House leadership is going to continue pursuing an anti-worker agenda,” American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform passed bills that would double the probationary period for new employees and allow managers to permanently alter an employee’s personnel file with adverse actions taken after the employee has left the job.

“These bills would punish the whole workforce for the potential actions of a few and would undermine basic principles of due process that have been in place for decades,” Cox said.

The committee deferred action on two other bills, one that would artificially limit how much time an employee facing disciplinary action could be placed on administrative leave and another that would give managers unfettered ability to discipline employees under the guise of IT security.

AFGE outlined its opposition to the bills in a Jan. 11 letter to House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

The bills would:

  • Extend the probationary period for all federal employees to at least two years, which is unneeded since managers currently have at least a year to assess a new employee’s performance and can immediately remove any employee for serious misconduct;
  • Allow managers to include in an employee’s personnel file permanent notations about adverse findings made after an employee has resigned and require that agencies consider those findings before rehiring the employee, which could hinder agency settlements of disciplinary actions and raises questions about how agencies would access this information;
  • Limit the use of administrative leave related to alleged misconduct or performance to 14 total days, which could force an employee to go months without getting paid since agencies complete few if any investigations within 14 days;
  • Give agencies the sole and exclusive authority to take any action necessary against federal employees related to IT security, which would undermine collective bargaining agreements and overturn an existing Federal Labor Relations Authority decision.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

Transportation Trades Department And Lawmakers Collaborate on Transportation Policy Concerns

Transportation Trade Department Logo

TTD Executive Committee Takes Aim at Pending Bills

WASHINGTON, DC — Transportation labor leaders — gathered today at the fall Executive Committee meeting of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) — met with key members of Congress to seek solutions to a woefully underfunded transportation system and to boost job creation in what remains a slow recovery that TTD’s leader said is “leaving too many working people behind.”

“The need for long-term investments in our transportation system and infrastructure will not ‘just go away,’” said Edward Wytkind, president of TTD, who added that the dialogue with congressional guests “focused like a laser” on ending the stalemate on crucial investment bills. “With the recent progress on a surface transportation bill and strong bipartisan display of support for the U.S. Merchant Marine, we may be witnessing a brief but important timeout from senseless partisanship.”

TTD hosted roundtable discussions with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

The high priorities during the discussion with lawmakers included keeping aviation and maritime issues out of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); fighting legislative assaults on longshore employees’ bargaining rights; passing Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reauthorization; boosting the Maritime Security Program; and rejecting emerging hair specimen drug testing legislation.

“As Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I value input from my friends in the transportation labor community who bring a critically needed front-line employee perspective to our work,” Diaz-Balart said. “By seeking the views of both labor and business, community leaders and other important partners, we can develop real, long-term solutions to our nation’s transportation infrastructure challenges.”

“We need to increase investments in our infrastructure and focus on the areas that will truly help create jobs and support our economy,” Nelson said. “We also need to protect the men and women who are out there every day making our transportation systems work.”

“Transportation infrastructure is at the heart of the U.S. economy. Our economic competitiveness, our businesses and millions of American jobs depend on robust investments in our crumbling network of roads, bridges, highways and transit systems,” DeFazio said. “We must continue to push for legislation that will modernize our nation’s transportation infrastructure, create good jobs and enhance the rights and working conditions of the men and women who keep America moving. I thank TTD for joining in that effort.”

The Executive Committee also held a discussion about plans for member education in the 2016 presidential election.

TTD, which represents some 2 million workers in every sector of transportation, has been working with its affiliates on a flurry of key issues. Just today TTD and its maritime and aviation affiliates sent a letter to President Obama urging his Administration to keep maritime and aviation out of any TTIP negotiations. TTD has aggressively countered the trucking lobby’s agenda to bring “unscientific” hair specimen drug testing to front line bus and truck drivers. And TTD coordinated efforts with its member unions to advance a surface transportation bill out of committee last week that awaits House floor consideration.

“When you’re talking about transportation jobs, you’re talking about middle-class jobs — the types of jobs that elude too many Americans,” Wytkind added. “The policies that affect our sector have a real impact on working families, and that’s something Congress can’t forget despite working in the Washington bubble.”

Congress Pushes Budget Deal To Avoid Shutdown, Delays Sequester, And Partially Preserve Social Security

Today the White House and congressional leadership announced a budget agreement that sets government funding levels for two years and extends the nation’s borrowing limit through 2017. The agreement provides the defense and domestic discretionary budgets with equal relief from mandatory spending cuts.

“This budget agreement provides a balanced approach to funding the federal government over the next two years,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “I’m very encouraged that leadership in Congress and the White House were able to find a bipartisan compromise that lifts the debt ceiling and provides much needed relief from across the board budget cuts known as sequestration. More blind budget cutting would be disastrous for New Hampshire families and our state’s economy. It’s my hope that Congress can quickly approve this legislation and avoid any last-minute brinkmanship that could threaten the full faith and credit of the United States.”

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. praised the deal as it relieved workers from the fear of another government shutdown and forced unpaid furloughs. 

“This budget deal is an exceedingly rare example of what can be accomplished when elected leaders put aside their partisan bickering and govern in a responsible way that benefits working families.

The bipartisan budget deal announced by congressional leaders and the White House would suspend sequestration for the next two years and provide much-needed increases in military and domestic spending.

Federal workers have endured $159 billion in cuts under the guise of fiscal restraint, and our members were united in opposing any budget that would target them for additional sacrifice.

The budget also is good news for federal retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System, who will no longer be facing a 53% increase in their premiums under Medicare Part B.

Federal employees are relieved that they will no longer be facing the threat of another government shutdown or unpaid furloughs. We urge the Congress to repeal the Budget Control Act altogether so that these manufactured crises will no longer occur.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka appeared to be more relieved than joyful over the deal.

“Congressional leaders and the President successfully eluded the traps set by a conservative faction in Congress who have tried to hold our economy hostage to achieve their radical agenda.

The full faith and credit of the United States will be preserved as we pay our bills on time – preventing brinksmanship over the debt until 2017.

Tight budget caps on defense and non-defense spending will be eased, restoring funding for vital programs and stimulating the economy. While it fails to provide Medicare beneficiaries with full relief from higher costs, it reduces a spike in deductibles for everyone and avoids a sharp increase in premiums for many. It ensures that 11 million Americans on Social Security Disability Insurance continue to receive full benefits through 2022. It avoids across-the-board benefit cuts of nearly 20 percent starting in 2016. 

While it does not offer long-term solutions for these problems, it provides relief without yielding to the conservatives’ extreme “entitlement reform” approaches that would have done real harm.

Now that we have again kept our country from going over the edge, we hope lawmakers will work on a raising wages agenda that can bring better lives to working families.”

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans was pleased that Congress avoided massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare and vowed to continue pushing for a more accurate way to calculate the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly. 

“Movement to prevent a default and avert a government shutdown is welcome news for all Americans, but the deal is not perfect.

The Alliance for Retired Americans is relieved that this budget deal would protect millions of seniors from significant increases to their Medicare Part B deductibles while preventing a 20% cut to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in 2016.

The reallocation between the Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and SSDI trust funds would prevent a massive cut in benefits for the disabled. The transfer would not impact the long-term solvency of Social Security.

We would have preferred no increase to Medicare Part B premiums; however, limiting the increases of those who are not ‘held harmless’ is a step in the right direction. In early October, Virginia Alliance President Ron Thompson of Ivor, Virginia spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference on how the increase would financially harm him. Over the last two weeks more than 30,000 Alliance members contacted their Members of Congress saying that a 52% premium hike was unfair and unwarranted. Our voices were heard.

While it appears a crisis has been averted, we have not improved retirement security for our nation’s seniors by expanding their earned Social Security benefits. We will continue to fight to make that a reality by urging Congress to implement a more accurate way to calculate cost-of-living adjustments: the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).”

Comedian Stephen Colbert Urges Pope Francis To Address Money In Politics

Steven Colbert on the set of the Late Show

MANCHESTER–When Pope Francis speaks to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Thursday, there are many worthy issues he could discuss:  Poverty, income inequality, affordable healthcare or other social ills.  But when comedian and political satirist Stephen Colbert was asked what single message the Pope should bring to Congress, Colbert suggested an issue that interferes with legislation to fix many of those social issues.

“The corrupting influence of money in politics because it reinforces not looking out for the poorest or the least of my brothers,” Colbert,  arguably one of America’s most famous Catholics, said in the recent interview with a syndicated Canadian Catholic news program, Connect5.    He continued, “I think that’s the one they need to hear the most because until you can control the money, you won’t control the message of Congress…you won’t get action from Congress that looks out for average people,” he said.     Colbert famously demonstrated on his previous Comedy Central show, the Colbert Report, how SuperPacs are allowed to cloak their donors and coordinate with campaigns by starting a political action committee himself.

Pope Francis has spoken out about money in politics before, but not to an American audience.  Earlier this year in Argentina the Pope warned, “In the financing of electoral campaigns, many interests get into the mix, and then they send you the bill.”   He went on to call for publicly financed campaigns and urged that “everything needs to be transparent and clean, ” he said.

Such language is prayer answered for the outspoken New Hampshire anti money-in-politics group, NH Rebellion. “The words of His Holiness would be a moral gut punch to the majority of politicians in our system who get elected with millions of special interest SuperPac money, then ignore the best interests of their constituencies,” said Dan Weeks, executive director of Open Democracy and the NH Rebellion.  “We applaud Stephen Colbert for speaking up about the corrupting influence of money in politics, because it blocks so many issues:   Hunger, poverty, environmental issues, infrastructure improvements, healthcare.  You don’t have to be Catholic to care about that,” Weeks said.

NH Rebellion announced Monday that they have created a petition to urge Pope Francis to address the issue.     “We’d like to demonstrate to His Holiness that Americans care that their government is free and fair.”    The petition, NHRebellion.org/pope/, will be circulated nationwide, then submitted to the Vatican press office to pass on to the Pope.

Back in New Hampshire, NH Rebellion volunteers continue attending candidate events, asking both Republican and Democratic candidates, “What specific reforms will you advance to end the corrupting influence of money in politics?”   Answers from the candidates are cataloged at Questionr.us, and answers will continue to be added throughout the 2016 election.    Dan Weeks adds that whether or not the Pope speaks on the issue this week won’t alter the need for Big Money politics to change.  “Our Presidents, Senators and Congressmen are selling themselves for 30 pieces of silver and betraying the American people.  That’s a system which won’t end well for our democracy,” he said.

Thank You To Those Who Voted Against The TPP, However The Fight Is Not Over

Working Families Have Spoken And Washington Was Listening.

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives held a vote on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which failed by a 126 to 302 vote, due to strong opposition from House Democrats.

For months, progressives and labor advocates have been speaking out against the TPP. Senators Warren and Sanders have made their opposition to the TPP a main talking point in all of their recent speeches. They spoke out because the White House was negotiating the TPP in secret. What little information has been leaked on the proposed deal shows that the deal would be harmful to American workers, continuing the failed policies of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Fast Track legislation narrowly passed the Senate however House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rallied House Democrats against it.

“Nancy Pelosi has always fought for working families and today her leadership on the trade package vote was instrumental in the House voting against another bad trade deal,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “She stood up against corporate interests and as always put first the people who are too often left out of trade agreement discussions. I applaud Rep. Pelosi’s bravery and leadership on this and look forward to working with her on good trade bills.”

“The House leadership tried to use a gimmick to push Fast Track through Congress. In rejecting an extremely weakened Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) package, representatives today stood with working families who want good jobs and thriving communities,” wrote the Communication Workers of America (CWA).

House Democrats like Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02) truly understand why it is important to stop this Fast Track legislation.

“Every day, I’m fighting to support New Hampshire workers, small businesses, and family farms, which all deserve a strong say in our nation’s trade policies. I believe the trade promotion authority legislation currently before Congress fails to give these groups a real seat at the table, and fails to include necessary protections for American jobs and workers, which is why I plan to vote against it,” said Kuster in a written statement just days before the vote.

“The New Hampshire AFLCIO is especially proud of Congresswomen Kuster who stood strong in the face of tremendous political pressure to do what was best for New Hampshire workers and workers everywhere,” said Mark MacKenzie, President of the NH AFL-CIO.

It was not just Leader Pelosi who made this vote against the TPP a reality. It was the combined actions of millions of hard working Americans who lobbied their Congressional Representatives to oppose this secret trade deal.

“American workers came together and spoke with one voice about the path their country and economy should follow. We are very grateful for all the activists, families, community leaders, and elected officials who worked so tirelessly for transparency and worker rights in international trade deals,” Trumka said.

“This is a victory for hard-working men and women all across America. In the face of long odds, the American people sent a powerful message that their interests trump narrow political agendas and special interests,” said Marc Perrone, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

“Today, we saw elected leaders stand up and make clear that the failed promises of global trade agreements, which only seem to serve irresponsible corporations, must come to an end. More importantly, we have seen what hard-working families can accomplish when we stand together and fight for what is right for both workers and this nation,” Perrone said.

“We keep score. We see the Democrats and the Republicans that stood with us. TAA was the only way to get Fast Track through, and despite the efforts of the President, TAA failed. The subsequent vote on Fast Track itself proved this as we failed to stop Fast Track by a margin of eight votes – just a difference of four votes either way. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi got it right when she said that Democrats have always supported TAA but not as a path to Fast Track,” said CWA past President Larry Cohen, leader of the coalition work on Fast Track.

CWA President Chris Shelton said, “I’ve never been prouder of our union and the work CWA members do. We’ll continue to fight back and build the movement we need.”

Organized labor relied heavily on their progressive allies, like CREDO Action to help spread the word of the dangers of passing this “NAFTA on steroids,” Fast Track legislation.

“The failure of the White House to win a key vote to advance Fast Track Authority for the TPP shows that the millions of Americans who spoke out against job killing trade deals are making a big difference despite an all out effort by Wall Street lobbyists, the Chamber of Commerce, and the White House to ram this through,” said Murshed Zaheed, Deputy Political Director at CREDO Action.

However the fight over the TPP is far from over. House leadership has already stated that they will hold another vote on the Trade Authorization Assistance package early next week.

“This fight is not over,” Zaheed continued. “CREDO will continue to fight against Fast Track and any treaty that puts the rights of multinational corporations over the rights of the American people.”

We need our elected leaders to stay strong against the fierce lobbying arm of Wall Street and Big Business.

“We must fully defeat Fast Track, so that Congress can work for trade deals that give working families at least as much standing as corporations. We need 21st century trade that works for all of us, not just investors and multinational corporations,” wrote the CWA.

“Our broad coalition of Americans — representing millions of union members, environmental activists, immigrant rights advocates, people of faith, students, public health and consumer advocates, community leaders and so many more — will keep up the fight until Fast Track is defeated,” CWA concluded.

The New Hampshire Labor News would like to thank all of the Representatives who chose to stand with working families in opposition to this disastrous trade agreement. We the people have spoken and we thank you for listening! We hope that you will continue to stay strong in your opposition and defeat this disastrous trade agreement once and for all.

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