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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.

In Off Year Elections, The Plutocrats In Congress Can Get Back To Doing What They Do Best, Raising $$$

Plutocracy Businessman Without A Face Money

By Jim Fucella, 
A New Hampshire Letter Carrier.

An off election year gives our leaders in Washington a chance to get back to the business of running a Plutocracy. Not being bogged down by passing legislation that benefits the country like they would in a Democracy, they can do what they do best, raise money for the next election. This gives the rest of us a chance to reflect on our situation.

Personally I got a cell phone not long ago. It’s the size of a pack of cigarettes but it can do incredible things. It can give me directions to any place. I point it at the sky and it tells me what planet or star I’m looking at. I can play chess and get news from any place on the planet. It knows where I am at all times and can even give me a satellite picture of my position and a street view. It can take pictures and videos. It gives me weather reports with live radar. It has a compass and can tell me how many steps I’ve walked that day. And of course it can make a telephone call. So I was wondering why the hell I have to carry a scanner the size of a clock radio to scan a package.

I was also wondering about when a carrier goes into management and reflects back on the days when they had to work. They always seem to have a distorted memory that they were the best carrier that ever lived.

The military spends hundreds of thousands of dollars for a drone. I was wondering how some idiot landed a $35.00 drone on the White House lawn.

It seems kind of odd that we have smart bombs but dumb members of Congress.

The US Government of the 40’s beat the NAZIS and Japanese. Why is it that the US Government today is bogged down by 30,000 punks in the desert.

In the 60’s President Kennedy declared that we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Why is it now that President Obama would be hard pressed to say that the average high school student could find the moon in the night sky.

Soon the money will start flowing into New Hampshire for the 2016 elections. A full year of big money trying to keep our Congress one of the most dysfunctional organizations in the country. Hopefully most Americans will tune out the lies and focus on the facts.

LiUNA Calls On Congress To Stop Kicking The Can Down The Road When It Comes To Infrastructure Repairs

Image from LIUNA

Image from LIUNA

LIUNA Joins Elected and Business Leaders in Call for Congress to Invest in Critical Infrastructure and Save Lives, Create Jobs

 “It’s Time to Stop Kicking the Can Down the Road and Fix the Road”

LIUNA BannerWashington, D.C. — At a news conference with elected officials, business leaders and infrastructure advocates, Terry O’Sullivan, the General President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), called on Congress to quickly develop a long-term solution for America’s deteriorating roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

 LIUNA represents a half-million workers, predominantly in the construction industry, and is a longtime advocate for greater infrastructure investment.

 Noting that poor roads contribute to more than 10,000 U.S. traffic fatalities each year, that bridges are literally falling down, and that potholes are damaging vehicles and making roads unsafe, O’Sullivan called on Congress to stop “dodging the issue, and playing political games.”

 “The proud men and women of LIUNA, and of all the building trades, are ready to do our job: rebuilding America’s infrastructure,” O’Sullivan said. “We call on Congress today to do its job: pass a long-term, well-funded highway bill; invest in our great nation’s infrastructure; and develop strategies to fund these projects for decades to come.”

 Since 2009, Congress has failed to reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund to address the transportation infrastructure crisis, and has instead passed more than 30 short-term patches. The fund is on course to begin running dry again this summer.

 O’Sullivan urged Congress to act quickly so that transportation and other infrastructure projects can get off the ground. “The responsibility for every stalled infrastructure project, and every worker trapped in jobless despair, rests with Congress until it acts,” he said.

 According to the Associated Equipment Distributors, every dollar spent on infrastructure construction results in nearly $2 of growth elsewhere in the economy. And for every three construction jobs created, five are created in other sectors.

 In all, about 14.5 million workers, or 11 percent of the workforce, are employed in infrastructure jobs; most with good benefits and family-supporting pay, which quickly spreads through local communities.

 Those are jobs, O’Sullivan said, “that can put food on the table of blue-collar, working families, and create a road to prosperity for unemployed construction workers. It’s about transforming not only the lives of these workers, but the future of our country, and our economy.”

 Also joining the news conference were Ray LaHood, former U.S. Transportation Secretary and Co-Chair of Building America’s Future; Salt Lake City, Utah Mayor and National League of Cities President Ralph Becker; Anaheim, California Mayor Tom Tait; and National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons.

 The event was part of “Infrastructure Week,” which includes hundreds of participating leaders and organizations fighting to increase investment in the nation’s critical infrastructure.

 “Ordinary Americans can’t get away from the crumbling state of our infrastructure; we’re here today to make sure that members of Congress can’t get away from their responsibility to do something about it,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road, and fix the road.”

Meet SHRM – The HR Association Lobbying and Suing To Roll Back Workers Rights

This article was republished with permission from Political Research Associates. The original article can be found here. 


“If it happens that you don’t agree with one of SHRM’s positions, we ask that if you disagree you please refrain from that discussion.” –Kathleen Coulombe, SHRM Senior Associate for Government Relations, speaking to dues-paying SHRM members at its recent legal and legislative conference on how to lobby members of Congress

 


By Mariya Strauss for Political Research Associates

Human Resources doesn’t usually conjure up images of adversarial political activism. Yet contrary to its politically neutral image, the innocuously-named Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM, pronounced “sherm”) campaigns for public policies and mounts legal efforts to block workers’ rights. The group, which claims to have grown from 130,000 members in 2000 to now having 275,000 members globally, purports to represent individual human resources professionals across all industries. And indeed, it produces HR resources such as tip sheets and reports on how to comply with the law, workshops and trainings to earn professional certification, a trade magazine, and statistical analyses about the HR industry and the job market.

But lobbying to change the regulatory climate for business is one of its major unspoken goals.

Back in 2000, union-busting lawyer and then chair of SHRM Michael Lotito (from whom we will hear again later), said “If we had a market penetration—let’s say SHRM had 500,000 members, and 250,000 of them were in grassroots networks—we would be heard not because we shouted, but because we threatened to whisper.”  SHRM has quietly and steadily grown its lobbying operation to include a half-dozen staffers, a nationwide member lobbying network, a major legal and legislative conference, and even a satellite office in Sacramento, whose sole purpose appears to be lobbying at the California statehouse.

Though its stated mission is to “serve the needs of HR professionals and advance the professional practice of human resource management,” SHRM’s legislative agenda is instead aligned with that of big corporations such as McDonalds, and major GOP donors such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce. Openly working in concert with dark-money business lobbying groups such as the International Franchise Association, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business, SHRM has been speaking out in the press, filing lawsuits, and pushing state and national bills. These efforts are aimed at blocking the rights of workers to do everything from forming unions, to having guaranteed paid sick days, to getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

UNDERCOVER AT SHRM’S LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE

So how does SHRM speak to its own members about the need to block workers’ rights? I went undercover for Political Research Associates to SHRM’s annual gathering, the Legal and Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. March 22-24 to find out. More than 650 people attended the conference from all 50 states and D.C., each having paid between $1200 and $1500 for the ticket.

“We’re not going to see successful efforts to mandate paid leave at the federal level,” Mike Aitken, SHRM’s Vice President for Government Affairs, told the assembled members at the conference.  Aitken briefly outlined a sophisticated, multi-state strategy for fighting paid leave and higher wages, and not only defunding the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – but suing in court to block its decisions. Aitken also alluded to SHRM’s use of member focus groups and questionnaires to form its policy positions. Though we were unable to locate any focus group or questionnaire results regarding policy positions, SHRM did this past week publish the results of a survey of its state legislative directors with questions about how engaged they are with SHRM. However, no actual SHRM members we spoke with said they have ever been contacted for their input on actual policy—and Aitken acknowledged that  “our Board is what shapes our policy positions.”1

Mike Aitken, SHRM VP for Government Affairs.

Other presenters at the conference included employer-side labor lawyers and HR consultants, each delivering a message of “we’re not an anti-union organization, but…” with confidence and uniform consistency. Unlike organizations such as the US Chamber of Commerce and the International Franchise Association(IFA) who co-sign and help to push SHRM’s anti-workers’ rights positions (who explicitly exist only to represent business interests), SHRM brings a grassroots base of HR professionals—people who are used to being peacemakers and finding compromises. In their regular professional practice, they are charged with complying with the law, rather than changing it to restrict the rights of employees. But SHRM tells members that it is also their job to pressure members of Congress and federal agencies to change the regulatory regime in favor of the largest employers.

THE CHICKEN LITTLE APPROACH TO “GRASSROOTS” ANTI-WORKER LOBBYING

How is SHRM selling its members the case for blocking employees’ rights, such as the right to earn paid sick leave and the right to choose a union? By telling them the sky is falling.

Lotito is now a shareholder in the employer-side labor law firm Littler Mendelson.  He gave a session at the conference entitled “The NLRB: New Relevance and New Challenges.”  During the session, his voice rising from a conspiratorial whisper to a roar of outrage, sermonizing on how a recent decision from the NLRB’s general counsel to treat McDonald’s franchisees as jointly liable with the headquarters could damage other businesses. He suggested that the joint-liability decision threatens the business-to-business relationships many companies have with their cleaning services, gardeners, and so forth, suggesting that any company could be viewed as somehow liable for the treatment of its subcontractors’ employees.

But the NLRB general counsel’s decision on joint liability narrowly applies only to cases brought by McDonald’s employees against the hamburger chain. As Steven Greenhouse recently reported in TheNew York Times, “’The Golden Arches is an employer, plain and simple,’ said Micah Wissinger, a lawyer who filed complaints on behalf of several McDonald’s employees in New York. ‘The reality is that McDonald’s requires franchisees to adhere to such regimented rules and regulations that there’s no doubt who’s really in charge.’”

Lotito, who co-chairs his law firm’s “Workplace Policy” subdivision, also criticized the NLRB’s recent decision to significantly shorten the 25-day window of time between when a union files for an election and when the election takes place. The new rule, which SHRM (echoing a US Chamber of Commerce talking point) dubs the “Ambush elections rule” in its printed policy statements and Powerpoint slides throughout the conference, goes into effect April 14.

Lotito’s old firm, Jackson Lewis, has made a lot of money advising employers on how to run an anti-union campaign during the existing 25 day window. As journalist David Bacon wrote in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle back in 2008:

“Campaign tactics include: In the weeks before these tainted elections, 51 percent of employers threaten to close if the union wins; and 91 percent force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with supervisors. This conduct is effectively unpunishable, making a mockery of free elections. Signing cards is a safer, calmer process that workers control themselves, and workers keep the option of using either the cards or the election – their choice, not their employer’s.”

SHRM is one of a handful of business lobby groups that is suing in federal court to block the rule’s implementation.2

Lotito explained that his firm also provided members of Congress with questions to use in a House Appropriations committee hearing the following day, March 24, on the NLRB’s budget. (You can watch that hearing here. Though we don’t know specifically which questions were provided by Littler, SHRM VP Mike Aitken told those at the conference that SHRM may attempt to fight the NLRB by adding a “rider to defund them through the appropriations process.” )

Having framed SHRM’s participation in the assault on workers’ rights as a matter of defending employers from onerous government regulations, Lotito was ready to unveil the Goliath that he says HR professionals should fear: unions. (He conveniently omitted the fact that unions now only represent just over 6% of the private sector workforce.) Again referring to the McDonald’s joint employer finding, Lotito explicitly named the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as the enemy:

“What I think is going to happen, what I would do if I were the SEIU, is on April 14th I would file 100 petitions in 20 different states against a whole bunch of franchisees alleging that there is a joint employment relationship between those franchisees and McDonald’s. I will win at least 50 percent of those elections and then I will demand… all kinds of information from McDonald’s Corp with respect to the underlying economics because they are the ones who are really controlling the purse strings with respect to the franchisee, so in order to have meaningful collective bargaining in theory I gotta have the franchisor with me, and I would use that as additional attack points. Or if I was really really really really tricky, on April 11th or 12th I’d go to McDonalds and say that on April 14th I’m going to file for elections, and as a result of that I’m going to bring your organization to a standstill. I’ve got an out for you though. I can be your best friend. I can tell everybody how great you are. All you have to do is agree to neutrality and card check…This is all about increasing union market share.”

Despite its studiously politically neutral and “we’re not anti-union” claims, SHRM has entered the public policy ring unmistakably on the side of big business and against workers’ rights. Whether its members accept its characterization of who the enemy is—and how many of them will unquestioningly sally forth to help block workers’ rights in the ongoing state and federal policy battles—remains to be seen.


Mariya Strauss is PRA’s economic justice researcher and a former guest editor for The Public Eye magazine. A Maryland-based freelance writer, her investigative journalism and commentary have been published in The Nation, at the GlobalComment blog, and The Public Eye magazine, among others. You can follow her on Twitter at @mariyastrauss. 


END NOTES

[1] SHRM’s website explains its process for determining policy positions thusly: “SHRM’s Government Affairs team partners with our Research Department to develop survey questions to take the pulse of the membership on what it feels about the issue.  Our Research Department may utilize the full SHRM Survey Report or a shorter Question of the Week format to obtain input from our members. In addition, Government Affairs staff gathers information by convening a series of public policy focus groups at the various SHRM national conferences, regional conferences and chapter meetings.

Once this input is gathered, staff develops a proposed public policy statement that is then subject to review by several SHRM Special Expertise panels who have jurisdiction over the subject area for their comment and review. The proposed public policy statement is then presented to the Board of Directors for its review and approval.”http://www.shrm.org/advocacy/publicpolicystatusreports/federal/pages/default.aspx#sthash.rXJAGapV.dpuf

[2] As economist Ross Eisenbrey noted in the Economic Policy Institute’s blog earlier this month, “The NLRB’s rule does away with an automatic 25-day delay between when employees file an election petition and the election occurs. The National Labor Relations Act does not mandate any such delay, but the anti-union lawyers treated it as a God-given right and claimed its elimination was ‘blowing up the election process’ and a denial of employer free speech rights. You’d think they were kidding, but they at least pretended to be serious.” In actual practice, the old rule has given employers enough time to harass, intimidate, and illegally fire workers involved in a unionization campaign, effectively lowering the number of union elections in US workplaces to 1453 in FY 2014– approximately two one-hundredths of a percent of all US workplaces.

Congress Votes To Block New Rules Mandated By The NLRB

Yesterday, Congressional Republicans continued their all out assault on working families by passing a law that would limit workers rights to organize and block new rules from the National Labor Relations Board that would allow for faster union elections, slated to take effect in April.

The NLRB said in a December statement that the new rules would allow unions to use electronic means to file for an election and would allow unions to hold elections just 14 days after filing.

“I am heartened that the Board has chosen to enact amendments that will modernize the representation case process and fulfill the promise of the National Labor Relations Act. Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties. With these changes, the Board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all,” said NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Peirce.

Congressman Frank Guinta receiving an award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

Congressman Frank Guinta receiving an award from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

The bill passed 232-186, almost straight down party lines. The bill was opposed by all of the House Democrats (thank you Congresswoman Annie Kuster [NH-02]) and three lone Republicans. Congressman Frank Guinta, the Republican representing the first district in New Hampshire, was among the Republican majority who voted to pass the bill.

“Today’s vote by House Republicans against the NLRB’s common-sense modernization of its election rules is a direct attack on workers and their right to be heard in the workplace,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Working men and women want an agenda from their Congressional leaders that raises wages and grows our middle class. Instead, they have gotten Republican policies that roll back progress and silence workers while protecting their biggest donors.”

Listening to the debate on the House floor shows exactly how much the Republicans really care about workers and their rights.   These Republicans are putting corporations above working men and women.

“Today, Congress voted to stop an unelected board of bureaucrats from trampling on the rights of America’s workers and job creators,” said Congressman John Kline (R-MN) in a written statement after the vote. “The board’s ambush election rule will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families.

Rep. Kline’s statement is nearly identical to the statement released by the US Chamber of Commerce who has worked tirelessly to oppose unionizing efforts and push anti-worker legislation in dozens of states.

“The Chamber applauds Congress for passing legislation to stop the ‘ambush election’ rule issued by the NLRB,” stated U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits Randel K. Johnson. “This rule infringes upon an employer’s free speech right by virtually eliminating an employer’s opportunity to communicate his or her views regarding unionization with employees.

What they should have said was that this vote stifles a workers right to organize and gives more time for employers to hire union busting firms and lie to their employees about how unions operate.

President Obama has already said he will veto this totally partisan bill. This would be Obama’s fourth veto, and second in the last two months.

“President Obama is right in his commitment to vetoing this harmful legislation, and Congressional Republicans should focus their efforts on lifting workers up instead of shutting them out,” said Trumka.

Whether you support unions or not should not matter, that is why we hold elections. If workers freely choose to support a union, the union will win the election. If workers freely choose to reject the union, the union will lose. That is freedom and the choice that workers are guaranteed under the National Labor Relation Act.

Organizing and holding a union election is hard enough, and Republicans in Washington want to block workers from organizing. Working families need to understand that these Republicans are not looking out for them and are only looking out for the wealthy businesses and groups like the US Chamber of Commerce that fund their campaigns.

 

 

Click here for more information about the NLRB’s rule changes

 

Through Rain, Sleet, and Snow The Mail Must Go Through, So Why Is Congress Trying To Destroy The USPS?

Letter Carrier in the Snow (image by Mark Turnauckas FLIKR)

(image by Mark Turnauckas FLIKR)

As Letter Carriers put their health and safety at risk each day in this especially brutal winter we can take solace in the fact we have enabled the Postal Service to  continue its financial turnaround. 2015 Fiscal Year Quarter 1 reports released Friday confirmed what all Letter Carriers know our business is booming . All types of letter mail continue to grow and parcel delivery is skyrocketing allowing the USPS to make a $1.1 Billion operating profit just this quarter. This will be the third consecutive year with a sizeable operational profit.

As Letter Carriers walk house to house in blustery winds on treacherous snow and ice to deliver America its mail many in Congress sit in their warm offices saying they have to reform or dismantle the worlds best Postal Service. They don’t consider Clerks and Mail Handlers driving in snowstorms through the middle of the night to move the mail.  Their anti government ideology blinds them as they ignore the facts. Those people could not do a Letter Carriers job for a day especially in this hell of a winter. As a news commentator stated this week ” the only vehicles on the road were Plows, Police and Postal Trucks”

They want to sell off the USPS as there is profit to be made by the wealthy in their climate controlled boardrooms.  Anti government zealots use Fed Ex and UPS as examples of what the USPS should become. They fail to mention both Fed Ex and UPS have increased prices 5-10% this year and still charge fuel surcharges even though gasoline prices have plummeted.

While politicians are cashing their campaign contributions from Fed Ex and UPS they also seem to disregard the fact that the Postal Service delivers to every address in America every day. Those private companies often  drop off their unprofitable and difficult deliveries at the nearby post office to have a USPS Letter Carrier deliver the last mile.

Instead of looking at “fixing” the Postal Service these financial statements should send Congress searching into ways that other segments of the U.S. economy can emulate what the Postal Service exceptionally well. The USPS is a  highly unionized and diverse work force  providing an essential service to hundreds of millions of people regardless of their economic status. The Postal Service provides a public service through harsh weather conditions and turns a billion dollar profit.

 

(Image by Rebecca Flickr CC)

(Image by Rebecca Flickr CC)

If Congress wants to truly wants to represent its constituents it would vote to rescind the unprecedented $5.5 Billion annual retiree prepayment obligation that  the USPS is expected to pay for future retirees . That alone would allow the Postal Service to accelerate this already impressive turnaround. Debating outdated ideas like cutting back mail delivery do not advance the best interest of the American Public.

This brutal winter has shown again the employees of the USPS are remarkable. Without  $1 of taxpayer money the USPS delivers an essential service to every address in America every day and turns a substantial profit.

Congressional House Members Split On Omnibus Bill

 

This week has been very busy in Washington as Congress created yet another manufactured crisis with threats to shut down the government over a divisive continuing resolution.

The good news is that, for now, the government will remain open as the House passed a omnibus bill to fund the government for another year. The House also passed a two-day continuing resolution allowing the Senate time to pass the House bill. The omnibus bill created a whirlwind of controversy with numerous amendments that outraged millions of Americans. There is a very small possibility that the Senate will amend or reject the House bill over these controversial amendments.

There are three main amendments that drew the biggest scrutiny and threatened to kill the bill.

1) The Wall Street Rollback

House Republicans added an amendment written by Citi Group stripping regulations on derivatives trading. This is just another handout to the big banks on Wall Street, putting the taxpayers on the hook for billions – or trillions – of dollars.

“TBTF (Too Big To Fail Banks) are now worth $53 trillion,” wrote Liz Iacobucci “Do the math. If there is another Wall Street meltdown; and another bailout; and this next bailout also requires the government to borrow an amount equal to one-third of what TBTF institutions are worth now…”

This provision drew strong opposition from the AFL-CIO:

“The AFL-CIO strongly opposes efforts to make it easier for too-big-to-fail banks to use taxpayer-backed funds to make risky bets in the derivatives markets,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

2) The Pension Reform Amendment

Labor groups were outraged that Republicans added an amendment that would drastically reduce pension benefits to millions of retirees.

“Today we have seen the ugly side of political backroom dealings as thousands of retirees may have their pensions threatened by proposed legislation that reportedly includes massive benefit cuts,” said Jimmy Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “Thousands of hard-working men and women deserve better than having their pensions slashed by a bill that can’t stand on its own merit.”

This provision would allow multi-employer pension plans to reduce payouts to retirees from and average of $50,000 a year to approximately $15,000 a year. The “unfunded liability” is largely due to the massive losses these plans took during the last two Wall Street crashes. But the underfunding will not become an issue for at least another ten years – so there is no need to rush this amendment through on a piece of must-pass legislation.

“Changing ERISA to allow cuts in promised benefits is a ticket to poverty and dependence on government asisstance,” IAM International President R. Thomas Buffenbarger wrote members of Congress last month.

“They’ve sneaked this in,” said Dave Erickson of Isanti, Minnesota. “They don’t have the guts to come out and tell us they’re taking our money. It makes me sick. The pension payment was something I counted on.”

(Read also: Another WIN for Wall Street… and a huge LOSS for the middle class)

3) Campaign Finance Reform

Campaign finance reformers were outraged when the bill was amended to allow millionaires and billionaires to push even more money into political campaigns. Currently a donor can give $32,000 a year to the party of their choice. The Omnibus spending amendment will allow wealthy donors to donate $777,600 per year or $1,555,200 in a two-year cycle.

“Another (amendment) would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices,” stated Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who voted against the Omnibus bill.

Neither party is taking credit for the campaign finance amendment that will benefit both parties. It is a win for the fundraisers – but a loss for working families, who are losing their voice in Washington to big money donors.

In a very close 219-206 vote the Omnibus bill did pass the House. The bill saw many Representatives from both parties oppose their own party leaders with their votes. Progressives were angered to see that 57 Democrats decided to support the Republican bill in spite of the “poison pills” in the bill.

The Congressional Representatives in my home state were split in their votes on the Omnibus bill. Both voiced their support for keeping the government open and stated their opposition to these amendments; however, they reached different decisions when it came time to vote.

“Of course Congress had to keep the government open, but it should have been done by passing a Continuing Resolution that funded the government, but didn’t contain these harmful provisions. I strongly opposed the CROmnibus bill, which would hurt working Americans by allowing big-money bailouts for banks and rolling back already-inadequate campaign finance laws,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

“In 2008, I voted against the bank bailouts and for policies that saved us from a depression. I am deeply concerned that this bill calls for a taxpayer-funded bailout for irresponsible institutions if they get themselves in trouble again. The bailout provision is just one of a number of special-interest victories in this bill. Another would raise campaign contribution limits, giving a small number of wealthy individuals even more leverage to drown out our middle class voices. Putting American taxpayers on the hook and gutting campaign finance laws is unacceptable, so I voted no,” concluded Shea-Porter.

“While I remain concerned about certain aspects of the so-called “CRomnibus,” including a troublesome campaign finance provision that increases the donation-limits for party conventions and political parties, I believe that first and foremost it is our responsibility as Members of Congress to work across the aisle to keep the government running,” stated Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “Last year’s government shutdown was devastating for Granite State families; it put approximately 800,000 Americans out of work and wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Congress should never allow politics to get in the way of doing what’s right for our constituents at home, so I’m pleased Democrats and Republicans were able to come together to pass this legislation and provide the certainty our country needs moving forward into the new year.”

I have – and will continue to – support Congresswoman Annie Kuster (and the other 57 Democrats); however, I completely disagree with her on this vote. I share her optimism that our elected representatives can put aside their partisan party politics and do what is needed for working families; however, this bill is not one of those opportunities. This bill will decimate what is left of our campaign finance regulations, and put the Wall Street gamblers in charge of our economy once again, using my taxes to hedge their risky bets.

If these 57 Democrats had voted against the bill, the Republicans would have had no choice but to remove these controversial amendments and offer the bill up for another vote. The Republican leadership knew the bill would not pass without Democratic support because the ultra-right wing (67 in all) planned to vote against it as well.

 *               *             *           *          *               *

Editor’s Notes:

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter’s strong leadership and dedication to working families will be greatly missed in Congress over the next two years. I hope she will consider running for the CD01 seat again in 2016, or even run against Senator Kelly Ayotte for a seat in the Senate.

 

There was one other little known amendment that was slipped into the omnibus bill that would reduce the mandatory rest periods for truck drivers – against Transportation Secretary Foxx’s strong opposition. The amendment reversed the required rest period allowing truckers to drive up to 82 hours a week.

Read more about this amendment, on Bloomberg.

The Next Two Years Should Be Interesting Listening To The Science Deniers (Op-Ed By Susan Bruce)

(original title)
In the United States, in the 21st Century
By Susan Bruce for the Conway Daily Sun

Scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus budding from the surface of a Vero cell (African green monkey kidney epithelial cell line. Credit: NIAID

Scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus budding from the surface of a Vero cell (African green monkey kidney epithelial cell line. Credit: NIAID)

Three weeks ago, the news was all Ebola, all the time. Todd Kincannon, the former Executive Director of the South Carolina Republican Party announced, “the protocol for a positive Ebola test should be immediate humane execution and sanitization of the whole area. That will save lives.” The President was labeled inept and weak at handling the crisis! We needed more leadership! Retread Congressman-elect Frank Guinta insisted that there needed to be a travel ban. Congressman Steve Stockman of Texas accused Obama of unleashing Ebola on Murka to seize more power. Louie Gohmert (whose continual reelection is proof that we shouldn’t wait for Texas to secede, we should just go ahead and build a wall around the state) claimed that Ebola is “the Democrats war on women.” Women are nurses, you see.

Corrupt blowhard and birther Donald Trump blamed Obama for Ebola, referred to him as “Barry Sotoro,” and called for his resignation. This, dear readers, is the same Donald Trump who was chosen by the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications as the keynote speaker at their First Amendment Awards dinner. The award was given posthumously to James Foley. James Foley was a reporter who lost his life in pursuit of reporting from dangerous areas of our world. Choosing Trump as the keynote speaker at an event honoring this brave man is a level of tone deafness that surprises even me, coming from the Loeb/McQuaid crowd. This can only be described as an obscenity. Trump used the opportunity to bloviate about Obama. He’s still bleating about the need for Ebola quarantines. The one true thing he said was to James Foley’s parents, “Your son was far greater than I, and far greater than I will ever be.”

Obama was even criticized for not having a Surgeon General. The reason we don’t have one is Rand Paul. The President’s choice for Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murphy regards gun proliferation and violence as a health problem. Senator Paul, Republican of the NRA district, placed a hold on Dr. Murphy’s nomination.

There have been 4 cases of Ebola in the United States. One man died.

New Congresswoman and juggler of hog testicles, Joni Ernst of Iowa was at an event the other day talking about Ebola. Reporter Charlie Pierce pointed out that there was (on that day) a single case of Ebola in the United States. Ernst’s response? “That’s your opinion,” she said. Buckle up kids. The next 2 years are going to be a bumpy ride.

There are zero cases of Ebola in the United States. That was accomplished without travel bans or humane executions. Now that there isn’t a low information electorate to whip into a frenzy of fear, we won’t hear much more about it. It’s not as if we actually care about sick people in Africa.

In other news, a whole lot of bizarre was just elected to legislatures across the land.

In Colorado, Tea Party Pastor Gordon Klingenschmitt was just elected to the state legislature, with 70 percent of the vote. Klingenschmitt claims to have performed numerous exorcisms on gay people. Gay people “want your soul,” he says. He also claims to have performed an exorcism on President Obama, to rid him of the demons of tyranny. How disappointed Klingenschmitt must be that Obama is still black.

This guy was elected by a huge percentage. In the United States in the 21st century.

In Georgia, newly elected Congressman Jody Hice is worried about lunar eclipses. It seems that the religious right thinks that lunar eclipses are signs of God’s impending judgment against Murka for the sins of gay equality and abortion. Jody Hice has a talk radio show, and told his listeners that the appearance of blood moons “has preceded world changing, shaking type events.” In another era, living in a cave, Hice would have been advocating blood sacrifices to the gods to appease them. In the 21st century, he was elected to the US House of Representatives.

New Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Grothman once warned that sex education classes are a secret plot to turn kids gay. He’s also said that money is more important for men than women, that days off from work are “a little ridiculous,” that Kwanzaa is a conspiracy promoted by white people, and that people on food stamps don’t act poor enough. In the 21st century, this man was elected to Congress.

New Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke told a Republican group that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is “the antichrist.” Naturally when he was called out for his comment, he claimed he was joking.

Joni Ernst isn’t just an expert on Ebola. She told Iowans last year that Agenda 21 agents were likely to start moving people off their agricultural land and sending them to the cities, after which their land would be confiscated. Agenda 21 is a non-binding treaty on sustainable development that was written over 20 years ago. Ted Cruz predicts Agenda 21 will bring an end to paved roads and golf courses. Both of these people are elected members of the US Congress, in the 21st century.

Ben Carson, a columnist at World Nut Daily is gearing up for a presidential run. He recently announced that he would cut back on voter fraud by undocumented workers by revoking their citizenship and deporting them.

Here in NH, the electorate has apparently determined that we need to revisit the 2011-2012 legislative debacle. The humiliation and destruction visited upon the state during those years was apparently easily forgotten, so now we have some retreads being sent back, along with a bumper crop of Free Staters and other dubious characters.

With the Republicans in control of the NH House, the position of Speaker is being hotly contested, and the rumors are rampant. Bill O’Brien wants desperately to return to his position as Official Petty Tyrant, and has reportedly sent out a hatchet man to threaten, cajole, and bribe various members to support him, with promises of committee chairmanships. The Tea Party-John Bircher- Free Stater crowd loves O’Brien. He’s unencumbered by truth or ethics.

On the other side of the GOP, Senator Kelly Ayotte, former governors John Sununu and Steve Merrill, former Congressman Charlie Bass, and former Speakers Doug Scamman and Donna Sytek are all urging House members to support Rep. Gene Chandler as Speaker. The decision will be made next week.

An O’Brien Speakership on the cusp of the First in the Nation Primary can only be a disaster for the NH Republican Party. That he’s even being considered for the position should frighten any thinking person.

“This is your democracy, America. Cherish it.”  ~ Charlie Pierce

LTE: Our Country And Our Veterans Deserve Better

During the Iraq war we air shipped, about 12 billion dollars in cash to Iraq and now we have trouble accounting for most of this money.  The top 10 percent of our population, that have 90 percent of the wealth, they may have an idea as to where some of this missing money is but I can tell you where it is not going!  We have returning servicemen that need jobs; some have none because when they left their job, it was guaranteed to be there; then when they came back, if the company moved out of the country, sorry no job and we allow this to happen.  The younger returning veterans, who had no job before leaving, are welcomed home to minimum wage jobs with family unfriendly benefits at a retail box store selling merchandise that is not made in this country.  We have politicians that want to lower or do away with the minimum wage, who is funding their campaign?  We have politicians that want more free trade agreements for us.  The last ones worked just fine, look at the unemployment numbers.  Ross Perot was correct about the giant sucking sound!  We have been deficit spending for more than 70 years, and now it has become a game for the rich or middle class to who will pay.  The Tea Party wants it paid back immediately without new taxes.  When this country becomes a divided rich and poor nation, we will become a weak nation just like the ones we try to help.  We need leaders, a truthful news media and zero lobbyist.

Joe Gallagher,
Manchester

“New Congress Could Surprise Voters”

Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – made the following statement today on the results of the mid-term elections:

While there were some surprises last night, hopefully the biggest surprise will be that Congress finally does its job and works in a bipartisan way to make America better.

Congress has the opportunity to work together to end six agonizing years of polarization and gridlock by moving forward on key pieces of legislation. Congress could secure energy independence and unlock hundreds of thousands of good jobs by passing a long-term fully funded transportation bill and encouraging a sound all-of-the-above energy policy. Congress can and should tackle comprehensive immigration reform and make the necessary changes to the Affordable Care Act so that multi-employer plans, which have responsibly and effectively provided healthcare for generations, are not dismantled and destroyed.

Safe roads and bridges, immigration reform, the healthcare of millions of Americans, and our nation’s energy future are not Republican issues or Democratic issues. They affect Americans of all political views and are issues on which both parties should lead.

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