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One Year After Newtown And I Am Still Angry

Author’s Note: Some of you may be wondering what is a labor union advocate doing talking about gun control and Sandy Hook.  The answer is simple.  I have three children who attend an elementary school just like Sandy Hook.  I would also like to point out that two of the largest labor unions in New Hampshire are the teachers unions (NEA-NH and AFT-NH).

One year ago we all were stunned by the horrific event at a little elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.  This tragic event that took the lives of twenty innocent school children, and six brave educators.   As Adam Lanza entered the school, with guns blazing he managed to fire over 150 rounds from his mother semi-automatic rifle with 30 round magazines.

The day after the shooting the American Federation of Teachers released this short video honoring the brave educators who sacrificed their lives to protect the children in their care.

That day, and every day since, people have been asking ‘what are we going to do about Newtown’?  For the first weeks that followed the shooting, people across the country were up in arms and calling on Congress to pass sweeping gun reforms.  A completely organic grassroots organization called ‘Moms Demand Action’ started pushing for background checks and smaller magazines on all weapons sales.

MomsDemandAction_Logo-375x300The argument quickly became a fight between common sense, and the National Rifle Association.   Across the country labor unions and other groups like Moms Demand Action, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Americans for Responsible Solutions (Gabby and Mark Giffords PAC) began an all out war with the NRA right on the steps of the Capitol.

“We demand a vote, Gabby Giffords demands a vote” cried President Obama during his State of The Union address.  As every day passed more pressure was being put on Congress to pass the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, commonly referred to as the background check bill.  A bill that would require background check on all gun sales, closing the loophole that allows people to buy guns without a background check at gun shows and on the internet.  The bill also placed a limit on the size of magazines, and ultimately pushed for a ban on all assault rifles.

Momentum and public support grew every single day leading up to the vote.  People overwhelmingly supported background check on all gun sales.  The court of public opinion was completely against the NRA, who led the charge to kill the bill.

The bill failed to break the 60-vote threshold (54-46) to overcome the Republican Filibuster.  The vote was strictly down party lines except for one stray Republican (John McCain) who voted with Democrats to pass the bill to strengthen the background check system.  (Note: four Democratic Senators voted against the bill: Baucus (D-MT), Begich (D-AK), Heitkamp (D-ND), Pryor (D-AR))

After the Senate failed to pass the Safe Communities, Safer Schools Act people became even more outraged. Demand Action – a campaign by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns — started calling out every single Senator who voted against the bill with ads like this.

SHAME ON YOU KELLY Even after the failed vote teachers unions and educators continued to speak out for stronger gun laws.  The American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told the crowd at a Netroots Nation event, “I am glad to be on the list of people they (NRA) hate.

The National Rifle Association even floated the idea that we should arm teachers with guns, because ‘the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.’  Many people, including myself thought that was just too much.  We are trying to keep the guns out of our schools and the NRA wants every teacher to be packing heat.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia completely rejected this idea of arming teachers.  Lily represents over three million educators nationwide.  As she phrased it, “People that would put our children, teachers, and janitors at risk do not deserve their office.”

AFT Remember Newtown via AFT Facebook page

AFT Remember Newtown via AFT Facebook page

Here we are, one year later, and what have we accomplished?  What have we done to stop the carnage of gun violence in America?  The Boston Globe reports:

A Law Center scorecard shows that 18 states weakened their gun restrictions in 2013, 11 states and the District of Columbia strengthened them, and 10 states passed a combination. Both sides in the gun debate, however, manage to find hopeful signs in that tally.”

Where is that outrage that we all felt last December 14th as we were all forced to see the images of teachers and children running away from the Sandy Hook Elementary School, or the images of the twenty children and six heroic teachers who we will never see again.   Where is that outrage now as the majority of the nation has yet to see any change in our gun laws?

As of today (12-13-13) there have been 11,436 or more gun related deaths since Newtown.  (Check out SLATE.COM’s most amazing interactive graphic that continues to update with the names and locations of gun related deaths since Newtown.)  This number does not include the thousands of people who commit suicide every year.  The CDC estimates that 33,000 people will die in gun related deaths this year.

The group Moms Demand Action released a statement along with a very powerful advertisement calling for an end to the ‘silence’.   Moms Demand Action are hosting ‘end the silence’ rallies all across the country to make the plea that we do not need more moments of silence, we need stronger gun laws to prevent these types of tragedies.

“One year ago, 20 beautiful children and six brave teachers and administrators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in a tragedy that is still impossible to comprehend,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “On that morning, a deranged killer shot his way into what should have been a safe place, with an assault weapon and enough high-capacity ammunition magazines to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. The massacre was the product, in large part, of our nation’s weak gun laws—laws that allow military-style assault weapons to be sold legally and that permit criminals and domestic abusers to easily obtain weapons at gun shows and over the Internet without a background check.”

Since Newtown there has been at least 20 different schools shooting claiming the lives of dozens of innocent people.  When will it stop? When will Congress wake up and do what is right for public safety?  I refuse to let this be another flash in the pan that fizzles out after time.  I hope that this one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Newtown reignites the fire we once had to effect much needed changes in our gun laws.  I am also proud of the labor leaders like Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen Garcia who using their positions as labor leaders to continue to fight for stronger and more effective gun laws.

* * * * * * *

For those in the New Hampshire area here, is a list of some of the Newtown Anniversary events going on throughout the weekend.

Related articles on the NH Labor News:

AFT President Randi Weingarten Honors Newtown (2013)

When Tragedy Strike, Heroes Emerge. In Sandy Hook, The Educators Are The Heroes

Teachers’ Unions Make A Call For Common Sense Gun Reform

 

Is The Congressional Budget Committee Really Out To Destroy The Post Office?

United States Postal Service fleet; U.S.A.Some on the Congressional Budget Committee seem to be misguided on what their task is by seriously considering a proposal to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. The Postal Service has reported an operating profit of $600 Million for Fiscal Year 2013. Its first profit since 2008. Parcel revenue soared to an all time record high of $12.5 Billion. Increasing 8% over last year. So you would think that this is a time to increase service not to decrease it. The USPS is growing to the point that some parts of the country have instituted a limited 7 day’s a week parcel service. Its time to grow the service not shrink it.

This week the Congressional Budget Committee is considering sneaking in a poison pill that would in all probability kill the Postal Service over time and eliminate thousands of jobs immediately. This Budget Committee was set up to mitigate the harmful effects of the Federal Shutdown and sequestration on jobs and public services.   Instead  incredibly they are  exacerbating the problem on both fronts by reducing arguably the most popular and effective part of the Federal Government.

Letter Carrier US Postal Service Though the Postal Service makes an operating profit it is under constant attack by some members of Congress because it provides a popular government service delivered by unionized workers. Government Services and unions are the top targets of the privation zeal of the right-wing. Ideology trumps common sense with these politicians. Somehow they never mention that the worlds best Postal Service does not use ONE CENT of tax payer money

This committee is also attacking the entire Federal workforce by taking $20 billion out of government workers paychecks by increasing workers share of retirement costs.

These same members of this budget committee seem to have no issues with spending billions of dollars every year on a F-35 fighter jet program that literally can’t get off the ground. Yet seem hell-bent on reducing a cost neutral public service that unites our entire country.

The Postal Service financial report is only made gloomy due to an unprecedented retiree health care mandate. The mandate requires the Postal Service to fully fund retiree health care benefits decades in advance, was responsible of 100% of FY 2013 losses and 80% of losses implemented in 2007. This mandate has manufactured a postal crisis that is being used by some politicians to dismantle it.

Apparently the elimination of Saturday delivery will be tied to a trigger that can easily be manipulated by congress and result in disaster for millions of Americans who rely on the Postal Service. These same phony triggers were included in Michigan’s notorious anti union legislation Public Act 4. That destructive law was fortunately repealed by voters last month. We must prevent this Budget Committee from making a similar mistake.

Congress expects to unveil its 2014 budget plan on Friday so the time is short to let members of congress know that eliminating Saturday mail delivery is not an option that makes economic sense. It’s a false choice that the Postal Service must shrink to survive.

 

Shea-Porter: No Budget, No Vacation

The least productive Congress ever should stay in Washington
until a budget is agreed to
 

WASHINGTON, DC – With only six legislative days remaining before the House of Representatives goes home for the holidays, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter added her name to the newly introduced H. Res. 424, legislation that would prevent Congress from adjourning for the remainder of the year unless it passes a budget conference report by December 13th.

“The least productive Congress ever should stay in Washington until a budget is agreed to,” Shea-Porter said. “Without fulfilling this basic function, there is no question that Congress should not go on vacation.”

The 113th Congress is on track to have the least productive year in Congressional history. But next Friday, the House of Representatives is scheduled to go home for the holidays until January 7th. Earlier this week, Speaker of the House John Boehner had this outrageous response for reporters asking about progress in the Republican-led Congress:  “We’ve done our work.”

Without agreeing to a budget, Congress risks another government shutdown and credit default as early as January 15, 2014. Without authorizing the nation’s Farm Bill, the price of milk could skyrocket to $8.00 per gallon in January.  Additionally, unemployment insurance, common sense gun legislation, and jobs bills all remain on the table but unpassed.

Earlier today, Shea-Porter supported a motion that would have forced Congress to pass a budget conference report before adjourning for the year. In early August, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives asking Congress to extend its session in order to end sequestration and pass job-creating legislation. You can watch the video here.

 

Congress and Labor Call For Transparency From Corporations

SEC shield

The Securities and Exchange Commission came under fire yesterday from organized labor and members of Congress.  Both took aim at what corporations are not telling the public.

New Hampshire Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, along with 32 other Congressmen, sent a letter to Mary Jo White, the Chairman of the SEC. (Click here to view the full letter.)  The letter calls for new SEC rule-making for publicly traded companies to disclose CEO pay and the ratio between CEO’s and their average employee.

Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve watched American workers become more productive than ever, only to see wages remain largely stagnant. Over those same decades, CEO pay has gone through the roof, rising from 42 times the average pay of workers in 1980 to 354 times that of the average worker today,” Shea-Porter said. “In 2012, the CEO of J.C. Penney (JCP) made 1,795 times that of the average JCP employee. It’s time for publicly traded companies to report on this disparity.”

The letter notes that it is important for investors to know the salaries of chief executives at publicly traded corporations. At the same time, it is essential that these salaries be contextualized through comparison with the median employee salary at the firm. The proposed rule also reflects public concern over disparate levels of executive compensation and the need to have this information available in an understandable format.

Peter Drucker, one of the 20th century’s best-known business theorists, wrote that the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay was best kept between 20-1 and 25-1. One way to reduce without cutting CEO pay is to raise the wages of the average worker.

The 32 Members of Congress to sign the letter noted that they found no credibility in the idea that the burdens of documenting the ratio between CEO pay and median employee compensation will be too high. “Companies already track how much they spend on personnel including salary and benefits,” the letter reads. “Firms that set up advanced computers for high frequency trading or that master the concept of just-in-time inventory should be able to figure out the median salary using basic software.”

While Congress is trying to create more transparency in CEO pay, organized labor took aim at corporation’s political spending.

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, released the following statement:

We are disappointed that the Securities and Exchange Commission is not including a rulemaking to require disclosure of corporate political spending on its regulatory agenda for 2014.  The SEC’s Division of Corporate Finance had been previously scheduled to consider whether to recommend a proposed rule in 2013.

Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, we have seen a dramatic increase in political spending by corporations.  Yet much of this spending is not disclosed to investors who own public companies.  Without transparency, there is a danger that executives will spend money in ways that do not benefit investors.

Just as labor unions are legally required to publicly disclose their political spending, public companies should be held to the same standard. Nearly 700,000 individuals have written the SEC to support this requested rulemaking. We urge SEC to put corporate political spending disclosure back on its agenda for 2014.”

Many large companies are using their profits to sway political elections and then using their newly gained political clout to push for policies that only benefit the ultra-wealthy 1%.  Manly this is benefiting the corporations CEOs, while the company is taking more from the average worker for healthcare and benefits.

In the 2012 election there was an estimated $6 Billion dollars spent campaigning.  Most of that money was funneled through ‘Super PAC’s’ that do not have to disclose their donors.  Corporations donate millions of dollars to support candidates that will roll back workers rights and labor laws that greatly impact large employers.

We need more transparency from these corporations.  How is their money being used to influence the political process and how much they shell out to their CEO’s?  If we knew some of these details it would shed some light on how easy it would be for employers to raise the wages of the workers.

Congresswoman Kuster Calls For A Vote On Unemployment Insurance

With time running out, Congresswoman Kuster presses for a vote on bill to extend Unemployment Insurance for Granite Staters

In letter to Speaker Boehner, Kuster urges action on legislation to renew the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which would give Granite Staters struggling to find work a vital lifeline

Without Congressional action, 1.3 million Americans – including 1,300 Granite Staters – will be cut off from vital unemployment insurance benefits just days after Christmas

Kuster to Boehner: With less than 10 legislative days remaining before benefits expire, the time to act is now

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With critical unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed set to expire just days after Christmas, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) today called on Speaker Boehner to allow a vote on legislation to renew the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for another year. In a letter to Speaker Boehner, Kuster said that an extension of unemployment insurance benefits will provide a vital lifeline to Granite Staters and other Americans who are still struggling to find work as the economy continues to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. Kuster, who also reiterated her call for Congress to focus like a laser on job creation, underscored that with only ten legislative days remaining before benefits are set to expire, the time for action is now.

“While our economy has made important progress since the Great Recession, too many people in New Hampshire and across the country are still struggling to find work. Now is not the time to cut off unemployment insurance benefits that are helping these families survive as they search for jobs,” Kuster wrote. “I therefore respectfully request that you allow a simple vote on legislation that will protect these benefits and the hardworking families who count on them.”

Last month, Kuster cosponsored legislation that would extend unemployment insurance benefits for another year and highlighted a report which estimated that without Congressional action, 1.3 million Americans – including 1,300 Granite Staters – would be cut off from their benefits on December 28.

Last year, unemployment compensation helped keep 2.5 million Americans out of poverty, including 600,000 children. Not only would losing these benefits hurt New Hampshire families, it would also have a negative impact on economic growth. Recent estimates have found that allowing the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program to expire would cost our economy 310,000 jobs and reduce first-quarter economic growth by roughly four-tenths of a percentage point in 2014.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was first authorized in 2008 and has been reauthorized on several occasions since then, most recently as part of the Jan. 1, 2013 fiscal cliff agreement, with the number of weeks of federal benefits substantially reduced over the last two years.

Key findings from the report Kuster highlighted last month include:

  • 1,300 Granite Staters will lose unemployment insurance on December 28, 2013
  • Failure to extend unemployment insurance would cost economy 310,000 jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute
  • 37% of unemployed have been without a job for longer than six months
  • Economy still has 2 million fewer jobs than before Great Recession began

A member of the House Small Business Committee, Kuster has prioritized efforts to foster job creation, grow the economy, and expand opportunity for middle class families. Last month, she hosted a Career and Opportunities Fair,  toured a West Lebanon brewery to discuss legislation that would cut taxes on New Hampshire’s small brewers, visited a Salem company to highlight the importance of boosting small business exports, and hosted a 21st century workforce roundtable in Hudson with students, business owners, and education leaders.

She has also introduced legislation to extend and expand a federal pilot program to help boost small businesses exports, supported legislation to make permanent the federal research and development tax credit, helped lead the fight to prevent pending regulations from harming New England farmers, and worked to protect New Hampshire small businesses from burdensome online sales tax collection requirements.

The full text of the letter is below:

December 3, 2013

Dear Speaker Boehner:

With fewer than ten legislative days remaining before unemployment insurance benefits are set to expire, I write to urge you to immediately allow a vote on legislation that will extend these vital benefits for individuals who are still struggling to find work.  As you know, without Congressional action, 1.3 million jobless Americans – including more than 1,300 individuals in my home state of New Hampshire – will lose their unemployment insurance benefits just days after Christmas. 

Not only would losing these benefits be a painful blow to my constituents who are still struggling to find work, but it would also hurt our economy. Some recent projections have found that allowing the Emergency Unemployment Insurance program to expire would cost our economy more than 300,000 jobs while shaving four-tenths of a percentage point from first quarter economic growth in 2014.  That would hurt the long-term unemployed in my district and negatively impact our entire economy.

While our economy has made important progress since the Great Recession, too many people in New Hampshire and across the country are still struggling to find work.  Now is not the time to cut off unemployment insurance benefits that are helping these families survive as they search for jobs.  I therefore respectfully request that you allow a simple vote on legislation that will protect these benefits and the hardworking families who count on them.  With fewer than ten days to act, Congress needs to immediately extend these vital benefits and focus like a laser on creating jobs and opportunity for the middle class. 

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue.

Judge’s ruling: giving more power to Congress, jeopardizing Detroit retirees

IOU in a piggy bank by Images of Money via FlikrSo, earlier today a federal judge ruled that Detroit’s “Emergency Manager” could go ahead with bankruptcy proceedings – and, as part of the bankruptcy, cut public pension benefits that would otherwise be protected by Michigan’s state Constitution.

Judge Rhodes ruled Tuesday that Michigan’s [constitutional] protections for public pensions “do not apply to the federal bankruptcy court,” adding that pensions are not entitled to “any extraordinary attention” compared with other debts.  (Read the New York Times article here.)

Think about that, carefully – because to me, that is the single most frightening part of this whole situation.  The judge held that federal bankruptcy law trumps a state constitution.

One more time: according to this morning’s ruling, a law passed by Congress can invalidate a provision of a state constitution.

Take a minute and look at all those rights guaranteed by the New Hampshire Constitution.  (Read it here.)

Now, think about what it means, if Congress has the power to take those freedoms away.

Article 7 of the New Hampshire Constitution:
The people of this state have the sole and exclusive right of governing themselves as a free, sovereign, and independent state; and do, and forever hereafter shall, exercise and enjoy every power, jurisdiction, and right, pertaining thereto, which is not, or may not hereafter be, by them expressly delegated to the United States of America in congress assembled.

How does that work, if state constitutions can be trumped by a federal law?

Read previous NH Labor News coverage of the Detroit situation here.

Read the statement from AFT President Randi Weingarten on this ruling here.

———-

Meanwhile, in Illinois, the state Legislature is meeting behind closed doors to discuss a legislative proposal to cut public pension benefits.  The bill was formally filed yesterday.  The vote is expected later today.

Read yesterday’s NH Labor News story about Illinois here.

 

The SEIU Pushes For Immigration Reform With Targeted TV Ads

Have you seen this?  The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has been pushing new immigration advertisements in key districts across the country.

Earlier this year the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill with bi-partisan, support yet the Speaker of the House John Boehner, wants nothing to do with it.  This has prompted new personalized advertisements from the SEIU and the AFL-CIO. (Click here for post on AFL-CIO immigration ads.)

“Our message to these House Republicans is clear,” said SEIU Executive Vice President Rocio Saenz. “Enough talk – it is time for action. If Republican members support commonsense immigration reform, they must tell Speaker Boehner that that time is now to bring a bill to the floor for a vote that includes a pathway to citizenship.”

SEIU immigration rally _1The SEIU is calling out Congressional Representatives by names that are obstructing the pathway to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.   The cable and broadcast television ads which started running last week in the districts of GOP Representatives Gary Miller (CA-31), Joe Heck (NV-3), Mike Coffman (CO-6), Rodney Davis (IL-13), David Joyce (OH-14), John Kline (MN-2) and Michael Grimm (NY-11). In addition, an ad directed at Speaker Boehner (OH-8) will run in the Washington, DC market.

The SEIU is not holding anything back in their drive to pass immigration reform.  The ad buy, in excess of $500,000, is in addition to the $2.5 million SEIU has already dedicated this year to paid media in a multi-pronged field and legislative campaign to pass commonsense immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.

Immigration reform is not an issue that Republicans in swing districts can ignore. Recent polling of eight Republican congressional districts, commissioned by SEIU, shows that voters in swing districts are angry with their House members about the government shutdown. Further alienating their constituents is their inaction on immigration reform, something that is extremely popular across party lines. Polling also found that voters are more inclined to vote for their representatives in 2014 if they vote for commonsense immigration reform.

One year out from the mid-term elections, Speaker Boehner is putting members of his caucus at risk. Commonsense immigration reform is smart politics, good policy and the right thing to do,” said Saenz

The time for acting on immigration reform is now, and the labor movement has decided to throw down in a big way to make it happen,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.  “Every day, over 1,000 people are deported, while House Republicans refuse to act on immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship and workers’ rights.  We won’t stop until the deportation crisis ends and aspiring Americans have the roadmap to citizenship they deserve.”

When will the obstructionism in the House end? Will this do-nothing Congress get off their asses and pass immigration reforms that are supported by the majority of Americans?

About 71 percent of voters surveyed nationwide said they would back an immigration bill that contains the following provisions: border security, an expanded visa program for high-skilled workers and agricultural workers, an employment verification system, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented children and legal status for immigrants in the United States illegally.” (Politico)

Only time will tell if the House Republicans will do what is good for our country and our economy, or just do what they are good at — absolutely nothing.

 

(View all of the SEIU Immigration ad here)

Congresswoman Kuster Pushes For House To Pass ENDA On National Transgender Remembrance Day

Kuster to Boehner: Don’t Stand In the Way of Ending Workplace Discrimination

During a speech urging House action on ENDA, Kuster shares story of a teenage transgender constituent who is fearful about his job prospects 

Senate already passed ENDA with bipartisan support earlier this month, but Speaker Boehner has called this vital legislation unnecessary and refuses to allow a vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, on National Transgender Day of Remembrance, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) called on Speaker of the House John Boehner to allow a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), legislation that would end workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. During her remarks on the House floor, Kuster shared a story from a transgender teenage constituent who supports ENDA, and who is fearful about his job prospects if the legislation doesn’t become law. ENDA recently passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support, but Speaker Boehner has refused to allow a simple vote on the legislation in the House.

“Earlier this month, the Senate made history by passing employment protections for transgender workers for the first time ever. This bipartisan legislation is about one thing: ensuring that all Americans – regardless of who they are or who they love – are treated with the dignity and equality they deserve,” Kuster said. “Last week, I heard from a teenage constituent in New Hampshire who would be deeply impacted by this bill. This young man is just beginning to search for his first job, and he is worried that he will be at a significant disadvantage right off the bat just because he is transgender.”

Following Senate passage of ENDA earlier this month, Kuster said that “no one should ever fear being fired from their job or harassed in the workplace because of who they are or who they love – period.” Kuster is an original co-sponsor of ENDA.

Kuster’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Today, as we mark National Transgender Remembrance Day, I rise in support of H.R. 1755, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Earlier this month, the Senate made history by passing employment protections for transgender workers for the first time ever.

This bipartisan legislation is about one thing: ensuring that all Americans – regardless of who they are or who they love – are treated with the dignity and equality they deserve.

Last week, I heard from a teenage constituent in New Hampshire who would be deeply impacted by this bill.

This young man is just beginning to search for his first job, and he is worried that he will be at a significant disadvantage right off the bat just because he is transgender.

Finding a job in tough economic times is hard enough without the obstacle of discrimination.

We must work toward becoming a country that rewards the hard work of every person – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

My constituent, and every American, deserves a vote on ENDA.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster Calls For Immediate Extension Of Unemployment Insurance

 With Clock Ticking, Congress Must Extend Unemployment Insurance for Granite State Families, Focus on Job Creation

Unveils new report showing that without Congressional action, 1.3 million Americans – including 1,300 Granite Staters – will be cut off from vital unemployment insurance just days after Christmas

Kuster: We must provide critical assistance to long-term unemployed and focus like a laser on helping create jobs

 WASHINGTON, D.C. With critical unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed set to expire just days after Christmas, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) today called on Congress to immediately extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and take aggressive steps to help boost job creation in New Hampshire and across the country. Kuster highlighted a new House Ways and Means Committee report which estimates that without Congressional action, 1.3 million Americans – including 1,300 Granite Staters – will immediately be cut off from unemployment insurance on December 28 if Congress does not reauthorize the program.

“If Congress fails to act soon, more than one thousand Granite Staters will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of the year,” Kuster said. “Losing these vital benefits will be a body-blow to New Hampshire families who are already struggling to find work and make ends meet. After wasting weeks on a pointless government shutdown that hurt our economy, Congress needs to come together to extend these benefits and focus on helping create jobs and opportunity for Granite Staters.”

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was first authorized in 2008 and has been reauthorized on several occasions since then, most recently as part of the Jan. 1, 2013 fiscal cliff agreement, with the number of weeks of federal benefits substantially reduced over the last two years.

Key points from the report include:

  • 1,300 Granite Staters will lose unemployment insurance on December 28, 2013
  • Failure to extend unemployment insurance would cost economy 310,000 jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute
  • 37% of unemployed have been without a job for longer than six months
  • Economy still has 2 million fewer jobs than before Great Recession began

A member of the House Small Business Committee, Kuster has prioritized efforts to foster job creation, grow the economy, and expand opportunity for middle class families.

In November, Kuster is hosting a Career and Opportunities Fair in Nashua that will bring together local employers and job seekers.

Shaheen Calls For Swift Passage Of The Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Shaheen: No one should be hired or fired because of sexual orientation or gender identity

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is urging her colleagues to swiftly pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to important protections from workplace discrimination.  In remarks on the Senate floor, Shaheen drew parallels between the struggle for equality during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and similar struggles LGBT Americans are dealing with today.  

Below are Senator Shaheen’s remarks as prepared for delivery: 

Mr. President, almost fifty years ago Congress passed the Civil Rights Act.

This landmark legislation prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, and gender in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Most of us in the Senate recall the passage of this legislation.

And many of us saw firsthand painful examples of the legally-sanctioned discrimination that existed before the Civil Rights Act.

My elementary school years were spent in a state where black and white Americans were treated differently under the law.

I can still picture the separate water fountains for blacks and whites. I recall vividly going to the movie theater where black Americans could only sit in the balcony.

These practices were wrong, and they ended only because of the Civil Rights Act.

This week the Senate has the opportunity to extend our national quest for equal opportunity for all by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

This legislation simply prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

I am proud to be a cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, just as I was proud as Governor of New Hampshire 16 years ago to sign legislation making New Hampshire only the 10th state to include sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination laws.

That state legislation went further than the bill before the Senate this week. It not only covered employment, but housing and public accommodations as well.

Both the New Hampshire senate and house were controlled by Republicans. The bill passed both bodies with large bipartisan majorities. It was not seen as a partisan issue.

Including sexual orientation in New Hampshire’s anti-discrimination laws was just another step forward in our state’s long history of promoting civil rights.

No one should be hired or fired in the United States because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

I realize that no law can erase prejudice from someone’s heart. Prejudice will continue to exist after the Employment Non-Discrimination Act becomes law, I know.

That’s not the issue.

The issue is whether it is acceptable as a matter of law in the United States to hire or fire someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In declaring our independence from Great Britain, our founders stated “[w]e hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….”

Equality under the law is part of our national creed.

Let’s take another step forward this week in advancing equal opportunity for all.

Let’s pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with a strong bipartisan majority.

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