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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.

Why We Need A Single Payer Healthcare System Over The ACA

Many people have issues with the way that the Affordable Care Act has been unrolled. There are many issues with the federal website.  Even with all of that people are still signing up as fast as they can.

People constantly attack me on Facebook and Twitter about the ACA.  They want to repeal it because it will cost us to much money, or because lazy people should not have healthcare.  My answer is always the same, ‘the ACA is not perfect, it is a major step in the right direction’.   The best thing we could do is move to a single payer healthcare system.   We could stop arguing about who is covered and who is not, a start helping our fellow Americans.

Below is an editorial from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on why a single payer system is better than the ACA.  The editorial was published on September 30th, the day before the federal exchanges went into effect.

A single-payer system, like Medicare, is the cure for America’s ailing healthcare

Obamacare’s reforms are a welcome but small step. To give all Americans healthcare as a right, we need a fair, efficient solution.

I start my approach to healthcare from two very basic premises. First, healthcare must be recognized as a right, not a privilege. Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the healthcare they need regardless of their income. Second, we must create a national healthcare system that provides quality healthcare for all in the most cost-effective way possible.

Tragically, the United States is failing in both areas.

It is unconscionable that in one of the most advanced nations in the world, there are nearly 50 million people who lack health insurance and millions more who have burdensome co-payments and deductibles. In fact, some 45,000 Americans die each year because they do not get to a doctor when they should. In terms of life expectancy, infant mortality and other health outcomes, the United States lags behind almost every other advanced country.

Despite this unimpressive record, the US spends almost twice as muchper person on healthcare as any other nation. As a result of an incredibly wasteful, bureaucratic, profit-making and complicated system, the US spends 17% of its gross domestic product – approximately $2.7tn annually– on healthcare. While insurance companies, drug companies, private hospitals and medical equipment suppliers make huge profits, Americans spend more and get less for their healthcare dollars.

What should the US be doing to improve this abysmal situation?

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a start. It prevents insurance companies from denying patients coverage for pre-existing conditions, allows people up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance, sets minimum standards for what insurance must cover and helps lower-income Americans afford health insurance. When the marketplace exchanges open for enrollment on Tuesday, many Americans will find the premiums will be lower than the ones they’re paying now. Others will find the coverage is much more comprehensive than their current plans.

Most importantly, another 20 million Americans will receive health insurance. This is a modest step forward. But if we are serious about providing quality care for all, much more needs to be done.

The only long-term solution to America’s healthcare crisis is a single-payer national healthcare program.

The good news is that, in fact, a large-scale single-payer system already exists in the United States and its enrollees love it. It is called Medicare. Open to all Americans over 65 years of age, the program has been a resounding success since its introduction 48 years ago. Medicare should be expanded to cover all Americans.

Such a single-payer system would address one of the major deficiencies in the current system: the huge amount of money wasted on billing and administration. Hospitals and independent medical practices routinely employ more billing specialists than doctors – and that’s not the end of it. Patients and their families spend an enormous amount of time and effort arguing with insurance companies and bill collectors over what is covered and what they owe. Drug companies and hospitals spend billions advertising their products and services.

Creating a simple system with one payer, covering all Americans, would result in an enormous reduction in administrative expenses. We would be spending our money on healthcare and disease prevention, not on paper-pushing and debt collection.

Further, a single-payer system will expand employment opportunities and lift a financial weight off of businesses encumbered by employee health expenses. Many Americans remain at their current jobs because of the decent health insurance provided by their employer. Without the worry of losing benefits, those Americans will be free to explore other, more productive opportunities as they desire. For business owners, lifting the burden of employee healthcare expenditures will free them to invest in growing their businesses.

Congressman Jim McDermott and I have introduced the American Health Security Act. Our bill will provide every American with healthcare coverage and services through a state-administered, single-payer program, including dental and mental health coverage and low-cost prescription drugs. It would require the government to develop national policies and guidelines, as well as minimum national criteria, while giving each state the flexibility to adapt the program as needed. It would also completely overhaul the health coverage system, creating a single federal payer of state-administered health plans.

The American people understand that our current healthcare system is not working. But the time is long overdue for them to understand that there is something fundamentally wrong when the US remains the only country in the industrialized world that does not guarantee healthcare to all its people.

Healthcare is a right and we must ensure provision of that right for Americans. A single-payer system will be good for the average American, good for businesses, good for workers and good for our overall economy.

US House Got the Message: Job-Creating Infrastructure Investments Are Bipartisan

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement on passage of H.R.3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), by a vote of 417-3:

“The House of Representatives took a big step forward last night when it passed WRRDA by more than 400 votes, bringing us closer to enacting the first water resources jobs bill since 2007.

“The margin by which this bill passed shows that with strong leadership and a willingness to stare down those incapable of ever admitting there is a role for strategic public investments, it is possible to pass bipartisan jobs-creating transportation legislation. The benefits to America’s competitiveness and economy from improvements to our ports, harbors and waterways overcame intense opposition from extremist organizations that through their opposition to WRRDA were essentially making the case for America’s retreat from the global economy. Fortunately they lost and our economy won.

“We hope this bipartisan approach to port and maritime funding reforms will carry forward to other important transportation measures including the broken and unreliable way we invest in aviation, public transit and highways, and Amtrak.

“We thank House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV) and subcommittee leaders for driving this jobs bill home. We look forward to working with them to reconcile House-Senate differences in WRRDA so that a final bill can get to the President’s desk without delay and we can get to work expanding and modernizing our nation’s aging port and maritime infrastructure.”

When can we stop adding teachers’ names to this list?

Sunrise over Shiloh National Cemetery

To the family of Michael Landsberry… and to all teachers across the United States…

Our hearts are with you tonight.  We grieve with you.  We long for the day when our nation’s schools can truly be “the safe sanctuaries our children need to learn and grow.”

It has been barely 10 months since Sandy Hook.  Since then, almost 28,000 Americans — including hundreds of children — have been killed by guns.

We are heartbroken that another teacher’s name has been added to that tally.

 

The real story behind Congressional dysfunction

Take five minutes and watch…

Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen explains how Speaker Boehner bends to the will of the Tea Party Caucus — and keeps the House from voting on bills that would pass, if members were just allowed to vote.

Just one example:

If the Speaker of the House brought up the comprehensive immigration bill – that has already passed the Senate – if he brought that up for a vote in the House today, it would pass.  We could have it on the President’s desk by this afternoon.

 

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