New Hampshire House Passes Bill to Protect Consumers From Destructive Utility Transactions

Telecom workers applaud legislative action

photo by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) via Wikimedia CommonsConcord, NH—By a voice vote, the New Hampshire House of Representatives today passed HB 1314, which will work to ensure better oversight of large telecommunications utility mergers and acquisitions. The bill, introduced by Rep. Linda DiSilvestro (D-Manchester), would create a legislative committee to study the process by which the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) reviews large telecommunications utility transactions on behalf of consumers. The bill came about as a direct response to the 2007 merger between Verizon and FairPoint Communications. 

When FairPoint took over Verizon’s landline operations, consumers suffered,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2320, which represents approximately 700 telecom workers at FairPoint Communications across the state. “Calls were dropped, services were unavailable, and wait times were very lengthy. If this bill were in place then, the PUC could have done its due diligence, seen that FairPoint was unprepared for this merger, and stopped the sale.”

Many other states, including Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont, currently require the PUC to find that public utility mergers or sales are in the public interest before they can proceed. HB 1314 would bring New Hampshire in line with its neighbors.

“We believe the hedge funds that control FairPoint are looking to flip it to other Wall Street investors,” Brackett added. “New Hampshire’s communities need a public interest standard to protect consumers from the next big merger.

HB 1314 now goes to the Senate for approval, followed by signature or veto by the governor. If signed into law, the study committee – made up of five members of the New Hampshire legislature – would meet in June to study the introduction of a public interest finding, with a report due in November.

For more information, visit www.fairnessatfairpoint.com.

 

PSNH Building Mechanics and Attendant Ratify First Contract

IBEW Asst. B.M. Tom Ryan congratulates Tom Eaton on first contract.
IBEW Asst. B.M. Tom Ryan congratulates Tom Eaton on first contract.

IBEW Asst. B.M. Tom Ryan congratulates Tom Eaton on first contract.

Reposted from IBEW 1837

November 26, 2013 – The Building Mechanics and Attendant at Public Service Company of New Hampshire have ratified their first collective bargaining agreement and have officially become members of IBEW Local Union #1837. The contract vote was held this morning at the PSNH garage facility in Manchester.

“I want to thank Building Mechanic Tom Eaton for all the good work he did on this contract and his willingness to also step up and become a Shop Steward,” IBEW 1837 Assistant Business Manager Tom Ryan said. “It’s a good first agreement for these workers, especially since they will be getting the terms and conditions of the large PSNH contract.”

There are currently three Building Mechanics at PSNH. They are responsible for the maintenance, repair and installation of building and mechanical systems including plumbing, heating, electrical work, HVAC, and building controls throughout the company’s service area. The Building Attendant has a wide range of responsibilities including the design, moving and installation of furniture and office systems, as well as other duties.

“We’re pretty excited to align ourselves with IBEW and start to enjoy the benefits that our co-workers share,” Eaton said after the initial National Labor Relations Board vote last June to be represented by the Union. “It’ll be good to have the security of being part of the large bargaining unit.”

“Winning the vote to join the Union is a big first step, but the challenge of securing a first contract can be even more difficult,” IBEW 1837 Organizer Matthew Beck said. “I’m sure all of our members will join me in congratulating them on this great accomplishment.”

“Working with the guys at the Union made it easy for us,” continued Eaton. “It was smooth, easy, and everybody on both sides was very cordial.”

Congresswoman Shea-Porter Meets with Paul O’Connor (Shipyard Metal Trades Council) to Discuss Continuing Effects of Sequestration

Submarine enroute to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

This afternoon, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) met with Paul O’Connor, President of the Shipyard Metal Trades Council, to discuss the destructive effects of sequestration and the need for Congress to replace these reckless cuts with a responsible budget.

March 21, 2013 rally at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Rally against Sequestration on March 21, 2013 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

“Our shipyard will not survive another 9 ½ years of sequestration” O’Connor told Shea-Porter during their meeting in her Washington D.C. office. “Sequestration was never intended to be a sensible budget cutting device. It was a scheme of cuts so damaging that Congress would be forced to work together to avoid them. This is a bad law and it must end.”

Workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are among the roughly 650,000 U.S. Department of Defense employees who experienced up to 11 days of unpaid furloughs between July and September, suddenly reducing their income by 20 percent for the duration of the furloughs.

“I cannot stress this enough, Congress must pass a responsible budget that creates jobs and eliminates sequestration,” Shea-Porter said. “The men and women at the Shipyard are essential to our national defense and contribute $660 million to the region’s economy. Continuing the cuts of sequestration is unfair to these men and women, and it is a deeply misguided approach.”

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, sequestration will cost our economy up to 1.6 million jobs through 2014. According to a George Mason University study, the economic impact in New Hampshire is estimated to be $468 million in 2013.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter did not vote for sequestration and she spoke out against these indiscriminate cuts even before she was sworn into the 113th Congress. Since then, she has consistently spoken out in opposition to sequestration’s reckless cuts.

Lights, Camera, New Hampshire: How Movies Can Move The Economy

Image from Amy Clarke Films
Image from Amy Clarke Films

Image from Amy Clarke Films

Do you like movies? I love movies.  I stood in line for hours just to get into a midnight showing of Star Wars (yes, I am a nerd).  I am the reason they make four-disc versions of the Lord of the Rings.  I love to see how movies are made.   Movie making is fun, interesting, and a huge economic boost to local communities.

The average cost just to make a movie is around $35 million.  That is small change compared to the $100 million for major studio motion pictures.  That does not even include the $40-$50 million you need to distribute and promote each movie.

Can you imagine what that money would for to the New Hampshire economy?

That is why people in New Hampshire are working to draw movie-makers to New Hampshire.   Rep Jeffery Goley has submitted HB 540 as a way to create jobs and boost our economy.

HB 540:  This bill establishes a credit against business profits taxes for motion picture production expenditures made in New Hampshire.

In simple terms this means that the state will offer a tax break to motion picture companies who come and film movies here.  Normally I am against most of these types of tax breaks, because they usually only benefits the corporations.  This one is very different.

This is exactly what is happening in New Orleans.

Louisiana’s growing industry has contributed to the continued success of new film production in the United States by leveraging assets that are economically and culturally advantageous to the industry, specifically during times of economic uncertainty. In addition to the generous tax credit, Louisiana has been able to attract and retain consistent film production into the state with the growth of skilled workforce, new infrastructure, and versatility and diversity of locations.

The film production tax credit program was designed to cultivate and sustain a thriving film production industry in Louisiana – and it’s been very successful,” said Stephen Moret, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development. “Louisiana is now No. 3 in the country in film production activity, and the industry supports thousands of jobs in Louisiana that previously did not exist. In fact, third-party economists have estimated the economic impact of film tax credits in Louisiana to be nearly six times the fiscal cost of the tax credits”  (From Forbes)

Lowering the tax for film production has already boosted the local economy in New Orleans. Is there a possibility reducing the tax rate for film producers would result in a loss for New Hampshire? Of course there is; however, there is a significant difference between the film industry and other industries.  The film industry spends millions making a movie and the majority of that money goes to workers. The production company only makes a profit after the film is released.

That brings me back to the $35 million average for film production.

Where does that $35 million go?  How would that $35 million be spent here in NH? The short answer is: people and places.  The production company needs to hire workers to do the filming, and rent places to shoot the scenes.

IATSE 481 Jobs

IATSE 481 Jobs

This is another reason I support this bill.  The jobs we are talking about are not minimum wage Walmart jobs, these are good union wage jobs. The majority of these jobs would go to IATSE members.   IATSE represents over 113,000 stage hands nationwide, who do almost everything except act in the movie.  They represent everyone from the microphone operators to the cinematographers.  They are also the people who build the amazing sets.

Other unions are involved in making a movie:

  • The Screen Actors Guild  (SAG_AFSTRA) represents most of the actors, stunt people, and dancers on the big and small screen.
  • The Screen Writers Guild – that one is a given. (To be eligible for an Academy Award, the writer has to be a member of SWG)
  • The Teamsters are usually tasked with all transportation of people and equipment.
  • The IBEW ensures that all wiring is done correctly and meets safety regulations. They also work with the IATSE crew to provide lighting on and off the set.

There are tons of other union jobs that are used in a movie production.  Movie companies reach out to local unions for police, fire, and EMT details.  There are also unions who represent hair, makeup, and visual effects artists.

Another area that can only be handled by local small businesses: the food!  Every production has food catered for the actors and the crew.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars would be pushed right into local restaurants to deliver food for hundreds of people.  This is something only the local community can provide.

The more movies are filmed in New Hampshire, the more jobs we would create and the more we would boost our local economy.  This bill is an absolute win-win for New Hampshire. I encourage you to contact the NH House Ways and Means Committee and tell them to pass this bill today!

IBEW Airs New Ad Durning CBS Football Games (VIDEO)

IBEW

For well over 100 years the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers have been working for you.  They help to keep our nations electrical grid flowing.  Through harsh winter storms or fall hurricanes, the men and women of the IBEW are there.

They are also there working on pretty much anything that has electricity running through it.  In New Hampshire they also work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard repairing our nations naval fleet.

Today the IBEW is pushing to update our nations infrastructure through new and innovative green energy programs.  They help to design and install new solar energy panels and natural gas power plants.

This week, the IBEW started airing this new advertisement durning CBS football games.

Sen. Ayotte hypocritical on Job Corps By Joseph Casey President of the NH Building Trades Council

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

By Joe Casey

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

Sen. Kelly Ayotte was quick to put on a hard hat and pick up a prop shovel for a photo-op last week to mark the groundbreaking of a federal Job Corps Training Center in Manchester. She and her fellow elected officials patted each other on the back for taking steps to train local workers for the jobs of the future. Unfortunately, thanks in large part to Sen. Ayotte’s efforts, workers who actually build our new Job Corps Center will likely do so without the benefit of a training program of their own, without health insurance and without important workplace protections. It’s hypocritical of Sen. Ayotte to leave New Hampshire construction workers hanging out to dry like this.

Everyone recognizes the importance of creating new ways to train New Hampshire workers for the 21st-century economy. That’s why I have always supported the Job Corps Center’s mission. I truly believe it will bring positive results to the Manchester community and to our state, and most importantly, to the young men and women who will get the training they need to enter the New Hampshire work force.

Unfortunately, this much-needed project has been delayed for more than five years, largely due to Sen. Ayotte’s opposition to worker protections. In 2012, Sen. Ayotte and others pressured the federal government to kill an agreement that would have required contractors on the project to provide an apprenticeship training program, health insurance benefits, important workplace protections and fair wages to their workers. She falsely claimed these protections would favor out-of-state contractors and make it harder for New Hampshire workers to compete for jobs. She has consistently misrepresented the impact protections for workers would have had on the overall cost of the project, and she is misleading the public about the harm her efforts to eliminate those protections will cause to workers and taxpayers.

The truth is, Sen. Ayotte’s efforts will make it easier for Job Corps Center contractors to use undocumented workers, to misclassify their employees as independent contractors and to avoid paying workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance. Skimping on training, health insurance and workplace protections will only serve to make a greater profit for the contractors, not save money for taxpayers or create more New Hampshire jobs in the long run.

I was disappointed to hear Sen. Ayotte tell New Hampshire Public Radio, “When you do remove onerous requirements from Washington, you can actually build projects like this for lower cost.” Unfortunately, this rhetoric couldn’t be further from the truth. Sen. Ayotte may find offering training and health insurance to workers “onerous,” but the truth is, healthy, well-trained workers will perform more efficiently and save the state of New Hampshire a lot of money in the long run. Workers and their families who have health insurance through their job don’t depend on state services when they get sick. Having health insurance means better access to preventive care, which means fewer days out sick. And ensuring the workers who build the Job Corps center have access to a top-notch training program will not only improve the quality of the work they do, it will help New Hampshire’s labor force perform better overall.

Workers in New Hampshire, especially in the construction sector, are still having a tough time. Eliminating requirements for training and health care on projects like the Job Corps Center will mean more workers depending on state services and a poorer value for the taxpayers who are paying for this project. Sen. Ayotte is being hypocritical by touting the importance of building the Job Corps Center on one hand, but insisting that basic training and health benefits for the workers who build it aren’t worth the short-term costs. She and others who pushed for eliminating these protections are missing the big picture. The state of New Hampshire will be more economically secure, healthier and more equitable if more workers have access to training and health benefits. It’s a shame we missed that opportunity with the Job Corps Center.
Joe Casey is the President of the NH Building Trades Council and an IBEW member.  

Without The IBEW, Nik Wallenda’s Grand Canyon Walk Would Never Have Happened

IBEW High Wire

Did you see that crazy guy Nik Wallenda walk 1400 feet across the Grand Canyon on a high wire? This was a record setting moment would not have happened without the hard work and dedication of the IBEW 1249 linemen at O’Connell Electric.   Here is a snippet of the walk that aired on the Discovery Channel.

Without the knowledge and expertise of these linemen from IBEW 1249, this record breaking moment would not have happened.  In fact without their help, you may not have even heard of Nik Wallenda before.  The lineman from IBEW 1249 were responsible for rigging up the two inch wire that Nik walk on when he walked across Niagara Falls.  When he decided to walk across the Grand Canyon, he knew exactly who to call, the IBEW.

Check out this amazing video of how the linemen from O’Connell Electric rigged up the two inch cable across the Grand Canyon and how their work was instrument in the success of Nik’s walk.

NH Advocates Praise President Obama’s New Carbon Pollution Standards

SKY

SKY

New Hampshire Groups Hold News Conference In Support of New Carbon Pollution Standard and Applaud President for “Backing Up His Strong Words With Strong Action.”

Concord, NH – Today, a coalition of New Hampshire groups, businesses and elected officials supporting federal clean air and climate change safeguards held a news conference, to highlight the support of Granite Staters for the historic Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon pollution standard for power plants announced by President Obama this week.

The President’s decision to take action to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants will significantly address, for the first time ever, the largest unlimited source of carbon pollution, namely carbon pollution from power plants.  Power plants contribute 40 percent of the U.S. industrial carbon pollution.  In addition, the President’s plan calls for an expansion of renewable energy sources like wind and solar and investment in energy efficiency to further cut carbon pollution.

Jonathan Gregory, a business owner of SunRay Solar in Concord, NH said, “The President’s plan to reduce carbon emissions and increase renewable energy demonstrates the leadership we need to compete in the new global economy. This is a win-win situation for all — investing in the clean energy economy while protecting the health and environment of New Hampshire for generations to come.”

Heather Fournier of Revision Energy in Exeter, NH affirmed that people and businesses alike in New Hampshire want more clean energy choices that will lower their impact on the environment and their energy bills. The Exeter business has expanded services to Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts over ten years.  Prioritizing carbon cutting could mean more business and creating more jobs.

Jonathan Mitchell, Training Director IBEW Local Union 490 JATC, said, “These efforts — along with measures to help ensure the smooth transition of workers and communities — will help create jobs all across America while also protecting our communities and stimulating investment in clean technologies and products made here in the United States.

At our Concord training facility we have trained hundreds of electricians. Training consists of AC DC theory, electronics, motor controls and fire alarm to name a few.  Not only do we train on the mechanics of the trades, we cover photovoltaic systems (solar panel installation), building automation and lighting design which fall right in line with the President’s plan.

This type of work isn’t new to us as we’ve been doing it for decades. We have the apprentices and journeyman more than qualified for the work the President outlined in his plan. We are ready, willing and able to handle any job in New Hampshire.”

Catherine Corkery Chapter Director of New Hampshire Sierra Club said, “We applaud President Obama for laying out a broad and common-sense plan for meeting our obligation to protect future generations from climate change.” She continued, “Americans are feeling the impacts of climate change already, right here in New Hampshire in fact, from destructive storms to rising sea levels.”

In thanking the President, Environment New Hampshire and the New Hampshire Sierra Club say this action goes a long way towards fulfilling the “obligation to future generations” that the President outlined in his Inauguration and State of the Union before this week’s climate announcement.

Steve Dzubak, Field Organizer with Environment New Hampshire, said “On Tuesday, President Obama responded to the millions of Americans who have spoken out on behalf of their communities and their families, urging him to lead on climate.  All of us who have felt the effects of global warming, or simply worried about what’s in store for future generations, can take comfort in knowing that President Obama has put the nation on a path toward a cleaner, healthier and safer future.”

Tom Irwin, VP and director of Conservation Law Foundation’s New Hampshire office, said  “We are pleased to see the Obama administration taking action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions – pollution that will have dire consequences for our children and grandchildren if not addressed.” He continued, “It’s been more than five years since the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that carbon dioxide emissions are harmful pollutants that endanger the public health and the environment, and that are subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.  We welcome the administration’s commitment to finally implement requirements under the Clean Air Act and reduce carbon emissions from power plants, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.  These are much needed actions that are long overdue.”

Link to President’s Plan 

Text of Presidents Speech

National Fact Sheet from White House

NH Fact Sheet from White House

New Hampshire Impacts

  • In 2012, New Hampshire experienced a total of 17 broken heat records, 12 broken snow records, and 11 broken precipitation records.
  • Each county in New Hampshire has ragweed pollution, and Hillsborough County suffers from both unhealthy smog levels and ragweed.
  • By late century, Concord and Manchester could experience about 70 days over 90°F and more than 20 days over 100°F.
  • About 70% of the state’s counties now face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of climate change.
  • By late century, New Hampshire is expected to see a 20-30% increase in precipitation.
  • New Hampshire has declared disaster 16 times since 2000 due to severe storms and flooding.
  • Sewer overflows are a health risk for 6 communities, including Manchester and Portsmouth.

At Legislator Luncheon, NH Labor Pushes For ‘Job Creating’ Casino Bill

Credit Joe Casey
Credit Joe Casey

Credit Joe Casey

Organized labor united in support of “job creating” bill, makes case for expanded gaming at legislative luncheon

Nearly 300 State Representatives packed the State House Cafeteria today for a legislative luncheon in support of SB152, the bill to create jobs and state revenue by licensing a casino in New Hampshire. The luncheon was sponsored by the New Hampshire labor community, and included presentations from Senator Donna Soucy, NEA President Scott McGilvray, SEA representative Jay Ward, Building Trades President and IBEW 490 Business Manager Joe Casey, Representative Ed Butler, and Matthew Landry of Strategic Market Advisors.

NH Building and Construction Trades Council President Joe Casey issued the following statement:

“The turnout today was incredible, even though we were forced to change the venue at the last minute. It’s clear that support for SB152 is building in the House. The Representatives who attended today understand that SB152 will create thousands of jobs and create a critical revenue stream to fund our state’s priorities.

The New Hampshire labor community is united in support of this bill, and the luncheon today was a great opportunity to showcase that. I was proud to stand alongside Scott McGilvray and Jay Ward, and to speak to the importance of this bill to our memberships. For our part, the construction industry needs our legislators to support SB152 in order to create more than $425 million in private investment that will create thousands of jobs. Estimates show SB152 will create 3,165 on-site construction jobs, 567 indirect construction jobs, another 1,087 jobs through increased economic activity due to construction, and 1,949 full time ongoing jobs in operating the casino. Our legislators have an opportunity to stand with New Hampshire’s working men and women by passing SB152, and the great showing we had at the luncheon today shows that many of them are ready to do that.

The anti-gaming lobby tried every dirty trick in the book to try and stop this luncheon from happening – even stooping to bullying St. Paul’s church into canceling it. Their support is slipping every day, and they’re desperate to stop us from being heard. But we will not be intimidated, and we will make sure there is a full, open, and honest debate on this issue in spite of their dirty tactics. We expect to see more of their big money misinformation campaign in the coming weeks, but the people of New Hampshire support this proposal, and momentum is clearly building among our legislators. No amount of dirty tricks and robo calls from the anti-casino lobby can stop that. ”

Sponsors of today’s event include:

NH Building and Construction Trades Council
IBEW 104
IBEW 490
IBEW 2320
Granite State Teamsters
Ironworkers Local 7
NEA NH
NH Troopers Association
Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 131
Professional Fire Fighters of NH
State Employees Association

14 Days of Furlough Is Better Than 22, But It Is No Win

US_Capitol_by_DBKing_Flikr

US_Capitol_by_DBKing_FlikrYesterday it was announced that the Department of Defense would reduce the number of forced furloughs for DOD civilian employees from 22 days (one month over the next six) to 14 workdays.

“Most Defense Department civilians can expect 14 furlough days this year instead of the previously planned 22 days, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed Thursday, adding that the department needs additional flexibility to respond to across-the-board budget cuts from sequestration.”
(GovExec.com)

This is somewhat good news for the over 5000 workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard who have been fighting back against the mandatory sequester cuts.

Giving workers almost two work weeks of pay back, or in other words not taking two weeks worth of pay is good, however it should not be called a win.  The fact that the DOD is going to take another three weeks of pay from these men and women is a shame.

“Federal employee unions were not buying into the Hagel’s reasoning. Defense is not taking full advantage of the added flexibility and “needs to eliminate furloughs entirely,” the American Federation of Government Employees said in a statement Thursday.”

“The department’s leaders have always had the flexibility to impose budget cuts from sequestration in any way they chose,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. stated. “Although reducing the number of furlough days from 22 to 14 shows that they’re listening, they still haven’t gotten the whole message.”
(GovExec.com) (see full release from AFGE)

We need to continue to push our elected Congressional Representatives and U.S. Senators to pass a budget that will eliminate all of the furloughs throughout the government.  The Sequester has already begun and companies have already started to shed workers due to these cuts.  For federal employees there is still time to fix this problem before real harm is done to these middle class families.  Most of the furloughs will not take effect until the second week of April.  This means that Congress could come back from their vacation (recess) and do what they are elected to do.  Pass a budget to remove the sequester cuts, and keep the federal government open for business.

John Joyal a worker at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, NH summed it up completely at a rally to cancel the cuts last week.  He said:

The men and women at that shipyard over there – every single day, they put their politics aside, their gender aside, their religion aside, their ideological beliefs aside, you name it, they put everything aside to go perform the people’s business.

“That flag right there does not belong to the right-wing of the GOP of our Congress, that flag belongs to the American people. What the US Congress needs to do is, they need to grow up, put their differences aside, go into a room and perform the people’s business just like the people on this island do, every single day.

(Video of John Joyal’s speech, a must watch)