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At Raising Wages Summit The “Voices Of Workers” Highlight The Struggles Of Working Families

The first ever New Hampshire Raising Wages Summit was held in Concord on Saturday. The summit, a policy discussion with a focus on the importance of raising wages, drew more than 200 people to hear a whole host of speakers.

The headliners, Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, both spoke about raising the minimum wage and the affects of the proposed TPP on workers.

Interlaced between the headliners was what organizers referred to as the “Voices of Workers.” The Voices of Workers were short speeches from local workers and union activists.

Deb Howes, a Nashua teacher and American Federation of Teachers member, talked about the impact of our current low-wage employment system on the children in her classroom. She explained how living in poverty affects a child’s ability to learn, and chastised politicians who want to take away free lunch programs that ensure that children can get at least one healthy meal a day.

Howes is also the chairwoman of the Nashua Labor Coalition that is currently building momentum against the proposed privatization of AFSCME custodians in the Nashua School District. At the summit Howes stated, “eliminating good paying jobs for low-wage contractors will only hurt our community.”

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The elimination of good paying jobs was the forefront of the Fairness at FairPoint campaign as International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Communication Workers of America (CWA) members spent months on strike last winter.

James Lemay, an IBEW member and FairPoint employee spoke about how hard it was for workers during the strike. He talked about how the company did not seem to care about the workers or bargaining in good faith with the union, they only cared their stock prices and earnings statements.

After months on strike the IBEW and CWA reached an agreement with FairPoint and workers could finally go back to work.

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Janice Kelble, a retired postal worker and American Postal Workers Union member, talk about her struggles bouncing from job to job and the discrimination she endured as a low-wage worker.   Even though it has been a number of years since Kelble was living on minimum wage, the fact is that her story could have been told by any low-wage work struggling to survive on today’s poverty wages.

Kelble eventually got a job with the USPS service where she immediately joined the union, became a steward and began her unofficial career as an advocate for workers.

Kelble said she often wonders how different her life would have been if not for her good paying union job.

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As Kelble pointed out it has been many years since she had to survive on minimum wage, that is not the case for recent Manchester high school graduate Adol Mashut.

As an immigrant, a woman, and a recent graduate she has quickly learned how hard it is to live on minimum wage. Mashut struggles to balance her work and college classes in hopes to get a degree that will allow her to get a better paying job in the future.

Mashut is also the product of an amazing community outreach program called the Granite State Organizing Project. GSOP is a faith based, non-profit that helps immigrants and low-income families through mentoring and assistance. GSOP continues to push for policies that help working families like raising the minimum wage and expanding access to affordable healthcare and opposes policies like “title loans” that charge people upwards of 400% for an emergency loan.

 

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Mashut is working and taking classes in the hopes of acquiring a college degree, but college is not for everyone. Thanks to unions there is still a way for workers to learn a valuable skill and work their way into the middle class.

Samantha Novotny is starting her second year as an apprentice with the IBEW local 490 in Concord. “The union provides great classroom training as well as on-the-job training and work experience,” she said.

As she progresses in her apprentice training she will continue to gain more certifications and real world experience which will ultimately result in higher pay and the chance to start saving for her retirement.

Novotny recently became “sworn in” as an official member of the IBEW. “I truly feel that I am setting myself up for a long-lasting and successful career,” said Novotny.

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While many of these Voices of Workers’ stories were positive, the reality of low-wage workers is not as bright and shiny. Many are living paycheck to paycheck working 50 to 60 hours a week between multiple jobs with little to no hope for the future.

Millions of people across the country are living in poverty due to the fact that we have failed to ensure that their hard work will actually pay the bills.

As the 2016 elections continue to ramp up, we need to ensure that every candidate, from Presidential to State Representative to Mayoral will work to raise the minimum wage and help lift these workers out of poverty.


 

Please read our other stories about the Raising Wages Summit

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Addresses the NH Raising Wages Summit

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro Inspires The Crowd At The NH Raising Wages Summit

Governor Hassan Will Continue To Fight To Raise Wages and Expand Middle Class Opportunity

How Raising Wages Effects Seniors and Social Security, a speech by NH Alliance for Retired Americans President Lucy Edwards.


 

 

Jeb Bush’s Policies: Downright Scary For The Middle Class

Image by Peter Kudlacz FLIKR

Image by Peter Kudlacz FLIKR

CONCORD, N.H. – Jeb Bush is back in the Granite State right before the scariest day of the year. And it’s fitting, too, because his policies for Granite State families? They’re down right scary for middle class Americans.

“Jeb Bush’s policies are more than scary – they would be a nightmare for Granite State families,” said Lizzy Price, New Hampshire Democratic Party Communications Director. “From his zombie tax plan, resurrected from the last Bush presidency, that would give massive cuts to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class to his illusionist trick to vanish the Affordable Care Act, hurting over 90,000 Granite Staters that have gained coverage, it’s fitting that Jeb Bush is in the Granite State this time of year – his policies are downright spooky.” 

The Undead: Jeb Bush’s Resurrected Tax Plan

Jeb Bush’s tax plan is straight out of the graveyard. It’s a resurrection of his brother’s massive tax cuts for the uber-wealthy and corporations at the expense of the middle class, but with even more tax breaks for the wealthy.  Watching the rich get more tax breaks while Granite State families are just trying to get by is straight out of an episode of Walking Dead. 

The Illusionist: Jeb Bush would make the ACA Disappear

Jeb Bush wants to vanish the Affordable Care Act into thin air, which would vanish coverage for 90,000 Granite Staters. His plan to take us back to the days of skyrocketing costs and lower quality patient care, all while taking away coverage from thousands and increasing the deficit is worse than a nightmare.

The House of Mirrors: Under Jeb Bush, Women would be Stuck with Fewer Places to Turn for Health Care

Jeb Bush has made it clear – his policies would roll back women’s health services. He has boasted about cutting funding in Florida for Planned Parenthood and he’d cut funding for critical preventative services leaving women stuck in a metaphorical House of Mirrors, with fewer places to turn for basic health care. 

The Marionette: Jeb Bush’s Energy Plan

Jeb Bush’s energy plan sounds like it was written by oil companies, but like he did in Florida, Bush has embraced a disastrous economic agenda that benefits himself and people like him, while considerations for tourism, public safety, clean water, clean air, and the environment have taken a backseat entirely. He just can’t seem to cut the puppet-master’s strings.

Granite State Rumblings: 10 Ways To Cut Poverty And Grow The Middle Class

Happy Family ( FLIKR CC David Amsler)

Happy Family ( FLIKR CC David Amsler)

I spend a lot of time writing and working on poverty related issues and to some it may seem that I have little interest in talking about or protecting the middle class. This is not case. Issues that affect those living in poverty and policies that help move individuals out of poverty all relate to and have a direct impact on the middle class. A large and stable middle class has been central to America’s wealth and stability for decades. To help make the case, I am sharing a recent brief from Rebecca Vallas, Associate Director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress and Melissa Boteach, Vice President of Half in Ten and the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center.

The Top Ten Solutions to Cut Poverty and Grow the Middle Class

The Census Bureau released its annual income, poverty, and health insurance report yesterday, revealing that four years into the economic recovery, there has been some progress in the poverty rate as it fell from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent in 2013, but there was no statistically significant improvement in the number of Americans living in poverty.
Furthermore, low- and middle-income workers have seen little to no income growth over the past decade, as the gains from economic growth have gone largely to the wealthiest Americans.

With flat incomes and inequality stuck at historically high levels, one might assume that chronic economic insecurity and an off-kilter economy are the new normal and that nothing can be done to fix it. But there is nothing normal or inevitable about elevated poverty levels and stagnant incomes. They are the direct result of policy choices that put wealth and income into the hands of a few at the expense of growing a strong middle class.

The good news is that different policy choices can bring different outcomes. When the government invests in jobs and policies to increase workers’ wages and families’ economic security, children and families see improved outcomes in both the short and long term.

Here are 10 steps Congress can take to cut poverty, boost economic security, and expand the middle class.

1. Create jobs

The best pathway out of poverty is a well-paying job. To get back to prerecession employment levels, we must create 5.6 million new jobs. At the current pace, however, we will not get there until July 2018. To kick-start job growth, the federal government should invest in job-creation strategies such as rebuilding our infrastructure; developing renewable energy sources; renovating abandoned housing; and making other common-sense investments that create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods, and boost our national economy. We should also build on proven models of subsidized employment to help the long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged workers re-enter the labor force.

In addition, the extension of federal unemployment insurance would have created 200,000 new jobs in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Indeed, every $1 in benefits that flows to jobless workers yields more than $1.50 in economic activity. Unfortunately, Congress failed to extend federal unemployment insurance at the end of 2013, leaving 1.3 million Americans and their families without this vital economic lifeline.

2. Raise the minimum wage

In the late 1960s, a full-time worker earning the minimum wage could lift a family of three out of poverty. Had the minimum wage back then been indexed to inflation, it would be $10.86 per hour today, compared to the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and indexing it to inflation—as President Barack Obama and several members of Congress have called for—would lift more than 4 million Americans out of poverty. Nearly one in five children would see their parent get a raise. Recent action taken by cities and states—such as Seattle, Washington; California; Connecticut; and New Jersey—shows that boosting the minimum wage reduces poverty and increases wages.

3. Increase the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers

One of our nation’s most effective anti-poverty tools, the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, helped more than 6.5 million Americans—including 3.3 million children—avoid poverty in 2012. It’s also an investment that pays long-term dividends. Children who receive the EITC are more likely to graduate high school and to have higher earnings in adulthood. Yet childless workers largely miss out on the benefit, as the maximum EITC for these workers is less than one-tenth that awarded to workers with two children.
President Obama and policymakers across the political spectrum have called for boosting the EITC in order to right this wrong. Importantly, this policy change should be combined with a hike in the minimum wage; one is not a substitute for the other.

4. Support pay equity

With female full-time workers earning just 78 cents for every $1 earned by men, action must be taken to ensure equal pay for equal work. Closing the gender wage gap would cut poverty in half for working women and their families and add nearly half a trillion dollars to the nation’s gross domestic product. Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act to hold employers accountable for discriminatory salary practices would be a key first step.

5. Provide paid leave and paid sick days

The United States is the only developed country in the world without paid family and medical leave and paid sick days, making it very difficult for millions of American families to balance work and family without having to sacrifice needed income. Paid leave is an important anti-poverty policy, as having a child is one of the leading causes of economic hardship. Additionally, nearly 4 in 10 private-sector workers—and 7 in 10 low-wage workers—do not have a single paid sick day, putting them in the impossible position of having to forgo needed income, or even their job, in order to care for a sick child. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, would provide paid leave protection to workers who need to take time off due to their own illness, the illness of a family member, or the birth of a child. And the Healthy Families Act would enable workers to earn up to seven job-protected sick days per year.

6. Establish work schedules that work

Low-wage and hourly jobs increasingly come with unpredictable and constantly shifting work schedules, which means workers struggle even more to balance erratic work hours with caring for their families. Ever-changing work schedules make accessing child care even more difficult than it already is and leave workers uncertain about their monthly income. Furthermore, things many of us take for granted—such as scheduling a doctor’s appointment or a parent-teacher conference at school—become herculean tasks. The Schedules That Work Act would require two weeks’ advance notice of worker schedules, which would allow employees to request needed schedule changes. It would also protect them from retaliation for making such requests—and provide guaranteed pay for cancelled or shortened shifts. These are all important first steps to make balancing work and family possible.

7. Invest in affordable, high-quality child care and early education

The lack of affordable, high-quality child care serves as a major barrier to reaching the middle class. In fact, one year of child care for an infant costs more than one year of tuition at most states’ four-year public colleges. On average, poor families who pay out of pocket for child care spend one-third of their incomes just to be able to work. Furthermore, federal child care assistance reaches only one in six eligible children.

Boosting investments in Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, as well as passing the Strong Start for America’s Children Act—which would invest in preschool, high-quality child care for infants and toddlers, and home-visiting services for pregnant women and mothers with infants—will help more struggling families obtain the child care they need in order to work and improve the future economic mobility of America’s children.

8. Expand Medicaid

Since it was signed into law in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has expanded access to high-quality, affordable health coverage for millions of Americans. However, 23 states continue to refuse to expand their Medicaid programs to cover adults up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level—making the lives of many families on the brink much harder. Expanding Medicaid would mean more than just access to health care—it would free up limited household income for other basic needs such as paying rent and putting food on the table. Having health coverage is also an important buffer against the economic consequences of illness and injury; unpaid medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy. Studies link Medicaid coverage not only to improved health, improved access to health care services, and lower mortality rates, but also to reduced financial strain.

9. Reform the criminal justice system and enact policies that support successful re-entry

The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world. Today, more than 1.5 million Americans are behind bars in state and federal prisons, a figure that has increased fivefold since 1980. The impact on communities of color is particularly staggering: One in four African American children who grew up during this era of mass incarceration have had a parent incarcerated.

Mass incarceration is a key driver of poverty. When a parent is incarcerated, his or her family must find a way to make ends meet without a necessary source of income. Additionally, even a minor criminal record comes with significant collateral consequences that can serve as lifelong barriers to climbing out of poverty. For example, people with criminal records face substantial barriers to employment, housing, education, public assistance, and building good credit. More than 90 percent of employers now use background checks in hiring, and even an arrest without a conviction can prevent an individual from getting a job. The “one strike and you’re out” policy used by public housing authorities makes it difficult if not impossible for individuals with even decades-old criminal records to obtain housing, which can stand in the way of family reunification. Furthermore, a lifetime ban—for individuals with felony drug convictions—on receiving certain types of public assistance persists in more than half of U.S. states, making subsistence even more difficult for individuals seeking to regain their footing, and their families.

In addition to common-sense sentencing reform to ensure that we no longer fill our nation’s prisons with nonviolent, low-level offenders, policymakers should explore alternatives to incarceration, such as diversion programs for individuals with mental health and substance abuse challenges. We must also remove barriers to employment, housing, education, and public assistance. A decades-old criminal record should not consign an individual to a life of poverty.

10. Do no harm

The across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration—which took effect in 2013—slashed funding for programs and services that provide vital support to low-income families. Sequestration cost the U.S. economy as many as 1.6 million jobs between mid-2013 and 2014. Some relief was provided this January, when Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, but many important tools to help low-income individuals and families pave a path to the middle class—such as adult and youth education and training programs, child welfare, and community development programs—were on a downward funding trend even before sequestration took effect.

As Congress considers a continuing resolution to fund the federal government past October 1 and avoid another government shutdown, it should reject further cuts to programs and services such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, which provides vital nutrition assistance to pregnant women and mothers with new babies. Thereafter, Congress should make permanent the important improvements made to the EITC and the Child Tax Credit as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which are set to expire in 2017. And it should avoid additional cuts to vital programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, which suffered two rounds of deep cuts in 2013 and 2014.

Conclusion

It is possible for America to dramatically cut poverty. Between 1959 and 1973, a strong economy, investments in family economic security, and new civil rights protections helped cut the U.S. poverty rate in half. Investments in nutrition assistance have improved educational attainment, earnings, and income among the young girls who were some of the food stamp program’s first recipients. Expansions of public health insurance have lowered infant mortality rates and reduced the incidence of low birth rates. In more recent history, states that raised the minimum wage have illustrated the important role that policy plays in combating wage stagnation.

There is nothing inevitable about poverty. We just need to build the political will to enact the policies that will increase economic security, expand opportunities, and grow the middle class.

GROWING UP GRANITE

The NH Center for Public Policy Studies recently released their report, “What is New Hampshire?” 2014 Edition. Here is just a small piece of the report and here is where to go find and read the rest of it!

New Hampshire is navigating a series of shifting economic, demographic, social and political forces. Among the new trends shaping the state into the 21st Century: an aging population; increasing racial and ethnic diversity; a shift away from the high-growth economic model of the past; and continued demand on the state budget for public services. While the implications of these and other challenges are still unclear, they do raise critical policy questions explored in this report.

Throughout its history, New Hampshire has worn many identities: agricultural outpost on the edge of New England; bustling engine of the Industrial Revolution; oasis for nature-seeking tourists; haven for tax-fleeing transplants. In the early years of the 21st Century, New Hampshire is still evolving amid shifting economic, demographic, social and political forces.

Among the new trends shaping the “new” New Hampshire: an aging population; increasing racial and ethnic diversity; a shift away from the high-growth economic model of the past; and continued demand on the state budget for public services

While the implications of these and other challenges are still unclear, they do raise critical policy questions, including:

  • Economy: New Hampshire suffered the effects of the Great Recession less severely than many other states, but slow job growth continues to gnaw at the state’s economy. As of the summer of 2014, New Hampshire lagged behind the nation and the rest of New England in recovering jobs lost during the recession. What is the state’s economic development plan, especially in relation to demographic trends that show New Hampshire’s population growth slowing in coming years? What specific industries or regions of New Hampshire will help shape the state’s economy in coming years? What regional approaches to economic development will find greatest success?
  • Demographic change: While New Hampshire is consistently rated one of the best places in the country to raise children, our population as a whole continues to age. Meanwhile, our school enrollment continues on a decade-long decline, and several measures of youth well-being in the state show worrisome trends, including rising levels of childhood poverty. What are the implications of these developments on education policy, housing, public services and transportation?
  • Health care: New Hampshire’s health policy landscape faces great uncertainty amid recent reforms at the national level, as well as continued rises in cost and the continued aging of the state’s population. What impact will the shifting health marketplace have on New Hampshire’s economy and the well-being of its residents?
  • Long-term planning: State policymakers face a long list of critical issues in coming years: public infrastructure investment, education finance, corrections spending, health care, and energy policy, among others. Many of these require a long-term perspective and an understanding of multi-year trends. How will the state – which has a two-year budget cycle and a two-year term for all major state offices – manage to plan decades into the future?

This report is our annual survey of the major policy issues and critical questions shaping our future. The data explain where New Hampshire has been, forecast where it is heading, and explore how current trends and policy choices facing the state will affect the well-being of its citizens.

Rebuilding A Strong Middle Class: A Message From Mark MacKenzie Pres. of the NH AFL-CIO

Many Americans celebrate Labor Day, a federal holiday since 1894, as a day for barbecues, cookouts, family trips and parades, at its heart Labor Day observes the strength, hard work and dedication of America’s workers.

This is a day to celebrate. We’ve earned it. All of us, whether we work on a construction site or in an office, in a school or a laboratory, contribute to the efforts that move our country forward.

Yet even as we mark this day, we recognize that there are challenges ahead for New Hampshire workers and their families. And if we truly want to commemorate Labor Day, we must rise to meet these challenges over the next year.

Nationally, our leaders must address the aftermath of economic policies that have frayed the fabric of the American dream and enriched the powerful at the expense of the average American. As millions of middle class and low wage working families struggle to get by on flat wages and disappearing benefits, many express frustration that low wage jobs make up the fastest growing sectors. Others remain out of the workforce or underemployed, victims of a financial crisis they did not cause.

There is no quick fix to these problems, but there are ways that we can start bringing our economy back into balance. We can start by ending the so called “sequestration” cuts to essential government services that are strangling our economy. Hundreds of workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are struggling with furloughs under sequestration. Putting those workers back on the job will not just help them, it will boost the region’s economy.

Our federal government must avoid weakening middle class buying power by stepping away from their perilous talk of cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.

In New Hampshire, we need to address issues that will positively impact working families, improve economic conditions in our communities while rebuilding a vibrant middle class in ways that play to our unique strengths.

We need to re-establish a state minimum wage that will protect and improve the lives of our lowest paid workers. Our elected officials should enact wage standards that reflect our values and do not leave people who get up and go to work every day unable to support themselves and their families.

We should stop procrastinating and accept the federal funds that will expand Medicaid in our state and cover approximately 60,000 Granite Staters who currently have no health insurance. We owe it not just to these people, but to everyone who currently has health insurance and pays higher premiums to provide care to those who cannot afford coverage of their own.

We need to work to end the real wage discrimination that is currently taking place in our state. We believe in equal pay for equal work, a concept that would seem to be common sense, but still female workers in New Hampshire make an average of 23 cents less per every dollar earned by male workers in a comparable job.

Our movement towards a more equitable economy and good jobs, with workers having a say in the workplace, is a fight that can begin to restore hope and dignity for working people in New Hampshire and across the country.

The recent commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 march on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, reminds us that the message of that day focused on jobs and justice. We continue to strive toward those goals, and it’s important to note on this Labor Day, that when Dr. King was killed, he was in Memphis supporting public sanitation workers on strike for the right to form a union and achieve better working conditions.

The labor movement helped establish and maintain America’s middle class. Through collective bargaining for a living wage, health insurance, retirement security and workplace safety measures, unions have stood the test of time and fought tirelessly for working America.

This Labor Day, let’s honor all of America’s hardworking people and continue to fight for them — not just on this day, but every day. 

Mark S. MacKenzie is the president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.

Sunday: CNN Spotlighting Union Struggle to Save the Middle Class

Oscar-nominated Film Maker Takes Viewers “Inside” the Life of LIUNA Worker

The final installment of Inside Man, airing this Sunday at 10 pm eastern on CNN, will focus on the real lives of those helping tow the line for America’s middle class. Supersize Me star Morgan Spurlock, the series host, will interview long-time construction organizer Chaz Rynkiewicz about some of the challenges facing organized labor across the country.

Morgan spent the work day with Chaz Rynkiewicz, Local 79 Director of Organizing, finishing up at a worker rally in the heart of the city. Along the way, the two talked about the impact of limiting union membership growth. Sunday’s installment also includes a discussion about the latest efforts in the state to renew the push for worker rights with leaders from “Build Up New York City” (BUNYC).

“We’re so grateful that CNN is reporting such an under-covered story about how the corporate war on worker rights threatens the future of America’s middle class,” LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan says. “We face a middle class crisis, in which LIUNA organizers, along with Build Up New York City, are working to make a real difference.”

Through the Mason Tenders District Council, LIUNA has been an early and strong supporter of BUNYC. The campaign is led by a coalition of labor unions dedicated to strengthening the middle class with safe jobs that offer fair wages, affordable health insurance and a secure retirement. Taking a variety of public awareness actions, the alliance promotes access to comprehensive training in order to prevent accidents and injuries at worksites. For more information, visit buildupnyc.org/about.

The Center for American Progress predicts that increasing union membership would result in higher average incomes for middle-class households, whose share of our nation’s income has declined in correlation to reduced union membership. Average non-union construction employees are only able to earn about 35 percent less than the average union workers, according to the Current Population Survey.

 

Best known for his Academy Award nominated Supersize Me film, Spurlock marks his return to TV as host and producer with this one hour series. Since its June premiere, Inside Man has delved into a variety of pressing issues, from elder care to gun ownership, now wrapping up with a finale that features the story of the America’s working men and women. So be sure to tune into CNN this Sunday at 10 pm eastern. For more information, visit insideman.blogs.cnn.com.

Related Ariticles:

Center for American Progress: Unions Are Necessary to Rebuilding Our Middle Class

LIUNA: Unions Offer Better Wages, Training and Benefits

The half-million members of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – are on the forefront of the construction industry, a powerhouse of workers who are proud to build America. For the latest news, check out our media kit here.

Shea-Porter Listens to Constituents, Discusses Standing Up for Middle Class During Town Hall

PORTSMOUTH, NH – Today, at a Town Hall on the Seacoast, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter listened and answered questions about ending sequestration, standing up for workers in Washington, and keeping the American dream alive for New Hampshire families. See below for highlights.

Growing New Hampshire’s Middle Class: “I have the responsibility to represent the district, to speak up for them, to speak up for the middle class, and I am more committed than ever to protecting them from some really awful legislation, like the sequester.”

“I love the district…I come from the middle class. This is where I’m from. And I know the stories here, and I know my neighbors’ stories, and it just gives me the courage to go down there, especially when you see so much that’s just wrong.”

Keeping College Affordable: “I worked my way through college. I worked in factories and other jobs and I also took out student loans, so I know what it feels like. I’m particularly concerned with what’s happening right now with [student loan] interest rates.”

“I think the interest rates should be much lower and I think we really need to be looking at these schools to figure out why they have these enormous jumps in costs each year, and to try to slow that down.”

“I feel more encouraged now than a year or two ago that at least society is noticing, and legislators are noticing, that this debt is just enormous. And it is hurting our economy, because if graduates are just paying off their student debt, they’re not buying their first home, they’re not buying their first car, they’re not able to settle in and become consumers, and remember, 70% of our economy is consumer-driven. We need people to be able to engage in our economy, so [student debt] is a huge problem.”

Sequestration: “Already the Manchester Meals on Wheels has seen cutbacks. The Newmarket Head Start has seen cuts. We’ve seen furloughs at the shipyard. When people don’t go to work, when they don’t have full pay, then they have to make tough economic decisions, and that impacts small businesses in New Hampshire. There’s really a ripple effect [from sequestration].”

The Economy: “It’s improving, but not fast enough. I was looking at a USA Today article talking about how [the economy] has been steady, not a huge improvement, but a steady improvement, and we have had more than 40 months of steady job growth. I was in Congress at the time when the big banks caused the great collapse, and we were very close to a depression…The unemployment rate of New Hampshire is about 5.5 or 5.6%, smaller than the rest of the country, at 7.6%. That’s too big.”

On Middle Class Tax Fairness: “We need a tax system that will be fairer to the middle class and that will end a lot of the subsidies and tax breaks that we see.”

“Americans struggling to pay their bills are looking around saying ‘How come Facebook isn’t paying any federal income tax? How come corporations can take their money offshore? How come the middle class is taking a hit?’”

Washington Partisanship: “I feel like [Congress is] a car without a driver. We just heard Speaker Boehner say that he is not the leader, he’s the facilitator, and that he’s letting the House work its will. The problem with the House working its will is that there are all kinds of will.”

“We really have three political parties right now. We have the Democrats, we have the traditional Republicans…and then we have the Tea-Party.”

“I actually feel sorry for Speaker Boehner because I think that he would like to work with [the Democrats], but he is prevented from doing so because of the far-right part of the party which has held back the Republican Party.”

NSA: “I absolutely agree that the NSA has overstepped and I was one of the people who voted for the Amash Amendment and I’ve done a number of things to protect people. [The Amash Amendment] really was a way to hold the NSA accountable, to provide more transparency, and to keep them from spying on all Americans who have done nothing wrong.”

“I’m a very big privacy advocate and I always have been…We need to balance the safety of this country and also our civil liberties.”

Working with the New Hampshire Delegation: “We’re all very thrilled that we’re going to have the KC46A Tankers and we see work moving forward on the Sarah Long Bridge. So there’s a lot of things we can work together on in a bipartisan manner.”

Affordable Care Act: “Washington Republicans have voted [almost] 40 times now in the House to stop the Affordable Care Act, which is a lot. First they tried to block it, and now they are trying to block implementation by blocking funding…I would like to point out that we haven’t had a single jobs bill that we could vote for. Nothing. It’s just repeatedly voting to interrupt, interfere, and cancel the Affordable Care Act, so it’s difficult to watch.”

“I can’t understand why they would work so hard to keep somebody from being able to treat their diabetes or make sure their child gets treatment from Asthma. I just don’t get it.”

House Farm Bill: “USA Today wrote that the amount of money, subsidies and gifts that they [the House Majority] gave to agriculture corporations is embarrassing. It makes the Republican claim to be fiscally responsible look absolutely ridiculous.”

Campaign Finance Reform: “I don’t take business PAC money and I don’t take DC lobbyists’ money and I’m working very hard for campaign finance reform because I think that we could get a better campaign here and elsewhere.

“Everything could change today if we had campaign finance reform; if we stop allowing members of Congress to get big checks from these multi-national corporations.”

This was Shea-Porter’s third town hall since January. In April, she hosted a town hall to discuss the future of Great Bay. In June, she held a business town hall with workers at Titeflex Aerospace in Laconia. She’s also held small business and veterans open houses in Manchester and Rochester to discuss challenges facing those groups.

In One Chart: What Happened to the Middle Class

Andrew Smithers Chart

This chart, by British economist Andrew Smithers, shows how the nation’s income has been distributed since 1929.  “All output is for somebody’s benefit, either those who work for the firm (the labor share) or those who provide the capital (the profit share). Labor’s share has never been lower or the profit share higher.”

Smithers attributes this to changes in the way corporate executives are paid. “The current incentives discourage investment and encourage high profit margins. This is dangerous for companies’ long-term prospects… It is [also] very damaging for the economy… Senior management positions change frequently, so if management wish to get rich, they have to get rich quickly.”

Read the full PBS NewsHour interview here.

 

 

Meet Cynthia Tokos: Using Images To Tell The Story Of People Who Work With Their Hands

Images are all the rage right now.  You cannot log into facebook without being overloaded with images.  Some are cute, friends with their kids. Some are political. Some are just amazing.

My favorite are the amazing images that help to push a message.  I am not alone in this thinking because, facebook users agree.  The right picture, with the right message can spread a hundred times further that you network of a few hundred friends.  For example how many of you have seen this image?

I am guessing you have seen this before.  It is one of my favorites. To me it shows what the workers must go through every day in the course of their jobs as well as the brotherhood that is formed by our jobs.

This is why I would like to introduce my followers to Cynthia Tokos.  Cynthia is a photographer and much more.  As she told me “I come from a long line of working class people – ‘ordinary,’ middle class people, who are blue collar and work with their hands, whether it be in factories or on the land.  These are the people who make a huge difference in this world.”  She is using her skill as a photographer to help tell the story of the people.  People like you and me, who use our hands to make a living.  The hard working men and women who make up the middle class.

Remember how I said the best images are the ones that are not only amazing images but have a solid message behind them?  Cynthia can help you create both.

Cynthia sent me this letter to see I could help connect her with people and unions who would be interested in using her expertise to help create messaging around their personal trade.

Why It Matters

I want to tell the stories around people who work with their hands.  Laborers.  Skilled trades people.  Caregivers.  Harvesters. 

Matthew B. Crawford, in a May 21, 2009 article in the New York Times entitled, “The Case for Working With Your Hands,” states the following:

“A good job requires a field of action where you can put your best capacities to work and see an effect in the world …” 

Crawford, who has a Ph.D. in political philosophy, left his job at a think tank in Washington D.C. to open up his own business fixing motorcycles.

“As I sat in my K Street office, Fred’s life as an independent tradesman gave me an image that I kept coming back to:  someone who really knows what he is doing, losing himself in work that is genuinely useful and has a certain integrity to it.  He also seemed to be having a lot of fun.”

I believe we need to pay more attention to people who work with their hands.  To those who do good work and take pride in building and fixing things.  Or to those who grow, fish, mine or take care of people with whom others are not able.

This is work I want to do.  

If you’re interested, I’d love the opportunity to speak with you about it.  Thank you ~

About the author, Cynthia Tokos ~ www.cynthiatokos.com 

Skilled trades, caregivers, salt of the earth: people who work with their hands.  These are businesses and organizations I market.  As a strategist, writer/analyst and photographer, my work reflects your essence.  From the Sisters of Mercy, to cooperatives; from maple syrup producers to Thunder Road race car drivers – my marketing brings a human element to your story. 

Connect.  Create emotion.  Build awareness.

Let’s show the world your greatness.

 

The President Needs To Reconsider His Plan To “Chain the CPI” In Social Security

It is good to hear that President Obama is negotiating with the US House about legislation to avoid these cuts the current proposals are very concerning.

The President and Speaker Boehner are discussing cuts to Social Security to work on a debt reduction deal.  Many organizations were quick to criticize the proposal and quick to criticize President Obama for suggesting changes to Social Security.

“TEAMSTERS STRONGLY OPPOSE CUTS TO SOCIAL SECURITY”

The Teamsters oppose the chained CPI for Social Security because it would most hurt the oldest and poorest retirees.

“Social Security does not contribute to the budget deficit and should remain off the table in these year-end budget negotiations,” Hoffa said. “Americans work all their lives to earn the Social Security benefits they were promised. It would be a terrible mistake to go back on that promise.”

Similarly the National Association of Current and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) are also speaking out against the idea of a ‘chained CPI’ change for Social Security.

“Fed groups blast possible fiscal cliff switch to less generous COLA formula”

“The result would be lower COLAs for retirees, including federal and military retirees, over time. The change also would affect veterans’ benefits and disability insurance benefits.

NARFE criticized that assessment. “Both the current index and the chained CPI fail to accurately reflect the costs most seniors face.”

Even the large and very politically powerful AFGE who used all their power to help re-elect President Obama are calling for him to now change his position on ‘chained CPI’.

“The American Federation of Government Employees also called on lawmakers to reject a move to the chained CPI. “President Obama could not have picked a worse or more regressive item in the House Republican budget than the chained CPI,” AFGE President J. David Cox said in a statement.”

We need to make sure that President Obama change his position to make this change to Social Security.   We need to protect the earned benefits that we have all worked our entire lives for.  How many times do we have to say it?

“Social Security does not contribute to the budget deficit and should remain off the table in these year-end budget negotiations,” Hoffa said.

Tax Policy: Time to go Back to the Future?

President Dwight EisenhowerRemember what it was like, back in 1952?  The nation’s unemployment rate was 3%.

Remember the days of annual raises? Back in 1952, the average family income was growing by about 5.4% a year.

Remember the days when one job was enough for a family to live on?  Back in 1952, 75% of American families had only one income.

Remember when our country had a solid middle class?  Back in 1952, CEOs were paid only 47 times as much as their average employee.  (These days, CEOs receive about 230 times what their employees earn.)

Back then, lobbying was an $8-million-a-year industry.   In 2010, lobbying reached an all-time high of $3.55 billion (even after adjusting for inflation, that’s about 46 times what corporations spent lobbying 60 years ago).

What else has changed?  Tax rates.  After all that lobbying, Congress has slashed the tax rates that apply to top-income individuals.  (The top tax rate used to be 90% — both for earned income and for dividend income.  Now, the top tax rate for wage income is 35%, while taxes on dividends are capped at 15%.  Back in 1952, corporate dividends were taxed as “income”; now they are considered “capital gains”.)

What else?  The structure of executive compensation has changed significantly, to reflect changes in the tax laws.  Back in the 1950s, most executives received salaries plus perks such as a company car.  Now, executives receive compensation “packages” that can dwarf their base salary — including “non-cash” awards of corporate stock, which takes advantage of the low capital gains tax rate.

What else has changed? As CEOs receive more of their compensation in stock, they have a bigger personal stake in decisions about what to do with corporate profits.  Should the company reinvest profits by expanding operations and hiring new employees? Or pay profits out to shareholders as dividends?   Implement a long-term growth strategy?  Or loot the company for as much immediate payout as possible?  When top executives own millions of shares, they have a huge personal stake in that decision.

Remember how casino mogul Sheldon Adelson pledged to spend $100 million on Mitt Romney’s campaign?  Wonder how he could afford it?  It was only a fraction of the amount Adelson received this year in stock dividends from his company – even though “Dividend payments to shareholders are not standard in the casino industry, as companies generally still prefer to spend cash on new growth opportunities.” (Are you wondering who made the decision to pay dividends rather than grow the business?)

That $100 million was also slightly less than what Adelson could have received – just in lower taxes on dividends – just in one year – if Mitt Romney had been elected President and had been able to implement his proposed tax policies.  (All told, Adelson could have received tax breaks totaling $2.3 billion, if Romney had been elected.)

Lots of things have changed, since 1952.  Sixty years ago, who would have dreamed that one person would try to buy a presidential election?  Or that a presidential candidate would propose tax breaks which would benefit a single campaign contributor to the tune of $2.3 billion?

Maybe it’s time to start asking whether all those tax cuts have actually benefited America’s economy?  Or have they only benefited America’s richest individuals?

Maybe it’s time to consider what effect those tax cuts have had on corporate decisions.

Maybe it’s time to consider what effect they’ve had on America’s middle class.

Maybe it’s time to stop giving CEOs tax incentives to loot their own companies.

Maybe it’s time to go back to the 90% tax on dividend income, at least for dividends paid to executives by the companies they control.

 

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