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Republicans In The NH Senate Stick It To Low Income Workers Twice In One Day

Yesterday in a very busy day in the NH State Senate, Republicans voted on two bills that specifically effect low income families in New Hampshire.  They voted on an increase in the minimum wage and a bill to kick thousands off of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also referred to as food stamps.

The Senate rejected the minimum wage increase that would have raised the minimum wage to $12 over the next few years, right down party lines.  The bill would have raised the wages of over 100,000 people in the Granite State.  

“While 29 states and D.C. have increased their minimum wage in the last 4 years, Senate Republicans have voted to kill a New Hampshire increase for the fourth time, making us the only New England state that maintains a $7.25 hourly wage. I am disappointed that my Republican colleagues continue to turn their backs on working people. This is not only an economic issue, but a moral issue,” said Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), Deputy Democratic Leader and sponsor of SB 83.

“This Republican logic that you can limit access to food assistance programs like SNAP while also voting to maintain a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour that is keeping working people in poverty fails to pass muster. People working full-time in New Hampshire should be able to earn enough to support themselves and their families.”

“Paying decent wages just makes good economic sense,” added Senator Soucy. “Volumes of research have shown that well-paid workers are better employees, better customers and are more likely to spend their dollars on necessities. The more workers feel financially secure in our state, the stronger and more robust our economy and the greater our ability to attract and retain skilled workers. While I’m disappointed our Republican colleagues continue to fail our workers, Senate Democrats will continue to push for an increase in our minimum wage and will continue fighting to expand opportunity for all.”

It is important to remember that some of the Republican senators are business owners that would be directly effected by an increase in the minimum wage.

In his opposition to raising the minimum wage last year, Senator  Andy Sanborn stated that raising the minimum wage is a “war on employers” but fails to mention that his vote against an increase is all about protecting his own self interest.

The Chairman of the NH Democratic Party, Ray Buckley, blasted the NH GOP for failing workers yet again.

“For four years, Governor Maggie Hassan worked to make our state number one in the nation for economic opportunity, with the lowest unemployment rate in the country. Building on that progress means making sure everyone with a job can provide for themselves and their family. For the second time in two weeks, Republicans have denied New Hampshire workers a raise by voting down a minimum wage.

By default, New Hampshire is tied for last in the country when it comes to paying its workers. The Granite State also has by far the lowest minimum wage in New England and that’s a legacy New Hampshire Republicans should be ashamed of. If Governor Sununu is truly committed to strengthening our economy and expanding opportunity, he should first make sure the people who live here are making enough to get by.”

“Raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour would come at the expense of entry level jobs,” said Senator Dan Innis as he argued against the increase.  Obviously Innis is mis-informed.  Study after study continues to show real life examples of how raising the minimum wage spurs economic growth, creating new jobs, and increases spending in the local community.

In January, Maine’s newly increased minimum wage went into effect and the results show what most economist routinely say, it will help create jobs.

“Average hourly earnings for private-sector Maine workers increased to $22.70 an hour and total employment increased to an all-time high, with a gain of more than 4,000 seasonally-adjusted jobs from December….Significant employment gains were seen among Maine’s restaurants and hotels, with the accommodation and food service sector gaining 700 jobs,” reported the Maine Beacon.

Then just to show how much Republicans care about low income workers they also voted to pass SB 7, a bill to change the eligibility of low income families to receive SNAP benefits.  

Senator Martha Fuller Clark was very disappointed in this partisan attack on low income families. 

“In the same day that we are discussing increased tax breaks for businesses and voting against the long overdue increase to the state’s minimum wage, Senate Republicans are passing legislation that prevents thousands of food insecure Granite Staters from accessing the SNAP benefits they so desperately need. I have to wonder – why are my Republican colleagues making it so hard for working families to succeed in New Hampshire?”

Senate Bill 7 restricts the Department of Health and Human Services from requesting or renewing a waiver of the federal work requirements for food stamp eligibility without legislative approval and requires that the department use the federal resource limits for food stamp eligibility for anyone denied a waiver. Food service providers, including the New Hampshire Food Bank, remain concerned that this legislation will have a significant, negative impact on the thousands of individuals who rely on SNAP to secure stable access to nutritious food. Moreover, significant research demonstrates that abuse of food assistance programs is extremely low. 

“139,730 people in New Hampshire are food insecure and 24% of those individuals are veterans. No one in our state should have to choose between paying their bills and buying food for their family,”  continued Fuller Clark. “This legislation puts vulnerable Granite Staters needlessly at risk and places an undue burden on municipalities and already strained food bank services. Democrats will continue to fight against these dangerous and misguided policies that put our state’s families at risk.”

Sarah Mattson Dustin is a staff advocate with The NH Legal Assistance, who testified against the proposed bill,  was also displeased with this vote and vows to continue fighting for low income families.

“NHLA and our allies who work on behalf of low-income New Hampshire families recognize the improvements the NH Senate made to SB 7 today. But this bill as amended still makes it harder for the food stamps program to continue serving low-income working families with kids. We will keep advocating for these essential benefits, which are 100 percent federally funded and a crucial tool in the fight against child hunger. We heard in the debate that New Hampshire’s senators received HUNDREDS of messages against the bill. That is a great sign that New Hampshire voters are engaged and committed to protecting our most vulnerable neighbors. There is still much work to be done, but we are deeply grateful to everyone who stood with us and with low-income working New Hampshire families.”

Opponents of SB 7 continued to point out the SNAP is a federally funded program and the State only pays a portion of the administrative costs.  The changes proposed would increase administrative costs at the state level while kicking more than 10,000 people off the program.

SB 7, submitted by Senator Kevin Avard (R-Nashua), was “word-for-word from The Foundation for Government Accountability, a Florida “welfare reform” think tank and member of the right-wing State Policy Network,” wrote Granite State Progress.  GSP also posted Avard’s “Tirade Against Poor Families, Food Stamps, and the Bible on YouTube.

Hard working, low-income workers just got completely screwed by the Republican led Senate who once again blocked an increase in the minimum wage and simultaneously making it hard for them to feed their families.

Why Senator Dan Innis Is Wrong In Opposition To Raising The Minimum Wage

Small Businesses want a higher minimum wage because it increases local spending and spurs economic growth.

Inflation from raising the minimum wage will be hardly noticeable to most people.

Here we go again. Senator Donna Soucy introduced a bill to raise the NH Minimum Wage to $12 an hour and Republicans are already trying to convince the people that raising the minimum wage is wrong.

Today Republican State Senator Dan Innis opined that we should let New Hampshire businesses raise wages and the government should not force an increase.

Innis talks about how raising the Minimum Wage hurts businesses and hurts Granite Staters who would be forced to pay higher prices for the increased cost in labor.

“Raising the minimum wage doesn’t transfer costs from wealthy businesses to the workers. It simply transfers costs to customers.”

Which is it Senator: Are the businesses going to absorb those costs or are the people of NH going to have to pay for them?

Don’t worry, I will tell you why both statements are wrong.

First lets start with the fact that the majority of minimum wage workers do not work for “small businesses,” they actually work for large multi-national corporations.

Nobody actually expects greedy corporations to absorb all of the costs of raising wages, even though all of them could. Most of these multi-national employers spend more money buying back their own stocks to artificially inflate their stock prices or paying out dividends to their shareholders. Both of these options push obscene amounts of money to the CEO’s and Executive Boards who are given millions of “stock options” as compensation every year.

Contrary to what Sen. Innis says small businesses actually support increasing the minimum wage.

“A July 2015 survey found that 3 out of 5 small business owners with employees support a gradual increase in the minimum wage to $12. The survey reports that small business owners say an increase ‘would immediately put more money in the pocket of low-wage workers who will then spend the money on things like housing, food, and gas. This boost in demand for goods and services will help stimulate the economy and help create opportunities,’” stated the Department of Labor in a recent blog post.

Even the Small Business Majority, a group run by small business owners who “focus on solving the biggest problems facing small businesses today,” have come out in support a national $12 hour minimum wage.

Increased labor cost will inevitably be pushed on to the consumers.

Oh the inflation! Milk prices will skyrocket, food prices will triple, restaurant prices will make going out to eat unaffordable….and so on and so on.

Yeah, we will hear all of that. The fact is that it is completely untrue.

Yes, there will be some minor inflation as a result of pushing wages up but it will hardly be noticeable.

Lets take Wal-Mart for example: If Wal-Mart raised their minimum wage to $12 an hour and passed all of the $3 billion in additional labor costs onto the consumer (instead of taking anything from their $12 billion in profits).

How much more do you think the average Wal-Mart shopper would be forced to pay? The answer is around $12.49 a year.

The average Wal-Mart shopper would end up paying less than $.50 cents per visit to ensure that all Wal-Mart employees made at least $12 an hour.   We are talking about $1 a month in additional costs. That increase will hardly break your wallet.

Lastly, can we finally stop promoting this lie that all minimum and low-wage workers are teenagers! The facts just do not support this and common sense proves it cannot possibly be true.

Think about it: when you buy a coffee on your way into work is it a teenager at the counter? Who is working the counter at McDonalds when you go to buy lunch?

Odds say that the answer to both question are that it is a woman over the age of 25.


Below is a snapshot of who in New Hampshire would be affected if we raised the minimum wage to $12 by 2020.  For example, 93,000 workers over the age of 20 would see a raise in wages, compared to the 22,000 below age 20.

(Data from EPI.org)

1-27-17 AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: Right To Work, Minimum Wage, And Frank Edelblut

January 27, 2017

Yesterday was a warm, almost Spring-like day, always welcome in January. The gold of the State House dome shone brightly in the sunshine, and I even took the time to sit for a short while on a bench on the State House grounds. Inside, however, the legislative session is just beginning to warm up, with a short session of the House to deal with a few legislative items, following an intensive week of public hearings on proposed bills, as committees work hard to push legislation to the floor for debates and votes.

The most important news of the week was the scheduling of hearings on so-called ‘right to work’ legislation by the House Labor Committee. The hearings on both the Senate (SB 11) and House (HB 520) versions of ‘right to work’ (virtually identical and almost entirely plagiarized from sample legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC), will be held in Reps Hall on Wednesday, February 8, beginning at 10 am. The hearings are expected to draw hundreds to the Hall, and it is likely the testimony will last for hours. More information on attending and testifying will be forthcoming, but if you can, start planning to join the fun! Battle-lines are being drawn now on this issue, between those who advocate for the working people of New Hampshire and their workplace voice versus those who seek to eradicate any vestiges of worker rights. Our focus will turn to reaching out to the members of the NH House and asking them to oppose so-called Right to Work in any and all forms. Please be sure to visit the AFT-NH website at www.aft-nh.org and utilize the resources on the Defeat Right to Work page.

Interestingly, the House Labor Committee also conducted hearings this week on proposed legislation HB 115 to increase the minimum wage in NH, from its current $7.25/hour up to an eventual $12.00/hour. Any increase would be welcome and long overdue, but those who clamor for so-called ‘right to work’ are also those who oppose any increase in the minimum wage, preferring to redesign the New Hampshire Advantage as one built on low wages and severe limitations on working people’s voice and rights.

In the background, there is also the dangerous proposed bill (HB 438) to ban payroll deduction of union dues by public employers, a strategy employed in Wisconsin to eviscerate public sector unions by making it very difficult for them to collect any member dues. This is actually the most severe threat facing organized labor and all working people in NH. Once unions are gone, can we expect employers to suddenly shower us with generous raises, expanded benefits, and kindly treatment? Remember, when employers exercise unilateral control over the workplace, it is not a recipe for happiness and harmony. Power seeks more power is the old axiom, and absolute power seeks more power absolutely.

Amongst the hundreds of bills now before the various committees of the House and Senate, a few stand out. There are over a half-dozen bills aiming to further reduce pensions or even nearly destroy the NHRS system, breaking every promise made to state, county, municipal, educational, and public safety employees. In a bright note, a bill to require the State to pay 15% of the annual cost of the NHRS survived its first committee test, but faces rough waters in the House. The State used to pay 35% of the costs of the NHRS, but now contributes nothing, a classic example of “downshifting” costs onto local taxpayers, so this bill would at least begin to right that wrong. AFT-NH remains an active partner and participant in the NH Retirement Security Coalition. It will take the combined effort of employee groups, stakeholders and members to protect the NH Retirement System as we know it.

There are also a number of bills to increase funding for charter schools, free them from property taxes, and further siphon off monies for public schools. Once again, there is a bright spot—the proposal to fund full-day kindergarten. The bill has had its public hearing in front of the House Education Committee, which is expected to act on it on February 8. Governor Chris Sununu loudly proclaimed his support for full-day kindergarten during his gubernatorial campaign, so it will be interesting to see if his support translates into Republican votes for it in the House.

In closing, I have two requests of you. First, I hope some of you can attend the January 31 public hearing on the nomination of businessman Frank Edelblut as Commissioner of Education. AFT-NH has already posted a “lesson plan” on Mr. Edelblut, and your testimony, whether in person or in writing, may help sway the Executive Council, which must approve his nomination. You can email the Executive Council members directly at gcweb@nh.gov. Second, please “Wear Red for Public Ed” on January 31. Let’s show our pride in public education! Dress in red, have your colleagues dress in red, take photos and send them to us for posting on-line. Be proud and say it loud, to paraphrase James Brown, and let’s celebrate one of America’s greatest accomplishments and contributions to the world—the idea of free, broad-based public education.

Your outreach to the legislators does make a difference and we are hearing back that you are contacting them. It matters. Please keep contacting them! We know when we act in unity, we can make a real difference.

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

Introduction To HB115: Legislation To Establish And Raise The NH Minimum Wage

Yesterday, the NH House Labor Committee began discussions on establishing and raising the NH Minimum Wage, which currently defaults to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

State Representative Doug Ley is the prime sponsor of HB 115 to establish and raise the NH minimum wage.  Below is his testimony introducing the legislation and why it is important to working people to raise the minimum wage.


TESTIMONY INTRODUCING HB 115

“Establishing a state minimum wage and providing for adjustments to the minimum wage” 

Douglas Ley

NH House: Cheshire 9 (Dublin, Harrisville, Jaffrey, Roxbury)

The legislation presented today would re-establish a NH minimum wage exceeding that set by the Federal Government, which has remained at $7.25/hour since 2009.

The basic provisions of the bill as currently drawn would provide the following:

  1. increase the minimum hourly wage in NH to $9.50/hour on 1/1/2018
  2. increase the minimum hourly wage in NH to $12.00/hour on 1/1/2019
  3. annually adjust the minimum wage to match corresponding increases in Northeast CPI as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, beginning on 1/1/2020.
  4. raise the sub-minimum or tipped wage to 60% of the minimum wage.
  5. create a training wage of $1.00/hour less than minimum for those aged 16-17 years for three calendar months or upon reaching age 18, whichever comes first.

Thus, the proposed legislation aims to increase wages for those at the bottom of the NH wage scale, create a mechanism for systematic readjustment of the minimum wage, raise the tipped sub-minimum to better provide for those in the hospitality industry, and create a training wage to cover seasonal teen labor.

Having said all this, I want to make clear this is a platform, a starting place. While I believe the proposals being set forth today are both fair and beneficial to wage-earners, employers, and the State of NH, I am always willing to listen to and consider adjustments and amendments, in the conviction that any increase is a positive step for NH.

What is the context for this proposed legislation?

National:

  • 20 states besides NH adhere to the Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour.
  • 29 states now exceed the Federal minimum wage.
  •  3 of the 20 joining NH in adhering to the Federal minimum will be   breaking ranks over the next year:
    •  LA: $10.00/hour (1/1/2018)
    •  OK: $10.25/hour (7/1/17) & $10.75 (7/1/2018)
    •  VA: $11.00/hour (1/1/2018).

Thus, if NH remains unchanged, as of 1/1/2018, we will be one of 18 states still maintaining a minimum wage of $7.25, while 32 states will have higher minimums.

Regional:

  • NH is the only New England state still adhering to the Federal minimum of $7.25/hour.
  • CT:     $10.10 per hour
  • RI:       $9.60 per hour
  • MA:    $11.00 per hour
  • VT:      $10.00 per hour ($10.50 per hour on 1/1/2018)
  • ME:     $9.00 per hour ($11.00 per hour on 1/1/2018)

In addition, ME, VT and MA all tie future increases to the Northeast CPI as proposed in the legislation now before you.

New Hampshire:

            According to data provided by DES, in 2015 there were 389,000 resident hourly wage-earners in New Hampshire. Of those 389,000:

  • 16,000 earned at or below the minimum (4.1%)
    •   11,000 earned below the minimum (tipped wage)
    •   5,000 earned at the minimum

Even more interesting is the gender breakdown:

Sub-minimum:            2000 male        9000 female

Minimum:                   2000 male        3000 female

Sticking with DES data just a little further, if we look at those earning below $10.00/hour in 2015 (approx. 20% of the hourly wage earners):    Male: 26,000             Female: 50,000

Age: According to BusinessNH Magazine (6/2016): 72% of minimum wage earners are over age 20 (meaning approximately 4500 are age 19 or less); more than 1/3 are over age 30; 14% have children; approximately 33% are working full-time at minimum or sub-minimum.

Finally, the same issue of BusinessNH Magazine referenced a study of my county (Cheshire) using 2014 data which indicated some 15% of the county workforce were at or below $12.00 per hour, the wage proposed in this legislation for 1/1/2018.

Meaning: It is clear that adhering to the $7.25 minimum wage provides no competitive advantage to NH. To begin, some 2/3s of those at or below minimum are working in hospitality/restaurant industries, which are heavily locally-owned. We will not and have not seen a massive influx of restaurants and hotels into NH to take advantage of our low minimum wage; conversely, we will not see restaurants and hotels fleeing the State to avoid higher wages.  Claims that such enterprises cannot afford wage increases is simply belied by the ability of comparable businesses to survive and thrive in our neighboring states, all of which feature higher minimums.

It is also quite obvious that very few employers are even able to hire any longer at the minimum wage rate. Wal-Mart and Whole Foods, two examples cited in the aforementioned BuinessNH Magazine article, have average hourly wages now averaging between $13.38 and $15.81. My own son got his first job at MarketBasket a few years ago and started above the minimum wage. In other words, the minimum is increasingly confined to certain industries and certain regions of the State, likely where there are few alternatives, especially for those who lack transportation or the time and wherewithal to travel to better-paying jobs.

With the wage gap widening between NH and neighboring states, it is not unlikely that we are seeing some NH workers seeking employment out-of-state. For someone living in Nashua or Salem, the difference between $7.25/hour and $11.00/hour is substantial, and their choice to pursue employment beyond NH only exacerbates the difficulties NH employers face in trying to hire workers.

Finally, there are those who contend that raising the minimum will result in a loss of jobs. As reported in NH Business Review (11/10/16), when NH raised the minimum from $5.15 to $7.25 (increase of 41%) the Federal Reserve estimated a job loss to the State of less than 1500 jobs—quite minimal. Other studies have concluded that job losses when one state raises its minimum wage are not very significant and soon matched by job growth. We all know, however, that a rising tide lifts all boats, so an increase in the minimum wage will push up the wages of those in the bottom 15-20% among hourly wage-earners, with most of those earnings being spent quickly and locally, thereby fueling local economic growth within the State.

Conclusion: I believe there are many powerful and ethical arguments for raising the minimum wage and improving the economic and social situations of thousands of our citizens and the thousands more depending upon them. I am sure others can/will make those arguments and I agree with them. My focus, however, is on the economic benefits. It involves simply keeping up—the 1968 minimum wage had a buying power of $11.00 in today’s dollars, so clearly the minimum has slipped over the years. Even since 2009, changes in the Northeast CPI measure an erosion of 10.7% in buying power, meaning the minimum of $7.25 in 2009 is now worth $6.47 in 2009 dollars. Thus, those working at minimum have suffered wage decreases over the past seven years.

NH faces many economic challenges in the years ahead. Energy costs, a declining infrastructure, the exodus of 1000s of young people, all of this makes for difficult economic times ahead. Maintaining a low minimum wage provides no competitive advantage to NH in our regional economy, whereas increasing the minimum will infuse more spending into our State economy while bettering the lives of those who toil at the low-end of the wage spectrum. I know this Committee will keep all these points in mind as you consider this legislation, and I thank you for your kindness and patience today.

Statewide Homelessness Is Down In New Hampshire, But For How Long?

A new report shows that progress has been made to reduce the homeless population in New Hampshire but systemic problems could lead to future increases.

The NH Coalition to End Homelessness just released their fifth annual report on the State of Homelessness in New Hampshire. The report show some good news in the fight to eliminate homelessness but the report also shows some alarming trends the could undue all of the gains made over the past few years.

“2016 saw significant reductions in our overall homeless numbers. Data among specific subpopulations of the homeless also indicates that important progress is being made,” wrote Cathy Kuhn Ph.D, Director of The NH Coalition to End Homelessness (NHCEH). “The number of individuals living unsheltered continued to drop over the past year and homelessness among veterans and among the chronically homeless also declined.”

The report shows that programs like the NH Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness (NHICH) are making real progress in combating homelessness.

“Under the leadership of the NHICH, the state has made significant progress towards creating a Supportive Housing Services Benefit for Medicaid beneficiaries who are experiencing homelessness. Research consistently shows that combining affordable housing with tenancy support services and care coordination can help those with the greatest challenges to live with stability and wellness,” Kuhn added.

With a goal of completely eliminating homelessness in New Hampshire, NHCEH reported a significant drop in homelessness in 2016.  Overall homelessness in New Hampshire dropped by 19% from 2014 numbers with Merrimack County seeing the largest drop at 56%.

This is great news, especially when added with the fact that “Chronic Homelessness,” that is people who have been continually homeless for over a year, fell by 17%.

The state also saw a 45% decrease in “unsheltered homelessness.”  This is a 63% drop from 2014 numbers. “Providing appropriate interventions as quickly as possible for people who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness, particularly for those who are newly homeless, is critical to preventing the development of additional complications associated with long-term, chronic homelessness,” NHCEH stated.

NHCEH also found that nearly half (41%) of the overall homeless population in New Hampshire are “persons in families.”  The good news is that family homelessness is also down by 29% in 2016.  221 homeless persons in families were able to move off of the streets and into stable housing this year.

The last bit of good news is that veteran homelessness in New Hampshire fell by 19% in 2016 and is down over 32% since 2014.  This dramatic drop over the last few years comes from a combination of state and federal assistance to end “functional homelessness” for veterans.

“In New Hampshire, significant efforts have been made to reach functional zero among the state homeless veteran population. With substantial support from the Governor’s Office, numerous agencies serving veterans across the state are working together to identify and immediately house any veteran who is either unsheltered or residing in an emergency shelter or transitional living program. These efforts are reflected in the continual declines that the state has seen in its homeless veteran population,” reported NHCEMH.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN

Overall the report shows astounding results in lowering the homeless population in New Hampshire, the report also shows some serious issues that need to be address that if unchanged could lead in an increase in homelessness.

It is a fact that New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rates in that country, sitting at 2.7%.  Most counties in New Hampshire saw more than a 30% decrease in unemployment over the last two years.  This means that more people are working which should be good news in the fight to end homelessness but the NHCEH report highlighted some of New Hampshire’s unique problems.

“While low unemployment rates are being enjoyed across all New Hampshire counties, it’s important to note that even when working full time, many low income people are still unable to attain stable housing due to low wages and/or temporary and irregular work opportunities. One recent analysis reports that someone working full time at minimum wage would need to work 91 hours per week in order to afford a one bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent in New Hampshire.”

Gaining employment does not always lead to prosperity.  NHCEH notes that the poverty rate in New Hampshire, currently 8.9%, has grown by 6% a year since 2014. “Given the link between homelessness and poverty, the steady increase in the state has the potential to slow recent decreases in the number of homeless individuals and families,” stated NHCEMH.

To make matters worse wages have not kept up with the increased cost of housing.  Statewide wages have increased by 3.7% but have failed to keep up with the 8.8% increase in median rental costs.

Below is the breakdown of  the “median gross rent” for a 2-bedroom apartment by county in NH.  As you can see the median cost for a 2-bedroom apartment in Rockingham and Hillsborough are $1,321 and $1,278 a month, respectively.

median-rental-costs-nh-2016

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition the median “fair market rent” for a 1-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire is $861 a month. Remember, a full time (40 hour) minimum wage worker ($7.25 per hour) earns $290 a week or $1,160 a month. That means that 74% of their monthly paycheck would go to paying for housing alone and does not include food, heat, electricity, transportation or any other expenses.  The cost for a 2-bedroom apartment it ranges from 68% of their monthly paycheck in Coos County to 113% in Rockingham County.

To keep their housing costs below the 33% guideline, the National Low Income Housing Coalition also estimates that a worker would need an hourly wage of $16.55  for a 1-bedroom apartment and $21.09 for a 2-bedroom apartment. To meet the 33% guideline a minimum wage worker would need to work 91 hours a week for a 1-bedroom and 116 hours a week for a 2-bedroom apartment.

The New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness also highlighted another problem plaguing New Hampshire: a lack of affordable housing.  Nearly 30% of Granite Staters are renting and that means there is a very low “vacancy rate.” The vacancy rate is defined as “the percentage of available rental units in a given area.”  Statewide the vacancy rate is 1.5%, which leads many to struggle to find stable and affordable housing.

vacancy-rates

“These low vacancy rates further exacerbate the scarcity of affordable housing in these populous regions of the state, making it even more difficult for low income renters to find stable housing. The combined impact of rising rents and declining vacancy rates often leads many individuals and families to still live in temporary rooming houses or motels, often thought of as the housing of last resort by many advocates,” noted NHCEH. “These living environments can be particularly difficult for children and families who are forced to relinquish their privacy and to live in very cramped and sometimes unsafe quarters in order to maintain some semblance of shelter.”

These three factors (stagnant wages, high rent increases, and low vacancy rates) should be a warning sign to everyone that New Hampshire is teetering on the very edge of dramatic increase in the homeless population.  Many Granite Staters a struggling to hold on. In a 2013 survey, 76% of people national, said they are living paycheck-to-paycheck and more than 47% said they do not even have enough to cover a $400 emergency expense.

All it would take for many of these people is one incident, one missed paycheck to be in real danger of ending up homeless. If our goal is to completely eliminate homelessness, then we need to start by increasing wages, slowing the increasing cost of renting, and building more affordable housing across the state.

Dr. Kuhn summed it up perfect by saying:

“Once again, I am so proud of the excellent work being done by service providers, volunteers, advocates, policy makers, community leaders, and concerned citizens to end homelessness in our state. It is clear that our work is making an impact! Despite our progress, however, there are still far too many men, women and children who are homeless in New Hampshire. Over the next year, it will be important that we continue our commitment to permanently and immediately house anyone who falls into homelessness in New Hampshire. For our part, the Coalition remains steadfast in our belief that, together, we can and will end homelessness in New Hampshire, I invite you to join us as we work towards this achievable goal.”


Until we eliminate homelessness many find refuge in community shelters. These shelters are always in need of donations and here is a quick list of things, aside from food, your local shelter could use.

A list from the Homeless Shelter Directory:

Tooth Brush
Tooth Paste
Dental Floss
Bandaids
Underwear
Neosporin
Cortisone Cream
Cotton Swabs
Listerine
Deodorant
Razors
Nail Clippers
Baby Wipes
Thick Socks
Batteries
Feminine hygiene products
Anti-diarrhea tablets

(I would also add linens, pillows, and blankets)

The NH Charitable Foundation also released their list of 12 Things Food Pantries Wish They Had…But Might Not Ask For as a guide for donations.

Kelly Ayotte’s Fast Food Photo Ops Don’t Change Her Opposition To Raising The Minimum Wage

Concord, N.H. — Kelly Ayotte’s photo ops at fast food restaurants don’t change the fact that she has consistently sided with her special interest backers like the Koch Brothers in opposing an increase to the minimum wage. Kelly Ayotte earns $83.65 per hour, a rate that is over 11 times New Hampshire’s $7.25 minimum wage, yet in Washington she has repeatedly voted against helping working families earn a livable wage.

Raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour would give an estimated 141,000 hard working Granite State employees a raise and send positive ripple effects through New Hampshire’s economy. But when the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity urged Senators to vote against a measure to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 in 2014, Kelly Ayotte turned her back on her constituents and obliged.

New Hampshire is tied for the lowest minimum wage in the country, and its voters strongly support an increase to this wage. A poll earlier this year found that 70% of Granite State voters support raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour, but Kelly Ayotte put the Koch Brothers before the people she represents and voted against such a measure.

“Kelly Ayotte opposes a common-sense measure to ensure fast food workers earn a livable wage, so her posing for photos at a drive through window is tone deaf and offensive,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley. “Working families in New Hampshire know that Kelly Ayotte puts the Koch Brothers before the people of our state, and they won’t be fooled by her campaign season photo ops.”

Seven And A Quarter ($7.25) Reasons New Hampshire Voters Can’t Trust Kelly Ayotte On The Minimum Wage

In tonight’s New Hampshire Senate debate between Senator Kelly Ayotte and Governor Maggie Hassan, one thing was clear: only one candidate would raise the federal minimum wage and stand up for working families. Kelly Ayotte opposes increasing the minimum wage, even voting twice against raises to the federal minimum wage. She reiterated her opposition to raising the minimum wage again tonight.

Rights & Democracy and other partners in the state are working to put a stop to Senator Ayotte’s shameful record on the minimum wage. Here are seven and a quarter ($7.25) reasons why working families in the Granite Staters can’t afford to send Kelly Ayotte back to the U.S. Senate:

$1. More than 225,000 workers in New Hampshire earn less than $15 an hour. In New Hampshire more than a third (225,305) of New Hampshire workers earn less than $15 an hour.

$2. New Hampshire has the lowest wage in all of New England. It’s the only state in the Northeast region — and one of just 21 states nationally — that does not have a higher wage than the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

$3. Nearly half of all Black and Hispanic workers in New Hampshire earn less than $15 an hour. Startlingly, nearly half of Black and Hispanic workers in New Hampshire earn less than $15 an hour.

$4. An overwhelming majority of those earning less than $15 an hour are 25 years old or older. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of workers earning less than $15 an hour are 25 years old or older. More than 40 percent of New Hampshire’s children live in households supported by a worker earning less than $15 an hour.

$5. Raising the minimum wage is exceedingly popular in New Hampshire. By a margin of 50 points, voters in New Hampshire support raising the minimum wage — 74 percent of voters support raising the minimum wage while only 24 percent oppose it.

$6. Four in five business owners support raising the minimum wage. In a recent survey of 1,000 business executives, 80 percent supported raising their state’s minimum wage, while only 8 percent opposed it. Hermit Woods Winery in Meredith, New Hampshire, raised pay for its employees to $15 an hour. “I think it’s a good investment to invest well in your employees,” owner Bob Manley said. “I think that’s a very meaningful way to grow your business.”

$7. More than four in 10 women in New Hampshire earn less than $15 an hour. In New Hampshire, more than 40 percent of women in the workforce earn less than $15 an hour.

$7.25. Kelly Ayotte doesn’t even pay her own staff a fair wage. Wage data from 2012-2015 shows that Sen. Ayotte pays women 66 cents for every dollar men earn who work for her — an even bigger wage gap than the national average of 79 cents to the dollar.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte Needs To Explain To Voters Her Opposition To Raising The Minimum Wage

Guest Editorial By Jeff Kramer

Senator Kelly Ayotte and her challenger Maggie Hassan are scheduled to go toe-to-toe on November 2nd, their last debate before Election Day.  As someone who has spent much of my adult life working in a low-wage jobs, I urge the moderators ask the candidates to answer one of the most important questions for working households like mine: whether they will vote to raise the minimum wage.

Working people in New Hampshire deserve to know why, during her time in the U.S. Senate, Kelly Ayotte has voted against every effort to raise the minimum wage. Her opposition to raising the federal minimum wage has kept it frozen at a poverty-level of $7.25 an hour since 2009. The low federal minimum wage is even more significant in New Hampshire because it is the only New England state that ties its state minimum wage to the federal level. Sen. Ayotte’s role in keeping the federal minimum wage low is therefore doubly hurting New Hampshire’s working families, keeping pay low in this increasingly expensive state.

Without action to raise the minimum wage, the adjusted median wage in New Hampshire has declined by almost 7 percent since the recession, a sharper decline than virtually all other states in the nation.  As a result, over 35 percent of working New Hampshirites (225,300 workers) today earn less than $15 per hour, and 155,000 are paid less than $12. The vast majority of these low-wage workers are adults 25 and older, including over 15 percent who are 55 years or older. Most of these workers are women, many raising children – New Hampshire’s future – on low wages. The low federal minimum wage forces hundreds of thousands of working families to seek food stamps and other forms of public assistance each year, costing New Hampshire taxpayers $104 million annually.

As an adult working low wage jobs, I have been struggling to get by. When I went back to college full time to finish my degree, I worked at a fast food restaurant up to 40 hours a week during closing shift, and over 30 hours a week at a retail store to support myself. Even while working both of these jobs, I could not fully support myself. I couldn’t afford an apartment and was still living with my parents at the age of 29. I couldn’t afford health insurance and it was not offered to me through either job. Last year I became injured and I was working at a retail store where I was only offered 5-8 hours a week of work. I was paid $7.25 even though I had a college degree, management experience, and a beautiful resume. I had to rely on government assistance and food pantries to get by until I found new work. I now work for an organization that pays me $15.00. I have an apartment, a car, and am able to independently financially support myself for the first time in my life. Raising the minimum wage to $15.00 would do so much for struggling families. I know earning a livable wage has been life changing for me.  

Contrary to the claims we hear from opponents, raising the minimum wage increases the income of low-wage workers without hurting jobs . The most recent and most rigorous studies to date have shown that any employment effects from an increase in the wage floor are very small. As Goldman Sachs analysts summarized recently, “the economic literature has typically found no effect on employment” from U.S. minimum wage increases.

New Hampshire workers of all ages deserve fair pay and a shot at a decent life. They are frustrated by Sen. Ayotte and the Republican Congress’s blocking any action to raise the minimum wage. Gov. Maggie Hassan, by contrast, has called for giving working families in New Hampshire the long overdue  minimum wage increase they need.  Recent polling shows that nearly three-quarters of New Hampshire voters want a minimum wage increase, and that when voters learn of Sen. Ayotte’s track record on the minimum wage, Gov. Hassan’s lead widens.

With voters demanding action on the minimum wage, other Republican incumbents are reassessing their opposition to raising wages.  Last week, Senators Rob Portman (Ohio) and Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) backtracked on their previous opposition to raising the minimum wage, and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen backed a $15 minimum wage for Florida.  As she seeks another term in the U.S. Senate, Kelly Ayotte’s should do the same.

Jeff Kramer lives in Manchester and is now a field organizer with Rights & Democracy, a grassroots member organization which is part of the Raise Up New Hampshire Coalition.  

New ROC Video Shows Sub-Minimum Wage Is “An Enduring Legacy Of Slavery”

onefairwage Video tells the story of the slave history of the tipped minimum wage for restaurant workers.

New York, NY – Today, Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United and One Billion Rising released a new video called “The Time is Now…for #1FairWage,” featuring award winning actor, activist and V-Day Board member Thandie Newton, star of HBO’s upcoming series Westworld, and New York-based actor and ROC member, Chantal Georges. Director Sekou Luke is an independent artist who is a former restaurant worker and member of ROC. 

The video is a direct and artful attack on the racist history of the separate, lower wage for tipped workers in the U.S. Newton describes the subminimum wage as an economic system rooted in the nation’s history of slavery that subjected people of color to different standards of governing employment. This legacy persists to this day in the form of a $2.13 federal tipped minimum wage.

Newton said of her participation in this video, “I’m proud to be working with One Billion Rising and ROC to bring the nation’s attention to the racist history of the subminimum wage for tipped workers, which forces millions of workers– more than two-thirds of them women–to endure widespread abuse and exploitation. It’s an enduring legacy of slavery, and it has to stop now.”

The two-tiered system of a separate, lower minimum wage for tipped workers has left nearly 4.5 million working people across the country struggling to survive on poverty wages. The common misperception is that tipped workers are largely white men in their thirties, making six figures at a fine-dining establishment. To the contrary, they are overwhelmingly women and people of color, working at casual restaurants like Denny’s and The Olive Garden. Forced to rely on tips — and thus the whims of customers — to make ends meet, they disproportionately endure financial insecurity, sexual harassment, and discrimination.

Currently seven states — California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Montana, Minnesota and Nevada — have eliminated the tipped minimum wage, establishing One Fair Wage for all workers, and they have watched their restaurant industries soar. Furthermore, The White House and Department of Justice support One Fair Wage, as does the Democratic Party, which has included the elimination of the subminimum wage system in their official platform.

This video is being released in conjuncture with the launch of the fifth year of One Billion Rising global campaign, which will focus on and give increased visibility to the exploitation of women and violence against women in the workplace, and build global solidarity to demand an end to violence in all forms. The campaign will feature actions, art, and events that highlight unprecedented forms of labor abuse women face, focusing on economic and sexual exploitation.

 “We are proud to partner with Thandie and ROC United in the creation of this video that we hope will illuminate the legacy of slavery which laid the groundwork for the exploitative wages and practices that women in the restaurant industry endure today.  We hope this video will inspire everyone and anyone who has ever been served by a waitress to Rise in Solidarity to end exploitation towards restaurant workers and to demand One Fair Wage,” stated Eve Ensler, playwright, activist, and Founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising.

“Once the best kept secret in the restaurant industry, the racist origins of tipping in America is a story that must be told,” said Saru Jayaraman, ROC United’s co-founder. “In post-slavery America, tipping was viewed as a demeaning practice fit only for former slaves, whom business owners resented having to pay. Nearly two hundred years later, that rationale and practice — that tipped workers should rely on customers rather than their employers for a living wage — continues to persist, aided and abetted by the lobbying efforts of powerful restaurant industry giants like the National Restaurant Association. We must end this despicable legacy once and for all. We’re excited to partner with Thandie Newton and One Billion Rising to bring this important story to the world.”

Watch the video here

#1FairWage #TheTimeIsNow #RiseInSolidarity

Business Economist And Industry Shill Now Chair Of Health Economics At UNH

unh-peter-paul-schoolThe University of New Hampshire’s Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics just hired one of the business industry’s biggest shills in the fight against raising the minimum wage.

Dr Joseph Sabia

Professor Joseph Sabia

Professor Joseph J. Sabia has been well quoted in newspapers for his work opposing the minimum wage. Lobbyists for the National Restaurant Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, and the National Federation of Independent Business also use Sabia’s work to convince lawmakers to oppose any wage increases by saying it will kill jobs and hurt low-income workers.

The New Hampshire Union Leader just printed one of Sabia’s hit pieces in the editorial section of Friday’s paper. The editorial, “Another View — Joseph J. Sabia: The $15 minimum wage is an empty promise to the poor,” attempts to prove that raising the minimum wage will hurt New Hampshire families. He says that poor people are just lazy and there is not connection between the minimum wage and poverty.

A $15 minimum wage has been championed as an anti-poverty measure. But the majority of poor people do not work and will not benefit from a higher minimum wage. According to 2014 Census data, less than 40 percent of poor individuals actually work.”

This 40% lie has been busted by a variety of economic institutions. The Economic Policy Institute published a report in 2015 addressing this claim specifically and found that over 63% of those living in poverty do work.

Despite what some policymakers and pundits might have us believe, a significant share of the poor work. This means that policies that boost employment and wages are important and underappreciated tools for reducing poverty. To boost wage-growth and reduce poverty rates, a policy agenda must include provisions to raise the minimum wage, raise the overtime threshold, eliminate wage theft, and strengthen workers’ collective bargaining rights,” wrote Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute.

rick-berman

Richard Berman, Lawyer and Lobbyist

Professor Sabia and his work also have direct ties to Rick Berman’s public relations firm. Berman’s firm is widely known for their work pushing Right to Work, creating misleading -borderline untruthful- information about the minimum wage, and helps corporations like Wal-Mart block unionizing efforts.

In 1991, Berman founded the Employment Policies Institute that began lobbying against raising the minimum wage. “Berman also founded the Center for Consumer Freedom, which lobbies for meat, drink and tobacco industries, and the Center for Union Facts, which lobbies against unions,” wrote Ben Schiller at Fast Company online.

Sabia has been doing anti-minimum wage research for years at different colleges and universities across the country. Most recently he was at San Diego State University where he pumped out reports with grant money from Berman’s public relations firm.

Eric Lipton of the New York Times wrote about this in 2014:

Joseph J. Sabia, an associate professor of economics at San Diego State University, who has collected at least $180,000 in grant money from Mr. Berman’s group over the last eight years to deliver seven separate reports, each one concluding that increasing the minimum wage has caused more harm than good — or at least no significant benefit for the poor.

As noted above, in 1991, Berman created the Employment Policies Institute or EPI as they like to call themselves. If the acronym EPI rings a bell, that is what Berman wants. They did it intentionally to confuse people the Economic Policy Institute that has been publishing detailed economic reports for over 30 years and “whose staffers are very unhappy with the alphabetical confusion.”

The Employment Policies Institute is a wholly disingenuous group funded by companies that stand to lose from minimum wage increases,” wrote Ben Schiller at Fast Company online.

Why do Sabia and Berman’s Employment Policies Institute create these reports? To get them directly into the hands of the lobbyists who work for the corporations that fund Berman’s public relations firm.

What is clear is that the reports by the Employment Policies Institute are a critical element in the lobbying campaign against the increase in the minimum wage, as restaurant industry groups, in their own statements and news releases, often cite the institute’s reports, creating the Washington echo chamber effect that is so coveted by industry lobbyists,” continued Lipton of the New York Times.

You see the Employment Policies Institute is just another one of Berman’s nonprofit businesses in name only, as they do not have any employees. Berman’s public relations firm completes all of the work that is sent out by the Employment Policies Institute. Berman then bills “EPI” for his services and boom, corporate money laundering complete.

This arrangement effectively means that the nonprofit is a moneymaking venture for Mr. Berman, whose advertising firm was paid $1.1 million by the institute in 2012, according to its tax returns, or 44 percent of its total budget, with most of the rest of the money used to buy advertisements.

Berman has even created a new app for IPhone and Android to help employers fight against minimum wage increases.

If companies are worried that they might be forced to actually pay their workers enough to live, they have a willing ally in the Employment Policies Institute… Wage Engage allows business owners to track minimum wage legislation in states relevant to them, and to offer their opinion about the impact of such increases,” added Schiller(Read more about “Wage Engage”)  

Peter T Paul (UNH Photo Services)

Peter T Paul (UNH Photo Services)

Sabia was hired as Professor of Economics & Forrest D. McKerley Chair of Health Economics at the Peter T Paul College of Business and Economics. The school was recently renamed after UNH Alum and wealthy California businessman Peter T Paul after a very sizable donation to the school. In addition to having the school named after him, Paul also is a member of the school’s Board of Directors.

Many people do not know much about the man the school is named after. Paul founded Headlands Mortgage known for creating and selling “Alt-A” mortgages that many attributed to the financial collapse in 2007.

Headlands Mortgage, which he founded in 1986, called them Alt-A loans: Alternative “high-quality” loans. The California-based company examined the worth of the home and the down payment, the amount of cash in the bank, and the credit history, but was looser on income verification,” wrote Bob Sanders of the NH Business Review.

Paul sold his lucrative mortgage company to GreenPoint for “$473 million” reported Sanders.After selling GreenPoint, Paul started Paul Financial, which flourished and later failed, resulting in large losses for himself and his borrowers. And it became the target of a class-action truth-in-lending suit that was settled last November for $1.75 million.”

Then Paul decided he wanted to get more involved in New Hampshire politics. Paul created a Super PAC to support his friend and former UNH Business School Dean, Dan Innis in his run for Congress in 2014.

Mother Jones reported, “Paul created a super-PAC, New Hampshire Priorities PAC, and financed it with $562,000.

In 2014, Innis lost his primary bid for Congress to the corrupt Congressman Frank Guinta. This year, Innis chose to run for New Hampshire State Senate and guess whom he is bringing with him? 

“I am excited for the opportunity to refocus NH Priorities PAC on state races during the 2016 election cycle. In particular, the PAC will be focusing on recruiting and supporting candidates for the Executive Council, State Senate, and House of Representatives who are committed to offering fiscally responsible solutions to the issues impacting our great state,” wrote Peter T Paul on the NH Priorities PAC website.

So why do I find this newly hired economist to the University of New Hampshire so dubious? Because the minimum wage is one of the biggest issues driving this election cycle.

We have a Presidential election between Hillary Clinton, who supports a minimum wage increase and Donald Trump who says workers are already paid too much.

We have a US Senate race between Senator Kelly Ayotte who opposed minimum wage legislation in the Senate and Governor Maggie Hassan who has pushed for an increase in the minimum wage since her time in the NH State Senate.

We also have a Gubernatorial race between Executive Councilor Chris Sununu who opposes increasing the minimum wage in New Hampshire and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern who advocates for a higher minimum wage and suggested a baseline of $12 an hour. Van Ostern also says he will sign any increase to the minimum wage that passes the Legislature.

For the first time in many, many, many years we are really close to getting the Legislature to raise the minimum wage and that is scaring some of the greedy CEO’s who fund groups like Berman’s Employment Policies Institute.

They are pulling out all the stops in an attempt to cover up the truth about the benefits of raising the minimum wage. By convincing people that raising the minimum wage is wrong they are trying to convince voters to reject candidates who support the increase.

I refuse to let Berman, a D.C. front man for the restaurant and business industry, Peter T Paul, a wealthy Wall Street gambler from California, and Sabia, an economist for hire funded by grants from a fake “institute” tell me what is best for the people of New Hampshire.

None of these men have the best interests of working Granite Staters’ in mind when they are pushing their agenda. These men are only interested in maximizing their personal profits and taking from the hard working people struggling every day to get by.


Related Reading:

Fight Over Minimum Wage Illustrates Web of Industry Ties

Rick Berman and the Libertarian Shell Game

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