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NH AFL-CIO Scholarship Essay Series: It Is Time To Raise The Minimum Wage

Today’s essay comes from Rishi Patel.  Some of you may remember Rishi from last years essay contest where Rishi won for his essay on immigration reform.  Rishi’s mother Naina,is an IBEW member from local #1505.  Rishi is attending Bentley University this fall. 

It Is Time To Raise The Minimum Wage

By Rishi Patel (titled by NHLN editor) 

Rishi PatelIn early January, Mark MacKenzie, the President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, said that by increasing the minimum wage, New Hampshire will be “sending a strong message that we are not going to allow people to live below the poverty line.” MacKenzie is able to point out that regardless of how many people are affected, even if it is few, the state must make sure that people are able to bring food on the table and keep a roof above their head. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 only earns $15,080 yearly, which is “$4,000 less than the poverty-level income for a family of three.” People earning the minimum wage are not the only ones that will be benefitting from the reform. If the minimum wage is raised up to $8.25 and eventually $9.00, everyone will in turn benefit from it. The state will enhance its economy as there will be more money flowing through it. There are many people who challenge this view by stating that only teens will be affected, or small business will not be able to handle the increases in the salary expenses. Yet these statements are either false or assume that the minimum wage is not going to impact the market at all. Since these statements are flawed and increasing the minimum wage can strengthen the position of the state, the minimum wage should be increased.

A major way in which increasing the minimum wage will strengthen the position of the state is by raising the standard of living in the state. Standard of living is the “degree of wealth and material comfort available to a person or community.” In other words, it is the measure of how well people are able to live. If the people who earn the least amount of money are able to earn more, the standard of living for New Hampshire will go up. This is beneficial because everyone will be able to pay “$19,157 per year” towards personal expenses. That figure is the amount of money needed for a person in Concord to afford “basic necessities such as food, housing, or medical care.” In other words, people will be able to pay for the basic needs and have more economic security. Economically, state aid programs such as Medicaid would be relieved. Even though only “4.2%” of the people in New Hampshire are earning minimum wage or lower, it does not mean that state cannot improve and strengthen its position. New Hampshire does not experience exacerbated poverty when compared to other states, but the end goal for the state government is not to be in a better position than other states, but to be the best possible position for its people. Thus, even though a small number of people will be relieved from being under the poverty line, it does not change the fact that people of the state will be more likely to live a comfortable and fulfilling life.

Additionally, increasing the minimum wage will strengthen the position of the state because there will be a consequent increase the “demand for the goods and services sold by businesses operating in the Granite State.” According to “researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago[who were] looking back over a 23 year period concluded that, for every dollar minimum wages had climbed in the past, consumer spending among affected low-wage households grew by $700 in the quarters immediately following the increase.” This means that the “4.2%” of people who would be under the poverty line would end up spending $700 dollars more per quarter. This is not just 4.2% of people but also all the “low wage” households. All of this additional money will strengthen the economy, and more importantly strengthen the position and economic health of the state.

It is clear that by creating more economic security and increasing the amount of money that will flow through the state, increasing the minimum wage will strengthen the position of the state. Still, people tend to think that increasing the minimum wage will not strengthen the position of the state. People with these thoughts tend to oppose with the same arguments. They claim that the increase in wages will only affect teens, or that small business will not be able to handle the pressure of paying more to employees. Yet these statements tend to be flawed.

Most people who say that it will only affect teens fail to realize the fact that raising the minimum wage will increase the economic security for everyone. They also do not realize that it will increase the amount of money that flows through the state. According to the United States Department of Labor, “88 percent of those who would benefit from a federal minimum wage increase are age 20 or older, and 55 percent are women.” Not only are most people who are paid minimum wage not teens, but they are also women and people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Another argument that is normally made against raising the minimum wage is that small business owners will find it difficult to pay their way while possessing a healthy the bottom line. Yet, these people need to know that small business owners are not against the idea. In actuality, more seem to support it. According to the United State Department of Labor, “Small business owners believe that a higher minimum wage would benefit business in important ways: 58% say raising the minimum wage would increase consumer purchasing power. 56% say raising the minimum wage would help the economy. In addition, 53% agree that with a higher minimum wage, businesses would benefit from lower employee turnover, increased productivity and customer satisfaction.” Increasing the purchasing power will strengthen the position of people and the state itself. More importantly, a lower employee turnover ratio means that people will start performing better as they feel more valued.

Raising the minimum wage will leave the employees feeling more valuable, while it leaves customers feeling more satisfied with services and products; it will greatly affect all of the people in the state, and will harness a stronger economy within the state. Since it has the ability to influence the life of NH constituents in such a positive manner and since it is the state is responsible for the wellbeing of its constituents and betterment of the state economy, minimum wage ought to be raised. There is no doubting this vital decision.

 

 

 

 

References

http://www.dol.gov/minwage/mythbuster.htm

http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/4071768-95/wage-minimum-hampshire-workers

http://www.bls.gov/ro1/nhminwage.pdf

NH AFL-CIO Scholarship Essay Series: Stuck in the Crossfire

Today’s essay comes from Adriana Smith. The following essay took 3rd place in the annual scholarship contest.  Adriana’s mother Deb is a member of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) local 230.  Adriana is attending Weaton College this fall.  

Stuck in the Crossfire

by Adriana Smith

 

Ariana SmithGrowing up, my dad had always bounced around from job to job. When I was ten, he was working at a small bar down in Massachusetts, so my younger brother and I rarely got to see him. However, when an opportunity presented itself to start working at an Italian chain restaurant located near my brother and I, he jumped at the job, and the chance to see his kids more often. The pay was $3.10 an hour plus tips. For some, that pay scale may seem like an opportunity to make unlimited tips, and bring in bundles of cash at the end of every shift. However, my father was a middle aged man, put on almost every lunch shift. For those that have never worked in the food industry, lunch shifts are more difficult to receive living tips on, because the meals are significantly less expensive. A smaller bill means a smaller tip, which means a leaner pay check. My dad was lucky, if by the end of the week he broke even with minimum wage. Although my dad did his best to keep his head above water from week to week, my brother and I could feel the financial strain while living with him.

My dad found an apartment nearby, with a high cost of rent, with no utilities included. Desperate to be able to stay near his kids and with next to no options, he signed the lease. While my brother and I were both grateful to see our father more, there were sacrifices. You can imagine, that living the life of a waiter’s daughter is not glamorous. However, the conditions which we lived in some weeks, went beyond the limits of just being dowdy or drab. Mid-winter there would be no heat because he couldn’t afford to fill the oil tank. Every night as the cold crept in, I would curl under my heated blanket, tucking my knees under my chin. In the mornings, I would rush to take a shower as quickly as possible to get out of the frigid water, my hair freezing every day on the way to school. Meals were not enticing, we ate “Toastie O’s” (brand name Cheerios were too expensive) for breakfast every day, and some nights even for dinner. However, there was always food on the table. It wasn’t until recently that he confessed to me he would go days without eating, if my brother and I weren’t around, simply because he couldn’t afford to keep himself fed. We had fallen well below the poverty line, despite my dad working forty hours or more a week. However, that sombering fact had never truly hit me as a young child. It never occurred to me that my dad worked a full time job, and was barely able to feed his family. But now, as a socially aware student heading off to college, I see the atrocity in this fact.

Minimum wage has always been a source of debate, from raising it, to lowering it, to cutting it all together. It is one of the issues that currently divides our country, and is passionately spoken about by both sides. In 2013 part of Obama’s platform was to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by the end of 2016, which is almost a forty percent pay increase. But what would this pay increase actually do to our country? The conservatives say the job market would collapse and inflation would soar, the liberals say it would stimulate the economy and pull countless families out of poverty. The truth lies somewhere in between. So let’s focus on the negative first, jobs would be lost. Increased wages means some companies would have to let employees go because they cannot afford them. NPR reports that the predicted job loss is 500,000 people, or about .3 percent of the work force. However, that number is uncertain because our economy as a whole is unpredictable. The actual number of potential jobs lost ranges anywhere from zero to a million, as studies showed outcomes falling within that range. Another worry about wage increase is not only that jobs would be lost, but jobs that will not be created. Considering that the average business owner in New Hampshire would now have to pay their employees almost forty percent more, this could keep them from opening new positions in the company out of cost effectiveness. Thus, not only are jobs cut, jobs are not being made.

However, not every effect on the economy would be negative. A person working forty hours a week, every week, getting paid minimum wage, makes $15,080 a year before taxes. A person working the same schedule, at the same job, with the wage increase, makes $21,008 before taxes. When you only make $15,000 a year, an extra $6,000 is life changing. Low income families will finally have spending power. They will no longer have to choose between food and heat in the winter, or worry about where their next meal will come from. The pay increase would be enough to pull 900,000 people above the poverty line. By being pulled above the poverty line, the families would no longer have a need for government subsidies, meaning it will save the average tax payer money. And with the increased demand in the market, jobs would be created for production. Not only that, but the increased wages could help companies become more efficient as well. Instead of cutting employees or positions, CEO’s and bosses could instead ask for increased effort in their labor, instead of going through the costly and morale breaking process of firing people.

However, what is lost in this debate is human compassion. When the argument becomes so black and white, we lose sight of who is truly being affected by this decision – struggling families. Struggling families, with children who don’t know why they went to bed cold, or why they are having cereal for the eighth night in a row. So another child never has to question why it’s happening to them, I fully support a minimum wage increase in the state of New Hampshire.

 

NH AFL-CIO Scholarship Essay Series: To Raise, Or Not To Raise {The Minimum Wage}: That Is The Question

Today’s NH AFL-CIO Scholarship essay winner is Tyler Tambouris.  Tyler’s father Michael is a Sheet Metal Worker (local 17).   Tyler is attending River University this year.  This essay won Tyler second place in the scholarship essay contest. 

To Raise, or Not to Raise: That is the Question

Tyler TambourisBy:  Tyler Tambouris

Should New Hampshire enact a State minimum wage, which would be higher than the Federal limit? To this question, I would absolutely answer yes!   I have read several articles and spoken to many people regarding raising the minimum wage.  I have heard both sides of the argument and seen facts that go for and against both sides.  I am convinced that raising the State minimum wage would do more good than harm.

In all the articles I have read, this topic seems to be a Republican versus Democrat debate.  It sounds as if the majority of the Republicans think that raising the minimum wage would hurt our economy by causing many people to lose their job.  They think that if the pay goes up, companies will no longer be able to afford all the workers so they will have to let many go.  This in turn will cause people to rely on the system more and spend less.  However, I also read the data that showed what happened to the states that did raise the minimum wage, and the facts overwhelmingly prove those Republicans wrong.  It showed that although there was some job loss in the beginning, it was substantially lower than stated and only lasted for a short time.  Overall, because people were making more money, they were also spending more in local businesses, which eventually lead to hiring more people.  It was a win, win situation.

When I read that minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since September 1, 2008 it really hit home how wrong it is to not pass the Bill to raise it.  Think of gas alone and how much the price of it has gone up in just the past 2 years.  Minimum wage has stayed the same for almost 6 years, however, every expense has gone up, one just cannot survive on less than $300.00 a week.  The minimum wage just hasn’t kept up with the cost of living.

Until four years ago, my best friend’s father was a financial worker making almost 6 figures.  They lived very comfortably in Merrimack, NH.  In 2008, he was laid off from his company.  They provided him a severance package that ran out after 6 months.  During that time, he searched and searched for any comparable job, but there was nothing.  He had to get on unemployment and his wife, who was an educational assistant, had to get a second job.  This still wasn’t enough; there were threats of their house being taken away.  Grandparents had to step in and use their retirement money to help them make the bills every month.  After a year of searching for a job and collecting unemployment, my friend’s father entered a depression because he realized there just were not any jobs available for an older financial man.   He finally got a call from a retail store, however, he would start at minimum wage.  This family has had to rent out rooms in their house, and rely on the grandparents to help them.  They now live week to week, every penny accounted for.  My best friend tells me about how they can’t even afford good food. He usually comes to my house to get a nice home cooked meal, because healthy food is much more expensive than junk food or the dollar menu from McDonalds.

One article I read was from a politician that challenged himself to survive on minimum wage for one week, one week!!!  He stated that he had $74.00 for food, gas, and just any incidental we need day to day.  This money had run out by Thursday.  He was forced to walk 2 miles to work and meetings, and eat junk food because it was so inexpensive.  Never mind if he got sick, there was no money for the doctor or medicine.

After thinking about all the articles I have read, and all the people I have spoken with, it just seems like the only thing that will help the people of New Hampshire and New Hampshire’s economy, is to raise the State Minimum Wage.  New Hampshire’s minimum wage is the lowest in New England, why is it that our politicians don’t see the benefits?  Yes, there was evidence of some employees losing their job immediately after raising the minimum wage, however, the long-term effects show improvement in the state’s economy.

Not only would it be beneficial to the people that are working in these jobs, data shows that low wage workers, out of necessity, usually spend every dollar they can in local grocery stores, gas stations, and businesses.  Raising their wages would also raise the money they would be spending.

Another benefit would be for the businesses paying higher than minimum wage.  Data has shown that the workers will spend more time with a company if they are making enough to live.  This will save the company money in having to frequently train workers.  Their employees will also be happier working for them, which will improve their work production.

In conclusion, raising minimum wage would be a boost of the economy in New Hampshire. No matter what the scenario, there will be downsides to either choice. But, I strongly feel that the upsides of raising minimum wage definitely outweigh the downsides of it. Not only will it boost the economy, but it will help people to live a better lifestyle!

 

NH AFL-CIO Scholarship Essay Series: Raising the NH Minimum Wage Would Strengthen The NH Advantage

Today’s essay comes from Robert Dudgeon who is attending Northern Essex Comm. College perusing a degree in political science. Robert’s mother, Tracy, is a member of the Professional Firefighters of NH Local #4104.  Robert took First Place in the NH AFL-CIO Scholarship contest.

 

Raising the NH Minimum Wage Would Strengthen The NH Advantage

By Robert Dudgeon (titled by NHLN editor)

Why is the minimum wage important, one may ask? It’s only a starter wage, a law that doesn’t affect many workers, right? Think again. 20% of working teenagers, 19% of food-service workers, and 4.3% of all workers in the US (3.3 million people) earn the minimum wage, which is currently $7.25/ hour [1]. The minimum wage is a big deal. It is the lowest rate that a worker can sell their labor for, the law that shows people at the bottom of the economic ladder how much their labor is worth and saves them from working for pennies while they try to climb the ladder. Many critics of the minimum wage don’t understand how impossible it is to live on it. When told that it’s impossible to live on the minimum wage, those critics will start explaining how people are supposed to get more education to move up out of minimum wage jobs, while ignoring the fact that you can’t afford an education while earning the minimum wage. Finally, they will argue that raising the minimum wage will destroy all of the minimum wage jobs, while ignoring the fact that minimum wage jobs continue to exist after numerous minimum wage hikes since the original 25 cents/ hour in 1938. Since the current minimum wage is not a living wage, since working for the current minimum wage will not pay for your education, and since minimum wage hikes do not destroy jobs, I support enacting a NH State minimum wage that goes up in 3 steps ($8.20 in 2014, $9.15 in 2015, $10.10 in 2016) to $10.10/ hour by 2016 and is indexed to inflation to allow for future cost-of-living increases. My proposal is in line with a national campaign to raise the minimum wage, which is supported by President Obama and 600+ economists [2].

Considering the past minimum wage of $7.25/ hour, $10.10 sounds too high, but when compared to New Hampshire’s high cost of living, it’s just right. When one uses the MIT Living Calculator, a free online finance tool, to find the living cost in NH, the living wage needed to match the cost of living in NH is $9.68 for the whole state, with pricey areas such as Hillsborough County and Rockingham County costing $10.07 and $10.15 to live in [3]. The $9/ hour wage proposed by some moderates will just not make the cut, but $10.10 will allow low-income workers the chance to pay all of their bills on time.

Creating a state minimum wage will immediately make a huge difference for Granite State families on the brink of poverty. 77,000 workers making under $10.10/ hour and 36,000 workers who earn more than $10.10 would all see raises as a result of the new state minimum wage [4]. Those who make minimum wage working full-time will see an extra $114 dollars in their paycheck every week [my calculations], which would immediately be spent on gas, food, or other expenses that would otherwise be limited. 12% of New Hampshire children live in families with at least one parent who would earn more from the new state minimum wage [4], which means 1 out of 8 children will have better medical care, eat healthier food, and have a more stable family. 59% of the workers who would see raises are women, and 21% of all working women in New Hampshire would earn more money, which would make the state minimum wage a massive gain for womens’ equal pay [4]. 12% of all workers aged 55+ would get a pay raise, which makes the proposed state minimum wage an excellent way to contribute to comfortable retirements for our senior citizens [4]. 47% of the workers getting raises would be from families making less than $60,000/ year (low-income families), and 42% of all workers from families making less than $20,000/ year would get raises, making the new minimum wage a targeted method of eliminating extreme poverty [4]. The facts show that a $10.10 state minimum wage would improve the financial and personal well-being of traditionally insecure New Hampshire residents, including children in low-income families, the elderly, and women.

Everyone can agree that education is the key to a better job, more pay, and a happier life. Nearly every one of my fellow students was pushed to go to college after we graduated from Pinkerton Academy (Derry, NH), and since most of our parents couldn’t pay our tuition bills, we all found summer jobs and hoped that we could save up enough money to pay for college tuition like our parents and grandparents said they did. However, once the summer ended, most of friends (and myself) had to take on heavy student loans to pay for school when we found out that minimum wage paid nowhere near enough to finance a college education. If you’re a college student lucky enough to have a job at minimum wage for 40 hours/ week during the summer and 20 hours/ week during the school year, you earn ~ $9,500/ year [my calculations], which allows you to attend community college for your first 2 years, but not to attend UNH, which runs ~$16,500/ year for in-state tuition [5]. A couple of my friends couldn’t get parents to co-sign on loans, and they’re working menial jobs until they can afford college. The proposed state minimum wage law would make this situation more workable by increasing the pay for the aforementioned job to ~$13,300/ year, and by boosting pay for low-income families, could allow more low-income students to go straight to college while working to pay most of their bills. Parents could assist with extra funds for the last piece in the affordability puzzle. A whopping 84% of working teenagers would benefit directly or indirectly from the new wage, and the larger economy would benefit from more young people getting a college education without crushing student loan debt.

Finally, there is the question of how many jobs will be available after the proposed minimum wage hike is passed. Many opponents of minimum wage hikes like to predict that massive layoffs will commence once the pen hits the paper and that small businesses will become non-existent, just as they also predicted when child labor was banned, and when the 40-hour workweek was created, when  the EPA was created, and several other times. They simply ignore two large factors that will soften the blow of increased labor costs to businesses. First, increased consumer demand will result from the workers spending their new raises, which will increase business and give businesses enough extra money to retain their workers. The Economic Policy Institute, the only think tank that has done major research into the wage hike, predicts that New Hampshire will gain 400 full-time jobs from the increase demand created by the new state minimum wage. This is a very modest gain due to the fact that New Hampshire already has lower unemployment (4.4% in June 2014) than the rest of the country (6.2% in June 2014)[6]. Also, businesses will pay less in taxes to finance the government assistance programs that low-wage workers rely on when they pay them living wages.

That is the case for raising the minimum wage to $10.10. Nobody knows the exact reason that the federal minimum wage has stagnated. It could have been declining union membership rates that caused labor to lose political power. It could have been strong opponents crying wolf about proposed increases. Regardless of what the federal government will do, New Hampshire must act in its own self-interest and enact a state minimum wage to create a living wage for at-risk groups and families, to allow students the chance to work hard and improve their skills through college, and to create a better climate for business in the Granite State.

 

Works Cited:

1. “Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers, 2013.” BLS Reports (n.d.): n. pag. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mar. 2014. Web. 7 Aug. 2014.

2. “College Costs: Find out How Much College Costs.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2014. .

3. Cooper, David. “Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10 Would Lift Wages for Millions and Provide a Modest Economic Boost.” Economic Policy Institute. Economic Policy Institute, 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 07 Aug. 2014. <http://www.epi.org/publication/raising-federal-minimum-wage-to-1010/>.

4. Glasmeier, Amy K. Counties and Places in New Hampshire. Living Wage Calculator. MIT, n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2014. .

5. “Local Area Unemployment Statistics Home Page.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2014. <http://www.bls.gov/lau/>.

6. “Over 600 Economists Sign Letter In Support of $10.10 Minimum Wage: Economist Statement on the Federal Minimum Wage.” Economic Policy Institute. Economic Policy Institute, Jan. 2014. Web. 08 Aug. 2014.

What happened in the US Senate yesterday? (Hint: They’re not trying to overturn Citizens United anymore.)

Money Corrputs by Light Brigading via Flikr

photo by Light Brigading via flikr

Yesterday, the Senate GOP voted to block any further consideration of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

That means the amendment won’t go over to the House of Representatives for a vote.

And it won’t go out to the 50 states for a ratification vote.

The proposed amendment would have explicitly authorized Congress and state legislatures to set campaign finance limits. (Read more about Citizens United and the resulting “unprecedented amounts of outside spending” in the 2010 and 2012 elections here.)

So… those 16 states that have already voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United? Sorry, folks.

All those other states – including New Hampshire – whose state Legislatures have shown interest in a constitutional amendment? Sorry, folks.

Those 80% of ordinary Americans – including 72% of ordinary Republicans – who oppose Citizens United? Sorry, folks.

The Senate GOP knows better than you do.

So you don’t get a vote on this.

Who to thank, for taking the states’ vote away? The 42 GOP Senators who voted to block the amendment yesterday.

citizens_united_switched_votesOr, more bizarrely, the 25 Senators who on Monday night voted to let the amendment proceed – but by Thursday afternoon, had changed their votes to block it. (And yes, that would include New Hampshire’s own Senator Kelly Ayotte.)

If those 25 Senators had voted the same way on Thursday as they voted on Monday, the constitutional amendment would be going to the House. And then, maybe, out to the 50 states for ratification votes.

So… what happened during those 68 hours, to make those 25 Senators change their votes?

Can’t tell for sure, from out here in the hinterlands. The news is full of the Oscar Pistorius case… 9/11 remembrances… the Ray Rice case… ISIS and the spectre of terrorism. But there’s relatively little press coverage of this attempt to amend our Constitution.  The 80% of Americans who oppose Citizens United probably don’t even know that the Senate took a vote yesterday.

Here’s my best guess: I think Mitch McConnell happened. I’m guessing that the Senate GOP Leader told them how to vote… and the 25 Senators did. (Even Arizona Sen. John McCain, one of the sponsors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, more commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act.)

That’s just a gut-instinct guess, but there are two things behind it.  First, during Committee consideration of the amendment, the GOP members marched in lockstep to oppose the amendment. Every recorded Subcommittee and Committee vote was strictly along party lines.

Second reason: GOP Leader McConnell has opposed campaign finance limits since… well, it seems like forever.

Take some time and listen to the GOP Leader’s speech at a June “retreat” for billionaires organized by the Koch Brothers.

In his remarks, GOP Leader McConnell tracks the history of campaign finance reform efforts “back to the beginning of the 20th century” … and how they “petered out” during “the great prosperity” of the 1920s. (Do you think he remembers how the 1920s ended?)

He reminisces about his own efforts to block passage of campaign finance reform:

We had filibuster after filibuster, which in my first term in the Senate I was leading. And then it came back again in the first two years of Clinton. The bill would pass the House, the bill would pass the Senate, and then it would go to conference. And I was so determined, I came up with a new filibuster. That’s all I’d ever done before was filibuster and go in, go into conference. We had to do it all night long. Under (inaudible) procedure every senator had an hour, and if you didn’t show up right on time, you were out of luck.

Everybody rallied together. This was about two months before the great fall election of 1994. Everybody rallied together. We went around the clock. Everybody showed up on time. And I thought, well, maybe we’re finally through with this nonsense.

He says “The worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law.”

He talks about his own lawsuit to overturn McCain-Feingold. (You can read the Supreme Court decision here.)

He talks about what has happened since his lawsuit.

So what really then changed the Court was President Bush’s appointment of John Roberts. The most important was Sam Alito because we lost the McCain-Feingold case five to four because of Sandra Day O’Connor. The majority was all liberal. Then she retired, and Sam Alito replaced her, and we now have the best Supreme Court in anybody’s memory… Now, that’s where we are today. I’m really proud of this Supreme Court and the way they’ve been dealing with the issue of First Amendment political speech. It’s only five to four, and I pray for the health of the five.

And then he talks about some other things of interest to his audience of billionaires: like minimum wage… environmental regulation… regulation of the financial services industry. And he promises to use federal spending bills to “go after” those issues.

And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible).

And – in response to a mostly-inaudible question from David Koch about “free speech” and amending the Constitution – GOP Leader McConnell says:

Having, having struck out at the Supreme Court, David, they now want to amend the Constitution. … These people need to be stopped, and believe me, something that I thought to do (inaudible) what is spent (inaudible) independent coordination?
(Laughter.)
(Applause.)

Yeah, read that again: “These people need to be stopped.”

THAT’s why I’m guessing “Mitch McConnell happened” to those 25 Senators who switched their votes between Monday and Thursday.

What can we do about it, now? What can we – the 80% of Americans who oppose Citizens United – do, now that the Senate GOP has blocked the amendment?

We can make it a campaign issue.

Scott Brown in 2010 Image by Wiki Commons

Scott Brown in 2010
Image by Wiki Commons

Starting here in New Hampshire, with Scott Brown… who, as Massachusetts Senator, helped block the DISCLOSE Act back in 2010. Here in New Hampshire, 69% of us want a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Even among Granite State Republicans, six out of 10 want a constitutional amendment. (Sen. Ayotte: who were you listening to, when you voted yesterday?) How do you think Scott Brown will vote on this, if he is elected in November?

We need to make Citizens United an issue in the 2014 campaigns.

There’s not all that much else we can do, at this point.

—–

If you want to wander through Leader McConnell’s campaign finance disclosure records – including $14.8 million in “large individual contributions” – click here. Remember: that’s just contributions to his official campaign.

“Outside spending” is much harder to track. So far, during this election season, McConnell has also “been boosted by $2.2 million in positive ads, mainly by the [U.S.] Chamber. Outside Republican PACs have already spent $7 million on ads attacking his Democratic challenger, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.”

A running tally of money that “non-profits” have spent on electioneering so far in the 2014 campaign is available here.

—–

More information about grassroots efforts to support the “Democracy for All” amendment is available here.

Tuesday’s NHLN story about the amendment is here.

Can We Overturn Citizens United? US Senate will vote again later this week.

(FLICKR LIght Brigading

(FLICKR LIght Brigading)

Last night, the proposed constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United moved one tiny step forward. By a 79-18 vote, the US Senate invoked cloture to end a GOP filibuster of the measure.

That means the Senate will actually be able to vote on the amendment, probably later this week. But will it pass? One Hill reporter says, “The amendment is almost certain to fail.”

That’s because constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in the Senate – and until last night, the Senate GOP had been working in lockstep to defeat (or undermine) the measure. Every recorded Subcommittee and Committee vote was strictly along party lines: with the Democrats in favor of moving the proposal forward; and the Republicans trying to keep it from seeing the light of day.

So even though some GOP Senators (including NH Sen. Kelly Ayotte) voted to end the filibuster last night, it’s quite possible they will be pressured into voting against the amendment when it comes up for a vote.

If the Senate approves the amendment, it will still need to be approved by the House and ratified by two-thirds of the states. (Read more about the process here.)

Cash Bribe Politician MoneyWhat’s at stake: The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission helped unleash unprecedented amounts of outside spending in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. (Read more here.)

It has led to billionaires like Sheldon Adelson wielding incredible personal influence.

It led to Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell making a pilgrimage to a “secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers” where he promised to block debate on “all these gosh darn proposals” like increasing the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, and allowing students to refinance their college loans.

Now, Mitch McConnell may believe – as he told those prospective donors – that “all Citizens United did was to level the playing field for corporate speech…. We now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times. The Supreme Court allowed all of you to participate in the process in a variety of different ways.”

But America is seeing through that spin.  

Sixteen states have already endorsed the idea of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

More than 500 local governments have already supported such a change. (Here in the Granite State, the list includes: Alstead; Amherst; Andover; Atkinson; Barnstead; Barrington; Bradford; Bridgewater; Chesterfield; Conway; Deerfield; Eaton; Exeter; Francestown; Henniker; Hampstead; Hudson; Kingston; Lee; Lyme; New Boston; Northwood; Rindge; Tilton; Wakefield; Webster; and Windham)

And the public? America is united on this issue. There is more agreement on overturning Citizens United than on just about anything else. 80% of Americans – and 72% of Republicans – oppose Citizens United. Here in New Hampshire, 69% of Granite Staters support a constitutional amendment like the one the Senate will finally be voting on. (Amendment supporters include six out of every 10 NH Republicans, and almost three-quarters of NH independents.  Senator Kelly Ayotte, are you listening?)

So this past weekend, the GOP tried out some new spins, trying to rationalize why they will be voting against something that eight out of 10 Americans support.

New Spin #1: It’s the Democrats! “‘Senate Democrats have long been funded by a group of billionaires bent on maintaining their power, yet they pretend to be outraged’ by the spending of the Koch brothers and their allies. …In advance of Monday’s floor debate, Senate Republican staffers circulated a chart showing the reach of Democracy Alliance…”

(No, this spin does not explain why Republicans want to maintain the Citizens United status quo. If the Republicans and the Koch Brothers are truly outraged by Democratic big-dollar contributors – why don’t they vote to approve the constitutional amendment?)

New Spin #2: Guns! (Yes, really.)

Here’s how the National Rifle Association described Citizens United: “The court declared unconstitutional the parts of the law that had been enacted for the explicit purpose of silencing the NRA and its members. Of course, the gun-banners in the White House and Congress opposed the decision because it thwarted their plans.”

Here’s how the NRA described the amendment to overturn Citizens United: “As the title of the proposed constitutional amendment suggests, S.J.R. 19 is intended to allow anti-gunners in Congress to silence their critics and to control the gun ‘debate.’”

(The actual title: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.” And: while the NRA may be #5 on the list of non-profits that spend money on electioneering… the proposed amendment isn’t actually about guns. It’s about allowing Congress and the states to “regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.” It’s about “protect[ing] the integrity of government and the electoral process.”)

Does the GOP really think either of these spins is going to stick any better than the “Citizens United leveled the playing field” spin?

Why is this such an important issue for those of us in the Labor movement?

Reason 1: “Whatever slice [of political contributions] you look at, business interests dominate, with an overall advantage over organized labor of about 15-to-1. Even among PACs – the favored means of delivering funds by labor unions – business has a more than 3-to-1 fundraising advantage. In soft money, the ratio is nearly 17-to-1.”

Reason 2: Mitch McConnell, shilling for those billionaire donors: “In late April, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, successfully filibustered a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a widely popular measure that would increase wages for at least 16.5 million Americans. Earlier in the year, McConnell also led a filibuster of a three-month extension of unemployment insurance to some 1.7 million Americans.”

Is our government really for sale to the highest bidder?

The 2014 campaigns are breaking fundraising records set in the 2012 and 2010 elections.

Isn’t it time to send this constitutional amendment to the states for a ratification vote?

How And Why Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter Has Dedicated Her Life To Helping People (VIDEO)

Carol Shea Porter 1

“The America dream is slipping away from the middle class,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter at the annual New Hampshire AFL-CIO Labor Day breakfast.

“Carol made the commitment to helping people” said Paul O’Connor, President of the Metal Trades Council at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, in his introduction of Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.

Carol Shea porter 2There is no better advocate for working families in New Hampshire than Congresswoman Shea-Porter. She has stood up against right-wing attacks on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. She stood strong in her opposition to the “Ryan Plan” that would slash funding to programs like Head Start and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). She opposed the draconian cuts mandated by Sequestration that forced furloughs on federal workers throughout the country.

In Washington she spoke up for working families countless times by calling for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage. At the breakfast she explained how wage stagnation has hurt working families.

“What Americans want is a decent enough wage, they weren’t asking for 50% of the company, they just wanted to be fairly paid for their labor and they wanted to be able to take care of their families. They wanted to pay their mortgage or their rent, save for retirement, educate their children, and have a little money left over Friday night for pizza,” Shea-Porter said.

Rep. Shea-Porter and NH AFL-CIO Pres. MacKenzie

Rep. Shea-Porter and NH AFL-CIO Pres. MacKenzie

In contrast, one of Shea-Porter’s potential opponents, Brendan Kelly, actually said the minimum wage should be “a dollar and a half” in a recent GOP primary debate.

Shea-Porter went into great detail about how corporations like Walgreens (who have since reversed their decision) are moving to change their corporate citizenship, commonly called inversion, to avoid paying their fair share in taxes.

Working families in New Hampshire need a true leader like Congresswoman Shea-Porter in Washington. In a recent primary debate, all of Shea-Porter’s potential opponents called for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which has already drastically lowered the uninsured population of New Hampshire.

In the First Congressional District, the choice for New Hampshire is clear and after watching this video I think you will agree.

 

Watch Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter tell it like it is in her short speech at the New Hampshire AFL-CIO Labor Day breakfast.

Granite Staters Ask Senator Ayotte To Take The Minimum Wage Challenge

Image from NH Alliance For Retired Americans

Image from NH Alliance For Retired Americans

This week members of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired American, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) challenged Senator Kelly Ayotte to live on minimum wage for a week.

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour that leads many to make choices between feeding their families and filling their gas tanks. This is why millions of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

Senator Ayotte supported the GOP filibuster that blocked an “up and down” down of raising the minimum wage.

Activists argued that Senator Ayotte should spend a week in the shoes of a minimum wage worker by joining Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Tim Ryan, Barbara Lee, Mark Takano, and former Gov. Ted Strickland in taking the Minimum Wage Challenge and living on $77 for a week, the take home pay of a minimum wage worker.

“In 1992, my family and I fled our country, the former Yugoslavia, due to the civil war,” said Nina Mujakovic, small business owner. “Since 1998, my family and I have worked very hard to 77 dollars a weekgain back what we lost. We have obtained our American Dream and others need to have the opportunity to achieve theirs. An increase in minimum wage will help them along that path.”

Activist displayed what the reality of a $77.00 food basket looked like.

“Raising the minimum wage is a no-brainer in so many ways,” added Lucy Edward, a member of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “Better incomes lead to a better standard of living, and better health, reducing health care costs. Better incomes lead to better funding for schools, leading to more educated young people who will again have better jobs and even start their own businesses. Raising the minimum wage, and other policies that support working families, are a positive feedback economic engine.”

At the event, Lucy Edwards highlighted how raising the minimum wage will help strengthen our Social Security system.

“Once you understand that the Social Security benefit is calculated on lifetime earnings, and that the Trust Fund is funded from current earnings, you can immediately see that if a person makes more money, not only do their benefits on retirement increase, but the amount they pay into the Social Security Trust Fund increases today. Raising the Federal minimum wage, passing the Paycheck Equity legislation through Congress, and funding projects that create jobs all bring immediate returns to the Trust Fund, extending its ability to pay full benefits into the future.”

You can read Lucy’s full statement at the NH Alliance For Retired Americans Blog.

Activists vowed to watch and wait to see if Senator Ayotte would accept the challenge to live on minimum wage for a week. They are hopeful that she will then understand the difficulty of getting by on $77 a week.

Will Senator Ayotte accept the Minimum Wage Challenge and take one week to see what it is like for the millions of Americans struggling to survive on the minimum wage?   Odds are against it, but with pressure from people like you, that could change.

Linda Tanner A Real Candidate For Working Families

One of the goals of the NH Labor News is to help Granite Staters get to know the candidates who are running for office in New Hampshire. We focus on candidates who support working families, particularly those candidates who are working to rebuild the middle class and strengthen our rights as workers.

This week’s focus is on State Senate District 8 candidate Linda Tanner.

Linda Tanner NH Senate Candidate District 8
Background Information for Rep. Linda Tanner

Linda is longtime community activist, teacher, and coach. Linda has dedicated her entire life to helping others and improving her community. For over 30 years as a teacher and coach at Kearsarge Regional High School, Linda worked tirelessly to help her students succeed in and out of the classroom. During her career at Kearsarge, she served as a Department Chair, worked with the School to Work program and developed a state championship tennis program. She was honored by the NH Interscholastic Athletic Association for her years of service and elected to the NH Coaches Hall of Fame for Girls Tennis. She received her Bachelor of Science in Health Education from East Stroudsburg University and her Masters from Dartmouth College. In 2012 she was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives from Sullivan County, District 9.

 

As a public school teacher, were you involved with your local union?

I was president of my local association, the Kearsarge Regional Education Association for three terms. I participated on many negotiation teams, worked with members on issues at the local level, and worked with management towards better working conditions. I am a lifetime member of the NEA NH and have their endorsement for this campaign.

 

As a former teacher, I am sure you have a lot to say about the current public education system. Can you give me two things you would like to see changed?  And are these changes that you can enact from the NH Senate?

Public education has been under attack by those who would privatize education, eliminate compulsory education, and eliminate teachers’ unions. I ran for my House seat because I wanted to stop these political maneuvers that were undermining what, I feel, is the most valuable institution for maintaining democracy.

I think there is a great deal we could do to promote and fund our public education system in New Hampshire. I definitely feel the move from the punitive No Child Left Behind to the Common Core is a move that will help students. The Common Core sets standards but does not dictate pedagogy, deals with progress instead of achievement or failure and is the right course towards improvement and consistency. Just like other programs, it needs to be tweaked and re-visited. I would like to see educators who are working in the schools as teachers have a larger input into programs and initiatives.

As a high school teacher, I worked with a school-to-work program for the average student to encourage them towards further education and give some basic instruction in job skills. I taught Health Occupations Co-op for several years. I feel this is a very valuable program that should be expanded to teach not only content but job skills such as being on time, being able to speak to people, shake hands, show respect for co-workers and your product.  Recently I visited the Job Corps Training facility in Vermont. We are currently building a facility in Manchester. This type of program, which targets low income youth, is vital to providing vocational training in a setting that also emphasizes those job skills. It gives an opportunity for young people to better their position and at the same time provide workers for key jobs in our State.

As a Senator I will work to help New Hampshire schools become a model system that supports innovation, is relevant to the world of work and careers, and maintains rigorous standards for all school children.

 

You are running for the NH Senate Seat in District 8 that is currently held by Sen. Bob Odell. In what ways are you similar or different from Sen. Odell?

I found my voting aligned in many areas with Senator Odell.  I voted to repeal the death penalty, expand Medicaid, and deal with the issues around the Medical Enhancement Tax. However, Senator Odell voted against returning the period for teachers to be fired without cause or hearing from 5 to 3 years, voted against medical marijuana, and voted for the repeal of automatic continuation requirement for public employees’ collective bargaining agreements. These are three examples of bills he opposed that I would have supported.

IMG_0067This Senate seat has been, under Senator Odell, a moderate vote in a 13 to 11 Republican majority. My election to the seat will balance the parties at 12 all, which would make a major shift – especially on Labor issues. Medicaid expansion has a clause that requires renewal during this next session. Both Republican candidates have stated that they will try to repeal the Medicaid expansion, fight ‘Obama Care,’ and make NH a ‘Right to Work State’ as a priority. If either of the candidates opposing me wins this seat: Medicaid will be repealed, leaving thousands without medical insurance; and ‘Right to Work” for less will be passed along with other legislation that will hurt working men and women.

 

The current minimum wage is $7.25 and the GOP-led legislature repealed the NH Minimum Wage law. What would you do as Senator to help push NH toward a real living wage? Last year, one proposal was to raise the state minimum wage over two years to $9.00/hour. Do you think $9.00 is the right number? Or do you think it should be $10.10 as the POTUS is pushing, or even higher? 

First, we need to reinstate a NH Minimum wage that was repealed under the Republican leadership of Speaker O’Brien. I served on the House Labor Committee in this past term. The bill that was introduced should be reintroduced in this next term. This bill offered modest increases over time and originally had a provision for further increases based on economic indicators. I think we need to have a bill that will pass both The House and Senate. I hope to be one of those Senators to move this piece of legislation forward.

Do you have any legislation that you would like to see or have ideas on proposing if you are elected?  

I want to defend against the so called ‘right to work’ bills. If those bills pass it will let non-union workers benefit from our hard work in negotiations without paying their fair share. It’s a union-busting tactic.

I want to ensure fairness in workers’ compensation laws for those hurt on the job – so if they can’t work, they will still be able to keep their homes and survive. At the same time, I want to see how we can reduce the rate for employers. I want to establish a minimum wage and increase it above the present $7.25 so everyone has the dignity of a decent wage. I want to protect workers from pay cards and title loans that are stripping away hard earned money with excessive fees and astronomical interest rates. I want to offer solutions for the current lack of affordable and accessible elderly and work force housing.

 

If you could pick one issue from your campaign to highlight, what issue would that be?  

I am a person who is running for this Senate seat not to be someone special or advance a radical agenda but to work on legislation that will help the working men and women of this State. I taught for 35 years in the NH public schools and over that time, you see the communities, the State, through the lives of your students. I know the successes, the struggles, and the heartbreaking issues many of our citizens face. I want to be their voice in the Legislature.

 

Why should the labor community support your campaign?  

I am a lifelong union member. As a teacher for 35 years and continuing through retirement, I have been a member of the National Education Association. During my years at Kearsarge Regional High School, I was President of my local for three terms. I served on many negotiations and collective bargaining teams working for high quality education, good working conditions, livable salaries and benefits.  I proudly served as a State Representative for Sullivan County and as a member of the House Labor Committee.  I have the experience, knowledge and the political will to help the working men and women our State.

 

What can people do to help your campaign?

I can’t win this election alone. The opposition is well-funded and as committed to winning this seat as we are. I need your help to win this election. I need your vote and I need you to talk with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to urge them to vote for me. Also, with this large, rural district, we need funds for mailings, ads, and signs. Any amount you can send to us will help us get our message out.

Please see our website lindatanner.org for more information

 

 

 

 

Watch Scott Brown Dance Around The Minimum Wage Yet Again

 

Dance Magic Dance!

That’s all I could think of, after watching a video of Scott Brown dancing his way around questions raised by New Hampshire voters.

Brown used to be the junior Senator from Massachusetts, until Elizabeth Warren beat him.  Now he’s up here in New Hampshire, running for Senate again, and recently appeared at a “Town Hall” style gathering in Franklin.

Janice Kelble, an APWU member and resident of Franklin, asked Brown where he stands on raising the minimum wage.  “Speaking of struggling working Americans, what’s your position on increasing the federal minimum wage after all these years?” she asked.

Cue the music, and watch Scott dance his way around actually answering the question.

Didn’t quite catch it? This is what Brown said:

“Something I’ve– In a prior existence, I supported an increase, that being said – what’s the key to an increase in the minimum wage? Well you can’t have the Federal government mandating and dictating all the time.  What you need to have is everybody at the table.  You need to have the job creators the people who are actually signing the front of the check at the table.  Now is this something that should be periodically reviewed, absolutely.  I’ve said that publicly and have felt that.  And as a result of those discussions where everybody was at the table, I actually voted to increase the minimum wage because it was agreed upon by everybody – they worked, they sat, they figured it out.  By mandating and not including our job creators it’s not something that is effective.  We need to have not only the employees but the job creators at the table to make determination and if in fact something comes up I hope to be at the table to have that opportunity to be part of that conversation and then we can make the determination as to what’s an appropriate amount.”

His response was very similar to the canned responses he gave to other NH voters at an event in Concord earlier this year.  I will give him this: he is consistent in avoiding actually answering questions on where he stands on raising the minimum wage.

Kelble tried again, with a more direct question:

I understood that you that you voted for increasing it in the past but I don’t understand what your position is now.  You kind of talked around job creators but you didn’t talk about your position on minimum wage.”

Brown: “Yeah I did actually.”  (We beg to differ.)

Then he tried again.  (Second dance, same as the first!  Play it again Sam.)

Got it, this time?  What he said (and no, this is not a cut-and-paste):

Let me say it again.  I actually said that we need job creators and employees at the table to make those decisions so everything’s on the table because when you look at the issue of minimum wage what are the challenges right now facing people who actually are hired.  You have right now the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world, we have a state profit tax here in our state, you have Obamacare and the tentacles of that and the amazing challenges that are coming in after the election with the business mandate.  And then you throw in the high cost of energy.” 

(FYI, there is a significant difference between “corporate tax rates” and the effective tax rate, which is what corporations actually pay.  But that is another post.)

“Scott Brown is ducking New Hampshire voters, refusing to answer questions, and hiding his opposition to a responsible increase in the minimum wage,” said NH Democratic Party Communications Director Julie McClain. “Scott Brown has been cashing in on his Senate candidacy and lining his own pockets with Wall Street cash he collected from speaking to a hedge fund conference. But when it comes to answering New Hampshire’s families’ questions on the minimum wage, he runs and hides. That makes him wrong for New Hampshire.”

Refusing to answer a simple question does not make you good candidate, it makes you look like an imbecile.

Raising the minimum wage would affect over 100,000 Granite Staters.

Why is it that… what was “good policy” for Scott Brown when he represented Massachusetts… is not good enough to even have a position on now? (Now that he’s stumping around New Hampshire.)

I’d ask him why he seems to have changed positions (along with his residence address), but I figure I’d just see that same dance one more time.

Have a favorite Dance GIF that’s appropriate here?   Leave in the comments.

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