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Days Ahead of Primary, Fight for $15 Spreads to New Hampshire

Fight For $15 - Rally and March - 04/15/15 Image by Barry Solow FLIKR CC

Fight For $15 – Rally and March – 04/15/15 Image by Barry Solow FLIKR CC

Fast-food cooks, cashiers in Granite State to wage first-ever strike for $15, union rights before GOP debate in Manchester

With 45% of N.H. workers paid less than $15/hour, underpaid workers to push candidates from both parties to back $15, union rights

Manchester, NH — Just days before the New Hampshire primary, cooks and cashiers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and other chains will walk off their jobs for the first time across the Granite State on Saturday to demand $15/hour and union rights. With voters in the state citing the economy as their top concern, fast-food workers also announced that they will protest with other underpaid workers outside the GOP debate in Manchester Saturday evening to stress that the 45% of workers in New Hampshire who are paid less than $15/hour are a voting bloc that cannot be ignored. 

The workers’ strike follows a wave of walkouts coinciding with presidential primary debates in Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Iowa, and comes as low-paying jobs are dragging down communities across New Hampshire: 45% of workers in the state, or some 281,000, are paid less than $15/hour, making the need to raise pay a major issue in the run-up to the primary.

“My three young kids are growing so quickly, and on $8 an hour I can’t even afford jackets for them in the winter,” said Megan Jensen, who is paid $8/hour at KFC in Manchester and who will be a first time voter in the New Hampshire primary. “I’ve never walked off the job before, but I can’t wait any longer for fair pay. Everyone deserves at least $15/hour and the right to a union, and candidates who are flying into New Hampshire this week need to know that we are taking this demand to the polls.” 

Fast-food workers started organizing in New Hampshire after seeing how workers in neighboring Massachusetts have won pay increases and made $15/hour a top-tier political issue by joining together and going on strike. Workers at a string of Boston-area hospitals including Boston Medical CenterTufts Medical Center, and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital have won pay raises to $15/hour in recent months. In July 2015, 35,000 home care workers across Massachusetts won an unprecedented statewide $15/hour minimum wage through a contract negotiated with Gov. Charlie Baker. And in January, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh called for raising the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour during his State of the City address in January.  

Fast-food workers started organizing in New Hampshire after seeing how workers in neighboring Massachusetts have made $15/hour a top-tier political by joining together and going on strike. In January, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh called for raising the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour during his State of the City address. Workers at a string of Boston-area hospitals including Boston Medical Center, Tufts Medical Center, and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital have won pay raises to $15/hour in recent months. And in July 2015, 35,000 home care workers across Massachusetts won an unprecedented statewide $15/hour minimum wage through a contract negotiated with Gov. Charlie Baker.

Saturday, Feb. 6: Schedule of New Hampshire Fight for $15 Strike Actions and Events

Ongoing Media Availability

Striking fast-food workers available throughout the day for interviews. Contact Jack or Anna above to arrange.

2:00pm ET Strike | Wendy’s 675 South Willow St., Manchester, NH 03103

Striking New Hampshire fast-food workers available for interviews. Strike to feature compelling visuals.

6:00pm ET Protest | Saint Anselm College, 100 Saint Anselm Drive, Manchester, NH 03102

Massive crowd of underpaid workers will march to St. Anselm College to protest at the GOP debate.

Striking fast-food workers will be joined by child care and other underpaid workers from across the state who are fighting for $15/hour and union rights: 

“Child care workers and parents are struggling to get by on low wages, and our children are paying the price,” said Jen Cole of Pittsfield, NH, who’s paid $13.25/hour after working in child care for nearly 20 years. “When I started in child care, my husband and I relied on food stamps and Medicaid to care for our three kids. Politicians talk a lot about protecting our kids’ future, but they’re not doing enough about it. In 2016, I’m looking for the candidates who support $15 and affordable care for all working people.”

Wherever 2016 candidates go this election season, fast-food and other underpaid workers are following to demand $15/hour and union rights. Days before the Iowa caucus, fast-food workers walked off the job for the first time in the state, drawing widespread attention hours before a GOP debate in Des Moines. Earlier this year, a walkout by hundreds of fast-food workers in Charleston prompted a statement of support by the Democratic National Committee and an impromptu visit from  Sen. Bernie Sanders, who grabbed a bullhorn and  praised the strikers just moments before he took the floor for that night’s Democratic debate. And in November, following a nationwide strike in 270 cities and an evening protest outside the GOP debate in Milwaukee, the first question directed at candidates that night asked them to respond to the demands of fast-food workers seeking $15 and union rights. 

The Fight for $15 strikes in key primary states shows the political power of underpaid workers who, just three years ago launched their movement for higher pay and union rights in New York City. By repeatedly going on strike and raising their voices, fast-food, home care, child care, and other underpaid workers have made income inequality a dominant theme in the 2016 presidential race. Entrance polls from Iowa revealed that inequality weighed heavily on voters’ minds, and candidates are responding: In June, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told fast-food workers at a national convention in Detroit, “I want to be your champion,” and said that “what you’re doing to build the Fight for $15 movement is so important.” In recent months, Clinton has held round-table meetings with home care and child care workers fighting for $15/hour and union rights. Prominent elected officials including U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison have called for raising the minimum wage to $15/hour. And the Democratic National Committee voted in August to make $15/hour an official part of its 2016 platform. 

Workers will also continue to collect signatures on their Fight for $15 Voter Agenda, a five-point platform that launched late last year and calls for $15 and union rights, affordable child care, quality long-term care, racial justice and immigration reform—issues identified by underpaid workers as key factors in whether they will go to the polls for a candidate. They will put politicians on notice that, as a voting bloc, workers paid less than $15 could swing elections all across the country.

A recent poll of workers paid less than $15/hour commissioned by the National Employment Law Project showed that 69% of unregistered voters would register to vote if there were a candidate who supported $15/hour and a union; and that 65% of registered voters paid less than $15/hour would be more likely to vote if there were a candidate who supported $15/hour and a union. That’s 48 million potential voters paid less than $15 who could turn out if there were candidates who backed higher pay and union rights.

Once Again, Republicans In The NH Senate Kill An Increase To The Minimum Wage

Image from @OFA_NH pic.twitter.com/ZG7B0GfERQ

Image from @OFA_NH pic.twitter.com/ZG7B0GfERQ

Republicans Kill Minimum Wage Increase That Would Benefit More than 141,000 Granite Staters    

CONCORD- Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), Deputy Democratic Leader and sponsor of SB 412, issued the following statement after Senate Republicans defeated a minimum wage increase along a party line vote:

“While 17 other states have increased their minimum wages in the last 4 years, I am disappointed that NH Senate Republicans have killed an increase in the minimum wage for the third time. Today, the Senate again failed the people of the New Hampshire and turned their backs on our workers,” said Senator Soucy.

“People working full-time in New Hampshire should be able to earn enough to support their families and they must be confident in their own financial circumstances in order to expand our economy. SB 412 would have strengthened the financial security of more than 141,000 Granite Staters and benefitted many more higher up the pay scale.” 

SB 412 would have increased New Hampshire’s minimum wage to $12 per hour. According to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute, raising New Hampshire’s minimum wage to $12 would have benefitted 141,000 New Hampshire workers, 60% of which are women and 84% of which are above the age of 20. 

“Paying decent wages is a good investment for our economy. Well-paid workers are better employees and better customers; their spending helps sustain our businesses and our economy. Increasing the minimum wage was a common sense step forward we could have taken to support our working families and grow our economy. 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.”

7 Out 10 NH Minimum Wage Workers Are Women

7 in 10 Granite State Minimum Wage Workers Are Women, But Kelly Ayotte Sided With Koch Brothers & Voted Against Giving Them A Raise

Concord, N.H. – Today, the New Hampshire Democratic Party continues to mark this week’s anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act by highlighting another way in which Kelly Ayotte sided with the Koch Brothers over the interests of working women in New Hampshire. Nearly 7 of 10 Granite State minimum wage workers are women, but Kelly Ayotte voted against giving them a much-needed raise because the Koch Brothers told her to.

In 2014, the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity urged Senators to vote against a measure to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, and Kelly Ayotte turned her back on her constituents and obliged.

In fact, a recent poll found that 70% of Granite State voters support raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour, but on this issue among many others, Kelly Ayotte puts the wishes of her special interest backers before the wishes of the people she was elected to represent.

And she’s not the only one. Every single Republican presidential candidate opposes a minimum wage increase. Marco Rubio called a minimum wage increase a “waste of time,” Chris Christie said he was “tired of hearing” about the issue, and Jeb Bush suggested there should be no federal minimum wage at all.

“On vote after vote, including her opposition to giving hard-working Granite State women and families a raise by modestly increasing the minimum wage, Kelly Ayotte puts the Koch Brothers and special interests ahead of the priorities of her constituents,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Press Secretary Melissa Miller. “Raising the minimum wage is a widely-supported move that would have a real impact on the economic wellbeing of women across the Granite State, but Kelly Ayotte decided the wishes of the Koch Brothers were more important than these women and their families.”

Background:
Based On An Analysis Of 2014 Data From The Bureau Of Labor Statistics, About 7 In 10 Minimum Wage Workers In New Hampshire Are Women. “Today NWLC released new analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 data, featuring an interactive map that shows the share of minimum wage workers in each state who are women…In New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Maine, about seven in ten minimum wage workers were women.” [National Women’s Law Center, 5/20/15]

April 30, 2014: Ayotte Voted Against Increasing The Federal Minimum Wage To $10.10.“The U.S. Senate bill would have raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, but it didn’t cross the 60-vote threshold for passage on a vote of 54-42. U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte , a Republican, voted against the bill.” [Concord Monitor, 4/30/14;CQ, 4/30/14; S. 2223, Vote 117, 4/30/14]

April 29, 2014: AFP Urged Senators To Vote Against Increasing The Federal Minimum Wage To $10.10.   “Dear Senators: On behalf of more than two million Americans for Prosperity activists in all 50 states, I write to urge you to vote NO on S. 2223, increasing the minimum wage to from $7.25 to $10.10. This is a misguided policy that will mean fewer jobs in this sluggish economy.” [Americans For Prosperity Scorecard, 4/29/14]

Democratic Senators Introduce Minimum Wage Increase And Profit Sharing Legislation

Senator Soucy Introduces NH Minimum Wage Bill 

CONCORD – Today, Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) introduced SB 412, which establishes the NH minimum wage at $12 per hour.

Following the Senate Finance Committee public hearing on SB 412, Sen. Soucy released the following comments: 

Paying decent wages is a good investment for our economy,” said Senator Soucy. “Well-paid workers are better employees and better customers; their spending helps sustain our businesses and our economy. New Hampshire’s unemployment rate is 4th lowest in the nation, which is why even companies like Wal-Mart have recognized the benefits of raising wages in order to retain workers at their stores.” 

Wal-Mart recently announced that as of February 1, the average full-time employee at their NH stores will be paid $14.29 an hour and the average part-time employee will be paid $10.95 an hour. New Hampshire’s unemployment rate for December 2015, announced earlier this morning, was announced 3.1%.

A 2014 NH Fiscal Policy Institute report shows that 72% of the New Hampshire minimum wage workers, who would directly or indirectly benefit from an increase in the minimum wage are age 20 and older with nearly 40% being 30 and older. Fifty-nine percent are women and 14% are parents.

“This legislation will strengthen financial security for hard working Granite Staters and expand opportunity for more than 76,000 people who would have been affected by raising the minimum wage. I urge the Senate Finance Committee to support SB 412, as it is critical to the well-being of our economy, businesses, and families.” 


Sen. David Pierce Introduces Legislation to Reward Businesses Who Share Profits with Employees

Legislation would create a tax credit for businesses who implement profit sharing 

Concord, NH – Today, Senator David Pierce (D-Lebanon) introduced SB 479, which creates a tax credit for implementing employee profit sharing. Following the Senate Ways and Means Committee public hearing on SB 479, Sen. Pierce released the following comments:

“As our economy continues to improve and business profits rising, we need to ensure that workers see their wages rise,” said Senator Pierce. “Profit-sharing gives everyone a stake in a company’s success, boosts productivity, and puts more money directly into employee’s pockets. This legislation is good for workers and good for businesses.”

Senate Bill 479 creates a tax credit against the business taxes for companies who implement employee profit-sharing. Under this legislation, the tax credit would be available for each qualified employee of up to 15 percent of the compensation paid as profits in which employees share. There would also be a cap of 10 percent of the employee’s wages.

“As we have seen in companies like Market Basket and others across our state that share profits with their employees, workers are more invested in the company’s success because they see a financial incentive. Employee-profit sharing is a practice we should be encouraging in our state and rewarding businesses for implementing a profit-sharing plan supports both our workers and businesses.”

(featured image from @OFA_NH pic.twitter.com/ZG7B0GfERQ)

Eliminating The Tipped Minimum Wage, Helps To Close The Gender Wage Gap And Boost Economy

( Image by John Bastoen FLICKR CC)

( Image by John Bastoen FLICKR CC)

Research shows that eliminating the tipped minimum wage will generate billions to the national economy.

On Tuesday January 19th the New Hampshire House of Representative will be holding public commentary on HB 1346, a bill to eliminate the tipped minimum wage. If passed New Hampshire would join the seven other states including California, Montana and Minnesota who have already eliminated the tipped minimum wage in an effort to raise the wages of workers, mostly women, who are struggling to support their families.

As if the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in most states is not bad enough, 43 states have a special, sub-minimum wage for restaurant and tipped workers. The majority of these states have kept their tipped minimum wage at $2.13 an hour. New Hampshire is slightly better at $3.27 an hour or 45% of the minimum wage.

The sub-minimum wage was created to allow employers to pay newly freed slaves a lower wage than white workers, creating an instant racial-economic gap.

Working for tips is not the lucrative career some might imply. Opponents of raising the tipped minimum wage, especially the “Other NRA,” the National Restaurant Association, like to highlight servers who work in high-dollar restaurants making over a thousand dollars a week in tips.

The truth is the overwhelming majority of tipped workers work in places like Applebee’s and IHOP, where sales and tips are low, not high dollar establishments.

Nationally the average income for a tipped restaurant workers is $14,596, just below what a full time minimum wage worker would earn annually.   In New Hampshire it is even worse. The average tipped restaurant worker in New Hampshire earns $13,012 a year.

Here are just of few of the facts about tipped restaurant workers here in New Hampshire (US averages in parenthesizes):

  • 51% of tipped restaurant workers are older than 25 (66% nationally and 25% are above 45 years of age).
  • 81% of tipped restaurant workers are women (66% nationally).
  • 25% of the tipped restaurant workers are working moms (31% nationally).
  • 7% of tipped restaurant workers use food stamps, costing taxpayers $8,731,954 in public assistance [Food Stamps and Medicare].

Another myth about eliminating the tipped minimum wage, perpetuated by “the Other NRA,” is that eliminating the tipped minimum wage will destroy the local restaurant industry. The fact is that the seven states that eliminated the tipped minimum wage and raised their state’s minimum wage are now doing better those states with a sub-minimum wage.

States that have eliminated the minimum wage are growing at a rate of 10.5% annually. This is a full 1.5% higher than the average of the other 43 states at 9%.

Saru Jayaraman, Co-Founder of the ROC United and Director of Food Labor Research at Berkley recently opined why we should completely move away from tipping.

“It (tipping) has created a two-tiered wage system with deep social and economic consequences for millions.”

Because workers in the restaurant industry are forced to rely on tips to survive the industry is rife with sexual harassment.

“Women restaurant workers living off tips in states where the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 per hour are twice as likely to experience sexual harassment as women in states that pay the same minimum wage to all workers,” stated ROC United.

The wage gap between men and women has become one of the hot button issues of the year and one of the easiest ways to help reduce the gender wage gap is to eliminate the tipped minimum wage. Not only will it help women close the gender wage gap it will boost sales and generate billions to the economy.

Eliminating the tipped minimum wage and raising the minimum wage to $12 would result in an economic stimulus of an estimated $19.4 billion that would go right back into our local economy.   ROC United is working to eliminate the tipped minimum wage nationally and making this economic boost a reality.

The public hearing on this bill is Tusday. For more information on this or to get involved in the campaign to end the tipped minimum wage contact Sheila Vargas at sheila@granitestateprogress.org. 

Just in case you need one more reason why we should eliminate the tipped minimum wage listen to Adam from College Humor explain why tipping should be banned.

 

State of the Union Highlights Importance of America’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

Statement by John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO of Small Business Majority,
on President Obama’s final State of the Union address

We’re glad the president highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation to a thriving private sector in his final State of the Union address tonight, and we agree that small businesses need to have their voices heard in our growing economy.

As noted in his speech, our economy is truly on a path to recovery, with more than 14 million new jobs and our unemployment rate reduced by half. We agree that creating smart policies that support working families and the middle class—small businesses’ primary customer base—is the most common sense way to ensure our economy continues down this pathway to prosperity.

In order to truly ensure small businesses and our economy thrive, we need policies like those discussed tonight on closing corporate tax loopholes, expanding retirement savings, mobile benefits and paid leave programs, and supporting an innovative economy. This will bolster our nation’s entrepreneurs and their middle class customer base. This includes:

  • Closing corporate tax loopholes that put small businesses at a disadvantage, and cutting the top corporate tax rates. Small Business Majority’s opinion polling found 75 percent of entrepreneurs believe their small business is harmed when big corporations use loopholes to avoid taxes, and 90 percent believe big corporations use loopholes to avoid taxes that small businesses have to pay.
  • Supporting the growing freelance economy and identifying and fixing tax issues unique to freelancers. A healthy freelance ecosystem can provide an innovative and singular pathway for women, minorities, youth, veterans, disabled people and immigrants to enter the mainstream American economy and build income and independence.
  • Providing access to affordable health insurance for small businesses by upholding and implementing the healthcare law in full. The law creates more avenues for small business owners and the self-employed to secure affordable coverage and reduce costs, which encourages entrepreneurship and small business growth.
  • Moving forward with policies that help small businesses provide paid leave to their employees and raising the minimum wage. These changes can improve employee productivity, reduce turnover and increase spending at small businesses to strengthen our economy overall.
  • Supporting easy-to-implement mechanisms for entrepreneurs and small business employees to access retirement benefits, such as the myRA program.
  • Implementing the president’s plan to make two years of community college and technical school free to responsible students, which would help address our nation’s crippling youth unemployment, and small business owners’ struggle to find qualified workers.

These policies can play a valuable role in promoting an environment where small business can grow, but Washington needs to act on them. It’s vital that policymakers make it a priority to level the playing field for small businesses and break down barriers to innovation and entrepreneurship through smart economic policies. By taking action on these issues and more, we can help small businesses thrive and strengthen our economy.


About Small Business Majority

Small Business Majority was founded and is run by small business owners to focus on solving the biggest problems facing small businesses today. Since 2005, we have actively engaged small business owners and policymakers in support of public policy solutions, and have delivered information and resources to entrepreneurs that promote small business growth and drive a strong economy. We regularly engage our network of 45,000 small business owners and more than 2,000 business organizations, along with a formal strategic partnership program of more than 125 business organizations, enabling us to reach more than 500,000 entrepreneurs. Our extensive scientific polling, focus groups and economic research help us educate and inform policymakers, the media and other stakeholders about key issues impacting small businesses and freelancers, including access to capital, taxes, healthcare, retirement, entrepreneurship and workforce development. 

The Economic Policy Institute Unveils Their ‘Women’s Economic Agenda’

New ‘Women’s Economic Agenda’ focuses on closing the wage gap between men and woman while lifting the wages of all workers 

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We need an economy that works for everyone not just a select few. Research shows that we are putting working women, specifically women of color, at a severe disadvantage.

We already know that women on average only earn $.70 cents on the dollar compared to men in the same job. The wage gap harms a woman’s chance of economic prosperity and slows economic growth.

The wage gap is closing, however this is not all good news. From 1980 to the present the wage gap has gone from 62% to 82% of men’s wages. On the surface this would appear to be great news, except that 40% of the gains, made by women to close the wage gap, actually came from the fact that men’s wages are falling. The average wage for men dropped from $20.13 in 1980 to $18.35 today.

Ensuring that all workers are paid equally for equal work is important, but that should not be due to the fact that men’s wages are falling. We need to lift all the wages of all workers together.

Today, the Economic Policy Institute released its Women’s Economic Agenda, a set of 12 bold yet achievable proposals that push the discussion about women’s economic security beyond closing the gender wage gap. While closing the gap between men and women’s wages is essential to bring genuine economic security to women and their families, policymakers must do more. Policies in the agenda include raising the minimum wage, ending discriminatory practices that contribute to gender inequality, providing paid family leave, and increasing access to high-quality child care. If implemented, these policies could raise women’s wages by as much as 70 percent.

“Raising wages and boosting economic security for women is an essential part of growing and strengthening America’s middle class,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, who spoke at the agenda’s unveiling. “The proposals in EPI’s Women’s Economic Agenda would be powerful steps forward in the fight to level the playing field for women and families across the country.”

“The gender wage gap is only one way the economy shortchanges women,” said Alyssa Davis research assistant for the Economic Policy Institute. “Only when we take a holistic approach to women’s wages and seek to eliminate both the gender wage gap and the economic inequality gap will women reach their potential in the economy.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The full complement of policies in the Women’s Economic Agenda is:

  1. Raise the minimum wage—raising the federal minimum wage to $12 by 2020 would boost wages for one-fourth of the workforce, or 35 million working people—56 percent of whom are women.
  2. Eliminate the tipped minimum wage—two-thirds of tipped workers are women, yet they still make less than their male counterparts. At the median, women tipped workers make $10.07 per hour, while men make $10.63 (including tips).
  3. Strengthen collective bargaining rights—women in unions are more likely to be paid higher wages and have access to benefits such as paid sick days and pensions.
  4. End discriminatory practices that contribute to race and gender inequalities—black women earn 65.4 percent and Hispanic women earn 56.5 percent of white men’s hourly earnings.
  5. Provide paid family leave—only 12 percent of private-sector employees have access to paid family leave. Without paid family leave policies, workers (particularly women) have difficulty balancing the demands of work and family.
  6. Provide paid sick leave—ensuring that working women can earn paid sick time would let them meet their responsibilities at work and at home without compromising their family’s economic security.
  7. Require fair scheduling practices—over one-third of women hourly workers in their prime childrearing years receive their work schedules with advance notice of one week or less.
  8. Provide accessible, affordable, high-quality child care and early childhood education—accessible child care would ensure that parents do not need to choose between leaving the labor force and affording quality child care
  9. Protect and expand Social Security—the average female retiree receives over $300 less per Social Security check than her male counterpart.
  10. Provide undocumented workers a path to citizenship—women are concentrated in many occupations likely to be held by undocumented workers.
  11. Support strong enforcement of labor standards—women are more likely than men to be victims of wage theft, and are a majority of workers who would benefit from expanded overtime protections.
  12. Prioritize wage growth and very low unemployment when making monetary policy—better wage growth is crucial to ensuring that gender and racial wage gaps close for the right reasons, with wages rising for all groups but more rapidly for groups currently disadvantaged in labor markets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(video link)

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

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

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

(video link)

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

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

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

(video link)

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

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

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

 

(video link)

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

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

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

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

(video link)

 

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

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

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


 

Please read our other stories about the Raising Wages Summit

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

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

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

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


 

 

Congress Votes Tomorrow On Everything That Will Happen For The Rest Of Obama’s Presidency

Congress West Front Late last night, House GOP leadership announced a compromise bill that will (temporarily) end all the Congress-created crises by setting the federal budget and suspending the debt limit through the end of the Obama presidency.

The House is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow (Wednesday). A draft of the bill is available here.

What it doesn’t do, from the perspective of the Right Wing:

  1. It doesn’t try to force through the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  2. It doesn’t try to de-fund Planned Parenthood.
  3. It doesn’t try to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
  4. It doesn’t try to voucherize Medicare.
  5. It doesn’t try to privatize Social Security.

What it doesn’t do, from the perspective of the Working Class:

  1. It doesn’t rein in corporate giveaways to stockholders, such as dividends and buybacks. (Trillions of dollars that corporations could have used to create jobs, pay fair wages and make long-term investments.)
  2. It doesn’t end the tax preference for unearned income. (Most investment income is still taxed at about half the rate of wage income.) Ending this tax preference could end the budget deficit.
  3. It doesn’t eliminate the Social Security wage cap (which would strengthen Social Security, long-term).
  4. It doesn’t raise the minimum wage.
  5. In its current form, it doesn’t do much to reverse previous cuts to Food Stamps, veterans benefits, and other safety-net programs. It doesn’t mention the 2.1 million American workers who are long-term unemployed… or the 1-in-five American children who are living in poverty.

What it does do:

  1. It loosens the Sequester budget restrictions, both for defense and non-defense spending – and it also increases an off-budget military spending account.
  2. It completely rewrites the procedures governing IRS audits of business partnerships. (Call me cynical, but I’m guessing that part of the bill was written by somebody’s lobbyist.)
  3. It diverts some Social Security tax revenue into the Social Security Disability Trust Fund, and *privacy alert* it also creates a new information clearinghouse (presumably, to be used to detect fraud).
  4. It reduces payments to some Medicare providers and regulates the increase in Medicare supplement policy premiums.
    AND
  5. It renames the small House rotunda… in honor of the House Freedom Caucus.

It does some other things. Please take the time to read through the bill yourself – and encourage your Congressional representatives to do the same. Contact information for those representatives is available here.

————-

Having watched this impossibly deadlocked Congress — and its impossibly intransigent Right Wing

Personally, if this “grand compromise” happens, I don’t expect anything else to get through this Congress until President Obama leaves office.  (Remember, GOP extremists have been working to “submarine his presidency” since the very first day of his first term.)

Emily’s List Puts NH Congressman Frank Guinta “On Notice”

Image from Emily's List http://republicansonnotice.tumblr.com/

Image from Emily’s List http://republicansonnotice.tumblr.com/

In addition to being one of the most corrupt members of Congress, Frank Guinta is also one of the worst when it comes to supporting policies that are dangerous to women and families.

Here are six reasons why EMILY’s List is putting Congressman Frank Guinta “On Notice”:

  1. Guinta Supported an Abortion Ban. In May 2015, Guinta voted for a bill that would prohibit abortions in cases where the probable age of the fetus is 20 weeks or later and would impose criminal penalties on doctors who violate the ban. It would provide exceptions for cases in which the woman’s life is in danger as well as for pregnancies that are a result of rape if, as amended, for pregnancies that are a result of rape against an adult woman, the woman received counseling or medical treatment for the rape at least 48 hours prior to the abortion. An exception would be provided for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest against a minor if the rape or incest had been previously reported to law enforcement or another government agency authorized to act on reports of child abuse. [HR 36, Vote #223, 5/13/15;CQ Floor Votes]
  2. Guinta Supported Ban of Abortion with “No Exceptions.” “In response to two questions on abortion, Guinta said he is pro-life, and, were a repeal to Roe v. Wade come up while he was serving in Congress, he would vote for a no-holds barred ban on abortion with ‘no exceptions.’” [Foster’s Daily Democrat, 8/11/10]
  3. Guinta Cosponsored Legislation That Would Allow Employers to Deny Birth Control Coverage. In February 2012, Guinta cosponsored the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which would “permit a health plan to decline coverage of specific items and services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan or the purchaser or beneficiary.” [HR 1179, 2/08/12]
  4. Guinta Found Guilty of Violating Campaign Finance Laws by the FEC, Fined $15,000. “After five years of denying allegations of wrongdoing related to his 2010 campaign, Guinta was found by the Federal Election Commission to have violated campaign finance laws by accepting $355,000 in illegal contributions from his parents. The two-term congressman, who was defeated in 2012 but narrowly beat Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in 2014, has said the money he used for his first campaign was also his, though disclosure forms suggested he didn’t have the money. Guinta maintained he made a reporting error and did nothing illegal. Now, he must refund the six-figure sum to his parents, and pay a $15,000 fine.” [Roll Call, 5/18/15]
  5. Guinta Voted Multiple Times Against Raising the State Minimum Wage in New Hampshire. During his time in the New Hampshire state House, Guinta voted multiple times against raising the state’s minimum wage. In April 2001, Guinta voted against a bill that would have increased New Hampshire’s minimum wage. The bill increased the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $5.65 as of October 1, 2001. It then increased the wage to $6.15 on October 1, 2002. Guinta’s vote was in favor of a report by the Labor Committee declaring the bill ‘inexpedient to legislate,’ effectively killing the bill. The report killing the bill passed 170-163. A motion was made to again declare the bill ‘inexpedient to legislate,’ effectively killing the wage increase. Guinta voted in favor of the motion to kill the bill, which failed 166-184. Finally, a motion was made to approve the bill. Guinta voted against the bill, which passed 196-153. [HB 469, Vote #92, 4/26/01;HB 469, Vote #117, 5/17/01; HB 469, Vote #118, 5/17/01]
  6. Guinta Named One of CREW’s Most Corrupt Members of Congress in 2010. “Most Corrupt: Representative Frank Guinta. Representative Frank Guinta (R-NH) is a first-term member of Congress, representing New Hampshire’s 1stcongressional district. Rep. Guinta’s ethics issues stem from his failure to accurately disclose assets on his personal financial disclosure forms and possibly accepting improper gifts or loans.” [CREW, 2010]

 

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