Last night members from the Nashua Teachers’ Union (AFT) and the State Employees’ Association (SEIU) hosted an in-district meeting with local Nashua legislators.
Around sixty union members that all work in the Nashua area came to speak directly with the legislators who represent different areas of the city. The legislators in attendance were Martin Jack, David Murotake, Jan Schmidt, Sylvia Gale, Daniel Hansbury, Susan Vale, Efstahia Booras, and Senator Bette Laskey.
The event was emceed by Deb Howes (NTU) a teacher from Nashua, and Magnus Pardoe (SEIU) from the Nashua Community College.
“It is great to see so many people here and engaged in the legislative process. We need to keep an open line of communication with our legislators” said Deb Howes in her opening remarks.
The overall tone of the event was much calmer than a similar event held last year. With Right To Work (for less) already voted down by the Labor Committee, the teachers were still very interested in hearing what the legislators had to say on SB 37 (a bill to restrict collective bargaining rights) and HB 142 (a bill surrounding teacher evaluations). Deb Howes wanted legislators to understand that these bills would have significate impacts on the teacher evaluations in the Nashua School District.
Deb Howes said “We have worked very hard to have a say in how teacher evaluations are conducted in Nashua”
Overall all of the legislators in attendance were against SB 37 and HB 142, including David Murotake who was the only Republican to attend the event. Murotake is also a member of the Nashua School Board and does not like HB 142 for the potential impact on teacher evaluations. Murotake said “The Nashua Teacher Union’s involvement in teacher evaluations have really helped Nashua move ahead.”
One of the teachers in attendance wanted to make it very clear that the Department of Education officials are not ‘content experts’, they are more politicians. She said she would welcome anyone with real and practical experience into her classroom to provide feedback, however this bill does not provide for that.
The SEIU Members at the meeting also wanted to bring awareness to a couple of bills they are working on as well. The first is HB 445, a bill to allow all public entities to join in the state’s healthcare plans.
Magnus Pardoe, who is also the President of the Nashua Community College (NCC) chapter of the SEA/SEIU said, “this is a bill to help all public workers in NH. It would open up options for cities, towns and all municipal employees to have a choice in their healthcare options.”
Diana Lacey, President of the State Employees’ Association reminded the legislators that right here at the NCC, full time employees are being replaced with part time employees who have no benefit options. Lacey stated, “80% of the community college instructors are part time with no benefits.” This is a sad trend in many of the state agencies.
The other bill that sparked conversation was HB 591, a bill about ‘bullying’ of public employees. Currently there is no place for workers to report abusive behavior by their supervisors. This bill could be similar to those provided in the federal whistleblowers protections act.
As a former state employee, Rep Sylvia Gale is very much in favor of this bill. She is even a co-sponsor of the bill in the House.
Senator Laskey admitted she was unfamiliar this specific house legislation. She said this is why we need to have more events like this to ensure that legislators know what bills are really important to the people she represents. She encouraged everyone to take the time are reach out to your legislators and tell them how you feel on these bills.
Everyone was deeply interested in the soon to be released budget by Governor Hassan. All of the legislators were in favor of restoring the cuts made to education and especially the university programs.
Rep Gale was completely sincere when she said that the previous legislature “raped” our state budget with their draconian cuts. She said, “there are many people who were hurt by the last budget.”
Everyone agreed that the community college system is a great way for people gain the real world knowledge and experience to find work at a livable wage. Not everyone can afford or even want to attend a major four year university. The community college system is perfect for those people.
Senator Laskey said “NH has always been a frugal state, spend has never been our problem.”
This prompted some discussion on the current tax structure, however the conversation quickly ended when the crowd was reminded that Governor Hassan has already stated she would veto any broad base tax.
Overall the night was a success for the memberships and the legislators. Both gain an awareness and insight into what the people want, and what the legislative process truly entails.