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Defense Workers Update: 5 Things Lawmakers Must Resolve During NDAA Negotiations

AFGE Federal Workers

Policies affecting working people’s pay, benefits, and jobs top AFGE’s priority list in National Defense Authorization Act.

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 270,000 civilian Defense employees nationwide, is highlighting five priorities for House and Senate lawmakers who will be meeting soon to resolve differences in their versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

“The NDAA is a critical piece of legislation that establishes personnel and operational policies for the Pentagon to follow for the coming year,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “Every civilian and military employee in the Department of Defense should be paying close attention to this bill as it moves through the legislative process, because the decisions made here will affect their jobs.”

AFGE has identified five key issues that must be resolved between the House and Senate versions of the NDAA. They are:

1. Pay parity: Ensure equal pay raises for military and civilian workers

Federal civilian employees often work side-by-wide with military personnel and are crucial to ensuring our nation’s defense and security. Therefore, they should be afforded the same annual pay increases as those for the military. AFGE encourages lawmakers to retain the House-passed provision that would provide service members with a 2.1% pay raise in 2017 and to maintain the long-held tradition of pay parity between military and civilian employees.

2. Outsourcing: Maintain privatization ban and oppose commercialization of DoD purchases

Since fiscal 2010, Congress has banned DoD from conducting public-private contracting studies under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76. This privatization ban was instituted because of systemic problems with the contracting out process and DoD’s failure to produce a full and meaningful inventory of its contractor workforce. Those issues persist, so Congress should reject Senate proposals to remove the A-76 ban and effectively gut the requirement for DoD to produce a contractor inventory.

Lawmakers also should remove provisions in both the Senate and House versions of the NDAA that would allow more defense goods and services to be labeled as “commercial.” This would result in DoD paying higher prices for these goods and services, which would hurt taxpayers, civil service employees and the military.

3. Travel costs: Reverse cuts in travel allowances for military and civilian workers

Thanks to a DoD policy change two years ago, thousands of military members and civilian DoD employees who travel for more than a month at a time now have to dip into their own pockets to pay for routine expenses like lodging and meals. Rather than covering 100 percent of an employee’s nationally established per diem allowance, like other federal agencies, DoD now covers just 75 percent of the per diem for employees traveling between 31 and 180 days, and only 55 percent for employees on travel for longer than 180 days. A provision in the House-passed NDAA would stop DoD from reducing the per diem allowance. This provision should be included in the final bill.

4. Pay and benefit cuts: Oppose downgrading commissary jobs and privatizing Voice of America

In a misguided attempt to cut the costs of operating military grocery stores, lawmakers have proposed downgrading the pay and benefits of the Defense Commissary Agency’s 15,500 civilian employees by changing their funding status from appropriated to non-appropriated. This change would cut employees’ pay by as much as one-quarter, force them to pay significantly more for health care insurance, render them ineligible for retirement benefits, and make it easier to fire them and privatize their jobs. Many of these employees are veterans or spouses of active-duty service members. This proposal must be removed from the NDAA.

Lawmakers also should reject a provision in the House-passed NDAA that would create a private, nonprofit organization to carry out all of the broadcasting and related programs currently performed by the Voice of America (VOA). AFGE opposes this provision because it would result in VOA workers losing their federal employee rights and protections. It is also likely to increase taxpayer costs significantly, as a similar move to de-federalize VOA’s Arabic Service in 2003 resulted on a 10-fold increase in costs without a resulting increase in benefit.

5. Workforce management: Increase financial incentive for employees to retire or resign

Federal agencies that are downsizing or restructuring can offer employees lump-sum payments as an incentive to voluntarily retire or resign. The maximum buyout has been capped at $25,000 since the Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP) authority was established in 1993. The Senate version of the NDAA would raise the maximum payment for DoD employees to $40,000 to account for inflation and help DoD efficiently reduce the workforce without affecting mission or readiness. Lawmakers should include this provision in the final bill.

New TV Calls Verizon “The Poster Child Of Corporate Greed”

With contract negotiations for 39,000 workers stalled, Verizon Workers Blast Company’s Corporate Greed in new TV ad.

Verizon workers call company “the poster child of corporate greed”

as they prepare to go on strike, if necessary

NEW YORK — Frustrated with the unproductive pace of negotiations towards a new contract for 39,000 Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia, the Communications Workers of America has launched a regional TV and digital ad buy calling the nation’s 16th largest company “the poster child for corporate greed.”  The ad can be viewed here: http://standuptoverizon.com/poster-child/. 

Verizon made $1.5 billion a month in profits in 2015—and $39 billion in profits over the last three years—while insisting at the bargaining table that workers accept major cutbacks in health care coverage, job security, pension protections, and benefits for injured workers.  Verizon also adamantly refuses to bargain a fair first contract for wireless retail store workers in NY and Massachusetts.  Continued management intransigence on these issues, which has left workers without a contract since August 1st of 2015, could lead to a strike that would affect consumers from Massachusetts to Virginia.  

In the new advertisement, which will start running this weekend, retired Verizon worker Ernie Hammel – 29-year former field technician – tells customers, “This company is the poster child for corporate greed.” 

Following clips of national TV reports about growing economic inequality in the country, the advertisement shows that Verizon’s CEO makes more than 200 times as much as the company’s average worker.

“For a communications company, Verizon executives seem to have trouble hearing their customers and their workers,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President for CWA District One, which covers Verizon workers from New Jersey to Massachusetts.  “A company this profitable should not be making the wealth gap in America even worse by cutting benefits and destroying job security, while a handful of executives line their pockets with $50 million a year in compensation.” 

“Americans are outraged by what the corporate elite has done to working people in this country over the last 30 years,” said Ed Mooney, Vice President for CWA District 2-13, which covers the workforce from Pennsylvania to Virginia.  “And Verizon typifies everything that people in this country are angry about.  If we have to walk, Verizon will be a national target for anger at corporate greed.”

Verizon workers, represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), have been working without a contract since August and are growing increasingly frustrated that the company is still attempting to make devastating changes, including: 

  • Eliminating job security and allowing the company to force transfer workers anywhere in the company’s footprint, away from their families, for up to two months at a time.
  • Refusing to negotiate a fair first contract for 100 Verizon Wireless workers who organized into CWA in 2014.  No raises, no benefit increases, no improvements to working conditions.
  • Freezing pension accruals at 30 years of service.
  • Vastly expanding contracting out and offshoring of union jobs. This comes on top of Verizon’s outsourcing of thousands of call center jobs to Mexico, the Philippines and other overseas locations in recent years.
  • Gutting the Family Leave Care plan, which provides paid leave to care for sick family members or care for a newborn.
  • Gutting the Sickness and Accident Disability Plan, which provides benefits to workers injured on the job.
  • And continuing their oppressive, bullying tactics of harassment and intimidation every day on the job.

“Verizon workers are the backbone of this company, and executives have lost sight of what makes this company so profitable,” said national CWA President Chris Shelton.  “Verizon workers have helped executives pocket $249 million in the last five years while their own families are worrying about job security.  We’re all tired of waiting for Verizon executives to agree to a fair contract.  It’s time to let customers know what is going on, and why we’ll be on strike if the situation doesn’t change soon.” 

Verizon is falling short on commitments to its customers as well. The company refuses to build out FiOS in many underserved communities up and down the East Coast, and has abandoned upkeep of the traditional landline network, leading to extensive service problems for consumers.  Even in New York City, where Verizon pledged to make FiOS available to every customer by the end of 2014, the City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications issued a report finding that the company was evading the buildout commitments it made under its 2008 video franchise agreement.

In a strike vote conducted last summer, 86% of Verizon workers supported walking off the job if a fair agreement could not be reached.

Culinary and Bartenders Unions Conclude Contract Negotiations with The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Culinary Union 226LAS VEGAS, NV – Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and the Bartenders Union Local 165 of UNITE HERE are pleased to announce that a new four-year contract with The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has been voted on and accepted by CoStars. This first-time contract with the resort will cover over 2,000 CoStars in the food, beverage, housekeeping, bar and lounge and bell departments.

“I’m so happy that we are now union members!” said Claudia Zarate, a room stylist at the resort, “After four years and a change in the resort’s ownership and leadership, this contract has been something I have been looking forward to and am comforted in knowing that the union and The Cosmopolitan both believe in fair wages, good health benefits and safe workloads.”

“We applaud all the hard work the CoStars at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas have done over these last four years and recognize the new leadership of Bill McBeath and Blackstone as a positive turning point in this long awaited partnership,” said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer of the Culinary Union. “We welcome new members to the union, which turned 80 years old this year, and we are committed to continue raising the standard of living for hospitality workers and their families throughout this great city.”

“This contract is an example of when multiple parties have a vested interest in the outcome, lives can be changed,” said Bill McBeath, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. “I am pleased that a contract has been finalized as we at The Cosmopolitan pride ourselves on creating great relationships with our CoStars and providing them with a positive work environment.”

“We value the leadership team and all the CoStars at The Cosmopolitan,” said Jon Gray, Blackstone’s Global Head of Real Estate. “After we acquired the resort in December 2014 and had the opportunity to understand the history of this negotiation, we made it a priority to find a resolution as quickly as possible to the satisfaction of all parties. We want to thank everyone involved for their efforts as we celebrate this important new agreement.”

“This contract means that my family and I can have a quality middle-class life here in Las Vegas,” said Pascale Rida, a banquet server at the resort. “I have the opportunity to provide for my family – and that’s an amazing feeling.”

“I’m so incredibly proud to have been a part of this,” said Philip Reynolds, a mixologist at the resort. “Having job security, a guaranteed work-week, and a pension makes me feel so proud to be member of the union.”


Culinary Workers Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165, Nevada affiliates of UNITE HERE, represent over 55,000 workers in Las Vegas and Reno, including at most of casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. UNITE HERE represents 270,000 workers in gaming, hotel, and food service industries in North America.

CulinaryUnion226.org / @Culinary226

CWA Files Letters Calling for Regulators to Investigate Verizon’s Refusal to Invest in Traditional Landline Upkeep

 Verizon told FCC it spends less than one percent of the average phone and DSL customer’s rate on upkeep of the network 

Legislators Join Call to Investigate Verizon

2000px-Verizon_logo.svg

WASHINGTON- The Communications Workers of America (CWA) today announced they were filing letters with telephone regulators in six states and Washington, DC calling on them to open investigations into the deterioration of Verizon’s copper landline networks.  In July, Verizon admitted in a letter to the FCC that it had only spent $200 million over the last seven years to maintain its copper landline network in eleven states and the District of Columbia.  

The $200 million investment is less than one percent of the amount phone and DSL customers pay Verizon for service, which means the average customer is financing wireless and fiber expansion, rather than the upkeep of the network they rely on.

In light of the new evidence presented by CWA to regulators, scores of legislators across the region joined the call for renewed investigation into Verizon’s abandonment of the copper network. 

“Verizon pulls in more than a billion dollars in profits each month.  $200 million represents less than half a percent of the $50 billion Verizon spent on its wireline network from 2008 to 2014 and less than one percent of what they charge the average voice customer,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President of District 1 of the Communications Workers of America. “We support Verizon’s expansion of FiOS, but the company also has a legal obligation to provide safe, reliable service over its traditional landline network.”

To put the $200 million in perspective:

  • $200 million represents 0.39 percent of the $50.7 billion Verizon spent on its wireline network from 2008 to 2014. Nearly 100 percent of Verizon’s wireline investment was spent to build its fiber network.[1] CWA supports Verizon’s FiOS expansion. But where Verizon has refused to deploy its all-fiber FiOS network, Verizon has the statutory obligation to maintain its copper plant to provide safe, reliable service. (Verizon spent $59.9 billion on its wireless network, 2008-2014.)
  • The $200 million that Verizon spent over the past seven years on its copper network amounts to an average of $28.6 million a year per year across its entire landline footprint.
  • CWA estimates that Verizon currently has upwards of eight million retail customers on its traditional copper landline network.  (Verizon no longer publicly reports this number.) Using this figure, Verizon’s annual spending on its copper network amounts to about $3.50 a line per year for poles, cables, wires, pedestals, terminals, batteries, and other plant and equipment needed to build, maintain, repair, and service its copper network. (This is a conservative estimate since Verizon had many more copper customers in earlier years.)
  • Across the Verizon landline footprint, residential and single-line business customers pay between $300 and $370 a year for basic voice service and about $400 a year for DSL service.  Even using our conservative calculations, Verizon spends less than one percent of the rate it charges for basic voice service and less than half a percent of the rate it charges for a voice/DSL bundled service on the upkeep of its copper network.
  • Verizon spent $200 million over a seven-year period on a copper network that covers the vast majority of the population in eight states — New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, plus Washington, D.C., and parts of California, Texas, and Florida. (Prior to 2010, the Verizon footprint included an additional 4.8 million lines in 14 additional states.) 

CWA’s letters also point to Verizon’s peer to peer online forums and recent FCC filings by Verizon customers alleging that the company is neglecting copper facilities and lines. Frontline Verizon employees are also chiming in, saying that they’ve seen firsthand how Verizon’s policies, procedures and inadequate investments have led to the virtual abandonment of the copper network and is keeping quality services from paying customers.

These letters come after a series of worker led protests and rallies throughout the Northeast calling on Verizon to negotiate a fair contract with its employees. Verizon makes $1 billion in profits every month and has refused to bargain constructively with its 39,000 employees over the terms of its contract, continuing to insist on the ability to outsource more jobs, increase health care costs by thousands of dollars a person and slash retirement security.

Background Contract Negotiations

39,000 workers are currently working without a contract at Verizon.  Fortune Magazine ranked Verizon the 15th largest corporation in America in 2014, with revenues of $127 billion, profits of $9.6 billion, and market capitalization of $198.4 billion. Verizon had profits of $28 billion over the last five years, and paid its top five executives $249 million during that time. 

On July 21st, Verizon reported profits of $4.4 billion in 2Q2015 on revenues of $32.2 billion. This came on top of $4.2 billion in profits in 1Q2015, which means Verizon has made $1 billion in profits every month for the last 18 months. The company also reported that during the first six months of 2015 it has paid out over $9.3 billion to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks, an increase of almost $5.8 billion over the first half of last year. In the Wireline division, Operating Cash Flow rose to 23.5%, and operating income doubled, from 2.6% to 5.3%. FiOS continues to expand and succeed, now constituting 79% of Verizon consumer revenues on the wireline side, and achieving penetration rates of 35.7% for video and 41.4% for internet in markets where it is competing. 

Verizon has not significantly moved off its outrageous initial bargaining demands, made on June 22nd, which includes the following proposals:

  • Completely eliminating job security and gaining the right to transfer workers at will anywhere in the company’s footprint.
  • Increasing workers’ health care costs by thousands of dollars per person, despite the fact that negotiations in 2011-2012 have cut the company’s health care costs by tens of millions of dollars over the life of the past contract.
  • Removing any restrictions on the company’s right to contract out and offshore union jobs.  This comes on top of Verizon’s outsourcing of thousands of jobs in recent years.
  • Slashing retirement security.
  • Reducing overtime and differential payments.
  • Eliminating the Family Leave Care plan, which provides unpaid leave to care for sick family members or care for a newborn.
  • Eliminating the Accident Disability Plan, which provides benefits to workers injured on the job.

CWA is also negotiating for about 100 Wireless technicians in New York State and 75 retail employees in Brooklyn and Everett, MA.  Verizon’s Wireless operation is even more profitable than Verizon’s wireline operations.  Yet Verizon is not offering major improvements in the technician’s contract and is refusing to negotiate a new contract including major wage and benefit improvements for the retail employees in Brooklyn and Everett, MA.

A damning audit of Verizon’s FiOS rollout in New York City found that Verizon has failed to meet its promise to deliver high-speed fiber optic internet and television to everyone in the city who wanted it.  During its negotiations for a city franchise, Verizon promised that the entire city would be wired with fiber optic cables by June 2014 and that after that date, everyone who wanted FiOS would get it within six months to a year.  The audit found that despite claiming that it had wired the whole city by November 2014, Verizon systematically continues to refuse orders for service.  The audit also found that Verizon stonewalled the audit process. 

In addition, rates for basic telephone service have increased in recent years, even as Verizon has refused to expand their broadband services into many cities and rural communities, and service quality has greatly deteriorated. Verizon’s declining service quality especially impacts customers who cannot afford more advanced cable services, or who live in areas with few options for cable or wireless services. 

In 2005, New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) eliminated automatic fines for Verizon’s telephone service quality failures, reasoning that “competition” would improve services.  Instead, service quality plunged. In the 3rd quarter of 2010, Verizon cleared only 1.2% of out of service complaints within 24 hours, almost 79 percentage points lower than the PSC’s 80% requirement.  Rather than reverse course, the PSC changed its measurements, cutting out 92% of customers from service quality measurements and consolidating 28 repair service bureaus into 5 regions.  On paper, terrible service quality was almost miraculously transformed. In reality, service quality continued to decline. 

Senate Budget Writers Ignore State Employees Contract

An open letter from Richard Gulla,
President SEA/SEIU Local 1984

Rich Gulla (SEA/ SEIU 1984 President) On behalf of the thousands of state employees who daily give their best efforts to providing necessary services for the citizens and visitors of our state, I register our disappointment with the NH Senate Finance Committee for not including funds to provide a contracted cost of living adjustment for the employees in their budget.  Although included in Governor Hassan’s budget, the NH House of Representatives and the Senate did not include these funds in their respective versions of the state budget.

Several months ago, the state’s bargaining team and the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 team reached a mutual agreement that provides for a modest salary increase over the next two years.  This contract was negotiated in good faith by both parties.  In not including the funds necessary to meet this contract obligation in their budget, the NH House of Representatives and the Senate have revealed their disdain and lack of appreciation for the services these committed public servants provide.

Two years ago we heard loud and clear from Senator Morse that he was displeased with the state workers’ contract not being settled in time for consideration prior to the end of the budget process.  This time, we worked diligently to begin negotiations early so that the contract could be included sooner  in the budget timeline.  The state’s and the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 bargaining teams put in long hours of research, discussion, and negotiations to arrive at this mutually agreeable and  reasonable contract. And what is the result of that effort – first,  the funding is stripped from the Governor’s budget by the House of Representatives.  And, now the Senate has completely ignored the contract.  They did not even discuss the contract with the employees who help deliver many of the  services they restored funding to, such as Service Link, Meals on Wheels to name a few.

In not even discussing the merits or concerns they may have with the small cost of living raise for thousands of workers across the state, the Senate Finance Committee acted irresponsibly and state workers lose out. This is quite a message the Senate Finance Committee is sending to thousands of dedicated workers who have long been “doing more with less,” handling impossible caseloads, doing the jobs of two or three people, fueling the state’s economy, going the extra mile to serve the state’s citizens and visitors.

We call upon the full Senate to act responsibly when they meet next week to discuss and vote on the budget.  We are hopeful they will do the right thing – recognize the contract, talk about it and approve it.

Sincerely,

Richard Gulla
President, SEA/SEIU Local 1984

 UPDATE 2:45pm

Senator Lou D’Allesandro Comments on Failure to Include State Employee Contract in Budget

Concord, NH – As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Lou D’Allesandro made the following comments today following the completion of the committee’s work on the state operating budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017:

“I’m disappointed that in formulating the Senate budget, one item that was completely left out was the already negotiated pay raise for state employees,” said Sen. D’Allesandro. “The state’s collective bargaining team had come to an agreement with the State Employees Association on a modest 2% cost-of-living increase.  The House removed funding for the increase from its budget and the Senate failed to address the issue. This creates unfinished business.  What kind of a message does it send to our workforce that we take the time to develop tax cuts for big corporations but don’t fund a modest wage increase for our hard working NH employees?”

Executive Branch State Employees Declare Impasse in Contract Negotiations

Concord, NH, December 18, 2014 – Earlier today, the Executive Branch employees’ bargaining team unanimously agreed to move to the next step in contract negotiations with the State of NH. The team declared impasse, which is the trigger to take negotiations to the next level, mediation; meaning a neutral third party will be selected to help move negotiations forward. The team has been negotiating the employment contract with the state since late October.

“Negotiations have been respectful, cordial and smooth,” said Bargaining Team Chair James (Jim) Nall. “However, it became apparent this week that we could not continue to make progress with negotiations without the assistance of a mediator.” The negotiation process frequently requires the addition of an impartial and objective third party to reach ratification. “We have given the process due diligence and based on the state’s most recent response to our good faith negotiations, we unanimously agree we must take a different approach,” said Nall.

Central to the decision to turn to a third party for assistance is the matter of wages and health benefits.

“We share the state’s ultimate goal of providing quality, efficient services to the citizens of our state,” said Nall. “We have a talented, dedicated state workforce that goes above and beyond for the state every day.”

Over the last decade, the SEA, SEIU Local 1984 Executive Branch negotiated contracts have resulted in the employees’ wage and benefits package concessions providing the state with millions and millions of dollars in savings.

Nashua Mayor Uses State Of The City To Bash Unions For Not Taking More In Concessions

Image courtesy of Inventorchris on Flickr

Image courtesy of Inventorchris on Flickr

Like many large cities, Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau hosted the annual State of the City address. The local media organizations were quick to mention that Mayor Lozeau went right for the unionized workers at the Nashua Police Commission.

The Nashua Telegraph (NT) editorial board talked about this in their article, Two takeaways in mayor’s State of City address.

“The mayor called out the Nashua Police Commission and its five labor unions for being the only ones that have yet to approve a new contract that contains employee concessions for health care.” (NT)

Do you know why they have not accepted a new contract with the city? They are not willing to shoulder another pay cut, in the form of higher health care costs.

“This not only is unfair to their colleagues in other city departments, Lozeau said, but it has cost the city $438,415 in health care premiums that should have been shouldered by Police Department employees.” (NT)

What Mayor Lozeau is not saying is that all of the other Nashua unions she mentioned agreed to a 10% hike in healthcare costs. Now she wants the remaining five departments employees to take the additional $438,000 in healthcare costs.

“The five police unions, which all have contracts that expired in July of 2011, include a supervisor union, patrolmen union and three civilian unions consisting of a Teamsters group, communications union and United Auto Workers union. (UL)”

The five unions represent 250 employees, and why should they pick up the $430,000 dollar tab.

Today the NH Union Leader (UL) ran the article, Police chief blasts Nashua mayor’s union remarks.

“Ten other unions have found a way to do that with their employer boards. There is no reason for the Police Commission and their unions to fail to do so,” said the mayor.”

“I believe it was a little uncalled for, and a little unprofessional,” Chief John Seusing said on Wednesday”

“We certainly believe we are making a good-faith effort and have been for almost two years,” said Police Commissioner Thomas Pappas on Wednesday, adding that he has personally attended numerous mediation sessions. “We are trying hard. We are taking this very seriously. I can understand the frustration, as we are a bit frustrated ourselves.”

Why should they accept a bad deal from the Mayor if it will only hurt the members. It is obvious that the unions do not feel they are getting a fair deal in these negotiations, which is why they have not come to an agreement. Since the details of the negotiations are supposed to be confidential, I have no knowledge of what the city is offering in return for a 10% hike in healthcare. Given that the city seems to be in a money crunch and is trying to force employees to pay more for healthcare, I highly doubt they are offering any pay raises in the contract. Without a pay raise the city is trying to chip away at the pay of the workers and that is wrong.

Why Kevin Landrigan May Be Wrong About The State Employees Contract Negotiations

contract signatures

I want to start by saying, that I completely adore Kevin Landrigan.  He is knows more about State Politics in New Hampshire than many of the actual legislators.

However today Kevin and the Nashua Telegraph released this video  “Pay raise for state employees likely to come at a price” (http://bcove.me/qdgazvi5).  In this short two minute video, Kevin talks about how the State Employees Association is currently entered in negotiations for a new contract.  In this contract negotiation, the SEA is asking for a pay raise among other things.

As always Kevin was very knowledgable about the work that the SEA and other labor unions did to help elect Governor Maggie Hassan.  This however is where I would like to correct Kevin.  The labor unions in New Hampshire who worked to elect Maggie were not doing it to get some huge pay raise.  Many of the unions in NH worked to ensure that Ovide Lamontagne did not get elected.

Yes, as Kevin said, labor and Democrats have a “symbiotic” relationship.  This is mostly because the Republicans tend to be more business friendly, while the Democrats tend to be more worker friendly.  This was completely the case in the race for NH Governor.  The election of Maggie was more about survival.   Ovide Lamontagne was a strong supporter of Right To Work, as well as against Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s).  Lamontagne’s ideas were anti-worker and very anti-union, this is why labor unions were against him.

Now back to the present negotiations with the SEA.  In the video (http://bcove.me/qdgazvi5) Kevin talks about how the SEA is looking for a pay raise.  The problem is that the Governor has a very very tight budget on her hands this term. A budget that, I am sure Kevin would agree with me, will shape her political future as Governor.

Kevin brought up one good point that the SEA is ensuring that everyone knows.  The State Employees (SEA) have gone with out a pay raise for nearly four years.   This has been the case for many employees not just state employees.   Workers pay has been stagnant for quite a while and the recession has pushed workers further down.   The collective bargaining process is one of the ways that workers are going to start making gains in the workplace again.

The process of negotiations is a very delicate balance. It is give and take.  If one side does not give, then the negotiations fall apart. So the idea that in order to get a pay raise the SEA must give something back is a given. The problem is that they have already given. They have given for two full contracts now.

Kevin suggested that if the SEA wants to get a pay raise they are going to have to make concessions on their healthcare package.  I want to make something very clear, giving up on healthcare for a pay raise is not a win.  For example if a worker gets a $1.00 per hour raise, but healthcare goes up by $50.00 per week then workers again lose! ($1.00 p/h X 40= $40 -$50.00 = -$10)

This is a common trick used in corporate business, give the workers a small pay raise and increase their cost (retirement deductions, or healthcare).  The employees are tricked to believe that they are getting something when they are actually being pushed further down.   It is a shell game and I hope that the SEA (and everyone else) does not fall for it.

In many cases labor unions have forgone a pay raise in order to keep their benefits the same.  This is still a net loss for the workers, because the cost of living is always going up.  Just to keep up with inflation workers need a pay raise and this has not happened in years.  This applies to all workers, not just the SEA.  I am sure that Diana Lacey and her team will not be falling for this type of shell game.

I would also like to applaud Kevin Landrigan for his exceptional coverage, of the State House and Government operations.  I just wish that in his next video, he would not imply that workers must give more, to get pay raises that are long overdue.

Strong Labor Opposition To Senate Bill 37 (The bill to restrict collective bargaining in NH)

When you talk about cutting collective bargaining rights for public employees, the labor unions come out in droves.  As they should. Thats why we form unions.  One solid voice to speak for the membership.

Today was no different.  At the committee hearing for Senate Bill 37, “an act relative to management rights under collective bargaining” members and representatives from many of the public sector unions came out in strong opposition to this bill.  To speak against the bill was Kurt Ehrenberg from the NH AFL-CIO. Glen Milner from the Professional Fire Fighters Association (PFF-NH).  James Allmenginger spoke on behalf of NEA-NH. Harriet Spencer spoke on behalf of AFSCME.    Even the unions who were unable to attend, like AFT-NH, submitted written testimony against the bill.

All of the testimony was pretty much the same.  Why are we attacking the collective bargaining process that has worked so well for everyone in New Hampshire for the last forty plus years.

“It guts much of collective bargaining and much of the collective bargaining agreements in existence,” said James Allmenginger,  NEA New Hampshire.

“We see this as an attack on public employees in New Hampshire,” said Kurt Ehrenberg, political and legislative field director for the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.

“It is a radical piece of legislation that upsets the apple cart and takes the state back 40 years” said Glen Milner of the PFF-NH

SB37 basically gives all the power to management by making everything ‘management rights’.  This means that the ‘management’ can set all the rules around, evaluations, disciple, layoffs, and much more.   According to Senator Bragdon “all these things is still subject to negotiations”.  If management sets the rules why would they ever need to negotiate about it?

At the hearing it also became more evident who was pushing for this type of restrictive legislation.  The NH School Boards Association was one of the organizations advocating for the this bill. Their ‘concern’ is all about teacher evaluations. They would want more control in creating (and imposing) their version of teacher evaluations.

Norma Love of the Associated Press paraphrased it perfectly when she wrote:

Betsy Miller, executive director of the New Hampshire Association of Counties, said her group supports anything that increases managerial prerogative. The changes — if adopted — would give more authority to managers, she said”

Collective Bargaining works when both sides have something to win and something to loose.   There must be give and take from both sides.  This type of legislation is contrary to the collective bargaining process.

If the NH School Boards Association has an issue with teacher evaluations, they should look at some of the contracts that other cities and towns have passed.  The Nashua Teachers’ Union (AFT), the Rochester Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Hillsboro Federation of Teachers (AFT) negotiated a teacher evaluation as part of their contract.  This allowed the city and the union to compromise on how the process should work.

Even after all of this information today, I am still confused as to why a very moderate Senator Bragdon would be sponsoring this bill?  Sen Bragdon was the former chairman of the Milford School Board (now just a member).  What is the real goal of this legislation?  Is it really about evaluations or is it about layoff procedures (another negotiated process)? Or disciplinary procedures (another negotiated process)?   Only time will tell.

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