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

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

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)

NH House

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.