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The Speaker Of The House Takes Another Swing At Right To Work

For almost a year Granite Staters have been fighting to stop the Right To Work (for less) bill from becoming law.  This bill has been proven to lower wages and is part of an anti-union agenda being forced down from Speaker Bill O’Brien and organizations like ALEC.  Well today was another push against the middle class workers as Speaker Bill O’Brien changed his own schedule to bring up Right To Work (HB 1677) this morning.  The measure of course passed again by 198-139.

There is a silver lining in all of the this.  The Governor vetoed HB474 last session and they could not twist enough arms to get an override vote.  Once again the vote was not a veto proof margin.  The magic 139 number.  That is the same number that blocked the veto override.

I would like to say THANK YOU to all of the reps who voted against Right To Work for less.

I would also like to bring attention to the fact that while many of the labor organizations have been very vocal about Right To Work, this was not the only labor bill that came up in front of the house today.  All of them passed (of course) but they all held the same 139 -ish votes.

HB 1677 (right-to-work): 198-139
HB 1645 (decertification bill): 194-141
HB 1206 (healthcare bill): 198-137

Also the famed “lunch break bill” came up today.  The house nearly defeated it completely when they voted 168-161.  It is good to see some of the people stand up to the Speaker and say “No we will not let let you continue your assault on the middle class workers in New Hampshire”. 

Groundhog Day in the New Hampshire House (via Blue Hampshire)

This is another cross post from a labor blogger on Blue Hampshire

If madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, it may be time for Speaker O’Brien to see a therapist.

As we had all predicted, Speaker O’Brien held a vote on New Hampshire’s newest right-to-work bill (HB 1677) today.

Predictably, it didn’t follow the House calendar.

Predictably, it passed.

Predictably, it didn’t get the two-thirds vote needed to overturn a governor’s veto.

Even the vote count (198-139) was essentially unchanged from last year, leaving workers and labor leaders asking: what exactly was the point?

“Speaker O’Brien has made absolutely no headway in pushing his pet piece of legislation with legislators and the public over the last year,” New Hampshire AFL-CIO president Mark MacKenzie said in the Nashua Telegraph’s write-up of the vote. “Right-to-work is just as wrong today as it was last year, and today’s vote reflects that.”

The vote came just weeks after Speaker O’Brien and his allies promised to focus on jobs in the new legislative session. In a statement released after the vote, MacKenzie decried the Republican leadership for wasting more time on the Speaker’s pet legislation:

“Poll after poll has shown that Granite Staters are sick of the right-to-work fight and sick of politicians who put personal agendas before their commitment to New Hampshire. At a time when New Hampshire residents are looking to the Legislature for action on jobs, we cannot spend another year arguing over right-to-work.”

Statement from NH Labor Leaders on Right-to-Work for Less Vote

Statement from New Hampshire Labor Leaders on New Hampshire House Vote on HB 1677

After the New Hampshire House failed to get enough votes to pass a repeat of right-to-work by veto-proof margins, New Hampshire’s labor leaders lambasted Speaker O’Brien for pushing an extreme, unnecessary right-wing agenda over the real needs of Granite Staters for the second year in a row. The vote count (198-139) was essentially unchanged from last year.

“Speaker O’Brien has made absolutely no headway in pushing his pet piece of legislation with legislators and the public over the last year. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans who voted to sustain the governor’s veto of right-to-work have wavered.  Right-to-work is just as wrong today as it was last year, and today’s vote reflects that,” said Mark MacKenzie, president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.

“At a time when New Hampshire residents are looking to the Legislature for action on jobs, we cannot spend another year arguing over right-to-work. Poll after poll has shown that Granite Staters are sick of the right-to-work fight and sick of politicians who put personal agendas before their commitment to New Hampshire. The working men and women of this state want jobs, not attacks on workers.”

“Speaker O’Brien is trying to import an economic strategy that will not work for New Hampshire,” said Diana Lacey, president of the State Employees Association. “Businesses are coming to NH and increasing their size because NH already has the right mix of business development support, regulation and most notably, a highly skilled and educated workforce.  Business owners know that making the right decision to invest in workers creates all the difference in the world.  Businesses are not demanding attacks on worker rights and their unions.  It is time for the Legislature to focus on the issues that really matter for good job growth…quality education and innovative business programs.”

Rhonda Wesolowski, president of NEA-NH, pointed out that today’s votes would gut a system that is already fair, transparent and representative. “Yesterday, voters across New Hampshire went to the polls to decide the fate of contracts for teachers, aides and support staff, giving taxpayers the last word on what, for many, is the largest portion of their local tax bills.  The final tally is far less important than the fact that the current collective bargaining system, guaranteeing local control and democratic decision making, works without interference from lawmakers in Concord and has for decades.”

For immediate release
Contact: Nora Frederickson, New Hampshire AFL-CIO, 603-785-4211
              Beth D’Ovidio, SEA, 603-271-3411
               George Strout, NEA-NH, 603-244-7751###

Time to Make Noise about the New Hampshire Voucher Plan!

by Bill Duncan
Although the voucher plan has strong leadership support, many senators and representatives have questions about the financial impact, constitutionality and over-all desirability of the school voucher plan.  This would be the perfect time to call your legislators and reinforce those concerns.
In the Senate, the bill number is SB 372 and it has been sent to the floor on a 2-2 vote from the Senate Education Committee.  The Chair, Senator Stiles, has not said how she will vote.  Calls to her are particularly important.  In the House, the bill number is HB 1607.  It will be reported out by the House Ways and Means Committee on March 22 and will be voted on by the House within one week after that.  Here’s a summary of the program.
Here is a great video from New Jersey (also embeded below) where the governor is coming back for a second try to implement vouchers.  You’ll hear good ways to make all the same points we make here, though on a smaller scale.  Let these folks inspire you!  Anyone want to give this kind of interview for a New Hampshire version of this video? (h/t to Mark Joyce)
Here are the key issues:
  • Our public schools are doing a great job and there is no reason to divert public funds from our public schools to private schools.  Your schools would lose about $4,100 for each child who left with a voucher.  Here is the Department of Education’s estimate of the impact on each town.  IMPORTANT: The initial program size has been cut in half in the past week, but I have not yet received a new financial impact statement from the Department of Education.  Until I receive that, I have provided the two far right columns, with bolded numbers, which represents the reduced student numbers and financial impact in the first year.  When I get the new financial impact statement, I will replace the old one.  However, my calculation is reliable.  You can use it.
    • About the smaller size program: Of course, we are glad the program is now smaller, but it is still allowed the grow at 25% per year, something your legislator may not realize.  So the fact that it is smaller in the first year does not change the negative impact the program will have on our public schools as the grows over time.  There is no rational for this program, regardless of its size.
  • This program is an open checkbook on the state’s bank account.  Legislators will hear that the program is revenue neutral.  It is not.  You can say that with total confidence.  The Department of Education calculations show that the voucher plan would lose more every year and that loss would grow throughout the life of the program.  And, because of the way the program is structured, there is no way to project the actual extent of the losses.
    • In all cases, the school districts lose,  Any reduced impact on the state budget comes at the expense of the school districts, which lose $4,100 per year per child for 3 years.  That’s money they would not have lost if the child left without a voucher.  Here’s our explanation, if you need it, but you probably won’t need to get into that level of detail.
  • There is no academic accountability!  This is the most important punchline! We would be sending this public money to private, religious and home schools but we have no way to know whether we are getting good educational results.  This is absolutely unjustifiable.
  • “But it’s private money going to the private schools.” If anyone gives you this eyewash, just say, “Call it what you want, the voucher plan is funded with business tax credits that have a direct impact on our state budget and school budgets.  And for that, we deserve accountability!”

It is important to Make Some Noise against these bills.  Contact you State Reps and Senator today, time is short.

The Attack on Women’s Rights Is No Different Than The Attacks On Workers’ Rights

While a women’s right to choose whether employers should be forced to pay for contraceptives is not a Labor issue, I would like to say that personally I support those women who were standing in Concord on Wed (3/7).  I am going to talk about the relationship between the attacks on Women’s Rights and the attacks on Workers’ Rights.

The New Hampshire House has pushed numerous bad bills this legislative cycle.  So many in fact, I even got lost in them.  Some of the big ones are the Repeal of Collective Bargaining and HB1677 aka Right To Work.  These bills are just examples of State Reps pushing their ideological views on the employers in New Hampshire and pushing their anti-union agenda.  Is this really any different from the NH House pushing HB1546 which could allow employers to deny health insurance coverage of contraceptives and birth control?  I say no.  Not only is it the same government interference with employer / employee relationships it is pushing into your personal health.  It is a known fact that doctors prescribe birth control for issues other than just prevention of procreation.  Some women take it to regulate their system, some to regulate their hormones and prevent cysts, and many more.  I think when it comes to issues of a medical nature we should rely on the doctors and medical professionals opinions in the matter.

What is even more obvious is that these attacks on Women and Labor are both coming from the same places.  One of the reps who spoke for the Repeal of Collective Bargaining was Rep Andrew Manuse (R-Derry).  You might remember that he was the one who said “that public employees are not taxpayers”.   Now the same Rep is speaking against HB1546.  “State Rep. Andrew Manuse, R-Derry, rose in favor of the bill saying any law or mandate by the government require specific coverage like birth control was unconstitutional (1)“.

The response from the people outside the State House is exactly the same,  I thought that the Legislature was working to create jobs?  Labor leaders have said this and now Jackie Cilley is asking too? In statement from Gubernatorial Candidate Jackie Cilley wrote:

I am also appalled that Concord politicians are spending tax payer dollars telling New Hampshire citizens what they can and cannot do: They are telling doctors how to practice medicine, telling insurance companies they have to offer a new kind of policy, and even telling employers they have to make a basic choice for their employees. Instead of dismantling a bipartisan compromise that stood for a more than a decade, Speaker Bill O’Brien and the Republican majority in the House should be focused on creating jobs, developing our infrastructure and improving education for children.

So while the legislature is supposed to be focusing on job creation they instead waste taxpayers’ time and money pushing their ideological views on the rest of Granite Staters.  Creating jobs does not include taking away the rights of hard working middle class women, who are, get this, about 51% of the middle class!

ALEC, What is Their Influence in NH House?

A very important piece of research came out this week from Granite State Progress.  Through deep research of ALEC Exposed and the New Hampshire General Court websites they have connected the two.  For over 30 years Right To Work legislation has been pushed in the New Hampshire House.  In fact, over the last 30 years Right To Work legislation has been proposed thirteen times.  Even before that legislators discussed a “Right To Work for Less bill”.

In 1983 during the debate on SB 71, Sen. Jim Splaine references that a right to work for less bill – though not necessarily in this exact verbiage -­‐ has been discussed every term of his 14 years in the legislature and comes from a firm based out of Virginia. Other Senators note that support for the bill is mostly from out-­‐of-­‐state, including additional references to “telegrams from Virginia” – the home of the National Right to Work Committee.

For many of these years both Republican and Democrat legislators have rejected this amendment until 2011.  In 2011 it took a Governor’s veto to stop Right To Work.   Why has the NH House been pushing Right To Work so hard especially over the last few years? Four words, the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC).

ALEC is a corporate funded organization that puts state legislators together to help pass laws that are favorible to the corporations and the 1% who own them.  I will let them explain:

“Our members join for the purpose of having a seat at the table. That’s just what we do, that’s the service we offer,” explains Dennis Bartlett, an ALEC task force head who is also the executive director of the American Bail Coalition. “The organization is supported by money from the corporate sector, and, by paying to be members, corporations are allowed the opportunity to sit down at the table and discuss the issues that they have an interest in.”

You might say this is corporate lobbying, but it is more than that.  ALEC also helps to create the legislation that state legislators then submit in their home state as their own laws.  Why would they do this? Granite State Progress explains in their brief:

Corporate Power and Workers’ Rights“ALEC works fervently to promote laws that would shield corporations from legal action and allow them to limit the rights of workers. The group’s model legislation would roll back laws regarding corporate accountability, workers compensation and on the job protections, collective bargaining and organizing rights, prevailing wage and the minimum wage. ALEC is a main proponent of bills that undermineorganized labor by stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights and “right to work” laws. They also push “regulatory flexibility” laws that lead to massive deregulation. It is no surprise that the director of ALEC’s Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force previously worked as a Koch Associate at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.”

Is it really suprising that our current House Labor Committee is pushing Right To Work and other ALEC legislation? Not really when you consider that the chair of the Labor Committee is Gary Daniels
who is in his 8th term in the house.  Daniels was also the “American Legislative Exchange Council Labor & Business Task Force (1990-­‐1992) ~from the Handbook of New Hampshire Elected Officials 1993 & 1994 ALEC State Legislator “.I wonder if we will see any Anti-ALEC legislation in the New Hampshire House like they have proposed in Minnesota?

All quotes are from GSP Research
NH Labor News Previous Posts on ALEC

Union Wage Deductions laws proposed from ALEC?
State Reps getting Taxpayer Money to attend ALEC conferences?
ALEC Exposed Voter ID laws in New Hampshire.

A few reminders for this week…

I wanted to give you all a reminder of some of the actions going on in NH this week.  As many of you are probably already aware the New Hampshire labor unions and Protect New Hampshire Families are hosting a lobby day(s) Tomorrow Wed. March 7th from 8:30-5 and Thursday March 8th 8:30-5.  We are gathering at the State House to protest the passage of many anti-worker bills.

For example
HB1677 a modified Right To Work bill
HB1645 which will lead to Employer-led decertification voting
HB1206 which cancels any contract if a new contract is not reached prior to expiration
HB1663 which would take away exclusive bargaining rights for public workers

HB1237 which creates more interference between the State Legislature and Employee/Employer negotiations.

Please join us in our fight against these bills.  We will not be the only people at the State House on Wed/Thurs.  A very concerned group of women’s rights activists will also be at there.  They are fighting against the bill that would allow businesses to forbid paying for contraceptives under their insurance plan. A similar amendment was refused in the US Senate last week.

Also there are many school districts that will be voting on local school district contracts in the coming weeks.  AFT-NH has eight in the next two weeks.
Henniker Community School Support Staff, AFT Local #6314 AFT-NH, AFL-CIO Wednesday, March 7th
Campton Educational Support Staff Association, AFT Local #6004, AFT-NH, AFL-CIO 
Thursday, March 8th
Hillsborough Town Employees, AFT Local #3912, AFT-NH, AFL-CIO  (*New Local-1st Contract!) Tuesday, March 13th
Farmington School Custodians, AFT Local #6212,  AFT-NH, AFL-CIO  Tuesday, March 13th
Hudson School Secretaries, AFT Local #6260, AFT-NH, AFL-CIO 
Tuesday, March 13th
Oyster River Paraprofessionals and Support Staff, AFT Local #6213,  AFT-NH, AFL-CIO (Durham, Lee and Madbury) Tuesday March 13th
Timberlane Teachers’ Association, AFT Local #4796, AFT-NH, AFL-CIO 
Tuesday, March 13th (Atkinson, Danville, Plaistow and Sandown)
Pittsfield Town Employees, AFT Local #6214, AFT-NH, AFL-CIO Saturday, March 17th
Barnstead Education Support Staff Team, AFT Local #6332, AFT-NH, AFL-CIO

The NEA also hase many contracts coming up over the next few weeks
Allenstown — 3/13/2012
Andover — 3/5/2012
Bow — 3/16/2012
Chichester — 3/10/2012
Deerfield — 3/13/2012
Dunbarton — 3/10/2012
Epsom — 3/13/2012
Henniker — 3/7/2012
Hopkinton — 3/17/2012
John Stark — 3/13/2012
Kearsarge — 3/13/2012
Merrimack Valley — 3/8/2012
Pembroke — 3/10/2012
Shaker Regional — 3/9/2012
Weare — 3/13/2012

The State Employees are also voting on contracts

Ashland — Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Meredith — Wednesday, March 14, 2012 Town Meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. at Inter-Lakes High School.
Salem — Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Seabrook — Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Message from NH AFL-CIO: In Jam-Packed Week in NH House, Jobs Agenda Conspicuously Absent

 In Jam-Packed Week in NH House, Jobs Agenda Conspicuously Absent

Proving once again that the Republican leadership’s “jobs agenda” is just talk and no action, the New Hampshire House is set to vote on dozens of bills this week that are all about Tea Party-fueled attacks on New Hampshire families. Bills set to be heard this week include a new “Right to Work” for less bill, cutting Medicaid for New Hampshire’s poorest and restricting access to birth control, while bills to put Granite Staters back to work are conspicuously absent from the docket.

Attacks on workers. The House is voting on over a dozen anti-worker bills this week, including a reincarnation of last year’s right-to-work bill. Below is a list of the bills that are expected to be voted on next week:

  • HB 1677, a new “Right to Work” bill nearly identical to the “Right to Work” bill that failed in the House last year
  • HB 1645, a bill that once allows employer-led decertification of public unions
  • HB 1206: a bill that throws out provisions of collective bargaining agreements at the end of a contract if a new contract has not yet been reached, making it harder for workers and management to come to agreement through the bargaining process
  • HB 1663, a bill that strips the requirement for a union to be the exclusive representative of a bargaining unit out of the collective bargaining law
  • HB 1237: a bill that imposes oversight from the House and Senate on the collective bargaining process between the state and its employees

Dismantling voting rights. Speaker O’Brien failed to override a veto of his voter ID law last year, so he and his allies have come up with a new plan. The new bill does not fix any existing problems and further complicates and confuses the process for voters.

Attacks on healthcare. The House leadership is pushing for a law to cut off $1.4 billion in funding to hospitals, clinics, and doctors that perform elective abortions – at the expense of thousands of poor, disadvantaged, elderly or disabled citizens who rely on Medicaid. Legislators will also vote on a bill to repeal the law guaranteeing New Hampshire families access to contraception. Is Speaker O’Brien so intent on pushing his right-wing agenda that he is willing to cut healthcare for women, the poor and disabled to get his way?

The House leadership’s Tea Party-fueled social agenda comes at a time when a plurality of voters say that jobs and the economy are the most important problems facing the state.  A February 2012 poll shows that 51% of independent and GOP voters oppose the GOP’s social agenda, while a majority (64%) of likely voters believe that right-to-work and other attacks on collective bargaining should not be a priority of the Legislature.

Rep Lambert Who Proposed The Repeal Of Collective Bargaining Now Eyes The NH Senate

As we move towards the 2012 Election there has been a lot of talk about the new NH House and NH Senate districts. There has also been a lot of talk already about new people running for Governor and Senators not running again.  Sen Ray White and Sen Gary Lambert already announced that they will not run for Senate again.  Sen White, says that it is too much for him to be Senator and Businessman at the same time.  Sen Lambert is going back to the Marine Corps. With all these changes added up it is creating new opportunities for many people.  Add this with the new districts and we could see a lot of changes in the next election.  

One of the more scary announcements came today when State Rep George Lambert (not to be confused with Sen. Gary Lambert) announced that: “Litchfield Republican Rep. George Lambert has talked to associates about running for the Senate seat that Manchester Sen. Tom DeBlois is vacating to try to become executive councilor.”(Link).  Ugh that is enough to make me lose my lunch.  I cannot wait until the voters of Litchfield elect someone else in (Rep) Lamberts place.  (on a side note: does anyone remember the Eddie Murphy movie “The Distinguished Gentleman” where Eddie Murphy was elected because he had the same name as the previous representative?)

Rep. Lambert is a true TEA Partier (and Free Stater). He is one of these republicans that was elected in the “red tide” of republicans in the 2010 elections.  I understand people were upset.  The economy nationally was tanking, unemployment was high here in NH, and people thought we needed a change.  I wonder how many of those people wish they had chosen different now?

Rep Lambert has pushed some real “winners” in the State House this year. From labor’s perspective he introduced HB 1645, the repeal of collective bargaining.  He has also supported anything that in his opinion supports “Liberty, and Individual Freedom”.  Many people have noticed his extreme legislation.

“State Rep. George Lambert, R-Litchfield, is behind a number of the bills. He said bills such as his – banning sobriety checkpoints and decriminalizing speeding unless a driver causes personal injury or property damage” 

One of the most sweeping bills Lambert sponsored this session, HB 1531, would have established an affirmative defense for so-called victimless crimes. Affirmative defenses, such as self-defense or insanity, essentially mean a defendant can acknowledge the state’s charges but argue they were justified because of some other factor. 

Under Lambert’s bill, people who are accused of crimes that don’t have a direct victim – such as drug possession, prostitution, driving without a license or dozens of other infractions – would have been able to argue that since no particular individual was harmed, there was no crime. 

“It’s ‘Show me the victim,’ ” Lambert said. “I have a right to a defense and a right to challenge the witnesses against me, and if there are no victims, there is no crime. The state itself can’t be the victim.”(“Proposed bills would expand NH freedoms”)

Really, show me the victim, Really? This is ridiculous and Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan agrees. He said “the bill would have made it impossible to prosecute many crimes, including DWI, drug cases and habitual offender offenses”. So now we are going to make it ok for people to drive drunk because there is no victim at that time. Why do you think there is no victim in a DUI arrest. Is Lambert suggesting that unless a driver has an accident, causes damage, or kills someone that it should be allowed. I think that the Mothers Against Drunk Driving would have different opinion! In that case why stop there, lets remove speed limits from school zones! Unless someone hits a kid and puts them in the hospital or worse, according to Rep Lambert there is no victim right?

This is why people need to research who they are voting for. We spend a lot of time and energy trying decide who to vote for when it comes to the US House / US Senate or President, but not enough time on local politics. Would you have voted for Rep Lambert if he had said from the beginning that he wanted to take away your rights as union members, allow more drunk drivers on the roads unchecked, and allowed people to drive as fast as they want in school zones? I highly doubt it!

Faith Leaders Pray of the NH House Labor Committee in Opposition to Right To Work!

Since the fight over Right To Work (for less) started again in January of 2011, unions and workers have had many community allies.  One of the most important allies we have in our combined effort to stop so-called Right to Work is a diverse and growing group of faith leaders. These individuals from a variety of faith communities have been at the State House holding prayer vigils in opposition to RTW every time it has been brought up.  They have testified repeatedly about the damage RTW and related anti-worker laws will do to workers and to our community fabric, and they have prayed for Speaker Bill O’Brien and misguided legislators who are trying to take NH backwards. They have never been shy about their opposition to the anti-worker, anti-union onslaught currently occurring at the NH State House.

One of the active faith leaders in the fight against Right to Work (for less) is Rev. Gail Kinney, pastor of the South Danbury United Church of Christ.  She has testified on many accounts about how RTW is an attack on collective bargaining and on our sense of beloved community and that it is a cynical attempt to divide the working class.  In her testimony to the NH House Labor Committee she talked about all of these issues and more.  She also expressed her fear that some legislators had stopped listening to workers; therefore, she said she was addressing her testimony not only to Labor Committee members but also to a higher power.  From that point on she offered the rest of her testimony as a prayer for the Committee, the Legislature, and all of NH.
I have included her full testimony from February 9, 2012 in the NH State House.

Along with Rev Kinney is: Rev. Dr. Frank Irvine of Concord, Rev. John Gregory-Davis of Meriden, and Barbara French, a lay church leader from Henniker.

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