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Nashua Area Union Members Hold In-District Meeting With Legislators

NCC Legislative District Meeting 2-7cLast 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.

NCC Legislative District Meeting 2-7b“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.”

NCC Legislative District Meeting 2-7aOne 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.

Now is a good time to end the voucher program – Bill Duncan’s testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee on HB 370

Now is a good time to end the voucher program

The tax credit funded voucher program was passed last year because conservatives in favor of privatizing our public schools temporarily had a supermajority capable of overriding the Governor’s veto.

Now the public has replaced that Legislature with a more balanced alternative charged with setting a new path. Although the voucher program is a symbol of the excesses of the last Legislature, many will still say, “Give the program a chance….there are poor children who already depend on it.”
Legislators have even received calls saying, “My child is in private school now and I’m depending on this program to enable me to keep him there.”

We need to be clear. No children depend on this program now or will depend on it until next September. The best time to shut this program down is now, while no tax credits have been issued, very little business money has been committed, and before the program has started the process of privatizing New Hampshire’s public schools.


The program is expensive

The voucher program is small now but the legislation allows it to grow dramatically. If it grows as the bill provides for, in the 10th year, the program will be spending $30 million dollars every year moving our children from our public schools into private schools. That’s 13,000 children it would be paying for in year 10 – almost 10% of the students in New Hampshire.

In this current biennium, the voucher program would spend over $8 million. Here is how it works:
The program grants businesses an 85% tax credit for contributing to a scholarship organization but the way state taxes are calculated, that really amounts to a 93.5% credit. So a business can give $100,000 to a scholarship organization instead of $93,500 in state taxes. The business is deciding to give our tax money to the scholarship organization instead of to the State. This is the same as if the State had just given that scholarship organization $93,500 of our business tax money.

The Legislature downshifted this cost to the communities because the school district immediately loses its state adequacy grant for each voucher student.

The program does cap the cost to any one district at .25% of the previous year’s budget, but that’s still real money. Think of it in terms of the state budget. One quarter percent for the current biennium would be over $11 million dollars out of our general fund. This is 2 or 3 times what would be needed to restore the CHINS program. In Concord, that’s almost $200,000 out of Concord’s $78 million budget. That’s a lot of money to find out in September that you will lose in that school year.

In addition, the program shifts money from poorer to wealthier towns:
Say a private school student gets $2,500 voucher or a home school student gets a $600 voucher. Either way, the school loses over $4,000 of its state adequacy grant. Where does that profit go? Among other things, it pays for the voucher students in towns like Portsmouth. The State can’t take money from Portsmouth’s adequacy grant because Portsmouth gets no state grant. So the profits from Concord are paying for the voucher students from Portsmouth.
This is a complex and poorly conceived program that takes money from our public schools and gives it to private schools.

There is no accountability to taxpayers

Most states make their voucher schools accountable. They require at least standardized tests and often much more. But in New Hampshire, there is no accountability to the taxpayer for this large and perpetually growing stream of scarce public money.

The program will fund religious education

Our Constitution forbids using state money to fund religious instruction. The voucher program is being challenged in court but, regardless of the court decision, it is bad state policy to spend our money teaching children that dinosaurs and people roamed the earth together a few thousand years ago.

Most participating schools will probably be Christian schools. Of the 114 nonpublic schools in New Hampshire, 71 are religious schools. There are twice as many students in New Hampshire’s religious schools as in secular private schools (11,000 vs. 5,500).

Grade school tuitions average $12,000 in secular private grade schools and $5,500 in religious grade schools. High schools cost even more. And out of district public school tuitions are $10-$15,000/year.  For many parents, a voucher will be sufficient to enable many parents to send their children to religious schools, but will not be enough to enable them to attend nonreligious schools.  As a result, our experience would probably be like that of other states – most of the participating schools will be small Christian schools with low tuitions.

And religion does play a central role in many of the 71 religious schools in New Hampshire:

  • At Cornerstone Christian Academy, a K–8 school in Epsom, the “purpose” of the school is “to be an extension of the Christian home and church . . . and thus to provide a continuity of training for Christian young people.”
  • At Community Bible Academy in Berlin, “[a]ll subject matter is presented in light of the Scripture with a Biblical view of God and guiding principles to equip the student for life.”
  • The “purpose” of Calvary Christian School in Plymouth is “to provide Christian education by integrating Biblical principles throughout the curriculum.”
  • Dublin Christian Academy promulgates a “Statement of Faith” that professes that “the Genesis account of creation is to be accepted literally and not allegorically or figuratively”; that“ all animal and plant life were made directly by God in six literal, twenty-four hour periods”; and that “any form of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery, and pornography are sinful perversions of God’s gift of sex.” Ex. 37 at 179–80. This Statement of Faith also condemns all forms of abortion, including for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Many of New Hampshire’s private religious schools describe themselves as “ministries” of a parish or church.

  • Laconia Christian School “has been a significant ministry of Laconia Christian Fellowship Church for more than 30 years.”
  • The Lighthouse Christian Academy in Rochester is “a ministry of the Harvest of Praise Church of God.”
  • At Tabernacle Christian School in Litchfield, the “principal, teachers and other staff are employed in a ministry” of Tabernacle Baptist Church.

Most of New Hampshire’s religious schools require students to participate in religious activities such as Bible classes, worship services, and classroom prayer.

  • At Salem Christian School, “[a]ll grades incorporate Biblical principles in all subjects and also have regular Bible study classes” every day of the week except for Wednesday, which is when the weekly “chapel service” is held.
  • The Infant Jesus School, a Catholic elementary school in Nashua, requires all students, “regardless of the[ir] religious affiliation,” to “participate in all liturgies, classroom prayer, and other aspects of the spiritual life of the school. The teaching of Religion is a content subject in which all students must participate.”
  • The Bethlehem Christian School and others use the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum. ACE is a thoroughly creationist curriculum. Among many other Christian tenets, it teaches that:

• Humans and Dinosaurs Co-Existed
• Evolution Has Been Disproved
• A Japanese Whaling Boat Found a Dinosaur
• Science proves homosexuality is a learned behavior

These schools are entitled to their beliefs, but New Hampshire state law should not require tax payers to pay for them.

Voting Rights Groups Support Repeal Of Voter ID Law

Voting rights groups including the League of Women Voters NH and America Votes spoke in support of HB 287, AN ACT eliminating voter identification requirements during a hearing at the House Election Law Committee yestreday

“The League of Women Voters strongly opposed adoption of the photo ID law and we oppose it, if possible, even more now that it’s been in effect for the primary elections and the Presidential election last November,” said Joan Flood Ashwell, Election Law Specialist for the League of Women Voters NH. “She added, ” The League of Women Voters urges the Legislature to repeal the photo ID law in its entirety. The law serves no legitimate purpose and it poses a real danger to the ability of citizens to exercise their most fundamental right – the right to vote.”

Jessica Clark, Political and Field Director for America Votes, said, ” Implementation and real cost of voter ID in 2012 was in reality much more than originally described. We do not know all of the additional costs and whether they came out of the general fund or the HAVA fund but we do know that during the 2013 organizational meeting of this committee Deputy Scanlan reported that 3500 staff hours were dedicated to implementation of voter ID.  That’s the equivalent of hiring two fulltime staff. The department also mailed 22,000 letters. We have yet to enter the phase of investigations but attorney staff time will be utilized further increasing the cost.”

Ron Geoffroy from the NH Alliance for Retired Americans was quoted in the NH Union Leader.

“Ron Geoffroy, senior executive vice president of the alliance, told the committee the repeal “would right a terrible wrong when it comes to New Hampshire seniors.”

He noted many elderly people give up their driver’s licenses and now have to find someone to drive them to the Division of Motor Vehicles to have a photo ID taken in order to vote.”  (Supporters, opponents voter ID repeal speak out at hearing)

From Kevin Landrigan at the Nashua Telegraph:

“Devon Chaffee executive director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, said some potential voters, particularly those who are elderly, the disabled or low-income citizens were still intimidated from voting.  “We don’t know how many voters may have stayed home or be chilled from the requirements,” Chaffee said. “What we do know is there was real confusion over the law.”

The truth is that Voter ID Laws are designed to make it hard for people to vote, and discourage voters from voting if they do no have a drivers license.   The Voter ID law has not really taken effect yet because during the last election you could not be turned away if you do not have a valid ID.  Even though there were reports that people were being told they needed an ID to vote.

There is no proof of Voter Fraud in NH.  The video that the NH GOP keeps referring to that proves we need Voter ID is actually a video of someone breaking the law and filming themselves doing it.  Now, James O’Keefe has not dared to set foot in NH because of the possible charges he would face.

We need to repeal the Voter ID law before more people are turned away from their Congressional right to vote.

Why Labor Should Be Pushing Harder For Medicaid Expansion

Workers in America are continuing to see this corporate race to the bottom.   Lower wages, and benefit reductions around every corner.  How long has it been since an employee was given healthcare options for a part time job?  Now even full time employment does not guarantee a living wage or any healthcare options.

Over the last four years labor unions have been working with President Obama to pass and institute the Affordable Care Act.  Part of the Affordable Care Act is an expansion of the Medicaid program.

Medicaid is a healthcare program that has one simple purpose. Providing healthcare options to low income, and needy families.  Yet here in New Hampshire some legislators are against the expansion of this program.

Medicaide Eligible

Why would any legislator be against helping needy families?  As you can plainly see from this chart over 50% of all Medicaid money goes directly help children in low income families.   Most of these families would be living without any healthcare option at all if it were not for Medicaid.

You may be saying, well there are not that many people in New Hampshire who need this kind of assistance.  You would be completely wrong.  According to the data from the NH Citizens Alliance, over 130,000 people qualified for Medicaid in 2010. Remember 70,000 of those qualified people are children.

So how can we fix this? There are multiple answers.  First, we in the labor movement must continue to push our legislators for higher wages, especially a higher minimum wage.   Raising the minimum wage will left lift many of these families out of poverty and put them on a better path.

Second, we need to organize.  Unions have always fought for healthcare for their workers.  In many cases unions have given up pay raises to keep healthcare affordable.  We need all employers to see that providing their employees the option to have healthcare at a reasonable price is a benefit to everyone.

Third, we need to expand the Medicaid program until such a time when everyone has coverage either through their employer first then through Medicaid or Medicare if needed.

Until such time that every worker has the opportunity to have good reasonable healthcare options, I will continue to push for more Medicaid options here in New Hampshire.

Next week will be the first test for the expansion of Medicaid with the NH House hearing on expansion bills. Rep. Bill O’Brien’s bill, HB 271 (which wants to stop the expansion), will be debated in Reps Hall at 10 am on Feb  5th.  We need to make a strong showing and be there to push back for all the needy children who need medicaid. The NH Citizens Alliance is hosting a lobby day (more information here)  and I hope you will join us.

Protecting the little guy, isn’t that what labor has always been about?

Medicaid Expansion Lobby Day, Will You Be There???

Former Speaker Bill O’Brien is sponsoring a House Bill 271, which would keep NH from expanding Medicaid, and the hearing is on Tuesday. We need your help to attend and show your support for expansion.  They even moved the hearing to Representatives’ Hall, which is HUGE, so we need get a lot of people there to fill the room!

If you’re interested in attending or testifying, please contact me at jdubois@nhcitizensalliance.org or 603-724-4047.

What: Lobby Day to gather and prepare for the hearing on O’Brien’s bill. You will be able to register and grab some breakfast, then learn more about the expansion, practice your testimony, reach out to your State Senators, and even help make signs. Be sure to wear blue and grab a  “SUPPORT MEDICAID EXPANSION!” sticker!

Where: We’re meeting for Lobby Day on the 3rd floor of 4 Park Street in Concord, then we’ll be walking over to the hearing at Representatives’ Hall in the State House.

When: Lobby Day starts at 9am on Tuesday, February 5th, but if you can’t make it that early, you can head straight to the hearing, which starts at 10am.

Interested in testifying? If you’ve never testified before, no problem! We’re looking for grassroots activists to testify, especially those who might benefit from the expansion themselves, or who are involved in the medical or business community. No worries if you’re not an expert! We can help you. Attached are handouts with talking points about expansion, directions for how to testify, and a presentation about the expansion. You can come in to meet with me to talk over your testimony, or just send me a copy to look over and edit. Please let me know what help you need.

Spread the word! Please share this event with your friends and networks. You can forward this email or send invitations to your Facebook friends at https://www.facebook.com/events/107245266121532/.

Can’t make it? Send an email to the Health, Human Services, & Elderly Affairs Committee at HHSEA@leg.state.nh.us. Write a message using the attached talking points and tell them to find HB 271 “inexpedient to legislate”.

Background on expansion:

Medicaid expansion is an essential part of the Affordable Care Act’s plan to greatly reduce the uninsured population. It became optional for states after the Supreme Court ruling last June. Right now, Medicaid in NH covers very few able-bodied adults. The expansion would change this and extend coverage to anyone whose family income is less than 138% of the federal poverty level. This would include individuals making less than $15,415, couples or single parents making less than $20,880, and families of four making less than $31,809.

In addition, expansion will help reduce providers’ uncompensated care costs, which will in turn help stabilize costs for families and businesses that buy private insurance. It will be a great deal for New Hampshire since it will be mostly funded by the federal government. All those federal dollars coming into the state also mean a boost to our economy.

This event is being sponsored and organized by NH Voices forHealth, NH Citizens Alliance, Granite State Progress, and other allied groups.

Testimony of NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie on HB 323 (Right To Work for Less)

Chairman White and members of the committee,

My name is Mark MacKenzie and I am the President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO. We represent over 40,000 union members in the state of New Hampshire in the private, public and federal sectors. We appear today in opposition to House Bill 323.

First of all, it is clear beyond any doubt that based on the economic data alone, this bill is bad policy for our state.

The Economic Policy Institute’s report, Right to Work: Wrong for New Hampshire, by University of Oregon economist Professor Gordon Lafer, found that the impact of adopting a RTW is to lower wages and benefits by about $1,500 per year – for both union and non-union workers – and to lower the odds of getting health insurance or a pension through one’s job, while having no impact at all on job growth.

Professor Lafer’s study was updated in 2012 and will be distributed to the committee today.

I would like to highlight some of the more compelling findings in the report that merits the committee’s attention.

To a large extent, globalization has rendered RTW impotent. In the globalized economy, companies looking for cheap labor are overwhelmingly looking to China or Mexico.

The most important case study for any state considering RTW in 2013 is that of Oklahoma, the only state to have newly adopted RTW in the post-NAFTA era (Indiana and Michigan have just recently implemented their new laws).

When Oklahoma was debating RTW in 2001, a series of corporate location consultants told legislators that the state was being “redlined” because up to 90% of relocating companies “won’t even consider” locating in a non-RTW location. If Oklahoma adopted RTW, these consultants promised, the state would see “eight to ten times as many prospects.”

But instead of growing, the number of new companies coming into Oklahoma has actually fallen by one-third in the eleven years since RTW was adopted.  The state’s manufacturing employment has also decreased by 30%, and Oklahoma’s unemployment rate in 2010 was twice as high as when the law was passed.  Every promise made by RTW boosters has proven false.

Employer surveys confirm that RTW is not a significant draw; in 2009 manufacturers ranked it fourteenth among factors affecting location decisions. It slipped even lower as a factor in 2011 to 16th.

In addition, the report found that New Hampshire’s economy is far superior to the right-to-work average. New Hampshire has seen significant growth in the number of new companies incorporating in the state, including both local startups and out-of-state companies opening locations in New Hampshire.

Partly due to its economic success, New Hampshire’s quality of life is far superior to that in RTW states.  In 2010, New Hampshire ranked among the top 10 states in median household income; share of population with health insurance; share of population receiving dental care; number of primary care physicians; low violent crime rate; and low incidence of heart attacks, strokes, infectious disease, diabetes, low birth weight babies; and occupational fatalities.  New Hampshire’s school system performs above national standards, with math and reading scores significantly above the national average in 2009. The median weekly earnings of New Hampshire employees are not only higher than the average of RTW states, but higher than every single one of the RTW states. So too, New Hampshire’s median household income is higher, and its poverty rate lower, than all of the 23 states with right-to-work laws passed before 2011.

For all these reasons, New Hampshire would do far better maintaining our existing system rather than imitating the RTW states.

Over the course of the last two years, significant new information has come to light, all of which confirms the negative impact of RTW legislation.

·         A new study by independent economists from the University of Nevada and Claremont McKenna College confirms RTW results in lower wages for non-union workers.

·         An Oklahoma corporate think-tank admitted RTW has failed to create jobs.  The Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs – a think tank affiliated with the Heritage Foundation, that played a leading role in promoting that state’s 2001 RTW law – now admits that “manufacturing is lower today than it was before RTW.” Furthermore, the same organization reports that Oklahoma has become a net job exporter.

·         RTW has been shown to increase construction fatalities.  A new study shows that, in addition to its negative impact on wages and benefits, RTW also makes for less safe workplaces, including increased fatalities for construction workers.

·         New Hampshire continues to outperform RTW states.  As of December 2011, unemployment in New Hampshire was lower than in all but three of the 23 RTW states. 

The South Carolina Model:

In the past year, South Carolina has frequently been promoted as a model of economic development due to its RTW law. But at the end of 2012, South Carolina’s unemployment rate was 8.4 percent; While New Hampshire’s was 5.4 percent. South Carolina’s poverty rate is also double that of New Hampshire; while its median income is $23,000 lower.  The rate of new business openings was 25 percent faster in New Hampshire than in South Carolina. When it comes to “new economy” firms – the high-tech, high-wage employers that every state seeks – New Hampshire is ranked much higher than South Carolina.  By any measure, South Carolina should be trying to figure out how to be more like New Hampshire — not the opposite.

The past two years have also produced evidence that shed light on some misleading claims that had been put forth on behalf of RTW.

Texas’ growth was entirely in the public sector, unrelated to RTW. For the last four years, job growth in Texas has come entirely through government jobs, while the private sector shrank—clearly a trend that cannot be credited to RTW.

Evidence presented as current was actually thirty-five years old.  The National Right to Work Committee produced a Powerpoint presentation in 2011 that quotes an executive of Fantus, a site-location firm, warning that “approximately 50 percent of our clients … do not want to consider locations unless they are in right-to-work states”. The Committee neglected to mention that the quote is based on a report from 1975, and that by 1986, the firm’s executive vice president reported that the figure had fallen to 10 percent.

With all this evidence it would seem that those advocating in favor of this bill are actually driven by an Ideological belief system with no real regard for the true impact this bill will have on New Hampshire’s middle class working families and our state’s economic future.

I urge the committee to reject this legislation.

Thank you for your consideration.

Time To Raise NH Minimum Wage (from InZane Times)

Republished from InZane Times, By Arnie Alpert and Judy Elliot.

Judy and I wrote this one together.  It was published yesterday in the Concord Monitor.  We both testified at the public hearing, along with other advocates for low-wage workers.  The full force of the business lobby and the House Republicans were arrayed on the other side.  This is a good time to contact members of the House Labor Committee to support raising the minimum wage.

When the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, the minimum wage went up in 10 states. But not New Hampshire, where the minimum wage is stuck at the federal level and the state’s minimum wage was abolished by the Legislature two years ago. Without change at the state level, thousands of New Hampshire workers will have to wait for the gridlocked Congress to raise the federal minimum wage above the current rate, $7.25 an hour.

What does it mean to live on $7.25 an hour? If you work 40 hours a week every week of the year, your annual income will be $15,080. Enough to live on? Not by a long shot. You’ll earn $4,000 less than the poverty-level income for a family of three. And even the poverty income is less than you need to keep a roof over your head. At the minimum wage, you’d have to work 106 hours a week to afford a typical two-bedroom New Hampshire apartment, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Help could be on the way.

Two bills coming before the House Labor Committee today would re-establish the state’s authority to set a minimum wage and raise it above the federal level. Rep. Tim Robertson of Keene is sponsoring House Bill 241 to establish a New Hampshire minimum wage of $9.25. HB127, co-sponsored by Reps. Peter Sullivan of Manchester and Timothy Horrigan of Durham, would set the minimum wage at $8 per hour.

In 1949 New Hampshire established a state minimum wage, though it seldom rose above the federal rate. But the state law was repealed in 2011. “There is no reason for New Hampshire to set ourselves higher than the national average and make ourselves less competitive for these workers who need to gain experience,” then-House Speaker Bill O’Brien said at the time.

No detectable employment losses

But would employers really hire fewer workers if the wage went up? Research suggests otherwise. Recent research by a team of economists from the Universities of California, Massachusetts and North Carolina “suggest no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States.”

Why? Wouldn’t higher wages make it harder for businesses employing low-wage workers to earn a profit? Not necessarily. Raising wage rates tends to reduce employee turnover, reduce the costs of recruiting and training, and raise productivity. As Henry Ford discovered a century ago, increasing wages can be profitable.

Some opponents say it is mainly teens who earn minimum wage. Not true. Many of New Hampshire’s lowest-wage workers have families to support. Although we lack state-level statistics, we know that teens comprise only a quarter of minimum wage workers nationally.

Who will benefit from an increase? While most New Hampshire workers earn more than $8 an hour, plenty of workers would see their incomes rise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 14,000 New Hampshire workers earn $7.25 per hour or less.

Raising the wage also will help thousands of workers now earning above $7.25 per hour. For example, a worker who currently earns $7.75 per hour will get a raise if the minimum wage goes up to $8.

Even people with somewhat higher wages will benefit. This is because many employers intentionally keep their pay a certain margin above the minimum in order to compete for employees.

HB 127 has an important additional feature, a process to raise the minimum wage as the cost of living increases. This is critical. The federal minimum wage would be $10.58 per hour now if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years.

Two more minimum wage bills – one in the House and one in the Senate – will come up soon.

Raising the minimum wage will not eliminate poverty in New Hampshire. But it will make a concrete difference in the lives of thousands of people struggling to earn a living. Every New England state except New Hampshire has a minimum wage above the federal level. Our workers deserve better pay for their hard work.

Bills to Increase NH Minimum Wage Heard Today by Susan Bruce

NH Minimum Wage: HB 127 and HB 241

The two bills were lumped together in a January 29, 2013 hearing in the Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee.

Both bills call for an increase in the minimum wage. Last legislative session, the NH specific minimum wage was eliminated. NH complies with the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The federal minimum wage has been increased exactly 3 times in the last 30 years.

HB241 would increase the state minimum wage to $9.25 an hour. HB127 would increase it to $8.00 an hour.

There are some 14,000 minimum wage workers in NH. 78.8% of them are over the age of 20.  Contrary to what many believe, fewer than a quarter of them are teenagers. More than a third of them are married, and over a quarter are parents. These are people who are earning $15,080 annually, if they work a steady 40-hour week.
Minimum Wage Vs Rent
The number of states (and NH counties) where a min. wage worker can afford a 2-bedroom apartment?  ZERO.

The chances that a minimum wage worker is a woman? 64 in 100.

If minimum wage kept up with increases in CEO pay, it would be over $23 an hour.

It was obvious that some of the committee members as well as those offering testimony today believe that minimum wage is the sole province of teenagers, but the facts from the Economic Policy Institute prove otherwise.

Rep. Shawn Jasper testified (in opposition) on behalf of House GOP leadership. He said that what NH needs is a training wage, and repeated several times that not everyone who is earning minimum wage is living on minimum wage. It is Rep. Jasper’s assertion that no one is worth $8 an hour when they’re 8 years old or even 13. The minimum wage does not help our youth, it does not allow them to push a broom or move up the rungs of the employment ladder. In fact, Jasper asserts, teens are unemployed BECAUSE of the minimum wage. Thanks to the min. wage, those jobs aren’t being created. He reiterated that there are a substantial number of people who do not need to live on the minimum wage.

Quick diversion: an informal poll of my friends with kids shows that teenaged babysitters are earning somewhere between $7 and $10 an hour.

Also, the reason for teen unemployment is simple. There are still millions of adults out of work. The teens are competing with them for jobs. It has nothing to do with minimum wage, and everything to do with what we’re still not calling a depression.

Businessman Steve Grenier of Rye has a seasonal ice cream business. He lives year round on those earnings. He states that he would be adversely affected, and would have to raise his prices. It wouldn’t be fair to the kids who worked their way to higher wages, if new kids came in at this new entry-level minimum wage. His employees are all students.

Representative Daniels from the committee wondered how many of the minimum wage workers are under 18 and still living at home. He also wondered how many are working min. wage jobs as a second job, “just for something to do.” Apparently those who work second jobs don’t merit higher pay.

Chris Williams of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce opposes both bills. He told us of several small businesses that have closed in Nashua recently (which had nothing to do with this, btw) as a warning example of what will happen. Of course, if people earn more, they spend more at those small businesses – but that isn’t factored in to the thinking of business/industry groups and their lobbyists.

Another thing to consider: if wages don’t go up, than the cost of safety net services do.

Dan Juday (not at all sure of the spelling) of the BIA testified in opposition. This will have a ripple effect on all employers, increasing labor costs across the board. This is why we have outsourcing – because of labor costs. Also, he told us that an increase in minimum wage could bankrupt the unemployment insurance trust fund. This is no time to burden employers with more costs.

Beth Mattingly of the Carsey Institute pointed out that the federal poverty guidelines were developed in the 1960’s, based on the cost of food. They do not factor in the cost of housing or childcare, which are the biggest expenses for today’s working people. A single person would need to earn $9 an hour just to reach the federal poverty guidelines. Naturally, there were other folks there to speak in support of increasing the minimum wage. For me, today, the focus is on those who defend sub-poverty wages.

There are some wage subdivisions in place already. Restaurants are allowed to pay tipped workers substantially less than minimum wage. These are also people who don’t get paid sick days, so they come to work sick, because they have to, and then handle your food. Achoo!

There is a mechanism in place to pay people with developmental disabilities less than minimum wage. The business lobby would love to create a “training wage” in order to pay kids (and probably adults too) slave wages.

Curtis Barry of the Retail Merchants Association described the minimum wage working base as students and “retired people, looking for a little extra money.” Apparently those older people don’t deserve a decent wage, either. Fortunately no one mentioned housewives working for “pin money.”

There was almost no respect expressed for workers at this hearing. That was disheartening.

I did hear from a bill sponsor that there is a lot of support for an increase in the minimum wage. On behalf of 14,000 NH workers, let’s hope that there will be one.

CROSS POSTED with permission from Susan The Bruce Blog

LIKE A TOXIC WEED OR A BAD MEAL, RIGHT TO WORK “FOR LESS” IS BACK ! A message from Laura Hainey President of AFT-NH

Former Speaker O’Brien is at it again and he is coming straight at you and middle class families. We must again stand together and stand strong.

The House Labor Committee will be hearing Right to Work “for less” (HB 323) on Wednesday January 30. Please contact the committee members and ask that they defeat this bill.

Over the past two years hundreds of NH citizens voiced opposition to this bill with only a handful of people speaking in support. This attack on working people like you is led by out of state interests such as the National Right to Work Committee and ALEC. Don’t let the voice of NH residents to be silenced.

Please pass the word to friends and family members. These representatives need to hear from you. Simply put this is a union-busting bill and an attack on our public employees and middle class families.

Please share this with colleagues so they know the seriousness of these attacks. So let’s GET ACTIVE and let these state representatives hear our voices.

Thank you!
In Solidarity,

Raising The Minimum Wage Is The Way To Help Our Economy Grow

There is an intense debate in State Houses and in the US Congress over the minimum wage.

The pro-corporate GOP are saying that we do not need to raise the minimum wage because it will hinder the ‘job creators’ and the economic recovery.  The truth is that raising the minimum wage will help the economy recover.

I am happy to hear that here in my home state of NH there are two bills to push the minimum wage up.  The first, HB 127 (Rep Sullivan) would raise the wage to $8.00 per hour.  The second, HB 241 (from Rep. Tim Robertson) would raise the wage to $9.25 per hour.

There has been a lot of research on raising the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour for the Federal minimum.  “The Economic Policy Institute estimates that President Obama’s campaign proposal of restoring the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011 would generate $60 billion in new consumer spending in communities across the country (RaiseTheWage.org).”

Sixty billion in new revenue would do wonders to our economy.  This is what economists have been trying to explain since the recession began.  We need to put money in the hand of workers at the lower and middle class levels so they can spend it.  When workers have money to spend, they will, and this is exactly what drives our small business economy.

I am not sure if either of these bills will make it through the Republican controlled Senate, however I would be happy if either was enacted.

“Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago have found that every $1 increase in the minimum wage boosts consumer spending by a low-wage worker’s household by $2,800 over the following year (RaiseTheWage.org).”

Multiply the $2,800 dollars spent by the over 50,000 New Hampshire workers who are paid minimum wage.  This is over $140,000,000 to the New Hampshire economy. If we enact HB 241 ($9.25 per hour) that would mean $280 million dollars more pushed into the NH economy.

I am sure that someone is thinking; ‘If we raise the minimum wage it will mean that business will have to cut jobs’.  This is another myth pushed by the corporate lobbyists like the Chamber of Commerce.  Many studies have proven that this is simply not true.  “A study published in April 2011 found that these results (no significant job losses) hold true even during periods of recession and high unemployment.”

The truth is that the minimum wage was create as another safety net to help keep people out of poverty and off of government assistance programs.  This is not the case at the moment.  For example the national poverty level for a family of four (two adults, two children) is $23,021.  At the current minimum wage ($15,000 per year) both parents would have to work 40 hours a week, just to exceed that poverty level.   However the cost of living in New Hampshire is very different than the national average.  According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) researchers a family of four would need to make $55,609 ($4,600 a month) to not live in poverty. At minimum wage both parents would have to work 80 hours a week to exceed the $55,000 mark (after taxes).

So when we talk about the minimum wage, we should be talking about the minimum living wage.  I hope that our state legislators truly understand what it takes to survive in our state.  They also must understand that raising the minimum wage in our state only helps our economy.

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