The AFL-CIO And The NH AFL-CIO Endorse APWU’s Boycott Of Staples Inc

Image by Nicholas Eckhart Flikr

Momentum behind by the American Postal Workers Union “Stop Staples” campaign is growing by leaps and bounds. 

Over the last few weeks, the American Federation of Teachers in California and Michigan adopted resolutions to boycott Staples stores for their back to school shopping.

Last week AFT-NH President Laura Hainey announced that AFT-NH would also join in the boycott of Staples

“The decision to outsource neighborhood post offices across the country to a big-box retailer means potentially fewer good jobs and poorer service for our communities,” said Hainey. “Staples workers will staff these new postal counters, rather than trained, uniformed postal employees who are background-checked and take an oath to protect our mail.”

Then, just yesterday the AFL-CIO nationally has added Staples to their national boycott list, and the NH AFL-CIO adopted the resolution (view in PDF) to join the boycott of Staples stores.

The conclusion of the resolution states:

Therefore be it resolved that:

  • The NH AFL-CIO support the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) in its efforts to protect good-paying jobs and its insistence on the highest possible standards of customer service; 
  • Be it further resolved that the NH AFL-CIO opposes efforts by the U.S. Postal Service to privatize operations and to sell off valuable public assets; 
  • Be it further resolved that the NH AFL-CIO will urge friends, colleagues and family members, to no longer shop at Staples stores until further notice;
  • Be it finally resolved that this call to boycott Staples will be communicated immediately to affiliates of the NH AFL-CIO, our community allies, to our sister unions and to the news media.

“The New Hampshire AFL-CIO fully and enthusiastically supports our sisters and brothers working in real post offices across our state and nation, and we will be boycotting staples until this unfair program is ended,” said New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie.

The Postal Service and Staples are refusing to staff the postal counters with unionized, uniformed U.S. Postal Service employees who have the training and experience to properly handle U.S. mail, and who have passed back ground checks and sworn an oath to uphold the highest standards of public service.

“These Staples postal counters are staffed by low-wage, low benefit employees with little training and no credentials to handle U.S. mail. We can do better,” MacKenzie said.

“We are thrilled to have the support of the AFL-CIO in our ongoing struggle to keep the Postal Service Public. Acting together we can save this great public service from being privatized,” said Janice Kelble, Legislative Director, NH Postal Workers Union.

“Our local post offices belong to our towns and to the people of New Hampshire,” said Hainey. “Our members can decide where to buy school supplies, and we won’t shop at Staples until they reconsider this misguided program.”

Who will be the next to join the APWU’s call to Stop Staples.

The national AFL-CIO is a labor federation comprised of 56 unions representing 12.5 million members.

(If your local would like to adopt a resolution in support of the APWU’s Stop Staples campaign and need assistance, contact Janice Kelble at jkelble (at) apwu.org, or just send me the press release and details after it is adopted to NHlabor (at) Gmail.com  ATTN: Stop Staples)

Expanded Gambling Is About Creating Jobs (Testimony by NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie)

NH AFL-CIO Logo

NH AFL-CIO LogoAs president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the state, I speak to workers and community leaders every day about the difficulties facing our state’s working families as we continue to struggle in the aftermath of the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Now is the time for our elected leaders to step up to the plate and take real, immediate and concrete steps to create good new jobs for thousands of workers in our state.

This Committee and the entire New Hampshire House now have the opportunity to do just that. In fact, legislators have been presented with a bill, SB 366, that will guarantee the creation of a half-billion-dollar construction project, every penny of which would come from private investment.

SB 366 would create more than 2,000 jobs for New Hampshire construction workers and more than 1,000 good, permanent jobs. Furthermore, this bill will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in non-tax revenue for the state and our municipalities, allowing us to keep critical programs like education, public safety and infrastructure off the budgetary chopping block. Plus, polls show that a big majority – nearly 60 percent – of Granite Staters favor the approach SB 366 takes.

SB 366 would bring expanded casino gaming to New Hampshire. Now, I know some members of this committee personally don’t approve of gambling, and that’s certainly your prerogative. But we must come to terms with the fact that we are stuck in a situation where job growth continues to be sluggish and the state budget continually presents our elected officials with extremely difficult choices between cutting programs and finding needed revenue.

The fact is, New Hampshire will be experiencing the downside of casino gaming whether or not we build a new casino within our borders. Our state already has a $75 million-per-year casino industry under the guise of “charitable gaming,” and there will soon be several casinos just over the border in Massachusetts. Without SB 366, we’ll leave thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.

SB 366 was amended in the Senate to include provisions drafted by the bipartisan, multi-agency Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority as part of last year’s state budget process. In consultation with independent experts, the authority reviewed best practices in the gaming industry across the country to develop a true New Hampshire solution for expanded gaming.

This bill was crafted specifically to address concerns lawmakers had with previous gaming proposals, concerns we shared in many cases. We believe that SB 366 includes a comprehensive regulatory structure and robust provisions to ensure that the jobs will go to New Hampshire workers.

Although we have always supported creating good jobs for Granite State workers, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO has never officially endorsed a casino proposal before. Our executive committee recently voted unanimously to fully endorse gaming legislation this year because we are convinced the current proposal represents what’s best for New Hampshire’s working families and for our state

Creating jobs shouldn’t just be a talking point or a political slogan. Growing our economy and putting people to work should be real, tangible goals for our elected leaders. SB 366 is legislation that would accomplish these goals, and I urge the committee to support it. Together we can help rebuild New Hampshire’s middle class by focusing on creating good jobs for workers in our state. Passing this bill will contribute to that cause.

Thank you for your consideration.

Mark MacKenzie
President of the NH AFL-CIO

AFL-CIO Leads Efforts To Raise The Minimum Wage Around the Country

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AFL-CIO Headquarters by Matthew Bisanz

AFL-CIO Headquarters by Matthew Bisanz

(Washington, DC – March 18, 2014) In addition to the growing effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, working families across the country have been leading movements to raise wages at the state and local level.

The federal minimum wage has remained $7.25 an hour since 2009 and wages for tipped workers have been frozen at $2.13 an hour since 1991.  Against that backdrop, workers, often led by local labor movements, are moving their own efforts to increase the minimum wage in several states, even where the state minimum wage is higher than the national. Coalitions across the country are working to raise wages in a variety of forms, some examples of local movements to raise wages are listed below:

Alaska: Over 43,000 signatures were collected in support of a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $9.75 over two years, with an annual adjustment for inflation. Alaskans will vote on the initiative in August.

Arkansas: A coalition including labor and community group are campaigning for a ballot measure that would eventually raise the minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50 in steps over the next three years.

Connecticut: Labor groups applauded Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to increase the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Student and community groups have testified in support of the bill as it makes its way through the legislative process.  The bill would include tipped workers.

Iowa: Sen. Tom Harkin is the author of the federal legislation, and workers in his home state are also pushing for a bill to increase the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Community members have adopted the cry, “We can’t survive on $7.25!”

Idaho: Labor and community groups have joined together to spearhead a push to raise the minimum wage through the legislature in Idaho. The state has the highest percentage of minimum wage workers in the country.

Los Angeles: The Raise L.A. campaign is focusing on raising the wages of hotel workers to $15 an hour. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor has invited Pope Francis to come to L.A. to help champion economic equality for low wage workers.

Massachusetts:Last year, workers and community members joined together as the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition to collect 275,000 signatures to put a minimum wage increase on the 2014 ballot. This spring, they are organizing community meetings and lobby days to ask legislators to pass a minimum wage increase in addition to earned sick time.

Minnesota: An active coalition of faith, labor, and community organizations is working to pass a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $9.50 by 2015 with future increases indexed to inflation. In February, Working America held their Minimum Wage Challenge Week, in which five lawmakers struggled to live on minimum wage for a week.

Missouri: A bill to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour is currently active in the state senate. Low wage and tipped workers organized to turn out and testify at a critical hearing, helping the bill pass out of committee.

New Hampshire: In New Hampshire, the local labor movement has named raising the minimum wage one of their top priorities for 2014.  They are actively working with community allies to push a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.

Pennsylvania: A coalition of labor unions, clergy, community and women’s organizations gathered at the state capitol just this week to launch the campaign to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Bills are currently pending in the state legislature. The coalition plans an aggressive grassroots mobilization to make minimum wage a center issue in the fall elections.

Seattle: Workers and community members in Seattle are aiming to replicate the success of neighboring SeaTac with an effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour across the city.  Washington State has the highest minimum wage in the country at $9.19 an hour.  Hundreds have turned out to rallies and city council meetings to show their support for the measure.

South Dakota: The South Dakota AFL-CIO along with working families succeeded in getting a minimum wage increase on the ballot that will be voted on in November.  The measure would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 and increase annually based on cost of living – it would also include an increase for tipped workers.

West Virginia– The West Virginia AFL-CIO led a successful campaign to increase the state minimum wage.  The bill has been passed by the legislature and sent to the Governor and would increase the state minimum wage to $8.00 to $8.75.  The bill will also include an increase in the minimum wage for tipped workers.

Building Pathways NH Is Looking For Women Interested In Working In The Building Trades

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CLICK HERE FOR FULL IMAGE AND PRINTABLE PDF

Five weeks, hands-on training in a variety of construction trades including carpentry, electrical, sheetmetal, plumbing, pipefitting, insulating, blueprint reading, labor history, construction math, interview skills & more.

Classes begin Monday, May 12, and end Friday, Jun 13, 2014.
Free:  there is no charge for the program.

Classes meet Monday – Friday, 7am – 3:30pm (construction site hours)

Base location:  Carpenters Training Center, 900 Candia Rd, Manchester.  Students will also go to other Building Trades Training Centers as well as to an active construction site.

Students will receive OSHA 10 and First Aid/CPR certificates.  Spaces are limited – max 13 students.

Who is Qualified?

The program is designed for female New Hampshire residents who are unemployed or underemployed, who are physically able to work in construction, are 18 or older, are authorized to work in the US, have a high school diploma or GED, are drug free and agree to drug testing, are on time, are interested in a construction career, can pass an 8th grade level English and math test and who have access to reliable transportation.  Women of color and female veterans are strongly encouraged to apply.

How to Apply?

Attend an Information Session, 6 – 7:30 pm on March 11, 13, 17 or 24, at the Plumbers and Pipefitters hall, 161 Londonderry Turnpike, Hookset, NH.  Do NOT be late.

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Program Sponsors

The program is sponsored by the NH AFL-CIO, the NH State Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Carpenters Union.  It is supported by federal Workforce Investment Act funds, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, and program partners.

For More Information

Contact Joe Gallagher, Building Pathways Program Coordinator, 603-948-8161, buildingpathwaysnh@gmail.com, PO Box 1097, Manchester, NH 03105.

Program information can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/buildingpathwaysnh.

Print this information from PDF here.

Click here for Printable PDF of color flyer.

High Praise For The NH Senate Commerce Committee’s Unanimous Vote For Paycheck Fairness

Equal Pay for Equal Work (lilly ledbetter act)

The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously voted to recommend the passage of Senate Bill 207, the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act.  After the vote Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen released the following statement:


”This definitive, bipartisan action by the Senate Commerce Committee affirms that both Republicans and Democrats agree we must act to close the wage gap in New Hampshire.”
 

“The New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act will give the more than 60% of women working in today’s economy, as the primary or co-breadwinners for their families, the much needed tools they need to combat the wage gap.”

 

“It’s distressing that, in the year 2014, women in New Hampshire, who are working full-time jobs, still earn only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. National studies have found that a pay gap exists between men and women in nearly every occupation. However, with this bipartisan, unanimous vote, we are sending a crystal clear message that the Legislature is on the side of all workers guaranteeing fair and equal paycheck, without fear of retaliation.”



”I look forward to a strong vote of the full Senate and quick House action, so New Hampshire can renew our commitment to the fundamental principle of, an equal day’s work deserves an equal day’s pay.”

Senate Bill 207 has been cited by Senate and House Democrats as a top priority for the 2014 legislative session. All Senate Democrats have sponsored the legislation with House Speaker Terie Norelli serving as the leading House sponsor along with co-sponsors Rep. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst), Rep. MaryAnn Knowles (D-Hudson), and Rep. Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsboro).

Governor Hassan also showed her support for SB 207 in her statement:

““I applaud the Senate Commerce Committee for their bipartisan recognition of the need to eliminate the pay gap between our working women and men. Well over half of the women working in today’s economy are either the primary or co-breadwinners in their families, and it is unacceptable that women in New Hampshire working full-time jobs earn only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men.” 

“This legislation will improve the financial security of working families and help business grow by putting more money in the pockets of consumers. I encourage the full Senate to continue demonstrating that, unlike Washington, in New Hampshire, we can come together on common-sense solutions by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.”

Aside from the political leaders in Concord many other groups voiced their praise in the committee unanimously supporting paycheck fairness.

Mark MacKenzie, President of the NH AFL-CIO: “Equal pay for equal work is more than a motto – it’s the law. SB 207, the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act, is another step in the right direction. It prohibits employers from barring an employee from disclosing information about his or her wages and it also prohibits employer retaliation against an employee who does disclose the amount of his or her wages.”

Kary Jencks, Executive Director, NH Citizens Alliance for Action: “We thank Senator Larsen for encouraging bi-partisan action today to ensure equal pay for equal work. A woman’s earnings, whether she is married or not, are crucial to family support. Closing the wage gap in New Hampshire is important for the equality and economic security of Granite Staters.”

Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress: “Data shows that New Hampshire women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. SB 207 will give employees the tools they need to challenge wage gaps. Coupled with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act already in law, these two acts can help to create a climate where wage discrimination is no longer tolerated.”

Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union: “We applaud the Senate Committee for its bipartisan support of this important effort to eliminate unfair gender paycheck inequities in the state of New Hampshire.”

Kimberly Pollard, Regional Organizer for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) of New Hampshire: “Today, women are the leading or sole breadwinner in forty percent of households. The pay gap affects whether families can buy food, pay the mortgage, and stay healthy. By moving forward with the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Senate Commerce Committee has taken a positive step toward closing the wage gap and ending gender discrimination in the workplace.”

The Paycheck Fairness bill is about closing the gap between pay disparities between men and women. This bill is another step in the process by allowing women (and men) to openly discuss their wages with others, ensuring that they are being fairly compared to those in the same job.

Manchester Newspaper Guild Files 7 Unfair Labor Practice Charges And Pickets Against NH Union Leader

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MANCHESTER, NH — The Manchester Newspaper Guild on Friday filed seven Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against The Union Leader Corp., which employs about 75 Guild members in its news, advertising, circulation, IT and accounting departments.

The charges, and one the company filed against the local, mark an unprecedented low in the 72-year history of labor relations between The Newspaper Guild local and The New Hampshire Union Leader.

Meanwhile, the members of TNG-CWA Local 31167 continue to pressure the company, the latest effort being an informational picket Saturday, March 1 from noon to 1:30 outside the Union Leader-sponsored state spelling bee at the Capital Center for the Arts in Concord. The union and company have been bargaining since September, with the company insisting on language that would gut job security and hamper the union’s ability to defend the contract, while seeking a huge pay cut and a more than doubling of health insurance deductibles. Employees have been working under a contract that expired Dec. 31.

MNG2The Guild’s charges to the labor board assert that the company has committed Unfair Labor Practices by violating the National Labor Relations Act, including engaging in surface bargaining with no real intention of arriving at a collective bargaining agreement with the union. Between September and Dec. 31, the company refused to alter the major contract retrogressions in its proposal while threatening it would withdraw those proposals Dec. 31, leaving a 20% wage reduction and even higher insurance costs on the table.

Without ever bargaining over that remaining proposal after Jan. 1, on Jan. 22 the company instead presented the union with a “Final Offer” that included an 18% wage reduction retroactive to Jan. 5, and reintroduced language that would eliminate workers’ seniority and job security language.

The union also charges that The Union Leader Corp. has refused to provide information relevant to subjects under negotiation and necessary to the union’s conduct of negotiations, has insisted upon an unreasonable confidentiality agreement before allowing union officials and their accountant to view the company’s financial records, and has refused to bargain the terms and conditions of such a confidentiality agreement.

According to the local’s charges, the union also says The Union Leader Corp. has committed an Unfair Labor Practice by insisting that a new collective bargaining agreement provide the company with complete discretion over reductions in force without any standards or guidelines.

The union also charges that the company’s retroactive wage and insurance deductible proposals — only just withdrawn on Wednesday — were illegal and impeded bargaining over wages since they were presented, and that the company’s proposals to severely curtail union activity are an unlawful restriction on employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

The company’s complaint against the Guild alleges the union has bargained in bad faith.

Recognizing the struggles faced by both the Union Leader Corp. and the news industry in recent years, Manchester Newspaper Guild members have made huge concessions in recent years, including pay cuts totaling 14.63 percent, a longer work week without additional compensation for the extra hours, elimination of personal days, reductions in sick time, increases in insurance deductibles and layoffs and buyouts of members.
Non-union and management employees — about half the total workforce — saw a smaller pay cut in 2012 and a smaller increase in health insurance deductibles in January. They currently do not face a pay cut.

The local has created a website questioning the fairness of the company’s proposal and strategy, with a petition to Publisher Joseph McQuaid that supporters can sign, at www.wtf-ul.org.

Feb. 11th Is Your Chance To Help Raise The Minimum Wage In NH

from http://standupfl.org/event/national-raise-the-wage-day/

The fight over raising the minimum wage is heating up.  During President Obama’s State of the Union address he announced that he would use an executive order to mandate that all government contractors pay a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour.  This falls in line with the $10.10 per hour proposal that the President and Democrats have been pushing for months.

During the State of the Union called for more local legislation to push for a higher minimum wage since Congress in unable to pass the proposed increase.

Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to follow John’s lead and do what you can to raise your employees’ wages. To every mayor, governor, and state legislator in America, I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act.”

Now is your chance to help pass a minimum wage increase right here in New Hampshire.

from http://standupfl.org/event/national-raise-the-wage-day/

On February 11th the NH House Labor Committee will hear testimony for and against raising the minimum wage.  This is where you can help.  We need people to show up and talk with legislators about why it is important to raise the minimum wage.

The specifics of HB 1403 are to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 in 2015 and then to  $9.00 per hour in 2016.  The bill will also tie the NH minimum wage to inflation, which insures that workers will continue to see an increase as their cost of living increases.

Even if you are not comfortable testifying to the committee about raising the minimum wage, we still need your help.  Just being there to show your support is important.

There are multiple events going on Feb 11th as part of this consolidated push to pass HB 1403.  The Voices of Faith for Humane Public Policy and the NH Faith-Labor Dialogue Project are hosting an ‘Interfaith Prayer Breakfast Calling for the Dignity of All Workers’ at
Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, (21 Centre Street, Concord) at 8am.
(Please RSVP if you are planning to attend:
economicjustice.nhcucc@gmail.com)

After the interfaith service the NH AFL-CIO is holding a Raise the Wage Press Conference.  Those who support raising the minimum wage are encouraged to attend the press conference, which begins at 9:30 am in the Lobby of the Legislative Office Building.

Then at 10:30 everyone is encouraged to attend and sign in supporting the passage of HB 1403 at the public hearing (Room 305-307 in the Legislative Office Building). If you are interested in offering testimony for this bill, contact Kurt Ehrenberg, kurtehrenberg@nhaflcio.org for information and tips on delivering testimony.

Thousands of minimum wage workers need your help and your support to ensure the passage of HB 1403 to raise the minimum wage here in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire AFL-CIO Calls For Minimum Wage Hike As Part Of 2014 Legislative Agenda

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CONCORD – AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler joined New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie and progressive legislators in laying out the New Hampshire labor movement’s priorities for the 2014 legislative session.

This year, we are calling on our legislature to lift up working families and lift up New Hampshire,” said New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie.

“By raising the minimum wage, establishing prevailing wages, paying men and women equal wages, and making sure that temporary workers, construction workers, and those paid by payroll card aren’t cheated out of their pay, we can ensure that every worker in New Hampshire takes home what they have rightfully earned and can support their families on their wages.”

Raising the minimum wage would help small businesses, President MacKenzie stated, citing a poll by the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute released last year that found that a majority of small business owners, 67 percent, would back an effort to increase the minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour and to adjust it annually for inflation.

The plight of low-wage workers is in the spotlight like never before, Secretary-Treasurer Shuler said in her remarks. After a year marked by nationwide walk-outs at Walmart and strikes by fast food workers, workers in thirteen states saw increases in the minimum wage on January 1st of this year. Worker-based coalitions in eight other states are mounting ballot initiatives or legislative campaigns to raise the minimum wage.

Work in this country should be valued, rewarded, and respected,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “It is not a question of whether we can afford to reward hard work – we can’t afford not to. Income inequality is greater today than it’s been since the Great Depression. The rich have never been richer, while the middle class is falling further and further behind. Working people have to do better than that – and we can, starting with a proactive push to raise the minimum wage and pass a working family agenda in Concord.”

The New Hampshire AFL-CIO announced that it will be pursuing the following legislative priorities in 2014:

  • Minimum Wage Increase to $9/hour (HB 1174)Raises the state minimum wage to $8.25 an hour in January 2015; raises the state minimum wage to $9.00 an hour in January 2016 and thereafter raises the minimum wage annually based on increases in the Consumer Price Index.
  • Paycheck Fairness (HB 1188, SB 207)Defines the conditions in which employers may legitimately pay differential wages to men and women who perform equal work; prohibits employers from barring an employee from disclosing information about his or her wages, salary and paid benefits as a condition or employment; prohibits retaliation against an employee who discloses the amount of his or her wages.
  • Temporary Workers Rights (HB 1189)Increases transparency concerning employment conditions and compensation for temporary workers procured for worksite employers through a temporary staffing company; establishes record keeping and reporting requirements for temporary staffing companies; defines allowable fees charged to temporary workers by the staffing company in relation to employment; addresses workers compensation coverage requirements.
  • Personal Credit History Privacy (HB 1405, SB 295)Prohibits employers from requesting a personal credit history check as a condition of employment, with some exceptions for positions that involve substantive responsibility for managing business funds.
  • Payment by Payroll Card (HB 1404)Defines disclosure requirements and employer reporting obligations for payment of wages by payroll card; limits fees that can be charged to an employee for using his or her payroll card account.
  • Social Media Privacy (HB1407)Prohibits employers from requiring access to private social media account or other online communication accounts as a condition of employment. Does not prevent employers from monitoring or requesting access to business accounts.
  • State Prevailing Wage Law (HB 1592)New Hampshire is the only state in the Northeast without a current prevailing wage statute for state-funded public works projects. This bill aims to replace and modernize the NH prevailing wage law repealed in 1985 but limits covered projects to those funded only or substantially by state funds.
  • Certified Payroll Reporting Requirement (HB 1576)Requires contractors on state-funded construction projects to file certified payroll reports that include worker classifications and rates of pay with the government agency responsible for project administration.

Raising The Minimum Wage Would Lift Families Out Of Poverty (By NH AFL-CIO Pres Mark MacKenzie)

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NH AFL-CIO LogoWhen thinking about the minimum wage, it is easy to conjure up the outdated image of teenagers flipping burgers or making milkshakes at the neighborhood restaurant. Minimum wage jobs are seen as a rite of passage into adulthood, something to be left behind once young people graduate from school and settle into permanent jobs.

Yet for too many workers, these minimum wage jobs are permanent jobs. Every day, millions of Americans struggle to support families while earning the minimum wage. These workers are frequently forced to forgo basics — food, housing, clothing — or even rely on public assistance to make ends meet. As we approach the new year, legislation has been proposed on both the federal and state levels to increase the current $7.25 per hour minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and New Hampshire’s minimum to $9. The New Hampshire AFL-CIO supports these proposals as good economic policy and a much-needed boost to millions of families struggling to make ends meet.

As our economy struggles out of recession, many Americans have been forced to take jobs previously held only by teenagers or housewives looking to earn a little extra money. Today, less than a quarter of minimum-wage workers are teenagers. Most are breadwinners in their families, and 55 percent work full time. The median age of a low-wage worker is 34 years old. And 56 percent of all minimum-wage earners are women, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Even as the demographics of minimum-wage workers have shifted, their pay remains too low to support a family. The annual income for a full-time employee making the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is $15,080. Living below the poverty line, that is not enough to afford rent on a two-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire and all of the other 49 states, The New York Times has reported.

According to a study by researchers at the university of California-Berkeley, more than half (52 percent) of front-line fast-food workers must rely on at least one public assistance program to support their families. As a result, the fast-food-industry business model of low wages, non-existent benefits, and limited work hours costs taxpayers an average of nearly $7 billion every year, the National Employment Law Project reports. Jobs should lift workers out of poverty, not trap them in poverty.

If the federal minimum wage had kept up with inflation, today it would be about $10.75 an hour, instead of $7.25. If the minimum wage had kept up with productivity, it would be $18.75. If it had grown at the same rate as wages for the wealthiest 1 percent, it would be over $28 per hour.

Raising employee wages would increase purchasing power, create more jobs and lift the economy.

On the federal level, the benefits of the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would incrementally increase the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015, are more than apparent. More than 30 million workers would be positively affected by this bill. It would boost consumer demand, generate $32 billion in new economic activity, and create 140,000 new full-time jobs, NELP has shown. The law would have a significant impact on the millions of children living in poverty in this country, as 23.3 percent of all children in the U.S. have a parent who would be helped by a raise in the minimum wage, according to Economic Policy Institute data.

More than four out of five economists say the benefits of increasing the minimum wage would outweigh the costs. Further, a study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would create jobs while causing no reduction in the availability of minimum wage jobs.

Raising the minimum wage is crucial to our future economic growth. Five of the six fastest-growing sectors of the American economy are in low-wage industries — home health aides; customer service representatives; food preparation and serving workers; personal and home care aides and retail salespersons, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. To rebuild a strong middle class and create an economy of shared prosperity, our country must pay fair wages in these growing sectors.

More than 80 percent of the American public supports raising the wage to $10.10 an hour, and 74 percent say it should be a top priority for Congress. It is time for the actions of our elected representatives to reflect the wishes of their constituents. Only by ending this vicious cycle will we be able to help America achieve an economy that truly works for all Americans.

Mark S. MacKenzie is president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.

Activist Protest Walmart on Black Friday For Better Wages (Somersworth, NH)

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On Friday November 29th millions of Americans went out well before dawn to try to save a few dollars on that hot new toy.  The annual event now known as ‘Black Friday,’ is the biggest annual revenue draw for retailers.  However not everyone who was out on Black Friday was out to shop.

Millions of low wage retail workers were forced to give up their holiday celebrations to go into work Thanksgiving night and work straight through the Black Friday madness.

Walmart the nations largest private employer has been leading the race to the bottom by paying most of the their workers just above minimum wage.  Walmart also does not guarantee that employees will get a full 40-hour workweek either.  These actions by Walmart’s corporate executives have fueled the union organizing efforts of OUR-Walmart.

Organization United for Respect (OUR-Walmart) is a grassroots coalition of workers and union organizers who are trying to help workers find their voice and speak out against their employer.  OUR-Walmart made national news on Black Friday last year when they held their first worker’s strikes.  The turn out was not as big as they hoped for but they made their point.

This year OUR-Walmart’s Black Friday protests were much bigger.  Thousands of protests were held nation wide.  Some were massive like the ones in White Plains New York where hundreds of people gathered to protest.  Others were small like the one in Somersworth New Hampshire where about twenty protesters showed up at the Walmart Supercenter.

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Image courtesy of Occupy Seacoast NH

In a recent interview, David Holt, a member of Occupy Seacoast NH, which organized the Somersworth protest, told me:

We came out to support Walmart workers who are not paid a living wage. We were also protesting Walmart as the poster child for corporate America, driving for profits for the wealthy in America despite the damage it is doing to hardworking Americans, the economy, and the planet.” 

While the group was small they were very diverse. “Attendees included members of the Occupy Seacoast NH group, UNH students who are part of the UNH Peace and Justice League, members of various unions, as well as several concerned citizens,” Holt explained.

David is not a Walmart employee, so I asked David why he chose to take part protesting Walmart?

“Just look at the news,” Holt said. “One Walmart store had a food drive for it’s own employees, they are also currently under investigation for bribery in Mexico, and have been tied in the past to a factory catastrophe in Bangladesh. The list of reasons to protest Walmart is almost limitless, they have caused countless small business to close including smaller chains and their sourcing practices are causing environmental damage all over the world.”

Workers deserve dignity and respect no matter where they work.  Walmart does not respect their workers.  They pay them the absolute minimum, provide no benefits, and do their best to avoid allowing workers to be ‘full time’.    I was very glad to see all of the news coverage and people who took a stand for workers on Black Friday, instead of feeding the corporate greed.