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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

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

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)

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.

Teachers, Firefighters, and Police Picket Local Government Center

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Image from PFFNH Twitter (Kayla McCarthy)

This evening over 100 active and retired employees, teachers, fire fighters, and police came out to picket the Local Government Center and express their displeasure over rising health insurance rates.

They attended the public hearing to tell the Local Government Center’s HealthTrust board that, as employees and taxpayers, they not support the overcharging of their health insurance, wasteful spending on attorney’s fighting their regulators, and the refusal to comply with the Don Mitchell final order.

Many attendees, including labor leaders, testified before the LGC HealthTrust Board.

“Raising health insurance rates on employees, while continuing to increase excesses in surplus, is an overcharge and an injustice. HealthTrust needs to get their house in order before asking cities and towns for more money. The Local Government Center needs to make whole everyone who has been damaged: active and retired employees, and taxpayers,” stated Dave Lang, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire.

“If the current policies and practices of HealthTrust are resulting in the overcharging of our communities, then that is taking much needed budget dollars away from local cities and towns. This means less money for education, less money for safer streets, and less money for firefighters and paramedics,” stated AFL-CIO president Mark MacKenzie. “This situation creates great tension at the bargaining table between our workers and their employers forcing employees into concessions on health insurance that may not otherwise be needed,” he went on to state.

The HealthTrust Board took about 3 hours of public testimony and will make a recommendation on rate increases later this month.

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Image credit Kayla McCarthy (PFF-NH)

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Image credit Kayla McCarthy (PFF-NH)

 

Highlights From The NH AFL-CIO Scholarship Winners Essays on Immigration

Every year the NH AFL-CIO hosts an annual Labor Day Breakfast to honor workers and to present their annual scholarship winners.  This year the scholarship applicants were asked to write an essay about the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013”.

This highly controversial bill has been debated by many pundits and politicians throughout the country.  There are many reasons we need to push for a roadmap to citizenship and everyone seems to have a different view of why.

This is why the NH Labor News has chosen to publish the NH AFL-CIO Scholarship winners essays.  The NHLN does not support all of the views of these essay contestants however each applicant makes a strong argument for why we need to pass immigration reforms.

Below is a short excerpt from each of the scholarship winners; Hilary Gorgol (First), Brandon Lemay (Second), and Rishi Patel (Third).

Protecting Our Freedom (Hilary Gorgol)

Hilary GorgolAmerica has been known as a melting pot; a country where all are welcome.  In 1886, France gave the United States a Statue of Liberty as a symbol of our freedom.  This freedom was offered to all, encompassed by the engraved sonnet, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  In recent years, America has closed our ‘golden door.’  Our country was originally founded in the hopes of a new start free from persecution.  For centuries, immigrants flocked to America to fulfill the American Dream: an idea that hard work will lead to increasing success; an idea that our children will never have the same struggles and burdens; an idea that anything is possible.  However, for eleven million immigrants, this American ideal will only be a dream.   They will never have the abilities to progress and create their new life.  Strict sanctions and limits on immigrants recreate the stifling government our nation declared independence from centuries ago.  Therefore, without legislative reform, the American Dream and very foundation of our country will be lost.

Continue reading ‘Protecting Our Freedom’ by Hilary Gorgol

The Border Security Act of 2013
Brandon Lemay

Brandon LamayAmerica has one of the best university systems in the world. As a result, a large number of young people abroad are attracted to coming to the USA for their secondary education.  According to the USA Today, about 750,000 students from outside of the country attended an American college in 2010-2011. Overwhelmingly, the majority of foreign students are STEM majors from Asia and India. It seems that every year since he was elected , President Obama has mentioned that this country has a shortage of STEM majors. Under the current immigration system, students come into the country for their degrees, but find it too hard to gain a visa. This results in large numbers of capable workers going back home instead of contributing to the US economy. The Senate Immigration bill that was passed last June fixed this problem by promising foreign STEM majors easier access to citizenship.

Continue reading ‘The Border Security Act’ of 2013 by Brandon Lamay

Immigration Reform 
Rishi Patel

Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Rishi Patel

Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Rishi Patel

Ronald Reagan once said “A nation that cannot control its borders is not a nation.” Reagan pointed out one of the major issues of immigration. He noted that that a nation cannot function to its full potential if illegal traffic comes into it, since the government only has money and resources for the legal citizens. Another issue of immigration is that employers and businesses exploit illegal immigrants in order to make a greater profit. Employers not only get more “bang for their buck” but also undermine American workers by giving jobs to illegal immigrants. America is not only losing money to the employers, but it is also losing money through taxes. The nation is not receiving the funds that it deserves which cause the whole country to go further into debt. These are the reasons why the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is important. The bill is a crucial step towards a stable future.

Continue reading ‘Immigration Reform’ by Rishi Patel

NH AFL-CIO Scholarship Essay Winners: The Border Security Act of 2013 (Brandon Lemay)

This is a part of the NH AFL-CIO Scholarship essay contest.  The applicants were asked why immigration reform was so important. This is the second place winner, Brandon James Lemay.  Brandon’s father Jim is a member of IBEW 2320.

Scholarship applicants only speak for themselves, and are not necessarily the views of the NHLN.

Brandon Lamay

Brandon Lemay and Janice Kelble

The United States has been a land of immigrants since before its conception. With the Senate passing S.744 overhauling the country’s immigration system, it is important to know its significance and the context of this bill. If the House can manage to pass this bill, it will be a long overdue change to the current broken immigration system.  This bill provides a large number of solution such as: retaining STEM majors, strengthening the agricultural sector’s workforce, keeping a tighter boarder, and amnesty for those who are currently undocumented.

America has one of the best university systems in the world. As a result, a large number of young people abroad are attracted to coming to the USA for their secondary education.  According to the USA Today, about 750,000 students from outside of the country attended an American college in 2010-2011. Overwhelmingly, the majority of foreign students are STEM majors from Asia and India. It seems that every year since he was elected , President Obama has mentioned that this country has a shortage of STEM majors. Under the current immigration system, students come into the country for their degrees, but find it too hard to gain a visa. This results in large numbers of capable workers going back home instead of contributing to the US economy. The Senate Immigration bill that was passed last June fixed this problem by promising foreign STEM majors easier access to citizenship.

Ideally, when the domestic population is not qualified or willing to work in certain fields, foreign experts or students should be brought over to fill the gaps in the workforce. The Boarder Security act is not only doing this with STEM professions, but with agricultural jobs as well. Field work such as harvesting crops is usually not a desirable profession for Americans to enter. There are many men and women in Latin countries that are more than willing to take these jobs that Americans don’t want and refuse to fill. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 750,000 entry level agricultural jobs in the United States. In many cases, farms are hard pressed to find people willing to do hard labor. Immigrants are more willing to see these jobs as a stepping stone into this country. This latest immigration bill provides ‘Blue Cards’ to immigrants “who can demonstrate that they have been in the United States performing qualifying agricultural work for a certain amount of time. Workers who obtain this status will have the opportunity later to adjust to legal permanent resident status if they meet certain conditions.” This is comprehensive legislation that ensures that the people who want to be here for the hard jobs get to stay here.

An opponent to this bill would say that immigration will put a strain on the deficit. In reality, documented immigrants would be given a legitimate wage, not only playing into Social Security, but other federal taxes. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that this bill will reduct the debt by about $20 Billion a year and the Social Security Administration says it will add $27.6 Billion of revenue a year. One could also argue that immigration is bad for the unemployment rate. A counter to this argument is that these documented immigrants will become consumers. With their livable wages they will consume food, clothes, cars, and many other goods. In a sense, it’s ‘trickle up’ economics. Many nations in western Europe are having a problem with declining populations. GDP decreases if there isn’t a sufficient workforce to hold up the retired masses and consumers to drive demand. With birthrates declining in the United States, immigration can fill the gap between smaller family sizes and sufficient Social Security Funding. The increased population can also drive demand, moving money around the country.

This bill will extend the DREAM Act, providing a path to citizenship to those undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country under the age of 16. This is important for two reasons: these people did not willingly come here, but were brought here by parents when they were very young. As long as the DREAM Act kids get a high school education or better, they can get citizenship in 5 years. Secondly, it encourages a lot of undocumented immigrants to become ‘documented’. In theory, more undocumented workers can lead to more exploitation in the work place. Citizens are less likely to take a pay below minimum wage and are more likely to expect the employers to follow safety and labor laws. Another thing to consider is that most of these immigrants see themselves as American. They eat our cuisine, watch our movies, listen to our music, and many other things. In many cases, they have the same American dream that a lot natural born citizens have.

A part of this Immigration Reform that brought both sides of the aisle to agree on the bill is increased boarder security. 40,000 agents will be added to make sure the United State’s boarder with Mexico is more secure. This coupled with making it easier to attain citizenship makes this bill good legislation. This way immigration can be monitored by the government to prevent an overflow of workers.

In the current political climate, getting Democrats and Republicans to agree on something is a huge feat– and that’s what happened in the senate with this immigration reform. It contains the boarder security that the Right demands while also tending to the Left’s desire for easier citizenship. STEM majors and experts are sought out with this bill, which this country desperately needs. Agriculture jobs, that Americans generally don’t want are granted to grateful immigrants who will help drive the economy with their spending power. Lastly, this bill’s humanitarian side is granting amnesty to those undocumented workers that are already here. This bill is good for America and good for its economy and workforce.

The Lamay Family

The Lemay Family

NH AFL-CIO Scholarship Essay Winners: Protecting Our Freedom (Immigration Reform) by Hilary Gorgol

This is a part of the NH AFL-CIO Scholarship essay contest.  The applicants were asked why immigration reform was so important. This is the grand prize winner, Hilary Gorgol.  Hilary’s is Stanley A. Gorgol, DPM a Shop Steward for the OPEIU 45, the labor union for Podiatrists.

Scholarship applicants only speak for themselves, and are not necessarily the views of the NHLN.

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Hilary Gorgol (left) and Janice Kelble

Protecting our Freedom

America has been known as a melting pot; a country where all are welcome.  In 1886, France gave the United States a Statue of Liberty as a symbol of our freedom.  This freedom was offered to all, encompassed by the engraved sonnet, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  In recent years, America has closed our ‘golden door.’  Our country was originally founded in the hopes of a new start free from persecution.  For centuries, immigrants flocked to America to fulfill the American Dream: an idea that hard work will lead to increasing success; an idea that our children will never have the same struggles and burdens; an idea that anything is possible.  However, for eleven million immigrants, this American ideal will only be a dream.   They will never have the abilities to progress and create their new life.  Strict sanctions and limits on immigrants recreate the stifling government our nation declared independence from centuries ago.  Therefore, without legislative reform, the American Dream and very foundation of our country will be lost.

Hilary Gorgol

Hilary Gorgol

The Statue of Liberty greeted immigrants upon their entrance to Ellis Island.  My ancestors were some of those immigrants.  My great-grandmother and great-grandfather sailed to America to flee Russian oppression in Poland.  They came in hopes of a better life, like so many others.  However, during that time, entrance points into the United States were limited.  Immigration officials could control who was admitted into the country and who was deported home.  It is no longer so simple.  With so many forms of transportation, our immigration system is outdated.  The number of immigrants is no longer limited to the passengers of one ship.  Just as modes of transportation have advanced, our legislation must progress with time.  It can no longer be denied that immigrants are finding alternative entrances across our borders, and so a bipartisan agreement through the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is the only solution to our growing problems in the economy and healthcare.

Immigrants once flocked to America to see our roads “paved with gold,” however America is no longer a financial world leader.  We are in the midst of one of our nation’s highest fiscal deficits.  This deficit can be aided by loosening restrictions on immigration.  Currently, undocumented immigrants work demanding jobs for low wages and often under-the-table payments.  The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 creates a tangible road to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants, thus increasing the size of our labor force.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates an increase of US population by 10 million (3%) by 2023 and by 16 million (4%) by 2033.  This increase in population results in an increase in federal taxes, and an increase in revenue.  The larger work force would also allow for more wages based on skill sets, as immigrants will be able to accept the jobs they are qualified for.  Thus, wages would increase by 2025 due in part to job specialization.

Not only will the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 allow for citizenship and legitimacy for eleven million workers, it will also allow for a higher productivity of labor.  By loosening, or even eliminating, limits on immigration, this Act will increase the current and future possibility of highly skilled workers.  Great inventions have historically been the product of great minds unable to expand in their own countries.  By allowing a land full of opportunity and research, we can expand technological advances.  This Act thus promotes the American Dream for those searching for a chance to better themselves and our United States.

This Act has a particularly significant impact on my future.  As a senior nursing student, I constantly see the impact of financial burdens on a family’s healthcare.  Undocumented immigrants work not only for substandard pay, but often for no benefits.  This means families cannot afford a primary care physician and are instead forced to expensive Emergency Rooms with the flu or a common cold.  Emergency Departments are subsequently surpassing capacity and healthcare professionals are unable to adequately care for serious cases.  The undocumented immigrants seek urgent care simply because they have no other option.  This often leads to advanced illnesses and poor prognosis due to the lack of preventative and primary care.  I have seen the horrendous quality of life that results from lack of healthcare such as undiagnosed terminal brain cancer.  Undocumented immigrants are not able to take advantage of all the medical advances here in America.  This can be avoided with the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, and its ensuing establishment of available healthcare.

As a natural-born American, I have had the opportunity to pursue my own American Dream.  I have worked hard, and my dedication will be rewarded.  Others should be entitled to the same possibilities.  America has always been the land of opportunity, where one can truly work their way from ‘rags to riches.’  Everyone is deserving of the American Dream and without the reform in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, undocumented immigrants will never be able to partake in our country’s most historic ideal.

The NH AFL-CIO Hosts Annual Labor Day Breakfast (Video’s of speeches)

NHAFLCIO breakfast 10The struggle and successes of New Hampshire workers was the basis of the this year’s Labor Day breakfast hosted by the NH AFL-CIO.

The event opened with short and fiery speech from NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie. He started the morning off by reminding everyone of the connection between labor unions and the community.  Reflecting on the anniversary of the March on Washington, MacKenzie highlighted how we defeated Right To Work for less and the rule of Bill O’Brien.  We also worked as a community to elect Maggie Hassan and flip the NH House.  MacKenzie talked about the dream that car wash workers and McDonalds workers have of a higher minimum wage, a living wage enabling workers to live a decent life. Everyone deserves an opportunity to live the American Dream: to have a good job, a pension, and decent healthcare.

MacKenzie also addressed the attacks on voting rights across this country.   He said “When people wake up in this country, they have a dream that they can go to the polls without harassment. Voter rights is still an issue in this nation and we have to put this behind us.  Everyone should have the right to vote.

After President MacKenzie, we heard from Governor Maggie Hassan.  Her speech was a list of all that we have accomplished since she took office.  Unlike other some other Governors (for instance, Scott Walker), Governor Hassan admires and respects our dedicated public employees.

“You make up the highly skilled workforce that attracts innovative businesses and allows them to succeed. You are the ones who make our communities strong and protect the well-being of our people.” 

She also focused on the issue of mis-classification of workers.  “We must continue to enforce existing laws to prevent the mis-classification of workers, so that workers receive the full benefits and protections they deserve.”

After an introduction that included a long and distinguished list of her accomplishments, we heard from NH’s senior Senator, Jeanne Shaheen.

“It is wonderful to be with all of you to celebrate the enormous contribution that working men and women and organized labor have made to build a strong New Hampshire.”

She spoke about the obstructionism that fills the US Senate.  The GOP has been blocking every one of President Obama’s nominees.  She said she still would like to see the filibuster rule changed.

Sen. Shaheen also spent a few minutes on the subject of Syria.  When she returns to Washington, she will listen to classified briefings and be part of the decision about what our country should do.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster also addressed the crowd.  The last time she was at the Breakfast, she was campaigning for New Hampshire’s Second District seat.  Now she is the sitting Congresswoman representing the largest geographical portion of the state.  She took a moment to thank the people in the room who helped elect her.

“I want to thank all of our friends in labor. It is very clear to me that I would not be standing here without each and every one of you.”

She also talked about her ‘Congress in your company’ campaign, that is working to connect Congress with local businesses and manufacturers, in a effort to strengthen our ‘Made in America’ brand.

Just before we ate Reverand Gail Kinney offered a prayer.  Rev. Kinney is an ordained minister from South Danbury, as well as a dedicated union member (UAW) and long time activist.

Her blessing for workers is so strong and powerful that I cannot begin to tell you about it, just watch it for yourself!

Below are a few random images from the event.  All photos and video were taken by Matt Murray.

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