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A Senator Should Care Deeply About the State

Mark Mackenzie at PNS RallyBy MARK S. MacKENZIE

As the clock winds down toward Election Day, the TV ads and phone calls will have reached a fevered pitch. Yet many Granite Staters couldn’t care less about the mass advertising being directed their way. What they have been looking for – and might still be looking for – are answers to some very basic questions: How will this candidate help me and my family weather tough times? How will this candidate help me and my neighbors find jobs? How will this candidate help ensure that the jobs we have pay enough to keep up with the rising cost of living?

For so many of us, it comes down to economic opportunity. Over the past 30 years, the richest 1 percent in this country has taken home nearly 50 percent of all income gains. Meanwhile, our roads and bridges are crumbling, taxes on the middle class have risen, and working people have struggled more and more to pay the bills. The economy is slowly recovering, but too many men and women in our state have yet to feel that things have gotten better.

The Senate race between Scott Brown and Jeanne Shaheen is one race where the contrast is clear. As a two-term governor who was elected to the Senate in 2008, Shaheen has a record of creating jobs, pooling resources to help our communities and small businesses, and working around the gridlock in Congress to deliver for New Hampshire working people.

As governor, she was a careful steward of taxpayer dollars and a strategic financial manager. She established a $1 million-a-year job-training fund that helped businesses upgrade the skills of their current employees and train new ones. She tripled New Hampshire’s rainy day fund and put together the state’s first economic plan.

As senator, Shaheen created jobs for hundreds of workers when she fought for a federal prison to be built in Berlin. She connected 1,200 Granite Staters to homeowners’ assistance in order to help them avoid foreclosure. She has worked across the aisle with U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte to fight furloughs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and reopen the government after it shut down in 2013.

Contrast that with Scott Brown, whose interests don’t go much further than Scott Brown. He set his sights on New Hampshire after losing his seat as a Massachusetts senator and only moved north after looking at several bids for public office in other states. During his tenure in Massachusetts, he held up crucial aid to unemployed workers and opposed tax cuts to middle-class Americans if they didn’t include huge tax breaks for the rich.

As a member of the board of directors of Kadant, an equipment supplier for the paper industry, he collected $270,000 after the company shipped American jobs overseas. Two months ago, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO and the State Employees Association of New Hampshire asked Scott Brown to resign from the board of directors. He has yet to honor that request.

Serving as senator is not about reaching for that next rung on the career ladder or making your next million; it is about helping the men and women who have trusted you to represent their best interests. Jeanne Shaheen understands New Hampshire – its unique culture, economy and political significance. For Scott Brown, however, it is little more than a consolation prize.

Election Day is days away, and we are facing a stark choice. Super PACs have been bombarding New Hampshire with ads for months, but when it comes down to it, this election is about people. Your family. Your co-workers. Your neighbors. It’s about the community we share here in the Granite State.

When making the decision to vote on Nov. 4, we should not only look at what candidates’ ads say or what their proxies say, but what their records say. Our next senator should care about this state as much as we do. Granite Staters deserve nothing less.

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

Also published in the Concord Monitor: Friday, October 31, 2014

Metal Trades Council endorses Shea-Porter

Carol Shea porter 2In case you missed it: Portsmouth Herald: Metal Trades Council endorses Shea-Porter

PORTSMOUTH – With the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as a backdrop, Paul O’Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council, gave Democratic U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter an endorsement from the shipyard workers in her bid for re-election to New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.

O’Connor recognized Shea-Porter’s efforts to keep the shipyard open and minimizing the impact of sequestration as well as working with the shipyard leadership and labor management with many issues including workplace rights.

He said only one of the two candidates running for the 1st Congressional district “supports the working men and women.”  She is a strong, hardworking, roll-your-sleeves up fighter for the middle class, for our shipyard, for the community, for New Hampshire and for our nation.

Read the full article here.

In Case You Missed It: Portsmouth Herald Endorses Jeanne Shaheen

Shaheen-021109-18432- 0009Manchester – In case you missed it, the Portsmouth Herald endorsed Jeanne Shaheen this morning, making it the first newspaper in New Hampshire to move from endorsing John E. Sununu in 2008 to Jeanne Shaheen in 2014. The endorsement cited her deep ties to New Hampshire and record of commonsense, bipartisan leadership.

Key Quotes:

The question for New Hampshire voters on Nov. 4 will be which of these two excellent public servants will best represent them in Washington, D.C. for the next six years. In our view, that candidate is incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Sen. Shaheen has spent her entire adult life serving the people of New Hampshire and her knowledge of the state’s people and communities as well as its economic opportunities and challenges is unparalleled.

…Shaheen’s understanding of the state is deep, informed and grounded in years of institutional knowledge. Her votes on behalf of Granite State citizens will not be influenced by the political winds of the moment but rather solely by the long-term interests of the citizens she serves.

Scott Brown may have been born at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard hospital but in his adult life he has lived in the state less than a year. It would be impossible for him to absorb in a few short months what Sen. Shaheen has learned during decades of service.

Here on the Seacoast we have seen firsthand Sen. Shaheen’s effectiveness. As a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services she successfully worked to stop another round of base closures proposed by President Obama and we have seen multimillion dollar upgrades taking place at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that will allow it to continue to be the gold standard of Virginia class nuclear submarine maintenance and repairs for decades to come.

We have seen the good bipartisan efforts she has made with Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte to make the Air National Guard Base at Pease the first recipient of the next generation refueling tanker, the KC-46A, ensuring its strategic importance to our nation’s defense while contributing more than $100 million to the local economy.

While keeping today’s military strong, Sen. Shaheen has also shown respect to our veterans, championing the bipartisan VA reform bill that allows veterans to receive health care close to home, from private health care providers, for the first time in decades.

When we drive across the Memorial Bridge we remember Sen. Shaheen’s key role in securing federal funds for this essential infrastructure project and as plans continue on the fast track we’ll soon see Sen. Shaheen’s influence on the replacement of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge.

Portsmouth residents saw Sen. Shaheen’s positive influence firsthand when she persuaded stubborn federal bureaucrats to work with the city to put the Federal McIntyre Building, in the heart of downtown, to better use.

…Given Sen. Shaheen’s long track record of common sense, fact-based leadership we have full confidence that she’ll make the right decisions today with regard to new crises such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and she’ll make thoughtful decisions on whatever unknown crises and opportunities come our way in the future.

We urge our readers to support incumbent New Hampshire U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on Election Day, Nov. 4.

Read the full editorial here.

The one video every Republican, Democrat and Independent must see!!!

More than 200 people rallied at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard yesterday to rally against the budget cuts known as “sequestration”.

At the same time they were rallying, Congress passed a bill to make most of those cuts permanent.

That bill – the “continuing resolution” to fund the federal government for six months – also rescinded a long-planned increase in pay for federal workers. Read Congress Adds Insult to Injury!

The continuing resolution was crafted to protect military contractors from the effects of sequestration – at the expense of federal employees, including Portsmouth Shipyard workers. Read more about Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s defense of defense contractors here.

As Portsmouth Shipyard worker John Joyal told the crowd yesterday:

The men and women at that shipyard over there – every single day, they put their politics aside, their gender aside, their religion aside, their ideological beliefs aside, you name it, they put everything aside to go perform the people’s business.

“That flag right there does not belong to the right-wing of the GOP of our Congress, that flag belongs to the American people. What the US Congress needs to do is, they need to grow up, put their differences aside, go into a room and perform the people’s business just like the people on this island do, every single day.

There are other options. Ending special corporate tax breaks would pay for the sequester cuts twice over. Ending tax breaks on unearned income would pay for the sequester cutsplus everything the House GOP wants to cut from next year’s federal budget.

Is this the best six-month budget that our Congress can come up with?

How Will Up to 22 Furlough Days Impact Government Services and our Communities?

IBEW members like this Army Corp of Engineers employee face furloughs or worse due to sequestration.

Thousands of IBEW members who work for the federal government or for private government contractors awoke Friday morning facing a shaky economic future. The sequestration – the series of draconian federal spending cuts totaling $1.2 trillion – went into effect March 1, meaning that more than 1 million federal workers face unpaid leave or worse unless Congress takes action to rescind the cuts.

A last ditch effort by Senate Democrats that would have eliminated the arbitrary budget cuts for the remainder of the year – saving 750,000 jobs – was defeated Feb. 28.

Says IBEW Government Employees Director Chico McGill:

Too many members of Congress seem to have a hard time understanding the toll this will take on real working people.

Congressional Republicans and President Obama agreed to the sequester in the summer of 2011. Under that agreement, failure to slash the deficit by $4 trillion by 2013 would result in automatic across the board cuts.

Obama and congressional Democrats offered numerous plans to avoid the cuts, but were blocked by the GOP, which rejected any budget plan that did not involve cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Paul O’Connor, a second-generation tradesman at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire says it will take months before the damage is fully felt, but when it comes, the cuts will hit workers and the community hard.

Federal employees, like O’Connor’s co-workers, get a 30-day notice before they can be furloughed, which means come April, approximately 6,000 Portsmouth shipyard workers face a one day a week furlough. That amounts to a 20 percent wage cut.

O’Connor, who heads the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO at the yard, says:

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have an extra 20 percent left over at the end of month I can just give away. Our people can get by in the short term, skipping this or that bill but that’s just not sustainable. Many workers have most of their family employed here. We’re going to see whole households seeing their budgets slashed.

And it’s not just workers who will feel the pain, O’Connor says.

We’re a mainstay of the local economy. Who’s going to spend money in the community? At the restaurants, the car dealers, the doctor’s office? Everyone will be hurting.

The IBEW represents approximately 65,000 government employees in the United States and Canada. The majority are employed by private companies under contract with the federal government. For many of those, layoffs could come right away.

Says Government Employees Department International Representative Dennis Phelps:

Many won’t even get a warning. We could see a lot of straight up layoffs right away.

Major military contractors like General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin are expected to lose millions in lost contracts over the next year, potentially costing tens of thousands of jobs. The maritime industry will be particularly hard hit, with U.S. Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operation, Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger testifying before Congress that the cuts will curtail its surface and air operations by 25 percent.

Baltimore Local 1383 represents 70 electricians at the Coast Guard Yard south of the city. Business Manager Barbara Rodekohr says there is a lot of uncertainty about what is in store for them:

They may have to cut people, but we just don’t know how many and when.

O’Connor says the arbitrary and wasteful nature of the cuts is upsetting.

The reality is this will end up costing taxpayers more than it will save.

He says the shipyard has specific deadlines to meet, and every day they aren’t working is another day they’re behind schedule.

Backlog in getting these ships off the dock and into the sea means lost dollars – a lot of them.

The sequester will also cut millions in state and local funding, threatening the tentative economic recovery.

Says McGill:

Once this starts trickling down, who knows how it will affect everyone else. How will slashing school or law enforcement funding affect construction starts for example?

O’Connor blames the anti-government rhetoric from Tea Party activists and many GOP leaders for the congressional stalemate.

The rhetoric has become so acidic and mean-spirited in Congress. We’ve been under constant attack since the Republicans took over Congress in 2010, with us being the whipping boy for all the country’s problems. People say the sequestration is only about faceless bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. but it’s not. There are federal workers in every state, and even if you don’t work for the government, who isn’t touched by a federal agency in their daily lives – the USDA, the TSA, border guard?

The Federal Workers Alliance – a group that includes the IBEW and other unions representing federal workers – has launched an online discussion board where federal workers can tell in their own words what the sequester means for them and their family. Click here to read some of those stories.

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