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Leo W Gerard: One Percenters Stuff Their Pumpkin Pie Holes

This Thanksgiving, in dining rooms across America, the turkey will be smaller, the stuffing more meager, the pumpkin pie sliced thinner. Gratitude will be given. But roiling just below the surface, for far too many families, will be economic anxiety.

The vast majority of working Americans haven’t seen a real raise in 35 years.Meanwhile, every year, their health care costs rise. Their employers eliminate pensions. And their kids struggle with rising college or technical school tuition and debt. Workers worry whether they will ever be able to pay the bills.

By contrast, on the other side of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the richest 1 percent are supersizing their feasts. For example, three families will spend $45,000 – each – for Marie Antoinette-style meals, gold flakes and all, at the Old Homestead Steakhouse in New York City. That’s up by $10,000 from the restaurant’s Thanksgiving fare for eight last year. It’s more, for one meal, than the average American worker earns in a year.

The 1 percent can spend $45,000 for a Thanksgiving supper because they’re gobbling up virtually all of the income from workers’ productivity increases. And now they’ve launched a new assault on workers. It’s a lawsuit called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA). The 1 percent hopes it will prevent public service workers like teachers from joining together to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. If the $45,000-Thanksgiving-dinner crew wins the case, they’ll go after private-sector labor organizations next. They intend to gorge themselves until there’s nothing left for workers.

This is what a $75-a-pound turkey struts like.

This is what a $75-a-pound turkey struts like.

The Marie Antoinette $45,000 Thanksgiving includes two turkeys. Because when would one, 20-pound free-range, organically raised bird at $75 a pound ever be enough?

The Friedrichs case is about power. Individual workers don’t bargain for raises with gigantic multinational corporations and government agencies. They beg.

But when workers band together and seek raises as a team, they gain for themselves the power necessary to negotiate. That’s intolerable to 1 percenters. And that’s why they’re backing the Friedrichs case – to seize that negotiating power from workers.

Defending their right to collectively bargain are public service workers ­– the likes of firemen, teachers, social workers and public health nurses. The labor organizations these workers belong to try to ensure that they receive living wages and decent retirement benefits.

But just as importantly, public service workers also use their collective voice to negotiate in the public interest, including improving response times for paramedics and lowering social worker caseloads to allow adequate time to investigate child abuse allegations.

Public school teachers, who spend an average of $500 a year out of their own pockets for classroom supplies, routinely bargain to secure the smaller class sizes that parents want, to protect the recess breaks that elementary students need and to preserve arts and music education.

In addition, significantly, a study last spring showed that more than half of teachers have used their own money to help students experiencing crises, to get them clothing or to feed them.

The Marie Antoinette $45,000 Thanksgiving includes gravy made with Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, which goes for $4,900 a bottle. Because when would $9 worth of cooking sherry ever be good enough?

The paychecks of all workers are on the line in the Friedrichs case because if the 1 percent succeeds in stripping rights from public service workers, it will go after those of everyone else.

This creates great economic risks, not just for union members, but for non-union workers and their children.

As it is now, a union member earns, on average, $200 more a week and receives better benefits than a worker who is not in a labor organization. If the 1 percenters succeed in robbing private sector as well as public service workers of their bargaining rights, then the wealthy will gain clout to eliminate that union advantage and eventually to suppress all wages.

When union members lose, all workers lose.  That’s because their ability to secure better wages pressures employers whose workers aren’t organized to raise their pay too. In addition, a study released earlier this year showed that the children of union members as well as the children of non-union members who live in high union density communities experience greater upward mobility.

That means entire communities benefit from the work of labor organizations. And entire communities would suffer if the 1 percent can weaken or destroy them.

The Marie Antoinette $45,000 Thanksgiving includes whipped sweet potatoes festooned with $1,600-an-ounce Royal Osetra caviar. Because when would the red-light-special, $115-an-ounce can of fish eggs ever be acceptable?

Providing the big bucks to push the Friedrichs case is the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), which is bankrolled by 1 percenters and right-wing organizations. Its name is significant. It wants to isolate workers, render them individuals rather than members of teams acting concertedly to win benefits for all.

The name of the group opposing CIR is noteworthy as well. It is America Works Together. It supports workers’ right to jointly seek advancement of all members of the group. Of course, labor organizations like the National Education Association (NEA), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), are members of America Works Together.

But the coalition also includes civil rights, faith, legal and health organizations.Among them are the Alliance for a Just Society, Coalition on Human Needs, Interfaith Worker Justice and The Main Street Alliance.

America Works Together is an alliance of alliances advocating for the right of American workers to form alliances. It’s a symbol of the idea it supports – that community creates power.

The Marie Antoinette $45,000 Thanksgiving final course is pumpkin ice cream decked with 24-carat gold flakes and a $4,200 bottle of private reserve rum-infused eggnog sauce.

That’s dessert for the 1 percent.

The 99 percent is seeking just deserts before the U.S. Supreme Court so that workers will retain the right to organize and collectively bargain for wages that will enable them to provide not a garish Marie Antoinette meal but a simple Norman RockwellThanksgiving for their families.


Big Banks: Paying Billions (of Borrowed Money) to Stockholders

NASDAQ Watch Photo by Kowloonese used under CreativeCommons license via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Kowloonese; used by CreativeCommons license via Wikimedia Commons

The “new economy” in a nutshell:
full-time employees need government assistance because their wages are so low. Businesses are shrinking, not growing. And corporations are borrowing money to pay it out to stockholders… because, well, that’s what the system is designed to reward.

The more I look, the more I see it. The same pattern, almost everywhere. It’s not limited to just a few rogue companies. It’s not limited to just a few industries.

And it’s not getting any better.

Here’s the view, from the financial sector.

Remember that study showing that almost one-third of bank tellers receive food stamps, Medicaid or other public assistance? The authors calculated that taxpayers pick up the tab for almost $900 million in government aid – just to bank tellers – each year. That study didn’t break those costs out by particular employer, but…

— — — —

Bank Teller Counting Money for Customer --- Image by © Duncan Smith/Corbis via Flickr

© Duncan Smith/Corbis via Flickr. Used under CreativeCommons license.

According to Glassdoor, Bank of America tellers receive an average wage of $12 per hour – or, just about poverty-line wages for a hypothetical full-time employee supporting a family of four.

And the corporation just announced another set of layoffs, bringing the total to

  • about 14,300 jobs eliminated in the past year
  • about 69,000 jobs eliminated in the past five years.

But owners of the bank’s common stock are doing OK. So far this year, the corporation has distributed $3.1 billion to shareholders, through dividends and stock buybacks. And there will be even more money going to stockholders in December.

Can’t help noticing, though… Bank of America has issued a lot of bonds this year – more than $25 billion. Which means the corporation now has more than $270 billion in long-term debt that it has to pay off between now and 2047.

Yes, Bank of America is borrowing money at the same time it’s paying money out to stockholders.

(Which, yes, is sort of like running up your credit card to buy Christmas presents for people who already have everything.)

Wondering how stock prices are affected by the amount of money paid to shareholders?  Last year, Bank of America announced it would increase dividends and start buybacks – but then discovered an accounting mistake and had to withdraw those plans. And stock prices fell by 6.3%.

Want to know why corporate executives care so very much about short-term stock prices?  Look at the way Bank of America compensates its CEO. On the 13th of every month, Brian Moynihan receives the cash equivalent of 17,747 shares of common stock. In August, the per-share price was $17.62; for 17,747 shares, that works out to a payment of $312,702. In September, the per-share price was $16.04; that works out to $284,662. In October, the per-share price was only $15.52; that works out to $275,433. Don’t you think CEO Moynihan notices, when his monthly payment drops by ten or twenty thousand dollars?

But there’s good news for him: this month – after that latest set of layoffs was announced – the per-share price is back up above $17.  (Even though the Bank is $270 billion in debt and its credit ratings are, ahem, less-than-stellar… and it borrowed almost another $3 billion since CEO Moynihan’s October payment.)

— — — —

bankerAccording to Glassdoor, J.P. Morgan bank tellers also receive an average wage of $12 per hour… which is still, yes, about the poverty line for a hypothetical full-time employee trying to support a family of four.

And the corporation is, ahem, “cutting costs” by eliminating another 5,000 jobs. (Last year, they cut 7,900 jobs.)

But… stockholders are doing OK. The corporation just raised its dividend and is buying back $6.4 billion worth of its own stock. (That’s in addition to almost $18 billion in buybacks between 2010 and 2013.)

And CEO Jamie Dimon just got tagged as “the Best Big Bank CEO, Measured by Shareholder Returns.” Between buybacks and stock dividends, Dimon has “generated a total shareholder return of 119.5%” in the last decade.

Even though… can’t help noticing… J.P. Morgan had, at last report, $434.4 billion in long-term debt (which was an increase of $8.3 billion from the previous quarter). And it will be paying off debt through 2049.

I’m sure somebody at JP Morgan can explain why it makes sense to pay billions out to stockholders at the same time the corporation is borrowing billions. (And I’m sure somebody at the Federal Reserve Bank can explain why regulators approved this plan.)

And yes, folks high up the corporate ladder are doing OK, too. Their compensation includes mechanisms like restricted stock units and stock appreciation rights, which ensure they’re paying attention to share prices.  For instance, Managing Director Mary Erdoes just received stock appreciation rights equal to 200,000 shares of JP Morgan stock… on a day when the stock closed at $67.39 a share.   (Yep, some people get paid according to how high the stock price goes.)

Meanwhile… 5,000 JP Morgan employees will be looking for new jobs… and employees who still have their jobs get poverty wages and need government benefits to make ends meet.

— — — —

US states by poverty rate

States by 2013 poverty rate

And I’m betting that if I looked, most of the other Big Banks would show this same paying-low-wages-to-employees while cutting-rather-than-expanding-the-business while borrowing-against-future-revenues so they can pay-more-money-to-stockholders pattern.

It’s not just a few employers.

It’s not just a few industries.

Borrowing money in order to pay it to shareholders is the same basic thing Bain Capital was doing, back before journalists started writing about it, when Mitt Romney ran for President.

Only, this is on a bigger scale.

These are corporations that employ hundreds of thousands of people. And they’re borrowing against future revenue, in order to pay stockholders today.

While their executives rake in millions in compensation.

And their employees need government assistance just to get by.

— — — —

Read my last post, “McDonalds: Paying Billions (of Borrowed Money) to Stockholders” here.

Read my series about Verizon as a case study of what’s wrong with the economy, starting here.


Granite State Rumblings: Wages, Child Care And The Working Poor

If you have been following the Presidential candidate debates, you are beginning to hear some very important policy differences not only between the two parties, but between the candidates themselves. One of those differences is quite evident when the talk turns to low and stagnant wages for the working poor.

The Democrats are in agreement that the minimum wage should be increased, though they differ on how high, based on their comments at the debate last Saturday evening. The Republican candidates have mainly talked about other ways of addressing stagnant wages and income inequality. Plans that have been discussed include cutting business taxes to spur more job growth and opportunities for jobs with higher rates of pay, boosting worker productivity, more technical job training, and an overhaul of higher education.

While all of these ideas may be valid, there is one issue for low-income workers that remains, even as they see incremental increases in their wages, or an increase in the minimum wage – Work Support Programs – also known as public assistance programs. Work supports help close the gap between low earnings and the cost of basic expenses.

But, public assistance for the working poor isn’t designed to allow parents the opportunity to incrementally increase their wages to work toward self-sufficiency.

In many cases, as a parent’s earnings increase and they rise above the poverty level, they begin to lose eligibility for assistance programs such as child care subsidies, housing subsidies, food stamps, and health care coverage, even though they are not yet self-sufficient.

I saw this play out way too often for many of the single moms at the child care center where I worked. In some cases even as little as a fifty cent increase in wages could mean a budget breaking rise in her out of pocket child care cost. The raise she had worked so hard to achieve would not cover the increase, so she was left with the decision of turning it down, trying to dig deeper in an already stretched budget, or finding less expensive (and lower quality) care for her child(ren) while she worked. This is called the Cliff Effect, and it results in many women refusing pay increases, rather than lose their shelter, lose their quality child care so that they can work, or have to give up health care or meals for themselves. The dream of self-sufficiency becomes the reality of assistance dependence.

Colorado Public Radio has been exploring the lives of Colorado children who are living in poverty. The story below is part of that work.

Why Getting Ahead Often Feels Like Falling Behind When You’re Poor


Call it poverty’s “glass ceiling.”

Longmont resident Tracey Jones grows vegetables from her garden to feed her family in the summer. Since Jones started making too much to qualify for food stamps, she’s had more trouble keeping food on the table.

The way many public benefit programs are structured, even minor increases in income can result in a big loss in assistance. That’s sometimes so large a loss that it can send families tumbling backwards just when they thought they were finally getting ahead.

Longmont resident Tracey Jones knows all about the phenomenon, often called the “cliff effect.” She’s been living at its edge for several years now.

In the past few years, she’s moved from unemployment to a rewarding full-time job as a certified nursing assistant for a hospice program. But in some ways she’s lost as much as she’s gained. Food stamps, for one thing. When she started making too much to qualify, Jones had to turn to food banks. And she took up gardening, “to take a little bit of the edge off my food insecurity.”

As her income has risen, Jones has lost other benefits too. Her big worry currently is Medicaid. She went through a major surgery a few months ago, and in the weeks leading up to it kept getting conflicting letters about whether or not she was still covered.

“I got three notices in one week,” Jones said. “‘Oh, you have insurance, yay!’ Two days later: ‘You do not have insurance.’ Then the end of the week: ‘You need to fill out this paper for your insurance.’ I don’t know. At this point, I’m just praying it all works out.”

This uncertainty has permeated her life for years — it’s the dark side to her improving income.

“It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s kind of like you get punished for trying to get out of poverty,” Jones said.

Programs Offer Perverse Incentives

The cliff effect stems from the fact that most government assistance programs have hard and fast income limits: start making even a little more than the cut-off and a person stands to immediately lose a lot of benefits.

Jessica Valand oversees job training programs through Colorado’s Department of Human Resources. The way she sees it, both policy makers and the poor themselves value work over assistance, but the way the system is set up, it ends up encouraging the exact opposite.

“If someone wants to give me a dollar raise, or even a $2-an-hour raise, but I know that that $2-an-hour raise is not going to make up for the $1,500 in child care subsidy I’m going to lose, what is my incentive to keep going?” Valand said.

Many don’t keep going. When the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and the Bell Policy Center asked focus groups of poor single mothers whether they’d ever turned down a raise or extra hours at work because they were afraid of losing their benefits, about a third said yes.

“In any given month, a woman may need to monitor very closely the hours she’s working to make sure she’s always maintaining her eligibility,” says the Foundation’s Louise Myrland. The group considers the cliff effect a women’s issue because the impacts often fall most heavily on working mothers and their children.

Official concern about the cliff effect has picked up steam in recent years, as data has shown that despite the improving economy, many working poor appear to be stuck relying on public benefits.

“It’s like, how did we get people this far, and they can’t get to the next step?” said Jefferson County Human Services Director Lynn Johnson.

But while there may be increasing agreement that the cliff effect is a problem, the solution won’t come cheap. In order to taper higher income people off of benefits more gently, the government will either have to increase overall funding for programs, or put more limits on the total number of people they can serve.

“Are we here to be just the safety net, the handout? Or is it a handout and up and off?” asks Johnson, who thinks easing the fiscal cliff would save money in the long term. “The more successful people are moving out of our system, the more money we should have to invest.”

Jefferson County is one of 10 counties taking part in a new state experiment to try to fix the fiscal cliff in one big program: child care assistance. Instead losing their entire subsidy when they hit a hard and fast income limit, families in these counties just have to pay a slowly increasing chunk of their daycare costs out of pocket. Bell Policy’s Rich Jones lobbied the Legislature to invest in this pilot effort. He said the idea is to turn the benefits cliff into more of a gentle slope.

“As you move further up the economic ladders, you still get some support, but you get a lot less. And then you gradually work your way off,” Jones explains.

The child care assistance pilot only started over the summer, but anecdotal reports suggest it’s so far succeeding in its goal of allowing families to earn more money without worrying they’re about to be crushed by a giant new daycare bill.

Two Families Stuck On The Cliff

Nicole Davis found out about the cliff effect the hard way. Nearly a decade ago the preschool teacher and her husband George, who worked in manufacturing, made getting off of all public assistance their goal. They succeeded, but that success almost destroyed their family.

“A lot of times we would have time to decide which bills that we wanted to pay. And sometimes it would mean that George or I would go without meals,” said Davis, recalling life without any government benefits. “When we realized we weren’t brining in enough money to pay rent … we went to the church for help and they basically said, ‘you need to get on assistance!'”

Instead, Davis and her young children ended up homeless. It took years for the family to work their way back to stability.

Today, the Wheat Ridge resident says she’s stopped even thinking about trying to make it to self-sufficiency. The cliff is just too daunting.

“I am intrigued myself by the fact that our family tried to get off of all the services and all the things that happened when we were getting off,” she said. “I’m surprised by what happened.”

For another Wheat Ridge mother, Sheila Lucero, the benefits cliff has turned life into a balancing act.

After struggling through the Great Recession, things have been looking up for the Lucero’s; Sheila’s husband Ian is an HVAC contractor and the housing boom means lots of work. But they’ve been making sure his income stays low enough to keep qualifying the family for Medicaid.

Lucero believes in small government; it’s painful to her to rely on taxpayer money. But she puts up with it for her children’s sake.

“You know, we’re not proud of being in this situation, but we definitely need our kids to have their check-ups and stuff,” Lucero said. “The cliff effect just puts people back where they were, or in a worse position, and it makes them not want to try.”

As an increase in the minimum wage is discussed and debated at both the federal and state level, now is a good time to start the discussion and debate about benefit eligibility levels. Hard working parents should not be penalized for trying to do better for their families.


Here are several opportunities to discuss class and classism in our state, a conversation that can be both difficult and challenging, but so very necessary. These workshops are hosted by a coalition of NH organizations.

Exploring Class and Classism in New Hampshire Building Unity in our Community

  • Why is class often so difficult to talk about? How does class impact your work?
  • What is your class story?

Discuss these questions and more at Class Action’s New Hampshire open workshops hosted by a coalition of NH organizations.  Class Action has spent 11 years developing creative ways of asking questions, sharing personal experiences and helping people to engage with issues of class in a meaningful way. Their workshops are highly interactive, engaging and focused on learning from one another in the room. All workshops are on a sliding scale, $75 – $20. Scholarships available. To inquire, please send us an e-mail.

Dates and Locations

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Berlin, NH

Hosted by: North Country Listens and Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network


Friday, December 4, 2015

Claremont, NH

Hosted by: United Valley Interfaith Project and Rethink Health


Friday, December 11, 2015

Manchester, NH

Hosted by Investing in Communities, NH Citizens Alliance and New Futures


Saturday, December 12, 2015 

Pittsfield, NH 

Hosted by Investing in Communities, NH Citizens Alliance and New Futures


Featured Image by US Army on Flicker

HUD Programs Save Boston Families from Homelessness [VIDEO]

Parents, elderly, adults with disabilities all benefit from federal housing support

BOSTON – Diane Sullivan used to be homeless, but thanks to a Section 8 voucher she receives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, she is able to rent a home for herself and her children.

In a new video from the American Federation of Government Employees, Diane says she’s worried that she may lose her home due to federal budget cuts that have forced HUD to eliminate vouchers for 85,000 people since 2013.

“If I lose my Section 8 because of a funding drop, I lose my housing and I become homeless, and I do not want my children going through that experience again,” she says.

Diane is not alone. More than five million families across the country, including thousands in the Boston area alone, rely on federal housing assistance to keep a roof over their heads.

Many communities use HUD grants as the seed money for purchasing or building housing for people in need. In the Boston suburb of Malden, HUD funds from the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships programs were used to rehabilitate a multi-family house into a home for 12 adults with disabilities.

“There was the real possibility that this may have become market-rate housing,” says Malden Mayor Gary Christenson. “If it wasn’t for the federal government’s CDBG Program and HOME Program, we wouldn’t have been able to do this project.”

The AFGE video is one in a series of videos documenting the impact of HUD programs in local communities.

“HUD employees administer vital programs that benefit our most vulnerable citizens, revitalize neglected neighborhoods, and help millions of families realize the American dream of home ownership,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “Now that Congress has suspended sequestration for the next two years, it’s time to provide HUD with the resources it needs to continue its important work.”

At Raising Wages Summit The “Voices Of Workers” Highlight The Struggles Of Working Families

The first ever New Hampshire Raising Wages Summit was held in Concord on Saturday. The summit, a policy discussion with a focus on the importance of raising wages, drew more than 200 people to hear a whole host of speakers.

The headliners, Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, both spoke about raising the minimum wage and the affects of the proposed TPP on workers.

Interlaced between the headliners was what organizers referred to as the “Voices of Workers.” The Voices of Workers were short speeches from local workers and union activists.

Deb Howes, a Nashua teacher and American Federation of Teachers member, talked about the impact of our current low-wage employment system on the children in her classroom. She explained how living in poverty affects a child’s ability to learn, and chastised politicians who want to take away free lunch programs that ensure that children can get at least one healthy meal a day.

Howes is also the chairwoman of the Nashua Labor Coalition that is currently building momentum against the proposed privatization of AFSCME custodians in the Nashua School District. At the summit Howes stated, “eliminating good paying jobs for low-wage contractors will only hurt our community.”

(video link)

The elimination of good paying jobs was the forefront of the Fairness at FairPoint campaign as International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Communication Workers of America (CWA) members spent months on strike last winter.

James Lemay, an IBEW member and FairPoint employee spoke about how hard it was for workers during the strike. He talked about how the company did not seem to care about the workers or bargaining in good faith with the union, they only cared their stock prices and earnings statements.

After months on strike the IBEW and CWA reached an agreement with FairPoint and workers could finally go back to work.

(video link)

Janice Kelble, a retired postal worker and American Postal Workers Union member, talk about her struggles bouncing from job to job and the discrimination she endured as a low-wage worker.   Even though it has been a number of years since Kelble was living on minimum wage, the fact is that her story could have been told by any low-wage work struggling to survive on today’s poverty wages.

Kelble eventually got a job with the USPS service where she immediately joined the union, became a steward and began her unofficial career as an advocate for workers.

Kelble said she often wonders how different her life would have been if not for her good paying union job.

(video link)

As Kelble pointed out it has been many years since she had to survive on minimum wage, that is not the case for recent Manchester high school graduate Adol Mashut.

As an immigrant, a woman, and a recent graduate she has quickly learned how hard it is to live on minimum wage. Mashut struggles to balance her work and college classes in hopes to get a degree that will allow her to get a better paying job in the future.

Mashut is also the product of an amazing community outreach program called the Granite State Organizing Project. GSOP is a faith based, non-profit that helps immigrants and low-income families through mentoring and assistance. GSOP continues to push for policies that help working families like raising the minimum wage and expanding access to affordable healthcare and opposes policies like “title loans” that charge people upwards of 400% for an emergency loan.


(video link)

Mashut is working and taking classes in the hopes of acquiring a college degree, but college is not for everyone. Thanks to unions there is still a way for workers to learn a valuable skill and work their way into the middle class.

Samantha Novotny is starting her second year as an apprentice with the IBEW local 490 in Concord. “The union provides great classroom training as well as on-the-job training and work experience,” she said.

As she progresses in her apprentice training she will continue to gain more certifications and real world experience which will ultimately result in higher pay and the chance to start saving for her retirement.

Novotny recently became “sworn in” as an official member of the IBEW. “I truly feel that I am setting myself up for a long-lasting and successful career,” said Novotny.

(video link)


While many of these Voices of Workers’ stories were positive, the reality of low-wage workers is not as bright and shiny. Many are living paycheck to paycheck working 50 to 60 hours a week between multiple jobs with little to no hope for the future.

Millions of people across the country are living in poverty due to the fact that we have failed to ensure that their hard work will actually pay the bills.

As the 2016 elections continue to ramp up, we need to ensure that every candidate, from Presidential to State Representative to Mayoral will work to raise the minimum wage and help lift these workers out of poverty.


Please read our other stories about the Raising Wages Summit

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Addresses the NH Raising Wages Summit

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro Inspires The Crowd At The NH Raising Wages Summit

Governor Hassan Will Continue To Fight To Raise Wages and Expand Middle Class Opportunity

How Raising Wages Effects Seniors and Social Security, a speech by NH Alliance for Retired Americans President Lucy Edwards.



Despite Some Progress, Too Many Granite Staters Are Still Being Left Behind

1-8 NH Poverty

Concord, NH: Data released by the Census Bureau last month show that poverty remains stubbornly high. In New Hampshire, 9.2 percent of people (1 in 10) were poor in 2014 – roughly the same number as in 2013 when 8.7 percent were poor. The child poverty rate also rose, with 13 percent (1 in 8) of New Hampshire children living in poverty in 2014 – an increase from 2013 when 10.2 percent of our children were poor.

“In order to cut child poverty in New Hampshire we need to maintain and expand investments in programs with proven success in helping move people out of poverty,” said MaryLou Beaver, director of Every Child Matters in New Hampshire. “Human needs programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) lifted 16,000 Granite Staters, including 8,000 children, out of poverty each year, on average, during 2011 to 2013. But if Congress does not act, funding cuts scheduled to take effect this fall will threaten to leave more New Hampshire children and their families behind.”

Today Every Child Matters in New Hampshire and the Coalition on Human Needs are releasing a report (attached) based on the Census Bureau data. Every Child Matters in New Hampshire reached out to our four Members of Congress for their reaction to this report. Here are the comments from those who responded by our deadline:

Senator Jeanne Shaheen: “This report shows that many federal programs are working to lift New Hampshire families out of poverty. We need to end sequestration and reach a budget deal that will strengthen these programs, not cut them as the latest Republican budgets have.”

Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster: “This study reminds us all that we must keep fighting to help the most vulnerable among us. I will continue my work in Congress to protect funding for vital programs that Granite State families desperately need, such as SNAP, Head Start, Housing Choice vouchers, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. We must ensure that every New Hampshire child has the support they need to grow and succeed.”

Congressman Frank Guinta: “I’ve served New Hampshire as a state rep and alderman, as Manchester’s mayor and now U.S. congressman. I’ve had the opportunity to meet families facing economic challenges and present solutions at both the local and federal levels. Every Child Matters in New Hampshire is shining a spotlight on this issue of vital importance. Their report shows the need for increased focus on the immediate challenges of poverty, as well as the need to address its underlying causes, in order to help current and future generations succeed.”

“New Hampshire continues to recover from the Great Recession, but progress is too slow” said Beaver. “It’s not too late for Congress to change course, however, and end sequestration. Increasing investments in safe and secure housing and to programs like Head Start will give these children a better foundation for success and will benefit New Hampshire and our country as a whole in the future. And Congress can do so without cutting safety net programs like SNAP, EITC, CTC and Medicaid. The choice is theirs’.”

Read the full report here

NH 2015 Census Report with Infographics -2

Every Child Matters in New Hampshire is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization working to make public investments in children, youth, and families a national political priority. For more information visit our website at www.everychildmatters.org

The Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) is an alliance of national organizations working together to promote public policies which address the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations. For more information visit our website at http://www.chn.org/

Labor And The Church Share Many Of The Same Progressive Values

Pope Francis (republic of Korea FLIKR)There has always been a strong relationship between the church and labor. The church teaches us to help feed the needed, pay your workers well, and not to fall victim to vanity and greed.

Here are just a few of the hundreds of examples in the Bible:

“Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
Luke 3:11

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother.”
Deuteronomy 15:7

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
1 Timothy 6:10

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

The teachings of the Bible are simple, help and love your fellow man, and you will be blessed.

Social justice is the bedrock of the labor movement. Fighting for equal pay for equal work regardless of skin color, gender, or sexual preference. Fighting to ensure that everyone earns an honest wage for the work they do. In short, standing together to help all mankind.

So why are conservatives freaking out over the Pope addressing a joint session of Congress?

There is no denying that the political right believes they own the monopoly on religion. They preach the gospel and claim to be good Christians. The problem is that many of their party’s priorities do not fall in line what the Bible teaches and Pope Francis has been speaking out against the foundations of the Republican Party.

Pope Francis says greed ruins society.

The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil.” An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.
Pope Francis.

Recently the Pope has come out and said the church should forgive women who had abortions, in support of LBGT rights, that women should be paid equally, and even went as far to say that the church should pay taxes like everyone else.

“If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
Pope Francis.

“Why should it be taken for granted that women must earn less than men? The disparity is pure scandal. The witness of the social dignity of marriage shall become persuasive, precisely by this way: the way of witness that attracts.”
Pope Francis.

Many are looking forward to the Pope’s arrival including Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO.

“Pope Francis’ arrival is a watershed moment for working people in the United States and an opportunity for every American, regardless of faith, to reexamine the values that drive us as a country. His message of inclusion, economic justice, and social progress transcends party and represents the best of humanity,” said Trumka.

“Working people stand with Pope Francis and look forward to welcoming him to the United States, as he puts forward an agenda that lifts spirits and wages,” added Trumka.

So again I will ask, why does the Pope’s visits scare conservatives? Because he is bringing a message of social progress, that is unheard of on the political right. He is also empowering many of the leaders in the church to speak out against the oppressive right wing policies.

Recently the Archbishop of Chicago spoke out against Right To Work and the demonizing of workers. “I have come today to tell Chicago workers the Catholic Church is with you,” said Archbishop Cupich. “You put your faith into action… You are Catholic social teaching at work.”

“History has shown that we’re better off when the rights of workers (are) protected,” said Cupich.

It is good to finally see organized religion using their immense power and influence to effect positive change in the world.

Be sure to check out this great collection of progressive quotes from Pope Francis at Addicting Info.


Below is the entire speech from Archbishop Cupich.  If you have not seen it, you should check it out.

Granite State Rumblings: Over One-Third Of Single Moms Face Food Insecurity In 2014

Nearly Empty Refrigerator (The She-Creature FLIKR)

Nearly Empty Refrigerator (The She-Creature FLIKR)

An estimated 14.0 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2014, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The change from 14.3 percent in 2013 was not statistically significant. The USDA issued this information in a new report released last week; Household Food Security in the United States in 2014 by Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Matthew Rabbitt, Christian Gregory, and Anita Singh.

Most U.S. households have consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living—they are food secure. But a minority of American households experience food insecurity at times during the year, meaning that their access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs increase food security by providing low-income households access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education. USDA also monitors the extent and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households through an annual, nationally representative survey sponsored and analyzed by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS). Reliable monitoring of food security contributes to the effective operation of the Federal food assistance programs, as well as that of private food assistance programs and other government initiatives aimed at reducing food insecurity.

Here’s a summary of what the report found:

The estimated percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure remained essentially unchanged from 2013 to 2014; however, food insecurity was down from a high of 14.9 percent in 2011. The percentage of households with food insecurity in the severe range—described as very low food security—was unchanged.

  • In 2014, 86.0 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year. The remaining 14.0 percent (17.4 million households) were food insecure. Food-insecure house- holds (those with low and very low food security) had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. The changes from 2013 (14.3 percent) and 2012 (14.5 percent) to 2014 were not statistically significant; however, the cumulative decline from 14.9 percent in 2011 was statistically significant.
  • In 2014, 5.6 percent of U.S. households (6.9 million households) had very low food security, unchanged from 5.6 percent in 2013. In this more severe range of food insecurity, the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources.
  • Children were food insecure at times during the year in 9.4 percent of U.S. households with children (3.7 million households), essentially unchanged from 9.9 percent in 2013. These households were unable at times during the year to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.
  • While children are usually shielded from the disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake that characterize very low food security, both children and adults experienced instances of very low food security in 1.1 percent of households with children (422,000 households) in 2014. The changes from both 2013 and 2012 were not statistically significant.
  • For households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line, households with children headed by single women or single men, women living alone, and Black- and Hispanic-headed households, the rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average. In addition, the food insecurity rate was highest in rural areas, moderate in large cities, and lowest in suburban and exurban areas around large cities.
  • The typical (median) food-secure household spent 26 percent more for food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and composition, including food purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly the Food Stamp Program).

Sixty-one percent of food-insecure households in the survey reported that in the previous month, they had participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs (SNAP; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and National School Lunch Program).

The defining characteristic of “very low food security” is that, at times during the year, the food intake of household members was reduced and their normal eating patterns were disrupted because the household lacked money and other resources for food. In the 2014 survey, households classified as having very low food security (representing an estimated 6.9 million households nationwide) reported the following specific conditions:

  • 98% reported having worried that their food would run out before they got money to buy more.
  • 97% reported that the food they bought just did not last and they did not have money to get more.
  • 97% reported that they could not afford to eat balanced meals.
  • 96% reported that an adult had cut the size of meals or skipped meals because there was not enough money for food.
  • 89% reported that this had occurred in 3 or more months.
  • 96% reported that they had eaten less than they felt they should because there was not enough money for food.
  • 69% reported that they had been hungry but did not eat because they could not afford enough food.
  • 30% reported that an adult did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food.
  • 24% reported that this had occurred in 3 or more months.

Rates of food insecurity were higher than the national average for the following groups:

  • All households with children (19.2 percent)
  • Households with children under age 6 (19.9 percent)
  • Households with children headed by a single woman (35.3 percent) or a single man (21.7 percent) and other households with children (24.4 percent)
  • Households headed by Black, non-Hispanics (26.1 percent), and Hispanics (22.4 percent)
  • Low-income households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty threshold (33.7 percent

Every Child Matters and many other organizations across the country are calling on Congress and the President to support strategies that increase employment and wage growth for America’s families and to invest more in federally-funded programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and child nutrition programs.

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act authorizes all of the federal child nutrition programs, including the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Child and Adult Care Food, Summer Food Service, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs and WIC. These programs provide funding to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods where they live, play, and learn. The current law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is due for reauthorization by September 30, 2015.

You can help too! Congress is back from August recess – Take these actions as Child Nutrition Reauthorization heats up. Senate markup scheduled for Sept. 17th.

Growing Up Granite

Don’t forget about our upcoming event.


Granite State Rumblings: Hunger And Poverty Don’t Take A Vacation

I love summer! I especially love that I don’t ever have to turn on my oven during the summer. If it can’t be cooked on the barbecue, it isn’t in my recipe file during the summer months. And it seems that there are plenty of great recipes to choose from all summer long. Each meal is always accompanied by locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables and usually a dessert that has been created with farm fresh ingredients. Life is good!

But summertime can be a very difficult time for children who need to eat nutritious meals. Kids may be on vacation, but as a report from FRAC points out, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation.

Nearly 1 in 6 Low-Income Children Receive Summer Meals, Report Finds

Momentum Signals Progress and Outlines Path for Continued Growth

More low-income children are eating summer meals, according to a new report released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) which showed more than 3.2 million children participated in the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2014. This represents a seven percent increase over the previous year, and demonstrates what can be done when the federal government, states, and communities make summer food a priority.

There was significant progress in 2014 in reaching a higher proportion of children in need. In its annual report, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, FRAC measures the success of Summer Nutrition Programs at the national and state levels by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of low-income children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. By that measure, one in six children (16:100) who needed summer nutrition received it. In July 2013, the ratio was 15:100.

“Higher participation rates in summer food mean more low-income children get the fuel they need to thrive over the summer months,” said FRAC President Jim Weill. “Congress can further this progress in this year’s Child Nutrition Reauthorization law by making strategic and thoughtful investments in the Summer Nutrition Programs that bolster their capacity to serve even more children.”

The Summer Nutrition Programs, which include the Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program over the summer period, provide free meals at participating summer sites at schools, parks, other public agencies, and nonprofits for children under 18. Not only do children benefit from the free meals, but they also benefit from the enrichment activities that keep them learning and engaged.

Leadership by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) contributed to this progress. The agency has prioritized summer meal growth by partnering with national organizations to increase the number of sponsors and sites and by providing hands-on assistance to states. As a result, the Summer Nutrition Programs served lunch to 3.2 million children on an average day in July 2014, an increase of more than 215,000, or 7.3 percent, from July 2013.

These gains pave the way for even more progress to be made. If every state had reached the goal of 40 children participating in Summer Nutrition in July 2014 for every 100 receiving free or reduced-price lunch during the 2013-2014 school year, an additional 4.6 million children would have been fed each day, and states would have collected an additional $360 million in child nutrition funding in July alone.

“Participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs has continued to increase over the last three years and thousands more children are being reached as a result,” said Weill. “Working together, we can continue to build on this progress and move closer to a hunger-free summer for all children.”

About the report: The Food Research and Action Center’s annual summer report, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, gives data for all states and looks at national trends. The report measures participation in the Summer Nutrition Programs by comparing the number of children receiving summer meals to the number of children receiving school lunch during the regular school year. The regular school year is used as a measure because such a high proportion of low-income children eat school lunch on regular school days. FRAC measures national summer participation during the month of July, when typically all children are out of school throughout the month and lose access to regular year school meals.

To find a summer meals site near you click on this link and follow the directions:


Those who know me well will tell you that I am passionate when it comes to the subject of poverty, especially child poverty. I am privileged to work for an organization that allows me to invest my time and energy in advocating for children who live in poverty, working on solutions to poverty and the programs that serve our most vulnerable population, and educating our elected officials and the public about the hazards of growing up in poverty.

Sometimes I go to bed wondering why this work has chosen me as there are many days that I feel burned out, frustrated and powerless. But then I see the smiling face of a child in a Head Start program when he proudly shows me how he has learned to write his name, or I listen to a mom who is struggling to find a job that will pay her enough to keep food on the table and a roof over the head of her children, and the fire ignites once again.

There are a lot of great people who work on this issue and so many other important issues. They proudly wear their orange badges in the Legislative Office Building and State House of New Hampshire. They sit in committee hearings, testify on bills, call and meet with legislators and the Governor’s office, meet and strategize with others who are working on the issues, and rally the troops.

Others do their work outside of the legislative process, working in the departments, agencies, and programs that serve children and families. Their dedication to those families and their willingness to share their knowledge with advocates and others is essential to the process.

While there is still work to do on a state budget before the end of the year, I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who advocate each and every day. I also want to thank all of you who have answered our requests to write letters, call your representatives, talk to your friends, co-workers, and neighbors and have gotten involved. We could not do our work without your assistance.

We also could not have done our jobs without the voices of those who have been willing to tell their personal stories. They are the true heroes. Their voices are important and necessary, as they speak with the knowledge and urgency that an advocate who has not walked a mile in their shoes can even hope to approximate.

It is our hope that the Governor and Legislators will work diligently and swiftly to carve out a budget agreement that is fair to all Granite State citizens and one that will move individuals and families forward. We also hope that the voices of those who rely upon all government supported programs will be heard in these meetings.

Last week Governor Hassan vetoed SB 169 and indicated that she will sign HB 219 when it reaches her desk. We thank the Governor for taking this reasonable and fair approach to legislation that will affect those who rely upon public assistance and use electronic benefit transfer cards in our state.

Governor Hassan’s Veto Message Regarding SB 169

Governor Maggie Hassan released the following message after vetoing SB 169:

“By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on July 10, 2015, I have vetoed Senate Bill 169, relative to the permissible uses of electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards.

“Senate Bill 169 prohibits the use of cash received from electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards for the purpose of gambling and the purchase of tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets, firearms, and adult entertainment. While the sponsors and I agree that public assistance should not be used for these purposes, the approach taken by this legislation would be unenforceable, as retail clerks and sales associates would have no way of determining where an individual’s cash came from at the time of sale.  That is why I will sign the alternative – and workable – version of this legislation, House Bill 219.

“Senate Bill 169 could lead to retail clerks being in the uncomfortable position of policing potential abuse by trying to decide whether ‘someone looks like’ they receive assistance. That could lead to discrimination, as many of those who opposed the bill warned. The seniors, people with disabilities, and struggling families who receive cash public assistance sometimes have alternative sources of income, making it nearly impossible to determine the source of the cash that is being utilized for the purchase.

“House Bill 219 allows for a more enforceable approach to address the issue of potential public assistance fraud or abuse. House Bill 219 prevents use of EBT cards within body piercing or tattoo parlors, cigar stores and smoke shops, and marijuana dispensaries. These locations are exclusive to the product or service they provide, and thus preventing use of EBT cards in these establishments does not prevent someone from purchasing basic household items that these locations do not sell. House Bill 219 also requires an educational component for cash assistance recipients and retail establishments, something Senate Bill 169 fails to do. For these reasons, I will be signing into law House Bill 219 when it reaches my desk.

“Senate Bill 169 establishes an unenforceable precedent that could put our cashiers and retail clerks in the untenable position of determining the source of a customer’s cash in an attempt to police potential abuse, along with denying access to families who need and qualify for this financial support. I will be signing House Bill 219, which accomplishes this bill’s goals of protecting taxpayer dollars used in this critical program without creating an unenforceable regulation or the potential for discrimination. Therefore, I have vetoed Senate Bill 169.”

50 Years After Voting Rights Act, New Book by NH Writer Exposes Gaping Holes in Voting and Representation

“Democracy in Poverty: A View from Below” Combines Empirical Analysis and Personal Encounters from Poverty-Line Research by Greyhound Bus


(Harvard ebook available on Amazon)

What is the connection between poverty and politics today? Does money determine a person’s political voice? Is poverty a democracy problem? To tackle these thorny questions, political reformer Daniel Weeks of Nashua, NH traveled 10,000 miles through thirty states by Greyhound bus, speaking with hundreds of fellow citizens living in poverty and recording his experiences on a poverty-line budget of $16 a day. From benches on Capitol Hill to the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, from the desert colonias of New Mexico to Skid Row in L.A., his profiles and careful analysis put a human face on poverty and political inequality in the 21st century.

Building on the 2014 “Poor (in) Democracy” series for The Atlantic, this book explores the complex relationship between institutional poverty and political power, including how economic inequalities enter the political sphere and undermine political equality; how political arrangements deepen and entrench poverty; and what it means in real life to be poor and (seek to) participate in politics. Highlights from the research findings include:

  • 45 million Americans are currently living below the poverty line on less than $6,000 per person per year or $16 per day
  • Nearly half of all impoverished Americans subsist in deep poverty with annual incomes of less than one-half the federal poverty line – the highest point since recordkeeping began in 1975
  • Low-income people are less than half as likely to vote in most elections as their wealthy counterparts and face a wide range of practical barriers to exercising the franchise
  • Roughly 25 million adults of voting age are legally barred from voting or lack voting representation in Congress
  • The largest single campaign contributor in 2012 provided more money than 98% of Americans combined
  • Issues primarily relevant to lower income Americans account for 4% of legislation in Congress and command less than 1% of lobbying resources
  • Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution command less than 5% of political power across five core dimensions of democratic participation

The stories Weeks recounts in the words of “second-class citizens” across the United States challenge our cherished assumptions about the American dream. Consumed by the daily demands of subsistence and excluded from political participation by both formal and informal means, the people profiled are struggling to make their voices heard where it matters most: in politics. Their persistent poverty is a problem–a moral outrage, in fact–but it’s not the kind of problem we think. More than an economic or social concern, their poverty is political: it is embedded in the very structures of society and maintained by an unjust distribution of political power. To counteract systemic poverty and political inequality, Weeks proposes a slate of reforms aimed at strengthening American democracy, so that all citizens can make their voices heard.

Democracy in Poverty: A View from Below (2015) was published by the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and is available on Amazon for the poverty-line price of $0.99Funding for the research was provided by the Center and by the Carsey School for Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. Proceeds from sale of the book go to support Open Democracy, a nonpartisan organization working to close the influence gap in American politics.

To contact the author or schedule an interview, please write contact@poorindemocracy.me or call (202) 596-1706.


About the Author

danielweeks2015bw2Raised in “poverty-lite” in the all-white town of Temple, New Hampshire, backed by generations of college degrees, Daniel Weeks did not encounter systemic poverty until leaving home to serve as an AmeriCorps volunteer with City Year Washington, DC at age 18. That experience, combined with a passion for democracy cultivated in high school by the legendary New Hampshire reformer Doris “Granny D” Haddock (1910-2010), set him on his path as an ardent proponent of democratic reform. As founding director of Students for Clean Elections in 2002, Weeks advocated successfully for comprehensive election reform, including the first legislature-approved public funding law in the country. From 2008-11, he served as president of Americans for Campaign Reform, working with a bipartisan team of former U.S. senators to advance citizen-funded elections in Congress. In 2011, he founded the Money and Politics Project for democratic reform in South Africa, before returning to continue the work in New Hampshire in 2013.

Today, Weeks serves as Executive Director of Open Democracy, a nonpartisan nonprofit working to ensure transparent and accountable governance. Open Democracy’s New Hampshire Rebellion campaign is walking the talk for democracy across the Granite State to build the reform movement — 30,000 miles and counting. Weeks has written and spoken on democracy issues for The Atlantic, New York Times, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, and on PBS, NPR, BBC, and other outlets. For his Poor (in) Democracy project, Weeks traveled 10,000 miles through 30 states by Greyhound bus, conducting interviews and participant observations with dozens of people in poverty while maintaining a poverty-line budget of $16 per day. He was privileged to study Political Science at Yale and Political Theory at Oxford on a Marshall Scholarship. He lives in Nashua, NH with his wife, Dr. Sindiso Mnisi Weeks.

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