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AFT-NH Red Alert: Right To Work Is Back!

YES, THAT IS CORRECT; THE SO CALL RIGHT TO WORK IS BACK! 

The full Senate will be voting on a version of the bill this coming Thursday, April 30th. The Senate Finance Committee recommended ‘Ought to Pass” on HB 658-FN, prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union. This bill comes from Wisconsin and Scott Walker’s play book.  It excludes Police Officers and Firefighters.   I think the statement by Representative Doug Ley sums it all up: “…Furthermore, the decision to carve out exceptions for police officers and firefighters was justified on grounds of the need for unit cohesion. That same logic can apply to any workplace including those where employers and labor organizations agree to allow the union to recover the costs of negotiating for and defending non-union employees. Such interference in the freedom to contract is unacceptable to the minority [Democrats on House Labor Committee].

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

Pass the word to friends and family members. Your Senator needs to hear from you. Simply put, this is a union-busting bill and an attack on our public employees and middle class families.

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

Your immediate action will send a strong message to your Senator.

Thank you.

In Solidarity,

Laura Hainey

What Is A “Fair Share Agreement” And Why Should I Pay It?

It is time to set the record straight as to what exactly “Fair Share” provisions are in union contracts. 

We have all heard it, we must pass Right To Work legislation to give workers freedom or some BS like that.  Many of them talk about “knowing a guy” who is forced to union dues even though he is not part of the union.  This story has been around for decades, and though it is already illegal to force someone to pay union dues, they continue to spread this lie as they push for these so-called Right To Work laws.

The fact is that many contracts, especially in the public sector, respect the rights of the worker and their choice to join, or not join, the union and have a negotiated agreement with the employer for what is know as a “fair share” agreement.   To people who many not be covered by a collective bargaining agreement in their workplace, this is a clause that basically means that if you benefit from the contract, ie work her under this agreement, then you must pay a fee to cover the costs of negotiating and administering the contract.  That is it.

Check out this amazing and funny video from AFSCME who explains “fair share” agreements in their own way.

The fact is we need more workplaces covered by union contracts.  Workers who are members of a union make hundreds of dollars a month more in take home pay, typically have healthcare and retirement options, and most importantly have a voice in their workplace.  They have protections from employers who would fire you for looking at them sideways.  The union continues to fight for you, the worker, when you become sick or injured on the job.  The fight for safer workplaces with better personal protection equipment and safety protocols.

I am proud to be a union member, and personally I cannot think of any good reason why you would not want to be in a union.  That being said, some people still choose not to be full union members but want the benefits that union representation provides.  This is why we have fair share agreements.  It is a way for those who do not want to pay union dues, to only pay for the administration of the collective bargaining agreement that covers them.

Being covered by a collective bargaining agreement will mean better pay, better benefits, and retirement security.  All things that every worker wants, but not every worker gets.

Senator Rand Paul Has No Idea Why The USPS Appears To Be Failing, But He Blames Unions

RAND PAUL (Stump Source FLIKR CC)

RAND PAUL (Stump Source FLIKR CC)

With much fanfare Rand Paul has officially kicked off his Stand with Rand presidential campaign.  He is arguably the most anti-worker candidate on the American political landscape.

Paul never strays from being a front man for the wealthy with his extreme anti-union beliefs. For Postal workers his message is clear as he advocates an  end to collective bargaining rights for postal workers when their current contracts expire.  He says he is not “opposed to all unions” he just believes unions are inappropriate for public service workers.

For other union workers, his thoughts are just as clear as he proudly introduced a National Right to Work Bill in the Senate. The National Right to Work Committee has given Paul $20,000 already this election cycle, which is 57% of all the money it has handed out to all other politicians combined.  So you can easily say that Rand Paul has essentially become the national spokesman for Right to Work. This kind of belies his “man of the people” messaging.

When speaking on Postal Reform a month ago in Florida he blasted the Postal Service:
“There are two sectors in the economy. The productive sector: you. And the non-productive sector: the people who live in Washington. They don’t make anything. They can’t even run the post office. They say we are going to project our power and we create new nations around the world.  We can’t run our own post office. They came to me last year on my committee and you know what they said, ‘we need bonuses for people at the post office.’ They said ‘you’ve got to pay people to retain talent. To get talented people you’ve got to pay them.’ I said ‘how much talent does it take to lose a billion dollars a quarter.’” I am not quite sure that Postal Bonuses were a major topic in the postal reform mark up. I am quite sure that postal  union workers do not receive any bonuses. Plus the USPS has turned an operational profit over the last few years.

(Michael Vadon - Carroll County Republican Committee Annual Lincoln Day Dinner with U.S. Senator Rand Paul - FLIKR CC)

(Michael Vadon
– Carroll County Republican Committee Annual Lincoln Day Dinner with U.S. Senator Rand Paul – FLIKR CC)

“So something has to change, but everybody opposes any changes that would allow the Post Office to make decisions like a business. Maybe if they were to have bankruptcy and renegotiate all of their labor contracts, they would have a chance. But there’s too many strong political, partisan voices up here to let that happen.  So I don’t know what the answer is. Privatization would be great but how we go about doing that is another story.”

Senator Paul’s main contribution to the Postal Reform hearings before his committee were not exactly constructive. He immediately proposed an amendment calling on the Postal Service to declare bankruptcy and reorganize. In the senator’s vision of reorganization, collective-bargaining agreements between USPS and its employee unions would be renegotiated, while existing no-layoff protections and the ability to bargain over wages would be banned.

Paul then tied up the committee with a lengthy barrage of questions about his failed amendment to “remove a federal ban on guns in the post offices.”  This prevented substantial debate on the problems with retiree pre-funding obligations that his Congress placed on the USPS. Senator Paul’s Postal Reform boils down to eliminating workers rights and enhancing gun owners’ rights in the post office. That is not Postal Reform, that’s Postal Destruction.

The real issue behind the Postal Service’s red ink is the  2006 Congressional mandate that the Postal Service fully fund 75 years of retiree health care costs in a 10 year period. This onerous mandate costs the USPS $5.5 Billion a year and is the only reason that the Postal Service doesn’t show a profit on its balance sheet. Even more outrageous is the fact that this payment is unnecessary as the USPS retiree fund has more than enough money for decades into the future. The hard-working union workers of the Postal Service are on their 3rd straight year of an operational profit.  It’s been an extraordinary turnaround that Paul fails to mention.

Rand Paul has some serious misconceptions not only about the productivity of  union workers but also their retirement and health care plans. ” Federal employees have almost double the compensation that private employees have. […] Maybe these government unions are going to have to contribute to their pension, maybe they’re going to have to pay something for their health care, like I’m having to pay, so when I hear regular taxpayers in Kentucky they don’t have a lot of sympathy because they’re paying high insurance premiums and they have to pay for their own retirements. “

(Video link)

He couldn’t be more misinformed. Public workers at all level of government have to contribute to their pension and health care plans. Federal employees contribute to the Federal Employment Retirement System (FERS), which requires them to contribute to the fund at a rate equivalent to one percent of their yearly salary. Also Federal workers participate in the Federal Group Health Care system where they buy their healthcare.  For some Postal Workers (CCAs and  PSEs) the price for health care almost make it unattainable while joining a retirement plan is not fiscally possible. The Postal Service does not contribute anything to their retirement plans. Paul had to know he was completely misrepresenting the facts, but that didn’t stop him. His overall dislike of public sector unions make any exaggeration of the facts acceptable, it seems.

Demonizing federal union workers is a Republican staple since Ronald Reagan fired Air Traffic Controllers. There is a profit to be made by decimating the Postal Service both politically and financially.  It’s no surprise that UPS and FedEx are among the top 10 contributors to his leadership PAC. With Paul it’s simple: you just follow the money. Whether it’s degrading public union workers or being the lead advocate for bills against private sector workers, it’s clear whose side Rand Paul stands with. His close ties with anti-union groups show his true allegiance.  He will offer an occasional  populist message on foreign policy or the war on drugs in an effort to disguise the fact that when it comes to economic issues he is firmly against working people.

Paul is the latest in the line of snake oil salesman running for President who under the guise of free markets/privatization, who want to further enrich the ultra-wealthy on the backs of  middle class workers.  The ultra-wealthy supporters of Paul never vote against their economic self-interest. Notice the record-breaking income inequality as proof. In spite of that Rand Paul is running for president hoping to fool working people in to voting against their economic well-being.  His Stand with Rand movement is clearly standing on the backs of union people.

Paul believes ordinary people should just be slaves for the rich and be thankful for it. He expounds on this in the video below.  For working people a more  accurate slogan describing their economic outlook under a President Rand Paul would be Fall With Paul.

GOP Led Legislatures And ALEC Are Working To Do Away With Unions

Right To Work in Wisconsin (FLIKR CC Blue Chedder)

Image by Blue Chedder

Dr. Thomas J. Mackell, Jr.

Dr. Thomas J. Mackell, Jr.

By Thomas J. Mackell, Jr., Ed.D.
Special Advisor to the President 
International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO

The move to alter the laws to make all states a Right to Work state is gaining momentum. State legislatures overloaded with conservative elected officials who have strong ties to the innocuously named American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are hell-bent on doing away with unions.

Recent successful legislative initiatives in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin to enact Right to Work laws was humiliating to workers and their unions and, in the long run, will contribute dramatically to the suffering of workers and their families and there are another half-dozen states actually considering it.

The protagonists behind these campaigns emphasize that this trend bolsters individual rights. This is yet another example of symbol manipulation where words are supposed to provide comfort. This trend and the individual rights claim couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is hard to believe that there is an entire cadre of folks who are cheering on the sidelines and praising these accomplishments.

It is particularly egregious when the industrial history of these states was that they were strong, progressive fortresses for workers and their unions in their fight for economic justice.

The Holocaust survivor and great humanitarian Elie Wiesel once said: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides.”

We should takes sides. However, there is a very strong and not so silent group of folks spearheaded by the billionaire Koch brothers who are the driving force with mega-bucks behind the campaign to change the United States in a very significant and destructive way.

Look at what campaigns they have initiated over the last couple of years since the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Citizens United lawsuit resulting in a whole new political fundraising initiate that will destroy this nation as we know it.  Their plan includes the following:

  • Create the Tea Party which is now on a roll
  • Buy the Republican Party
  • Arm the Tea Party
  • Turn each against all
  • Buy teachers to indoctrinate students in the Koch philosophy
  • Destroy the U.S. Postal Service
  • Alter the benefit programs for our war-torn veterans
  • Deport all illegal immigrants
  • Destroy Obamacare
  • Offer no minimum wage increases
  • Destroy Social Security
  • Reject new tax increases for the rich
  • Destroy Medicare and Medicaid
  • Support Right to Work legislation
  • Erase the Dodd-Frank regulations on financial institutions
  • Eradicate all Defined Benefit Pension Plans
  • Destroy unions
  • Fight global warming
  • Grind down all workers
  • Emasculate women’s rights
  • Purchase some Governors
  • Purchase Congress
  • Buy the Senate
  • Destroy the legacy of FDR
  • Annihilate the social welfare state
  • Take away the right to vote and End Democracy
  • Erode the American Dream

That is a pretty bold and frightening “to do list.”

We must fight this with all of our fibre. Life as we know will no longer exist. Society will be left with only the Princes and the Paupers.

Since we cannot match their capital strength, we have to be more creative and activistic in our initiatives.

Many international unions are committed to withholding political contributions from those who will support and vote for Fast Track, the new proposed trade deal. This is but one initiative.

The support for workers in this country by elected officials is fading. They have been purchased by the right wing billionaires.

We have to go well beyond political contributions and appeal to the peoples’ sense of justice and equity and their economic well-being.

In a recent quote by D. Taylor, International President of UNITE HERE union he said:

“Politics are important, but I think the most important thing is organizing workers and mobilizing workers. Mobilizing workers we represent, as well as those we don’t represent— because they’re both getting screwed.”

It is time for action. All of the groups that fight for social and economic justice must band together to fight the 1% and take up the fight to mobilize and protect what unions have won for workers over the last century. Our economic lives depend on it.

Take up the fight!

Rand Wilson SEIU 888: A Smart Strategy to Defeat ‘Right to Work’

Without aggressive action, the right-to-work tsunami will sweep more states. "Just Cause for All" campaigns should be part of the strategy. Photo: Glenn Schmidt.

 Photo: Glenn Schmidt.

By Rand Wilson

Without aggressive action, the right-to-work tsunami will sweep more states.
“Just Cause for All” campaigns should be part of the strategy.

Wisconsin is now the 25th state to adopt a so-called “right-to-work” law, which allows workers to benefit from collective bargaining without having to pay for it.

It joins Michigan and Indiana, which both adopted right to work in 2012. Similar initiatives, or variants, are spreading to Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and West Virginia—and the National Right to Work Committee and the American Legislative Exchange Council probably have a well-developed list of additional targets.

Without aggressive action, the right-to-work tsunami will sweep more states. To defeat it, the first step is committing to fight back, rather than resigning ourselves to what some say is inevitable.

Everyone’s Interests

Rand Wilson speaking at Local 888 convention 2014

Rand Wilson speaking at Local 888 convention 2014

We’ll have to go beyond what we’ve mostly been saying so far, which is that right to work is “unfair” or “wrong.”

That argument certainly works for most union households and many of our community allies. But the real challenge is to convince a much broader public that a strong (and fairly-funded) labor movement is in their interest and worth preserving. Clearly most Americans aren’t yet convinced.

Many unions over the last few years have undertaken important campaigns along these lines. For example, teachers unions have positioned themselves as defenders of quality public education. Refinery workers have struck for public safety.

Nurses and health care unions have fought for safe staffing to improve the quality of care. And most notably, the Service Employees (SEIU) and others have waged the “Fight for $15” for fast food and other low-wage workers.

In its own way, each union is working hard to be a champion of the entire working class. Yet with the exception of SEIU’s Fight for $15, each is essentially focused on the issues of its core constituency at work. This still limits the public’s perception of labor.

Supporters of right to work cynically play on the resentment many workers feel about their declining standard of living. Absent a union contract, the vast majority have few, if any, ways to address it. To most, organizing looks impossible and politics looks broken.

Workers’ understandable frustration is fertile ground for the far right, which promises to improve the business climate and create more jobs by stripping union members of their power.

Thus, when we anticipate right to work’s next targets, the best defense should be a good offense—one that clearly positions labor as a force for the good of all workers.

‘Just Cause for All’

Here’s one approach that would put labor on the offensive: an initiative for a new law providing all workers with due process rights to challenge unjust discipline and discharge, “Just Cause for All.”

Such a law would take aim at the “at-will” employment standard covering most non-union workers in the U.S. At-will employees can be fired for any reason and at any time—without just cause.

While such a major expansion of workers’ rights as Just Cause for All would be unlikely to pass in most state legislatures—Montana did it in 1987, but it’s still the only one—it could become law in states that allow ballot initiatives.

A well-orchestrated attack on the at-will employment standard would force the extreme, anti-worker, and big business interests who back right to work to respond. If nothing else, imagine how competing initiatives would force a debate. On one side, extending due process protections and increased job security to all workers: a real right-to-work bill. On the other side, taking away fair share contributions for collective bargaining.

This strategy isn’t untested. When the Coors beer dynasty backed a right-to-work ballot initiative in Colorado in 2008, labor collected signatures for a counter-initiative, “Allowable Reasons for Employee Discharge or Suspension,” which would have overturned at-will employment. (Labor also supported a proposal that would have provided affordable health insurance to all employees and a measure to allow workers injured on the job to sue for damages in state courts.)

Fearing that the just cause proposal might pass, centrist business people offered a deal. In exchange for labor withdrawing its proposal, they provided financial support and manpower that helped labor defeat right to work in Colorado. (For more on this story, read “The 2008 Defeat of Right to Work in Colorado: Is it the End of Section 14(b)?” Raymond L. Hogler, Labor Law Journal, Spring 2009.)

While it’s unfortunate that the labor initiative didn’t go before Colorado voters, the result was still encouraging—and instructive. By championing the interests of all workers, labor split business and blunted the right-to-work effort.

To win back “fair-share” participation in the three new right-to-work states and stop further attacks, we’ll need well-planned campaigns that include grassroots mobilization, direct action, paid and earned media, and focused electoral work.

Just Cause for All campaigns should be part of the strategy. Even if we lose, campaigns for due process and job security for all will help shift the debate on right to work, leave the labor movement stronger—and make labor and its allies once again the champions of the “99%.”

Rand Wilson is policy and communications director at SEIU Local 888 in Boston.

This story was also published on LaborNotes.

AFT-NH Legislative Update 3-18-15: Charter Schools and Right To Work

It was a very busy two days at the State House. The full House needed to act on 245 bills. Two bills of interest were the so called right to work for less bills. The first was HB 658: prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor. Like all the other right to work bills this would do nothing to create jobs, improve the economy or guarantee a job for anyone. Unlike the Senate the House passed this bill by a vote of 149 to 146, just 3 votes from a tie.

The other right to work bill was pulled from the Consent calendar by none other than Representative O’Brien. Of course he and his followers got up and spoke on how wonderful this bill is and how if it were passed, jobs and prosperity would shower down on New Hampshire.  Not true, and it failed, by a vote of 184 to 79.

On a positive note both the following bills passed the House and will move over to the Senate, where AFT-NH will continue to support and advocate for their passage.  HB 491:  relative to immunity for school personnel using reasonable force to protect a minor, would permit a teacher or other person entrusted with the care or supervision of a minor or pupil to use reasonable force to end a disturbance, to maintain safety, or to remove the pupil or minor from the premises under certain circumstances.   HB 507:  relative to teacher personally identifiable data was the second bill passed by the House and will now move to the Senate. This bill adds provisions relating to the protection of a teacher’s personally identifiable data and adds in language that no school shall record in any way a school classroom for any purpose without school board approval after a public hearing, and without written consent of the teacher and the parent or legal guardian of each affected student.

However HB 563-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils passed with an amendment by a vote of 222 to 116.  AFT-NH has serious concerns with this bill and will advocate that it be defeated in the Senate.

The next few weeks the House will be working on their budget and it is becoming clear that Republicans are pushing for many cuts to critical programs in our state. What is equally disturbing is that both chambers have been passing bills that would decrease the revenues received by the State.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

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Upcoming hearings for the week of March 15, 2015

Wednesday, March 18

PUBLIC AND MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS, Room 102, LOB
Sen. Birdsell (C), Sen. Boutin (VC), Sen. Stiles, Sen. Lasky, Sen. Kelly
10:30 a.m. SB 242-L, relative to amending the budget in towns that have adopted official ballot voting.

FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
9:00 a.m. Executive session on HB 215-FN, relative to school building aid grant payments,

HB 562-FN-L, repealing the limitation on the total education grant distributed to a municipality in a fiscal year and reducing the stabilization grants to certain municipalities, and

HB 577-FN-A-L, establishing a children’s savings account program.

FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
1:00 p.m. or immediately following full committee executive session. Work session on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and

HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.
*Please note time change

FINANCE – (DIVISION III), Rooms 210-211, LOB
1:00 p.m. or immediately following full committee executive session. Work session and final decision on
HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and

HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

Thursday, March 19

10 am Senate in Session

FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
9:30 a.m. Work session on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and

HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

FINANCE – (DIVISION III), Rooms 210-211, LOB
9:00 a.m. Work session and final decisions on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and

HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

Friday, March 20

FINANCE – (DIVISION III), Rooms 210-211, LOB
9:00 a.m. Work session and final decisions on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and

HB2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

Tuesday, March 24

FINANCE, Room 210-211, LOB
9:00 a.m. Executive session on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and

HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

Monday, March 30

10:00 a.m. The Finance Committee will hold budget briefings on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the
expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017
and HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures in Representatives Hall

Friday, April 3

FISCAL COMMITTEE (RSA 14:30-a), Rooms 210-211, LOB
9:00 a.m. Regular meeting.

USW President Leo W. Gerard: The GOP’s Big Squeeze

Editor’s note: Beginning this week, the NH Labor News will also be posting a weekly editorial from United Steelworkers President Leo W Gerard. 

(Image by Gage Skidmore CC FLIKR)

(Image by Gage Skidmore CC FLIKR)

Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last week to lower the wages of Wisconsin’s middle class workers. He wants pay cuts for hard working Wisconsinites.

It’s part of a pattern established by Wisconsin’s Republican governor and the Republicans who control the state legislature. Earlier, they slashed the paychecks ofteachers and government workers by 8 to 10 percent. Wisconsin Republicans refused to raise the minimum wage for workers who haven’t seen an increase in six years, even as 29 states gave raises to the lowest paid. Meanwhile, Walker and his GOP gang butchered state funding for public schools and propose the same fate for the state’s public universities – the colleges that, until now, the middle class could afford.

For putting the squeeze on workers, Walker is the darling of the GOP. In some polls,the college dropout is their leading candidate for the presidential nomination. His Mitt Romney-like hatred of the 47 percent, the working poor and organized labor is so GOP-revered that freshmen Republican governors like Bruce Rauner of Illinois are aping his efforts to shove workers down.

 

2015-03-15-1426441394-4673975-GOPSqueezegraphic.jpg

Photo by Rob Chandanals on Flickr.

 

The legislation Walker signed last week is called right-to-work-for-less. That’s because workers in states with these laws are paid $1,500 a year less. Wherever Republicans control a house of a state legislature, they propose it.

After Republicans won majorities in both houses in West Virginia for the first time in eight decades, the GOP immediately introduced right-to-work-for-less legislation. GOP Gov. Rauner, a billionaire, tried to circumvent Illinois’ Democrat-controlled legislature by imposing right-to-work-for-less on government workers by executive fiat.

Every adult American, of course, has the right to work. What this legislation does is help corporations and state governments cut workers’ pay. Its intent is regressive. Republicans want to return America to the days when robber barons controlled workers’ lives completely. This was a time of grotesque income inequality, of child labor, of tragically unsafe workplaces, of bosses compelling workers to remain on the job 50, 60 even 80 hours a week with no overtime pay.

American workers already are suffering the worst income inequality since the Great Depression. Right-to-work-for-less laws worsen that. These statutes forbid employers and labor organizations from negotiating collective bargaining agreements requiring all workers to pay either fair share fees or union dues.

At workplaces where employees have chosen union representation, federal law requires the labor organization to act on behalf of all of the workers, whether or not they join and pay dues. Fair share fees, which are less than dues, cover costs such as bargaining contracts that benefit all workers and representing workers who haven’t joined the union but want it to file grievances for them against the company.

Right-to-work-for-less laws are intended to bankrupt unions. And they do.

In Wisconsin four years ago, before passage of right-to-work-for-less legislation for government workers, Council 40 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), representing county and municipal workers, received dues or fair share payments from 32,000 workers. Now, Council 40 gets dues from 13,000. That cut nearly in half the funds it has to represent all 32,000 workers. As reduced income diminishes the AFSCME Council’s ability to do that well, more workers may quit and stop paying dues. That’s the death spiral Republicans are seeking.

Wisconsin unions representing workers at private companies face that same fate as a result of the new right-to-work-for-less legislation that Gov. Walker signed last week.

Right-to-work-for-less laws take from workers the tool they used for decades to secure better wages and working conditions. Right-to-work-for-less sends workers back to the desperate days before 1935. That’s the year Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act encouraging collective bargaining.

For nearly four decades after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the act, union membership grew, America’s middle class blossomed and income inequality shriveled. For the past three decades, as Republicans attacked workers’ right to collectively bargain for better lives, union membership shrank and workers’ wages stagnated. Now, income inequality is back to robber baron levels.

While the GOP attacked unions, Republicans like Walker and Rauner wounded the working poor and middle class in other ways as well. They cut funding for public transit, day care and unemployment insurance. They slashed spending for public education from Florida to Oklahoma to Arizona.

Now, GOP governors are demanding hundreds of millions in cuts to the public universities attended by the children of America’s middle class. Rauner wants to take $400 million from the University of Illinois. Walker wants to slash $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system. Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey wants to carve $75 million out of his state’s universities.

The result is that while workers get paid less, they’re shelling out more to buy bus tickets to their jobs, to ensure that while they work their toddlers are safe and to give their kids a college education.

This is the GOP’s big squeeze. It means the death of opportunity for the working poor to climb into the middle class. It means more of the middle class dragged down into poverty as workers scramble to pay ever-climbing bills with ever-smaller paychecks.

Unions and progressive groups are fighting back. Unions, including the United Steelworkers, have filed lawsuits in Wisconsin and Illinois to try to reverse right-to-work-for-less in those states. And a coalition of progressive groups and social welfare organizations staged protests last week across the country under the banner: “We Rise.”  They’re demanding politicians put people and the planet first – that is, before the greed interests and ecological disinterest of Republicans and big corporations.

They refuse to be strangled by the GOP.

The Rest of the Story on Scott Walker’s Visit to Concord

By Paul Brochu, Lead Organizer, New Hampshire for The Stamp Stampede

According to someone who was there Saturday morning:

2015-03-14 Walker protest 1More people were outside protesting against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker than were inside the building, attending the event.

Inside, what was billed as the NH-GOP’s “2016 Kickoff Grassroots Training” quickly devolved into an exercise in political fundraising.  Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn kept reminding the “Grassroots” participants to donate, donate, donate.  She also encouraged them to volunteer for Americans For Prosperity. (Which is somewhat odd… wouldn’t the Party want its “Grassroots” volunteers to support Republican candidates, not a 501(c)(4) “social welfare organization” founded by the Koch brothers ??)

Inside, party officials were touting Scott Walker as “the only candidate willing to fight the special interests.” (Which is an odd characterization, while there’s an ongoing investigation into “whether Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups illegally worked together in recall elections” including “the involvement of Walker’s campaign in raising money” for the Wisconsin Club for Growth.)

Inside, party officials were discussing who would – and wouldn’t – be allowed into the event.  Among those left outside in the cold?  Any and all Republicans from Massachusetts.   Apparently, NH GOP officials thought Massachusetts Republicans had struck some sort of “deal” with labor unions… and because of that, any Republican from Massachusetts was turned away at the door.  Among those left outside the event?  A gray-suited man who described himself as a “Lifetime Member of the National Republican Inner Circle” who happened to be from Massachusetts.

2015-03-14 Walker protest 2(And, yes, there were Republican union members outside the event, too.  Party officials keep forgetting that, in New Hampshire, a large chunk of union members are registered Republicans.  And Republican union members weren’t any happier with Scott Walker than Democratic union members were.)

And also outside the event?  Gov. Walker’s fundraising machine, which reportedly is going full-steam all around the country. Here’s how CNN reported it:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is on an ambitious mission this spring to scoop up major GOP donors ahead of a likely presidential run … Walker’s PAC, Our American Revival, provided CNN with a list of names of reliable Republican donors who have already committed to bundle funds for him or contribute significantly to a Super PAC that would be developed to support him should he run. And Republican fundraisers have told CNN donors are lining up to meet with him as he’s rocketing up in the polls.

New Hampshire used to pride itself on the “First in the Nation” primary.  Only now, we’ve been beaten to the punch by a bunch of billionaires holding their own “interviews” and trying to pre-select which candidates will be able to run for President.

2015-03-14 Walker protest 3That’s why the Stamp Stampede was outside the event, too, Saturday morning.

We remember back in 2011, when Gov. Walker thought he was talking with David Koch. (Frankly, it was kind of embarrassing; governors should be dignified, not fawning.  You can read the transcript here.)

And even before that: the videotape of a billionaire asking him whether he could make Wisconsin a “completely red state, and work on these unions, and become a right-to-work” state.  And Walker replied that his “first step” would be “to divide and conquer” the unions through his “budget-adjustment bill.”

That was after the 2010 elections, in which Walker won the support of Operating Engineers Local 139.

Terry McGowan, the union’s business manager, said the union gave its 2010 endorsement only after getting assurances Walker would not pursue right-to-work legislation. [McGowan said] he was continuing to take Walker at his word given his public statements and conversations he has had with him.  “You don’t hear him say, ‘Yes, I’m going to go after right-to-work legislation,’ ” McGowan said of the video.

But he added that divide and conquer is a phrase that is anathema to those in the labor movement. 

“It means turning worker against worker,” he said.

The billionaire gave Walker a $500,000 donation.

And last week, just before he came to New Hampshire, Scott Walker signed “Right-to-Work.”  Apparently, it’s good for getting donations.  “Even before the Legislature passed the measure on Friday in a fast-track process, Mr. Walker’s political backers were raising money on the issue.”

Let’s be clear: the ability “to scoop up major donors” should not be the #1 qualification to become President.

It’s not something to be proud of.

The willingness to say one thing publicly, and something else to mega-donors – that’s not something to be proud of, either.

Eagerness to embrace divide-and-conquer as a political strategy?  That’s beyond the pale.

Stamp_Stampede
The Stampede is tens of thousands of Americans legally stamping messages on our nation’s currency to #GetMoneyOut of Politics. As more and more stamped money spreads, so will the movement to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.

You can get your own stamp online at www.stampstampede.org. Or, if you’re a member of CWA, you can get a stamp from your LPAT coordinator. The average stamped bill is seen by 875 people – which makes stamping a highly-effective way to get the message out about how money in politics is corrupting our government.

It’s time to #GetMoneyOut of politics and take back our government.

Bi-Partisan Group Of State Legislators Met With Community Members From The Nashua Area

 

IMG_6058

From Left: Efstathia Booras – D Hillsborough 33, David Murotake – R – Hillsborough 32, Martin Jack – D – Hillsborough 36 Suzanne Harvey – D Hillsborough 29, C. Lee Guerette – D – Hillsborough 33, Kenneth Gidge – D – Hillsborough 33, Daniel Hansberry – D- Hillsborough 35

Community Members from the Nashua Labor Coalition and the Granite State Organizing Project discussed issues ranging from Right To Work, to capping title loans, to raising the Minimum Wage.

(Nashua, NH) — Thirty to forty people attended an open forum with seven Nashua area State Representatives to discuss the issues that are weighing on the minds of the community. Community members asked a variety of questions like how they plan to vote on the “right to work” legislation, charter schools, public transportation, and raising the minimum wage.

“No contract can include an agency fee or fair-share agreement that was not agreed to by both the employer and the union collectively,” said Deb Howes, Chair of the Nashua Labor Coalition. “Right To Work would allow people to benefit from a collective bargaining agreement without paying for it, and that is just wrong.”

“We are voting on this Right To Work legislation later in week, and you need to reach out to your legislators and ask them to vote it down,” stated Representative Dan Hansberry.

Everyone in the crowd was looking forward to hearing about where the Representatives’ stand on raising the minimum wage. Throughout New Hampshire over 70% of people polled supported raising the minimum wage, a truly bi-partisan issue. All of the Representatives who attended support raising the minimum wage.

Last year, the House passed a minimum wage increase, and the Senate killed it in a 12-12 tie. “I am a Republican and a small business owner, and I support raising the minimum wage,” stated Rep. David Murotake. He implied that the bill could get through the House, but would most likely be killed by the Senate again. “I suggest you talk to your Republican Senators and urge them to support a minimum wage increase.”

One of the other questions that generated lots of discussion came from David Lamb, a Nashua local, who asked about increasing public transportation throughout New Hampshire. The Concord Rail Study laid out a number of different options that New Hampshire could choose to expand rail services in New Hampshire.

“If you want to attract people, if you want to attract companies, and brings jobs we need to expand the rail system throughout New Hampshire,” said Representative Kenneth Gidge.

All of the Representatives in attendance seem to support expanding rail service throughout New Hampshire, including the lone Republican, Rep. Murotake who stated, “I have supported rail for a long time and I don’t think support for rail is a partisan issue.” Rep. Murotake concluded his statement on the rail project with a message of hope for those who support expanding rail service in New Hampshire. “Maybe not this year, or next year, or four years from now, but I believe it is going to happen.”

Paul Belanger a letter carrier of forty-two years, proposed the idea of “no-excuse absentee” balloting and voting by mail. He asked the Representatives if they would support a move to vote by mail like they do in Oregon. “In Oregon, over 80% of registered voters voted in the last election,” said Belanger. Rep. Murotake quickly voiced his support for the idea referring back to his days in the military where he always voted by mail.

“People are busy, we work hard, and getting to the polls can be difficult. We should be looking into ways to expanding access to the ballot box,” said Matt Murray, a member of the Nashua Labor Coalition. “Voting by mail and early voting are two very good and viable options for New Hampshire.”

Rep. Gidge explained that there is currently a bill in the House to expand absentee voting, but currently it would only allow family members to drop off absentee ballots.

The issue of charter school funding sparked some slightly heated debate from some of the teachers in the audience. The majority of the Reps. said they supported public charters and some thought we should be increasing funding to these charter schools. The overwhelming response from the crowd was that the money spent on charter schools is eroding the rest of the public school system. Nashua schools have seen programs like the “Gifted and Talented (GATE)” eliminated due to budgetary cuts at the state and local levels. One teacher suggested moving the charter schools back into the public schools, giving more access to more students and eliminating the costs of a separate school.

Deb Howes closed the night by stating, “On behalf of the Nashua Labor Coalition and Granite State Organizing Project, I would like to thank all of the Representatives for attending tonight and taking time out of your busy schedules to meet with us. We hope that this has been as informative for you as it has been for us.”

The Nashua Labor Coalition is a chapter of NH AFL-CIO. It includes Nashua Area Affiliated and Non-Affiliated Unions, as well as community organizations.

Granite State Organizing Project is a coalition of religious, community and labor organizations addressing the issues of affordable housing, jobs, access to health care, quality education and immigrant and refugee rights.

 

AFT-NH Legislative Update 3-10-15: Right To Work Goes Down In The Senate But The Fight Is Far From Over

THE SO CALLED RIGHT TO WORK—FOR LESS DEFEATED!

On a 12 to 12 vote the State Senate defeated the ‘SO-CALLED’ RIGHT TO WORK—‘FOR LESS’ bill (SB 107.) Despite its misleading name, this type of law does not guarantee anyone a job and it does not protect against unfair firing. It only weakens collective bargaining rights and limits workers’ freedom to demand respect, fair pay and safety on the job. It tilts the balance even more toward big corporations and further rigs the system at the expense of middle-class families.


AFT-NH would like to thank the following Senators for standing with working families!

David Boutin,
Sharon  Carson
Lou D’Allesandro
Dan Feltes
Martha Fuller Clark
Andrew Hosmer
Molly Kelly
Bette Lasky
David Pierce
Donna Soucy
David Watters
Jeff Woodburn

However, the full House will be voting on their version of the bill this coming Wednesday. The Labor Committee recommended ‘Ought to Pass” on  HB 658-FN, prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union. This bill comes from Wisconsin and Scott Walkers play book.  It excludes Police Officers and Firefighters. I think the statement by Representative Doug Ley sums it all up: “…Furthermore, the decision to carve out exceptions for police officers and firefighters was justified on grounds of the need for unit cohesion. That same logic can apply to any workplace including those where employers and labor organizations agree to allow the union to recover the costs of negotiating for and defending non-union employees. Such interference in the freedom to contract is unacceptable to the minority.”

AFT-NH is calling on all Representatives to overturn the Committee recommendation and make a recommendation to defeat this bill and any other bill that either erodes or repeals NH’s collective bargaining laws for public employees.

On a side note:  Scott Walker will be in New Hampshire on March 14th.  The NH AFL-CIO is putting together “Stand Up for America’s Middle Class Visibility Action”, from 8:30 am to 10:30 am.  If interested in attending please call NH AFL-CIO, (603) 623-7302 and ask for Dan Justice.

This Wednesday and Thursday
the full House will be voting on over 246 bills, it will be a very busy two days. Here are some of the bills that they will be voting on that might be of interest:

HB 323, relative to the administration of the statewide assessment program. The House Education Committee recommended that this bill pass.  The bill changes when local school districts administer the required state assessments. Currently we have to test students in grades 3 through 8 and 11th grades; this would change to testing only in the 4th grade, 6th grade, 8th grade and 11th grade for the state assessments. Keep in mind that AFT-NH believes:

When assessing students, we need to make sure these tests inform teaching, not impede teaching and learning. All children deserve a rich, meaningful public education that prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and challenges that await them as they become contributing members of a democratic society.  Growing our nation’s future citizens and workers is a serious undertaking that calls for a thoughtful focus on teaching and learning. Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, the growing fixation on high-stakes testing has undermined that focus, putting at grave risk our students’ learning and their ability to meet the demands of the 21st-century economy and fulfill their personal goals.

We believe in assessments that support teaching and learning, and that are aligned with curriculum rather than narrow it.  Assessments should be focused on measuring growth and continuous development of students instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn. Assessments should be diverse, authentic, test for multiple indicators of student performance and provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools improve, not sanctions that undermine them.  Development and implementation of such tests must be age-appropriate for the students, and teachers need to have appropriate computers to administer such assessments.   We are calling for a moratorium on the high stakes testing—for students, teachers and schools, that are linked with Common Core assessments, until an implementation plan is developed in partnership with teachers, parents and the community and is field tested in classrooms in each district.

Further, we believe that assessments designed to support teaching and learning must contribute to school and classroom environments that nurture growth, collaboration, curiosity and invention—essential elements of a 21st-century education that have too often been sacrificed in favor of test prep and testing. We know that collaboration with educators is necessary to ensure that high-quality instruction and content are given their proper emphasis.

AFT-NH ask that all Representatives consider the above when voting on any bill that deals with students assessments at the local or state level.

The full House will also be voting on many bills that deal with educational standards. We ask that you keep in mind the following:

If any standards are to work we need to ensure that in each district the following are in place when implementing the Standards:

  • There needs to be planning time for understanding the Standards and time to put them into practice,
  • We need opportunities to observe colleagues implementing Standards in class,Provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards,
  • Ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards,
  • Communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students,
  • Develop best practices and strategies along with coaching to help teachers teach content more deeply,
  • We need to ensure all districts have the equipment and bandwidth to administer computer-based assessments,
  • Make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers,
  • Professional development and training in the Standards need to be offered,
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards.

We also know that:

States and districts must work with teachers to develop a high quality curriculum and professional development, provide teachers with the time needed to try out new methods of teaching to the standards in their classrooms, commit financial resources to ensure success, and engage parents and the community.

The House will be voting on HB 507, relative to teacher personally identifiable data.This bill adds provisions relating to the protection of teacher personally identifiable data and adds in language that no school shall record in any way a school classroom for any purpose without school board approval after a public hearing, and without written consent of the teacher and the parent or legal guardian of each affected student. AFT-NH supports the House Education recommendation to pass this bill as amended.

And then there is HB 491:relative to immunity for school personnel using reasonable force to protect a minor.This bill permits a teacher or other person entrusted with the care or supervision of a minor or pupil to use reasonable force to end a disturbance, to maintain safety, or to remove the pupil or minor from the premises under certain circumstances.  AFT-NH supports the House Education Committee’s recommendation to pass this bill.

The last two bills have to do with revenues and funding of charter schools. First the House Ways and Means recommended that HB 551-FN, relative to preventing diversion of business income to tax havens, be defeated. AFT-NH is opposed to defeating this bill and would ask that the recommendation be overturned and a recommendation to pass be voted on.

New Hampshire, along with 22 other states, already requires multinational corporations doing business in New Hampshire to treat all of their affiliates and subsidiaries in the United States as one entity that is taxed as such. This practice, known as combined reporting, limits companies’ ability to move taxable income from one subsidiary to another across states to avoid a particular state’s corporate tax.

Companies doing business in New Hampshire, however, can still avoid paying taxes by shifting income overseas to offshore tax havens–places such as the Cayman Islands that have very low or nonexistent taxes. Companies use a variety of strategies to accomplish this and the State loses millions every year in taxable corporate revenue.

To prevent overseas tax haven abuse, states can close the “water’s edge” loophole and require that companies not only report income in other states but also the income stored in tax havens as part of their combined reporting. A US PIRG study estimated that a similar change in New Hampshire’s combined reporting requirements would yield $26.1 million in additional revenue for the state.

Tax reforms that close corporate tax loopholes are especially popular, commanding overwhelming support. Americans want to see corporations pay their fair share, rather than see cuts in education or major entitlement programs and this is true across party lines.

Cracking down on tax haven abuse is a step toward fairness. Closing the corporate tax loopholes that simply help the rich get richer, while most Americans are paying more in state and local taxes, will tilt the playing field toward fairness.

And lastly, the House Finance committee recommended that HB 563-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils pass with an amendment. The amended version is less harmful than some of the other proposed amendments, yet AFT-NH has serious concerns with this bill. This increased funding to charter schools comes from the adequacy fund. In turn this leaves less for public schools. If the state truly supports charter schools then they would find a way to pay for it by not robbing Peter (public schools) to pay Paul (charter schools). They would come up with a dedicated fund just for charter schools and find the revenue to support it without dipping into any other dedicated fund.

AFT-NH  asks that the Committee’s recommendation be overturned and a recommendation to defeat this bill be voted on.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org or call 603-661-7293.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President



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Upcoming hearings for the week of March 9, 2015

MONDAY, MARCH 9

FINANCE, Kennet High School Auditorium, 409 Eagles Way, North Conway
6:00 p.m. HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state  for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and HB 2-FN-LOCAL, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures. *Please note time change.

FINANCE, Derry Town Hall, 14 Manning Street, Derry
5:00 p.m. HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and HB 2-FN-LOCAL, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

FINANCE – (Division I), Room 212, LOB
Operating Budget presentations as follows:
9:30 a.m. Public Employees Labor Relations Board.
10:00 a.m. Department of Labor.
10:30 a.m. Developmental Disabilities Council.

TUESDAY, MARCH 10

FINANCE – (DIVISION II), Room 209, LOB
10:00 a.m. Work session on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

SENATE TRANSPORTATION LOB 103
1:00 p.m. SB 234, relative to police details on public ways.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11

10 am House in Session

Senate EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 101, LOB
9:20 a.m. SB 164, relative to the independent investment committee in the New Hampshire retirement system.

THURSDAY, MARCH 12

9 am House in Session

10 am Senate in Session

FRIDAY, MARCH 13

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
9:00 a.m. Full committee work session to consider revenue items contained in HB 2.

MONDAY, MARCH 16

FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
1:30 p.m. Work session on HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

TUESDAY, MARCH 17

FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
9:30 a.m. Work session on HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures, and
HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017.

THURSDAY, MARCH 19

FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
9:30 a.m. Work session on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

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