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A Kinder, Gentler Speaker Bill O’Brien

Bill O'Brien (Seth Koenig | Bangor Daily News) CC

The local press is gushing over the “kinder, gentler” Bill O’Brien as he was nominated to lead the NH House as Speaker again.

“The Bill O’Brien who will lead the House for the 2014-16 Legislature is all smiles and open arms.” (Drew Cline, Union Leader)

“The tone of O’Brien’s interview with Landrigan suggests he has learned from his leadership mistakes. But it is also clear that he will not back down from his core principles, which include shrinking the size of government.” (Nashua Telegraph Editorial)

Some were not a quick to praise O’Brien for his new game face.

Dan Touhy of the Union Leader wrote:

“… press reports yesterday portrayed O’Brien as a “kinder, gentler” leader. If there is a flower in his lapel, opponents may ask, will it squirt water?”

In multiple interviews with local media outlets yesterday, O’Brien talked about how he wants to find compromise and help move New Hampshire together, however his goals are pretty much the same as they were in 2010 when he was previously elected Speaker.

“The O’Brien agenda is to achieve significant reforms in key economic areas — business taxation, higher education, and public employee pensions — with as much Democratic support as possible, and to clarify the election laws so that only New Hampshire residents can vote here.” Drew Cline, Union Leader

His goals to make New Hampshire better, hinge on attacking public workers pensions and pushing a Right To Work law on New Hampshire.

I do not believe for a second that Speaker Bill O’Brien (2014) will be any different than Speaker Bill O’Brien (2010). Even now he is saying it is my way or else!

“You’re with us or against us and bad things happen to you if you’re in the against us category,” O’Brien said in an interview with the Union Leader yesterday.

I give it three weeks before the new Speaker O’Brien disappears and the old Speaker O’Brien reappears to brow beat legislators and threaten reporters who go against him.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Pending State Legislative Battles

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In the wake of last Tuesday’s elections, many state and local politicians have already begun to signal their intent to wage assaults on working people in their states. While national political pundits debate outcomes, the AFL-CIO and its allies also have a keen eye on the developments at state and local levels.

We have no illusions there are radical politicians who are far more concerned with appeasing their corporate donors and being a tool for groups like ALEC than standing for working family issues. This is despite the fact that the Raising Wages agenda remain of upmost important to most Americans. A majority of the electorate are struggling economically and sixty-eight percent of voters agree that raising wages is good for workers and the economy. The majority of people want rights at work. We want the ability to stay home if we’re sick. We want fair and equal pay. And we believe if you work for and earn a pension, you should get it.

Make no mistake that the labor movement is more prepared and ready to combat these attacks than ever before.

We also know that this fight will not be the labor movement’s alone. We are fully engaged with our allies in the community and more importantly know that the values we stand for are in complete sync with the majority of Americans. It will take a collective effort to preserve and expand our values, and we are up to the task.

NH Exec Council Candidate Robert Burns Explains Why He Supports Right To Work

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A friend of the NH Labor News just sent me this video of Robert Burns, a candidate for the New Hampshire Executive Council in District 4, talking at the Loudon Candidates Forum about Right To Work legislation.

Click here to see above video on YouTube

Burns claims that Right To Work legislation is about “personal freedom.” It is about “Thugs trying to control you and take your money.” Burns goes on to say that Right To Work is “100% about your freedom not to give this money to a political organization you may not agree with.”

“That is why I am for Right To Work,” concluded Burns

Let me explain to you, Mr. Burns, what Right to Work really is really about.

Right to Work is not about personal freedom, it is about breaking unions.  Your claim that my union dues go to political campaigns is absolutely false.  It is completely illegal for any union to take dues money and give it to a political candidate.  You are confusing union dues, with union campaign PAC or COPE funds.  These PACs are funded by freely given small donations of individual members who want to make sure that candidates who support their way of life are elected.

Right To Work is an attack on the middle class and leads to lower wages. The average worker in a Right To Work state make $5,000 a year less.

Right To Work laws are just another way for wealthy CEOs to push workers down in the race to the bottom. They want to break the unions to force workers to pay more for things like healthcare and retirement benefits.  They are lining the pockets and giving stockholders bonuses with our hard earned money.

By supporting Right To Work legislation you are saying that you, Mr. Burns, would rather side with greedy CEOs over hard working Americans.

Right To Work is wrong for worker, wrong for the middle class and wrong for New Hampshire. 

Meet The Candidate: Jennifer Daler, A Strong Opponent Of Right To Work

Jennifer Daler

Editor’s note: To continue our effort to inform voters about candidates running for office in NH this is a special guest editorial from Jennifer Daler, candidate for New Hampshire’s Executive Council in District 5.

Jennifer DalerIt is almost Labor Day. I would like to introduce myself to readers of NH Labor News who might not know me. My name is Jennifer Daler and I am running for the Democratic nomination for Executive Council, District 5. You can find out more about the Executive Council here.

I live in Temple, NH with my husband and 3 children, the oldest of whom experiences a developmental disability. I served in the New Hampshire House from 2006-2008 on the Health and Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee. I know the effort that goes into creating and passing the state budget, and I am familiar with the Department of Health and Human Services, which is the largest department in New Hampshire state government.

In the race for this seat, I stood with Labor during the dark days when Bill O’Brien was Speaker of the NH House.

I was there when Rep. Ken Weyler refused to move a crowded hearing to Reps Hall and forced union members to sit on the floor or stand in the hallway and stairwell. I stood in the stairwell in solidarity.

I was at the rally in front of the State House when 5000 New Hampshire citizens demonstrated against O’Brien’s budget.

I was in the House Gallery the day O’Brien threw union  members and everybody else (including the parents of the young man who sang the national anthem) out, the first time this was done in living memory.

When things were at their worst for labor and the Democratic Party in NH, I stepped forward and ran for the seat vacated by Bob Mead, who resigned to become O’Brien’s Chief of Staff the day after being sworn in.  We won that seat with hard work and shoe leather and the support of labor, for which I am very grateful. I won every town in the majority Republican district.

The day I was sworn in was a great day of hope and we managed to turn the tide, winning the House majority for Democrats in 2012.

Serving as a Democrat and supporter of labor in the House of O’Brien was not easy. We faced constant incivility, unfair treatment and an onslaught of bills that tore at the fabric of the state. One thing they were not able to do was to override Governor Lynch’s veto of their Right to Work for Less bill.

I am honored and thankful to have the endorsement of the SEA/SEIU1984.

I am proud to have stood with labor during the toughest times in recent memory, and will continue to listen to your concerns and priorities.  I hope working men and women will stand with me and vote for me in the Democratic primary on September 9.

Thank you.

 

Linda Tanner A Real Candidate For Working Families

Linda Tanner NH Senate Candidate District 8

One of the goals of the NH Labor News is to help Granite Staters get to know the candidates who are running for office in New Hampshire. We focus on candidates who support working families, particularly those candidates who are working to rebuild the middle class and strengthen our rights as workers.

This week’s focus is on State Senate District 8 candidate Linda Tanner.

Linda Tanner NH Senate Candidate District 8
Background Information for Rep. Linda Tanner

Linda is longtime community activist, teacher, and coach. Linda has dedicated her entire life to helping others and improving her community. For over 30 years as a teacher and coach at Kearsarge Regional High School, Linda worked tirelessly to help her students succeed in and out of the classroom. During her career at Kearsarge, she served as a Department Chair, worked with the School to Work program and developed a state championship tennis program. She was honored by the NH Interscholastic Athletic Association for her years of service and elected to the NH Coaches Hall of Fame for Girls Tennis. She received her Bachelor of Science in Health Education from East Stroudsburg University and her Masters from Dartmouth College. In 2012 she was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives from Sullivan County, District 9.

 

As a public school teacher, were you involved with your local union?

I was president of my local association, the Kearsarge Regional Education Association for three terms. I participated on many negotiation teams, worked with members on issues at the local level, and worked with management towards better working conditions. I am a lifetime member of the NEA NH and have their endorsement for this campaign.

 

As a former teacher, I am sure you have a lot to say about the current public education system. Can you give me two things you would like to see changed?  And are these changes that you can enact from the NH Senate?

Public education has been under attack by those who would privatize education, eliminate compulsory education, and eliminate teachers’ unions. I ran for my House seat because I wanted to stop these political maneuvers that were undermining what, I feel, is the most valuable institution for maintaining democracy.

I think there is a great deal we could do to promote and fund our public education system in New Hampshire. I definitely feel the move from the punitive No Child Left Behind to the Common Core is a move that will help students. The Common Core sets standards but does not dictate pedagogy, deals with progress instead of achievement or failure and is the right course towards improvement and consistency. Just like other programs, it needs to be tweaked and re-visited. I would like to see educators who are working in the schools as teachers have a larger input into programs and initiatives.

As a high school teacher, I worked with a school-to-work program for the average student to encourage them towards further education and give some basic instruction in job skills. I taught Health Occupations Co-op for several years. I feel this is a very valuable program that should be expanded to teach not only content but job skills such as being on time, being able to speak to people, shake hands, show respect for co-workers and your product.  Recently I visited the Job Corps Training facility in Vermont. We are currently building a facility in Manchester. This type of program, which targets low income youth, is vital to providing vocational training in a setting that also emphasizes those job skills. It gives an opportunity for young people to better their position and at the same time provide workers for key jobs in our State.

As a Senator I will work to help New Hampshire schools become a model system that supports innovation, is relevant to the world of work and careers, and maintains rigorous standards for all school children.

 

You are running for the NH Senate Seat in District 8 that is currently held by Sen. Bob Odell. In what ways are you similar or different from Sen. Odell?

I found my voting aligned in many areas with Senator Odell.  I voted to repeal the death penalty, expand Medicaid, and deal with the issues around the Medical Enhancement Tax. However, Senator Odell voted against returning the period for teachers to be fired without cause or hearing from 5 to 3 years, voted against medical marijuana, and voted for the repeal of automatic continuation requirement for public employees’ collective bargaining agreements. These are three examples of bills he opposed that I would have supported.

IMG_0067This Senate seat has been, under Senator Odell, a moderate vote in a 13 to 11 Republican majority. My election to the seat will balance the parties at 12 all, which would make a major shift – especially on Labor issues. Medicaid expansion has a clause that requires renewal during this next session. Both Republican candidates have stated that they will try to repeal the Medicaid expansion, fight ‘Obama Care,’ and make NH a ‘Right to Work State’ as a priority. If either of the candidates opposing me wins this seat: Medicaid will be repealed, leaving thousands without medical insurance; and ‘Right to Work” for less will be passed along with other legislation that will hurt working men and women.

 

The current minimum wage is $7.25 and the GOP-led legislature repealed the NH Minimum Wage law. What would you do as Senator to help push NH toward a real living wage? Last year, one proposal was to raise the state minimum wage over two years to $9.00/hour. Do you think $9.00 is the right number? Or do you think it should be $10.10 as the POTUS is pushing, or even higher? 

First, we need to reinstate a NH Minimum wage that was repealed under the Republican leadership of Speaker O’Brien. I served on the House Labor Committee in this past term. The bill that was introduced should be reintroduced in this next term. This bill offered modest increases over time and originally had a provision for further increases based on economic indicators. I think we need to have a bill that will pass both The House and Senate. I hope to be one of those Senators to move this piece of legislation forward.

Do you have any legislation that you would like to see or have ideas on proposing if you are elected?  

I want to defend against the so called ‘right to work’ bills. If those bills pass it will let non-union workers benefit from our hard work in negotiations without paying their fair share. It’s a union-busting tactic.

I want to ensure fairness in workers’ compensation laws for those hurt on the job – so if they can’t work, they will still be able to keep their homes and survive. At the same time, I want to see how we can reduce the rate for employers. I want to establish a minimum wage and increase it above the present $7.25 so everyone has the dignity of a decent wage. I want to protect workers from pay cards and title loans that are stripping away hard earned money with excessive fees and astronomical interest rates. I want to offer solutions for the current lack of affordable and accessible elderly and work force housing.

 

If you could pick one issue from your campaign to highlight, what issue would that be?  

I am a person who is running for this Senate seat not to be someone special or advance a radical agenda but to work on legislation that will help the working men and women of this State. I taught for 35 years in the NH public schools and over that time, you see the communities, the State, through the lives of your students. I know the successes, the struggles, and the heartbreaking issues many of our citizens face. I want to be their voice in the Legislature.

 

Why should the labor community support your campaign?  

I am a lifelong union member. As a teacher for 35 years and continuing through retirement, I have been a member of the National Education Association. During my years at Kearsarge Regional High School, I was President of my local for three terms. I served on many negotiations and collective bargaining teams working for high quality education, good working conditions, livable salaries and benefits.  I proudly served as a State Representative for Sullivan County and as a member of the House Labor Committee.  I have the experience, knowledge and the political will to help the working men and women our State.

 

What can people do to help your campaign?

I can’t win this election alone. The opposition is well-funded and as committed to winning this seat as we are. I need your help to win this election. I need your vote and I need you to talk with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to urge them to vote for me. Also, with this large, rural district, we need funds for mailings, ads, and signs. Any amount you can send to us will help us get our message out.

Please see our website lindatanner.org for more information

 

 

 

 

AFT President Randi Weingarten on the Harris v. Quinn Decision

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WASHINGTON—Statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the Harris v. Quinn decision. Today’s Harris v. Quinn decision upholds the right of public sector unions to represent public employees, including their right to collectively bargain, but the Supreme Court refused to extend the right for a union to collect fair share fees for that purpose from Illinois home healthcare workers who are not members.

“While the court upheld the importance of collective bargaining and unions to families and communities, let’s be clear that working people, who have aspired to the middle class and tried to make a better life for their families, have taken it on the chin for years. Stagnating wages, loss of pensions and lack of upward mobility have defined the economic distress they have experienced. Today’s decision makes it worse.

“The Roberts court has consistently ruled in favor of corporate interests, while diminishing the rights of labor. This court has built a record of weakening the rights of both voters and working families; no one should be surprised by this decision.

“America’s workers have gone through the crucible of tough times and adversity—that’s why they formed America’s labor movement. Workers did not start off with their rights being protected by government. We had to—and still must—organize ourselves, our families and others to secure good jobs, great public schools, prosperous communities and opportunity for all. While disappointed in the court’s decision, the American Federation of Teachers will do what we have always done: redouble our efforts to empower and engage our members around the issues they care about and the work they do, and to serve as a strong voice for our communities, our democracy and opportunity for all.”

NEA President: Supreme Court Silences Voices of Working Families

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Harris v. Quinn ruling creates uncertainty, instability for economic prosperity

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court of the United States today struck another blow against working families with its narrow 5-4 decision  in Harris v. Quinn when it eliminated agency fee arrangements for Illinois home healthcare workers. By casting doubt on case law that has been settled for decades, the Court’s ruling also creates insecurity and instability for employers and unions throughout the public sector. Harris v. Quinn was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW), a political group whose extreme agenda seeks to weaken the power of working people.

At issue in the case was whether non-union members could reap the wages, benefits and protections negotiated in a collectively bargained contract without needing to pay their fair share. The National Education Association, joined by California Teachers Association and Change to Win, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court to expose the truly radical nature of NRTW’s arguments and underscore their audacious claim that public-sector collective bargaining itself is constitutionally suspect.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

“Quality public services, economic stability and prosperity starts with strong unions, but today the Supreme Court of the United States created a roadblock on that path to the American Dream. This ruling jeopardizes a proven method for raising the quality of home health care services—namely, allowing home health care workers to join together in a strong union that can bargain for increased wages, affordable health care and increased training.

“Americans count on quality public services provided by public employees like educators. We need workplaces, including public schools, where front-line employees have a voice. Today’s decision shuts the door on one proven method for ensuring that public sector workers’ voices are heard.  At a time when we are just starting to dig out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we should be creating an economy that works for all of us—not taking radical steps that undermine the rights of public workers while creating uncertainty and instability in the workplace.

“As a high school teacher and coach for 23 years, I saw how the entire team benefited when we all worked together. With today’s ruling, the Supreme Court took away the fairness and camaraderie that comes with working in a team. Agency fees are a common-sense, straight-forward way to ensure fairness and protect equity and individual rights. Every educator who enjoys the benefits and protections of a negotiated contract should, in fairness, contribute to maintaining the contract. And fair share simply makes sure that all educators share the cost of negotiations for benefits that all educators enjoy, regardless of whether they are association members.

“Despite today’s decision, we know that public sector workers will continue to organize—in public sector bargaining states and non-bargaining states, in agency fee states and right to work states—because public sector workers know that a union is the best way for all of us to ensure good schools, quality public services and economic prosperity.”

Hey, Supreme Court: What about States’ Rights? (Harris Vs Quinn)

CC DBKING

10thAmendmentIt seems to me that today’s Supreme Court decision was driven more by ideology than by an understanding of how labor unions work in practice.

It seems to me that the Court gave very little consideration to states’ rights, particularly:

  • whether the State of Illinois should have the right to determine which categories of employees it considers to be “state employees” and
  • whether states – as employers – should have the right to decide whether they want to include “agency fee” provisions in their union contracts.

And I’m wondering whether the next SCOTUS decision will strike down states’ rights to decide – for themselves – whether or not to even have public employees’ unions. (Some states have chosen NOT to have public-sector unions. New Hampshire didn’t have public-sector collective bargaining until 1975, when it was established by Republican Governor Mel Thomson.)

Shouldn’t Illinois have the right to decide – for itself – whether the home-based caregivers that it pays with Medicaid money should be considered its “employees” for purposes of collective bargaining?

Shouldn’t Illinois have the right to decide – for itself – whether or not to include an “agency fee” provision in its union contracts?

Maybe I missed it…? But when I read through the decision, I didn’t see a whole lot of respect or deference given to the rights of the Illinois Legislature to set the employment conditions of the people it views as its “employees.”

Every time the New Hampshire Legislature considers a so-called “Right to Work” bill, we hear from private employers that it would infringe on their rights to set working conditions for their employees.

Shouldn’t state governments have that same right?

 

The Supreme Court: LOOKING for Trouble?

TruthOrConsequences

TruthOrConsequencesCan’t help noticing… when SCOTUS goes looking for a case, the Justices can get themselves really far into the weeds.

Case in point:  two years ago, the Court indicated a willingness to “revisit” long-settled precedents on labor unions.  And they ended up with Harris v. Quinn – which could have all kinds of unintended consequences.  (Are they really going to rule that employers can’t fire workers based on who they associate with?  How’s that going to work, if a Homeland Security employee decides to join Al Qaeda?  Or will they rule that Illinois can’t decide the employment conditions of its own employees?  How are all those “States’ Rights” folks going to swallow that?)

The Harris decision is still pending… and it sounds to me like the Court is looking for even more trouble.

According to press reports, SCOTUS is now targeting state laws that prohibit lying about political candidates.  Here’s the WaPo story from yesterday:  Supreme Court suspicious of Ohio law that criminalizes false speech about candidates.

Ok, so… We’re still reeling from a presidential campaign where the concept of “truth” lost big time.

People’s trust in politicians is pretty much at an all-time low.

And now the Supreme Court wants to go after state laws that prohibit lying during political campaigns?  Really gotta wonder.

If the standards used in the Ohio statute sound familiar – “knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard for whether it was false or not” – well, that’s probably because those same standards are used in libel law.

So… If the Supreme Court rules that corporate-money groups trying to influence elections have a First Amendment right to recklessly disregard the truth about political candidates… wouldn’t that also throw a whole lot of libel precedent out the window?

(Can’t help but notice that there are some high-dollar libel lawsuits pending in lower courts.  MediaMatters’ story:  Libel: Will Defamation Suits Doom Three Right-Wing Media Outlets? How will the Ohio decision affect those cases?)

The judiciary is still the most-trusted branch of the federal government.  But that, of course, could change.  Observers describe an increasingly pro-business tilt to SCOTUS decisions.  (How the Chamber of Commerce conquered the Supreme CourtSupreme Court Hands Chamber Of Commerce Blockbuster Pro-Corporate Term)

And, according to researchers, the rest of our government already represents business interests, rather than the average citizen.

The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.

So… what happens if (when?) Average Americans lose trust in all branches of their federal government?

Can’t help but wonder how this is going to play out, long term.

Feel Like There’s A Target On Your Back? Multiple Lawsuits Target Unions

Image by ogimogi 
CC Flikr
Image by ogimogi  CC Flikr

Image by ogimogi
CC Flikr

All these lawsuits asking the Courts to rule against unions?  They’re NOT about First Amendment rights.

And now, one of the groups behind the lawsuits is admitting that.  And they’re saying it’s about stopping public sector unions. 

And they’re even portraying it as a strategic assault. 

Read it for yourself in this week’s National Law Journal: “Courts Should Seize the Opportunity To Disempower Public-Worker Unions” (free registration required).

They’re looking at this as a one-two punch. First: Harris v. Quinn (Supreme Court ruling expected any day now). Then, the NLJ editorial suggests, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association could deliver the final blow.

“Although there may not be five votes to end compulsory dues in the Harris case, Friedrichs v. CTA could provide the pivotal fifth vote for fundamentally re-ordering of public-employee union law.”

While you’re reading… don’t forget to translate!

  1. “Compulsory dues” translates to “union agency fees” (which cover the costs of negotiating and administering the contract, and nothing else.  Agency fees are NOT union “member dues”.).
  2. “Law that requires all public employees to join and support a union as a condition of employment” actually refers to California Government Code Chapter 10, which establishes a framework for teachers to collectively bargain – if they want to.  (Just like NH RSA 273-A provides a framework for collective bargaining; yet New Hampshire has lots of public workers who are not represented by any union.)

Don’t forget to look at the players!

  1. Plaintiffs in the Harris case are being represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation… which is affiliated with the National Right to Work Committee… which those of us here in the Granite State know all-too-well, right?
  2. According to the NLJ editorial, plaintiffs in the Friedrichs case are being represented by the Center for Individual Rights.  Read the Sourcewatch article here.
  3. But according to the actual Court filings in the Friedrichs case… plaintiffs are being represented by the law firm Jones Day.

Yeah, Jones Day.  Seems they’ve been quite active lately. The City of Detroit bankruptcy. The Patriot Coal bankruptcy. The Hostess Brands bankruptcy.   Verizon’s “de-risking” of its pension obligation.

And, can’t forget the Court case over nominations to the National Labor Relations Board.  (Read “How They Won It: Jones Day Invalidates Obama’s NLRB Picks” here.)

Are you feeling targeted yet?

Remember: you’re not the only one being targeted these days, you’ve got lots of company.  Public employees everywhere.  Anyone with a union pension or health care benefits.  Workers, in general.  The middle class.

Education is the best way to fight disinformation campaigns. Please share this with your friends on Facebook, or Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, or other social media.  It’s really easy; just click the buttons on the left.

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