Education Program Gutted for At-Risk Youth at State Facility

SununuYouthServices-Manchester (image by Prime Roofing Corp)

Sununu Youth Services-Manchester (image by Prime Roofing Corp)

School Taking Brunt of Budget Cuts Seen as Suspicious 

The Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC) educational services for the state’s most troubled youth may soon face legal challenges after 75% of targeted budget cuts are taken out on teaching staff.  Services for middle school through high school youth are expected to greatly suffer once personnel reductions of the uniquely qualified teaching staff are completed.

SYSC is the state’s residential detention and school facility for youth ages 13 to 17 who have either been found to be delinquent (SYSC program) or are awaiting that determination (YDSU program). Both programs are approved by NH Dept. of Education Bureau of Special Education to serve students in all disability categories. The programs include academics, special education, electives and vocational training for the youth that are taught in four distinct educational settings within the institution.

“The legislature ordered that $1.25 million dollars be directly cut from SYSC’s budget,” said Diana Lacey, President of SEA/SEIU 1984. “The Legislature also decided to cut an additional $7 million dollars from all of DHHS.”

At issue is the SYSC administration’s strategy for making those budget cuts.  “It defies logic that anyone would put 75% of the cuts on the department that educates the at-risk youth; it’s only going to hurt the kids.  They need their education to become independent and successful adults,” said Brad Asbury, former SYSC employee and current SEA/SEIU 1984 manager working with the educators.

“It took tremendous work to make the school what it is today.  Principal Claire Pstragowski has done a fine job and over the years we’ve seen the difference it’s made for the kids,” said Asbury.

“The teachers have worked tirelessly reaching out to state senators and representatives, executive councilors and the Governor to sound the alarm of what this cut will mean to the kids.  Some also believe there is no coincidence in the administration’s choice to slash the teaching force,” said Jay Ward, Political Director at SEA/SEIU 1984.

Multiple meetings with the administration, area lawmakers, and Governor Maggie Hassan have failed to yield a more balanced approach to the execution of the SYSC specific budget cut.  “We’ve suggested several ways to meet the savings requirement that have not been accepted, and remain suspicious that the teachers’ concerns that they were being specifically targeted are true,” said Ward.

Astutely, teachers had predicted this would happen in early 2012 – several months before legislators first raised the million plus cut in budget hearings.  Newly assigned director to the center, Maggie Bishop, asked teachers at the time to provide unpaid, after school voluntary extracurricular programs to youth.  When the teachers declined, due to legal liability and increased risk concerns, as well as labor law violation likelihood, Bishop expressed concern about the future.

“The teachers reached out to us after the director told them it would be difficult for her to justify their salaries and the cost of running the school in the future,” said Asbury.  The warning given was taken seriously and a later consultation with HHS Commissioner, Nick Toumpas, soon revealed the teachers’ account of the discussion with Bishop wasn’t far off.  “She was in that meeting and admitted she made the statements but that the teachers just took it the wrong way.  Then she said she would issue a request for information to see if there was any interest in privatizing the school and what it would cost.”

The strategy, as described by Bishop in the meeting, would enable her to better manage a budgetary challenge lawmakers might give her in the following budget cycle.

“It was then that the teachers predicted the education department would be gutted in the new budget,” said Lacey.  “More than twenty of them kept saying, she’s coming after us – just wait and see.”

Prior to moving the plan forward, Bishop sought to cut teacher pay by thirteen to twenty percent with an expectation that they would all remain at the school but for a few teaching layoffs.  “We believe that violates current New Hampshire law and is in conflict with the prescribed tools for meeting budget cuts,” said SEA Attorney, Lauren Snow-Chadwick.

“Gutting the education department by a 30% reduction in teaching staff makes no sense.  These kids need their teachers.  It’s very disturbing to think this may have all started as retaliation,” said Lacey.

The current school provides full day instruction to 60-70 youth, with a potential capacity of over 100, through fully certified and highly talented, grade/subject specific teachers.  The design came after a 1990’s class action lawsuit proved the youth’s constitutional rights were being violated because they were not receiving an appropriate education.  The improvements weren’t easily won; a court retained jurisdiction of the suit’s settlement agreement after the plaintiffs raised concerns about the state’s continued compliance.  Eventually, the plaintiffs and court agreed that the state succeeded in delivering an appropriate program.

It is likely, through this action, that the education program at the school will wind up in litigation again.

Interestingly The Center’s belief statement in a 2010 document states:

  • It is our belief every student be enrolled into approved educational programs and courses respective of individual needs.
  • It is our belief and practice that educational programs must be appropriate to the students’ academic potential, and competency-based
  • It is our belief and practice to teach vocational education, which meets the needs of the communities while also meeting the needs and interest of students.

Raise The Wage Coalition Calls For A Minimum Wage Increase

Raise the Wage Coalition Demonstrates Strong Support for HB 1403, Increasing the Minimum Wage in New Hampshire

CONCORD, NH – New Hampshire elected officials, advocates, small business leaders, and community members hosted a press conference in the LOB Lobby this morning, Tuesday, February 11th to introduce HB 1403, raising the minimum wage in New Hampshire.

HB 1403 would raise New Hampshire’s minimum wage in two stages and provide for annual cost of living increases in the future.  It would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour on January 1, 2015 and to $9.00 per hour on January 1, 2016.  Beginning January 1, 2017, it would automatically increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage to account for inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index.

Three-quarters of Granite Staters – including majorities of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats – support increasing the minimum wage to $9 per hour, according to the Granite State Poll released last week. HB 1403 would raise the wages of 76,000 New Hampshire workers in the first two years, stimulating the economy and increasing consumer demand. Elected officials, advocates, small business leaders, and community members spoke at the press conference immediately prior to testifying at the public hearing on HB 1403, where supporters of the bill outnumbered opponents 5 to 1.

Excerpts of statements are as follows:

Remarks by Prime House Sponsor, Rep. Sally Kelly

Seven years ago, as a freshman legislator, I began my service on the Labor Committee and I was proud to stand side-by-side with my Democratic and Republican colleagues as Governor Lynch signed minimum wage legislation into law.

It was the right time then and it is the right time now for both parties and both chambers to come together so New Hampshire citizens no longer have to say that every other New England state pays a higher minimum wage to its workers than we do.  As a state, we are so much better than that. As a retail executive, I am continually aware of the life of small business owners.  Today, our economy is on the rise and the timing for this moderate increase is just right.

Last week’s Granite State poll confirms that this legislation does just that; more than two-third of Granite Staters –76% – support increasing the New Hampshire minimum wage to $9 per hour. That includes 64% of Republicans, 70% of independents, and 91% of Democrats.

 

Remarks by Prime Senate Sponsor, Senator Sylvia B. Larsen

I am proud to be a co-sponsor of House Bill 1403, which would give New Hampshire working families a much needed raise. For the first time since World War II, wages have been declining in this country. Moms and Dads are working harder, but falling further behind. These are families who work hard and play by the rules. They should be able to afford to live with dignity and raise a family. All members of the Legislature talk about helping working families and growing the economy and this bill does just that.

Accelerating New Hampshire’s economic growth is only possible when individuals and working families are confident in their own financial situations. When that happens, their increased spending helps to grow our businesses and our economy. That’s why it’s vital that we restore and increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage. By restoring and increasing the state’s minimum wage, we will help our economy by putting more money in the pockets of hard-working people of all ages. Increasing the minimum wage will go a long way to restoring hope in the American Dream, the faith that by working hard and playing by the rules, you will be able to responsibly support your family.

 

Remarks by Diana Lacey, President of State Employee’s Association, SEIU 1984

SEIU 1984 LogoEvery day, hundreds of state and municipal workers across New Hampshire talk with low-wage workers about the burden that working hard but living with poverty level wages brings upon their families. What they see rings true with the things that the late Nelson Mandela saw, and spoke of in a February 2005 speech on poverty in London’s Trafalgar Square. Mr. Mandela referenced the effects of poverty as being imprisoned, enslaved and chained in the prison of poverty.  His powerful words included this brief excerpt:

“They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

We are one of the wealthiest states in this country and we simply must do our part to lift working people up out of poverty. Passage of this minimum wage bill is an important start.  This is the right bill, at the right time. In lifting up our workers, we will lift up all of New Hampshire. Doing so is an act of justice, and a path to freedom.

 

Remarks by The Rev. William E. Exner

A number of faith leaders gathered for prayer this morning, right across the street from the State House at St. Paul’s. We prayed for a livable minimum wage to be voted into law in the state of New Hampshire, and we prayed for our neighbors who work hard every day, yet whose present earnings keep them locked in poverty and constant need.

We prayed for people like the 43 year old woman with two children who works at a fast food restaurant in our state. The woman’s husband is working, but not full time as his work is seasonal. To help make ends meet, she works her first job from 8 am to 5 pm, then works her second job from 6 pm to 2 am. She and her husband work so hard but still struggle to afford the basics for their family, and to cover the cost of much needed car repairs.

As faith leaders, we are here to urge a change for the better. It’s a moral imperative. The Book of the Prophet Isaiah in the Bible sets the standard when it states, “Look, you are serving your own needs while you oppress all your workers.” The Bible goes on to insist that we become ‘repairers of this unjust breach’, that we become ‘restorers of streets to live in.’ Life without a livable minimum wage lands one on quite another road.  As people of faith we are concerned for our neighbors who are paid at levels that relegate them and their children to poverty. In this state work ought not have poverty as its reward.

 

Remarks by Laura Miller, former Owner of Imagination Village

Miller was the owner of a retail business for 12 years that employed 5 people. She is now a member of the management team of a larger independent retail business that employs 18.

We have always made it a priority to pay a living wage – recognizing that in order to retain employees that help you reach your business goals, you need to pay them decently and give them opportunities to balance work, family, school and community lives. It only makes sense that if your staff is getting what they need, they will be able to focus on doing their best job for you. I am here today to support House Bill 1403, especially the cost of living increment. It is long overdue that we increase the base wage in this country. It is unconscionable that you can work full time and still live below the poverty level.

Increasing the minimum wage reduces the need for government funding of assistance programs such as the earned income tax credit and food stamps, by shifting profits back down to the local level. It keeps money in the local economy as workers need these dollars for housing, food, gas and other consumables. And I know, as other small business leaders know, that increasing the minimum wage helps businesses retain employees. In turn, quality employees can develop within a business, increasing productivity and therefore providing increased value to the enterprise, whether large or small. Raising the minimum wage helps all – it helps workers, the community, and small businesses.

 

Remarks by President Mark S. MacKenzie, New Hampshire AFL-CIO

MacKenzie was unable to attend due to a funeral. His written remarks are below and were read by NH AFL-CIO campaign coordinator Judy Stadtman.

NH AFL-CIO LogoFor New Hampshire’s minimum wage workers, and for all of us, this is about justice and dignity, and the promise of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Thousands of our friends and neighbors struggle to support families while earning the minimum wage. These workers are frequently forced to forgo basics—food, housing, clothing—and far too many rely on public assistance to survive in this economy.

It’s a myth that minimum wage jobs are held by teenagers. Today, less than a quarter of minimum wage workers are teenagers. Most are breadwinners in their families and work full time.  The median age of a low wage worker is 34 years old.  And most minimum wage earners are women. The fact is that minimum and lower wage workers in our state don’t earn enough to support a family. The annual income for a full-time employee making the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is $15,080. Living below the poverty line, these families have little or no hope of providing for a better life for their children. Jobs should lift workers out of poverty, not trap them in poverty.

Passing this bill to raise employee wages would increase purchasing power, create more jobs and boost the New Hampshire economy. More than four out of five economists say the benefits of increasing the minimum wage would outweigh the costs. Further, a study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found raising the minimum wage would create jobs while causing no reduction in the availability of minimum wage jobs.

Raising the minimum wage is crucial to our future economic growth. Five of the six fastest growing sectors of the American economy are in low wage industries – home health aides; customer service representatives; food preparation and serving workers; personal care assistants and retail salespersons. To rebuild a strong middle class and create an economy of shared prosperity, we must pay fair wages in these growing sectors.

————————————————-

HB 1403 was heard by the House Labor Committee. The bill can be found here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2014/HB1403.html

About the Raise the Wage New Hampshire Coalition: The Raise the Wage coalition includes organizational members American Friends Service Committee, America Votes, Economic Justice Mission Group of the United Church of Christ-NH, Every Child Matters, Granite State Progress, Housing Action NH, Interfaith Voices for Humane Public Policy, National Education Association-New Hampshire, New Hampshire AFL-CIO, New Hampshire Child Advocacy Network, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, New Hampshire Kids Count, New Hampshire Legal Assistance, New Hampshire Women’s Initiative, State Employee’s Association of New Hampshire – SEIU Local 1984, and Women’s Fund of NH, in addition to elected officials, community advocates, and small business leaders.

Citation: UNH Survey Center, Granite State Poll, Winter 2014

http://cola.unh.edu/sites/cola.unh.edu/files/research_publications/gsp2014_winter_issues020614.pdf

 

NH-SEA and Governor Hassan Reach Agreement For Employees Impacted By Federal Shutdown

Association, Governor Agree to Allow Furloughs for Workers Who Would Otherwise Be Laid Off

The irresponsible and senseless shutdown of portions of the federal government has entered into its third week and state government is beginning to feel the effect on federally funded programs.  “As the funding for programs begins to dry up, the state of New Hampshire is left to mitigate the after effects to critical programs like WIC, which provides critical assistance for pregnant women, infants and children, or the Social Security disability determinations,” said SEA President Diana Lacey.

Working closely with Governor Hassan, the SEA and the State of New Hampshire have reached an agreement to reduce the harm the shutdown will cause to citizens and state employees if Congress continues its shutdown. The action provides workers that may otherwise face layoff the ability to be partially or fully furloughed on the temporary and unknown basis the shutdown has created. The agreement will only impact workers that are already in positions that are partially or fully funded by federal programs whose funding has run out thanks to the shutdown. The best way workers can help is to call Congress and demand that they end the shutdown. You can reach your representative and senators by calling 1-866-426-2631.

To see Governor Hassan’s press release, click here: http://bit.ly/1cpBY7e.

President Lacey addressed the shutdown’s impact at the SEA Board of Directors meeting on October 10.  After thoroughly discussing the options the contract provides and the uncertainty the shutdown poses, the Board authorized President Lacey to negotiate and enter into such agreement.  “I am so proud that we’re moving together to address this crisis in a way that will have the least impact on critical services.  The State Employees are committed to the work they do even if Congress is not.  We are putting people first, not politics,” said Lacey.

The agreement makes clear that the Board, the Governor, agency heads and employees are all going to work hard to protect NH’s citizens and employees.  A copy of the agreement can be found here: http://bit.ly/1cSdMgv.

NH’s Congressional delegation is working hard; there are at least four votes in Washington  that are keeping us all in mind. Depending on how long the shutdown continues, there may be efforts made to help citizens and employees through this crisis. SEA members have stepped up in other times of crisis, doing food drives for those hardest hit. That may happen again if things don’t turn around.

It is important to note that not all employees that are in federally funded positions will be impacted.  Even those employees that receive a furlough notice may not actually face furlough if the shutdown ends before their two week advanced notice expires.  Different federal programs will run out of money at different times, so employees should not anticipate widespread furloughs at this time.

Some workers may end up with a shortened or modified workweek, depending on which federal program is impacted, particularly if the workers are involved with multiple programs.  That’s why we are developing a frequently asked question document that will be released tomorrow.  Additionally, contracted services may be similarly impacted depending on the funding source, service delivery and payment schedule, and other provisions.  The agreement with the SEA will not prevent contracted services from being harmed; the Governor is working to minimize all impact from the shutdown and we will continue to work together through this crisis.

At Legislator Luncheon, NH Labor Pushes For ‘Job Creating’ Casino Bill

Credit Joe Casey

Credit Joe Casey

Organized labor united in support of “job creating” bill, makes case for expanded gaming at legislative luncheon

Nearly 300 State Representatives packed the State House Cafeteria today for a legislative luncheon in support of SB152, the bill to create jobs and state revenue by licensing a casino in New Hampshire. The luncheon was sponsored by the New Hampshire labor community, and included presentations from Senator Donna Soucy, NEA President Scott McGilvray, SEA representative Jay Ward, Building Trades President and IBEW 490 Business Manager Joe Casey, Representative Ed Butler, and Matthew Landry of Strategic Market Advisors.

NH Building and Construction Trades Council President Joe Casey issued the following statement:

“The turnout today was incredible, even though we were forced to change the venue at the last minute. It’s clear that support for SB152 is building in the House. The Representatives who attended today understand that SB152 will create thousands of jobs and create a critical revenue stream to fund our state’s priorities.

The New Hampshire labor community is united in support of this bill, and the luncheon today was a great opportunity to showcase that. I was proud to stand alongside Scott McGilvray and Jay Ward, and to speak to the importance of this bill to our memberships. For our part, the construction industry needs our legislators to support SB152 in order to create more than $425 million in private investment that will create thousands of jobs. Estimates show SB152 will create 3,165 on-site construction jobs, 567 indirect construction jobs, another 1,087 jobs through increased economic activity due to construction, and 1,949 full time ongoing jobs in operating the casino. Our legislators have an opportunity to stand with New Hampshire’s working men and women by passing SB152, and the great showing we had at the luncheon today shows that many of them are ready to do that.

The anti-gaming lobby tried every dirty trick in the book to try and stop this luncheon from happening – even stooping to bullying St. Paul’s church into canceling it. Their support is slipping every day, and they’re desperate to stop us from being heard. But we will not be intimidated, and we will make sure there is a full, open, and honest debate on this issue in spite of their dirty tactics. We expect to see more of their big money misinformation campaign in the coming weeks, but the people of New Hampshire support this proposal, and momentum is clearly building among our legislators. No amount of dirty tricks and robo calls from the anti-casino lobby can stop that. ”

Sponsors of today’s event include:

NH Building and Construction Trades Council
IBEW 104
IBEW 490
IBEW 2320
Granite State Teamsters
Ironworkers Local 7
NEA NH
NH Troopers Association
Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 131
Professional Fire Fighters of NH
State Employees Association

Prayer and Protest Calls for End to ICE Abuses (From InZane Times)

Editors Note: Immigration reform is a very important issue for many progressives and those in the labor community.  Over the weekend labor joined with community activists to call for real immigration reform.  After the rally Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted raids in southern New Hampshire. ICE stated that the two events were in no way connected, however the way these raids are being conducted are now raising quite a stir.  Below is a special post from Arnie Alpert talking about the impromptu protest to the raids that were conducted.


manchester 4-9-13 008

Forty faith, labor, and community activists prayed, sang, and protested outside Manchester’s Federal Building this afternoon to express outrage about recmanchester 4-9-13 019cropent actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in area homes and  businesses.

ICE agents entered a Nashua home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, roused residents from their beds, and took away two men in shackles.  The men had no criminal remanchester 4-9-13 040cropcords and were released by ICE on Monday, according to a Nashua Telegraph report.  

Also Sunday, a squad of ICE and local police officers entered the El Mexicano Jr. restaurant in Manchester, took away two  customers, asked other customers for ID, and threatened to return. 

The ICE actions reveal a frightening contrast to policies that manchester 4-9-13 044are supposed to place priority on people who could be considered threats to public safety and leave others alone.  The home raid also appears to violate terms of a recent federal court order which bars ICE from warrantless searches.   

Outside the Norris Cotton Federal Building, participants expressed outrage at ICE’s abusive actions.  They also said they will call on the state’s members of Congress to help rein in Imanchester 4-9-13 047CE and act speedily to approve humane immigration policies. 

Nancy Pape, chair of the NH  United Church of Christ Immigration Working Group led the group in a prayer.  Members of the Smanchester 4-9-13 024isters of Mercy  led another.  The program included a rousing rendition of “We Shall Not Be Moved” in Spanish and English, and concluded with “We Shall Overcome.”

The demonstration was organized in a day by the American manchester 4-9-13 033Friends Service Committee, NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, SEIU Locals 615 and 1984, and others involved in support for immigrants’ rights and humane immigration policy,

Activists plan to meet up again at the State House Plaza in Concord on May 1, International Workers Day.  

 

Nashua: Activists Rally For Immigration Reform (From Arnie Alpert)

nashua 4-6-13 100

“The Time is Now”nashua 4-6-13 012 crop

More than a hundred immigrants rights supporters rallied today at Nashua City Hall  and marched to the offices of Senators Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen to call for reforms centered on a clear and direct path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the USA. 

Rally speakers included Eva Castillo of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees; the Rev. Tom Woodward of the Granite State Organizing Project; Juan Zamudio, a student at Derryfield School in Manchester; Marisol Saavedra, a Nashua student; and Carols Escobar of SEIU  nashua 4-6-13 040cropLocal 615.

In many years of working across the US, I saw time and time again bosses use the broken immigration system to mistreat, intimidate, underpay and over work undocumented workers,” said Escobar, an Ecuadoran immigrant who works as a janitor in Nashua. 

“When employers pay lower wages to some workers, all workers are affected and standards are lowered for everyone,” the Local 615 member added.

Participants included union members, faith community leaders, and otnashua 4-6-13 014cropher social justice activists adding their bodies and voices to the movement calling on Congress to act now for humane immigration policies. 

Following the brief rally, the crowd marched north into Nashua’s downtown shopping district and crossed over to the east side of the road by the office of Senator Kelly Ayotte.  There, they taped a giant letter to the window, where marchers added their signatures to a statement calling for commonsense immigration reform that fosters unity.

nashua 4-6-13 031“The time for action is long overdue and there is bipartisan agreement on moving forward,” the statement said.  “A reform package that includes a path to citizenship makes economic sense and is true to our ideals as a nation.  Taking action now makes sense politically, as well, since the American public supports immigration reform.”

Marchers continued northward to Senator Shaheen’s office where another letter was taped to the window for signatures. 

The program concluded with a statement from Germano Martins, a member of the State Employees Association (SEIU Local 1984) followed by a prayer led by the Rev. Sandra Pontoh of the Maranatha Indonesian United Church of Christ. nashua 4-6-13 109

The organizing committee included SEIU Locals 615 and 1984, the NH AFL-CIO, NH Civil Liberties Union, Lutheran Social Services, the Granite State Organizing Project, the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, the United Church of Christ Immigration Working Group, and the American Friends Service Committee.

Another rally will take place at State House Plaza in Concord at noon on Wednesday, May 1.

nashua 4-6-13 006crop

nashua 4-6-13 019  nashua 4-6-13 021  nashua 4-6-13 028  nashua 4-6-13 051  nashua 4-6-13 076crop

 

All images credit to Arnie Alpert and Inzane Times.

Reposted with permission from InZane Times (Original Link)

The State Employees’ Association Recaps The Right To Work For Less (HB323) Hearing

A message from our friends at the State Employees’ Association of NH (SEIU 1984)

O’Brien and Co. Continue RTW Crusade

Rep. William O’Brien continued his crusade to bring right-to-work (for less) to New Hampshire on Wednesday, testifying in favor of his bill before the House labor committee.

While the bill may have a new name – the Franklin Partin act, after an anti-union activist – the arguments and attacks are the same. Sponsors promised economic growth if the state adopted the legislation.

As an example, the unseated NH Speaker of the House pointed to the case of Caterpillar Inc.’s relocation to Indiana after that state adopted right-to-work (for less) legislation. But SEA President Diana Lacey tore up that example during her testimony, noting Caterpillar pays its Indiana workers poverty-level wages.

“The move had nothing to do with Indiana’s right-to-work bill,” Lacey said. “Those two things coincided in 2012, although this process started in 2009,” when Caterpillar opened a factory there to take advantage of the depressed economy.

Despite his own twisting of facts, O’Brien still charged that opposition to right-to-work (for less) is often emotional, “because that’s where you turn when you’re short on facts.” O’Brien was then followed by the bill co-sponsors, including an, at-times, rambling Rep. Al Baldasaro, whose testimony was heavy on emotion and light on facts.

In arguing that the bill would make the state more fertile for job creation, Baldasaro mentioned that his children had to leave the state to find jobs.

“They can’t come back home, because the jobs aren’t here,” Baldassaro said.

Rep. Sally Kelly then pointed out that the states Baldasaro’s children work in, Massachusetts and Maine, are not right-to-work (for less) states, either.

This, of course, isn’t the first time O’Brien has pursued right-to-work legislation in New Hampshire. The last time, in 2011, he repeatedly delayed a final vote in order to get enough support. Still, the bill, that former Gov. John Lynch vetoed fell short of the votes needed to override the veto.

Ray Buckley, the state Democratic Party leader, noted the consistent rejection of such legislation here in his testimony.

“The reality is, there has always been a consensus in state government that they should not interfere in the rights of management and labor to collectively bargain,” Buckley said. “There is absolutely no evidence this legislation will give any benefit to New Hampshire companies, its workers and its families.”

There were some lighter moments, a marked difference from the intense hearing on the bill that took place two years ago.

Former Rep. David Welch drew laughs when he noted that he his eventual opposition to the bill came with consequences.

“I lost my election because of this issue,” Welch said, though he eventually realized “all the emails I got about the union thugs, it turns out the thugs are not in the unions.”

The biggest laughs, though, came when John Kalb, the director of New England Citizens for Right to Work, was asked if he could name any high-paying non-union shops.

Kalb’s completely straight-faced answer? “Goldman Sachs.”

The two hour and forty-five minute hearing ended without the committee making any recommendation on the bill.

Another thing that went wrong in the Bush Economy

Watch this employer-recruitment video produced back in 2004 by the National Corrections Industry Association in partnership with the US Department of Justice:

Yep, if you’re a business, that’s certainly one way to “control labor costs”.  You don’t have to pay health benefits; you don’t have to pay overtime; you don’t even have to pay minimum wage.

If you’ve been watching the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) closely, this probably isn’t a big surprise.  ALEC has been pushing “prison industry enhancement” (PIE) laws at the state level for about 20 years.   Read “The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor” in The Nation here.

Industry spokesmen describe the program as a “win-win” – but that’s from their perspective.

“I asked an NCIA spokesperson how private companies can get away with what could reasonably be described as forced labor. He explained that the PIE program classifies certain work functions as a ‘service’ rather than an actual ‘job’, and therefore is not subject to [restrictions in a 1979 federal law]. Conveniently, then, the backbreaking work of picking crops in the blistering sun counts as a ‘service’, so prisoners can be paid even less than the immigrants who have traditionally performed this work.”

(Yes, of course there’s a Wal-Mart connection.  Read about it in the British newspaper The Guardian, here.)

Here’s how the prison labor system works in Arizona: 

  • State law requires all able-bodied prisoners to work.
  • “Arizona statute requires that all inmates that are making $2 per hour will have deductions of 30% to offset the cost of their incarceration. In addition, thirty percent of the prisoner’s wages will be deducted for court ordered restitution.”  (Are you doing the math here?  Sounds like the inmates actually receive 80 cents an hour for their work.)
  • Nevermind the recession, the prison labor business is growing.  The number of inmate hours worked during FY12 was up 8.5% over FY11.  Room and board “contributions” were up by 9.8%.  Sales were up.  Profits were up.  Arizona Correctional Industries added new products and new customers, and “are currently working on finalizing contracts that will help grow our telemarketing and service business.”  (ACI helpfully explainsHow we do it: We provide a positive learning experience for all of our workers.  We balance our home and business life.  We continually strive to improve our quality focusing on Lean Continuous improvement.  We are passionately involved in making the customer happy.”)
  • Arizona is now leading the nation in efforts to crack down on those same immigrants who used to pick crops.  Read National Public Radio’s “Prison Economics Help Drive Arizona Immigration Law” here.

Think about that employer-recruitment video that was funded by the Bush Administration in 2004:

“I have a workforce that doesn’t have car problems, or baby sitter problems et cetera.  They’re always here, and they’re always willing to come to work.”

“The situation here allows us to be able to control costs far more than we could in the past.”

“Partnerships between correctional industries and private business are a rapidly growing segment of a multi-billion dollar industry in America.”

“Bring us your business challenge.  Chances are, there’s a nearby correctional facility that can supply dependable labor, enhance your competitiveness, and increase your profitability.”

Now, think about the growth in the non-violent inmate population.

  • As of 2008, non-violent offenders made up over 60 percent of the prison and jail population.
  • If incarceration rates had tracked violent crime rates, the incarceration rate would have fallen to less than one third of the actual 2008 level.

Don’t you think something went terribly, terribly wrong?


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New Hampshire is considering privatizing the NH correctional facilities. We cannot let that happen. 

Local Government Center Rhetoric Does Not Match Reality

An emergency board meeting of the Local Government Center was held last week in regards to dealing with the implementation of the Hearings Officer’s Order (Final Order) in the matter of the “State of NH vs. Local Government Center et. el”.  A statement from the Executive Director was issued post meeting.

The Executive Director claims (LGC ED Message) that the requirement to purchase reinsurance will add $5 million to the rates. A look at the financials suggests otherwise. Page 5 of the 2011 financials (2011 Audited Financials ) notes two things, first that there are no claims over $1million dollars (minimizing the cost of reinsurance) and second an actual cost of ½% of contributions for reinsurance . Based on the current health insurance contribution of 400 million dollars, this equals a cost of approximately $2 million, not $5 million as overstated by the Executive Director.

“Here is where the rhetoric falls far short of the reality. Just look and compare the financials 2010 to 2011, it appears the LGC reduced the amount of dollars for reserve by 18% from the previous year, and then they further collected 4% more in contributions while experiencing an increase in claims cost of only 1%*. What does this mean to those paying the bills? The LGC kept more money, while their net assets (surplus) grew by 19% or $20.5 million,” stated Dave Lang, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of NH.

“The management of the Local Government Center would have us all believe that in order to save us $2 million or $5 million for that matter in our rates they need to keep $106,155,206 the 2011 net asset balance. NH citizens expect a level of transparency when it comes to their local governments. These repeated actions by the Local Government Center defy on all accounts that expectation,” continued Lang.

An excerpt found on page 5 of the 2011 Financials

LGC HealthTrust purchased stop loss excess coverage to help defer the impact of large claims. LGC HealthTrust retained the first $1,000,000 of each claim through June 30, 2010; the stop loss carrier reimburses amounts above that level. LGC HealthTrust paid .5% of contributions for reinsurance. HealthTrust eliminated the purchase of stop loss reinsurance as of July 1, 2010. The Board asked the actuary to assess the risk of the elimination of this coverage. The actuary’s opinion noted HealthTrust had not sustained a claim over $1,000,000. The actuary also noted HealthTrust’s level of Risk Based Capital and size gave it the ability to eliminate this coverage and the resulting cost of purchasing reinsurance. Eliminating the purchase of reinsurance reduces the cost of coverage to member groups.

*A calculated explanation of President Lang’s explanation with page references found in the 2011 Financials (web link provided above):

Statewide Watch Group Shines Light On Prison Privatization

Cross-posted from SEA / SEIU 1984 Blog

Image from NH Prison Watch .Org

The issue of privatizing New Hampshire prisons will be the topic of a series of panel discussions and documentary screenings between now and the end of the month.

The 45-minute film, “Billions Behind Bars,” explores the for-profit industry that is rapidly growing across the U.S – generating incredible revenue for shareholders and CEO’s from the incarceration of individuals.  Locally, New Hampshire’s Department of Corrections is currently reviewing proposals from for-profit companies seeking to build and operate its state prisons.

Evidence shows that private prisons do not save money. In fact, they frequently cost states more than publicly operated facilities. They are more dangerous than publicly run prisons, and they raise key moral issues.  Questions to be discussed include whether the state faces an inherent conflict between allowing profit-making prisons to operate and a moral obligation to rehabilitate prisoners.

The events are free and open to the public.

The CNBC documentary “Billions Behind Bars,” will be shown courtesy of NHPrisonWatch, a group of organizations that oppose prison privatization. To learn more visit www.NHPrisonWatch.org.

  • Nov. 14, 7 p.m. at the Congregational Church in Exeter, 21 Front St., Exeter.
  • Nov. 19, 5:30 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall Theatre, 40 Main St., Wilton.
  • Nov. 26, 7 p.m. at Keene State College, the Mabel Brown Room, Young Student Center, 229 Main St. Keene.
  • Nov. 27, 6 p.m. at the Red River Theatres, 11 S. Main St., Concord.