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State Employees Association (SEIU 1984) Bargaining Senate Approves Tentative Agreement On New Contract

SEIU 1984 LogoConcord, NH – Last evening the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Master Bargaining Team presented the details of a potential tentative agreement to the organization’s Collective Bargaining Senate (CBS).  Following Collective Bargaining Advisory Committee Chair, Jim Nall’s presentation of new changes to the contract, the standing room only crowd rewarded the team with a standing ovation.

Following a lengthy Q&A session, the CBS overwhelmingly voted to adopt the proposal as a Tentative Agreement and to send it out to the general membership for a vote with the recommendation to ratify.

“This team worked long and hard to get to this point,” said Jim Nall.  “I can tell you this is the best team I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  They dug in, they gave each point due diligence, and they kept their cool throughout this long process.  And, I assure you the fruit of their labor is not a concessionary Tentative Agreement .”

“I congratulate the members of the bargaining team for a job well done,” said Rich Gulla, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 president.  “I think few people realize the level of commitment that serving fellow union members in this capacity takes.  It takes countless hours of their time; it involves hundreds of hours of research and discussion; and it involves potentially difficult conversations with the state’s team. I salute each member for their dedication and the Tentative Agreement they have brought forward.”

“I would also like to commend the state’s Bargaining Team for their efforts,” said Gulla. “Working together, the respective bargaining teams arrived at a fair contract that supports state workers for their many daily contributions to the citizens and visitors of the state.  The Tentative Agreement will now go to our members at large and if it is expediently ratified, the changes will be incorporated in the Governor’s budget proposal.”

Governor Maggie Hassan issued the following statement:

“Our hard-working state employees and the critical services that they provide make a positive impact on the lives of New Hampshire’s citizens each and every day. Despite a smaller workforce with fewer positions and a higher vacancy rate since 2008, they continue to serve our citizens well and do more with less in the face of ever-tightening budgets.

“This is a fair agreement for both employees and taxpayers that will provide modest cost-of-living raises for employees that will be included as part of our upcoming biennial budget. In addition, we have maintained the coordination of health care that strengthens the well-being of state employees and helps generate significant savings for the state, while protecting both parties should a potential ‘Cadillac tax’ on health insurance benefits cause undue financial impact.

“This agreement is another important step toward maintaining fiscal responsibility while supporting our hard-working state employees, and I thank the SEA leadership team and state negotiators for their good-faith efforts to find common ground and reach a deal that is fair to all parties.”

Key points include:

  • A 2% wage increase in January 2016; and a 2% wage increase in January 2017
  • No increases in healthcare deductibles, co-payments or prescriptions
  • The immortalization of lay-off procedures
  • A small increase in dental contributions, which will result in significantly increased coverage
  • An increase in term life benefits at no cost to employees
  • Moving longevity pay from December to November
  • A footwear reimbursement for applicable positions of up to $200 per two year contract cycle

The agreement is subject to ratification by a vote of SEA membership, and the changes will be incorporated in the Governor’s upcoming budget proposal.

The Tentative Agreement will now be mailed to all members of the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Executive Branch bargaining unit with a ballot for their vote.  SEA/SEIU Local 1984 represents the majority of state employees

Time to Close the State’s Tax Loopholes (Op-Ed By Rich Gulla Pres. NH SEA-SEIU1984)

HB 634First of Several Bills Aimed at Closing Tax Loopholes to Be Heard Monday

Rich Gulla President SEA-SEIU1984

Rich Gulla President SEA-SEIU1984

A recent study revealed that the wealthiest earners in our state are not paying their fair share of taxes. The top 1% income earners in the state paid an effective tax rate of 2.4%, while the lowest 20% of income earners in the state paid an effective tax rate of 8.6%. It is not hard to recognize that not everyone is paying their fair share in this equation. At the same time we continue to fall short of effectively funding critical needs like affordable higher education and maintaining our state’s infrastructure, things that help strengthen our economy and encourage economic growth.

While some New Hampshire residents are struggling to afford high property taxes, the wealthiest among us are enjoying the benefits of tax loopholes. In order to reduce property taxes, and fund the critical services of the State, State policy makers should consider closing the State’s tax loopholes.   By far the largest loophole concerns individual sales of investments and stocks. Currently, the sale of investments (called “capital gains”) by businesses is already taxed under the State business profits tax, and corporate dividends paid to individuals are taxed under the State interest and dividends tax. However, the sale of investments by individuals is not taxed at all, including stock sales and day trades on Wall Street by persons in New Hampshire.

It may come as no surprise that about two-thirds of the revenue that would come from closing this loophole would come from the top 1% income earners in the State. If this loophole were closed, and property tax relief was actually provided, we could fund critical services of the State and our system of taxation would treat the average Granite Stater much more fairly.

Some other tax loopholes should be closed as well.   In 2012, the Legislature passed – over Governor John Lynch’s veto – a loophole that allows individuals to form trusts to avoid paying the State’s interests and dividends tax.

Essentially, everyone who receives interest and dividend income pays a 5% interest and dividends tax, unless they are able to hire a lawyer that specializes in creating certain trusts, then they pay 0%. This loophole should be closed.

Lastly, some businesses don’t always pay the State’s business profits tax because their assets are located off-shore. This too should be closed.

The State is facing very difficult financial times. The average Granite Stater isn’t exploiting tax loopholes, they are meeting their responsibilities and in doing so are often struggling to pay their property taxes. It is time for State policy makers to close these loopholes, fund critical State services, and help move New Hampshire forward — for everyone, not just the wealthy.

Why We Organize: The Fight For $15

For RespectEvery workers deserves respect.  

We work hard, and only ask to be paid fairly.  For many low-wage workers, work is more like slavery. They work hours on end, making scraps and living in poverty.  For hundreds of thousands of workers in the greater Los Angeles area, living on California’s (higher than average) minimum wage is just not enough to survive.  Workers in LA have come together with local union organizers to Fight for $15.

They are asking for Mayor Garcetti to help improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of workers in the greater LA area.

Workers all across LA are fighting to build a better future for our families. The truck drivers that deliver the clothes on our backs, the fast food workers who serve us our food on the go, warehouse and retail workers that help fill our holidays with cheer, and the car wash workers who keep LA’s beloved automobiles shiny… We are the backbone of our economy and we have joined together to fight for our rights!

We will not back down until there is change!

Mayor Garcetti, support our fight to improve the lives of the hundreds of thousands of workers that keep the city running.

Sign the petition 

Look at the faces of the people who are organizing in the Fight for $15 in LA.  They are not children, they are everyday Americans, just like you and me.  They are hard workers.  They have families of their own.  They just want to be paid a living wage.

FIGHT FOR $15!

Watch the video on YouTube 

Unions Applaud President Obama’s “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order

White House PensToday is a monumental day for federal workers and those who work for federal contractors.   Today President Obama made it very clear that he would no longer tolerate the mistreatment of workers who are being paid for with money from the US Government.

The White House Press Secretary explains:

“As part of this Year of Action, the President will sign an Executive Order that will require prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations and will give agencies more guidance on how to consider labor violations when awarding federal contracts. Although many contractors already play by the rules, and federal contracting offers already must assess a contractor’s record of integrity, these officers still may not necessarily know about companies’ workplace violations. The new process is also structured to encourage companies to settle existing disputes, like paying back wages. And finally, the Executive Order also ensures that workers are given the necessary information each pay period to verify the accuracy of their paycheck and workers who may have been sexually assaulted or had their civil rights violated get their day in court by putting an end to mandatory arbitration agreements at corporations with large federal contracts.”

“By cracking down on federal contractors who break the law, the President is helping ensure that all hardworking Americans get the fair pay and safe workplaces they deserve.”

While Congress is rushing around to finish their last sessions before leaving on a month long vacation, the President using his executive authority to do what Congress is incapable of doing.

“Once again, the President is leading by example. Establishing the principle that if you are breaking the law, you don’t get to do business with the biggest employer in the country — the federal government,” said Joseph Geevarghese, deputy director of Change to Win. “Just like the executive order raising the minimum wage had a ripple effect across the economy, we hope that this bold step by the President sends a clear signal to the private sector that you need to do right by your workers.”

“Taxpayers shouldn’t reward lawbreakers that bust unions, steal wages and endanger workers,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “President Obama is right to make it harder for companies that abuse workers to receive federal contracts.”

Many who have worked for years, if not decades, pushing for an Executive Order that would protect workers, paid high praise to President Obama for his leadership.

“From raising wages to workplace protections, President Obama is showing strong leadership where it’s needed most,” said Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President. “Today’s executive order is a common sense measure that will make our contracting system fairer. Preventing tax dollars from being funneled to chronic violators of workers’ rights is good for workers, our economy and companies who play by the rules. When Congress shows the same leadership, all workers will be better off.”

“By signing this executive order, President Obama has demonstrated his continued commitment to protecting the rights of American workers,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “This action will help protect the wages and lives of millions of Americans by giving the government tools to identify and fix workplace violations committed by companies that hold federal contracts. President Obama is right to use his authority to ensure that the federal government leads in the fight for good jobs, protects taxpayer dollars and makes sure the government gets good value for the goods and services it purchases.

“I commend President Obama for signing an executive order that will hold companies that receive significant taxpayer dollars more accountable for their actions,” said Dennis Williams, President of the United Auto Workers. “The president’s order will help tens of millions of workers have a better workplace environment and will create a level playing field for businesses that do the right thing. Today’s announcement is yet another example of the president’s tireless work to improve workplace safety and employees rights.”

“The UAW is proud to stand with President Obama — a president who has stood by hard working Americans! This is another step in the right direction to help rebuild the middle class and strengthen our economy,” Williams said.

“Today, President Obama took a stand for American workers by signing an executive order that will promote fairer and safer workplaces for employees of government contractors,” said Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworker Union. “While many federal contractors already play by the rules and try to treat their workers fairly, thousands of hard-working Americans end up being denied the pay they deserve, or being exposed to health and safety risks, because some contractors insist on cutting corners in the name of profits.”

This is a major step forward to ensure that all workers get what they rightfully earned and those who cheat will not be rewarded. Here are some of the ways the President Obama is going to be cracking down on government contractors.

  1. Hold Corporations Accountable
  2. Crack Down on Repeat Violators
  3. Promote Efficient Federal Contracting 
  4. Protect Responsible Contractors
  5. Focus on Helping Companies Improve
  6. Give Employees a Day in Court
  7. Give Employees Information About their Paychecks
  8. Streamline Implementation and Overall Contractor Reporting

    (You can read the full press release with expanded descriptions of each of these points here.)

“Holding contractors to basic labor standards not only ensures that the federal government is getting the proper value for its dollar, it will protect responsible contractors in the marketplace from unfair competition by unethical employers who profit from their violations of the labor and employment laws that all employers are required to respect,” continued SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.

The SEUI and Good Jobs Nation have been working to organize low-wage fast food workers both inside and outside the government. Yesterday, low-wage federal contract workers who are part of Good Jobs Nation went on strike for the 9th time to call for an end to wage theft, living wages and benefits, and the right to collectively bargain. They are on the front lines when it comes to the horrors of wage theft and maleficence from government contractors.

“The current system doesn’t do enough to ensure taxpayer dollars only go to responsible employers. It’s difficult to know about a company’s record of compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and others laws that protect working families. That’s why President Obama’s action today is so important. With more than 20 percent of Americans working for companies that do business with the federal government, this executive order will have a real impact on the lives of workers,” concluded Kay Henry.

“Today’s announcement builds on years of work by UFCW members and our partner unions to create a system that is fairer for workers and encourages a race to the top when it comes to labor standards,” said Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “These efforts included a 2013 resolution passed unanimously by delegates to the UFCW convention calling on the creation of a ‘High Road’ procurement process.”

All in all this order is about protecting workers in every sector of the government.

“In the last several years, the meat and poultry industries have received over 1 billion dollars from taxpayers. Many workers in these industries work full-time yet are not paid enough to support themselves or their families. They also must endure dangerous workplace conditions and chronic underreporting of injuries by their employers,” continued Hansen. “This executive order sends a message that companies who engage in this type of anti-worker activity must change the way they do business or lose access to their government contracts.”

Others took this announcement as chance to once again to highlight the dysfunction of our current Congress.

“With this order, President Obama has sent the message that in the United States, we put people ahead of profits, as he has throughout his time in the Oval Office,” continued USW President Leo Gerard. “Sadly, we have a Republican Congress that takes the opposite approach. Because they are more interested in giving handouts to their wealthy donors than in helping working Americans, the President is forced to take action on his own.”

“We welcome this action by President Obama and call on everyone in Washington to follow his example and start working together to make life better for all American workers and their families,” concluded Gerard.

All in all it was a good day for workers, a bad day for corporations who cheat, and a good day for the American taxpayers who will see savings from the new contracting process.

“I want to thank President Obama, Secretary of Labor Perez, and all those involved in crafting this executive order. Today’s announcement is an important first step in ensuring our government is doing everything in its power to protect America’s workers,” concluded UFCW President Joe Hansen.

Related post: The Government Is The Largest Creator Of Low-Wage Jobs – by Matt Murray

The AFL-CIO and SEIU Respond To Congressmen Ellison And Lewis’ Legislation To Make Unions A Civil Right

Yesterday Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and John Lewis (D-GA) introduced legislation to make it easier for workers to organize and form unions.  They are making changes to the National Labor Relations Act the would make the formation of unions a civil right.

Here is a great introduction to the bill from the Washington Examiner:

“Ellison and Lewis’ legislation would dramatically expand the powers individual workers have under the act by allowing them to sue their employer in federal court under the Civil Rights Act.

The bill would also entitle workers filing lawsuits “to remedies like punitive and compensatory damages,” according to a Tuesday press release.

Currently most unfair labor practice complaints go through the National Labor Relations Board, which was created expressly for that purpose. Some labor disputes are handled by a second entity, the National Mediation Board. Big Labor has long complained the process is too slow.”

Read the full article.

After Representatives Keith Ellison and John Lewis introduced the “Employee Empowerment Act,” Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), issued the following statement:

“This important piece of legislation introduced today by Representatives Ellison and Lewis is emblematic of their deep commitment to workers’ rights and steadfast opposition to discrimination and intimidation anywhere, particularly at the workplace. The bill gives employees whose labor rights are violated the same legal remedies as those whose civil rights are violated at the workplace.

“Too often, employees seeking to unite with their co-workers to demand better wages, benefits and workplace safety provisions face aggressive and often illegal anti-union campaigns coordinated by their employer. Intimidation, illegal firings, wrongful discipline and other tactics aimed at breaking workers’ will are commonplace when they seek to join together on the job.

“Along with Representatives Ellison and Lewis, we believe that workers have the right to stick together and that there are powerful interests dead set on stripping them of that right. In order for workers to be heard, it’s often necessary to band together so companies take them seriously. Too many employers try to prevent this so they can limit workers’ power. Collective bargaining enables employees unite as a group so they can speak with a more powerful voice.

“We thank Representatives Ellison and Lewis for their leadership and hope that House leadership will take up this bill without delay.”

After the announcement  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement on Employee Empowerment Act:

Once again, Representatives Keith Ellison and John L. Lewis are leading in the fight to improve the lives of millions of hardworking Americans. The Employee Empowerment Act represents a crucial step towards ensuring that all workers are able to organize without the threat of retaliation and that workers will have full recourse available to them when employers interfere with their rights.

Eighty years ago, Congress made it the policy of the U.S. government to encourage the practice of collective bargaining – not just to tolerate it, but to expand it. Our economy was built on workers forming unions and engaging in collective bargaining. Further strengthening these rights is important to economic fairness. We need comprehensive changes to the law to strengthen workers’ collective bargaining rights, and the Employee Empowerment Act is an important piece of those reforms. By beefing up the remedies for workers who face discrimination or retaliation by their employers for trying to form or join a union, the bill strengthens worker protections and puts remedies under our labor laws on par with our civil rights laws. This helps better protect workers’ rights to organize and, when passed, will benefit workers and our entire economy.

Sununu Youth Center Tosses Aside More of Its Teaching Staff

Budget Cuts Destroy Promises Made to at Risk Youth 

Last week, nine staff members at Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC) saw their careers upended.  All were moved into other career paths, some with no clear connection to their work history. One part-time employee was laid off completely.  Six of the nine affected workers were teachers.  This action decimates the education department as a whole.

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. Classes are in session year round at SYSC.

“This is the third round of significant cuts to SYSC in six years.  These kids require intensive services to in order to turn their lives around and to be safe while on that path. Education is the bedrock that will help them find future success,” said Diana Lacey, President SEA/SEIU Local 1984.

At issue is the SYSC administration’s strategy for making $1.25 million in budget cuts.  “It defies logic that anyone would cut the teaching staff by half at an institution that educates the at-risk youth,” said Brad Asbury, former SYSC employee and current SEA/SEIU 1984 manager working with the educators.  “The youth are paying the price for a conflict that began between the teachers and Director Maggie Bishop two years ago. They predicted this would happen well before budget writers took aim at them.”

“We’ve talked with half of the affected employees so far,” said Sean Bolton, SEA/SEIU 1984 Grievance Representative. “Based on our initial analysis, SYSC management inappropriately applied the state’s personnel rules to every affected employee except for one part-time teacher.” SEA/SEIU 1984 will be investigating the matter.

“This situation is ridiculous and putting us in harm’s way,” said Will Flowers, one of the teachers whose position was not directly affected.  “We are down to nine classroom teachers. Tell me, how’s that going to work?”  Flowers said the safe teacher/student ratio is five to six students per teacher.  “Any more than that in a classroom, you can’t watch them,” he said.  “Just last week there was a fight between two students because there were too many students in the classroom.  Without adequate staffing, our students are at risk of hurting themselves or others, as well as not having a shot at receiving effective instruction.” There are typically 60 or more residents at the facility.

“Many of the students go to vocational training,” said Flowers. “Many of them can’t read or write, so they learn a trade here.”  Flowers has been teaching culinary arts at SYSC for 18 years.

“It’s interesting that the Governor who is the ‘education governor’ and all about special education would support the gutting of the education program.  I guess it’s fine for kids with special education needs who can afford it, but not necessary for these kids,” Flowers said.  Many of the youth at the center have been identified as having special education needs.

“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.  There is no coincidence in the administration’s choice to slash the teaching force,” said Jay Ward, Political Director at SEA/SEIU 1984. “The quality of the educational services at the Center is well known. You don’t cut it if you want to see youth succeed.”

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.

Home Care Workers Vow to Stand Up for Good Jobs and Quality Home Care in Wake of Harris v. Quinn Ruling

Caregivers to Work with States and Consumers to Ensure a Strong Voice for Care

WASHINGTON, DC – Home care workers and consumers are ready to stand up for quality home care in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn today.

“No court case is going to stand in the way of home care workers coming together to have a strong voice for good jobs and quality home care,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “At a time when wages remain stagnant and income inequality is out of control, joining together in a union is the only proven way home care workers have of improving their lives and the lives of the people they care for.”

The ruling places at risk a system of consumer-directed home care in Illinois that has proven successful in raising wages, providing affordable health care benefits, and increasing training. The number of elderly Americans will increase dramatically in the coming years. States need to build a stable, qualified workforce to meet the growing need for home care—and having a strong union for home care workers is the only approach that has proven effective.

“I count on my home care provider for so much—I wouldn’t be able to work or get through the day without her,” said Rahnee Patrick, a home care consumer and advocate from ACCESS Living in Chicago.” “I’m worried that I could lose her if her wages and benefits don’t keep up with the cost of living.”

The case was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an extreme anti-worker group whose funders include billionaires like Charles Koch and the Walton family. It is the latest in a decades-long attack on the rights of working people to join together to improve their jobs and the quality of services they provide.

“They are trying to divide us and limit our power, but we won’t stop standing together for our families and our consumers” said Flora Johnson, a home care provider from Chicago. “Before we formed our union, I made less than $6 an hour, but by uniting we are set to make $13 an hour by the end of the year. I know from experience that we are stronger together.”

“For our parents and grandparents to get the care they need to live at home, workers need a strong voice in a union,” Henry said. “I know that Flora Johnson other SEIU members are determined to keep up the fight to end poverty wages and ensure quality care.”

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

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?

 

After SCOTUS Destroyed The Voting Rights Act, Labor Leaders Call On Congress To Protect Voters

“The right to vote is precious and almost sacred, and one of the most important blessings of our democracy,” wrote Rep. John Lewis. “Today we must be vigilant in protecting that blessing.”

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

 

The 1960’s were a tumultuous time in America, especially for Americans of color. The battle for civil rights was being played out in city streets across the country. The evening news was full of demonstrations and rallies where people were gathering to fight for equality, and to be allowed their Constitutionally protected right to participate in our democracy.

Demonstrations, walkouts and sit-ins led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Both laws pushed America in new bold new direction, working to ensure everyone has a voice in our democracy. For decades Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act, to ensure that everyone, regardless of color, had the right to vote.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, which severely undermined the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court ruling threatened the voting rights of millions of Americans.

Rep John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis

“Today, the Supreme Court stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most effective pieces of legislation Congress has passed in the last 50 years,” said Congressman John Lewis after the Supreme Court ruling in 2013.

“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

Representative Lewis continued, “I disagree with the court that the history of discrimination is somehow irrelevant today. The record clearly demonstrates numerous attempts to impede voting rights still exist, and it does not matter that those attempts are not as “pervasive, widespread or rampant” as they were in 1965. One instance of discrimination is too much in a democracy.”

“Despite the Court’s opinion, voter discrimination based on race is not a thing of the past—it is a current reality that persists to this day,” said Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “We saw efforts to disenfranchise African American and Latino voters in the 2012 election cycle in Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and elsewhere – but voters there were protected by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. In the wake of the Shelby decision, many of these jurisdictions rushed to implement new laws in time for the 2014 election cycle – the same unfair and discriminatory voting practices that had been rejected by the Department of Justice and the Federal Courts under the Voting Rights Act.

After the Supreme Court ruling, a handful of states moved quickly to push new “Voter ID” laws that have notoriously disenfranchised voters of color. Texas also rammed through their new gerrymandered districts that, prior to this decision, would have required a pre-clearance from the Department of Justice.

“Since 2010, 22 states have passed new voting restrictions that make it more difficult to vote,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said, citing a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice. “Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, seven of those have new restrictions in place.”

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on Senator Leahy’s bill to restore the Voting Rights Act.

“In the audience for Wednesday’s hearing was Ernest Montgomery, a member of the Calera City Council in Alabama and one of several black residents who intervened in the Shelby County lawsuit to try to protect pre-clearance. He said any update to the Voting Rights Act should restore pre-clearance for Alabama.” (Burlington Free Press)

“It would make our state leaders much more cautious about having any more violations and make sure we do the right thing,” Montgomery said.

After a year of waiting, and the unparalleled attacks on voting rights, we have seen a renewed effort for Congress to pass a new Voting Rights Act.

“That is why Members of Congress must come together and develop a fix to the Voting Rights Act – as the Court’s majority opinion recommended – that protects all Americans’ right to vote, regardless of who they are and where they live,” Henry stated. “We are hopeful that Congress can work together to restore the protections against racial discrimination that the Voting Rights Act is meant to provide for all Americans.”

“Fully restoring the Voting Rights Act is one of the only ways to give every American the fundamental right to participate in our democracy. Today’s bipartisan hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act is the first step in the fight to restore voting rights, the lifeblood of our democracy,” stated Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

“Our elected leaders should do everything in their power to make our democracy more accessible,” continued Weingarten. “Sadly, the Shelby decision and other state measures have made it easier for monied interests to have a voice and harder for those who have been historically disenfranchised.”

“The right to vote is precious and almost sacred, and one of the most important blessings of our democracy,” wrote Rep. John Lewis. “Today we must be vigilant in protecting that blessing.”

“As we approach another election, we must join together and reclaim the promise of our democracy, reverse the Shelby decision and enact meaningful protections at the ballot box,” concluded Weingarten.

AFT created a petition calling for action from the US House on a new Voting Rights Act.

Will Congress do the right thing to protect the voting rights of millions of Americans, or will they continue to sit there, with their hands over their eyes, pretending that people of color are not being refused their Constitutional right to vote?

NH State Employees’ Association (SEIU 1984) Opposes Privatization Takeover Of USPS, Joins Staples Boycott

Concord, NH, June 9, 2014 – At the quarterly meeting of the SEA/SEIU 1984 Council, members unanimously resolved to support U.S. Postal workers and enter into a boycott of Staples, the office supply retailer.  Staples has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Postal Service to operate postal counters in more than 82 “test sites” throughout the country.  The Postal Service plans to expand this operation to more than 1,500 Staples store across the United States.

Staples plans to replace good-paying union jobs with non-union low-wage jobs held by workers who have no accountability for the safety and security of the mail. This is nothing less than a direct assault on good middle class jobs and on public postal workers.

“It’s clear the battle lines have been drawn in Corporate America’s plan to take over not just our politicians, but core governmental services.  And that’s why it’s also clear that more union brothers and sisters must step forward on that battlefield!  I will gladly stand with our US Postal Workers in their effort to stop Staples, the office supply retailer, from taking over trusted public services to boost corporate profit margins at the expense of hard working taxpayers, and I ask you to as well,” said Diana Lacey, President SEA/SEIU Local 1984 in an announcement of the boycott to members earlier today.

“We cannot thank SEIU local #1984 enough for joining our boycott of Staples. On behalf of Manchester Area Local President, Dana Coletti, and all people who believe in keeping the U.S. Postal Service as a public service, we appreciate this show of solidarity. Together we can and will end this drive to privatize all public services,” said Janice Kelble, Legislative Director, NH Postal Workers Union.

SEA/SEIU 1984 is latest labor union to join the cause to preserve this essential service.  SEA/SEIU 1984 joins NH AFL-CIO and AFT-New Hampshire in support of the postal workers.

SEA/SEIU 1984 is the exclusive representative of most state of NH employees, as well as county and municipal workers across the state.  The labor organization also represents workers at Hampstead Hospital.

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