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Shaheen, Kuster, and NH Democrats Praise Pres. Obama’s State Of The Union Address

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) released the following statement on President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address:

“Every time I’m in New Hampshire, the message I hear from people throughout the state is clear: people want Congress to work across the aisle to strengthen our middle class and expand economic opportunity. While we’ve seen economic improvement in recent years, too many are being left behind, and more must be done to move our economy forward.

“We should all be encouraged by many of the proposals unveiled this evening that will promote economic growth and job creation. Whether it’s efforts to make higher education more affordable for young people, reforming our tax code, or investing in alternative energy sources to lower costs and create jobs, Congress should now renew our commitment to growing our economy and helping small businesses succeed. I look forward to working across the aisle this year to act on these types of proposals on behalf of our economy and middle class.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) released the following statement following President Obama’s annual State of the Union address:

“Since taking office, I’ve been focused on helping create more jobs and opportunity for our Granite State workers. Although we’ve come a long way, too many Granite Staters continue to struggle. This year, we must continue to focus on strengthening economic security for our middle class families.”

“There are a number of steps I believe we must take in order to support our middle class. First of all, we must work together to make college more affordable for our students, so every Granite Stater can go on to successful jobs and careers. But we also must ensure that those jobs stay here at home – and that’s why we must eliminate tax loopholes for companies that ship good American jobs overseas.  Instead, I support cutting taxes on our middle class, so our families take home more money at the end of the day, which they can reinvest in our economy and help move our nation forward.”

“From fighting to raise the minimum wage, to supporting equal pay for equal work for all men and women, to supporting the expansion of paid family leave, I’ve made fighting for the middle class a priority this year and every year ahead. I encourage the President and my fellow members of Congress to join with me in fighting for the issues that matter to all of us at home in New Hampshire, and I look forward to continuing to work across the aisle to fight for initiatives that will strengthen our middle class and help our economy grow.”

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley released the following statement on President Obama’s State of the Union Address:

“The President once again laid out the clear differences between the Democratic vision of strengthening our middle class and expanding opportunity for all and the Republican plan to continue putting the interests of big businesses first while middle class families pay the price.”

“Middle class economics have helped put our economy back on the right track over the past six years, and Democrats will keep fighting to build on our progress to ensure that all Americans are included in our shared success.”

“We have much more work to do, and Granite Staters know that Senator Shaheen and Congresswoman Kuster will keep working tirelessly to bring our New Hampshire traditions of bipartisan problem solving to Washington in order to move our economy forward.”

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka on the State of the Union Address

President Obama eloquently and forcefully advocated for working families throughout his State of the Union Address this evening. The President’s focus on raising wages through collective bargaining, better paying jobs, a fairer tax code, fair overtime rules, and expanded access to education and earned leave sent the right message at the right time. So did his embrace of union apprentices and immigrants who want to achieve the American Dream. The President has again demonstrated his strong commitment to creating an economy that truly works for all working people.

Fighting income inequality is one of the biggest challenges of our time. As Oxfam recently reminded us, the world’s wealth continues to be increasingly concentrated in the hands of a very few. If we are serious about solving this monumental challenge, the size of the solutions must meet the scale of the problem. We must have a similarly vigorous response to the barriers to raising wages: our opposition to fast-tracked trade deals that are giant giveaways to big corporations must be resolute. We can’t face the competitive challenge of China with a trade deal that fails to adequately address currency manipulation, climate change or that gives corporations rights that people don’t have.

Now is the time for politicians to champion a Raising Wages agenda that ties all the pieces of economic and social justice together. America has now heard what the President thinks about this agenda. We thank the president for his passion and his advocacy. We are ready to see what he and Congress will do about it. That is the ultimate standard of accountability.

AFT President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s State of the Union Address

“Unions give workers the voice they need, and public education gives our children the opportunity they deserve.” 

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten’s statement on President Obama’s State of the Union address:

“Tonight, the president invoked our shared values, reminding us what unites us as a nation. He asked us to turn the page, to ensure shared prosperity, to pave the road to middle-class economics so that all who want a chance to succeed get that chance. He affirmed that every child in every neighborhood matters. And he reinforced that unions give workers the voice they need, and public education gives our children the opportunity they deserve.

“All workers deserve a pathway to a good job with a living wage—one that covers the cost of healthcare and child care, and allows them to pay down exorbitant student loans, save for their retirement, provide the basic necessities for their family, like food and housing, and still have a little left over. Working families see that the economy is getting better, but too many have yet to feel it. That must change, and the president raised many ideas tonight to change it. We need to ensure that all families can climb the ladder of opportunity. And to do that, we need our government to reinvest in public education and support our educators. The tools the president advanced tonight—providing free community college and greater access to early childhood education, raising the minimum wage, offering child care and paid sick leave to parents—all will help if they are enacted.

“The president summoned us all to come together, to think bigger, to aim higher. That’s what the teachers, nurses and public workers, those who are and want to be the middle class in America, do every day. This is our credo. We want to do what’s best for our communities and our country. We want to reclaim the promise of America.”

Statement by the Communications Workers of America on President Obama’s State of the Union Message

Washington, D.C. – The President spoke with confidence about where America is headed. In many areas, he laid out an encouraging vision for our nation – expanding education opportunities for working and middle class families, improving the ability to better balance work and family responsibilities, tax fairness, improving children’s health, and more.

CWA has supported the President in these and similar initiatives throughout his presidency. However, we cannot stand with the President in his alliance with Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable to send more U.S. jobs offshore, undermine U.S. communities and weaken U.S. sovereignty under the guise of “free trade.”  The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has much more to do with protecting the investment of multinational corporations and maneuvering around China than lowering trade barriers.

Public opposition to “fast track” authority and the TPP is strong, and growing more vocal everyday. Consumer groups, workers, environmentalists, people of faith, students and more have united to stop this attack on U.S. jobs and communities. Conservatives, who do not believe that nations should relinquish their sovereign power to secret tribunals, also are on board.

Over the past 20 years, millions of U.S. jobs have been lost. The jobs U.S. workers had been promised over those years of course never materialized. In fact, just two trade deals – NAFTA and the Korea Free Trade Agreement — have resulted in the loss of nearly 800,000 jobs. The promoters of the TPP are again promising job gains through growth in U.S. exports. But we can do the math. Any new jobs will be dwarfed by the flood of jobs that go offshore.

We believe in trade, but U.S. communities and working families deserve fair trade that gives workers’ rights, environmental standards, consumer rights and other issues the same standing as corporate profits. 21st century fair trade will balance our imports and exports, lead to job growth and protect all our rights, not just those of the 1 percent.

Instead, through the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process, the TPP gives multinational corporations special guarantees and the right to challenge a country’s laws and regulations that could affect future profits in a secret tribunal. Corporations don’t have to wait for six years, like workers in Guatemala did, for the U.S. to raise trade complaints over the abuse of workers in that country. Corporations don’t have to accept the judgment of the Australian Supreme Court that the government has every right to regulate cigarette packaging. The secret tribunals and ISDS process would handle corporate complaints quickly.

The TPP has been negotiated in secret, but it’s no secret that we’re taking this fight to the Obama administration and to Congress, where activists and organizations across the political spectrum are pushing members of the House and Senate to stand up for jobs, fairness and our communities. Congress must reject “fast track” authority and give trade deals like the TPP the full review that the American people deserve.

LiUNA Member Gets A Seat Next To Michele Obama At SOTU

LIUNA Training and Apprenticeship Leads Mother to Family-Supporting Construction Career – and a Seat With the First Lady During the State of the Union Speech

(Washington, D.C.)  LeDaya Epps built a family-supporting construction career through LIUNA’s training and apprenticeship program – and tonight she will find herself with First Lady Michelle Obama during the President’s State of the Union remarks.

Epps, 38, is a proud nine-year member of LIUNA Local 300 in Los Angeles. The Compton, Ca., native is currently working on a project to expand the light rail train line for LA Metro to Los Angeles International Airport. Epps credits LIUNA’s training and apprenticeship programs with providing the skills needed to take advantage of job opportunities in the construction industry and to improve her standard of living.

“The skills training I received through my union has done more than teach me a trade. It’s renewed my life,” Epps said. “It has been a lifeline to a career I am proud of and allowed me to provide for myself and my three children.

Epps was invited to be a guest of the First Lady by Labor Department Secretary Tom Perez as a way for the Administration to highlight the positive impact of the training programs of LIUNA and other Building Trades unions. In addition to joining the First Lady, Epps met with the Labor Secretary while in Washington, D.C.

“We are deeply proud of LeDaya and that a member of the Laborers’ International Union of North America has been chosen for this honor,” LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan said. “It is a testament to the dedication and perseverance of LeDaya, to the positive difference LIUNA Local 300 makes in the lives of our members and their families, and to the significance and power of our training and apprenticeship programs.”

LIUNA operates more than 70 fixed and mobile training centers which provide classroom and hands-on skills training for 140,000 workers a year in both construction and environmental remediation. The construction skills taught prepare workers to build the critical infrastructure of the U.S., including roads, bridges, transit systems, pipelines, power plants, buildings and other projects.

AFL-CIO Releases Youth Economic Platform, Leading Up to State of the Union Address

Platform to serve as foundation for upcoming nationwide actions

Today, the AFL-CIO Young Worker Advisory Council released its economic platform as part of an effort to build a nationwide youth economic movement for raising wages. The platform, which is being announced on the eve of President Obama’s State of the Union address, is an agenda for action for the labor federation’s nearly 50 Young Worker Groups across the country—including in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“Despite the economy slowly rebounding, young people continue to lag behind. The President’s community college proposal is a wonderful idea but it has to be part of a bigger plan to revive the American Dream,” said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. “This document and its principles should serve as the outline of what the President embraces in the State of the Union when he talks about young people next week.”

The platform includes a number of proposals that would help young people overcome many significant economic challenges. Among them: free high-quality public higher education, increased public investment to create jobs, stronger union rights, a heavier emphasis on combatting discrimination in the workforce, and policies that raise wages for all not just the wealthy.

“Unless there’s an election coming up, politicians far too often relegate the interests of young people to the backburner. To make sure that changes, young workers have told us they will fight for this agenda in the coming months,” said AFL-CIO Young Worker Coordinator Tahir Duckett.

The report can be viewed here: http://go.aflcio.org/nextup-future-economy

Shaheen Hosts NH First Responder And Member Of The Profession Firefighters Of NH At State Of The Union

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) will host Bill McQuillen, a Portsmouth firefighter and Secretary-Treasurer of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, as her guest at next week’s State of the Union address. The State of the Union will be delivered by President Obama Tuesday, January 20 at 9:00 PM. Shaheen selected McQuillen as her guest this year as a way to show her appreciation for New Hampshire’s first responders.

“New Hampshire’s first responders are some of the nation’s best, putting their lives at risk every day to keep us and our communities safe,” Shaheen said. “It’s an honor to host Bill in Washington to show my appreciation for all that he and his fellow first responders do for New Hampshire year round.”

Bill McQuillen is a 25 year veteran of the fire service and is a current Lieutenant at in the City of Portsmouth. He began his career in at the Portsmouth Fire Department in 1990 as a firefighter and was promoted to Fire Lieutenant in 2008. He has been a member of both IAFF Local 1313 Portsmouth Fire Fighters Association, and IAFF Local 4039 Portsmouth Professional Fire Officers Association. He has been elected by his peers to serve as Local 1313 President for 13 years, and has served on Local 4039’s the Executive Board as President and currently Secretary-Treasurer.

McQuillen has also been a member and leader of his state association, the Professional Fire Fighters of NH. He was selected as PFFNH Trustee in 1996 then served as District Vice President in 2000. In 2002, Bill was elected to his current role of Secretary-Treasurer to the organization.

In 2010, Bill was elected to the Governor’s Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council, and currently serves as Vice Chair of the Council. He currently lives in Portsmouth with his wife Molly and their two children, Liam and Brendan.

Granite State Rumblings: Federal Contractors Get Raise, NH Pushes Bill To Increase Minimum Wage

Just hours before the President delivered his fifth State of the Union address, the White House revealed that President Obama will issue an executive order to increase the minimum wage for new federal contract workers.

The action will cover all workers employed under future government contracts, ensuring that none is paid less than $10.10 an hour. In a fact sheet announcing the action, the White House highlighted several occupations that will be helped by the move, including kitchen and laundry workers on military bases, as well as janitors at federal buildings and construction workers at government building sites.

Then, in his State of the Union address, President Obama called on business leaders across the country to raise minimum wages. “Give America a raise,” he said.

“After four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled,” President Obama said.

“The cold, hard fact is that, even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by — let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.”

“Our job is to reverse these trends.  It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything.  But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.”

The President also urged Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, stressing the benefit to women, who hold a majority of lower-wage jobs. Raising women’s pay is just one way to “do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode,” he said.

The White House believes the issue is one that may find bipartisan backing in an election year. Recent polls show most Americans favor raising the minimum wage — nearly three-quarters in a Pew Research poll conducted this month.

In fact, a group of leading economists signed a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders in support of raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2016.

The letter, released by the Economic Policy Institute, endorses a Democratic proposal to raise the minimum wage by ninety-five cents a year over the next three years, and then to tie further increases to inflation. The plan, which is sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA), received the support of President Obama in November.

The letter’s signees, including seven Nobel laureates, say the Miller-Harkin plan would increase the wages of close to 17 million low-wage workers.

“The vast majority of employees who would benefit are adults in working families, disproportionately women, who work at least 20 hours a week and depend on these earnings to make ends meet,” the letter reads, “At a time when persistent high unemployment is putting enormous downward pressure on wages, such a minimum-wage increase would provide a much-needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers.”

In his State of the Union address, the President made the following statement, “Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success.  But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

We agree.

Growing Up Granite

We do not know if Congress will increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. We do know, however, that it would affect thousands of workers here in New Hampshire.

In Sunday’s Nashua Telegraph, David Brooks writes:

How much would it increase pay, and for how many? That depends on the raise, of course, but the rate that Obama suggested would affect tens of thousands of people in New Hampshire.

As of 2012, there were 64 labor categories in the state, roughly half the entire list of categories, in which the average entry-level wage was below $10.10 – often far below.

Surveys run by New Hampshire Employment Security, for example, say that people working in the category “cooks, fast food” had an average entry-level hourly wage in 2012 of $8.15; maids were at $8.16; actors at $8.27; parking lot attendants at $8.29; “farmworkers, farm and ranch hands” at $8.52; and veterinary assistants at $8.60.

These are average starting wages, or the mathematical mean; which means many workers in each category make less than this when they start.

A think tank called the Economic Policy Institute estimated in December that a $10.10 minimum wage would directly affect 12.8 percent of all workers in the country. In New Hampshire, it estimated that 77,000 people currently make less than that rate, although that figure is extrapolated from national data.

The EPI estimated that a $10.10 minimum wage would affect 9.7 percent of working men and 14.7 percent of working women, a reflection of the larger number of females in low-paying occupations such as cleaning.

Even if Congress does not act, there is legislation here in the Granite State to raise the minimum wage, HB 1403. The bill calls for an increase to the minimum wage in two steps ($8.25 an hour and $9.00 an hour) and then indexing it to the cost of living after that.

The increase to $8.25 would take place on January 1, 2015.

The increase to $9.00 would take place on January 1, 2016.

Every January 1 after that, a new minimum wage, reflecting an annual cost of living adjustment, would take effect.  For instance, on January 1, 2017, a minimum wage of say $9.15 (depending on the rate of inflation) will take effect.  On January 1, 2018, the minimum would go up to $9.35 (again depending on inflation, etc.) and so on…

New Hampshire’s minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living. At $7.25 an hour – ($290.00 a week) – ($15,080.00 a year) – for a full-time employee, it leaves that worker with one child below the federal poverty level. And should s/he have more than 1 child, even deeper in poverty.

Poverty line Raising the minimum wage would help to lift hard working Granite State families out of poverty. It would help stimulate our economy, and it would help close the gender wage gap. Not only that – nearly ¾ of Americans support raising the minimum wage, according to a recent poll.

And in a January 2014 Public Policy Polling survey of New Hampshire voters when asked about raising the minimum wage, this is how they responded:

Q25 Would you support or oppose raising the
minimum wage to $10 an hour?

Support ……………… .60%
Oppose ……………… .29%
Not sure …………….. .11%

This bill has a hearing next Tuesday, February 11th at 10:15 am in the House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee. Please take the time this week to send an e-mail or call the committee members and let them know that you support raising the minimum wage in New Hampshire.

What’s Happening In New Hampshire

Tuesday, February 4, 1:45am – 2:45pm, SB203 Hearing – relative to permissible uses of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards *IMPORTANT*, SH 103 Finance

Click here to see more events in New Hampshire!


AFGE Issues Top 10 List of Actions Obama Should Take to Help Federal Workers

Union issues response to President’s call to action in State of the Union address

AFGE Logo 2

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees, the nation’s largest federal employee union, has outlined 10 issues President Obama can address today through executive order to improve the federal government’s workforce.

The Top 10 list comes in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he pledged to act without legislation “wherever and whenever” possible to expand opportunity for American families.

“These are concrete actions President Obama can take right now to address inequalities that currently exist in the federal workforce, while improving accountability and saving taxpayer dollars,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said.

The list:

1.      Align locality boundaries so hourly and salaried federal employees who work in the same location are treated the same when it comes drawing local pay area boundaries.  No private firm that pays geographic pay differentials treats its hourly and salaried employees differently in this respect and the federal government should follow suit.  The disparate treatment of federal workers who work side-by-side for the same employer is unfair and unproductive.

2.      Extend to Transportation Security Officers the same disciplinary appeal rights enjoyed by most federal employees, including Transportation Security Administration managers. Currently, TSOs are limited in their ability to appeal adverse actions to the Merit Systems Protection Board, instead having to rely primarily on an internal disciplinary review board within TSA.

3.      Immediately stop the Department of Veterans Affairs from downgrading low-wage positions, many of which go to veterans and disabled veterans. These downgrades, dubbed a “reclassification” by the agency, cut thousands of dollars annually from already paltry salaries, and when applied to current workers, cause reductions in salary and retirement benefits and degrade services to veterans.

4.      Free agencies from the Office of Management and Budget’s arbitrary constraints on the size of in-house workforces, so that they can instead manage by budgets and ceilings. If agencies have work to do and money to spend, there is no reason why federal employees cannot be used. Currently, these performance decisions are being dictated by arbitrary workforce caps and cuts.

5.      Provide agencies with a long-awaited costing methodology to govern the insourcing process and encourage them to look for opportunities to save money through intelligent insourcing.

6.      Direct agencies to expedite compliance with inventories of service contracts and integrate them into budget processes, so agencies have the same control over service contract spending that they have already over federal employee spending and can systematically identify bad contracts or contracts that cost too much.

7.      Direct the Department of Defense to stop using borrowed military manpower, which is resulting in scores of hard-working civil servants – many of them Wounded Warriors – being replaced with more expensive, less experienced military personnel.

8.      Ensure that the administration is ready to issue a rule to implement the statutory reduction in the annual cap on taxpayer subsidies on contractor compensation. In June, the cap will be reduced to $487,000 assuming the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council has issued the necessary rule.

9.      Support allowing Bureau of Prisons correctional officers who work in highly dangerous areas of federal prisons to routinely carry pepper spray to defend themselves if physically attacked by violent inmates.

10.  Order the U.S. Department of Agriculture to withdraw its proposal to radically overhaul the federal poultry inspection system by removing most federal inspectors from the slaughter line and turning over inspection activities currently performed by federal inspectors to untrained plant employees. The cost-cutting plan would endanger the health and safety of employees and the American public by allowing plants to increase their line speeds up to 175 chicken carcasses per minute. This means the lone remaining federal inspector on the slaughter line would have one-third of one second to examine each chicken carcass for disease, infection and contamination.

Immigration Reform and the State of the Union

A statement from the Immigration Policy Center: 

Tonight, President Barack Obama pressed the reset button and laid out his priorities for 2014—and, ultimately, the final leg of his presidency. During the State of the Union address, the President discussed the need to create jobs and greater opportunity for all. He also made it clear that immigration reform and economic recovery go hand-in-hand, and he expects the House of Representatives to make the next move on immigration reform. The President said:
“Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system.  Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted.  I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same.  Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades.  And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone.  So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”
The President’s inclusion of immigration as a matter of economic necessity reinforces efforts over the last few years to redefine how we think about immigration reform. Immigrants create jobs as consumers and entrepreneurs and spend their wages in U.S. businesses—buying food, clothes, appliances, cars, etc. This builds our economy as businesses respond to the presence of these new workers and consumers by investing in new restaurants, stores, and production facilities. Also immigrants are 30 percent more likely than the native-born to start their own business. The end result is more jobs for more workers.
The President’s message on immigration extended beyond his speech. Immigrants and immigration activists attended as guests of Congress and the First Lady. Mrs. Obama invited two immigrants to attend as her guests: Cristian Avila, a DREAMer and DACA recipient who recently completed a 22-day fast on the National Mall in support of immigration reform and Carlos Arredondo, a Costa-Rican-American peace activist made famous by his heroic acts after the Boston Marathon bombing.

These guests remind us of the humanitarian nature of immigration reform that cannot, and should not be overlooked.  As we grapple with efforts to create a more just and equal system in which everyone has a fair shot at economic prosperity, we cannot forget the need for a fair and just immigration system.  Deportations that separate families, disrupt businesses, and destroy hopes and dreams help no one and ultimately do not reflect our tradition as a nation of immigrants.
Tonight, the President reiterated that he is prepared to use the authority of his office to push a range of initiatives forward. Thus, if 2014 is to truly be a year of action and opportunity, we encourage the president not only to support efforts to complete immigration reform, but to do all in his power to end needless costs—to families, to workers, and to the economy—of an immigration system that does not fulfill the promise of America.

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