On May 4th, the New Hampshire state federation of the AFL-CIO held their bi-annual convention at the Grand Hotel in North Conway, NH. The event was attended by over 50 delegates, representing many different unions from around the state. They were teachers from AFT, to film and sound techs from IATSE, electricians from IBEW, to air traffic controllers from NATCA. The focus of the convention was to talk about the great things that the NH AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions have done in New Hampshire over the last two years. And to talk about how we need to change and grow to move into a new generation of unions and organizing.
Over the past two years the NH AFL-CIO and organized labor have fought back against the extreme right wing of the New Hampshire Legislature who were pushing every anti-union and anti-worker bill they could dig up from ALEC. Most notably was the nearly two year battle over Right To Work. Upholding Governor Lynch’s veto was the single greatest legislative accomplishment for the NH AFL-CIO and all working families.
After a short trip down memory lane by NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie, the tone shifted. ”At no time has labor’s role been more important” said President MacKenzie.
Now we as organized labor need to work with our communities for real immigration reform. We must ensure that every worker is treated fairly, is paid accordingly, and has the protections we fought so hard to get in place.
This theme also lead right into how do we begin to organize those places that have never been able to be organized before? Places like Wal-Mart, Fast Food and Restaurant workers. These are the jobs that need help from organized labor the most right now.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler spent most of her time talking about how we need to fight back against the attacks from the right wing extremists and expand our base. This is a battle for all working people, not just those who are covered by a union contract. We need to do everything we can to stop the austerity budget plans from Washington that are slowly pulling our country apart. The Tea Party lead House is trying to continue this race to the bottom with more cuts to programs like Head Start and Meals on Wheels. ”What about the children who have been kicked out of Head Start due to the Sequester” said Shuler. ”Sequester is just a fancy word for stupid idea” Shuler continued.
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter knows all to well how the sequester is effecting people. She hears about it every day. People calling her office to get her to do something about it. ”Can’t you just pass something to end the sequester” people would ask. Yes, she told the crowd, if we could get our bills onto the floor of the US House. Congresswoman Shea-Porter told the crowd, “there are three political parties in Washington right now. The Democrats, the Republicans and the Republican study group also know as the Tea Party.” The power of the Tea Party and their leader, Speaker John Boehner is what is creating this disfunction in Washington.
The NH AFL-CIO also welcomed State Senator Andrew Hosmer to speak. He talked of the current situation in the NH Senate. He pushed for the passage of the expanded gambling bill to help create new jobs for the NH Building Trades. That message was echoed by State Representative (and former AFGE member and Federal Marshal) Steve Shurtleff. Rep Shurtleff reminded us how times have changed now that Speaker O’Brien is not in control. He ws there every session waiting for the Speaker to pull Right To Work up for a vote. Both Sen. Hosmer and Rep Shurtleff said they would do whatever was needed to stand up for working families and the workers rights to organize.
(More in-depth stories on each of the speeches at the NH AFLCIO convention later this week)