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FairPoint Employees To Hold Strike Authorization Vote

Fairpoint Workers

Fairness at Fairpoint BannerUnion leaders hope to reach agreement before contract expires August 2

Augusta, ME—Leaders of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council T-9 and Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400 have scheduled a strike authorization vote for July 11-13 to take place across the FairPoint service area. The two unions represent nearly 2,000 employees of FairPoint Communications across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Their contracts expire on August 2nd and union representatives have been in negotiations with management since April 25th.

“Our members don’t want to strike – they want to continue working for their customers and families,” said Glenn Brackett, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire, one of the three locals that comprise System Council T-9. “Unfortunately, management is unwilling to offer any proposal other than ones they themselves describe as requiring ‘deep, painful, significant concessions’ from workers.”

A strike authorization vote is a necessary precursor to a work stoppage, but does not require the union members actually go on strike. Such a decision could be made later by union leadership. Leaders expect members of both IBEW and CWA in Northern New England to vote overwhelmingly in favor of the strike authorization.

FairPoint workers say they are not just fighting to protect good jobs in their communities but to ensure the best service to customers across Northern New England. They say the company is insisting on the unlimited ability to hire low-wage temporary workers from out of state to do their work. “When companies hire outside contractors to do the work of skilled, local employees, customers are the ones who suffer,” said Brackett.

“Our members want nothing more than to continue working to provide the best service possible to our customers,” said Don Trementozzi, President of CWA Local 1400, which consists of members across Northern New England. “Unfortunately, management continues to insist on deep cuts that we strongly believe will hurt consumers and the hard-working employees who have repeatedly saved this company, while the Wall Street hedge fund owners of FairPoint line their pockets.”

Why We Need A Single Payer Healthcare System Over The ACA

bernie-sanders

Many people have issues with the way that the Affordable Care Act has been unrolled. There are many issues with the federal website.  Even with all of that people are still signing up as fast as they can.

People constantly attack me on Facebook and Twitter about the ACA.  They want to repeal it because it will cost us to much money, or because lazy people should not have healthcare.  My answer is always the same, ‘the ACA is not perfect, it is a major step in the right direction’.   The best thing we could do is move to a single payer healthcare system.   We could stop arguing about who is covered and who is not, a start helping our fellow Americans.

Below is an editorial from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on why a single payer system is better than the ACA.  The editorial was published on September 30th, the day before the federal exchanges went into effect.

A single-payer system, like Medicare, is the cure for America’s ailing healthcare

Obamacare’s reforms are a welcome but small step. To give all Americans healthcare as a right, we need a fair, efficient solution.

I start my approach to healthcare from two very basic premises. First, healthcare must be recognized as a right, not a privilege. Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the healthcare they need regardless of their income. Second, we must create a national healthcare system that provides quality healthcare for all in the most cost-effective way possible.

Tragically, the United States is failing in both areas.

It is unconscionable that in one of the most advanced nations in the world, there are nearly 50 million people who lack health insurance and millions more who have burdensome co-payments and deductibles. In fact, some 45,000 Americans die each year because they do not get to a doctor when they should. In terms of life expectancy, infant mortality and other health outcomes, the United States lags behind almost every other advanced country.

Despite this unimpressive record, the US spends almost twice as muchper person on healthcare as any other nation. As a result of an incredibly wasteful, bureaucratic, profit-making and complicated system, the US spends 17% of its gross domestic product – approximately $2.7tn annually– on healthcare. While insurance companiesdrug companies, private hospitals and medical equipment suppliers make huge profits, Americans spend more and get less for their healthcare dollars.

What should the US be doing to improve this abysmal situation?

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a start. It prevents insurance companies from denying patients coverage for pre-existing conditions, allows people up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance, sets minimum standards for what insurance must cover and helps lower-income Americans afford health insurance. When the marketplace exchanges open for enrollment on Tuesday, many Americans will find the premiums will be lower than the ones they’re paying now. Others will find the coverage is much more comprehensive than their current plans.

Most importantly, another 20 million Americans will receive health insurance. This is a modest step forward. But if we are serious about providing quality care for all, much more needs to be done.

The only long-term solution to America’s healthcare crisis is a single-payer national healthcare program.

The good news is that, in fact, a large-scale single-payer system already exists in the United States and its enrollees love it. It is called Medicare. Open to all Americans over 65 years of age, the program has been a resounding success since its introduction 48 years ago. Medicare should be expanded to cover all Americans.

Such a single-payer system would address one of the major deficiencies in the current system: the huge amount of money wasted on billing and administration. Hospitals and independent medical practices routinely employ more billing specialists than doctors – and that’s not the end of it. Patients and their families spend an enormous amount of time and effort arguing with insurance companies and bill collectors over what is covered and what they owe. Drug companies and hospitals spend billions advertising their products and services.

Creating a simple system with one payer, covering all Americans, would result in an enormous reduction in administrative expenses. We would be spending our money on healthcare and disease prevention, not on paper-pushing and debt collection.

Further, a single-payer system will expand employment opportunities and lift a financial weight off of businesses encumbered by employee health expenses. Many Americans remain at their current jobs because of the decent health insurance provided by their employer. Without the worry of losing benefits, those Americans will be free to explore other, more productive opportunities as they desire. For business owners, lifting the burden of employee healthcare expenditures will free them to invest in growing their businesses.

Congressman Jim McDermott and I have introduced the American Health Security Act. Our bill will provide every American with healthcare coverage and services through a state-administered, single-payer program, including dental and mental health coverage and low-cost prescription drugs. It would require the government to develop national policies and guidelines, as well as minimum national criteria, while giving each state the flexibility to adapt the program as needed. It would also completely overhaul the health coverage system, creating a single federal payer of state-administered health plans.

The American people understand that our current healthcare system is not working. But the time is long overdue for them to understand that there is something fundamentally wrong when the US remains the only country in the industrialized world that does not guarantee healthcare to all its people.

Healthcare is a right and we must ensure provision of that right for Americans. A single-payer system will be good for the average American, good for businesses, good for workers and good for our overall economy.

Voters Vote To Overturn Citizens United

Sen Bernie Sanders

Did you get enough of the political ad, flyers, mailers, and radio spots this election? I did (see post), and I do not think I was alone.  Everyone is complaining that money, especially the corporate money, involved in this years election process.   Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has been leading the charge against the Citizens United ruling.  Sen. Sanders is the sponsor of the Saving American Democracy Amendment.

“Amazingly enough, we withstood the assault. We withstood the hundreds of millions of dollars that came in from these billionaires,” Sanders said after the election. The money spent by billionaires to influence the election was not enough to topple President Obama. Others in Congress survived the financial onslaught too. But he said a constitutional amendment still is needed.” Sen Bernie Sanders

This year voters voiced their agreement with Sen Sanders in elections across the country.  The two biggest amendments were:

  • Montana’s Initiative 166Stand with Montanans, establishes an official Montana policy that corporations are not people with constitutional rights and charges Montana’s elected officials with supporting a constitutional amendment to create a level playing field in campaign spending.
  • Colorado Amendment 65 instructs Colorado’s congressional delegation to propose and support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that allows congress and the states to limit campaign contributions and spending that allow all citizens, regardless of wealth, to express their views to one another on a level playing field.

Both of these amendments were aimed at limiting campaign contributions and ‘corporate personhood’. While this is good for the people in these states, we need more.  We need to craft legislation to overturn Citizens United ruling.  Sen Sanders fears that Congress will not have the strength to stand up to the corporate money.

“I worry very much what it does on the floor of the House and the Senate. How many people are going to have the guts to stand up to big money when they know that the airwaves in their states are going to be flooded with negative ads if they vote against Wall Street or vote against coal or oil? So I would say that one of the major issues that we’ve got to deal with is Citizens United. I think we need a constitutional amendment to overturn it. I think it would be a wonderful rallying point for folks all over this country.”

I completely agree with Senator Sanders. We need to reverse Citizens United and remove the corporate money in our political system.  We need all of elected representatives to stand up for the ‘real’ people and reject the ‘corporate’ people.

Watch Senator Bernie Sanders as he proposes his Constitutional Amendment to reverse Citizens United. Then take one minute to sign his petition

IBEW Is Going Green With New Jobs

Ibew logo

Jobs are slowly coming back. Now have unemployment at 7.8% nationally.  The Building Trades Unions have been some of the hardest hit workers in this recession.  When companies and towns are hoarding their money in the fear of economic collapse this means less money for expansion projects.

Durning this two year low some unions have taken the opportunity to train their workers for ‘Green Energy’ projects that are slowing gaining ground. Take for example these union workers in Vermont who are being trained on some of this new technology.

Green Tech Training Rolls Into VT.

“From solar panel installation to green electrical engineering the trailer is an invaluable educational tool on how to go green.”

The Green Mountain state is not the only ones who working to build a more eco-friendly electrical system.  The IBEW in San Deigo California (local 569) are going one step further. They are not only teaching their members how to install new green technology they are going out and building it.

Micah Mitrosky is an environmental organizer with IBEW and as she explains in the video she “works to make sure that green jobs, like solar, wind, geothermal, electric car charging stations are IBEW jobs, and also to build partnerships between our local and the environmental community, so we can build power and strengthen our labor movement.”

Projects like this a win-win. This project alone will provide 150 jobs for these IBEW workers all while reducing the dependance on fossil fuels for electricity production.

“It’s actually surprising if you look at the numbers and thousands of megawatts that we have under agreement, and the thousands of megawatts that we’re negotiating to be done by the IBEW. It’s a phenomenal amount of work,” said Nick Segura, Assistant Business Manager for IBEW Local 569.

The best part is that after the initial investment is recovered solar power projects like this will save millions of dollars.  In New Hampshire, they are currently building a new solar panel array on top of the parking garage at the Manchester Airport.  This 525 kW project is expected to save the airport $100,000 per year in energy costs.

Micah summed it up perfectly when she said

“We’re doing a project that is both creating good union jobs but is good for the local community and is exciting.”

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