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NH AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie Pushes For A Higher Minimum Wage For NH Working Families

For Cost-Effective Economic Development, Consider the Minimum Wage
By President Mark MacKenzie

President Obama raised the hopes of thousands of Granite Staters when he called for raising the minimum wage in his State of the Union address.

His words should also raise the hopes of our state leaders. We’ve seen intense debate in our Legislature and town halls over the past few years about how to strengthen our economy after the Great Recession and help working people get back on their feet.

For thousands of Granite Staters living on the edge, the minimum wage determines whether their jobs pay enough to make ends meet. Yet it isn’t just workers who have a stake in the minimum wage. The small businesses they patronize and the communities they live in all stand to gain from reestablishing New Hampshire’s minimum wage. If our leaders are serious about encouraging New Hampshire’s economic development, they will consider reestablishing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation.

Throughout the recession, Granite Staters relied increasingly on low-wage jobs to support their families. We lost nearly 6000 jobs between January 2012 and December 2012, according to the New Hampshire Economic & Labor Market Bureau.  Alarmingly, the largest losses were in construction, healthcare, education, local government and manufacturing – all sectors that historically pay a living wage. And of the sectors that added jobs, one third paid an average of $10.85 an hour.

This is not an isolated trend. Contrary to popular belief, changing the minimum wage will not just impact teenagers and semi-retired people. As wages for working families have fallen and breadwinners come to rely on low-wage jobs to support their families, the minimum wage plays an increasingly critical role in determining whether a job gets a family out of poverty or keeps them in it.

Most businesses in New Hampshire are small employers whose wellbeing is intimately tied to the strength of their local economy and the fortunes of their customers. Lower wages mean fewer nights out, fewer ice cream cones bought for our children, fewer gifts at Christmas and birthdays. They mean waiting another year to fix the muffler on our car or replace our old winter coat. Ultimately, by paying their employees more, local businesses fare better.

It’s been argued that raising the minimum wage will force employers to reduce hours for their employees or lay them off. That this will happen to a degree large enough to hurt our economy is, at this point, simple speculation. A 2010 study from economists at the University of North Carolina, University of Massachusetts, and University of California-Berkeley found “no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States”.

The reason for that is quite simple – a minimum wage means customers with more money in their pockets.

As Governor Hassan and our Legislature come to an agreement over the state budget, they will be asked to make a lot of tough decisions on how to foster economic development in New Hampshire with the resources we have available.

What they choose to fund is ultimately a reflection of their priorities. Yet they should keep in mind that the minimum wage offers a simple way to foster economic development without spending resources from the state.

Ultimately, the debate over the minimum wage comes down to the type of economy that we want. Do we want an economy that relies on subsidizing the employers who pay their workers the least? Or do we want one that recognizes that every worker’s toil is worthy of a living wage?

Jobs should keep Granite Staters out of poverty, not in it. It is time to reinstate the minimum wage and create a path to prosperity for workers and their families.

Do The American People Really Support 5 Day Delivery? Hint: Not As Much As They Say

Everyone is talking about the USPS and their illegal attempt to change to a five day delivery.  They say that this is the only way ‘save the postal service’.  The USPS has been on Capitol Hill with claims that the overwhelmingly the public is behind the move for five day delivery.   I do not agree.

It is a common trick when conducting polling to ask a question so you get the response you want.  For example how would you respond to this question?

“After learning that this change will allow the Postal Service to be financially stable, to what extent do you support the decision of the Postal Service to begin delivering mail five days per week and packages six days per week, including continuing package delivery on Saturdays?”

If you have to choose yes or no, would you support five day delivery to save the post office? Of course you would.  This is why over 86% of people polled agreed with the above statement.

Now they USPS is pushing the idea that 80% of people support a five day delivery plan.

To what extent do you support the decision of the Postal Service to begin delivering mail five days per week and packages six days per week, including continuing package delivery on Saturdays?”

The real fact is that only 39% strongly support the idea, and 41% somewhat support the idea.

I cannot back up my polling with any real data, however of the people that I have talked to, only 10-15% seem to know and understand what the real problems are with the USPS.   I would be more interested to know what the polling is on that.

How many people know that the real issue with the USPS is the pre-funding mandate set forth by Congress.

I wonder how many people know that certain members of Congress have ties to UPS and want to privatize the entire USPS system.

These are the questions that pollsters should be asking but are not.  Why, because when you pay the pollster, you pay for the results you want.

We should all get behind the new legislation that was introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) to modernize the U.S. Postal Service, save Saturday mail and repeal a crippling law responsible for 80 percent of the mail system’s funding woes.

The State Of The Union Address Pushes For Higher Minimum Wage And More

(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

During the Presidents State of the Union address, the President hit on three key issues for labor.  The need to stop Sequestration, Fix it First campaign and raising the minimum wage.

Those who understand what sequestration is and what it would do to our country are sitting on the edges of our seats to see if anyone in Washington can stop it.  Sequestration is the automatic budget cuts that economist say would immediately send our economy back into recession, and force millions out of work.

“These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness.  They’d devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research.  They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.  That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as the sequester, are a really bad idea. “

There have been many different solutions being offered on Capitol Hill.  Some say, ‘let the cuts happen’ and force the austerity the radical right want.  Other say we need to make dramatic cuts to Social Security and Medicare.  The good thing is that the President agrees with us that we need to protect Social Security and Medicare.

“Now, some in Congress have proposed preventing only the defense cuts by making even bigger cuts to things like education and job training, Medicare and Social Security benefits.  That idea is even worse.”

The most sound idea yet is to reform the tax code and reduce the loopholes allowing corporations to profit from exporting jobs and subsidies.  There will be a bill introduced into the Senate this week to close nearly $1 Billion worth of loopholes in an effort to avoid automatic cuts.

While we are waiting to see what happens with the Sequestration cuts, the President is proposing a monumental program to “Fix It First”.  There is no denying that every state in America has bridges are roads that are in dire need of repair.

“I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country.  And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most:  modern ports to move our goods, modern pipelines to withstand a storm, modern schools worthy of our children.”

For many years states have fallen behind in their responsibilities to maintain the infrastructure that the Federal Government helped to create.  Every year in New Hampshire we are adding another $74 Million dollars of repairs that not being completed.

As part of building a better America, President Obama made a call to raise the minimum wage.

“Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.”

I will be the first to say that a raise to the minimum wage must be raised.  I applaud the effort to raise the minimum to $9.00 however I think it should be more. The key to the President’s is in the fine print.

“Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.”

That is something that should have been done 70 years ago when minimum wage started but I will take it now.  Working families should not see their paychecks go down every year to the rising cost of living while their pay stays flat.

“Stronger families.  Stronger communities.  A stronger America.  It is this kind of prosperity — broad, shared, built on a thriving middle class — that has always been the source of our progress at home.”

Overall it was a great speech from a great speaker.  President Obama also touched on many other issues including gun reforms, violence against women, paycheck fairness, and immigration. All of these will help move our country forward and build a health middle class once again.

NATCA Makes A Call For Help To End Sequestration

air traffic controller The possibility of the devastating ‘Sequestration’ cuts occurring are becoming a very harsh reality.   Many organization have come out against the sequestration cuts.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association is working to educate Congress, industry and the flying public on the devastating effects that sequestration would have on the national airspace system and the national economy.  NATCA, represents the Air Traffic Controllers who help ensure the safety of over 70,000 flights a day and 130 Million operations a year.

In the end of last year NATCA released a report talking about the potentially significate impacts to the National Airspace System.  This report was based on cuts, had they been implemented at the beginning of January.  Sequestration was then pushed back for two months, changing the FY2013 estimates somewhat.  Should sequestration take place at the beginning of March, the Federal Aviation Administration will be forced to reduce their operating budget by 5% or approximately $480 Million dollars.

These cuts would mean furloughs, layoffs and a significant loss in air traffic capacity.   These are hard working men and women who who devote their lives to ensuring the safety of the flying public.   (Embeded below is the video from NATCA titled : NATCA the Voice of Aviation Safety.)

The cuts are detrimental to the FAA and the entire workforce, hoever the impact on the national economy could be far worse.  NATCA reports that airports like Manchester / Boston Regional Airport could be forced to close do to furloughs.

How important is it the aviation industry to the national economy?

“Commercial aviation contributes $1.3 trillion in economic activity and comprises 5.2 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually, while providing $75 billion against the U.S. trade deficit” –From NATCA Report

Everyone agrees that reducing our GDP would hurt our overall economy, and yet these cuts would do exactly that.  This is why it is so important that we all work together in a truly bi-partisan way to stop these cuts from happening.  We must put an end to the perpetual ‘kicking the can down the road’ and create a long term budget.

NATCA is urging everyone to take action now! Contact your Congressional Representatives and tell them to stop the sequestration cuts before they happen.

These are real people with real families who could be pushed over the edge with a long unpaid furlough.  New research from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) says that over 40% of America is ‘liquid asset poor’.  This is a very fancy way of stating that over 40% of Americans have less than $6,000 in savings and are one or two paychecks away from financial ruin.  What would this mean to the thousands of workers in the FAA alone?

These sequestration cuts would have a much deeper impact than just the 17,000 air traffic controllers.  Aviation alone drives nearly 10 Million jobs.  Any cuts to the National Airspace System would have rippling effects throughout the aviation industry.  The FAA contractors could be forced to layoff thousands of workers due to a lack of funding.  During the last partial shut down of the FAA, many of the engineers and architects were placed in furlough status.  There was 5,000 FAA employees effected by the furlough and that translated into over 75,000 non-government jobs being also placed into a “furlough” status as well.

Take the time to tell your Congressional Representatives and Senators that making these cuts to aviation are wrong!  Our national economy is dependent on the aviation industry. Send your message here.

350 economists believe that making these cuts to the Federal Government would send our country back into recession.  Austerity is not the solution and sequestration is not the answer. Stop the cuts before they happen.

Senator Chris Murphy Pushes ‘BUY AMERICA’ Campaign Into The Senate

senator chris murphy

For decades now vulture capitalist like Mitt Romney have been taking good American jobs and shipping them overseas.  Bain Capitol was well known for this and this could have been one of the reasons he ultimately lost the Presidential election.

People overwhelmingly agree that we should increase manufacturing throughout the United States.  During the campaign President Obama said he want to create one million new manufacturing jobs right here at home.

With over 20 million still out of work, bringing jobs back and rebuilding the greatness that once was American Manufacturing should be a top priority.  For Senator Chris Murphy, it is.  He actually ran his campaign for Senate on this very principle.  As a Congressional Representative from Connecticut, Murphy created the “Buy America” Caucus whose sole purpose was to push for policy changes to boost American Manufacturing. [mantra-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”33%”]”I believe our economy cannot recover without a strong manufacturing base” Senator Chris Murphy [/mantra-pullquote]

Senator Murphy in partnership with the Alliance for American Manufacturing highlighted four areas that need to be changed that will bring jobs back to the US and help create new long-term jobs

1. Stop the currency manipulation from China by passing Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act. China continues to manipulate their currency to ensure that their costs are cheaper.  Senator Murphy said “We’re already in a trade war with China, we’re just not fighting it. We need to get more serious.”

2. Tax Reform.  Provide incentives for companies who bring jobs back from overseas and stop subsidizing companies who are outsourcing jobs.

3. Invest in our infrastructure.  One of the issues with American manufacturing is the ability to products to our trade ports.  By building better roads, bridges and trains, manufactures can quickly and easily move their products across the country or around the world.

4. The United States Government needs to practice what it preaches by buying American made products.   Currently the ‘Buy America’ law states that 50% products bought with taxpayer money be made domestically. Senator Murphy says that number should be at a minimum 60% but would like to see it closer to 75%.

Senator Murphy also pointed out that the current ‘Buy America’ law has one very large loophole that must be closed.  If the government buys a product, lets say a gun, but that product is not going to be used within the United States, the law says that it does not have to be made in the USA.   This loophole has been exploited by defense contractors and the DOD. Think of how much money the US Government spent over the last decade fighting two wars.  What would that have done for our economy if we made all of those guns and ammunitions right here at home?  If you remember weapons manufacturing during World War II was one of the way we pulled ourselves out of the Great Depression.

To fight back against this stagnant economy we must start by investing in America, and American Manufacturing.  We need to start building more products and selling them throughout the world.  We need to show that products made right here at home are better quality and economical.  The Alliance for American Manufacturing just opened their new office in Washington D.C. that was built and furnished with American Made products.

Labor unions have taken a beating in the media recently over reduced membership numbers.  Do you want to see unions growing stronger again? If so then we must all start to insist on American Made products.  When American Manufacturing once again flourishes the membership numbers will grow with it.  Oh and that thing that the Republicans are always screaming about, the national debt, that will go away on its own when we increase our GDP.

So if you want to reduce the debt, put millions of people back to work and support labor across the country the answer is simple, BUY AMERICAN!

Time To Raise NH Minimum Wage (from InZane Times)

Republished from InZane Times, By Arnie Alpert and Judy Elliot.

Judy and I wrote this one together.  It was published yesterday in the Concord Monitor.  We both testified at the public hearing, along with other advocates for low-wage workers.  The full force of the business lobby and the House Republicans were arrayed on the other side.  This is a good time to contact members of the House Labor Committee to support raising the minimum wage.

When the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, the minimum wage went up in 10 states. But not New Hampshire, where the minimum wage is stuck at the federal level and the state’s minimum wage was abolished by the Legislature two years ago. Without change at the state level, thousands of New Hampshire workers will have to wait for the gridlocked Congress to raise the federal minimum wage above the current rate, $7.25 an hour.

What does it mean to live on $7.25 an hour? If you work 40 hours a week every week of the year, your annual income will be $15,080. Enough to live on? Not by a long shot. You’ll earn $4,000 less than the poverty-level income for a family of three. And even the poverty income is less than you need to keep a roof over your head. At the minimum wage, you’d have to work 106 hours a week to afford a typical two-bedroom New Hampshire apartment, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Help could be on the way.

Two bills coming before the House Labor Committee today would re-establish the state’s authority to set a minimum wage and raise it above the federal level. Rep. Tim Robertson of Keene is sponsoring House Bill 241 to establish a New Hampshire minimum wage of $9.25. HB127, co-sponsored by Reps. Peter Sullivan of Manchester and Timothy Horrigan of Durham, would set the minimum wage at $8 per hour.

In 1949 New Hampshire established a state minimum wage, though it seldom rose above the federal rate. But the state law was repealed in 2011. “There is no reason for New Hampshire to set ourselves higher than the national average and make ourselves less competitive for these workers who need to gain experience,” then-House Speaker Bill O’Brien said at the time.

No detectable employment losses

But would employers really hire fewer workers if the wage went up? Research suggests otherwise. Recent research by a team of economists from the Universities of California, Massachusetts and North Carolina “suggest no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States.”

Why? Wouldn’t higher wages make it harder for businesses employing low-wage workers to earn a profit? Not necessarily. Raising wage rates tends to reduce employee turnover, reduce the costs of recruiting and training, and raise productivity. As Henry Ford discovered a century ago, increasing wages can be profitable.

Some opponents say it is mainly teens who earn minimum wage. Not true. Many of New Hampshire’s lowest-wage workers have families to support. Although we lack state-level statistics, we know that teens comprise only a quarter of minimum wage workers nationally.

Who will benefit from an increase? While most New Hampshire workers earn more than $8 an hour, plenty of workers would see their incomes rise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 14,000 New Hampshire workers earn $7.25 per hour or less.

Raising the wage also will help thousands of workers now earning above $7.25 per hour. For example, a worker who currently earns $7.75 per hour will get a raise if the minimum wage goes up to $8.

Even people with somewhat higher wages will benefit. This is because many employers intentionally keep their pay a certain margin above the minimum in order to compete for employees.

HB 127 has an important additional feature, a process to raise the minimum wage as the cost of living increases. This is critical. The federal minimum wage would be $10.58 per hour now if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years.

Two more minimum wage bills – one in the House and one in the Senate – will come up soon.

Raising the minimum wage will not eliminate poverty in New Hampshire. But it will make a concrete difference in the lives of thousands of people struggling to earn a living. Every New England state except New Hampshire has a minimum wage above the federal level. Our workers deserve better pay for their hard work.

Bills to Increase NH Minimum Wage Heard Today by Susan Bruce

NH Minimum Wage: HB 127 and HB 241

The two bills were lumped together in a January 29, 2013 hearing in the Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee.

Both bills call for an increase in the minimum wage. Last legislative session, the NH specific minimum wage was eliminated. NH complies with the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The federal minimum wage has been increased exactly 3 times in the last 30 years.

HB241 would increase the state minimum wage to $9.25 an hour. HB127 would increase it to $8.00 an hour.

There are some 14,000 minimum wage workers in NH. 78.8% of them are over the age of 20.  Contrary to what many believe, fewer than a quarter of them are teenagers. More than a third of them are married, and over a quarter are parents. These are people who are earning $15,080 annually, if they work a steady 40-hour week.
Minimum Wage Vs Rent
The number of states (and NH counties) where a min. wage worker can afford a 2-bedroom apartment?  ZERO.

The chances that a minimum wage worker is a woman? 64 in 100.

If minimum wage kept up with increases in CEO pay, it would be over $23 an hour.

It was obvious that some of the committee members as well as those offering testimony today believe that minimum wage is the sole province of teenagers, but the facts from the Economic Policy Institute prove otherwise.

Rep. Shawn Jasper testified (in opposition) on behalf of House GOP leadership. He said that what NH needs is a training wage, and repeated several times that not everyone who is earning minimum wage is living on minimum wage. It is Rep. Jasper’s assertion that no one is worth $8 an hour when they’re 8 years old or even 13. The minimum wage does not help our youth, it does not allow them to push a broom or move up the rungs of the employment ladder. In fact, Jasper asserts, teens are unemployed BECAUSE of the minimum wage. Thanks to the min. wage, those jobs aren’t being created. He reiterated that there are a substantial number of people who do not need to live on the minimum wage.

Quick diversion: an informal poll of my friends with kids shows that teenaged babysitters are earning somewhere between $7 and $10 an hour.

Also, the reason for teen unemployment is simple. There are still millions of adults out of work. The teens are competing with them for jobs. It has nothing to do with minimum wage, and everything to do with what we’re still not calling a depression.

Businessman Steve Grenier of Rye has a seasonal ice cream business. He lives year round on those earnings. He states that he would be adversely affected, and would have to raise his prices. It wouldn’t be fair to the kids who worked their way to higher wages, if new kids came in at this new entry-level minimum wage. His employees are all students.

Representative Daniels from the committee wondered how many of the minimum wage workers are under 18 and still living at home. He also wondered how many are working min. wage jobs as a second job, “just for something to do.” Apparently those who work second jobs don’t merit higher pay.

Chris Williams of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce opposes both bills. He told us of several small businesses that have closed in Nashua recently (which had nothing to do with this, btw) as a warning example of what will happen. Of course, if people earn more, they spend more at those small businesses – but that isn’t factored in to the thinking of business/industry groups and their lobbyists.

Another thing to consider: if wages don’t go up, than the cost of safety net services do.

Dan Juday (not at all sure of the spelling) of the BIA testified in opposition. This will have a ripple effect on all employers, increasing labor costs across the board. This is why we have outsourcing – because of labor costs. Also, he told us that an increase in minimum wage could bankrupt the unemployment insurance trust fund. This is no time to burden employers with more costs.

Beth Mattingly of the Carsey Institute pointed out that the federal poverty guidelines were developed in the 1960’s, based on the cost of food. They do not factor in the cost of housing or childcare, which are the biggest expenses for today’s working people. A single person would need to earn $9 an hour just to reach the federal poverty guidelines. Naturally, there were other folks there to speak in support of increasing the minimum wage. For me, today, the focus is on those who defend sub-poverty wages.

There are some wage subdivisions in place already. Restaurants are allowed to pay tipped workers substantially less than minimum wage. These are also people who don’t get paid sick days, so they come to work sick, because they have to, and then handle your food. Achoo!

There is a mechanism in place to pay people with developmental disabilities less than minimum wage. The business lobby would love to create a “training wage” in order to pay kids (and probably adults too) slave wages.

Curtis Barry of the Retail Merchants Association described the minimum wage working base as students and “retired people, looking for a little extra money.” Apparently those older people don’t deserve a decent wage, either. Fortunately no one mentioned housewives working for “pin money.”

There was almost no respect expressed for workers at this hearing. That was disheartening.

I did hear from a bill sponsor that there is a lot of support for an increase in the minimum wage. On behalf of 14,000 NH workers, let’s hope that there will be one.

CROSS POSTED with permission from Susan The Bruce Blog

Labor Shows Strong Support For President’s Immigration Reform

Group photo of UNITE HERE Culinary Union 226 members in attendance today.

Group photo of UNITE HERE Culinary Union 226 members in attendance today.

The issue of immigration is not a new one.  Many states have been pushing for immigration reform for decades.  Some have been working to make the system better, while others are trying to push immigrants out the door.

The fact is that the majority of Americans are decedents of immigrants.  For hundreds of years the United States had an open door policy and welcomed immigrants from around the world with open arms.  I myself am the third generation of Irish-Polish immigrants.  My great-grandparents were all born and raised in different areas of Boston after their parents came to America in search of the American Dream.

Today President Obama vocalized his new plan for comprehensive immigration reform.  It calls for:

  • Continuing to Strengthen Border Security.
  • Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers.
  • Earned Citizenship.
  • Streamlining Legal Immigration.

President Obama delivered this speech along side leaders from many different unions including Richard L. Trumka, AFL-CIO President; UNITE HERE President D. Taylor; Bob King, UAW President; Secretary Treasurer Culinary Local 226, and many more. 

For many years immigrants like my grandparents relied on their unions to move up to the middle class.  After gaining citizenship, labor unions helped these immigrant workers find meaningful employment and provided them with a living wage.

After the President’s speech Richard Trumka released this statement:

“President Barack Obama was elected this fall with several mandates, but voters spoke with particular clarity on one issue: the need to support the aspiration of 11 million immigrants to become citizens.That’s why we applaud President Obama’s eloquent and thoughtful embrace of immigration reform, including a viable path to citizenship for those who are American in every way except on paper.”

“In a phrase, President Obama “gets it” – he gets that a rising tide lifts all boats and that empowering immigrant workers is a win for all working people. The President clearly shares the AFL-CIO’s commitment to a viable pathway to citizenship, meaning that seemingly innocuous conditions cannot be allowed to get in the way of a roadmap for citizenship that encompasses the dreams of 11 million people.”

This statement was echoed by other labor organizations.  The Communication Workers of America stated;

“The Communications Workers of America commends the Obama administration on its determination to create a path to citizenship for 11 million adults and their children who contribute to the economic life of our nation every day.”

The United Auto Workers also stated;

“Our country’s immigration system is broken.  Without a pathway to citizenship, millions of workers are forced into a shadow economy and exploited by unscrupulous employers,” said UAW President Bob King. “That drives down wages and working conditions for all workers, and puts employers who want to do the right thing at a competitive disadvantage. It’s past time to lift the fear of deportation for individuals who are contributing to our country.”

The goal of this new immigration policy is to ignite the belief in the American Dream.  Many of these immigrants come here with a few skills and boatloads of drive and determination.  They are hard workers and help to build our economy.  Unite HERE represents many of these types of workers in the hotel industry. They represent housekeepers, and dishwashers for example.  These are prime jobs for new immigrants.

Unite HERE’s statement;

“UNITE HERE is proud to stand with President Obama and the movement for equality for immigrant workers in our country. The hundreds of thousands of women and men who are our members and future members come from all over the United States and the world. Through the work they do every day–making beds, preparing food, cleaning rooms, washing dishes, serving travelers–they keep our economy moving and build stable lives for themselves and their families. Like all Americans, they hope for secure and happy lives for their children. And those who are immigrants dream of achieving citizenship so that they can be full and equal participants in our society. “

By working together with new comprehensive immigration reform we can work to eliminate the ilegal operation of paying workers ‘under the table’ to avoid labor laws.  Allowing these nearly 11 million undocumented workers to gain citizenship we will add more people to the tax base and increase revenue.  We will also help these immigrants realize the dream that brought them to the United States in the first place.

Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Celebrate 125th Anniversary

SMART Union Logo

Washington, DC – In recognition of its 125th anniversary on January 25, 2013, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) launched a year-long program commemorating SMART Expertise Since 1888.  Beginning today, Union members will be a part of that history by uploading their worksite photos to a new anniversary website at www.smart125.com that showcases the expertise Union members have brought to the construction, production, transportation and service industries.

“This organization has stood the test of time, through good times and bad,” says SMART General President Joseph Nigro.  “It is a testament to the character, skill and solidarity of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have served as the backbone of this organization since its founding.  I am proud to serve them and look forward to continuing the tradition of excellence they built.”

SMART local unions will open up their Joint Apprenticeship Training Centers (JATC) across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico to industry stakeholders, engineers, architects, political leaders, and the general public in events to be held throughout the year to develop a greater awareness of the training and opportunities offered in our industry.

SMART will also institute an awards program to recognize Sheet Metal and Transportation Locals that have advanced SMART expertise through the quality of their work, their labor relations practices, and commitment to the labor movement.  In addition, an updated history of SMART, written by historian Grace Palladino, editor of the Samuel Gompers papers, will document the past 30 years of union leadership, adding to an earlier history compiled in 1980.  The history will be available in the union’s bi-monthly magazine, The Members’ Journal and the SMART125.com website.

The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) is one of the most innovative and progressive unions of construction workers, and one of the most significant unions representing sheet metal, railroad, airline, transit, shipyard and production employees in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.  The 200,000 highly trained men and women who constitute the membership of SMART are united through collective bargaining agreements providing some of the best pay, benefits and opportunities in the industries where we work.

VIDEO: I Have A Dream, Aug 28, 1963

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King day, I thought it would be appropriate to show one of the greatest speeches of all time.

Dr. King’s ‘I have a dream speech’

Full text to the “I Have A Dream” speech:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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