Posts Tagged ‘union’

Plans for March Saturday Approved at General Assembly

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Members of Occupy New Hampshire joined unionized workers from the New Hampshire Union Leader this evening in a picket outside Manchester’s Radisson Hotel, where the newspaper’s publisher, Joseph McQuaid, was attending the Annual Dinner of the NH Business and Industry Association.

Over the past two years, workers at the Union Leader accepted a 12 percent of their pay and loss of several full-time jobs “to help our struggling company,” union members said.  Now they are facing new management proposals for an additional manchester 10-26-11 00510 percent pay cut and the loss of 6 more full time jobs. 

The current contract expires December 31, which could make the newspaper’s annual First Amendment Dinner, November 10 in Concord, an interesting affair if the conflict remains heated.

Occupy New Hampshire members seemed pleased to act in solidarity with the union, Local 31167 of the Communications Workers of America. 

The Occupy New Hampshire General Assembly began with a moment of silence in honor of Scott Olsen, an Iraq War veteran who is in intensive care following a police attack on members of Occupy Oakland last night.  Afterward, they approved a proposed march scheduled for Saturday at noon.  The “Historic Protest Tour” will begin at Veterans Park with talks by Will Hopkins and Will Thomas, both of whom are active in Veterans for Peace.  The march will proceed to the millworker statue in the Manchester millyard, where Katie Talbert manchester 10-26-11 004 will speak about the history of workers in the city, and pass by the local office of Bank of America. 

Other topics of discussion included an update on the cases of the 19 people who were ticketed or arrested last Wednesday, a suggested protest outside the Radisson Friday evening during a Rick Perry appearance, and the creation of a unity statement.   Participation in the General Assembly grew from 21 at the beginning to 29 by the time it ended with the singing of “We Shall Not Be Moved.” 

General Assemblies are now taking place every evening.  If this evening’s was any indication, active participants are settling into a constructive pattern that includes agenda formation, committee reports, welcoming new people, and a minimum of ideological wrangling. 


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The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the world, runs 66 facilities in 19 states and Washington DC. They took in $1.7 Billion in 2010.  They spend millions of dollars a year on lobbying for more contracts. This year their books will show the expense of four lobbyists representing their interests at the State House in Concord, New Hampshire.

While “Occupy New Hampshire” members are occupied with decisions about manchester 10-17-11 007 where to pitch their tents, big money corporations are working behind the scenes to take over state agencies and services. Today is the third meeting of a legislative study committee whose purpose is to develop a plan for privatizing the Department of Corrections. Under the direction of the governor, the Department is also preparing Requests for Proposals for construction and operation of new prisons. CCA wants a piece of the action.

The state’s Medicaid program, which has been run directly by the Department of Health and Human Services, is about to be outsourced to private insurance companies.

Another study committee is looking into collective bargaining for public employees, and based on the voting records of the committee members, strengthening workers’ rights is not on their agenda. In fact, one of the study committee members is sponsoring a bill whose title, “Prohibiting all public employees from participating in collective bargaining,” leaves little doubt where he stands.

While I understand the difficulty the “Occupy” movement has in reaching agreements on unified demands, I hope members will join efforts to keep New Hampshire from being occupied by those following the corporate agenda of privatization, de-regulation, and the disempowerment of workers.

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Postal workers and allies held 485 rallies across the USA today to call for passage of legislation to save the US Postal Service without the sacrifice of jobs and services. Support for passage of HR 1351, already co-sponsored by nearly half the US House of Representatives, was a theme at the rallies, which were organized by the four unions that represent postal workers (American Postal Workers Union, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Postal Mail Handlers Union, and National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association) joined in a campaign called “Save America’s Postal Service.”

“Despite what you may have heard, the Postal Service isn’t broke. Nor is it losing billions of dollars a year delivering the mail. And a taxpayer bailout isn’t imminent. Reduced services are being presented as a foregone conclusion, but they’re not,” organizers said.

“At the heart of the Postal Service’s current problem is a 2006 congressional mandate that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and do so within a decade—a burden no other public agency or private firm faces,” according to the organizers. “The Postal Service is actually paying, out of its operating budget, for the future retiree benefits of people who haven’t been born yet. That cost—$21 billion since 2007—accounts for 100 percent of the agency’s red ink over that period. House Bill 1351, which has bipartisan support and nearly 200 co-sponsors, would address the pre-funding issue.”

“Congress created the problem. Congress can fix it,” said Janice Kelble, Legislative9-27-11 009 Director for the NH Postal Workers Union at a lunchtime rally in downtown Concord. Another larger rally took place at Manchester City Hall later in the day.

Speakers included leaders of the 4 postal unions, who said they are not accustomed to working together so closely. Hopefully this day of action will show them the importance of collaboration.

Other speakers included Mark MacKenzie of the NH AFL-CIO, Representatives Pat Long and Steve Shurtleff, Terry Lochhead of the Alliance for Retired Americans, Rev. John Gregory-Davis of the Meriden UCC Church, Rev. Gail Kinney of the S. Danbury UCC Church, and former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, who is 9-27-11 025 again seeking the US House seat in the First Congressional District.

The current occupant of that seat, Rep. Frank Guinta, has not given his support for HR 1351. The state’s other Congressman, Charlie Bass, has separated himself from most Republicans by adding his name as a co-sponsor.

I was honored to be a speaker at both rallies. Instead of talking much about the Postal Service, about which I know far less than most of the people who attended the rallies, I tried to put the current attempt to downsize the Postal Service in the context of a 9-27-11 035 decades-long assault on the public sector.

The ideology of market fundamentalism, which has taken hold in the USA since Reagan’s administration, is based on a belief that profit-driven enterprises are always better than those tied to government. Enforced throughout the world by the IMF, World Bank, and “free trade” agreements, market fundamentalism calls for privatization, de-regulation of business, fiscal austerity, “free trade,” and weakening of workers’ power, all in the service of international investors and a “good business climate.” In such a belief system, ta public postal service is suspect.

As Naomi 9-27-11 026Klein explained in The Shock Doctrine, market fundamentalists pounce when crisis strikes. And if the crisis doesn’t occur on schedule, they are ready to  create one. That’s what’s going on now with the “deficit crisis,” I said.

The deficit was caused by a privatized health care system, a de-regulated financial sector, tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations they own, and a couple of wars. Instead of attacking the causes of the deficit, the “solutions” now being advanced call for more privatization, more de-regulation, more “free trade” agreements, more tax cuts, and the destruction of unions. Proposals to lay off postal workers and cut mail services have to be seen in this political context9-27-11 001.

In addition to passage of HB 1351, public sector workers should join together with  private sector workers and with everyone who depends on the services they provide, I said. Together we need to build a movement that reclaims legitimacy for services provided through means that are accountable to the people, not to the investor class.

If you ask me what should be done to fix the Postal Service, I say start by asking the workers. They know more than anyone.

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Will Committee Propose Minor Changes to Existing Law or End of Public Worker Unions? 

It’s no secret that the tea-crazed element in the Republic Party is out to destroy unions, and with their disappearance further depress wages and benefits for workers across the labor market. With manufacturing unions in a weakened state due to globalization and technological changes, anti-union attention has shifted to the public sector.

Given the political context, New Hampshire labor activists and allies looked with apprehension on the creation of a committee made up of State Representatives and Senators to “study collective bargaining by public employees.” The committee’s mandate, established by passage of HB 580, gave the committee no more guidance than contained in those six words.

Sen. Raymond White said creation of the study committee was “an offshoot of all9-15-11 004 the discussions around pension reform.” While HB 580 did begin as a bill to overhaul the pension system, the context was actually much wider and more ominous. White may have forgotten that the House budget plan included a measure, introduced by Rep. Neal Kurk, that would turn all public sector workers into “at will” employees at the expiration of collective bargaining agreements. And HB 580 itself, also sponsored by Rep. Kurk, included the following provision in the version approved in the House:

Following the end of the term of a collective bargaining agreement and during any period of negotiation, the status quo shall be maintained as to the wages, hours, and conditions of employment of employees in good standing. Except where required by statute, the continuation, after the expiration of the agreement, of the provision of any medical, dental, and life insurance benefits, retirement or pension benefits, and any other fringe benefits, shall be subject to the exclusive authority of the public employer.  [emphasis added]

In other words, the clear intent of the House was to strip unions of their power. The Senate, no hotbed of pro-labor sentiment, kept this radical approach out of the budget and pension bills. Instead of just killing HB 580, which would have been a desirable outcome, the Senate proposed the study committee as an alternative. .

Following the study committee’s first meeting September 15, it seems that this group is out to tinker with collective bargaining, not destroy it. The bigger assault depends on whether the legislature over-turns or sustains Gov. Lynch’s veto of HB 474, the Right-to-Work (FOR LESS) bill, and in an array of bills to be considered next year.

The study committee began its work by electing Rep. Gary Daniels, the ant-union head of the House Labor Committee, to be its Chairman, and Rep. John O’Connor to be its Clerk. Daniels made it clear that their scope is only the state and local public sector, for which the collective bargaining process is set out under RSA 273-A. (That public employee collective bargaining is governed under state law, not federal, appeared to be news to Rep. Steven Winter, a former airline pilots’ union member who voted for “Right to Work.”)

David Lang of the International Association of Firefighters explained that the current system could be improved. In particular, the lack of dispute resolution methods in the law can make it hard to complete complex negotiations in a system where contracts not only have to be approved by union members and municipal officials, but also funded by votes of school districts and town meetings. Nothing that his own union, in Hampton, has been without a contract for six years, he said, “There has to be an end in sight.”

Unions are not just about pay and benefits, Lang testified. The issue the promoted unionization of Hampton firefighters, he said, was the quality of protective clothing. The union contract made it more likely that firefighters would return home alive after work. Acknowledging the sensitivities of taxpayers – a group that includes union workers – Lang said it’s “important for workers to have an understanding of what the pay and benefits are going to be” in order for cities and towns to attract workers to serve as police officers or firefighters.

Mark MacKenzie, who now serves as president of the NH AFL-CIO, was a Manchester firefighter when the law covering public sector collective bargaining was established. It was through collective bargaining, he said, that firefighters were able to improve their gear and training. Union contracts are not responsible for the rising cost of health care, he said.

Other speakers included Laura Haney of the NH Federation of Teachers; Diana9-15-11 006 Lacey, Jay Ward, and Dick de Seve of the State Employees Union; and Dean Michener of the School Administrators Association. In the back-and-forth between committee members and speakers, attention kept returning to whether negotiating sessions should be videotaped and broadcast on public access cable TV.

If the committee keeps its attention on minor matters, the committee report, due Dec.1, might be of relatively little consequence. It’s still possible that Kurk-like proposals will be put on the agenda.  We’ll get more indications at the committee’s next meeting, Thursday, September 29, at 9 AM. Rep. Daniels said there would be other opportunities for members of the public to present testimony before the committee winds up its work in November.

Regardless of this study’s outcome, attention should be focused on the 2012 legislative session, for which 794 bills have been proposed by House members. At this time, the details of these bills are still being worked out, so all we can see are their titles. But these include such gems as:

“Prohibiting all public employees from participating in collective bargaining,” “Requiring 100% consensus vote by union members to be included in a collective bargaining agreement,” and “Prohibiting the state from withholding the union dues of state employees.”

The war on the workers goes on.

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“There’s mean things happenin’ in this land” go the lyrics of an old protest song labor day 2011 09 05 032 written by John Handcox, an organizer with the Southern Tenant Farmers Union during the Great Depression.  When Tom Juravich performed it this afternoon at the Bread and Roses Festival, none of the people singing along could have missed the song’s topical nature.  If we listen to the economists, the Great Recession has been over for two years, but even members of that often detached profession acknowledge that the economic “recovery” is leaving thousands of people behind. 

With state and local budget cuts sending public sector workers to the unemployment offices, where they are joined by hospital workers and staff of nonprofit agencies whose employers have lost public funding, life is getting pretty mean.  In my state, legislators are adding injury to insult by trying to impose new laws to reduce or eliminate the rights of workers to have a voice in the affairs of their workplaces.   Mean things, indeed, are happening in this land.

My friend Jan says it shouldn’t require two PhDs to explain how the erosion of workers’ rights and labor standards is related to the reduced clout of organized labor, but it can be useful to have academic research that proves the obvious.  A recent article by Bruce Western and Jake Rosenfeld in the American Sociological Review uses equations and statistics to show the correlation between the decline in union membership from 1973 to 2007 with rising income inequality in the USA.  “Unions helped institutionalize norms of equity,” they say, “reducing the dispersion of nonunion wages in highly unionized regions and industries.”  In other words, wages go up across the labor market when unions are strong.  When employers and their political allies succeed in busting unions, it’s not only the former union members who lose out. 

According to Western and Rosenfeld, de-unionization is responsible for one-third of increased wage inequality among men and one-fifth among women.  (Other causes include educational inequality, technological change, and trade, they say.)

Today’s Labor Day Breakfast in Manchester brought together  union members, lmark mackenzie labor day 2011 allies from social justice groups, and friendly politicians, all united in efforts to stem the growing income gap by stopping the assault on unions.  Mark MacKenzie, President of the NH AFL-CIO, praised public safety and utility workers who performed their jobs during the recent tropical storm and said, “We want a New Hampshire that cares about people, that cares about the middle class.”  Governor John Lynch, who vetoed the “right to work for less” bill and the bill eliminating the state’s minimum wage, received more than one standing ovation and encouragement to seek a fifth term. 

That the moderate Lynch is seen as such a vital champion is an indication of how mean things have gotten.   Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien and the ALEC/Tea Party faction that controls the legislature is determined to overturn the right-to-work veto. Legislative committees are ready to go to work on dismantling pubic sector collective bargaining and privatizing state departments.  More than a dozen more anti-union bills are already on the agenda for the 2012 legislative session. 

If we want to preserve the middle class, it might behoove us to remember how the labor movement got started in the first place.  That’s one reason to attend the annual Bread and Roses Festival in Lawrence. The festival takes its name from a major textile strike that broke out in 1912 when 20,000 workers went on strike to protest cuts in wages and hours. 

In the words of the festival’s sponsor,

For nine weeks in a bitterly cold winter, over 20,000 workers, mostly new immigrants, dared to challenge the mill owners and other city authorities. Thousands of picketers, many of them women, faced state militia armed with guns and clubs. But the strikers were generally peaceful. The two fatalities were both of strikers. A cache of dynamite, first attributed to the strikers, turned out to be planted by mill owners and their friends in a clumsy plot to discredit the strikers and their radical union, the Industrial Workers of the World. Observers were impressed by the strikers’ inter-ethnic cooperation, their soup kitchens, the important role of women, and their reliance on song to bolster their spirits and express their beliefs. Some women strikers reportedly carried banners proclaiming “We want bread, and roses too”, symbolizing their fight both for subsistence and for dignity. Although the use of the phrase here has never been documented, the “Bread and Roses Strike”, symbolizing the fight for subsistence and dignity, has stuck as the name for this seminal event.

The strikers won public sympathy, drew on solidarity from workers in other communities, and won the strike.   According to Steve Thornton, a union organizer steve thornton @ bread & roses from Hartford, 200,000 workers saw their wages rise because employers feared they would face similar strikes otherwise.  (Western and Rosenfeld would say the Break and Roses strike helped “materialize labor market norms of equity.”)  Speaking in the festival’s labor history tent, Steve said the 1912 strike inspired unions in Connecticut and spread the concept of industrial unionism, an alternative to the craft unions of the American Federation of Labor that so easily led to divisions among workers in the same workplace.  

The IWW also spread the concept of free speech, which Steve said really meant little “until unions won it.”  Their practice was to insist on holding public rallies in public places, even when public officials denied them permission.  Sometimes they ended up filling the jails, not just the streets.  

The IWW slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all” is due for a comeback.   It would help if we can find some sociologists to prove it’s still true.



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no jobs fair 8-10-11 041 The state budget adopted in June eliminated more than 1100 full time state jobs, and that doesn’t even count jobs being shed by local and county governments, hospital layoffs due to cuts in funds for “uncompensated care,” or the positions the will end at service agencies whose state contracts were cut or ended when the new fiscal year began on July 1.  When you add in the elimination of services like testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, the cuts in welfare payments to poor families, and cuts in other programs that poor and disabled people rely upon, the budget is an economic and social disaster.no jobs fair 8-10-11 018

If budgets are in fact “moral documents,” as the Rev. Gail Kinney sugge sted at today’s No Jobs Fair in Concord, then the budget is a moral failure as well.   

“Imagine what would have happened if candidates for office had said they were going to eliminate jobs and services,” Rev. Kinney said.  “Would we have those people in leadership positions now?”  The lunchtime crowd of about 80 people shouted “no.”

no jobs fair 8-10-11 032 Mark MacKenzie, president of the NH AFL-CIO, said it’s time to “draw a line in the sand” against further job and benefit cuts, like the Verizon workers are doing through their recently called strike.   Corporate America is sitting on piles of money with historically low tax rates, he said, and the jobs aren’t any more likely to trickle down now than they were during the Regan years, he said.

“The people of New Hampshire elected their representatives last November with the mandate to strengthen our economy,” MacKenzie said. Instead, he said, they’ve done the bidding of corporate leaders who are willing to sacrifice other people’s middle class jobs to maintain their own privilege.

Speaker of the House William O’Brien came in for the most criticism fno jobs fair 8-10-11 024 rom the speakers, who also included Diana Lacey of the State Employees Association and Doug Linder of the Young Democrats.

“O’Brien resorted to political games, bullying tactics and attacks on the workers of this state,” MacKenzie charged, “leaving behind a shoddy record of job creation that has done nothing to address the real needs of Granite Staters. New Hampshire businesses, workers, and families cannot afford to see the same thing happen again.”

“With ten hospitals laying off hundreds of workers, over thousands of jobs already lost from the state thanks to Speaker O’Brien’s irresponsible budget cuts, and the bleeding of construction jobs from our state at a rate higher than any other state in the Northeast, the focno jobs fair 8-10-11 020 us of the State House should be squarely on giving our residents what they need to recover from the recession. Since Speaker O’Brien isn’t willing to help out our neediest, we’ve had to step up to the plate,” MacKenzie explained.

After the short rally at State House Plaza, dozens of activists troopeno jobs fair 8-10-11 044 d to O’Brien’s office on the State House’s third floor to deliver petitions calling on  state legislators to focus on job creation instead of budget cuts in the upcoming special sessions of the New Hampshire Legislature.

Rev. Kinney reminded those at the rally that Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, and Moses challenged Pharaoh over working conditions.   “Be the voice of truth,” she said.  

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The results are in: Virginia is the most business-friendly state in the union. New Hampshire is 17th.

The rankings come from CNBC, based on criteria such as the cost of doing business, infrastructure, education, access to capital, and quality of life, in a special report released June 28.

An article in the Union Leader two days later said “The Granite State easily outpaced four other New England states. Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island scored near the bottom of the list.”

But before you gloat about the “New Hampshire Advantage,” what about New England’s sixth state, Massachusetts?

The despised People’s Republic of Taxachusetts came in 11 spots ahead of the Granite State at number six. How could that be? Could CNBC’s methodology have a built-in leftist bias?

Not so much.

“We scored all 50 states on 43 measures of competitiveness developed with input from business groups including the National Association of Manufacturers and the Council on Competitiveness,” says a network statement.

For the record, neither the NAM or the Council are bastions of socialism, progressivism, liberalism, Obamaism, or any of those other conservative bugbears.

In fact, the NAM has a history of outright hostility to organized labor and New Deal policies.

The Council on Competitiveness, which includes academics as well as CEOs among its leaders, is perhaps less ideologically bound to the interest of big business. We note though, that its claims to include the “heads of national labor organizations” among its members is a bit of a stretch.  Only one of its eight Board members and one of its 31 Executive Committee members come from unions. No union officials are listed in its General Membership, which includes 90 corporate or academic leaders. None of its 27 National Affiliates are unions.

According to CNBC, “states received points based on their rankings in each metric. Then, we separated those metrics into 10 broad categories.”

The ten categories are: Cost of Doing Business, Workforce, Quality of Life, Economy, Infrastructure & Transportation, Technology & Innovation, Education, Business Friendliness, Access to Capital, and Cost of Living.

Union membership is a negative in the “workforce” category.

“While organized labor contends that a union workforce is a quality workforce, that argument, more often than not, doesn’t resonate with business,” says CNBC.  This is really no surprise.  That rankings reveal little correlation to the presence of “right to work” laws, which make it harder for unions to organize, is at least worthy of note. 

So how does Massachusetts, with its above average union density and its reputation for high taxes and burdensome regulation score so high?

Massachusetts ranks particularly well in education (4th), technology and innovation (3rd), and access to capital (2nd).

New Hampshire ranks in the top five in only one category, the much heralded and vague “quality of life,” in which the Granite State is number two.

Perhaps New Hampshire’s real advantage is its proximity to Massachusetts.

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6-1-11 010 

The State House feels a bit like a strike scene these days: the workers and their allies are picketing, and the bosses are trying to force adoption of an agenda that takes 6-1-11 001 decent wages, health care, and retirement security away from workers and their families.   Instead of a contract, this fight is about HB 474, the “Right to Work,” which would be more truthfully called “Work Without Rights.”  

Once more today, the halls outside the House chamber were filled with union 6-1-11 012 members, clergy, and pro-labor activists who understand that “right to work” is an attempt to drive down standards of living that have been won through countless labor struggles over the years. 

Once more, the Speaker of the House realized he didn’t have the votes to over-ride Gov. Lynch’s veto.  So once more, the House adjourned for the day without a vote on this issue, and once more the labor community is making plans to return.

During the Steel Workers lock-out at Ravenswood in 1990, Elaine Purkey wrote a song,“One Day More,”  to help keep workers spirits up,  The refrain comes to mind now: 

Fight one day more, one day more.  If the company holds out 20 years, we’ll hold out one day more.

Here’s the rest of the lyrics

One day more, one day more,

People let me tell you what we’re fighting for:

We’re fighting for our future, don’t you understand?

And we don’t need your pity, we just need your helping hand.


To fight one day more,

One day more,

If the company holds out 20 years,

We’ll hold out one day more.

If Emmet Boyle things he can win

He’ll get a big surprise,

Cause we’re honest folks and we will

Shut down him down to size.

We’ll throw out the Guards, clean out the yard

Cut that big Boyle down,

But we’ll still be around.

We’ve got to change the way things are,

Make people understand,

Our working class is banking on

The rights in a free land.

Our government lets criminals run free to steal again,

And then takes the jobs of honest working women and men.

Let’s change the laws, remove the flaws

And start all over anew.

Demand our rights, take back our land,

Square freedom through and through.

Keep the scabs out of the White House,

Vote union brothers in,

And then the Feds can’t ever take us off In a ball and chains again.

“One Day More” is recorded on the album, “Classic Labor Songs.” which you can order or download from Smithsonian

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Governor Vetoes; Over-ride Vote Scheduled for May 25

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Religious and small business leaders joined union members today in praising yesterday’s veto by Gov. John Lynch of HB 474, the so-called “Right-to-Work” bill.

“There is no evidence that this legislation will offer any benefits to New Hampshire’s economy or workers,” Lynch said in his veto message.

“In the last seven years of recruiting businesses to move to New Hampshire, not one business leader has ever even asked me if New Hampshire had a right-to-work law,5-12-11 007 let alone suggested it was a factor in the company’s location decision,” he added.  “No New Hampshire business leaders have ever told me that the lack of a so-called right-to-work law prevented them from expanding or hiring new workers here in New Hampshire. And no New Hampshire workers have ever told me they couldn’t get a job because New Hampshire doesn’t have a so-called right-to-work law.”

Mark MacKenzie, president of the NH AFL-CIO thanked the governor and said “there is mounting evidence that Right-to-Work undermines the economy and interferes with collective bargaining.”

5-12-11 004 Speakers at today’s news conference included Rev Elaine Peresluha from Portsmouth Unitarian Universalist Church, Rev. Kendra Ford from the Exeter Unitarian Universalist Church, and Paul Brown, owner of Madeleine’s, a downtown Concord bakery/cafe. 

Since the proposed legislation, which would bar unions and employers from agreeing to contracts that provide for non-members to pay agency fees to the unions, has nothing to do with the rights of workers to be employed, the term “right to work” should be seen as propaganda.  The propaganda emanates from the National Right to Work Committee, based in Virginia, a fact that did not escape Gov. Lynch.

“The debate over the so-called right-to-work bill in New Hampshire appears to be largely driven by national outside interest groups, and is not a result of problems facing New Hampshire businesses or workers,” he said in his veto message.

Protect New Hampshire Families has scheduled a Lobby Day for May 18.  Speaker of the House, William O’Brien, says he will attempt to over-ride the veto on May 25. 


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Somehow, Anne Feeney’s song, “War on the Workers,” keeps coming to mind.  The good news is that workers and their allies are fighting back.

Yesterday, the NH Senate heard testimony on HB 589, a House-backed bill to repeal the public sector card check law passed a few years ago.  Using card check, or “majority authorization,” workers can win union recognition when a majority of them sign cards saying they want to unionize.  Sounds simple and reasonable to me.  After all, the right to form a union belongs to the workers, not the bosses. 

Arriving late for yesterday’s hearing, I missed the presentation of a rationale for this offensive measure, but arrived in time for strong testimony from Janice Dunnington and Mary Lee Sargent, both members of a new union of adjunct faculty in the community college system. 

The adjunct faculty have been working for about $10 an hour, without benefits, Janice explained.  “We had absolutely no say in our working conditions,” Mary Lee added.   Having tried, without success, to get their issues resolved by talking to supervisors and department heads, they approached the State Employees Union (part of SEIU Local 1984) for help forming a union.

Under the current law, public sector workers can petition for a union election when 30% of the bargaining unit members sign cards, or they can pursue majority authorization.  In the latter system, collection of cards from more than 50% of workers leads to recognition of the union. 

Douglas Ingersoll of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board, which has not taken a position on the bill, explained that the card check system is easier and less expensive to administer.  

In the case of the community college faculty, the system worked to the benefit of the union.  That’s why anti-union legislators want to get rid of it.

But “the system isn’t broken,” Janice said, and “it doesn’t need to be fixed.”

From the viewpRTW lobbying 2-15-11oint of those running the show, anything that makes it easier for workers to organize is bad news.

Also yesterday, Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien said he is trying to unify the GOP caucus in support of the odious “Right-to-Work For LESS” bill, HB 474.  Gov. Lynch is expected to stamp his veto on it today.  The Speaker, who is becoming known as “Bully O’Brien,” said he plans an over-ride vote on May 24.

Fortunately, he is not the only one working to persuade legislators.  A busy campaign of union activists and allies is working on the same list of Republican Representatives who voted against the initial bill, voted against the motion to reconcile different House and Senate versions, or didn’t vote at all.   Protect NH Families is planning a lobby day May 18.  

Other measures to restrict collective bargaining are included in House proposals on the budget and pensions. 

As Anne Feeney says, “It’s a war on the workers.”

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