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Archive for October 12th, 2011

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Labor activists and allies endured a morning of speeches by GOP Presidential candidates and an afternoon of procedural votes, then left the New Hampshire State House with the Governor’s veto of the Right-to-Work-for-Less bill still intact.  They’ll be back again whenever the House re-convenes.

Over-riding the veto has been a top priority of Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien for months, but despite a 3:1 Republican majority, he knows he doesn’t have the votes he needs to over-ride the Governor’s veto of HB 474.  In addition to a solid bloc of Democrats, there are still enough pro-labor Republicans to keep the anti-union bill from becoming law.

HB 474 would make it illegal for employers and unions to adopt a union security clause in their collective bargaining agreements, thereby preventing unions from collecting “agency fees” from non-members.  The point of this perennial legislation is to weaken unions by making it possible for workers to be “free riders,” i.e. to get the benefits of a union contract without paying a dime. 

Today’s show was a bit different from the rehearsals to date.  FNewt leaves 10-12-11ollowing last night’s Republican debate in Hanover, five of the candidates – Gary Johnson, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, and Michelle Bachman – were invited by the Speaker to address the House.  Since members knew the Speaker could spring the the veto over-ride vote on them if they left the House chamber, the pro-labor members dutifully stayed in their seats throughout.  For that sacrifice I thank them.  

Members of the International Association of Fire Fighters showed up in larger than  usual numbe10-12-11 015rs today, making it clear the labor movement is ready for the fight that will go beyond this year’s battle over Right-to-Work-for-Less.  

Also present were faith-based activists making it clear that their religious values place them squarely on the side of worker justice.  

It’s hard to feel like victorious without a vote, but each time Speaker O’Brien decides not to put the measure up for a vote is an indication we are winning.  

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 hanover 10-11-11 008

Progressive activists greatly outnumbered Republicans on the Dartmouth Green in the hours before the GOP debate at Dartmouth College Tuesday evening.   Groups devoted to saving Social Security, sending a message to Wall Street, combating AIDS, and reversing climate change each had contingents in the dozens, while candidates Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, and Jon Huntsman had only a few sign holders each.  (Huntsman had the most, numbering about ten.)  Local and national media roamed the crowd, as well. 

hanover 10-11-11 038 The campaign to save Social Security attracted about 60 people from as far away as Manchester and Keene, organized by the Granite State Organizing Project, United Valley Interfaith Project, NH Citizens Alliance for Action, Working Families Win, the Alliance for Retired Americans, and the National Campaign to Protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Members of these groups have already been successful at forcing candidates to address retirement and health care concerns.  

According to a fact sheet from GSOP and NHCAA, Social Secuhanover 10-11-11 022rity benefits 18% of New Hampshire’s residents, including not only 155,000 retirees but also almost 20,000 children.  

One of the more boisterous groups was organized in solidarity with the Occupy Wall  Street protests.  They sang songs adapted from the civil rights movement and waved homemade signs.  Organized by Dartmouth students, this contingent attracted a multi-generational mix of local progressive activists as well. 

Both the GOP ahanover 10-11-11 016nd progressive activists were herded into a “Campaign Visibility Area,” fenced in by metal barricades.  According to a set of “guidelines” passed out by campus security guards, “The intent of the Campaign  Visibility Area is to provide campaigns and other groups with an area to express their free speech rights.”  According to the guidelines, no one was free to speak outside the barricades.  

It is typical at events like this for campaigns to show their muscle by turning out supporters to wave signs and chant their candidate’s name.  The small number of “troops” turned out by the GOP campaigns came as a surprise, but not being privy to the campaign plans of GOP candidates, I

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can’t say if the low turnout  is a matter of design..  Olivia Zink, a veteran Primary organizer now with NH Citizens Alliance for Action, said she has observed that New Hampshire voters are “not energized by the Republican candidates in the way people were energized four years  ago by both parties.” 

Just before the debate got underway, local Democrats also hanover 10-11-11 056had the chance to hear from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the Democratic  National Committee.  With a second home in Newbury, the Florida Congresswoman is no stranger to the Granite State.  She commiserated with the locals about the “heavy burden” they face from having so many Republicans paying us visits.  Mostly she gave a pep talk for President Obama’s re-election.  In case you wondered, she said “Obama is on the side of the Wall Street protesters.” 

 

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