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Archive for January, 2012

Two hundred teachers, firefighters, state employees, and other labor activists filled seats in Representatives Hall this afternoon to testify against several anti-labor bills, including one which would destroy the right of public sector workers to form unions.

Rep. Andrew Manuse, one of the sponsor of HB 1645. told the House Labor Committee “public sector unions are contrary to the public good.”  labor committee 1-19-12 026

His co-sponsor, Rep.George Lambert, was a little less blunt.  “What we have is a  structure that needs to be modified,” he said.  Although the staff of Legislative Services “did exactly what I asked them to do” when they drafted the bill, Lambert said he would propose amended language to fix what he called “unintended consequences.”  

Rep. Gary Daniels, chair of the House Labor Committee, labor committee 1-19-12 011 said he would convene another public hearing if the amended bill is “drastically different.”  

With the exception of the lobbyist for New England Right to Work (for less), John Kalb, every speaker opposed the bill in a hearing that went on for over two hours.

Members of the public erupted in applause after a statement by the Rev. Gail Kinney of the S. Danbury United Church of Christ, who told legislators that faith communities have consistently spoken out in favor of the right to bargain collectively.  The Roman Catholic Church has spoken out“Pope labor committee 1-19-12 027crop after Pope, encyclical after encyclical …Protecting the rights of workers “makes our beloved community stronger,” she said.

Gail and I both reminded the committee that the 1968 strike of sanitation workers in Memphis, during which Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, hinged on the rights of public sector workers to organize, bargain collectively, and have their dues voluntarily deducted from their paychecks.  

While legislators can try to take away the legal rights of workers, they cannot take away our human rights, nor can they take away the determination of workers to identify their common interest and act in solidarity.

Other bills considered today included renewed attempts to impose right-to-work conditions on public sector workplaces, prohibit dues deductions, and impair the ability of county officials to negotiate with their unions.  

Members of Occupy New Hampshire also visited the State House today to deliver a pro-labor message to Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien.  The Speaker was apparently not receptive. 

There’s more to come in the coming weeks, including the bill to limit membership on the Public Employees Labor Relations Board to business people, and one to end the mandatory lunch break.  And we’ll have our eyes on Rep. Lambert’s new proposal regarding the public sector.  

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labor committee 1-19-12 008 Two hundred union activists and allies poured into a hearing room this morning to oppose the first of several bills to weaken the power of organized labor. The first hearing, which started at 9 am, would forbid union dues to be deducted from private or public sector paychecks, while all other forms of payroll deduction would still be legal. 

Rep. Susan DeLemus, prime sponsor of HB labor committee 1-19-12 002 1163, said “I just want it to focus on union dues.”

“Right to work failed and those who backed it are using smaller ways to attack and destroy collective bargaining,” said Ted “O’Brien, a retired union member.“

Bills scheduled for later in the day include a ban on collective bargaining for public employees.  A rally is scheduled for 1 PM led by the national president of the Firefighters Union.

Chairman Daniels has just announced the hearings will move to Representatives Hall.

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Call it Math, Not Envy

If Americans are upset about the growing gap between the ultra-rich and everyone else, maybe it proves we’re not mathematics-deficient after all. 

"The rise in inequality in the United States over the last three decades has reached the point that inequality in incomes is causing an unhealthy division in opportunities, and is a threat to our economic growth. Restoring a greater degree of fairness to the U.S. job market would be good for businesses, good for the economy, and good for the country."

Alan B. Krueger, President Obama’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, January 12, 2012

income growth by quintile 1979-2007

from the NY Times, January 12, 2012

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2012/01/12/opinion/011212krugman1/011212krugman1-blog480.jpg

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“Mic check,” shouts a young man.

Mic check,” several dozen people respond responsively.IMAG0383

“We have four pizzas coming.”

“We have four pizzas coming.”

“Two cheese.”

“Two cheese.”

“Two pepperoni.”

Two Pepperoni.”

Thus ended the “Occupy the New Hampshire Primary” project at a party downstairs at McNeil’s Banquet Facility on the west side of Manchester Tuesday night.  While the votes were being counted, the candidates were giving speeches, and their supporters were faithfully cheering them on to their ultimate victories, Occupy activists chatted, sang, played guitars, and swapped stories of what they had accomplished over the previous five days.

Barbara feels great that she had been able to host ten visitors from Occupy Wall Street, and said she enjoyed working in the kitchen at St. Augustin Church, which had invited the movement to use its parish hall for a few hours each afternoon.  Barbara also accompanied the OWS group to a Romney event, where they were able to engage him about the2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 027 role of money in politics. She hands me a leaflet about “Grey Heat on K Street,” a demonstration planned for April 21 to expose corporate lobbyists. 

Getting money out of politics was a popular theme among the activists.  It didn’t  hurt that Brett and Alex had produced a large number impressive signs and banners that were convenient to carry.  “We owned the narrative,” Brett says, emphasizing that it is important to go after the Democrats, too. 

“Mic check,” Alex shouts. 

“Mic check,” everyone responds.

“We are going to the Romney event,” Alex says.”

“We are going to the Romney event.”

“We would really like to have a massive presence.”

“We would really like to have a massive presence.”

Alex and Brett head for Southern New Hampshire University, where Romney’s victory party is underway.

Katie, one of the main organizers, says she is pretty positive about what they had accomplished.  “It was the circus I was hoping for,” she says.  While it wasn’t as planned as it might have been, “everything fell into place.”  She says the highlight was Saturday night’s Funeral Procession for the Middle Class, especially when supporters of GOP candidates joined the Occupiers chanting “Hey Hey Ho Ho Corporate Greed Has Got To Go.”

Jerry, from Occupy Nashua, went to a Gingrich “town hall meeting” intending to try to ask a question.  He didn’t get called on, but still feels like he had picked up useful political skills. 

Darius, from Occupy Providence, tells me he mic checked Rick Santorum at a tow2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 054 n hall meeting in Hollis, where he was impressed with a young man who challenged the candidate opposition to gay rights. 

One activist tells me he voted for Jon Huntsman, a candidate he “could live with.”  Another tells me she voted for Vermin Supreme, the only candidate who showed up for the Occupy party. Vermin placed third in the Democratic race, with 831 votes (though nearly 6000 people wrote in candidates whose names will never get reported).

“Mic check,” a young woman yells.

“Mic check,” everyone yells back. 

“Who took my Ron Paul pin?”

“Who took my Ron Paul pin.”

Two visiting activists from Massachusetts tell me they met Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, in the bar at the Radisson.  Steele told them the Occupy movements speaks to “people’s frustration with the way government operates.”

“That’s the only way the system’s going to change, by what you do,” he told them.  Steele parted ways on whether bankers who raked in millions should be prosecuted and jailed. 

Marianne tells me about a woman in Nashua who lost her job due to cancer treatments, and then lost her home to the mortgage company. Marianne and I discuss whether it might be possible to re-occupy the now vacant home. 

Krista has a Masters degree in civil and environmental engineering, but can’t find a job.  She had a position in her field for ten months, funded by the Obama “stimulus” program, but the job ended when the ARRA funds ran out.  “We were told to beg, borrow, or steal to go to college,” she says.  Now she and her husband, also an engineer, are $90,000 in debt.  He’s joined the Army Reserves.  Employers don’t want to hire entry level people who need training, she says.  Krista hasn’t been very involved with Occupy NH, but she did go to Occupy the Capitol in Washington.  2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 109

Mitt Romney, who is getting heat because he made a fortune at Bain Capital from taking over and shutting down companies, tells his fans that they should avoid “the bitter politics of envy.”  Romney (spelled “Rmoney” in one Occupy video I watched) warns against “resentment of success” in his victory speech. 

One success of Occupy the NH Primary is that it brought together activists from all over New Hampshire plus several other northeast states for five days of action.  While the initial schedule focused on events scheduled for Veterans Park or the Unitarian Church, the Occupiers figured out pretty quickly that they could take their message directly to the candidates, who were cris-crossing southern New Hampshire.  By Tuesday evening, many of them have headed home. 

“I miss the New York people already,” someone says.

Paul is one of the New York people who hasn’t left yet.  He’s impressed by the success of Occupy the NH Primary in reaching candidates, the media, and the people with its message about inequality, corporate power, and the corrosive effect of money on democracy.   He arrives late for the Victory Party.  “I spent the day trying to organize South Carolina,” he says. 

 

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The day before the New Hampshire Primary is typically a busy one for candidates, who rush from rally to rally in order to inspire their followers and reach the last few undecided voters.  Newt Gingrich was planning a 6 PM stop at his own downtown Manchester campaign office, in between a 4 PM “town hall meeting” in Hudson and an 8 PM visit to a Concord sports bar.  By 5:45, the sidewalk in front of the 2012 01 09 machester occupy the primary 033 crop office was crowded with Occupy activists carrying “money out of politics” signs and Ron Paul supporters, plus reporters and Gingrich campaign workers.   That late in a busy, daylong schedule, it’s normal for candidates to be late, so Vermin Supreme, the provocateur clown candidate who promises everyone will get a free pony if he is elected, had a perfect stage for his performance. 

Inside the campaign office, it also grew crowded with Newt fans and reporters.  I took off my 99% pin and slipped in, finding a spot at the back of the room near the reception desk.  I was hoping for a chance to ask Gingrich how he would address the corrupting influence of the country’s widening wealth disparities.  The only spot in the room where there was room for Newt was behind the reception desk, so I thought I’d be literally in his2012 01 09 machester occupy the primary 038 face.  While I waited I had a friendly talk with Rhonda and Grace, both local Republicans.   (Rhonda and I agreed “Medicare for All” would be a good way to settle  the health care debate.)  Outside, Occupiers decided to split their ranks between the front and back doors to the building. 

At about 7 PM, reporters started to leave.  New Hampshire campaign manager, Andrew Hemingway, worked the room and told disappointed Newt fans that the former Speaker was not coming, apparently due to security issues created by protesters.

As the New York Times reported, “His campaign’s security team pulled the plug on the event after determining that the front and back entrances to the office were unsafe for Mr. Gingrich and his wife to enter, said R.C. Hammond, the campaign spokesman.”

2012 01 09 machester occupy the primary 039 Occupiers marched off to Jillian’s, a mill district restaurant where Rick Santorum had a 7:15 PM event, hoping to repeat their performance.  Needless to say, I missed my chance to have a chat with Newt.

Republicans weren’t the only ones to get the Occupy treatment yesterday.  A couple dozen Occupy activists, from several northeastern states, shut down the Obama campaign office in Manchester for more than an hour, demanding an end to the “cozy relationship between Wall Street and Corporations and the White House and Congress.”

The daily General Assembly was a short visit from Captain Robert Cunha of the Manchester Police Department, who commended the activists for “cooperation at the Obama office.”  He noted that conflicts between law enforcement and the Occupy movement, which he called “bumps in the road,” are likely to take place, but stressed that “cooperation goes a long way.”  Local activists expressed their interest 2012 01 09 machester occupy the primary 017 in continuing to have open communication with the police, and re-stated that there are no plans to interfere with voting today.   Captain Cunha also said an investigation is underway following an alleged assault by a campaign worker against an Occupier the previous day, apparently during Newt Gingrich’s visit to the Don Quijote restaurant.  

Occupy the NH Primary will wrap up at MacNeil’s Banquet Facility, 837 Second St. on the West Side of Manchester, from 4:30 to 8:30 pm today.  “The McNeil’s have offered their banquet room to Occupy NH without charge. We have to bring our own food. We can potluck, order BBQ from KC’s rib shack, etc.  Bring some $$ for beer/wine/soda,” says the OccupyNH web page.

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More Snapshots from Occupy the NH Primary

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The highlight of Saturday afternoon was definitely the GLBT March from Veterans Park to Victory Park by way of the Bank of America.  I counted 200 people, some chanting “1,2,3,4, Open Up Your Closet Door, 5,6,7,8, Don’t Assume Your 2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 111 Kids Are Straight,”  while others chanted “Ru Paul Not Ron Paul,” and the ever popular “We are the 99%.”  Since all the chants were going on simultaneously in a procession that stretched across a city block, it was interesting to hear an impassioned marcher at a short Victory Park assembly express how great it felt that “we’re all saying the same thing.”  Despite the irony, her meaning was obvious: there was a spirit of solidarity of the Occupy movement with gays and lesbians whose lives are under attack by the Republican candidates.

I should say, the Republican candidates with one exception:  Fred Karger, a longtime Republican and gay activist who’s name will be on the GOP ballot 2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 056 Tuesday, was part of the march.  He said he has visited Occupiers in several cities during campaign visits.  

The members of the Leftist Marching Band gave marchers a lift, as they always do.  They also joined the Funeral Procession for the American Dream prior to last night’s debate at St. Anselm College.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be there so you’ll have to look elsewhere for reports of a spirited demonstration that included more people than any of the candidates mustered.  

Given the heavily-discussed reluctance of the Occupy movement to2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 001 develop a platform, it’s worth noting that the theme of “money out of politics” is one that  resonates with everyone.  A graphic design created by Brett Chamberlin and Alex Freid, both of Durham, is omnipresent at Occupy the Primary, and even hung from the Kennedy Tower next to the Capitol Center for the Arts, where the weekend’s second debate was held this morning. 

Occupy activists clustered on the sidewalk, just north of the theatre, next to Jon Huntsman’s contingent (Huntsman supporters included a goat.  No, I don’t know its significance.).  Romney and Paul supporters likewise greeted t2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 003 crophe ticketed audience that stretched out along the sidewalk in the  middle of the Occupiers and campaign volunteers.  There may have been a few Santorum signs, too, but I didn’t spot sign-holders from the Perry or Gingrich campaigns.  A contingent of anti-Zionist rabbis, dressed in black, held the space just south of the Capitol Center entrance. 

Across the street were members of the Communications Workers of America, employees of the NH Union Leader, the state’s largest newspaper and one of the debate co-sponsors.  They are in the midst of an ugly contract dispute with the paper’s publisher Joe McQuaid, who has laid off workers, increased hours without a pay raise, and essentially refused to bargain.   The CWA members were joined by visiting members of the United Auto Workers, who are spending a few days annoying GOP candidates and also meeting with labor and political allies. 

When the debate ended, at about 10:30, most everyone but t2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 013he Ron Paul and Occupy folks left.  That meant it was a good time for a wedding to be held between a corporation and a person.  I objected at the appropriate moment in  the ceremony, and said that in New Hampshire a man can marry a woman, a man can marry a man, and a woman can marry a woman, but neither a man nor a woman can marry a corporation since, despite Mitt Romney’s claim, corporations are not people.  

 The Occupiers and Ron Paul groups shifted locations to the south side of the theatre, where the candidates’ vehicles were parked.  There, joined by a handful of reporters and unaffiliated Primary 2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 031 crop gawkers, they waited for the candidates to emerge.  As each candidate left the building and got into his car, Brett delivered a short, personalized speech for each one, with help of the people’s mic.  The only exception was Rick Santorum, who was greeted by a loud, spontaneous chorus of boos from all, including the Paulists.

That seemed to be a common enough reaction to the former Senator that he cancelled his remaining New Hampshire campaign events and flew off to South Carolina, where he no d2012 01 08 machester occupy the primary 039oubt hopes to get a warmer reception. 

Occupy the NH Primary re-convened in Veterans Park for an evening General Assembly.  Topics included a debrief of the previous night’s action, a report on communications with the Manchester police, proposed actions for Monday, and ideas for other gatherings of Occupiers from northeastern states. 

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Populist Republican Staying in the Race

Buddy Roemer, a former governor and former member of Congress whose populist campaign for the GOP presidential nomination has been largely ignored by voters, the news media, and campaign donors, defiantly announced this afternoon that he is…staying in the race for the presidency.   

2012 01 07 machester occupy the primary 106 Speaking to a roomful of reporters and supporters at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Manchester, Roemer’s big announcement was that “I will not suspend my campaign.”

Roemer has set a $100 maximum on campaign contributions, a pledge that matched his anti-big business platform.  No surprise, the bucks have not been rolling in.  Shut out of the debates by the major media organizations, despite poll numbers he says are as good as those of Rick Perry, Roemer has had a hard time getting his message to GOP voters.

He has been visiting the Occupy NH activists, though.  “I’m with the young people,” he said.  “Occupy is not right in many things, but they’re right in one thing,” he said, “They smell corruption.”

Roemer said he’ll keep up the fight against government corruption, even if he has to be “a thorn in the side of the Republican Party.”

 

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