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Gov. Hassan Signs Paycheck Fairness  (image by Kary Jencks, NH Citizens Alliance)

Gov. Hassan Signs Paycheck Fairness (image by Kary Jencks, NH Citizens Alliance)

Paycheck Fairness Act to become law January 1, 2015 

CONCORD, NH – Today Governor Maggie Hassan ceremoniously signed SB 207 and HB 1188, the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act into law. The Paycheck Fairness Act will eliminate loopholes, increase transparency in wages, and ensure that all workers have the appropriate tools and resources to help them earn a fair and equal paycheck, without fear of retaliation.

“Ensuring that women and men can earn equal pay for an equal day’s work isn’t just an issue of fairness, it’s essential to our economic future. I am proud to sign this common-sense, bipartisan legislation that will strengthen the economic security of hard-working Granite Staters and eliminate an unnecessary strain on New Hampshire families,” said Governor Maggie Hassan in a written statement.

“While paycheck fairness legislation remains stalled in our nation’s capital, here in New Hampshire we’ve shown once again that we can come together to expand middle class opportunity and move our economy forward. I want to thank Senator Larsen, Speaker Norelli and legislators from both parties for coming together to pass the most significant piece of legislation for women in New Hampshire’s workforce in over a decade,” concluded Gov. Hassan.

“Thank you to ​Governor Hassan, ​House Speaker Norelli​, and the members of the Legislature​ for reinforcing New Hampshire’s commitment to the fundamental principle of an equal day’s work deserves an equal day’s pay. ​The enactment of this new law affirms that we must ​continue our efforts to close the wage gap in New Hampshire,​” said Senator Sylvia Larsen.​ “With Governor Hassan signing SB 207 in law, New Hampshire ​is sending a crystal clear message that the ​State of New Hampshire is on the side of all workers guaranteeing a fair and equal paycheck, without fear of retaliation.​”​

Senate Bill 207 was cited by Senate and House Democrats as a top priority for the 2014 legislative session. SB 207 sponsors include all Senate Democrats along with House Speaker Terie Norelli, Rep. Shannon Chandley (D-Amherst), Rep. MaryAnn Knowles (D-Hudson), and Rep. Marjorie Porter (D-Hillsboro). HB 1188 sponsors included Rep. Chuck Weed (D-Keene), Rep. Michael Cahill (D-Newmarket), Rep. Larry Phillips (D-Keene), Rep. Doug Ley (D-Jaffrey), Rep. Marcia Moody (D-Newmarket), Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth).

“It’s distressing that, in the year 2014, women in New Hampshire, who are working full-time jobs, still earn only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. National studies have found that a pay gap exists between men and women in nearly every occupation,” said Larsen.​

“However, the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act will give women hard-working in today’s economy, the much-needed tools they need to combat the wage gap,” concluded Senator Larsen.​

NH Citizens Alliance for Action, Granite State Progress, and the New Hampshire Women’s Initiative applaud Governor Hassan for signing SB 207 and HB 1188, the New Hampshire Paycheck Fairness Act into law.

“Ensuring equal pay for equal work is integral to the economic security of individuals and families,” said Kary Jencks, Executive Director of NH Citizens Alliance for Action. “On behalf of our 20,000 members, NH Citizens Alliance commends Governor Hassan and her progressive colleagues in the state legislature for passing the Paycheck Fairness Act and their continued efforts to build a New Hampshire that works for all of us.”

“Granite State Progress is proud to have worked with leaders like Governor Hassan, Senator Larsen, and Speaker Norelli to ensure that New Hampshire’s Paycheck Fairness Act became law,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “We commend the bipartisan support of our legislature to ensure the adoption of this legislation, and encourage our federal delegation to follow suit. This law will give employees the tools they need to challenge wage gaps and help create a climate where wage discrimination is no longer tolerated.”

“The New Hampshire Women’s Initiative is proud to have played a role in championing SB207,” said Mary Jo Brown, Chair of the New Hampshire Women’s Initiative. “We applaud the collaboration and consensus this bill promoted, and look forward to future work that will advance gender equality in both economic, social and political arenas.”



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Image by NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan

Image by NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan

As a child I remember my mother speaking German when she was upset or frustrated. I guess she thought that swearing in German was better than swearing in English in front of my sister, brother, and I. But we soon caught on to the words and I still use them myself at times.

When I asked her how she knew German, she told me that her father’s family was from Germany and many of her aunts and uncles speak German, having learned it from their parents. I think that was probably the first time that I realized that the United States was not where everyone was born.

My cousin Jim is the genealogy expert on the other side of my family. He has traced the roots of my father’s family from the first steps in America back to Ireland for the Kelly’s (my grandfather) and Germany for the Zulauf’s, (my grandmother). Many of my relatives came here as children. They went on to work in factories, some became farmers, teachers, nurses, while others started new businesses in this country and employed their relatives and neighbors, and many went into the armed services, protecting the country they now called home.

Migrant children have been coming to this country for many years. Back when my relatives made their way to America there were people here who called them the same names that we hear the children from Central America being called today – “invaders,” “disease ridden,” “job stealers.”  Some were confronted by signs on shop and factory doors that said, “Irish need not apply.”

I am saddened that my relatives, especially the children, had to endure this name calling and bigotry. But, I am proud that they stayed, worked hard, and educated themselves, and gave me a family history to be proud of.

I am embarrassed that we as Americans, all of us immigrants, have forgotten our own family histories. Seeing grown-ups screaming at terrified children for wanting nothing more than a better life repulses me.

The daughter of Dallas Judge, Clay Jenkins, said to him as he was explaining to her that all the children were being detained at the border for her security and protection, “But daddy, these aren’t people, these are children.”

And this is a humanitarian crisis. I hope we start to address it humanely, for the sake of the children.

GROWING UP GRANITE

New Hampshire has a diverse refugee population. The New Hampshire Refugee Program (NHRP) operates under the New Hampshire Office of Minority Health and Refugee Affairs. Here is information about the program from the DHHS website.

The primary goal of the Refugee Program is to assist refugees in their quest for economic self-sufficiency and successful integration. The NHRP is funded through the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Refugee Program staff work closely with the two New Hampshire voluntary resettlement agencies (volags), Lutheran Social Services and the International Institute of New Hampshire, as well as other area partners to support refugee integration.

These nonprofit voluntary resettlement agencies (volags) receive US Department of State, Bureau of Population and Migration funding and agree to resettle a number of refugees at the start of the fiscal year based on their capacity to provide services for new arrivals and the number of refugees coming into the U.S. Additional money is provided to states by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement to provide self-sufficiency services. These services include:

  • Case Management: Resettlement agencies facilitate and coordinate a variety of services including housing, healthcare, referrals and general support services as refugees transition into their communities.
  • Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) and Refugee Medical Assistance (RMA): Funds are designed to assist refugees during their 8 month, initial resettlement period. All refugees are entitled to Refugee Medical Assistance for their first eight months in the US. To be eligible for RCA, however, a refugee must be ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other cash support programs.
  • English as a Second Language: voluntary agencies collectively provide over 90 hours a week in English Language Training. Other public and private organizations provide additional ESOL in communities throughout New Hampshire. Classes are designed to help refugees achieve competencies in key linguistic areas, preparing them to meet their everyday language needs at work and in community life.
  • Employment Services: These include an assessment of vocational skills, job development, job placement and follow up services with local employers. The hard work of refugee employment counselors has made New Hampshire a model state for refugee resettlement. Refugees often find full-time employment within the first two or three months of arrival.
  • Preventive Health: The primary goal of the Preventive Health Program is to prevent and control problems of public health significance among incoming refugees, with emphasis on those health problems that may create barriers to self-sufficiency. The program ensures that refugees have access to health education, case management and interpreter services.
  • School Impact: This program targets school-aged refugees to support successful integration and academic achievement. The contractors also work closely with refugee parents and school personnel to discuss/resolve issues relevant to children’s school performance. The program provides a multitude of services that include leadership development, counseling, academic support, after school activities, parent training and cultural competency training for school personnel.
  • Services for Older Refugees: Older Refugees are often isolated from the mainstream community. The goal of the Services for Older Refugees program is to help older refugees access services available to mainstream older citizens. Contractors work with senior centers to develop culturally appropriate activities and improve cultural competence. Contractors also provide individualized case management to older refugees to resolve barriers to well-being, such as health access, transportation and housing issues. Finally, the project assists older refugees prepare for and achieve citizenship.

Learn more about Refugees and how they got to New Hampshire. experience.



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AFGE Logo 2AFGE urges government to allow public comment on rule before enactment

WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees says the public should be allowed to review and comment on a U.S Department of Agriculture plan to overhaul the poultry inspection system before the rule takes effect.

By gran  [GFDL (http://ift.tt/KbUOlc)  Wiki Common

By gran [GFDL (http://ift.tt/KbUOlc) Wiki Common

USDA submitted a revised version of the rule to the Office of Management and Budget on July 10, seeking final review and approval. USDA officials have stated that “significant changes” have been made to the original proposed rule, which has been strongly criticized by AFGE and other labor and consumer groups, members of Congress, and other federal agencies.

USDA has refused to reveal what changes have been made to the proposal until the final rule is published in the Federal Register.

AFGE today sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Howard Shelanski, administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, urging a full public review of the rule before it is finalized. Specifically, AFGE is calling on the agencies to publish the revised version of the proposed rule, open it up for a 120-day public comment period, and hold public meetings on the revised proposed rule.

“Considering the importance of this rule, stakeholders and the public should be given the opportunity to comment on the ‘significant changes’ made to the proposed rule before it is finalized,” AFGE Legislative and Political Director Beth Moten wrote.

The USDA plan, which was first proposed in January 2012, would remove most federal inspectors from the slaughter line and turn over inspection activities currently performed by federal inspectors to untrained employees hired by the poultry processing plants. The proposal also would allow plants to increase their line speeds up to 175 chicken carcasses per minute, meaning that the lone remaining federal inspector on the slaughter line will have one-third of one second to examine each chicken carcass for disease, infection and contamination.

“The USDA’s original plan has been roundly criticized as a blatant attempt to cut costs without regard to the serious ramifications on the health and safety of consumers and plant workers,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. “The public has a right to see what changes USDA has made to its cost-cutting plan and be able to respond to the revised plan before any action is taken.”

The chief goal of the USDA’s plan has been to save money, not to increase safety for consumers or workers, Cox said. The plan as originally proposed would save USDA about $90 million over three years, while poultry plants would reap more than $250 million a year in profits from increasing line speeds, according to the agency’s own documents.



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WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s signing of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act:

“Career and technical education programs provide incredibly important pathways to success. The bipartisan bill that President Obama signed today extends the ladder of opportunity to middle-class Americans by providing the guidance, skills and training needed to compete for good 21st-century jobs. The law will help young people, the disabled, the long-term unemployed and those barely getting by on hourly wages to become economically self-sufficient.

“The workforce law provides a blueprint for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act, which has been a lifeline for job training opportunities and focuses on career and technical education programs and collaborative partnerships among employers, communities, schools and labor. We hope that as Congress works on the Perkins reauthorization, it provides much-needed funding for guidance counselors, who can help students explore career options as they contemplate their futures.

“I have witnessed how great career and technical education high schools change lives, such as New York City’s Aviation High School; New York City’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-Tech, which has IBM and the City College of New York as core partners; and the Toledo (Ohio) Technology Academy, whose partners include the United Auto Workers union. The Albert Shanker Institute and the AFT have been stalwart advocates of career and technical education programs, and we will continue our efforts to help high-quality CTE programs flourish to create innovative pathways to a high school diploma and college and career readiness.”



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Labor of Love

From Left to Right : Amanda Terkel, Congressman Mark Takana, Roland Leggett, Kate Childs Graham, Cari Stevenson

“Labor has been fighting for LBGT rights for the last 30 years,” Carli Stevenson told the audience of the “Labor of Love” panel at Netroots Nation.  Carli is an openly gay woman who has done communications for multiple labor unions and is currently working with AFSCME Indiana-Kentucky Organizing Committee 962.

The basis of the panel was talking about the direct influence that labor unions played in fighting for the rights of our brothers and sisters in the LBGT community.  There is no doubt that labor played a major role in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, working to end segregation, and fighting for equality.  Let us never forget that the reason Dr. Martin Luther King was in Memphis, where he was assassinated, was to march with AFSCME sanitation workers.

It is no coincidence that labor has been a leader in pushing for the current civil rights battle, the battle for equality and LBGT rights.  Congressman Mark Takano told the audience that “2013 may have been the gay-est year in history.”  He also said that younger members of the LBGT community do not remember the struggles in the past and who was there to help the LBGT community continue to move forward.

It was people like Cesar Chavez, who as President of the United Farm Workers union was the “first major civil rights leader to support gay and lesbian issues visibly and explicitly.”  Chavez also led the “Second National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights” in 1987.

Congressman Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay politicians elected to Congress, helped the Teamsters organize a boycott of Coors in the mid ‘70s.  Milk organized the local gay bar owners to stop selling Coors while the Teamsters truck drivers were on strike.  In return, Milk asked the Teamsters to hire more gay and lesbian drivers.  The partnership was extremely successful, taking Coors from a 40% market share to 14% and ending the strike.

The United Auto Workers pushed equality forward.   “The UAW was the first union to get same sex couple benefits into labor contract,” said Roland Leggett, the Michigan State Director for Working America.  After the UAW successfully got domestic partner benefits into their contracts in 1982, more and more Fortune 500 companies started to adopt similar policies.  By 2006, 49% of all Fortune 500 companies offered domestic partner benefits.

“The patchwork of legal protections across the country underscores the reason why a union contract is an LGBT worker’s best friend,” wrote T Santora, Co-President of Pride At Work, in a 2009 article.

Labor was bold and progressive in their approach to get LBGT protections for all workers, and was right there to fight back when workers were being discriminated against.  Labor used their influence in State Houses and on Capitol Hill to push for same-sex marriage provisions and to pass provisions against worker discrimination.

Before becoming a politician, Congressman Takano was a public school teacher for over 20 years.  He talked about the importance of the partnership between the LBGT community and the teachers unions.  In 1978, they fought back against the Prop 6, the “Briggs Amendment” that would have “banned gays and lesbians from working in the California public schools.”

Together the labor movement and the LGBT community celebrated as the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.  This monumental decision is leading to the destruction of the anti-gay marriage provisions passed throughout the states.

Pushing To End LBGT Discrimination

From the beginning labor and the LBGT community have been working to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).  However, after the Hobby Lobby decision, the “religious provisions” in ENDA took on an entirely new meaning.

The Supreme Court’s decision allows Hobby Lobby a “religious exemption” from a provision of the federal Affordable Care Act.  Within days of that ruling, “closely held corporations” and religious institutions wanted to use the religious exemption to discriminate against the LBGT community.  (Read the story “Hobby Lobby’s harvest: A religious exemption for LGBT discrimination?” from the LA Times)

Just as quickly as religious institutions began to file for the ability to discriminate, national gay rights advocacy groups began pulling their support for ENDA.

“While we fully support strong protections for LGBT workers in the workplace, something that for many workers is currently only afforded by a union contract, after the recent Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case, it is clear that these broad religious exemptions would gut the intent and purpose of ENDA,” said Pride at Work interim Executive Director, Jerame Davis, in a written statement. “LGBT workers deserve strong, enforceable workplace protections and we look forward to supporting a bill to that end.”

The current version of ENDA has a religious exemption clause that would allow the “closely held corporations” and religious institutions to openly discriminate against workers because they are gay.

Carli Stevenson laid out the perfect example at Netroots Nation, when she explained that her partner works for a Catholic organization.  If the administration learned that Carli’s partner was in a same sex relationship, she could be immediately fired, and unable to collect unemployment.   “We’re not just talking about marriage, we’re talking about basic workers’ rights. Many of these religious and ministerial exemptions are an attack on basic protections most of us take for granted.” Carli continued. “We should not be pushing for any bill that will leave out any members of our LBGT family.”

Congressman Takano said that the staff from the Equality Caucus is working on the right language to protect the workers and the religious beliefs of religious institutions.

Roland Leggett, whose husband is a Lutheran minister, talked about the how “religious exemptions have been used a way to discriminate against people throughout history.”  He continued by saying, “there is a difference between a baker who does not want to make a cake for a gay wedding, and being fired for being gay.”

Some of this anti-gay messaging comes from the Catholic Church.  Kate Childs Graham, who does media affairs for the American Federation of Teachers, was raised Catholic and said she is “hopeful that this new Pope will make changes to move the church towards marriage equality.”

Moving Forward

After a long and moving discussion about how labor unions helped to push for many of the rights and protections that the LBGT community now enjoys, it was Kate Childs Graham who posed a question to the audience: “What can the LBGT community do to help labor?”

For decades, labor unions have seen a slow decline in membership and less of the private sector is covered by union contracts.  Over the past few years, labor unions have seen unprecedented attacks on workers rights.

Kate talked about the recent fight in Michigan, where Republican Governor Rick Snyder forced a “Right To Work (for less)” amendment through the state Legislature.  While that was happening, Kate talked to some of her friends at Equality Michigan, and asked for their help organizing people to rally against the legislation.  Without skipping a beat, Equality Michigan helped to gather hundreds of the LBGT community to a rally less than a week later.

In the 1970s when “gay rights” was a relatively new term, labor was there. Now these LBGT advocacy groups are very well organized, and very powerful.  Labor needs them to help push for better wages and better working conditions.  We need the LGBT community to help us push for a higher minimum wage.  We need the LBGT community to help us as we are organizing low-wage workers and restaurant workers.  We need the LBGT community to help us push for a single payer healthcare system. Sometimes, we just need people to stand with us at rallies. That is what the LBGT community can do for labor.

Closing Note

I have been running the New Hampshire Labor News for almost three years now.  My work has connected me with some wonderful people from around the country.  Many of the communications professionals inside the labor movement are gay.  They are some of the funniest, creative, and most dedicated people I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  I wanted to personally thank my friend Asher Huey (AFT Digital Media) for putting this panel together.  I also want to congratulate all the people who participated in this panel, and especially my friend, and fellow Granite Stater, Carli Stevenson, who plans on being married to the love of her life in 2016!



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New TV Ad: Jeanne Shaheen Is Fighting Rising College Costs, Working To Make A Difference For New Hampshire Students And Their Parents

Manchester, NH – A new television ad from Jeanne Shaheen’s campaign highlights how Shaheen is working to lower college costs for New Hampshire students and their parents by giving them the freedom to refinance their college loans, just like they can with a home mortgage or car loan.  The ad, running 30 seconds, began airing Sunday on televisions stations in New Hampshire.

“Jeanne Shaheen has deep roots in New Hampshire. She raised her family here and her record proves she shares our values. She understands the importance of education to our kids and their future,” said Campaign Manager Mike Vlacich.  “That’s why as Governor she expanded public kindergarten and created a tax free tuition savings program, and why as Senator she’s introduced new legislation to lower the cost of college loans.  New Hampshire comes first for Jeanne Shaheen and always has.”

In the Senate, Jeanne Shaheen was an original cosponsor of the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinance Act that would allow students in New Hampshire and across the country to refinance their loans at lower interest rates.  While the legislation was blocked by congressional gridlock and a Republican filibuster, it would have helped 25 million borrowers across the country save thousands of dollars on their loan payments.  Individuals with older loans at higher interest rates would be able to refinance at rates below 4 percent.

New Hampshire college graduates leave school with $33,000 in student loan debt on average.  It is the second highest rate of debt in the country.  Over half of the more than 200,000 Granite Staters with federally backed student loans would benefit from Senator Shaheen’s legislation.

Independent economists point to the relatively low share of first-time home buyers in today’s market compared with historical levels as a result of increasing levels of student loan debt.  Graduates with high monthly student loan payments are less likely to qualify for a mortgage or have been able to save money for a down payment on a home.

“New Hampshire students leave college on average with $33,000 in debt. It can slow them down for years. But right now, our students can’t refinance their loans the way you can refinance a car loan or a mortgage,” says Senator Shaheen in the new television ad.  “I want to change that.  I am fighting for a bill to allow students to refinance their loans. It will lower rates and save families thousands of dollars.”

Watch the new television ad here http://ift.tt/1yUUy1V



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Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on President Obama’s Executive Order Protecting Federal Employees from Gender Identity Discrimination

Working people believe in equality and fairness. That’s why we are happy to stand with President Obama in supporting protections for workers who are discriminated against on the basis of gender identity.

It is wrong for any employer to discriminate against or fire a worker based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination in the workplace has no place in the United States. That’s why it’s difficult to believe that in many parts of the country, it’s legal to fire workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

America’s unions and working families are dedicated to bringing fairness and dignity to the workplace—and will continue this work until every worker is treated with dignity and respect on the job.

We are proud to come together for a more just America.



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workingamerica:

You won’t like us when we’re angry! Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo joins us to protest the immoral #DetroitWater shutoffs. http://ift.tt/1nTLvuB

cool—britannia:

Greetings from the gem of the Suncook River valley #teamPappas (at Pittsfield Center Historic District)