2011 Convention — Report of SEA President Diana Lacey

Two days after I was elected, New Hampshire and most of the United States changed – dramatically.

If Peter Brunette is in the delegation today – raise your hand Peter!?! One year ago, you talked about the possibility of the world changing dramatically right after SEA’s elections…so what I want to know from you now is this — what are the lottery numbers I should pick next week?!?!

Seriously though, this has been one heck of an initiation!

The attacks we have faced in the past year cannot be understated: pension reform, health care for retirees, active employees and the country, collective bargaining rights, voting rights, critical public services, good jobs, the mortgage crisis, Wall Street, fractured political parties…I can go on and on it seems.

Today, I am proud to make my first President’s Report to you, though! Why? Because no matter what our fights have been this year, we have not lost site of the ten year vision we created in 2008; or lost site of what we want to see this organization evolve into; or of what matters most to our families, workplaces or communities. In other words, we have gained a strong foundation to support what we all hold dear, and we have strengthened our solidarity and conviction to defend what the labor movement began a century ago.

To be sure, this has been a difficult year. The outside world has challenged us in ways we did not foresee. When I was sworn into office, there was an unspoken undercurrent in the room…would we, could we, grow our union family strong? And how would we take our rightful place in our state and communities? How were we going to demonstrate to each other and the general public that we, as workers, and we, as union members, are an important part in turning our economy around?

The answers to many of these questions will be answered later today in presentations. For now though, I want to assure you that the foundation that made the SEA a 70-year old group of organized workers, trusted and respected by state leaders, is alive and well!

Your leadership at the Board of Directors is operating in a healthy, productive way once again – focused on what matters to all of us and working together in a common mission.

Within State government, thanks to the work that hundreds of you have put into the past year, our Legislature now realizes we are a living, breathing, dedicated, and 100% committed force to be reckoned with. WE are the guardians of public service in New Hampshire and THEY now know it!

Within the Labor community in New Hampshire, and nationwide as well, you should all feel proud of the fact that in the past ten months, the fractures of yesteryear, the self-serving agendas of old, have all been put aside to bring working people together, so that our families can come together as one large voice to preserve the American Dream the labor movement originally created.

No matter where you work, if it is in government or the private sector, North or South of Concord, Republican or Democrat, those distinctions that once may have divided us, now strengthen our resolve to fight for a fair economy!

Good jobs, decent wages, a responsible benefit and retirement package — these are all core to what brings us together as a union, and what we are drawn to protect from harm.

This year has been filled with more challenges than I, or any of the candidates for SEA’s President in 2010, could have imagined. But it has also been filled with more joy and pride than we might have expected, as well!

You elevated the NH worker this year! You brought us to life in local and national news! And in some circles, at least, we ARE the Little Engine That Could!

Have we taken our lumps this year? Of course we have. The race to the bottom took hundreds of our fellow members out of the workplace and put them in the unemployment line. Political leadership in the House and Senate destroyed more than 1,000 good jobs, which they traded to provide corporations major tax breaks. And an irresponsible, destructive state budget has destroyed, in whole, more than 3,000 jobs in all sectors of the NH economy.

Meanwhile, our conviction to defend what we know is right for New Hampshire has only grown stronger. The relationships we have built with Democratic and Republican lawmakers has etched into stone a new political dynamic for NH. Make no mistake politicians – the SEA will work with politicians that care about our issues! We will not be the whipping boy or dutiful servant of either party – we will work with those that hold dear our values and priorities!!

Later today you will get a deeper view of what the past year and next year may look like. But for this part of our business today, I encourage you all to focus on the incredible work we’ve done together. And I hope you will all join me in thanking some pretty important people to us this year:

  • Our SEA management team, KJ, Mike, Brad, Jay, and our newest additions, Ahrien and Beth. Without this team’s dedication, we could not have made it through this year.
  • Our SEA staff, who have worked so hard and in the face of the worst labor attacks in decades, have kept a brave face, an undaunted heart, and an energized passion at the forefront of each business day.
  • Our incredible Board of Directors, who – no matter how difficult the past may have been – have come together to strengthen our family and fight for our future.
  • Our NH allied community, including the NH AFL-CIO – headed by President Mark MacKenzie. Mark graciously welcomed me to the NH labor’s table and threw aside the divides of the past to work together for what we both know is most important.
  • Our Legal Team at Molan, Milner and Krupski — who, no matter how busy their current workload may be, never let us down.
  • Our state representatives – of both parties – that put aside partisan politics to stand by our working families.
  • Our SEIU staff locally and across the country — for seeing the attacks we were under and selflessly seding their best staff to help us out in our time of need.
  • And last, but certainly not least – our incredible new SEIU President, Mary Kay Henry, and the impeccable leadership team she has put together – including Executive Vice President, Eileen Kirlin. Without their support, which I urge you all to read more about in the written SEIU Annual Report provided to you in your packet, we could not have made it through this year.

In whole, we did experience some injuries this year, but we won many more fights than we lost. We proved we are a force to be reckoned with. Through half a dozen unsuccessful attempts to overturn Governor Lynch’s VETO on Right To Work, Speaker O’Brien now knows well that we are a force! We protected collective bargaining rights by proving, thanks to our master bargaining team, that collective bargaining still works in NH, despite Representative Neal Kurk’s hope that we will all die sooner! We organized workers who wanted to join the labor movement and fight for a fair economy, first with the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH) Adjunct faculty and now at Plynouth State University (PSU), which is happening right now! We have won four out of four special elections that bit by bit, reduce Speaker O’Brien’s power! And we are rapidly winning back the public’s trust and solidarity.

As we move through today’s agenda, we will focus a lot on the next year. Thanks to modern technology, you won’t have to listen to me so much and instead you’ll have a multi-media, interactive day (in lay terms that means VIDEO!). And as we move through this day, I’m going to ask you to all remember this one thing: the fight is real…the fight is now…and you ALL need to be part of it. We simply must TRANSFORM our state and country, because our families need us to make that happen! We simply must EDUCATE those around us – to be sure their eyes are opened, their minds are clear, their hearts are committed, and they are ready to fight as well! And then, we must do what labor does….we must AGITATE and MOBILIZE wherever and however we can!

TOGETHER…we can and will make the difference! Thank you for everything you have done this past year, and all that I know you can do this next year! I am honored to stand with you, and blessed by the gift of trust you gave me.


Diana Lacey

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