With the election still close in the rearview and the fiscal deadline coming up on the horizon, union members took to Washington last week to deliver a message: we want jobs, not cuts.
SEA’s First Vice President Ken Roos and member John Hattan, both of whom work for Health & Human Services, were among those who headed to the nation’s capital for this Jobs, Not Cuts Lobby Day.
In all, more than 120 SEIU Local leaders, members and staff descended on Capitol Hill – 35 SEIU locals from 24 states joined with members from AFSCME, NEA and the AFL in approximately 150 meetings with members of Congress.
Roos and Hattan met with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen as well as an aide to Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Roos said it was the first time in many years that union members had been able to meet with a Republican Congressional delegate or one of their staffers, and he thought the meeting went well.
“He listened and took notes. Of course, he explained the senator’s side of things, with the major differences being taxes on the top 2 percent,” Roos said. The staffer, Daniel Auger, said Ayotte felt the $250,000 level was too low and would interfere with small businesses. Instead, Ayotte would push for tax rollbacks somewhere closer to the $500,000 income level.
“I believe this shows a willingness to at least negotiate,” said Roos.
Hattan said the meeting would be beneficial in the future.
“A lot of this stuff is about relationship building,” Hattan said. “It was very fortunate we were able to meet with the legislative aide for Ayotte.”
“One of the points I made with Sen. Ayotte’s representative was we appreciated the opportunity to break the ice, to open the door for communications,” Roos said. “And even if she doesn’t come over to our side on this, she’s heard our opinions and we’ve had some dialogue back and forth.”
Roos said the meeting with Shaheen and her aides was positive, as well.
“It’s been an ongoing conversation with her,” Roos said. “She’s pretty much in agreement with our side on this situation with the fiscal cliff.”
Hattan said the Lobby Day effort is essential, because corporate interests have their lobbyists working hard to pursue entitlement reforms that would hurt working people.
“All this lobbying is a necessary pushback against those corporate interests,” Hattan said. “They need to know we’re there. If we’re not there, it’s just going to be their voice.”
Hattan said that even though the election was done, there is still work left to do.
“The issues are not going to go away,” Hattan said. “Just because new people are elected doesn’t mean we can stop educating.”