Each year at convention, the SEA President provides the delegates with a report of the activities, achievements, and challenges of the past year. This year, President Lacey’s report had overtones of optimism as she compared the previous years of relentless attacks by radical legislators bent on blaming public workers for all the woes of the time; with a much better place today.
“Last year I stood with you at convention and I asked you and the rest of our union family to give of yourselves, your time and your energy,” she said. “I asked you to share your voice, to make your needs heard; and predicted that together, we could make a difference. And so we did!”
She went on to tell of legislators from both sides of the aisle, since the 2012 elections, working together more and being more respectful of public employees’ opinions and contributions. “When we speak, they are listening to us. And although we won’t always agree, the hatefulness we were living with has been replaced with interest and a desire to understand different perspectives.”
Among the achievements and highlights of the last year, she reported:
- A bill to privatize state corrections was killed and instead a capital expenditure to build a new, state run women’s prison was approved. This saved hundreds of good jobs held by SEA members; and it was evidence that lawmakers had returned to a committed approach to sound, reasonable and just corrections reforms.
- Governor, Maggie Hassan, has advanced several of the priorities we adopted in our Granite Strong electoral vision. She led lawmakers away from their strong opposition to health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, and their numerous attempts to block NH’s participation, to a new direction. This included an almost late-to-the-finish line state/federal exchange, and hopefully very soon, adoption of Medicaid Expansion.
- Two strong attempts to address our state’s revenue issue – a bill to expand gaming, and a bill to increase the gas tax to pay for our crumbling roads and bridges. Both of these bills failed; however, both were close enough to success that they will be considered again this session.
- After two long years, the Community College System Adjuncts won their first contract, and the Plymouth State University Adjuncts aren’t far behind.
- Many of the county and municipal units are getting new contracts and we are seeing the return of multi-year contracts (reflective of an employer that is seeing more stability on the horizon). Some contracts have been rejected by the last remaining pockets of extreme anti-worker lawmakers, but the public was on the members’ side this time around.
- A new group, the Rochester Municipal Employees Association, recently joined our local. It is an established bargaining unit that chose to affiliate with us after researching the local and seeing a lot in common with our large union family.
Lacey added that things are not all perfect. “Income growth has not risen as fast as we would like it to. Retirees haven’t had a cost of living adjustment in a few years yet their costs increase,” she said. “We will continue to work on pension and retiree health care issues because it is clear that our seniors need a financial boost in a very big way.”
In closing her report, President Lacey said, “I must take a moment to share with you my appreciation for your support and hard work in getting us all through the recession. It has been five long years but things are finally starting to turn around. We have done a tremendous amount of work to keep us all together and driving toward a better future at the same time we had to tread water in the recession.”