This message from SEA President Diana Lacey was sent by email on Tuesday.
Dear SEA Members,
I hope your Labor Day was enjoyable and you were able to spend time with your friends and families. For many of you, because you work in hospitals, jails, nursing homes, or prisons, or because you work in part of NH’s larger public safety system – such as at E-911, police, fire, public works and transportation agencies, Labor Day can be a day of work and dealing with others as they enjoy the holiday (or sadly, become a victim of reckless behavior). No matter which way you spent this important holiday, please accept my gratitude for the services you provide to the citizens of NH, and my gratitude for your dedication to your union brothers and sisters.
During the holiday, I was honored to share with some of you an incredible and inspirational experience. Every Labor Day, the NH AFL-CIO hosts a breakfast in which labor leaders from across the state, rank in file union members, politicians and other dignitaries come together to discuss our past, present and future. Typically, between all of the speeches that are made, you can find your experience as a union member touched upon, and the struggles that you or someone you know is going through described.
Joined by SEA First Vice President, Ken Roos, former SEA President and current SEA Retiree Director, John Amrol, SEA members Avis Crane and Arthur Ellison, SEA Government Relations Coordinator, Brian Hawkins, and SEIU Political Director assigned to SEA, Jay Ward, we listened as the wonderful US Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, spoke to the large crowd about the status of the middle class in our country and its status in the world. Other speakers included Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Congresswomen Annie Kuster and Carol Shea Porter, Governor Maggie Hassan, state representatives and senators from both political parties, executive councilors, state agency heads, and of course, NH AFL-CIO President, Mark MacKenzie.
The speakers discussed low wages, corporate greed, outsourcing of jobs to lower wage workers or other countries, poverty, the minimum wage, the lack of affordable housing and availability of good full time jobs, our crumbling infrastructure, the health care crisis (and some improvements, such as the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion), worker oppression (including misclassified workers, immigration reform, unsafe workplaces, threatening employer behaviors), and voting rights. Additionally, the attacks on the country’s public education system, Medicare, Social Security, US Postal Service, and the effects of Citizens United on democracy were also discussed.
It was very clear that workers nationwide are struggling with lower standards of living rather than enjoying higher. They are facing a reduced ability to earn higher wages. From the bottom of his heart (his words), Senator Bernie Sanders called out to us and asked for our help. The labor movement is the solution; workers uniting and fighting for better is the solution. Left unchecked, he said we will have a new society entirely controlled by only a handful of the richest people in the world.
Sanders’ words, and other speakers’ as well, were powerful. They were followed up with real life examples happening here in NH. The postal workers spoke of their “Stop Staples” campaign; Congress is trying to privatize the postal service to the retail store chain. Communication workers spoke of their struggle with Fairpoint; the company plans to eliminate retiree healthcare for the current workforce, the pension system, and it wants to be able to outsource every single job if it so chooses.
The stories of workers in NH and across the country are too similar; the effects in our communities and the work we do every day in our own jobs will be felt whether we like it or not. We need their help to succeed in our labor challenges; they need us to succeed in theirs.
Even non-unionized workers, such as our very own local grocery store workers at Market Basket, were able to prove this point. When workers stood together, and their customers stood by them too, they were able to win better treatment and pay – through retention of their beloved Arthur T. Market Basket’s struggles and victory were such a powerful and inspirational example of people coming together to win big for workers.
This Thursday, Fast Food workers around the country are going on strike to win $15 an hour wages. There has been a multi-year campaign for WalMart workers to win better pay, treatment and the right to have a union. In places like Seattle, Washington, organized labor is joining with community organizations to attack poverty-making laws and corporate America philosophies that leave working people without their basic needs met and leave us all, as taxpayers, holding the bill.
So now that Labor Day 2014 is officially behind us, and our day of celebration and rest is done, let’s look forward to what we can accomplish when we get All in to Win together. We can be quite powerful and we can make positive change for all of our families and communities!
Once again, thank you for all that you do in service to our state and our union. I also offer my thanks to our excellent SEA staff; it is so wonderful to know they are with us in this work.