Dozens Demonstrate in Front of Sununu Youth Services Center
SEA member leaders, activists and staff joined workers from the Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC) at the River Road entrance to the facility Thursday afternoon in support of SB 391, the bill to improve oversight of New Hampshire’s Juvenile Justice system.
The state Senate is set to meet Tuesday to consider overriding the governor’s veto of the bill, which would revive the juvenile justice oversight board. SYSC staff say the bill would go a long way to addressing some of the worksite issues at the facility. Joe Peters, a youth counselor who’s worked at SYSC for 23 years, said oversight would help improve the management of the facility.
“I think we need accountability, and we need this oversight committee to keep everyone honest,” he said, as drivers passing by honked and shouted in support. “I think we’ll see better decisions if people will have to answer for their decisions.”
Peters said overriding the veto on SB 391 would be a step in the right direction.
“It would create some change here in getting us out of the situation we’re in,” he said. “Being our own entity will be very helpful. We’ll create our own budget and take care of our own stuff. Bringing in people, working with Maggie Bishop and her crew, hasn’t been very good for us at all.”
The SEA’s councilors voted last month, in a special meeting, to join the effort to override the governor’s veto on SB 391, as well as another bill, HB 591, which aims to stamp out workplace bullying. Thursday’s demonstration, which took place during the evening commute along the busy thoroughfare, was part of those efforts.
Peters said he appreciated the show of support from his fellow union members and passersby, but noted that not more than a handful of his colleagues felt comfortable enough to join the demonstration. Many are afraid to speak out about workplace issues, he said, for fear of losing their job.
“They seem to be picking us off one at a time, the people who are willing to stand up and do what’s right,” he said. “Eventually we’re being culled from the herd, it seems.”
Still, Peters said he felt responsible to do what he could to improve the facility.
“I feel I have to try to make this a better place for the people who work here with me,” he said. “I take it upon myself to make this a better place for us all.”
That means improving things not just for the workers, but especially so for the children in their charge.
“That’s the reason we all came here, to help the kids,” he said.
You can take action yourself to override the vetoes of SB 391 and HB 591. You can find more information on each here. Also, see this related story about the informational demonstration set for Wednesday when the House considers veto overrides.