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Rally Builds Support for Veto Override

Dozens Demonstrate in Front of Sununu Youth Services Center

Drivers honk in support as they pass SEA members demonstrating at the entrance of the Sununu Youth Services Center on Thursday.

Drivers honk in support as they pass SEA members demonstrating at the entrance of the Sununu Youth Services Center on Thursday. See more photos at the bottom of this post.

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.

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SEA/SEIU 1984 Gubernatorial Endorsement

Political Education Committee Considers Candidate Options

In July, the Political Education Committee considered the NH gubernatorial candidates for potential endorsement.  With their sights set on the SEA’s electoral vision, Granite Strong, which points to ten issues that are critical for NH families to thrive, they set about the task of figuring out which candidate is most aligned with this vision and deserving of an SEA endorsement.  It didn’t take the Committee long to reach its recommendation because the differences between the candidates are significant.

Neither Andrew Hemingway or Walt Havenstein have even bothered to meet with or discuss their visions for NH’s future with the Committee.

Both of them want to further cut state government.  The state employee workforce has been reduced 17% through the recession and is now smaller than it was twenty years ago, even though NH’s population has increased twenty percent through these years.

Both of them want to repeal the recent gas tax increase.  The gas tax increase was widely supported by SEA members out of concern for our deteriorating roads, bridges and highways throughout NH; the increase isn’t even enough to remove the real risk that approximately 700 Department of Transportation jobs will be eliminated by June 30, 2015 if other funding is not raised.

Both of them believe the government should interfere in employers’ and workers’ rights to collectively bargain provisions of a contract that have been a legal right in NH for several decades.  This is the same anti-business, anti-worker position that former NH House Speaker, Bill O’Brien spearheaded and made repeated attempts to pass in the recession.

Both of them support repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  The ACA provides health care coverage and essential health care protections for thousands of SEA members today.  This is especially true for part-time employees that did not have access to an affordable employer-sponsored health plan and for members that have pre-existing conditions.

Incumbent Governor, Maggie Hassan, is a stark contrast.  Her dedication to NH families and creating a brighter future for NH is best aligned with our Granite Strong vision.  You can see her video recorded statement about Granite Strong here; the statement was recorded when she was a candidate in 2012.  In her first term, Maggie Hassan’s accomplishments include:

Moving forward a better budget.  It added state employee jobs back into the budget, restored or improved critical programs and essential services – such as CHINs and mental health services, and brought a uniquely NH version of Medicaid Expansion to life.

Supporting increased wages.   Governor Hassan understood that workers needed relief from the recession and the SEA ultimately won the first wage increases – three in a two year period — for state employees since 2009.

Changing the work environment.   Meetings with SEA members from the Liquor Commission, the Sununu Youth Services Center, Health and Human Services, New Hampshire Hospital, as well as listening to SEA member concerns about potential agency head appointments all helped improve the way that employees were being treated in the workplace.

Moving justice forward.  Governor Hassan inherited four major SEA-State grievances/unfair labor practice cases.  Three of which the SEA won in her first year in office.  Rather than continue the previous administration’s pattern of utilizing the appellate process to delay resolution of cases, Governor Hassan took the lead on moving resolution to the newest cases so that justice, for the more than 1,000 workers affected, would not be unnecessarily delayed.  Potential settlements are under negotiation right now for two cases and within months of SEA’s initial legal victories.  A third case was already resolved.  The fourth awaits a hopefully final decision.

The Committee also considered those issues that the SEA and incumbent Hassan did not see eye to eye on – such as the Healthy Workplace Bill, HB591 and how budget cuts would be carried out at the Sununu Youth Services Center.  In looking at these issues, the Committee discussed the degree to which the Governor remained committed to reach a solution that best meets the needs of NH and its state employee workforce, and although a lot of work remains to be done on resolving these conflicts, the Committee felt that overall Hassan’s efforts to be meaningfully involved with her workforce was quite positive.

For these reasons, the Political Education Committee unanimously recommended endorsement of Maggie Hassan in the gubernatorial race.  The Committee’s recommendation was made in July but was not taken up by the SEA Board of Directors immediately.

Governor Hassan’s ultimate action on HB591, and an additional bill SB391 regarding the Sununu Youth Services Center, was a significant disappointment to SEA members.  Hassan’s veto of these two important bills is a conflict that is difficult for many SEA members to understand.  In the June Council meeting, and again in a special Council meeting held in August – after the vetoes were issued – the Council openly discussed its concerns about the future of these bills and our relationship with Governor Hassan.  The Council remained committed to working toward veto override of these bills, of standing by SEA members at the Sununu Youth Services Center, and to work with legislators that originally supported these bills to win the veto override.

Given all of this information about the three gubernatorial candidates, the SEA Board of Directors has accepted the Committee’s recommendations and approved endorsement of Maggie Hassan.

“The outcome of the gubernatorial race is important for all SEA members because of the impact it has on all of our families and communities.  But it also has special significance to the SEA members working in the Executive Branch.  Governor Hassan has worked hard to make herself available to discuss the difficulties workers experience in the Executive Branch.  She has partnered with us to open up a better, stronger and more effective dialogue with the public that we serve, and although we don’t agree on everything – she has remained committed to work together to improve things throughout the Executive Branch,” said SEA President, Diana Lacey.

“The Governor’s leadership in her work with the Executive Council and the NH House, both currently held by democratic majorities, has really moved forward a healthier discussion and more positive attitudes about issues important to working families and retirees,” said Poli-Ed Committee Chair and First Vice President, Ken Roos.

“We are glad that the SEA Board took the additional time to discuss workplace difficulties and the gubernatorial vetoes with the Council prior to voting on the Poli-Ed Committee’s recommendation of endorsement.  Much improvement remains to be made in the Executive Branch but in less than two years, Governor Hassan has made progress happen.  Agency by agency, policy by policy, the members of the SEA will continue to work together or alone, if need be, to turn things around,” said John Hattan, a Poli-Ed Committee member and SEA Director.  “The harm that anti-government, anti-public worker legislators like Bill O’Brien caused in our workplaces will take more than one election cycle to change.  This election, SEA members deserve the best governor they can get and this cycle, that’s Maggie Hassan.”

 

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Override the Vetoes Talking Points

General Talking Points When Calling Representatives and Senators

  • We are asking for your continued support of HB591 and SB391.  We believe both bills will help us deliver the critical services your constituents count on.
  • We hope we can count on you to help make HB591 and SB391 NH state law.
  • Both bills were overwhelmingly supported by both legislative chambers and had bipartisan support.
  • These bills are about protecting your constituents from ill treatment at their workplaces and about guaranteeing that state services are performed efficiently and effectively with appropriate oversight.

Talking Points Specific to HB591

  • Both chambers overwhelmingly supported this bill and acknowledged they believe this is an issue that shared across state agencies.
  • Currently, the state does not have a policy nor are there laws which protect employees from workplace aggression and bullying. The NH House passed HB 591 to prohibit the abuse of state employees in the workplace.
  • Workplace bullying refers to continuing, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) against a co-worker or subordinate (or a group of employees), which are intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, or undermine.
  • Workplace bullying is not a one-time dispute or personality clash. It is repetitive hostile behavior on the part of one party towards another over a period of time.  It is a pattern not an isolated event.
  • Workplace bullying is a serious problem that has been identified in most state agencies.  It is not a frivolous issue and should not be minimized.
  • The SEA/SEIU 1984 Council convened at a special meeting to discuss our next steps following the Governor’s veto. The Council, which is the second highest governing body of the organization, voted unanimously to take an active role in a campaign to override the Governor’s veto on this bill.
  • Continuing to ignore this problem is likely to diminish the quality of services NH citizens and visitors to our state receive.
  • Opponents of this bill say it will lead to lawsuits against the state. There are already lawsuits that have been settled or currently in play because of bullying. That argument is hollow. It is better to be proactive, have a law, have guidelines for recognizing the problem and resolve the problem before it rises to the level of litigation.
  • Victims of workplace bullying experience:
    • High stress, high blood pressure, sleep and digestive disturbances, musculoskeletal problems;
    • Increased absenteeism and medical leave;
    • Increased depression, self-blame, and reduced self-esteem; and
    • Family tension and stress.
  • Employers are also impacted because it:
    • Leads to low morale in the workforce and undermines productivity;
    • Causes employees to seek increased medical attention which drives up health care costs;
    • Results in additional costs to recruit, hire and train new employees when bullied employees leave; and
    • Leads to lost productivity and high absenteeism.

Talking Points Specific to SB391

  • Both chambers widely supported SB391 which would provide more structured oversight to the activities at Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC).
  • Currently, the legislative oversight board is dormant. This bill would revitalize that board.  Oversight is positive and increases the likelihood of successful outcomes.
  • This bill would provide greater transparency surrounding the rehabilitation of our state’s most at risk youth.
  • Many of the residents are emotionally distressed and sometimes act out violently. Sometimes this may lead to their restraint.  Proper protocols should be followed.  Oversight will minimize potential liability in such instances.
  • The composition of the oversight board would include stakeholders, management and staff, which would foster better transparency; better outcomes and efficiencies; more consideration of issues from all points of view; and better employee/management relations.
  • Ultimately, revitalizing the oversight board will enhance the rehabilitation of the youth who otherwise would have very little chance of succeeding outside of the state system – juvenile justice today; corrections system tomorrow.
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Override the Vetoes!

August 15, 2014 – Last week, the SEA/SEIU 1984 Council convened at a special meeting to discuss the membership’s next steps following the Governor’s vetoes of two key bills that would have bettered the working environment for state workers and enhanced the services they deliver.

The Council, which is the second highest governing body of the organization, discussed and committed to taking an active role in a campaign to override the Governor’s veto of these bills.

HB591 and SB391 had strong support from both legislative chambers. We now have the opportunity to work with our supportive legislators and make the bills law.  We need to ask our legislators to continue supporting these key pieces of legislation.

The Council is asking all members to help in this campaign and to begin reaching out to your state Reps and Senators either by phone or email.  It is important that they hear from you – their constituents.  Remember, the majority of legislators voted in favor of both of these bills.

If you do not know who the legislators in your community are and/or you don’t know how to contact them, you can find out who your state Representative(s) is here and your state Senator here.

Talking points to help guide your conversation or email follow the brief recap of both bills or you can skip to them here.

If you would like help in drafting your message, contact Beth D’Ovidio at bdovidio@seiu1984.org or (603) 271-3411 x105

Recap of Both Bills

HB 591 is a member driven bill, which would provide for a healthy working environment that is free of bullying in employee/employee or employee/supervisor relationships. Member legislator Rep. Diane Schuett introduced the bill. It was through her efforts and the efforts of a committed group of Executive Branch members that this bill succeeded in both chambers. Members courageously brought this problem to light and shared their experiences through testimony at Legislative hearings. Both the NH Senate and House were supportive of the bill and voted to send it along to the Governor for signature. The bill also called for each state agency to develop a policy that would address and put an end to this practice that is happening in state worksites.

SB391 would have addressed some of the workplace issues at the Sununu Youth Services Center that have been in the news for years.  The bill called for the revival and restructuring of a long-dormant advisory board that would help shape the future of the state’s juvenile justice system. Senator Sharon Carson and the House Children and Family Law Committee were strong advocates for this bill that would likely result in better outcomes for the youth residing at the Sununu Youth Services Center, as well as those who are delivering the services.

Senator Carson brought forward this bill following complaints about conditions at the Sununu Youth Development Center, the state’s juvenile detention center in Manchester.

General Talking Points When Calling Representatives and Senators

  • We are asking for your continued support of HB591 and SB391.  We believe both bills will help us deliver the critical services your constituents count on.
  • We hope we can count on you to help make HB591 and SB391 NH state law.
  • Both bills were overwhelmingly supported by both legislative chambers and had bipartisan support.
  • These bills are about protecting your constituents from ill treatment at their workplaces and about guaranteeing that state services are performed efficiently and effectively with appropriate oversight.

Talking Points Specific to HB591

  • Both chambers overwhelmingly supported this bill and acknowledged they believe this is an issue that shared across state agencies.
  • Currently, the state does not have a policy nor are there laws which protect employees from workplace aggression and bullying. The NH House passed HB 591 to prohibit the abuse of state employees in the workplace.
  • Workplace bullying refers to continuing, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) against a co-worker or subordinate (or a group of employees), which are intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, or undermine.
  • Workplace bullying is not a one-time dispute or personality clash. It is repetitive hostile behavior on the part of one party towards another over a period of time.  It is a pattern not an isolated event.
  • Workplace bullying is a serious problem that has been identified in most state agencies.  It is not a frivolous issue and should not be minimized.
  • The SEA/SEIU 1984 Council convened at a special meeting to discuss our next steps following the Governor’s veto. The Council, which is the second highest governing body of the organization, voted unanimously to take an active role in a campaign to override the Governor’s veto on this bill.
  • Continuing to ignore this problem is likely to diminish the quality of services NH citizens and visitors to our state receive.
  • Opponents of this bill say it will lead to lawsuits against the state. There are already lawsuits that have been settled or currently in play because of bullying. That argument is hollow. It is better to be proactive, have a law, have guidelines for recognizing the problem and resolve the problem before it rises to the level of litigation.
  • Victims of workplace bullying experience:
    • High stress, high blood pressure, sleep and digestive disturbances, musculoskeletal problems;
    • Increased absenteeism and medical leave;
    • Increased depression, self-blame, and reduced self-esteem; and
    • Family tension and stress.
  • Employers are also impacted because it:
    • Leads to low morale in the workforce and undermines productivity;
    • Causes employees to seek increased medical attention which drives up health care costs;
    • Results in additional costs to recruit, hire and train new employees when bullied employees leave; and
    • Leads to lost productivity and high absenteeism.

Talking Points Specific to SB391

  • Both chambers widely supported SB391 which would provide more structured oversight to the activities at Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC).
  • Currently, the legislative oversight board is dormant. This bill would revitalize that board.  Oversight is positive and increases the likelihood of successful outcomes.
  • This bill would provide greater transparency surrounding the rehabilitation of our state’s most at risk youth.
  • Many of the residents are emotionally distressed and sometimes act out violently. Sometimes this may lead to their restraint.  Proper protocols should be followed.  Oversight will minimize potential liability in such instances.
  • The composition of the oversight board would include stakeholders, management and staff, which would foster better transparency; better outcomes and efficiencies; more consideration of issues from all points of view; and better employee/management relations.
  • Ultimately, revitalizing the oversight board will enhance the rehabilitation of the youth who otherwise would have very little chance of succeeding outside of the state system – juvenile justice today; corrections system tomorrow.
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Stewards Receive Basic and Advanced Instruction

Earlier this week, nearly 50 SEA/SEIU 1984 Stewards came together for a formal training day at 29 Hazen Drive, home to the Department of Environmental Services and the Division of Public Health Services.

Most units’ collective bargaining agreements have a provision that Stewards are allowed a certain number of training days per year from which they will be excused from work.  These times allow for brand new stewards to receive basic instruction as to how to carry out their representational work; and more seasoned stewards are provided with more complicated instruction, which may include updates on current events that may affect their duties as a steward.

Marie Morgan, a recently retired Dept. of Education employee, who was instrumental in the development of HB591 addressed the advanced stewards.  She provided information about the process that took place leading up to the development of the bill, finding a sponsor, and following the bill through the NH legislative process.

Marie is quick to include that there was a core group of public employees and SEA/SEIU 1984 staff who worked collaboratively on this effort, including Bruce Vanlandingham, Chapter 3, Anne Keach, Chapter 50; Brenda Thomas, Chapter 20; NH Representative Dianne Schuett, prime bill sponsor and Chapter 1 member; and others assisted in the passing of this key piece of legislation that if signed into law will provide safe and healthy worksites that are free of bullying either by a co-worker or by a supervisor. SEIU Political Director, Jay Ward also presented to the group regarding this topic.

SEA/SEIU’s General Counsel Mike Reynolds and Grievance Representative Sean Bolton presented for the remainder of the program for advanced stewards.

SEA/SEIU Field Representative Neil Smith provided the instruction for the basic steward training.

View a slide show from the advanced training here.

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Quarterly Council Meeting, June 2014

In this post…

DES Chapter 50 Hosts Quarterly Council Meeting
Chapter 1 Member Pleas for Belknap County Workers
SEA/SEIU 1984 Director Shares the Long and Winding Road to Sub-unit Agreement
Plymouth State Adjuncts Share Experiences with Council
DHHS Labor Management Committee Making Strides
Members Discuss Successful Legislation
Guest Speaker Captures Council Audience
Neither Rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep Postal Workers from their appointed rounds. But Staples will.
Executive Branch Contract Campaign Explained at Council Meeting

 

DES Chapter 50 Hosts Quarterly Council Meeting

We’d like to give a big shout out to the members of Chapter 50 who graciously hosted the SEA/SEIU 1984 quarterly Council meeting last Thursday evening.  Chapter 50 members were at the doors of the secure building greeting members and allowing them access to the building and giving directions to the auditorium.  Many thanks to them for allowing us to use this wonderful meeting space.

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Chapter 1 Member Pleas for Belknap County Workers

The evening was fast-paced and packed full of information.  Immediately following the standing agenda items, Thea Aloise of Chapter 1 gave an impassioned plea to the members to please support the members at Belknap County Nursing Home. She told of the excellent care her husband receives at the institution and that the workers should receive their wage increase. We have reported about this situation before. You can learn more about it here.

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SEA/SEIU 1984 Director Shares the Long and Winding Road to Sub-unit Agreement

Rich GullaNext up, SEA/SEIU 1984 Board member, Rich Gulla shared some of his experiences along the long road that employees have traveled to arrive at a TA in their sub-unit negotiations.  Rich and other NHSLC workers have accompanied SEA Field staff members to Liquor Stores across the state to educate members about the TA. Rich spoke with many retail employees who were anxious to become members of SEA/SEIU 1984 so they could vote for the TA. “There’s strength in numbers. I can tell you that it works to be unified. The NH State Liquor Commission’s membership is really swelling.” The NH State Liquor Commission is now at 92% membership.  “I’m very proud of my fellow workers and colleagues,” he said.

The NH State Liquor Commission is currently in the process of collecting ballots for the TA that was reached.

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Plymouth State Adjuncts Share Experiences with Council

KrisanKrisan Evenson shared some of her experiences with organizing Plymouth State Adjunct Professors (also known as Teaching Lecturers). The road to securing their first contract was bumpy and prolonged, as most first contracts are, but it has been worth the effort for the members. She reported a more respectful relationship with management since becoming a bargaining unit. “I am already seeing a difference with just one semester down,” said Krisan. “We now have regular meetings with the Provost and are having a dialogue with management, which is so important. This has all happened since we organized.” She shared that having a positive relationship with management is not widely shared at other campuses around the country. “We’re so happy we could get on board with you (SEA/SEIU 1984). It’s been a blast.”

Phil Inwood, also a Teaching Lecturer at Plymouth State spoke about his work promoting and explaining health coverage available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “People were so grateful to get the information,” he said. “Working with other organization partners, we had Healthcare fairs and other sign-up events. I am very proud and encouraged that SEA worked so hard to help people in this way.”

Phil shared that he now has health insurance through the ACA marketplace. “I hadn’t had health insurance myself in six years,” he said.

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DHHS Labor Management Committee Making Strides

Next on the agenda was a group of member presentations that related to worksite issues that are being resolved through a Labor Management Committee (LMC).  Mary Fields from DHHS spoke about the positive steps that are being taken in conjunction with the agency’s LMC.  She shared that “We have been tackling a lot of meaty topics at our LMC meetings, including bullying,” said Mary. “Commissioner Toumpas wants to work with us as a partner on the bullying bill.  He is looking for the common ground between workers and management.

Mary shared other issues that are being discussed at the LMC, including the rising numbers in DHHS case workers’ case loads.

These and others matters can be worked on and hopefully resolved through an active, healthy and respectful Labor Management Committee. If you have a worksite concern, reaching out to a member of your LMC is a great first step to resolving it.

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Members Discuss Successful Legislation

Brenda Thomas provided the history of HB591, which came from a resolution the SEA/SEIU 1984 convention passed in 2013.  The resulting bill, which passed and will go to the Governor for her signature, came about through the efforts of a small but determined member work group who researched similar legislation that is being introduced around the country. Brenda thanked Marie Morgan who was very involved with this project and has since retired from active public service at the NH Dept. of Education.  “As far as we know, this is the first legislation to pass in the country,” said Brenda. “We had a wonderful past state employee sponsor the bill – Representative Dianne Schuett.”

HB591 was supported by the vast majority of both chambers’ members and now goes to the Governor to sign it into law. We are hopeful the Governor will act in support of the employees whose physical and mental health could be adversely affected by bullying in the workplace.

Corey Dearborn from Sununu Youth Services Center (SYSC) told the Council about the successful passing of SB391, which revitalizes the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board.  Among other positive changes, this includes the addition of a worker representative on the board; and in the future, the Director of SYSC will need to be nominated. The nominee will then go through the Governor and Council process to be accepted for the position.

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Guest Speaker Captures Council Audience

NHRS Board of Trustee’s Member Germano Martins Shares His Perspective on Retirement Issues

Germano presenting on NHRSSEA/SEIU 1984 Director, Germano Martins addressed the Council wearing a different hat – that of a member of the Board of NHRS Trustees. Germano represents employees’ interest in the NH Retirement System.  “We used to have a really good balance on the Board. We had eight employees, two legislators, a chair that was appointed by the Governor, and a couple more positions,” he said. “Things didn’t stay that way, though. In 2008, we had the financial crisis. After that they made some very opportunistic changes to the composition of the Board to lessen the number of employee representatives.” Germano would like to see the board return to the model that existed before the great recession.

“Your retirement is not a gift,” Germano said. “We pay for it every other week in our paychecks.”

Germano’s presentation provided a wealth of information about the function of the Board of Trustees.

The Council gave Germano a standing ovation at the conclusion of his presentation.

 

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Neither Rain, nor Snow, nor Sleet, nor Hail Shall Keep the Postmen from their Appointed Rounds, but Staples Is Trying.

First VP Ken Roos addressed the Council last Thursday evening about the situation thousands of postal workers are currently facing. They are being replaced by satellite locations at Staples retail centers. Read our previous article for more details.

Following Ken’s address, which included reading a draft resolution to support postal workers by entering into a boycott of Staples, the Council voted unanimously to accept the resolution.  Another way to support our union brothers and sisters in the APW Union, is to tell Staples how you feel by signing onto the petition at this link:   http://stopstaples.com/.

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Executive Branch Contract Campaign Explained at Council Meeting

Diana Lacey and Collective Bargaining Team Chair and Director, Jim Nall presented an overview of the timeline, strategies, and events that will ramp up this summer in preparation for the Executive Branch Contract campaign. The Collective Bargaining Committee has created a detailed plan to secure a contract that will help retain and recruit public employees by offering the resources workers need to continue to provide top notch service to the citizens of the state. Not only will this campaign emphasize the important role public workers play in conducting the day-to-day business and services of the state, it will also highlight the need for our legislators to act responsibly and compassionately when they are creating the next budget.  Continuing to balance budgets by cutting human resources is no longer a realistic option…not if we wish to continue to provide even basic services that benefit all NH citizens and visitors, including vulnerable populations.

“Political Sub-Division Units, Higher Ed units, and others should pay attention, too,” said Diana Lacey.  “This will be our template moving forward.”

If you would like to be part of this movement for forward progress there are many ways to participate and contribute.  Click here to read more.

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Senate Backs Healthy Workplace Bill

Member-Driven HB 591 Now Goes Back to the House

The state Senate on Thursday passed HB 591 with amendment. HB 591, as you likely know, is the SEA-member driven legislation that would help maintain a healthy work environment by prohibiting abuse of state employees in the workplace. This is an important step in protecting employees from a harmful, destructive working environment. The bill now goes back to the House, which passed it without amendment last year.

When we say member-driven, we really mean it — this bill wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without the hard work and courageous testimony of SEA members, including Marie Morgan, Brenda Thomas and the prime sponsor, Rep. Dianne Schuett. We also must thank Sens. Sharon Carson and Donna Soucy for their work in getting this bill passed in the Senate.

Marie Morgan, a member of Chapter 44, was quick to share praise for the bill’s passage.

“HB 591 is an excellent example of what our members can accomplish when they work together,” Morgan said. “State employees from various agencies contacted their legislators and shared their stories of how they or coworkers were harassed in the workplace without recourse. Thankfully, our legislators listened and voted to prohibit abusive conduct in state workplaces. Special thanks to the many SEA staff members who supported us in this effort, especially Jay Ward, Beth D’Ovidio and Andrew Toland. They also helped to get this bill passed!”

Brenda Thomas, an SEA director and member of Chapter 45, said the news of the bill’s passage in the Senate was satisfying.

“The Senate in this vote has shown to the thousands of state employees that our concerns and needs are important to them,” Thomas said. “A workforce who can come to their worksite and be able to focus on the work with which we are tasked and not bullying behaviors of supervisors and co-workers makes us a stronger and more productive workforce. State employees take very seriously their service to the public and fellow citizens and a positive worksite only enables us to work to the best of our ability.”

Like Morgan, Thomas said it was important to thank all who have helped get the bill this far.

“Many people should be thanked for this day: Dianne Schuett who sponsored this legislation; Marie Morgan, who spent hours researching and drafting the legislation, as well as many other SEA members and our SEA political department, people too numerous to mention. We should also thank the members of the House Labor Committee, who listened to the many current and former state employees that testified before them, explaining the issues and conditions of their worksites. The Labor Committee listened and helped to make this day possible.”

“I am looking forward to this legislation becoming law and making the lives of my fellow state employees more peaceful and successful,” Thomas said.

The House approved HB 591 last year, but since the Senate version has been amended, the House will have to decide whether the changes were acceptable or if some changes are needed before it becomes final. We’ll give you an update as soon as we know what the House plans to do.

Senator Carson Releases Statement About HB 591

Yesterday, Senator Sharon Carson released the following statement:

Sen. Carson Statement on Legislation to Protect Employees from Abusive Work Environments

 Concord, NH – Senate Executive Department and Administration Chairman Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, issued the following statement upon Senate passage of HB 591, legislation designed to protect public employees from abusive work environments:

“State employees deserve a work environment free from abuse and harassment and thankfully we can say that the vast majority of our employees that have that today.  However, testimony received during the hearing on HB591 made it clear that there is more we can be doing to provide for the health and safety of our employees.  This legislation will address those shortcomings by requiring state agencies to adopt policies to ensure work environments and protecting employees who report such conduct.”

“I appreciate the bipartisan support for this legislation as well as the support for the floor amendment which addressed some of the key concerns brought to our attention by some employers and outside business interests,” continued Sen. Carson.  “It is my hope that the House will consider these amendments favorably and adopt this legislation with the same high level of support they did last year.”

HB591 will require state agencies to adopt and communicate a policy prohibiting abusive conduct and procedures for reporting and addressing such conduct within six months of becoming law.  The bill also provides whistleblower protections for employees who report instances of abusive workplace behavior.

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No Tolerance for Worksite Bullying

The Senate Executive Department and Administration Committee (ED&A) will consider HB591, retained from last year, next Thursday, January 9 in an executive session. HB591 is an SEA member driven bill that prohibits the abuse of state employees in the workplace.

As a reminder to you, the bill was drafted to fill a void. Currently there is no policy or law in place that protects employees from intimidation, ridicule, or harassment, unless it can be demonstrated that the negative treatment was motivated by race; creed; color; age; marital status; familial status; physical or mental disability; or national origin; or the harassment was of a sexual nature. Unless the victim happens to fall into one of the aforementioned categories – they are out of luck and fair game for a workplace bully. You may read more about this bill at links that can be accessed here.

Last session, numerous brave employees testified before the ED&A Committee regarding the harsh and unfair treatment they had suffered in the workplace at the hands of colleagues and/or supervisors. They also testified regarding the serious consequences they suffered including numerous physical and mental health conditions as a result of the bullying. The testimony was heartfelt and compelled the Committee to retain the bill to allow them time to work on some language changes. The bill had previously passed in the NH House.

Retaining or re-referring the bill means the committee must take some action on the bill during the first few work days of the new legislative session. At this time we are attempting to take the pulse of the committee.

A number of NH department heads drafted a letter of strong opposition to the bill last year, saying it would cause “unwarranted and unlimited liability to the State by creating a new and unique cause of action. The SEA and other proponents of the bill answered with a rebuttal that you can see here.

It is important to note that Governor Hassan has just launched a “Respect in the Workplace” initiative, which is a strong signal that she recognizes and believes workplace bullying within state service is very real and of grave concern. We thank Governor Hassan for taking the issue on. The initiative involves employees and supervisors accessing respective online presentations that point out the value of building and maintaining positive, professional workplaces. The presentation also identifies resources that may be useful in this area. Once the individual worker or supervisor completes watching the presentation, he or she is directed to download, print and sign a certificate of completion, which is to be filed with the appropriate Human Resources office.

While this new initiative is a positive step, it does not adequately provide the legal recourse that a law, such as HB591 would. By establishing this new law, state employees who are victims of workplace bullying will have a legal and binding pathway to help them feel that justice has been served. There is still a very strong need for HB591 to pass.

Watch your SEA Notices next Monday. We will have specific information regarding how you can help with this important issue.

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Commissioners Won’t Admit Bullying is a Problem

Rep. Dianne Schuett, a member of the SEA's Chapter 1, testifies Wednesday in favor of the workplace bullying bill, which she sponsored.

Rep. Dianne Schuett, a member of the SEA’s Chapter 1, testifies Wednesday in favor of the workplace bullying bill, which she sponsored.

On Wednesday, the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee held a hearing on HB 591, the SEA member-driven legislation that would prohibit abusive work environments for public employees.

Several current and former state employees testified about their experiences with bullying in the workplace. Among them was the bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Dianne Schuett, of Pembroke. She drove home the point that workplace bullying is a very real issue.

“I can tell you that it’s very real and much more prevalent than realized,” Schuett said.

Not all are willing to admit there’s a problem, though. At Wednesday’s hearing, a group of 16 commissioners and state agency heads presented a letter opposing HB 591. Through the letter, which you can view here, and testimony from State Treasurer Catherine Provencher and HHS Commissioner Nick Toumpas, the group of 16 greatly downplayed the issue and misrepresented the contents and aim of HB 591.

In his testimony, Toumpas acknowledged there is a problem, citing a 17 percent vacancy rate, large caseloads and fewer people to handle the work, plus cuts in funding to train managers as the root causes of the issue.

Shockingly, Toumpas went on to state that “we have many front line managers, front line supervisors, who have not been trained in the area of management, who have been moved into the area of management because that was the path in order to get them additional dollars.”

Noting that the best workers don’t always make the best managers, Toumpas also blamed workers themselves if they are not “doing that which is expected of them.”

Provencher was more careful, saying she didn’t want to minimize the issue but that a mechanism is in place to deal with bullying.

In fact, New Hampshire has no written policy against abuse in the workplace, nor is there any procedure for employees to follow to address these issues. HB 591 would solve that by having all state agencies create their own policy based on the unique characteristics of each agency.

The commissioners’ testimony and the attorney general’s position make clear there is a problem that needs to be managed and is not being managed.

“In a way, we should be pleased the commissioners are trying to block this legislation,” said SEA President Diana Lacey. “By doing so, they actually are inviting more lawsuits, and employees have more proof that management isn’t doing anything about this problem, except punishing bullied victims.”

This bill, as amended, was passed in House committee by a bipartisan, 19-0 vote, and passed the House with no objections. In the lengthy House process, not one commissioner spoke up against the measure.

We’re thankful for all of the brave members who have come forward to tell their stories, and greatly appreciate all who have reached out to the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee, but we need to keep the support for this bill coming. Please call or email the members of the committee. You can find their contact info here.

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Happening in the Legislature This Week

It’s a big week in the Senate, as committees there start taking up some key legislation passed by the House. Meanwhile, things will be relatively quiet in the House, as committees there have just begun taking up Senate-passed legislation. Here is a brief rundown of what we’ll be watching this week:

Tuesday

Tobacco tax: Senate Ways & Means Committee will hold a hearing on HB 659, which would increase the tobacco tax by 20 cents a pack. (10:15 a.m. State House Room 103)

Prison privatization: Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on HB 443, which would ban prison privatization in New Hampshire. See the post above for more information on this. (1 p.m. State House Room 103)

Minimum wage: Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on HB 501, which would institute a state minimum hourly wage. (2:20 p.m. LOB Room 101)

Wednesday

Single liquor commissioner: Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee will hold a hearing on HB 599, which would establish a single liquor commissioner. (9 a.m. State House Room 100)

Notification for rehired retirees: Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee will hold a hearing on HB 364, which requires NH Retirement System employers to notify retired employees who are rehired in a part time capacity of the annual limitations on part-time work. (9:20 a.m. State House Room 100)

Workplace bullying: Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee will hold a hearing on HB 591, which requires agencies to create policies prohibiting abusive workplace environments. See the post above for more info on this. (9:40 a.m. State House Room 100)

As always, we remind you that you can find the House calendars and journals here; you can find the Senate calendar and journals here.

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