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DHHS members step up to slow impact of shut down

Staff had to act fast to ensure food stamps benefits were delivered

Members at DHHS worked through the weekend to ensure those in need would receive SNAP (food stamps) benefits.

Members at DHHS worked through the weekend to ensure those in need would receive SNAP (food stamps) benefits.

As the partial government shutdown persists, the impact continues to spread. If not for the efforts of dedicated employees at the state Department of Health and Human Services last weekend, thousands of Granite State families would have been left without food stamp benefits.

Two-hundred DHHS employees were called upon to work through the weekend, processing applications and redeterminations submitted by thousands of beneficiaries of the federal SNAP program – commonly known as food stamps. 40,000 families in New Hampshire receive SNAP benefits each month.

“I’m proud but not surprised by the selflessness of these workers – after all, it’s people like them and so many of our other members who keep this state running,” said SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla.

Due to the shutdown, funding for federal SNAP benefits expired on Dec. 21, putting into doubt benefits for the month of February. Luckily, a provision in the spending bill that expired Dec. 21 included a provision to fund SNAP for an additional 30 days – the only catch was that applications needed to be processed quickly to meet a Jan. 15 deadline.

Working straight through the weekend was a sacrifice for these workers, but the alternative – thousands going hungry – was unimaginable.

“When push came to shove, we have one of the most phenomenal teams in our district office,” said Teri Wardner, a Family Services Specialist in the Laconia DHHS district office. “Everyone came in, and we accomplished some phenomenal work in a short period of time.”

Wardner said that the experience even served to strengthen the team bond for workers at the district office.

“So there’s some positive to be found internally, even though the reason we were here wasn’t positive,” Wardner said. “We showed our true colors, and when we have a chance to reflect back, it’s something we can be proud of.”

If the shutdown does not end soon, this particular issue could re-emerge again soon, threatening SNAP benefits beyond the month of February.

“We’ve heard calls from politicians from both sides of the aisle to reopen the government before more people are hurt,” Gulla said. “The longer this stretches on, we’re going to see more stories like this. We need to end this shutdown now.”   

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Lowest minimum wage in New England? We’re not loving it

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IMG_1618Gov. Chris Sununu’s inaugural breakfast for state employees, held earlier this month, was catered by McDonald’s – highlighting the need for an honest discussion with the governor on the importance of raising NH’s minimum wage.

SEA members joined with community allies to bring attention to the fact that the workers who prepared and delivered this breakfast deserve a living wage and the right to join a union. As a union, one of our main priorities is to raise wages for ALL New Hampshire workers, because all Granite Staters deserve fair wages that adequately reflect the rising cost of living here.

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Knitting for the Public Good warms hearts, hands

Member leaders Mikayla Bourque, Heather Fairchild, Phil Burt, John Hattan and Cindy Perkins have all taken part in the Knitting for Public Good project.

Member leaders Mikayla Bourque, Heather Fairchild, Phil Burt, John Hattan and Cindy Perkins have all taken part in the Knitting for Public Good project.

IMG_1503Our members, through our Campaign for Public Good initiative, delivered a bit of warmth to the Friendly Kitchen recently, in the form of a basket of hand-knit items.

If you love to knit (or want to learn how) and want to help others, you should check out the upcoming Knitting for the Public Good event on Jan. 24 at 5 p.m. at the SEA office.

 

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Join us at MLK Jr. Day celebration on Monday

Members are invited to join with the community Monday, Jan. 21 at the 37th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Community Celebration. The event is open to all free of charge, with donations accepted to cover costs.

As the Rev. King wrote in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That means that in a just society, what affects one affects all – this is why SEA/SEIU Local 1984 is part of the Martin Luther King Coalition, which sponsors the annual King celebration.

This year’s event will be held at Temple Adath Yeshurun, 152 Prospect St., Manchester, at 2 p.m. on Monday. The event will begin with desserts donated by area businesses, followed by the program from 3-5 p.m.

You can RSVP for the event on Facebook.  

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Priorities in the new legislative session

With the first hearings of the 2019 legislative session  taking place this week, we’re off and running for what will be a busy six months. In addition to the state budget, we’ll be advocating for legislation dealing with retirees, workplace bullying, staffing at state agencies and union rights.

Thanks to your help last year, we had one of our most successful legislative sessions in years. We’ll need your help to keep moving forward, and to do that we’ll need your engagement – if you’re not already subscribed to our State House Update, which will be sent each Monday starting in a few weeks please update your email preferences here. Our State House emails will include the latest legislative updates.

Our first two requests for members relate to bills addressing a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for retirees and workplace bullying. We’d like to hear from retirees in the state pension system about what a COLA would mean to you, and we’d like to hear from current and former state employees about any experiences of workplace bullying in state service. If you can help with either, please send an email to Brian Hawkins at bhawkins@seiu1984.org.

Here’s a quick look at some of the other issues we’ll be working toward solutions for:

  • Funding for positions at state agencies has never really recovered since the recession 10 years ago, leaving state workers to do more with less.
  • Paid family leave was a cornerstone of Molly Kelly’s campaign and Gov. Sununu endorsed the idea for state employees last fall, as well.
  • Independent legislative redistricting would attempt to remove partisanship from the drawing of legislative districts.
  • Protection of union rights in the wake of the Janus Supreme Court decision will include more than just fighting off bad proposals – yes, we’ll still see right to work bills. Legislation will push to codify protections for workers and labor unions.
  • Privatization of public services has increased as funding for regular positions has grown scarce, but contractor positions aren’t governed by collective bargaining agreements, lack benefits and often extend far beyond short-term needs.  

The legislation addressing these issues is still being drafted, but this is still a good glimpse at what our focus will be. Our focus for our legislative priorities is ensuring that we have a state that works for everyone, a state that leaves no one behind. That’s what unions are supposed to be about, and that’s what our commitment is. We’ll need your right there alongside us as we work to move our state forward.

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Family Friendly Game Night

Join us for the first game night of the new year. Details below:

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The Year in review: What defined us in 2018

In the midst of a lengthy contract standoff with the state, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members were joined by labor, faith and community leaders for a rally and march at the State House. In a tumultuous year, the eventual contract was a major victory.

In the midst of a lengthy contract standoff with the state, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members were joined by labor, faith and community leaders for a rally and march at the State House. In a tumultuous year, the eventual contract was a major victory.

This year was as consequential as any other in recent memory for SEA/SEIU Local 1984, and along the way, we experienced progress and challenges. But as we always have, we emerged united on the other side.

As we prepare for a new year and new challenges, we pause now to take a look back at the year that was.

So-called right to work finally became a reality in New Hampshire, after the U.S. Supreme Court found for the plaintiff in the case of Janus v. AFSCME. The decision strengthened the resolve of many union members to keep the fight for workers' rights going strong.

So-called right to work finally became a reality in New Hampshire, after the U.S. Supreme Court found for the plaintiff in the case of Janus v. AFSCME. The decision strengthened the resolve of many union members to keep the fight for workers’ rights going strong.

The Janus decision

On June 27, 2018 – four months and one day after oral arguments – the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. As expected, the court found that unions could not collect agency fees – also known as fair share fees – from bargaining unit employees who chose not to join the union. Fair share fees were used to help cover the cost of negotiation and defending the collective bargaining agreement.

The immediate impact of the Janus decision was that fair share fee-payers in unions with such provisions – including SEA/SEIU Local 1984 – no longer had fees deducted from their paychecks, leading to a drop in revenue for unions. This was the goal of the anti-worker forces that bankrolled the Janus case – starving unions of funds so that they could no longer help working people advocate for themselves.

Thankfully we were prepared to withstand this adverse decision and it has only strengthened the resolve of our members to stick together and encourage their colleagues to join.

Ken Roos, the SEA's stalwart First Vice President, died this summer after a brief illness. The effects of his loss continue to ripple through the union and the Concord community.

Ken Roos, the SEA’s stalwart First Vice President, died this summer after a brief illness. The effects of his loss continue to ripple through the union and the Concord community.

Losing Ken Roos

This summer, the union suffered a massive loss, as First Vice President Ken Roos died after a brief illness. As an executive board member, Ken had a massive impact on the union’s decision-making process, but Ken made his impact known every day with his constant presence.

Ken’s shock of curly white hair was ubiquitous at union meetings – he was truly everywhere. It’s because Ken was so deeply involved, in fact, that his loss was felt so deeply. In the time since his passing, his colleagues and friends in the union – and the community at large – have worked to help fill his shoes and honor his legacy.

In October, Ken was posthumously honored as Member of the Year at the annual SEA/SEIU Local 1984 convention, and in December the union partnered with Temple Beth Jacob in Concord to hold the inaugural Ken Roos memorial blood drive. We know that as we go forward members will continue to step up to help fill the void left behind, but we know we’ll never replace Ken.

Members took action at the Legislature in large numbers in 2018 to help secure incremental wins for child protection workers and retirees.

Members took action at the Legislature in large numbers in 2018 to help secure incremental wins for child protection workers and retirees.

Wins at the Legislature

Last year’s legislative session started with a roar, with the Republican leadership pushing a right-to-work bill as its first priority. That set the tone for a mostly defensive session, with members fighting to preserve their rights and get budget funding for their agencies. While we spent time this year fighting off some proposals, 2018 was marked by the union going on the offense.

Among the legislative wins were a pair of bills impacting CCSNH – one gave workers the right to bargain a tuition discount for part-time workers and the other created a process to evaluate whether the system should re-enter the state health plan. Some retirees in the state pension system received a one-time payment this year, the product of a bill that also sought a COLA. This one-time payment of $500 was the first such payment in eight years. Child protective service workers at DHHS fought for a bill that funded new positions to help relieve the massive strain on the Department of Children, Youth and Families. Finally, a group of clinicians organizing with the SEA were able to pass a bill that limits the amount of time in which insurers could retroactively deny claims.

Taken together, this was a hugely successful session. It couldn’t have happened without members taking action by calling their legislators, sending emails, and showing up to testify at the State House. While some measures fell short, it was not due to a lack of effort by members. Our agenda for 2019 will be just as ambitious and should be aided by the election of many new pro-worker lawmakers.

Bill Bolton was one of more than a dozen SEA members to run for county or state office this year. A Senate candidate, Bolton knocked on more than 3,000 doors throughout the district – an amazing effort – but fell just short in his attempt to unseat the incumbent.

Bill Bolton was one of more than a dozen SEA members to run for county or state office this year. A Senate candidate, Bolton knocked on more than 3,000 doors throughout the district – an amazing effort – but fell just short in his attempt to unseat the incumbent.

Flipping the Legislature (and Executive Council)

As the summer rolled around, the SEA turned its focus from the legislative session (and a long contract fight – more on that below) to the upcoming statewide elections. As is always the case, members were encouraged to seek office and this year, they sought office at the county level, in the state House of Representatives and the state Senate.

When all was said and done, we helped elect eight members to the House of Representatives – including several first-time candidates. Members across the state stepped up in impressive fashion to help flip the House, Senate and Executive Council to a Democratic majority focused on fighting for working people. In all, 200 members were involved in political activities this year, making 8,500 phone calls to members and knocking on 1,500 doors. In the final weekend before the election, 52 volunteers turned out to get out the vote.

What this means going forward is stronger support for initiatives that benefit working people and ensure our retired public employees aren’t left further behind. There will be plenty of work to do, but as this year’s legislative session and the election showed, our members are up to the task.

SEA President Rich Gulla speaks at a rally in April in support of securing a new contract for state employees.

SEA President Rich Gulla speaks at a rally in April in support of securing a new contract for state employees. A new contract was finally ratified later that month – 10 full months after the preceding contract expired.

A new state contract, at long last

In late April, 10 long months after the Executive Branch contract expired, the SEA reached a tentative agreement with the state. That agreement came only after a fact-finder’s report that favored state employees.

The master bargaining team worked for months preparing for negotiations, though that ultimately stalled when another union declared impasse. The team put in even more hours preparing for the fact-finding process and their dedication made a massive difference. Also making a difference were the hundreds and hundreds of members who took part in actions during that 10-month span.

Members organized visibility events not just around Concord, but around the state as well. Large signs in front of the SEA office noted the weeks without a contract and called on the governor to invest in his workforce. The new contract came with some victories, including cost of living raises and an extra step in the wage matrix. While this contract covers by far the largest group of SEA members, many of our smaller units worked hard throughout the year negotiating new contracts, and some have waited far longer than 10 months to get a new deal. One of the most notable wins came in the town of Hampton, where members successfully worked to convince residents to support a warrant funding their new contract. We thank all of our members who step up to bargain in support of their colleagues.

Looking forward to 2019

Overall our members spent the year doing what they do best – taking action. The results shone through.

Our strength lies in numbers. It’s what allows us to have an impact in our worksites, at the Legislature and the ballot box. We need to stay strong going forward and we need members to continue to step up and take action. Until then, we wish you all happy holidays and a great new year.

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Chapters holding elections in 2019

Here are all chapters scheduled to hold elections in 2019. Positions slated for election are president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, councilor and alternate councilor unless noted below (some chapters merge the treasurer and secretary positions). You can access self-nomination forms for chapter elections here. 

Chapter 1 – Retired Members (Pres, VP, Treasurer, Asst Treas. (50% Councilors, Alt Councilors in odd year)
Chapter 2 – Department of Labor
Chapter 4 – NH Hospital
Chapter 5 – Office of Information Technology
Chapter 6 – Hampstead Hospital
Chapter 7 – Town of Salem
Chapter 11 – NH Veterans Home
Chapter 13 – NHTI-Concord NH,  NH Police Trg, Planetarium (Secretary/Treasurer)
Chapter 14 – Manchester Community Technical College
Chapter 16 – Public Health, Substance Abuse, Racing Comm.
Chapter 18 – Merrimack County Dept of Corrections
Chapter 19 – Berlin Area Chapter
Chapter 20 – Concord Area Chapter
Chapter 21 – Youth Development Center Secretary/Treasurer
Chapter 24 – NH Department of Corrections-Civilians
Chapter 27 – Town of Meredith
Chapter 28 – Lakes Region Community College-Laconia (Secretary/Treasurer)
Chapter 31 – Ashland Town Employees
Chapter 34 – Littleton Area
Chapter 36 – Nashua Community College-Staff
Chapter 38 – Pease Fire Fighters
Chapter 39 – Judicial Branch
Chapter 45 – Department of Health & Human Services
Chapter 46 – White Mountain Community College
Chapter 47 – Fish & Game
Chapter 49 – City of Franklin
Chapter 50 – Department of Environmental Services
Chapter 53 – Coos County Corrections
Chapter 54 – Liquor Commission
Chapter 56 – Belknap County
Chapter 57 – Littleton Police Department
Chapter 59 – Nashua Community College
Chapter 60 – Keene Area
Chapter 62 – River Valley Community  College-Claremont
Chapter 65 – Strafford County Nursing Home
Chapter 67 – Derry PATE
Chapter 68 – Town of Exeter
Chapter 70 – Hampton Highway Department
Chapter 72 – Town of North Conway
Chapter 73 – OPLC (Secretary/Treasurer)
Chapter 255 – DOC-Sgts, Lt’s, & Captains

 

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Nominations open for 2019 chapter elections

The chapter election cycle is here. Members in chapters holding elections in 2019 should soon be receiving a notice of chapter elections and a self-nomination form. If you’re interested in running for a position, you must submit the self-nomination form by Feb. 8, 2019.

In most cases, positions up for election include:

  • President (one position)
  • Vice president (one position)
  • Treasurer (one position)
  • Secretary (one position)
  • Councilor (number depends on chapter size)
  • Alternate councilor (number depends on chapter size)

You can find a printable PDF version of the election notice/self-nomination form for all chapters except Chapter 1 here. You can find an online version of that form here (and submit entirely online). You can find the Chapter 1 PDF form here and an online version here

If you’re not sure which chapters are holding elections in 2019, you can find a list here. If you’d like to see an in-depth description of the chapter positions’ duties, you can find that here.

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Impasse declared with Strafford County

Laura Drew, vice president of Chapter 52, delivers the final membership card to President Gulla. Stafford County Corrections reached 100 percent union membership after the bargaining team recently declared impasse with the county in contract negotiations.

Laura Drew, vice president of Chapter 52, delivers the final membership card to President Gulla. Stafford County Corrections reached 100 percent union membership after the bargaining team recently declared impasse with the county in contract negotiations.

The union bargaining team at Strafford County Department of Corrections has declared impasse after three months of attempting to negotiate in good faith with the county. The bargaining team delivered a proposal for a successor contract that included a request for higher wages to reflect the considerable extra duties, including forced overtime due to persistent short staffing that have arisen at Strafford County Department of Corrections. The requests sought in the proposal would be proportional with raises and benefits given to other County employees. The county’s negotiator rejected the proposal in its entirety.

“We stand in solidarity with our members at Strafford County,” said SEA President Rich Gulla. “Their hard work and determination needs to be reflected in a new contract. Anything less is unacceptable.”

This recent setback has prompted 23 additional employees to join the State Employees Association, achieving 100 percent union membership for the unit. “On top of not wishing to compensate the hard work we do, the head of negotiations for the county chose to verbally abuse the team on numerous occasions. We shall prove that the compensation we ask for is deserved and prove the head negotiator incorrect in his view of our group,” said Corrections Officer Brian Veit, referring to the inappropriate and salacious comments made to the bargaining team during negotations.

The corrections facility recently received high praise in a standard inspection conducted by a private consulting group on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In addition to serving the needs of the local community, the facility also processes and houses immigration detainees. In a recent email sent to all county jail employees, a member of management wrote, “The inspectors praised the facility … and stated every staff member they spoke to — whether a veteran or a new officer — was kind, helpful and knew the answers to the question they asked.” Despite the commendation, Strafford County shows no signs of moving closer to a reasonable contract for its correction employees.

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