Staff had to act fast to ensure food stamps benefits were delivered
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.”
Gov. 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.
Our 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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
Here’s a quick look at some of the other issues we’ll be working toward solutions for:
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.
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
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:
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.
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.