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SEA/SEIU Local 1984 files unfair labor practice complaint

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 issued the following press release after filing an unfair labor practice complaint against the state of New Hampshire.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Andrew Toland, 271-3411, ext. 108

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 files unfair labor practice complaint

Union asking state to return to bargaining table

Concord, N.H. – March 24, 2017 – This morning, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the state of New Hampshire and Gov. Chris Sununu with the N.H. Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB). The SEA is asking the state to return to the bargaining table and continue negotiating a new contract on behalf of the state employees it represents.

Recently, a problem arose between the state, the SEA and the other unions who represent state employees during coalition bargaining. Two other unions felt they could not proceed and declared an impasse in negotiations. Despite this, the SEA did not declare impasse and sought to continue with contract talks. However, Gov. Sununu’s bargaining team asserted that because some union teams declared impasse, all the union teams must go to impasse. As a result, contract talks came to a complete halt during a critical time in the state’s budget process.

“It boils down to this fact: we’d like to continue negotiations on our next contract,” said SEA President Richard Gulla. “The position Gov. Sununu’s administration has taken is unprecedented. Our bargaining team is eager to return to negotiations to continue to fight for the rights of New Hampshire workers.”

“The SEA disagrees with the state team’s actions and sees their refusal to continue negotiations as a violation of the law. It is for this reason the SEA has filed the complaint with the labor board.”

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Statement on death of Sen. Scott McGilvray

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Andrew Toland, 271-3411 ext. 108

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 statement on death of Sen. Scott McGilvray

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla issued the following statement on the passing of Sen. Scott McGilvray:

“On behalf of the State Employees’ Association, I extend my deepest condolences to Scott’s family, friends and colleagues at the NH NEA and NH State senate. Scott dedicated his career to public service and improving the lives of working people as an educator, coach, labor leader and senator. Our community and our state has lost a great person. We share the sorrow of all of the labor community at his passing.”

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President’s message: What’s the plan?

When big storms hit, state employees left out in the cold

As New Englanders, we’re programmed to handle snow. However, every once in a while we get a  storm so bad, it seems as though the entire state has shut down. The entire state – with the exception of the state itself.

Rich Gulla

Rich Gulla

State offices do not frequently close for snowstorms, and last Tuesday was no exception. Things got so bad Tuesday afternoon the state even closed its liquor stores. Unfortunately, state offices were kept open, leaving hundreds of state employees spinning their tires as they dug out and slowly trekked the dangerous roads home.

In hindsight, it seems pretty obvious the state should have followed the lead of employers across New Hampshire, and closed for the day. What’s it worth to keep offices open if you’re putting lives at risk?

It’s understood there are many public employees who work in essential jobs – including nurses, corrections officers, law enforcement and plow drivers. We’re all thankful for those workers who dutifully keep our state running, regardless of weather conditions. However, I don’t think we’re making the jobs of state troopers and plow crews any easier by unnecessarily sending more cars out on the roads.

Last Tuesday, surrounding states either closed state offices early or never opened altogether. We received the same forecast they did – so what’s the difference? Why is New Hampshire willing to put their employees’ lives at risk?

We closed the offices at the SEA on Tuesday for a simple reason: we didn’t want to put our employees’ lives at risk. To those who’d say it’s not fair  state offices remained open while our office was closed, I’d say this: You’re right – it’s not fair, but we should be setting a positive example and leading the way.

The state needs a better plan for dealing with major weather events such as this. Allowing employees “liberal use of leave” is not a plan – it’s a copout. Tuesday’s storm was a glaring example of a problem in desperate need of a solution, and we’d be happy to sit down with the state to find one to suit all state employees.

Hopefully before the next whopper of a storm.  

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House Finance budget work week of March 20

Monday, March 20

FINANCE – DIVISION I, Room 212, LOB
10am – HB1 & HB 2 work session

FINANCE – DIVISION II, Room 209, LOB
10am – HB1 & HB 2 work session

FINANCE – DIVISION III, Rooms 210-211, LOB
10am – HB1 & HB 2 work session

Tuesday, March 21

FINANCE – DIVISION I, Room 212, LOB
10am – HB1 & HB 2 work session

FINANCE – DIVISION II, Room 209, LOB
10am – HB1 & HB 2 work session

FINANCE – DIVISION III, Rooms 210-211, LOB
10am – HB1 & HB 2 work session

Wednesday, March 22

FINANCE – DIVISION I, Room 212, LOB
10am – HB1 & HB2 work session

FINANCE – DIVISION II, Room 209, LOB
10am – HB1 & HB2 work session

FINANCE – DIVISION III, Rooms 210-211, LOB
10am – HB1 & HB2 work session

 

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Dearborn, Chapter 21, elected to SEA Board

Special election held at last weekend’s Council meeting

Corey Dearborn, Chapter 21, is sworn in by President Rich Gulla after winning a special election for the Board of Directors.

Corey Dearborn, Chapter 21, is sworn in by President Rich Gulla after winning a special election for the Board of Directors.

Corey Dearborn, of Chapter 21, is the newest member of the SEA Board of Directors. Dearborn won in a special election during Saturday’s quarterly meeting of the Council, the union’s highest governing body.

Dearborn was one of three candidates for the seat, and ultimately prevailed on a third ballot. He serves as a steward at his workplace, the Sununu Youth Services Center, and is currently a member of the Master Bargaining Team.

“It’s been a long time coming for me,” said Dearborn, who first joined the union 20 years ago. “I think being part of the Master Bargaining Team is what motivated me to run for the Board of Directors. I see it as another opportunity to have a voice in the direction of the union, and allows me to be a bigger advocate for all of our members.

President Rich Gulla, who swore in Dearborn on Saturday, said he’s seen Dearborn getting increasingly involved with the union, including attending the quadrennial SEIU convention last year.

“He’s been doing more and more, so this feels like a natural progression,” Gulla said. “He’s a strong voice for his fellow members, and I think he’ll be a good addition to the Board of Directors. I hope you’ll join me in congratulating him on his victory, and thanking the other candidates, Phil Burt and Peter Brunette, for coming forward.”

When board members resign their positions, the remainder of those terms are generally filled by special election at the next Council meeting. This seat will be up for re-election at Convention this fall, though Dearborn said that didn’t worry him. Instead, he said, he’s excited to get to work.

“I look forward to working with the rest of the members of the board, and getting to know more about what the board does,” he said. “I look forward to the challenge.”

Council meeting notes

The election was the main business of the Council meeting, but Councilors also took part in a discussion on the potential for remote access for future meetings. No action was taken, though Councilors were able to review and give feedback on a draft policy that would allow them to connect by video to the main Council meeting from remote locations. A resolution on the topic is expected by this year’s convention.

Also of note, this meeting was held on a Saturday on a trial basis, based on feedback from delegates to the 2016 Convention. With turnout for the meeting solid, the plan is now to alternate Council meetings between Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings.

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Special report: The sinking of SB 11

An in-depth look at how this session’s right to work bill went down

Sen. John Reagan introduces SB 11, his so-called right to work bill, in a hearing at the House.

Sen. John Reagan introduces SB 11, his so-called right to work bill, in a hearing at the House.

Early this year, the news on so-called right to work bills didn’t look good for working people. Kentucky and Missouri approved so-called right to work laws, and here in New Hampshire, newly elected Gov. Chris Sununu made the issue a priority. The Senate fast-tracked a bill and had it on to the House before the end of January.

Even as national news outlets ran with the story – what would happen if New Hampshire passed the bill? – supporters had their doubts as to whether they had the votes to pass the House. In the end, the right to work supporters were right. The House ultimately killed the bill 200-177, with a bloc of Republicans joining Democrats to put the issue to bed for the session. Here’s the story that led to that vote.

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Then-Executive Councilor Chris Sununu took part in the SEA's Republican gubernatorial forum last summer. The candidate said at the time that he believed NH needed right to work.

Then-Executive Councilor Chris Sununu took part in the SEA’s Republican gubernatorial forum last summer. The candidate said at the time that he believed NH needed right to work.

Last summer, as then-Executive Councilor Chris Sununu was running for governor, he joined Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas for a republican gubernatorial forum put on by the SEA. Perhaps knowing the crowd, Sununu was ready for the inevitable question about so-called right to work.

“We need a governor that stands up and says ‘New Hampshire is open for business,’” Sununu said.

Sununu told the audience that right to work was something businesses had been asking for.

“When I talk to the businesses that refuse to come into the state, they say, ‘we’ve got better options in other states that have right to work,’ and they’re going to those states,” he said. “It is an issue, there’s no doubt about it.”

That argument of drawing businesses into the state was used frequently by supporters, but Sununu also mentioned high energy costs as a deterrent for businesses.

“It’s not just about right to work,” Sununu said. “It’s about all these pieces.”

On the fast track

Sununu went on to win the Republican primary and the general election. Republicans retained control of the House and Senate, as well as the Executive Council. When the legislature convened in January, a so-called right to work bill SB 11 was one of the first up. A five-hour public hearing drew hundreds with passionate testimony against the bill.

“I urge you to vote this bill inexpedient to legislate, so the legislature can focus on bills that actually help New Hampshire citizens,” SEA President Rich Gulla told the Senate Commerce Committee. “SB 11 is a tired and recycled bill pushed by out-of-state interests, and has been defeated year after year.”

This year, Gulla continued, instead of focusing on issues that help Granite State families — such as combatting the opioid crisis — one of the first bills of the new session was aimed at dividing. For the most part, the division held up. The Commerce Committee endorsed the bill along party lines, and a week later, the full Senate voted 12-11 in favor (Sen. Sharon Carson was the lone Republican who voted against it). SB 11 was immediately sent over to the House for consideration.

‘The right thing to do’

SEA President Rich Gulla, member Betty Thomas and Director John Hattan held signs outside the State House on the day of the vote on SB 11.

SEA President Rich Gulla, member Betty Thomas and Director John Hattan held signs outside the State House on the day of the vote on SB 11.

That Senate hearing for SB 11 was packed with union members and others supporting workers’ rights, and plenty in the seats were clad in SEA purple. In addition to President Gulla, several members waited hours to testify against the bill. Others sat for upwards of five hours just to be a presence. Likewise, SEA members called and emailed their senators, and joined in phone banks in which we patched other members through to their senators. This effort continued in the House, and like the Senate hearing, the House hearing on the bill was packed with union members.

Unlike the Senate, though, the House committee hearing the bill had several “labor-friendly” members. Despite facing pressure, the committee recommended rejecting the bill by a bipartisan vote, setting up the climactic House floor vote in mid-February. Republicans who opposed right to work were facing strong pressure from some in party leadership. Rep. Marty Bove said he knew what he was going to do, regardless of the pressure.

“I was going to vote against it, no matter what,” said Bove, a longtime SEA member who recently retired from DHHS. “I just felt it was the right thing to do.”

When the votes were cast, Bove was happy to see he wasn’t alone. The bill was rejected 200-177, and “indefinitely postponed” by a vote of 193-184. That second vote meant the issue was dead for the remainder of the two-year session.

“I thought, if we stop it, great, but I’ll take the hit,” he said. “I just didn’t know how many others were voting that way. I was pleasantly surprised that it went down with that number of Republicans.”

Bove said so-called right to work is always framed as a partisan issue, but this vote showed it’s not necessarily the case.

“This showed there were 30-plus Republicans who wanted to stand up and say, ‘no, this doesn’t have to be a partisan issue,’” Bove said.

Rallying the troops

While Republicans like Bove were splitting from their party for this vote, on the other side of the aisle, Democrats were working hard to get full turnout for the key vote. Rep. Christy Bartlett, wife of Chapter 1 President Peter Bartlett, said snow was in the forecast for the day of the vote. She said Democratic leaders were working with representatives who live farther away to ensure they’d be able to get to Concord in time for the vote. For some, that meant a sleepover in Concord.

“Rep. Pam Gordon lives in Portsmouth, and after the Wednesday session, she drove home to get clothes, then came back and stayed with us,” Bartlett said. “Everybody was making an effort to make sure we were present for the vote. Even though we’re a strong vote on the issue, we’re in the minority.”

Bartlett said that while Democrats are united against the subject of right to work, they weren’t told to vote a certain way. This ran in contrast to some of the pressure exerted on Republicans in the days leading up to the vote.

“Remember what Will Rogers said, it’s like herding cats,” Bartlett said. “But on this issue, we’re united. We’re never told to vote a certain way. We’re always told to vote our conscience.”

Leading up to the vote, Bartlett said she knew it would be a complicated issue to debate, so she prepared accordingly she left her knitting at home that day.

“Anyone who sees me knows I’m usually knitting I made 34 pairs of mittens,” she said. “I left my knitting at home that day. I knew I was going to have to keep my wits about me. It can get confusing really quickly when the maneuvers start, especially the indefinite postponement.”

Six Republicans spoke on the bill, three in support and three opposed. Then came the votes. The first, on the committee’s recommendation of “inexpedient to legislate,” was 200-177. Next, opponents moved to put a stake through the heart of the issue, with the vote to indefinitely postpone. That passed by a vote of 193-184. Finally, there came a motion to reconsider the vote to indefinitely postpone. That failed by about 9 votes, with 183 yeas and 194 neas.

Finally, for this session, the issue was dead.

What’s next

Though so-called right to work is a dead issue in our legislature until at least 2019, we expect another right to work challenge at the Supreme Court level, and legislators backed by groups such as ALEC are continuing to advance bills that aim to hurt unions in other ways.

“We know we’re going to fight this fight again,” Bartlett said.

She’s right, which is why it’s so important to continue to support candidates for office who stand with working people — candidates like Reps. Bartlett and Bove and the 198 others who helped turn back this bill.

If you don’t already do so, please consider making a contribution to our political action fund (SEAPAC), which works to support these candidates, as well as fight off legislation such as right to work, or changes to retiree health care. You can make a contribution to SEAPAC here.

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HR Block hosts State Employees Day

HR Block locations in Concord are hosting a State Employees Day this Sunday, March 19. The two locations — 108 Fisherville Road, Unit 4, and 36 Fort Eddy Road — will offer a free second look review for 2015, 2014 and 2013 tax returns. Tax professionals will also be available to answer you tax questions.

The State Employees Day event runs from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. this Sunday. Refreshments will be served. If you’ve got any questions before the event, you can call 225-4113 for help.

SEA members get many benefits through membership. You can see a full list of member benefits here. Not a member? You can join us here.

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Make an impact on bargaining — join the CAT

Contract Action Team doesn’t require large time commitment

Collective bargaining agreements that deliver wage increases and provide benefits for working families don’t happen by magic. For any contract, there are people who helped deliver it — the bargaining team. It’s not fair to expect the team to do it alone, though. That’s where the Contract Action Team (CAT) comes in.

The Master Bargaining Team, which negotiates the master contract for the Executive Branch, requires a sizable time commitment. The CAT, however, doesn’t require as much time but allows you to make a big impact on bargaining. Here’s how it works:

  • The bargaining team puts out a request for feedback on contract items to the CAT
  • CAT members take that request to their worksites and talk with co-workers
  • After collecting feedback, CAT members report their findings

This creates a feedback loop, that gets more members involved in the bargaining process. Getting more involved will help deliver a better contract. Jim Kowalik, the president of Chapter 40, has seen the process at work.

“It’s a good vehicle for gaining additional input once things get going with negotiations,” Kowalik said. “You could see the value of giving a bigger voice to members, and using new media — the Web Ex video conferencing — seemed to help.”

The goal for the CAT is to have at least one volunteer in each worksite. From there, we’ll work with you to map out your worksite and get you involved. Kowalik said he’s ready.

“I’m looking forward to being on it again and getting more members engaged, too,” Kowalik said.

If you’d like to join him on the CAT, you can sign up here.

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Finance Committee budget work week of March 13

Monday, March 13

FINANCE – DIVISION I, Room 212, LOB
1:00 p.m. – Department of Justice

FINANCE – DIVISION II, Room 209, LOB
12:30 p.m. – Department of Transportation

FINANCE – DIVISION III, Rooms 210-211, LOB
12:30 p.m. – DHHS – Agency 90 Public Health

Tuesday, March 14

FINANCE – DIVISION I, Room 212, LOB
10:00 a.m.
Department of Corrections

FINANCE – DIVISION II, Room 209, LOB
10:00 a.m. – University System of New Hampshire
11:00 a.m. – Community College System of New Hampshire
1:00 p.m. – Department of Transportation

Work session on HB 2 throughout the day, as needed

Wednesday, March 15

FINANCE – DIVISION I, Room 212, LOB
10:00 a.m. – Department of Employment Security
10:45 p.m. – Banking Department
1:00 p.m. – DRED with Cultural Resources

FINANCE – DIVISION II, Room 209, LOB
10:00 a.m. – Fish and Game Commission
11:00 a.m. – Review of HB 2 amendments

FINANCE – DIVISION III, Rooms 210-211, LOB
9:00 a.m. – DHHS – Agency 42 Human Services

Thursday, March 16

FINANCE – DIVISION II, Room 209, LOB
10:00 a.m. – Department of Education
1:00 p.m. – Department of Safety
2:30 p.m. – New Hampshire Lottery Commission

Work session on HB 2 throughout the day, as needed

FINANCE – DIVISION III, Rooms 210-211, LOB
9:00 a.m. – DHHS – HB 2
10:00 a.m. – DHHS – Agency 48 Elderly and Adult Services; Agency 49 Balance Incentive Program
1:00 p.m. – DHHS – Agency 45 Division of Client Services; Division of Family Assistance

Friday, March 17

FINANCE – DIVISION II, Room 209, LOB
1:00 p.m. – Budget work session: Department of Education

Work session on HB 2 throughout the day, as needed

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Public budget hearings start Monday

Members asked to testify on impact of proposed retiree health insurance changes

The next major steps in the House budget process are coming up in the next few weeks, with public hearings set today and next Monday. The House Finance Committee has been meeting with agencies over the past few weeks to prepare its own version of the budget. The public hearings are the next step in the process. There will be two “remote” public hearings tonight, March 6, and a hearing at the State House a week later. We apologize for the late notice of these meetings, which were just announced late last week.

Monday, March 6

  • Derry: 4:30 p.m. at Derry Town Hall
  • Plymouth: 5:30 p.m. at Plymouth State University’s Silver Center

Monday, March 13

  • Concord: 3 p.m. at Representatives Hall in the State House

Gov. Chris Sununu’s budget largely funded many priorities – although it included language that would increase health care costs for retired state employees – but his proposal was built on an early set of revenue projections. This week, the House Ways and Means Committee set new revenue estimates nearly $60 million lower, and the Finance Committee’s budget will need to reflect that. You can read more about this in the House calendar linked above under the header “HOUSE RESOLUTION 9.”

The most concerning part of the budget proposed by Gov. Sununu is the language that would jack up health insurance costs for Medicare-eligible retirees. The budget language on health insurance is nearly identical to that in HB 653. It’s especially troubling because it only sets a floor of a 10 percent premium, meaning that’s the least it could be.

We need all retirees who would be affected by this proposal (this would include current state employees planning to retire soon) to go to these hearings and let the representatives know how this change would harm you. 

House Finance continues work on the budget

In addition to the hearings above, the House Finance Committee will be busy this week as it continues to meet with agencies and work on its version of the budget. You can find their schedule for this week here.

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