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Response to spending question from SEA Treasurer Avis Crane

Dear members,

It was wonderful to participate from Berlin at our quarterly Council meeting last week. I’ve heard from a few of you that some of my answers were not audible to members at the remote site concerning the legal defense savings account as noted on the Treasurer’s Report.

For clarification, as reported in the Finance Committee minutes from March 6, 2018, the committee considered an expenditure to represent a member who needed legal expertise that we could not supply in-house. The member’s name and exact circumstances were not discussed in order to preserve that member’s confidentiality, but it was made clear that it was a rank-and-file member, not a member of the Board. The committee decided to recommend an expenditure up to $9,999.00, to provide an absolute upper limit to the expenditure. The amount chosen has no specific significance to the SEA, since any unbudgeted expense over $5,000.00 must be approved by the Board.

The committee voted to take this request to the Board (moved by Ken Roos and seconded by John Amrol), and to recommend that, if approved, the money be transferred from our legal defense savings account. As recorded in the March 15th Board minutes, that motion was made by Avis Crane, and was duly seconded, after the Board had met in executive session to discuss the confidential details of the request. The motion to “transfer up to $9999 from the legal defense fund savings acct (line 1024) to outside firms (line 5710) for the purpose of representing a member” was passed.

Thank you,
Avis Crane

 

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Press release: Molly Kelly for Governor

Rich Molly

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 26, 2018

Contact: Melissa Moriarty

mmoriarty@seiu1984.org

(603) 271-3411 ext. 105

 

Concord, NH – Today, the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Board of Directors announced its endorsement of Molly Kelly for Governor at a press conference.

“Molly knows the struggles working families in our state face because she’s lived them,” said SEA President Richard Gulla. “Molly was a strong supporter of state employees throughout her five terms in the State Senate, consistently voting against efforts to limit our ability to organize. We know we can count on her to improve the lives of SEA members and to always oppose so called right to work legislation. We need a governor who will stand with working families over corporate special interests. Molly will be that governor, and we will do everything we can to elect her on Nov. 6.”

“My priority as Governor will be standing up for working families, because I know firsthand the challenges they face,” said Kelly. “We need to put the best interests of the people of New Hampshire ahead of the corporate special interests once again. I will never sign right to work legislation, or any bill that hurts working families. Instead, I will improve people’s lives by making paid family and medical leave a reality, strengthening public education, expanding job training, making college affordable, and defending access to health care for Granite Staters with pre-existing conditions.”  

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SEA/SEIU Local 1984 represents thousands of public and private-sector employees across the Granite State.  First formed in 1940 as a social organization, the SEA won passage of New Hampshire’s Public Employee Labor Relations Law in 1975. Since then, the union has negotiated hundreds of contracts with state, county, municipal and private-sector employers.  The SEA affiliated with the Service Employees’ International Union in 1984. With two million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas.

 

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SEA takes part in launch of Raise Up NH

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 member Jeremy Dupuis speaks at the launch of Raise Up NH.

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 member Jeremy Dupuis speaks at the launch of Raise Up NH.

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla speaks at the launch of Raise Up New Hampshire.

SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla speaks at the launch of Raise Up New Hampshire.

On Monday afternoon, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members joined community activists for the launch of Raise Up NH, an initiative that grew out of the Fight for $15. The name change came largely due to the realization that raising the minimum wage is not enough – to ensure all have a fair chance we need to promote a living wage and protect workers’ rights.

The SEA is taking part in this initiative as part of the Alliance for a Moral Economy, and speakers on Monday included our President Rich Gulla and member Jeremy Dupuis. Over and over again, attendees were reminded that there is dignity in all labor and that as a society, we’re all in this together. We’re proud to stand up as part of this effort.

You can find Raise Up NH on Facebook, and you can find media coverage of Monday’s launch event in the Union Leader and on WMUR.

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Endorsement: Joe Pace for Executive Council District 3

The SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Board of Directors has endorsed Joe Pace, of Exeter, for Executive Council in District 3.

The SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Board of Directors has endorsed Joe Pace, of Exeter, for Executive Council in District 3.

On Tuesday, the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Board of Directors announced its endorsement of Joe Pace, of Kensington, in his campaign for Executive Council in District 3. Pace’s career and public sector experience make him the right choice to represent the district on the Executive Council.

“Public employees are the backbone of our state and towns,” Pace said. “Instead of undermining their right to organize and collectively bargain, we should we working together to ensure that our public employees are working safe jobs for good wages with quality health care. I’m excited and proud to stand with SEA/SEIU 1984 in that fight.”

Executive Council District 3 covers the southeast corner of the state, including Derry, Portsmouth, Exeter and Hampton, among other towns.     

“During his three terms on the Select Board in Exeter, Joe worked with public unions and their members on the tough process of contract negotiations, and he understands the vital importance of collective bargaining,” said SEA President Richard Gulla.  “We know he’ll bring his experience to building a New Hampshire that works for all of us.”

You can read more about the SEA’s endorsement process here.

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Fourth Quarterly Council Meeting set for Sept. 22

All SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Councilors are asked to attend the Fourth Quarterly Council Meeting on Sept. 22, with two locations available: Berlin and Concord. For this meeting, the Board of Directors will be heading to the North Country, with the main meeting taking place at White Mountains Community College. Members can also attend a satellite meeting at the SEA office in Concord.

Here are the details:

SEA Fourth Quarterly Council Meeting
When: Saturday, Sept. 22; registration at 9:30 a.m., meeting at 10 a.m.
Where: White Mountains Community College, 2020 Riverside Drive, Berlin; SEA office, 207 N. Main St., Concord.
Who: All SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Council members.

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Bargaining Senate picks new Executive Branch bargaining team

Bargaining

On Thursday evening, the Executive Branch Collective Bargaining Senate met to elect the bargaining team for the next round of negotiations with the state. The team will get to work quickly, with the early stages of bargaining set to start soon.

Those elected to the team on Thursday, joining bargaining Chair Jim Nall, include:

  • Leah McKenna
  • Betty Thomas
  • Alisa Druzba
  • Linda Huard
  • Heather Fairchild
  • Andy Newcomb
  • Shannon Perkins
  • Daniel Brennan
  • Corey Dearborn
  • David Rys
  • Jenny Robles

We thank all who came forward to run for the bargaining team and thank those who voted Thursday night.

The work of negotiating a contract and having it supported by the Legislature will require lots of work, not just by the team, but by all Executive Branch members. There will be numerous opportunities for members to provide input and take action, so keep an eye on your email.

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2018 Bargaining Team Candidates

Leah McKenna, Chapter 50

Agency: Dept of Environmental Services

Worksite: Concord

Job title: Administrator  

Years as an SEA member: 15  

Current or past union titles or positions: I am the chapter 50 president, councilor, steward, and agency Labor Management Committee (LMC) member. In addition, I serve on the State level LMC, am co-chair of the Collective Bargaining Advisory Committee and have been on the previous 3 master bargaining teams.

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: For years I attended bargaining senate meetings, and the team would explain the tentative agreement or the proposals that were being debated.  I would get angry and frustrated because I didn’t understand why we weren’t fighting harder, and even more frustrated when members would come to me asking about the meeting and whether or not the proposals were good and whether they should vote yes or no and I didn’t have enough information to explain how it all worked.  I was frustrated with the process so I decided to do something about it and run for a seat on the team. I have very strong organizational skills and I don’t personalize the decisions that we make as a team – we are elected to do the very best we can and that is what I do.

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: Being on the past three teams, my continuous goal is to lift the curtain on the process and work hard to explain it to state employees. The most fulfilling part of this process for me is going out to work sites to explain the tentative agreement, answer questions, and listen to your concerns.


 

Christopher Weeks, Chapter 45

Agency: DHHS/BCSS

Worksite: Concord District Office

Job title: Child Support Officer

Years as an SEA member: 10

Any current or past union titles or positions: Councilor 

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: In private sector I worked on bargaining of contracts with vendors. Current job of court hearings I participate in. 

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: To help get a fair contract for all members. 


 

Ryan Poirier, Chapter 20

Agency: Department of Revenue

Worksite: Concord

Job title: Tax Field Auditor 2

Years as an SEA member: 2

Any current or past union titles or positions: Chapter Treasurer

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: Accounting degree 

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: How a compromise is made and the value of weighing the memberships differing views in coming to a list of priorities. 


 

Betty Thomas, Chapter 37

Agency: NH Employment Security

Worksite: 45 So. Fruit St., Concord

Job title: Appeal Tribunal Chairman

Years as an SEA member: 31

Any current or past union titles or positions: 2017-2019 bargaining team member, current state LMC member, past board of directors second vice-president and director, steward for 13 years, and chapter councilor.

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: Vast experience in legal matters and contracts, ability to work in stressful environments, ability to work cooperatively to reach agreements, excellent proofreading and writing skills, strong ethics, and deep desire to put in the work to assist in obtaining the best contract possible.

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: The opportunity to continue to work as a member of the team to obtain the best possible contract we can for all members.


 

Owen David, Chapter 16 

Agency: DHHS/DPHS

Worksite: Hazen Drive 

Job title: Program Planner III, Radon Safety Specialist 

Years as an SEA member: 17

Any current or past union titles or positions: Director, member of the Contract Action Team, and SEA 5K volunteer  

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: Basic understanding of contracts, negotiating, current CBA, and 17 years as a union member. 

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: How to negotiate a better contract and work with a potential hostile state bargaining team; more detailed knowledge of contract negotiation process; how to communicate with members about contract issues.


Linda Huard, Chapter 37

Agency: NHES

Worksite: Concord 

Job title: BAU Adjudicator

Years as an SEA member: 16

Any current or past union titles or positions: Chair/member – HBC – 11 years, MBT since 2007, SONH LMC since 2011, NHES LMC – 16 yrs., Steward, Counselor, NHES Safety Committee

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: 17 years previous experience in Benefits/Employee Relations 

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: Fair and equitable contract-preserving benefits!


Heather M. Fairchild, Chapter 16

Agency: NH Dept. of Health and Human Services

Worksite: 129 Pleasant Street, Concord, NH

Job title: Health, Safety and Wellness Coordinator

Years as an SEA member: 22.5 years

Any current or past union titles or positions: Past Chapter 16 President, Vice President and current Councilor.  Past Councilor of Chapter 2 (Labor).  Current SEA/SEIU 1984 Director. Executive Branch Bargaining Team member (last team)

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: I was a “newbee” on the team during the last Bargaining cycle.  Because of that, I asked many questions and learned a considerable amount of information concerning the bargaining process.  I have a great attention to detail and my powers of observation are keen.  I believe both to be important talents when faced with opposing players who may not speak much but say a lot through their body language. I have been told that this past bargaining cycle was unprecedented in its structure and tone.  

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: I am hoping to learn more about the legal options our Union has with regard to bargaining law and to hopefully contribute to a more streamlined process where negotiations take precedent over posturing.  Of course, this is a two way street so we can only do so much!  But I want to be there to do it!


Mark Hamilton, Chapter 17

Agency: DOT

Worksite: Kingston

Job title: Highway Maintainer 2

Years as an SEA member: 13

Any current or past union titles or positions:

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: Member of Labor local 151 for 4 years.

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: To get a fair contract and be a voice for members in southern-most N.H.


Kristy Blanchette, Chapter 45

Agency: DHHS

Worksite: Concord-State Office

Job title: Case Technician

Years as an SEA member: 4

Any current or past union titles or positions: Currently a Union Steward, Just finished the DHHS-Sub Unit Bargaining. Name on a ballot for Councilor for Chapter 45.

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: I have a unique way of seeing both sides of an issue, which is helpful when planning your next move. I also am currently attending classes to achieve my Master’s degree in Public Policy and Politics.

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: I am hoping to give the team another strong voice for NH State Employees. A different perspective and insight on current issues workers are facing and ideas of how we can approach them to benefit the majority of the membership.


Phillip Burt, Chapter 45

Agency: DHHS

Worksite: Disability Determination Unit

Job title: Supervisor III

Years as an SEA member: 19

Any current or past union titles or positions: Currently President of Chapter 45

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: I have experience as a manager of a small business and many years of human service experience. Having been fortunate enough to sit on 3 Bargaining Teams I have gathered a bit of experience. I understand what it takes to come to an agreement that both sides feel is the best we can agree on. I make decisions with members in mind. I support and am committed to our union.

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: I am interested in learning more about how data is retrieved from the State. Additionally how it can be used by the Bargaining Team as a tool for better contract outcomes.


Daniel Brennan, Chapter 17

Agency: NHDOT

Worksite: Crew 525 Canterbury

Job title: Highway Maintainer III

Years as an SEA member: 3 Years 10 Months

Any current or past union titles or positions: Current VP of Chapter 17, Former President of Chapter 17, Steward.

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: I was on the last master bargaining team, and NHDOT subunit team. I feel as though I have grown from my last experience and have unsettled business and goals to meet.

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: During this bargaining cycle, I hope to combat the feet dragging and stonewalling games the Governor, and his team played last cycle. I feel as though we were all attacked, when a State in the black claims “there is no money”. I take these types of actions personally, because I see the effect it has on my coworkers in lower labor grades. With the continuous attacks and targeting of unions, I feel compelled to do everything possible to help.


Mark Cioffi, Chapter 45

Agency: DHHS

Worksite: 97 Pleasant Street

Job title: Business Analyst

Years as an SEA member: 3

Any current or past union titles or positions: No

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: President of Condo Association 1996-2012.  Chairperson Board of Trustees Suncook United Methodist Church 2005-2015; Trustee of Pembroke Town Library 2001-2004

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: I want to identify if there are new “items” to bring to the table.  For example, can the union identify and substantiate any wasted money by state agencies which could be redirected to fund union salary increases.


Corey Dearborn, Chapter 21

Agency: DHHS/DJJS

Worksite: SYSC

Job title: Youth Counselor III

Years as an SEA member: 21+

Any current or past union titles or positions: Master Bargaining Team Member during last bargaining cycle, Sub-Unit Bargaining Team, Acting Chapter 21 President, Chapter 21 Vice President, Chapter 21 Counselor, Union Steward since 2006, Labor management Committee, Chapter 21 Bi-laws Committee, Delegate to the 2016 Quadrennial in Detroit, Fight for $15 Committee, Contract Action Team (CAT), Board of Directors and Communications Committee

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: I attended Member/Leadership (IGNITE) trainings in Boston and Los Angeles to help strengthen our union.

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: If re-elected to serve as a member of the Master Bargaining Team, I want to provide input and knowledge that will help preserve and strengthen the great Collective Bargaining Agreement that we already have.


Ronnieann Rakoski, Chapter 3

Agency: DOT

Worksite: Concord, NH

Job title: Internal EEO Coordinator 

Years as an SEA member: 1

Any current or past union titles or positions: Steward

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining: I have some experience in the negotiating process with one of my other jobs. 

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: I am hoping to get a better understanding on how the state goes through this process. If chosen, I want to help the bargaining team get the best contract we can get. 


Jenny Robles, Chapter 45

Agency: DHHS/BCSS

Worksite: Manchester DO

Job title: Child Support Enforcement Officer

Years as an SEA member: 3-4

Any current or past union titles or positions:  None

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining:  Wisdom! 

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: I’m hoping to be a part of bringing back the benefits that played a part in my decision to want to become a State of NH employee in the first place. I have not been particularly excited about what we’ve lost in our past 2 contracts so instead of complaining about it I’d like to be a part of making that change.


Dawn O’Brien, Chapter 2

Agency: Department of Labor

Worksite: Hugh Gallen State Office Park – Spaulding Building 

Job title: Claims & Hearing Clerk II

Years as an SEA member: 5

Any current or past union titles or positions:  Chapter Vice President

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining:  Phone banking for political parties – local & national, present for visuals, door to door political canvassing.

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: The bargaining process and how the union negotiates for better conditions and benefits for the local. 


Alisa Druzba, Chapter 16

Agency: DHHS

Worksite: Hazen Drive

Job title: Administrator

Years as an SEA member: 13

Any current or past union titles or positions:  Previous Master Bargaining Team member two times. Serves on the Health Benefits Committee and the DHHS Labor Management Committee. 

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining:  Professional expertise in healthcare payment and policy. Excellent oral and written communication skills. Sense of humor. Skilled in facilitation and working with different communication styles.

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: I hope to be helpful in drafting and researching proposals. I am particularly concerned with our health benefits and creating a workplace that allows us to retain skilled staff.


Stuart E. West, Chapter 37

Agency: NHES

Worksite: Keene

Job title: Field Auditor

Years as an SEA member: 4

Any current or past union titles or positions:  NHES Sub-Unit Contract Team

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining:  Three college degrees, two in accounting and one in construction management. Previous career in construction management negotiating many contracts. 

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: Grow my team skills and improve the opportunities for all the union members.


David Rys, Chapter 5

Agency: Department of Information Technology

Worksite: 27 Hazen Drive

Job title: System Administrator Supervisor

Years as an SEA member: 9

Any current or past union titles or positions:  Chapter 5 President, Chapter 5 Councilor

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining:  I have served on three previous Master Bargaining Teams, and hope to continue to serve the employees of the state and represent them at the bargaining table.  I’ve been in the Information Technology field for over 14 years.  My role in IT has always been customer service focused which have given me a diverse perspective from all of the different customers I’ve worked with over the years.

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: If chosen, I will represent the will of the membership as directed by the Bargaining Senate.  


Shannon Perkins, Chapter 9

Agency: DHHS

Worksite: Glencliff Home 

Job title: Maintenance Mechanic II 

Years as an SEA member: 5

Any current or past union titles or positions:  Safety comm., LMC, councilor, sub unit bargaining, VP 

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to the union during bargaining:  Strong determination and will at pushing forward an honest and sincere future for state workers 

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the Executive Branch bargaining team: To gain knowledge while working towards a fair contract for all state workers.


Marie Elaina Guthro, Chapter 37

Agency: NHES

Worksite: Concord

Job Title: CO3

Years as an SEA Member: 16

Any current or past union titles or positions: Chapter Pres, Steward and Bargaining 

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to union during bargaining:  Was on bargaining team

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the executive branch bargaining team:  how to better my experience with bargaining 


Andy Newcomb, Chapter 255

Agency: DOC

Worksite: Men’s Prison Concord

Job Title: Security Lieutenant

Years as an SEA /SEIU 1984 Member:  

Any current or past union titles or positions: Member of Chapter 25 and 255 Sub-Unit Bargaining Teams (2014-2018)

Additional experience, knowledge or special background that you have that you feel would be beneficial to union during bargaining:  14 Years’ experience as a state employee in good standing, 9 years’ experience in criminal/internal investigations, excellent report writing skills, Master’s Degree in Behavioral Psychology, 4 years’ experience working as a member of multiple sub-unit bargaining teams, good working relationship with SEA staff.

What are you hoping to learn and/or accomplish by being chosen to serve as a member of the executive branch bargaining team:  As a new applicant for a position on the Master Bargaining Team, I’m looking forward to learning more about the bargaining process as it relates to different state agencies and other interests within the state of NH. I’m hoping to build upon already amicable working relationships between the State Bargaining Team and our SEA Master Bargaining Team, and I believe that I have much to offer in this regard as I can appreciate the value of compromise, trust, and respect within the bargaining process. I’m 39 years old and plan to work for the state of NH for many more years. For many years, I’ve had a direct interest in improving the work environment of my fellow state employees, and I believe that serving on the Master Bargaining Team allows us to serve & represent our peers.

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Endorsement: Phil Bean for District 21

From left to right: Brian Hawkins, Rep. Phil Bean, Dan Coughlin, Brian Kelly

From left to right: Brian Hawkins, Rep. Phil Bean, Dan Coughlin, Brian Kelly

The SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Board of Directors announces its support today for incumbent state Rep. Phil Bean (R-Hampton) in the primary election for Rockingham County House District 21.

“Phil Bean has proven that you can promote small business and Republican values while still supporting the working families of Hampton,” said member Dan Coughlin.

Union members from the Hampton Department of Public Works are making calls and sending postcards to their fellow Republicans in Hampton to show their support.

“I am grateful for the support I receive from the SEA,” Bean said. “I’m incredibly proud to have opposed legislation that hurts workers, like the so-called right to work, which we defeated. If I’m re-elected to the State House, I will continue to fight for all workers to protect their interests above outside special interests.”

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Important: Bargaining Senate meeting on Sept. 13

All members of the Executive Branch Bargaining Senate are asked to attend the upcoming meeting on Thursday, Sept. 13, to elect the next bargaining team.

For members of the Bargaining Senate, please be aware that your attendance plays a very key role in this process. We can’t do this without you.

If you’re not sure if you’re in the Bargaining Senate, you can click here.

You can find the candidates for the bargaining team here.

You can find the meeting agenda here. 

Here are the meeting details:

Where: DES auditorium, 29 Hazen Drive, Concord NH
When: Thursday, September 13 – registration at 6 p.m., meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.
Who: All members of the Collective Bargaining Senate

Pre-register to attend

If you can’t be there, please email kcocuzzo@seiu1984.org to designate an alternate member-in-good-standing from your chapter to vote in your place.

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Op-ed: On the importance of unions

As published in the Union Leader on 8/31/2018

As president of one of New Hampshire’s largest labor unions, I have had the honor of speaking with countless state and municipal employees regarding their number one concern–  protecting their families’ economic health. They want wages that can support their families, and assurances that their employer will not tamper with their health insurance. The key to achieving these goals and more is for workers to unite against the political forces that want to divide us.

Earlier this summer, the U.S Supreme Court reversed a 40-year precedent that threatens a union’s ability to stay in business.  The Court’s decision creates an economic incentive for public sector employees to become “free-riders” who reap the benefits of contract negotiations without financially supporting the effort. If a worker can gain all the benefits of a service without paying, where is the incentive to pay? Once enough workers make the choice to become free-riders, the union will cease to exist. Without a union, there is no contract to protect wages, benefits, and job security. Make no mistake: the death of labor unions is the goal of anti-labor groups.

The union saying, “united we bargain, divided we beg” has never been more applicable than today. Lately, much has been written about New Hampshire’s booming economy. But little has been said about why this economic boom doesn’t match the lived experiences of many of New Hampshire’s working people. The governor likes to tout impressive statistics, such as New Hampshire’s low unemployment rates. But a state cannot continue to measure its economic success on what it’s not lacking. It would be akin to a restaurant measuring its success on low incidences of reported food poisoning. It’s a low barometer that says nothing about the quality of the food or experiences of its patrons. Likewise, we need our state’s statistics to match the lived experiences of all Granite Staters.

In the coming months, a group of state employees will be working toward this goal by creating a new state contract. The number of hours required to negotiate a state contract on behalf of their fellow workers is like working a part-time job with no immediate compensation. These volunteers dedicate their time because they want all state employees to win.  Anyone who benefits from a new state contract must support their work by becoming a union member. Anything less is simply unfair to those pulling their weight.

The free-rider dilemma presents an interesting paradox: it allows those who don’t want to contribute to ride off the coattails of others’ efforts. But what happens when people continuously take something for free? It stops being free when it ceases to exist. Just take a look at what happened to the teachers’ union in Wisconsin after their union was gutted in 2011. Teachers’ pay, benefits and pensions took a nosedive and as a result the state began to see a high turnover rate in the profession, especially in rural districts.

As American pause this Labor Day to recall and acknowledge the sacrifices made by those in the labor movement who came before us, we must remember that those sacrifices came with a cost. Workers need to band together now more than ever. Otherwise, they’ll pay later with interest in the form of wages and benefits.  

-President Richard Gulla

 

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