The convention was packed with appearances and presentations from many of New Hampshire’s most esteemed legislators – all of whom expressed their gratitude to SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members and all public employees for their outstanding and often unappreciated efforts in delivering critical services to NH residents and visitors.
A Visit from Carol Shea-Porter
Joan Hamblet, Chapter 41, introduced U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter to the delegates and guests at the 2014 Annual Convention.
Shea-Porter, who is fighting to defend her seat from challenger, Frank Guinta, said “I am honored to be the voice of the middle class, the rest of us.” She said that despite signs of economic recovery it is “still a bad deal for the middle class – we need to work on fairness.”
“People complain that so many people are collecting benefits,” she said. “But, they won’t increase the minimum wage. You can’t have it both ways.” She also spoke of a social contract in America that is being ignored by the uber rich – “when you succeed, you reach behind you and bring the group behind you forward.”
Former Governor and Current Senator Jeanne Shaheen Stopped By
Diana Richard introduced an old friend to the delegates and guests – Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
The senator asked the delegates to focus on politics over the coming weeks. She quipped that when she thinks about the labor movement and unions, she always goes back to “the folks who brought you the weekend.”
“Doesn’t that just say it all?” she asked.
She then spoke of her concerns of slipping backward in time if her opponent, Scott Brown or gubernatorial challenger, Walt Havenstein are elected. She vowed “I will always fight to protect your ability to collectively bargain.”
Shaheen also presented some statistics that came as a surprise to many in the room. First, she said that childcare is now a family’s second largest expense after the mortgage or rent payment. “This needs to be addressed,” she said. She also informed the audience that New Hampshire has lost the highest number of jobs to China than any other state in the union. This is a trend that needs correcting. However, if her opponent is elected, she is sure this will continue to be the case, alluding to Brown’s massive special interest groups and corporate support. “New Hampshire is not Scott Brown’s concession prize,” she said alluding to Brown’s loss in Massachusetts and recent move to New Hampshire politics.
The audience rose, giving Senator Shaheen a standing ovation.
Commissioners George Copadis and Chris Clement Share their Thoughts
Sunday’s program was brightened by two NH department commissioners joining the delegates and sharing their appreciation and gratitude for all that the state employees do.
Commissioner Copadis shared that he hopes the private sector learned something from the recent Market Basket situation – that the workers were willing to put everything on the line for the leader who had treated them fairly and well. As a result of the month long “strike of sorts,” over 1,500 Market Basket employees filed for unemployment benefits. Copadis complimented the employees at NH Employment Security who took care of those claims.
He also shared that in 2013, New Hampshire’s unemployment rate was lower than 18 Right to Work States and that the highest poverty rates in the nation are in Right to Work states.
He had worked hard on legislation last session that did not pass. It was HB 1499 that was meant to increase benefits for the unemployed. There has not been an increase in 12 years. The Commissioner asked for support for this legislation as it is planned to be reintroduced this session.
Commissioner Clement also shared his gratitude to the employees at the NH Dept. of Transportation citing instance after instance of their herculean efforts to keep the transportation infrastructure up and running on a very limited budget.
Last year, the gas excise tax was increased for the first time in over twenty years. However, the funds were restricted to go to capital expenditures, such as completing the Interstate 93 expansion. No funds will be going to the operations of the department, which if not addressed will certainly result in the reduction of staff (layoffs) and ultimately sacrifice the quality of our roads and bridges.
Commissioner Clement will be advocating for additional funds to go to the operating budget of his department, which will likely be an uphill battle in view of last year’s tax increase. Members pledged to assist the Commissioner in his crusade.
U.S. Rep. Ann McLane Kuster called on the delegates on Sunday morning, as did our beloved NH Sen. Lou D’Allesandro. They each spoke respectfully of the work that is produced by public employees ad expressed their loyalty and appreciation.