Remembering Karen Silkwood: A Modern Heroine for Workers, Gone but Never Forgotten

alewitz silkwood mural

Mural by Mike Alewitz, 1994, dedicated to Karen Silkwood’s memory.

 

Today, February 19th, 1946, Karen Silkwood was born.  If she had not been the victim of a still mysterious crash on November 13th, 1974, she’d be 68 years old today.

Ms. Silkwood was a chemical technician at the Kerr-McGee Fuel Fabrication site in Oklahoma.  Silkwood was a member of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union and was later elected to her local’s bargaining committee, being the first woman chosen to that position. (from wikipedia).

Silkwood’s life was cut short on the night of November 13th in an auto accident, the fault of which has never seen resolution.  Many facts point to the possibility that Kerr-McGee had a part in her death in order to silence the results of her building work about the safety violations of the Kerr-McGee plant.

Kerr-McGee finally settled with Silkwood’s family after her death regarding her high levels of plutonium in her blood from her work at the plant.  This only after a historically long court battle and finally an appeal all the way to the United States Supreme Court in 1979 by the company that refused to pay or admit any wrong-doing in her death.  A settlement was finally reached with the family.

Silkwood’s life and legacy of fighting against corporate power should serve as inspiration for all future works.  Corporate power has increased in this country by leaps and bounds since Silkwood’s efforts to challenge the shady practices of Kerr-McGee that put worker’s lives in danger for the sake of profit.  The outright hostility and disregard for human life of corporate capitalism is repeated over and over again in the millions of stories and struggles of workers in this country and across the globe.

We can never assume for a minute that any corporation as the safety of the workers as their primary goal in operations; its not.  Their primary goal, as according to the requirement of capitalist competition, is to make a profit and expand operations.  The toll taken to workers on the front lines of producing a profit for companies is seen as an impediment, not a part of, the model of profit and production.

Let us never forget the sacrifice of Karen Silkwood and work always with her legacy as our inspiration.

For more about Karen Silkwood see the links below:

Wikipedia summary: Karen Silkwood
PBS Frontline special: Nuclear Reaction, The Karen Silkwood Story
A television mystery show telling her story: Karen Silkwood, A Life on the Line

h/t Linda Horan, a strong sister dedicated to worker justice in New Hampshire

 

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Dedication Speech for Mural of Karen Silkwood: Mike Alewitz, 1994

One of five portable murals/ 7′ x 10’/ 1994 by Mike Alewitz

 

History of the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union/ Union Action 

by Mike Alewitz

One of five portable murals/ 7′ x 10’/ 1994

OCAW Reporter/ September-October, 1994

 On Monday, Aug. 29, 1994, muralist Mike Alewitz gave the following talk to the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union Convention, dedicating his mural on OCAW history to Karen Silkwood.

 

“THANK YOU, BROTHERS AND sisters. My purpose in being here today is to dedicate this mural, and before I do that, I want to say a few words about culture in the labor movement.

 In 1913, a young journalist by the name of John Reed visited Paterson, N.J. during the historic silk workers’ strike. He wrote an article for a magazine, and said: “There’s a war going on in Paterson, but it’s a strange war. The violence all comes from one side and it’s directed against the workers.”

 John Reed, who was very young at the time, went to the workers. He learned of their struggle. He learned of the years that the workers in Paterson had spent overcoming the craft divisions within their industry. He learned of the years they’d spent overcoming the gender divisions, because there were a lot of women working in the silk mills — and overcoming the national divisions of many nationalities working together that couldn’t even speak the same language.

 He learned about how these workers had forged solidarity, and a unity, that enabled them to shut down Paterson, N.J., to shut down the silk industry there in a great struggle against speed-up and for basic human dignity.

 In the midst of that historic struggle, Reed went to his artist friends in Greenwich Village, enlisted them in the struggle, and together with the workers, they organized a great pageant, which was a popular art form at the time.

The workers marched from Paterson to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. They rigged up lights over Madison Square Garden that spelled out “IWW” for the Industrial Workers of the World.

 Audience became performers

 The workers marched in off the street and onto the stage where they re-enacted the different episodes of their historic strike, and the actual strike leaders, people like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and “Big Bill” Haywood, gave speeches they had actually given during the course of the strike. The workers led the audience in the singing of their strike songs.

 The audience became the performers; the performers became the audience. It was the greatest pageant that had ever taken place in U.S. history. It pretty much destroyed pageantry as an elitist art form from that time on, because it told the stories of the workers.

 John Reed understood that the real drama that was going on in society — the real drama in the world — was taking place in the streets of Paterson, not on the stages of fancy clubs in Manhattan. In 1913, the real story was what was taking place in Ludlow (Colorado), and in Paterson, and that has not changed to this day. It is still working class issues that provide the real drama for what is going on in society.

What could possibly be more dramatic than the plight of millions of immigrant workers driven into this country in search for economic betterment or political freedom? What could possibly be more dramatic than the Caterpillar strike going on in Illinois?

 Genuine drama

What could be more dramatic than when oil workers shut down a country, as they have done in Nigeria, and lead a general strike that challenges the very foundations of power in an important African nation? That’s genuine drama, not what we’re fed on TV. It would be a good special to have — oil workers in a Nigerian strike on an HBO special.

Just as the workers in Nigeria realize that they produce the wealth (workers in this country are beginning to realize it too), they also produce ideas of culture. The Wobblies, as IWW members called themselves, understood that very well. Their cultural work was inseparable from their political activity of organizing. So they wrote song parodies, they cartooned. Before they went to jail, they would each learn different poems so they could recite them to each other while they were in jail.

Any living labor movement immediately turns to art and culture to inspire its members and those it wishes to win over. That has always been the tradition of the American labor movement. It was a tradition of the sit-down strikers who organized orchestras to serenade their members when they were inside the plant, and then transformed them into brass bands to march around cities when they had won their strikes. These same workers conducted theatre and wrote poetry.

That’s what our little project — the Labor Art Mural Project (LAMP) — is trying to do. We’re attempting to resurrect these traditions. It comes from our experience painting murals with P-9 strikers who waged a bitter strike against the Hormel Meatpacking Co., and with Pittston miners, painting on their walls and writing songs in the struggle against the mine owners.

Relearning some traditions

Cultural work is one of the traditions that has to be relearned, just like many of the other traditions in the labor movement that have gotten somewhat rusty:

  • Like the tradition of extending solidarity, wherever it may be, including across borders;
  • Like the tradition of ignoring illegal back-to-work injunctions handed down by judges in the pockets of employers (there are no legal injunctions — slavery has been outlawed in the United States);
  • Like the tradition of not voting for employers’ political candidates, or the tradition of organizing the unorganized that you’ve been addressing at this convention.

In 1994, just as in 1913, there’s a one-sided war going on, and if these traditions are not put back into practice, and if they’re not relearned, then, as President Wages pointed out this morning, the labor movement will perish.

It’s been a privilege for me to sit here listening to some of your initial plans. I believe OCAW is attempting to ensure that the labor movement does not die, and in doing that, you’ve taken on a responsibility that goes beyond your own members and speaks to the hearts and minds of all workers — workers in other unions, workers who are unorganized, and workers who are just arriving in this country.

I believe this is most clearly expressed in your promotion of Labor Party Advocates, in the idea that workers are entitled to an independent voice in politics, just as they are entitled to an independent voice in culture. So here, I must put on my LPA cap on top of my artist’s beret and take this opportunity to thank Tony Mazzocchi, who, I believe, has earned a special place in the labor movement. It is not an accident that the clearest voice over the past years in advocating the formation of a labor party is also in the forefront of promoting cultural activities for the labor movement.

The next project of LAMP will be a mural project with mushroom pickers in Eastern Pennsylvania. These workers have self-organized themselves into a union much as CIO workers did decades ago, much as drywall strikers recently did in Southern California.

These workers, mostly Mexican immigrant workers, have organized themselves into a union and are attempting to bring themselves into the AFL-CIO. If the labor movement does not embrace these kinds of workers and bring them into the AFL-CIO and into organized labor, someone else will get them.

And with that in mind, and with the tasks’ that you have outlined in mind, it’s a privilege and honor to dedicate this mural to Karen Silkwood.

A great heroine

Karen Silkwood was a great heroine. Not because she was murdered – the atomic industry has murdered many people. It’s not an industry known for it’s respect of the sanctity of life. This is an industry that conducted tests on retarded children, that gave them irradiated milk and told them they were members of a science club. They’ve murdered many.

It wasn’t dying that made Karen Silkwood great, it was how she lived that made her important for us and for the rest of labor. She made a conscious decision to place the interests of humanity and of her fellow workers above the interests of her job, and as some of your officers have pointed out at this convention, that is something that the workers alone can decide to do. No politician, no union official can change the world today; only workers can do that. That was expressed, I thought, very well by all of the artists in the presentation this morning.

So I dedicate this mural to Karen Silkwood because she showed us how to live and how to extend solidarity in real life by building her union.

They can’t kill our movement’

I present this mural to you, the elected delegates of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, who represent the great rank and file of this union and those who, in the future, you will organize into its ranks.

The bosses killed Karen Silkwood, but they can’t kill the union, they can’t kill our movement. Karen Silkwood will rise again. Others will fill her shoes, new battles will unfold, labor will march forward.

Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of that process, to say these few words, and good luck on your convention. ■

Mike Alewitz directs the Labor Art and Mural Project (LAMP) at Rutgers Labor Education Center where he is Artist-in-Residence for the New Jersey Industrial Union Council. He is a well-known artist painting in the magic-realist tradition, and has organized and executed projects for the United Mine Workers, United Auto Workers and many other unions.”

10  OCAW Reporter

September-October, 1994

Click Here for the History of the OCAW Mural

For more of Mike Alewitz’s work: check out his homepage, alewitz.com

Yeah, It Is a Woman Thing – That Needs to Stop

The young woman pictured below has become a Facebook star for women everywhere who get tired of fitting in with the norm imposed upon them by society — a misogynist society that has fashion “advisors” telling women what to wear and what not to wear, mothers, friends, grandmas, well meaning co-workers and of course, complete strangers, feeling entitled to step in and judge a woman.

Yes, in our society and many societies the world over a woman just can’t live in peace.  Her entire world, from her outside public appearance to what happens or grows inside, is up for public review and critique all the time.

We celebrate this young woman’s grace in the face of the brutal reality of being a woman in this society and of course, her in-your-face honesty.  Bravo and read below what she wrote:

This is what I was wearing today when two women saw fit to laugh at me in a restaurant while I sat and ordered food with my partner.
It started with one pointing me out to the other.
I watched while the friend “casually” stretched and turned to face me, her head whipping back around to confirm her shared opinion of what I was wearing. They both began to laugh.

I sighed, willing to let it go… but it didn’t stop.

Finally when the friend pulled out her phone to take my photo over her shoulder (disguising it as a selfie) I had had enough.
I got up from my table approached them both and simply asked “I’m sorry but are you both laughing at me?”
They responded that it wasn’t the case, but the obviousness of whole façade made the bullshit buzzer go off in my head.
“Oh good! I was starting to feel really self conscious!” (I finished) and went back to my seat.

What these two women subjected me too today is a symptom of Internalised Misogyny:
“involuntary internalization by women of the sexist messages that are present in their societies and culture.” (for further reading http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/07/choice-feminism-internalized-misogyny/ )

I haven’t mentioned the women’s age or what they were wearing because it’s not relevant.
How they present themselves does not affect me.
It doesn’t change my life in any way.
Women are constantly judged for everything. It’s inescapable.

Let me get one thing straight.
I am fully aware that I dress like I’ve been fucked by a unicorn.
I know because I dress myself every morning… and would you believe? It’s deliberate!!!
I don’t wake up and think “Gee, I wonder how I can appeal to strangers today?”

Our patriarchal society makes strangers -of any gender- think it acceptable to humiliate a woman based on how she woke up that morning and got dressed to please herself.
So next time you catch yourself critiquing someone’s appearance negatively (In particular, how women dress) maybe try to think instead of why you feel the need to make that horrible assessment?
Are you intimidated by them? Are you sexualising them? Are you repulsed because they don’t adhere to your standards of beauty?

Then ask yourself why any of those things bother you in the first place.

#feminism #feminist #internalisedmisogyny #patriarchalsociety

— with Lauren Halstead.

Some Things are Worth Repeating…

In this month’s issue of Dollars and Sense, the editors publish an analysis of the aftermath of the crash of 2008 and the ongoing effects on our economy:

Inequality, Power, and Ideology: AnUpdate

Arthur MacEwan, one of the founders of Dollars & Sense and our “Ask Dr. Dollar” columnist, wrote an article for our March/April 2009 issue explaining the origins of the financial crisis that was rocking the U.S. and global economies at the time, and that has shaped the subsequent economic recovery. The article has been included in successive editions of several of the textbooks we publish. Arthur recently wrote the following update of his original article as an Afterword to be included in the forthcoming 18th edition of Current Economic Issues. —Eds.

The article “Inequality, Power, and Ideology” was written in early 2009, as the U.S. economy was in the midst of the Great Recession. I argued that the severity of the recession was brought about by a nexus involving three factors:

  • A growing concentration of political and social power in the hands of the wealthy;
  • The ascendance of a perverse leave-it-to-the-market ideology which was an instrument of that power; and
  • Rising economic inequality, which both resulted from and enhanced that power.

Now, in late 2014, there is reason to hope that the perverse ideology, market fundamentalism, has been somewhat weakened. However, income inequality and the concentration power in the hands of the wealthy seem to be firmly in place. Perhaps the most shocking fact about income inequality is the following: Between 2009 and 2012, as the economy grew slowly out of the recession, 116% of the income increase went to the highest income 10% of the population. Yes, that’s right, the income of the top 10% increased more than the income increase for the whole society, which means of course that the income of the rest of society, 90%, declined in this period. This decline shows up in the drop of the inflation-adjusted median household income, down 4.4% between 2009 and 2012, part of a larger picture of a 8.9% decline between just before the recession, 2007, and 2013. (We don’t yet have the figure for 2014 as of this writing.) So, yes, income distribution continues to get more unequal, after the Great Recession as before the Great Recession.

As to the concentration of power, legal developments (the Supreme Court’s decisions in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases, in particular) have allowed virtually unlimited and often hidden expenditures in elections by wealthy individuals and corporations—as if their expenditures had not already been too large. And recent elections have underscored the importance of these outlays. Then there is the continuing power of financial institutions. While the 2010 Dodd-Frank bill provided some sections that might have curtailed that power, pressure from the financial sector has delayed or weakened the implementation of many of those sections. Indeed, regulators have recently allowed banks to move precisely in the opposite direction from some Dodd-Frank provisions—e.g., allowing mortgages to be issued with low levels of down payment.

To continue reading click: Dollars and Sense: Inequality, Power and Ideology: An Update

 

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House Hears Testimony Against Right to Work (Part Deux)

More testimony against HB 402 thanks to NH Labor News again, from Dexter Arnold, a worker and union member in New Hampshire.  The New Hampshire House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee is having the hearings and will vote on whether or not to recommend this bill as either “ought to pass” or “inexpedient to legislate” .  Then it will go to the house for a full vote.  Many reps follow the recommendation of the committees.

There is still time to make legislators think twice about passing this horrible legislation, please call or email the members of the committee listed above.

Right To Work Is Just Bad Public Policy

Dexter Arnold

I live in Nashua. I am a member of UAW Local 1981, and I strongly oppose HB 402. HB402 is bad public policy that flunks a truth in advertising test. This bill is not about individual rights, which are already well protected. This bill’s sole purpose is to weaken New Hampshire workers’ ability to have a say over their jobs and working conditions. It is improper state interference with the collective bargaining process.

More than ninety years ago, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft, a former President and conservative Republican, who was no friend of unions, stated that “a single employee was helpless in dealing with an employer.” That’s the key issue at stake in this bill. By requiring a state-mandated open shop, HB 402 targets the core of what unionism is all about – that together, workers are able to do accomplish things that they can’t do as individuals

I want to talk briefly from personal and family experience. My father and grandfather were New Hampshire natives. They were lifelong Republicans. And they were local union presidents. Their union responsibilities were in addition to their fulltime jobs as a printer and a machinist. They understood that unions are a way that workers can accomplish together what they cannot do as individuals. That’s why they got together with others to organize their local unions in Nashua. They believed in personal responsibility and did not confuse individual liberty with demanding a free ride on someone else’s back. They certainly would have felt that it was inappropriate to make free rides state policy.

I also want to make a point based on my own experience as vice president and grievance chair in a union that did not have a fair-share agreement. When they had problems, non-members who were paying nothing for representation had no problem coming to the union and drawing on its resources for help. As a grievance representative, I handled and won several such cases.

To read the rest of his testimony, refer to: Dexter Arnold (UAW) Testimony HB 402: Right To Work Is Just Bad Public Policy

 

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House Hears Testimony Against Right to Work

The New Hampshire House is considering HB 402, another one of former speaker and extremist Tea Bagger, love of Free Staters, Bill O’Brien’s ALEC bills to try and kill collective bargaining in New Hampshire.

Already a “hire at will” state, New Hampshire has always had the unique political independence among its majority Republican leadership to pass on right to work laws.  Corporate lobbying of state legislators has reached an all-time high, especially in the forefront of this is the lobbying group ALEC.  As explained here which pools corporate funds and acts as a one-stop shop for making sure that legislators act on behalf of corporate interests.

Its important to understand this fact.  ALEC has no intention of going away because the corporations that join ALEC have no intention of quitting.  They figure, as they’ve always been right before, that people will get worn out and finally give up and go home.  They figure no one will show up at hearings, they figure people won’t understand what unions do for workers.  Can they get away with this in New Hampshire?

This (last we checked) is the sixth time (yes 6th) that Bill O’Brien has attempted to push this out of state, global corporate agenda on New Hampshire citizens.  Representing not New Hampshire, but out of state corporate interests, Bill O’Brien and his less than genius lackeys have proposed this horrible bill once again to try and break labor at its knees.  Today many people braved the cold to come to Concord and let their voices be heard. Here we have the testimony of Linda Horan a proud union sister in New Hampshire telling her story that she shared with NH Labor News.

The New Hampshire House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee is having the hearings and will vote on whether or not to recommend this bill as either “ought to pass” or “inexpedient to legislate” .  Then it will go to the house for a full vote.  Many reps follow the recommendation of the committees.

There is still time to make legislators think twice about passing this horrible legislation, please call or email the members of the committee listed above.

Linda Horan Statement Against Right To Work Legislation (HB402)

Linda Horan

Today the NH House Labor Committee is hearing testimony on HB 402, Right To Work legislation.  Many people are at the State House testifying for this bill.  Linda Horan, a labor activist for many years, sent us her testimony.

Statement in Opposition to HB402
February 17, 2015

Good afternoon. My name is Linda Horan. I live in Alstead. I’m a retired telephone company worker and a proud member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2320.

During my 32 years as a phone worker, I had health insurance, good wages, a pension, and job security. These weren’t given to me by the company. These were things that I worked with other union members to win. And once we won them, we protected them. We didn’t do this by begging the company as individuals. We did this by working together to accomplish as a group what we couldn’t achieve as individuals. That’s the basic principle of unionism. HB402 attacks that principle.

Today, members of IBEW Local 2320, have been on strike for 124 days. This is a strike about our future and the future of telecommunications in New Hampshire. It’s a strike to defend hard won gains that have created a decent standard of living and job security. FairPoint is demanding the right to contract out every job. If that happens, all that we have worked together to gain could be gone just like that.

Again, phone workers won a decent standard of living and job security by standing together to accomplish together what we could not achieve as individuals. HB402 mocks these accomplishments and seeks to tear them down.

For the rest of Linda’s testimony: Linda Horan Statement Against Right to Work

Protesting Works!

We’ve changed the photo for our facebook page: Progressive Action New Hampshire. To a photo we feel more appropriate to our general interest; to get people involved inside and outside of the process and society to make change.

As tribute to this photo and just because its a darn good article, we’re publishing the write-up on the blog linked to it; St. Pete for Peace which talks about the positives of the strategy of the protest.  As the article points out, the mainstream media loves to mock protesters.  Nothing works better to keep people at home than to tell them that doing otherwise makes them look foolish.  As this writer can attest, while protesting won’t solve all problems directly, the social aspect of getting people together who share similar goals and frustrations is empowering to everyone.  Even people who in the majority respond favorably to protesters by honking their horns, extending the classic rising fist out of their car windows or even stopping to ask questions; people like it when people get together for a good cause.

Of course this summary doesn’t include those actions that have taken place in New Hampshire, including the current Stamp Stampede actions, the BlackLivesMatter protests, NH Rebellion walks, bird-dogging of politicians and of course the anti-gun-nut rallies that have been held in both Manchester and Nashua.

So without further ado:

Protesting Works!

Recent history has shown that protesting can have a significant impact.  In fact, what other single method has been as effective as protesting?

Protesting (which includes marches, rallies, pickets, strikes, non-violent direct action, sit-ins, etc.) doesn’t always work, and it’s not the end all solution to every problem.  Sometimes protesting is part of the solution, and other times, protesting leads to incremental improvements.  Sometimes it’s just to bring about awareness and to build momentum.  Protesting is also a way to let off steam, and to be around like minded people.

Protesting Works!

The establishment has perpetuated the myth that protesting doesn’t work because they want to deter people from doing it.  People in power must love it when activists take the bait and say that protesting doesn’t work.

Here are some recent examples where protesting has worked:

2014

  • May 7 – Stanford Divests: Student-Led Movement Forces Elite School to Pull Its Money from Coal Companies.
  • May 5 – “War Criminals Shouldn’t Be Honored”: Rutgers Students Nix Condoleezza Rice from Commencement Speech.

2013

  • Sept. 12 – SYRIA: Peace Pushes Back: How the People Won Out (For Now).
  • June 19 – Protests in Brazil force lawmakers to reverse an increase in bus and subway fares.
  • Feb. 20 – Widespread Austerity Protests Push Bulgarian Government to Resign.
    ‘I can’t watch as fences go up around Parliament,’ resigning PM states.
  • Jan. 17 – Pakistan Gives in to Protesters, Agrees to Early Elections.

2012

  • Sept. 21 – In Quebec It’s Official: Mass Movement Leads to Victory for Students. Naomi Klein: ‘This is why radical movements are mercilessly mocked. They can win.’
  • Sept. 7 – Quebec’s students sustained action over tuition fees helped defeat Quebec’s Liberal government.
  • July 28 – Chinese protesters force officials to cancel industrial waste pipeline project.
  • May 14 – Palestinian Prisoners Score Heroic Victory.
  • Feb 6 – Romania’s Prime Minister resigns over austerity protests.
  • Jan. 22 – Libya Protests Spur Shake-Up in Interim Government.
  • Jan. 19 – SOPA bill shelved after global protests from Google, Wikipedia and others.

2011

  • Nov. 28 – Kuwait’s cabinet resigns amid ‘unprecedented’ protest against corruption.
  • Nov. 27 – Protests lead to a new constitution in Morocco; moderate Islamist Party wins elections (protesters aren’t satisfied, but this is a work in progress).
  • Nov. 21Egypt’s Cabinet submits resignation amid protests, violence.
  • Oct 23Portland high schools set to permit anti-war protesters to recruit students alongside the military.
  • Sept. 22 – By an incredible 99 percent YES vote, Tacoma teachers have ratified a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Tacoma School Board. The ratification vote ends Tacoma teachers’ 10-day strike.
  • July 25 – Protests halt gold mining in El Salvador.
  • July 11 –  Egypt’s deputy PM resigns amid protests.
  • July 1 –  A day of victory in Palestine: Bil’in celebrates the removal of the wall after nearly seven years of resistance and struggle of the residents of Bil’in.
  • June 24 – Senegal drops new law amid protests.
  • Feb. 16 – Japan halts whaling hunt amid protests.
  • Feb. 14 – Puerto Rican University President Resigns in Wake of Student Protests.
  • Feb. 6 – George W. Bush cancels trip to Switzerland amid calls for protests & war crimes investigation.

2010

  • June 11 – Peace Groups Permanently Shut Down Army Experience Center in Philadelphia.
  • April 9 – Protesters in Kyrgyzstan oust Government.

2009

  • June 19 – Peru Indians victory over foreign companies’ exploitation. At least 34 people died during weeks of strikes against the legislation, which was eventually revoked.
  • April 11 – Thai protests cancel Asian summit.
  • March 25 – The Czech government collapsed after a no confidence vote in parliament.  For peace activists in the Czech Republic it is a great victory: they said the only way to stop the installation of a US radar base was the fall of the government.  The defeat was a huge embarrassment for the Czech Prime Minister, coming just days before a planned visit by President Barack Obama and midway through the Czech Republic’s six month European Union presidency.
  • Feb. 19 – Latvia’s government collapsed following violent demonstrations in the capital Riga in protest of the government’s handling of the financial crisis and steep IMF imposed cutbacks.
  • Jan. 26 – Iceland’s ruling coalition resigned three months after the collapse of the country’s currency, stock market and several major banks, and following months of public protests.

2007

  • Dec. 24 – Nepal ends its Monarchy after years of Maoist struggle.

2006

  • Oct. 30 – The president of Gallaudet University in Washington, DC was removed after days of protests and sleepouts.

Say NO! to House Bill 386 – NH Taxpayers Cannot Pay Big Business’ Bills!

As explained in the write-up from the New Hampshire advocacy group, Citizen’s Alliance, Republicans in the New Hampshire house have put forward a bill, HB 386 that proposes to lower the tax burden for businesses in New Hampshire.

Unfortunately as stated in the write-up below, this “burden” is only borne by the largest and wealthiest businesses in the state.  These businesses most often are not New Hampshire based or originated, but large global businesses.  They will benefit from this cut but New Hampshire residents will have to make up for it.  It amounts to a deliberate shift of income upward and out of the state of New Hampshire and the tax burden downward onto New Hampshire residents.

The libertarian wing of the Republican party loves to cry about the costs of government and the burden on New Hampshire businesses.  But this argument has no basis in fact and instead relies on a myth created during the Reagan years based on the “trickle down” effect that all citizens would supposedly enjoy.

The UK’s The Guardian’s take on the Laffer curve (they suffered Reaganomics under Thatcher) : So the Laffer Says Tax Cuts for the Rich?
Paul Krugman weighs in :  The Laffer Test (somewhat wonkish)
Economist’s View: A forum for economists, this post giving a summary of economist’s general support for the Laffer Curve (hint: there isn’t any) : Laughing at the Laffer Curve

[We aren’t posting those articles in support of the laffer curve or supply-side economics from the Cato Institute or the American Enterprise Institute, or other right-wing orgs which dominate the Google search engine.  Both Cato and AEI are in the forefront of pushing any rhetoric that supports the libertarian ideology of getting the rich richer at everyone else’s expense. Since these “thinktanks” feed most national news stories and provide fodder for pundits, we don’t feel we have an obligation to repeat what Americans have drummed incessantly into their ears by corporate media already.]

As a direct result of upward income distribution, big businesses have grown since the Reagan years far faster and higher than real growth in the larger economy.  They have used that wealth to hire slick lawyers and lobbyists to wager with, bargain with, manipulate and cajole our legislators on the state and national level to push bills that favor their profit margins while screwing the American public.

This needs to stop.  The only way we can stop this is to take action to stop it.

Please read the Citizen’s Alliance summary below.  As it says there will be hearings today on the house bill.  If you can’t make the hearing, please call or write (email) the members of the committee to tell them to stop large corporations from shifting their tax burden onto the shoulders of New Hampshire residents.

This bill is currently in the House Ways and Means Committee.

Now for the skinny from Citizen’s Alliance:

NEW HAMPSHIRE CAN’T AFFORD A $120 MILLION BUSINESS TAX CUT

Reducing the rate of the business profits tax (BPT) as proposed in HB 386 would principally benefit the very largest corporations operating in New Hampshire. According to data from the Department of Revenue Administration for 2012, just 397 businesses – or 0.7 percent of all businesses filing a tax return – accounted for two-thirds of all BPT collected that year. All of those businesses owed more than $100,000 in BPT that year.

Cutting the BPT rate to 7.0 percent would mean that most of the revenue loss would flow to these very large businesses, most of whom likely have operations across the country and the globe. Smaller businesses would see little to no change in the amount of taxes they owe. In fact, more than 48,000 businesses – or 75 percent of businesses filing a tax return – already owed no BPT in 2012.

Cutting business taxes will force other taxpayers to pay for the public services that big businesses use and rely on to succeed. Cutting state business taxes creates a vicious cycle. Lower state revenues mean fewer funds are available to provide aid to cities and towns. That, in turn, puts more pressure on local property taxes.

There will be a hearing in front of the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday 2/17/15 10:30 in Room 202 of the Legislative Office Building.

Sign on in opposition to HB 386 here.

 The proposed business tax cuts would force steep cuts in the public services vital to New Hampshire’s quality of life and its economic future.
  • New Hampshire already faces a substantial budget shortfall in the upcoming FY 2016-2017 budget. Cutting business taxes would only make that problem worse.
  • According to the fiscal note, HB 386 would reduce the business profits tax by roughly $120 million in the FY16-17 biennium and every biennium after that.
  • To put that in perspective, $120 million is nearly one and half times the entire amount of General Fund support provided to the state’s Community College System in the current FY14-15 budget; it is more than three-quarters of amount provided to the University System.
  • In the FY14-15 budget, the Departments of Resources and Economic Development and Environmental Services combined received $67 million from the General Fund.
  • In other words, to afford these tax cuts, you’d have to eliminate these departments almost twice over.
Reducing the rate of the business profits tax (BPT) would principally benefit the very largest corporations operating in New Hampshire.
  • According to data from the Department of Revenue Administration for 2012, just 397 businesses – or 0.7 percent of all businesses filing a tax return – accounted for two-thirds of all BPT collected that year. All of those businesses owed more than $100,000 in BPT that year.
  • Cutting the BPT rate to 7.0 percent would mean that most of the revenue loss would flow to these very large businesses, most of whom likely have operations across the country and the globe.
  • Smaller businesses would see little to no change in the amount of taxes they owe. In fact, more than 48,000 businesses – or 75 percent of businesses filing a tax return – already owed no BPT in 2012.

Cutting business taxes will force other taxpayers to pay for the public services that businesses use and rely on to succeed.

  • Cutting state business taxes creates a vicious cycle. Lower state revenues mean fewer funds are available to provide aid to cities and towns. That, in turn, puts more pressure on local property taxes.
  • These cuts will increase the strain on New Hampshire cities and towns and their ability to maintain safe infrastructure and vital services that are central to our shared economic future. State aid to cities, towns, and school districts has already fallen sharply over the last decade – between FY 2000 and FY 2015, such aid is expected to fall by more than $250 million after adjusting for inflation.

Business taxes are already quite low in New Hampshire.

  • According to the Council on State Taxation (COST), the overall level of business taxation in New Hampshire ranked 34th lowest in the country in FY 2013.
  • COST’s research doesn’t look just at the BPT or BET, but at all the taxes business pay(e.g. property taxes, gas taxes, etc.). It finds that the taxes businesses pay in New Hampshire amount to 4.4 percent of private sector gross state product, below the national average of 4.7 percent and less than 33 other states, including Vermont and Maine.
New Hampshire has enacted numerous business tax cuts since 2010, with an untoldimpact on state finances.
  • Since 2010, New Hampshire has made more than half a dozen changes to either the business profits tax (BPT) or the business enterprise tax (BET), from allowing businesses to write off more of their losses for tax purposes to raising the threshold at which businesses owe the BET.
  • Unfortunately, the state still doesn’t know how much all of these changes have cost in terms of lost revenue. If we don’t know the price tag for changes already in place, we shouldn’t put even more on the state’s tab.
Tax revenue in New Hampshire – including business tax revenue – still has yet torecover from the recession.
  • After adjusting for inflation, total General and Education Fund revenue in FY 2014 was nearly $290 million less than what the state collected in FY 2008.
  • The combination of the business profits tax and the business enterprise tax together produced $550 million in FY 2014. That’s 19 percent – or $136 million – less than what they generated in FY 2008, after taking inflation into account.
Business tax cuts are not an effective means of spurring economic growth. Investments in education, infrastructure, and other services are.
  • Extensive economic research indicates that state business taxes, because they are such a small share of business costs, have little to no effect on businesses’ decisions to locate or expand in New Hampshire. Factors like the quality of our workforce and infrastructure are much more important, but New Hampshire won’t be able to provide those if it doesn’t have the necessary resources.
  • As Robert Lynch, Chair of the Department of Economics at Washington College puts it:

 …differences in tax burdens across states are so modest that they are unlikely to outweigh the differences across states in the other costs of conducting business. These other “costs of conducting business” are the most important factors affecting business investment decisions and include the cost and quality of labor, the proximity to markets for output (particularly for service industries), the access to raw materials and supplies that firms need, the access to quality transportation networks and infrastructure (e.g., roads, highways, airports, railroad systems, and sewer systems), quality-of-life factors (e.g., good schools, quality institutes of higher education, health services, recreational facilities, low crime, affordable housing, and good weather), and utility costs.

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Jeb Bradley Does it Again!

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Love-making gun nutter style. These are the priorities of the gun-nuts; their own “right” to worship and caress their guns anywhere at anytime, the public’s safety be damned.

Jeb Bradley shows us once again that he’s always looking out for his own political skin at the expense of the safety of the people of his district.

In this particular instance, Senator Bradley introduced the bill SB 116 to remove all restrictions to carrying a concealed weapon.  We recall very clearly that Senator Bradley was for Northern Pass awhile back as well; that is until the people that will be most effected by it started an embarrassing ruckus.  Obviously the Senator need a reminder that the majority of constituents, including gun owners support some regulation of concealed carry.

Does Jeb Bradley need this minority constituency? Is he so deaf, dumb and blind that he can’t see that the majority of people aren’t badgering him about carrying a concealed weapon because well, they have lives to lead and they elected Jeb to make good decisions on their behalf.  Unfortunately, once again, he’s failed.

This bill, if passed by the full house will open up all citizens of New Hampshire and visitors to the possibility of a lethal attack by an unhinged person legally carrying a loaded handgun.  A loaded handgun, we might add, that no one will have the opportunity to be forewarned about, that no one will have the opportunity or option to get away from; a loaded handgun that within seconds could kill anyone and possibly even multiple persons.

Now that the bill has passed the Senate, we’ll try our best to follow its path and publish information here.  Another hearing in the house will be held on this bill and we urge everyone come out against this.

Zandra-Rice Hawkins of Granite State Progress, a state-wide citizen’s political group had this to say:

“Requiring a license to carry a concealed weapon has worked well for New Hampshire for more than 90 years. These licenses are very easy and quick to obtain and do not place an unreasonable burden on law abiding citizens. SB 116 is a radical piece of legislation that jeopardizes public safety. New Hampshire does not require people to have a specific reason to conceal carry but does require that the applicant be a suitable person. This common sense law allows local police departments to deny a license when there is reason to believe a person is a danger to themselves or others. New Hampshire is one of 46 states that currently require a license to carry concealed weapons and we should not weaken our public safety laws now.”

More information on gun laws and concealed carry can be found at Granite State Progress.org

Video below, (go ahead, be bored to death) of Representative John Burt proving to someone, somewhere his manly man-hood by shooting a semi-automatic rifle at a target.  Because its his SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHT OMG!

This is what Senator Jeb Bradley has lowered himself to.

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Detailed Updates on NH Bills that Should Concern Good Women and Men

We’ll attempt to keep track of bills of concern as they pass or are not passed through the full New Hampshire house or committees and post that information here.

Most bills are voted on in the house by “voice vote” which means that there is no actual roll-call.  Unless its clear that there is difficulty in determining support or non-support through volume of voice-call outs, then a roll-call may be requested by a representative for further clarification and accuracy.  This is time consuming of course so often unless a vote is close, its not necessary (a few shouts over a full cacophony is pretty easy to judge).

But the roll-call is also used as an accounting method of record for political purposes as well.  How a rep votes on a bill can often be influenced by roll-call demands.  A rep who feels a particular way or feels that they must protect their relationship with a certain constituency may waver on whether to support a bill if their name is attached to their resulting vote.  Often they know a vote may come back to haunt them.  Conversely, many reps want their vote recorded and known as a badge of their loyalty to an issue or constituency.

Either way, usually bland or non-contentious bills don’t get a roll call, but when I roll-call occurs we will publish a link (provided by the NH General Court website) to the roll-call list.  This enables you the voter, to see where your representative voted on an issue and most importantly, to see who is blocking an issue near and dear to you.

For more information on how a bill becomes law, please refer to the link here, How a Bill Becomes Law
For even more information, please refer to the downloadable .pdf file of the booklet given to new representatives and available upon request to the public, Legislative Handbook.  There’s a list at the end of the publication of other resources about how the legislative process operates in New Hampshire.

So without further ado, let us continue:

HB 194 was defeated in the full house.   It was first in the Judiciary Committee where it was voted as “Inexpedient to Legislate” (ITL) which means the committee sees the bill as not fit to be put into law for whatever reason.  Don’t expect this issue to die — this is a perennial favorite of the anti-choice folks and is proposed every session in one form or another.

So a “yea” vote meant agreement with the committee recommendation of “ITL” and a “nay” vote meant support for the bill and against the committees recommendation.

Roll call results HB 194

HB 168 – relative to removing no-fault divorce in proceedings where either party may have minor children.   Voted with House Children and Family Law as ITL by voice vote.  Bill effectively killed.

HB 560 – relative to determining the fetus as a person in criminal cases  – still in committee, House Justice and Public Safety, refer to the list linked on the committee name title and call or email reps to let them know to stop this bill.  Another perennial favorite that will probably be proposed next session if it fails.

HB 403 – relative to buffer zones around women’s health clinics  – still in committee, House Judiciary Committee A bad bill designed by the anti-choicers who wish to have the “right” to harass women as they enter reproductive care clinics.

HB – 654 –  relative to removing funding for domestic violence intervention services — still in committee, House Finance Commitee  UPDATE!  News has it that this bill has just left the Judiciary Committee with a vote of 24-1 of ITL.  Will be up for a vote next week before the full house.  The battle is not won yet! Call and email your rep to let them know they must kill this bill!

Some other bills we failed to cover at length:

HB 677 –  UPDATE! The Judiciary Committee voted 14-3 to effectively “kill” this bill as ITL, the bill goes to the house for a full house vote on Wednesday.  Call your reps and let them know to vote to KILL this misleading bill that will endanger people’s lives! 

While the language of the summary reads thusly: “prohibiting the use of public funds for abortion services”  This language is intentionally misleading.  Since the Henry Hyde bill passed in the late 80’s that restricted all government funding from abortion services, those services have not been covered by public monies.  Yet the anti-women, anti-choice crowd continues to tell the public that in fact public funds are covering abortions.  This is patently false.

What public funds do cover are important healthcare services provided by Planned Parenthood to all women regardless of income or social status.  These services are vital to the health of not only the women themselves, but to their families and to their potential offspring.  Such services that Planned Parenthood provides to women and men nationwide are:

– screenings for sexually transmitted diseases
– sex education and information to couples and individuals
– general welfare and health check-ups for women, related to the health of their reproductive systems, such as cancer screenings for both breast, cervical and uterine cancers and other diseases.  Diseases of the reproductive organs can spread through the community and most importantly throw families into disarray and poverty if not found and treated quickly.
– providing important data and statistical information on populations at risk such as sex workers, homeless folks and people in extreme poverty
– providing education for and the means for birth control and family planning for couples and individuals
– providing sometimes first intervention in cases of rape or domestic violence and providing proper referrals and support in the community

But the people that wish to defund Planned Parenthood don’t care about these facts and the crucial role Planned Parenthood performs in communities.  All they care about is imposing their fanatical religious views of the world onto everyone else by every means possible, if even that means legislative trickery and public dishonesty.

This bill is currently in executive session in the House Judiciary Committee, we urge people to get in touch with the members of this committee via, telephone or email to let them know to stop this attack on women’s health.

HB 207 – relative to “defining probable cause or reasonable ground for the purpose of arrest without a warrant”  –

Those who work hard against domestic violence and advocate for victims say this bill sets a dangerous limit on the amount of process required of an officer in cases where they may be called on a domestic violence issue.  Currently, if an officer determines by their own standards of judgment that domestic violence has occurred, the officer can make an immediate arrest to remove the potential offender from the victim.

That is currently how the law works in domestic violence cases, allowing officers to override the commonly occurring denials of the victim (they deny abuse for fear of catching more from the abuser later).  In many cases across the country, when evidence of abuse seems to have taken place in a home where a call was made, the police may hesitate to make an arrest.  Thus, in many cases, once the police leave, the abuser then continues the abuse, often escalating it due to the victim calling for police intervention.  Many times this has resulted in the death of a victim who police leave with the abuser instead of making an arrest based on the victims statements or appearance alone.

While there is a disturbing increase in the number of arrests made by officers under very shaky grounds of reasonable suspicion, the domestic violence aspect of reasonable suspicion must be held at a different standard considering the circumstances of the crime.

We see this bill as wrong-headed and possibly in the interest of redefining legal boundaries for police interacting with the public and determining arrests, as the bill exists now, the language would effectively undo years of protection for victims of domestic violence.

We recommend that this bill be voted down or ITL until such time as the sponsors can come up with a suitable means to protect victims of domestic violence and respect the role the law enforcement can often play in saving lives.

The bill is currently in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee

NH 367 – relative to redefining physical assault.  This bill removes pertinent language that defines assault as “unprivileged physical contact” and replaces that language with a longer descriptive that leaves out the idea of “unprivileged” entirely and replaces it with “nature of the contact is such that the actor knows or a reasonable person should know that the other person will regard the contact as offensive, threatening, or provocative

The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Violence pointed out that this language would then exclude by the nature of the language, assault upon children, especially “grooming” behavior:

This bill attempts to amend New Hampshire’s simple assault law. Currently, law enforcement can use the crime of “simple assault” to charge abusers in dating situations who assault their victims. Simple assault is also the crime that routinely allows victims of domestic violence to qualify for a restraining order.  If enacted, this bill would make it more difficult for victims of domestic violence to receive the protection they need under the law.

 Under HB 367 if an abuser pinches, pushes, slaps, or spits on a victim but does not leave a visible injury, a law enforcement officer will have to determine whether a reasonable person would find that conduct offensive, threatening or provocative before arresting the offender. This complicates and potentially delays an arrest and civil relief in cases that pose imminent danger to victims.

 This bill would also legalize seemingly innocuous grooming behavior by sex offenders. For example, if a man goes to a City park and tickles small children he does not know, the children might not find this conduct “offensive”, “threatening” or “provocative.” Note: there was a case of this in Concord. 

http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/5862056-95/police-man-alledegly-caught-tickling-children-in-concord-park 

We urge folks to consider the potential bad effects of this bill.  Again, a bill that seems driven more by ideology than good thinking.  We also wonder who in fact the sponsors of this bill meant to protect with this change.  In our culture where certain individuals, namely women and children, had little defense against unwanted advances and “teasing” behavior that usually leads to assault, this bill seems to move our society back a step to the time when victims of this behavior were given short shrift if they complained.  Again, who does this bill protect? We’re concerned.

This bill currently still sits in the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, please urge the members of that committee to vote this bad bill ITL.

 

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