Sunday, March 27, 2011

Live, Freeze and Die

Media attention, fickle as ever, has moved on from the labor movement's struggles in Wisconsin, but the battle has flared here in New Hampshire. The state's legislature, dominated by newly elected Republicans, has made its impact so far with ideologically driven bills so extreme that cooler heads in the state Republican party have managed to squelch most of them before they even get out of committee. Proposals to do away with oppressive state mandated kindergarten, and to remove New Hampshire from the rolls of the regional green house gas initiative that is driving such socialist boondoggles as weatherization for low income housing, among other energy saving measures, have sounded the opening salvos of this wacky Republican agenda. But the one that got away and may come back to haunt the GOP is the amendment tacked on the budget last week without any public hearing or comment, known as the Kurk amendment for its sponsor, Republican state senator Neal Kurk, who is all set now to join the Glenn Beck Hall of Fame along with Scott Warner of Wisconsin. This bill, if passed, will effectively strip public sector employees of any job security and respect by mandating that in the event of failed negotiations, all teachers, policemen, firefighters and other state workers in New Hampshire would lose any due process rights and become "at will" employees, subject to dismissal without cause, stripping of pension and health benefit packages at the employers discretion, barred from collective bargaining, and basically relegated to serf status. Very few fair minded observers could say with a straight face that such a move would have the effect of leveling the negotiating playing field for municipalities, school boards and the state. As it stands now for teachers, when contract negotiations fail, which they often do, particularly because the final say is given to the towns at public meetings to vote in favor of or against the contract, we continue to operate under the protection of the previous contract. This bill would do away with that common sense solution and return us to 19th century working conditions, which, as we are resembling the Gilded Age more and more in our income disparities and bare-fanged, law of the jungle approach to solving social problems, makes some kind of barbaric sense.
Long gone are the days when the "New Hampshire advantage" meant people pulling together to solve budget shortfalls at the state level. This draconian solution of punishing entire segments of the working population with long term harm has all the earmarks of the nationwide robber baron ideology funded and sponsored by the likes of the Koch brothers and others of their ilk.
(Photo - Women textile workers arrested by policemen for picketing the Jackson mill in Nashua, NH, Sept. 7,  1934)
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