Thursday, March 31, 2011

5K at NH rally, biggest in decades (if not ever)

Today's protest in Concord, N.H.
 New Hampshire is a small, rural state. For 5,000 people to show up on the Statehouse lawn at noon on a workday shows how intense the opposition is to cutting the budget and stripping government workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Dennis Caza, political director for Local 633 in Manchester, was there with Teamster brothers and sisters. He said a Senate staffer said she'd worked at the Statehouse for 22 years and had never seen so many people at a Statehouse protest.
To understand why New Hampshire citizens are so angry, the Concord Monitor provides a good primer. An editorial titled "House should reject immoral budget," says,
Today, the New Hampshire House will vote on a budget so heartless in its approach to the poor, the disabled and the mentally ill as to be immoral. Should it become law, New Hampshire will be a different state, one that under the guise of "personal responsibility" replaces the social compact with the survival of the fittest.

The budget eliminates services for 8,000 people with significant to severe mental illness. It ends child-care subsidies for poor working parents. It drastically cuts state aid to higher education. It eliminates funding for a program that helps senior citizens stay in their homes. It cuts prison funding so dramatically the state will have to close a prison.

And, of course, it all but destroys unions for government workers once their contract expires. The Teamsters represent about 500 government workers in New Hampshire, including city hall workers in Hampton, principals and librarians in Manchester, highway workers in Peterboro, Milford and Goffstown, police in Hooksett and Lincoln and deputy sheriffs in Carroll and Rockingham counties.

During the rally, firefighters played bagpipes and beat on drums, while protesters chanted, "Shame on you!" and held signs saying "New Hampshire Can Do Better." Democratic representatives kept opening the Statehouse windows to let the noise in, and the Republican representatives kept closing them.

"It was pretty civil," said Caza. "I think they got the message."
Caza and Dave Laughton, the local's secretary-treasurer, met with Gov. John Lynch and Senate President Peter Bragdon to seek their help in killing the bill. Four Teamsters who work for the Derry Department of Public Works met with their state senators to ask them to vote against the bill.