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AUGUST 2011

CommonGround

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Municipal Health Insurance Reform Act becomes law in MA By Amelia Pillsbury The Municipal Health Insurance Reform Act was signed into law last month after several months of debate and revision. The bill, which was first introduced in the MA House’s 2012 fiscal budget in April, creates a process for cities and towns to increase co-payments and deductibles, and to introduce tiered networks in an effort to save an estimated $100 million in health insurance costs. Gov. Deval Patrick explained in a press release on his website that signing the health care reform bill is the biggest step so far in

saving cities and towns millions of dollars while also allowing labor to contribute in a meaningful role. “This has been no small accomplishment, and it came with cooperation from leaders in the Legislature, labor and municipalities all working together to get a positive result,” said Gov. Patrick. Gov. Patrick added a few amendments of his own to the legislation. He included protections for retirees, low-income workers, and employees with existing health concerns, who are likely to

incur higher co-pay and deductible costs. He also made an amendment delaying an increase to the contribution ratios paid by retirees until the middle of 2014. The process outlined in the legislation gives municipalities options to increase co-pays and deductibles as long as they do not exceed those offered by the Group Insurance Commission (GIC). However, if transferring employees to the GIC would result in five percent more savings than could be reached through a local Health Insurance Reform Continued on page 2

RI Legislation creates ‘Recovery High School’ pilot program

problems. Recovery schools will give a second of the referred students whether or not to attend The General Assembly has approved legislation chance to our youth who are struggling with the school. authorizing the Commission of Education to addictions,” said Sen. Tassoni. According to the bill’s sponsors, Rhode Island, establish a pilot “recovery high school” in Rhode Students who re-enter their high schools after has one of the highest rates of drug use by high Island. Recovery high schools aim to help students completing a rehabilitation program lack aftercare school children. A survey conducted by the U.S. recover from substance abuse problems and earn and sobriety support systems. Some 93 percent of Department of Health and Human Services’ their high school diplomas at the same time. those students report being offered drugs on their Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services The Assembly also passed companion Senate first day back. After 90 days, half of these students Administration found that among children ages and House bills — 2011-S 0439Aaa by Sen. John use drugs and alcohol at or above the levels prior to 12 to 17, 12.68 percent used illicit drugs, 11.14 J. Tassoni Jr., D-Smithfield, and 2011-H 6055A by their treatment. percent reported binge alcohol abuse, 5.67 percent Rep. Frank G. Ferri, D-Warwick. “Recovery schools would give The pilot program would last for students the social and environmental two years, after which the school would “There needs to be a solution to meet the state’s high support they need in order to stay be required to submit an analysis of percentage of students with substance abuse problems. drug- and alcohol-free,” said Rep. graduation rates, retention rates, course Ferri. “Students can focus on their performance, and performance on Recovery schools will give a second chance to our youth studies without any negative peer the state assessment. Based on that who are struggling with addictions,” Senator Tassoni pressure and influence.” information, a decision would be made Recovery high schools are also low whether or not to continue the program. in cost. Start-up costs for the schools would be had illicit drug dependency or abuse, and 5.11 The school would enroll students from any provided by state funds, but ongoing funding for percent need, but are not receiving, treatment. school district in the state who are considered each student would be provided by their home “There needs to be a solution to meet the state’s by the referring district to be both clinically and Recovery High Continued on page 2 high percentage of students with substance abuse academically appropriate. It would be the decision R

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Common Ground

AUGUST 2011

Health Insurance Reform Continued from page 1 health care plan, municipalities have the option of transferring employees. The law also requires that all eligible retirees be enrolled in Medicare. The most concerning feature of the Municipal Health Insurance Reform Act is the elimination of collective bargaining. Unions will, however, be given the opportunity to discuss the health insurance changes with a municipal authority. During a thirty-day period, the Public Employee Committee (consisting of a representative from every public union and a retiree representative) will discuss with the municipal authority the health insurance changes. If an agreement is reached, it will be implemented. If no agreement is reached, the health insurance FRI. AUGUST 27 to MON. AUGUST 30 plan changes would go to a review panel composed of a municipal and labor representative as well as a third member chosen from a list provided by the Executive Office for Administration and Finance. The review panel has the authority to determine the appropriateness of the health EXTENDED SUN.-THURS. PM without exceeding 25 percent of the first-year’s insurance changesHOURS: and make changes as11 needed total savings. FRI.-SAT. MIDNIGHT In a statement online, the Public Employees’ Coalition on Municipal Health Care is agreeable to the final legislation. They recognize that many have been hurt by the recession and skyrocketing cost of health care and they look forward to doing their share to preserve jobs and programs. “Now we have eliminated this &distraction 8-11that Sun.-Wed. • 9-12 Fri. Sat. from the public debate, we must all focus on the real crisis, which is the ever-spiraling cost of health care for all residents of Massachusetts, and the coalition stands ready to work with the Legislature and governor as we move forward to address this critical issue,” said the coalition. The Public Employee’s Coalition on Municipal Health Care includes representatives from AFSCME Council 93, AFT Massachusetts, International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council 35, Massachusetts AFL-CIO, Massachusetts Coalition of Police, Massachusetts and Northern New England Laborers Council, Massachusetts Municipal Police Coalition, Massachusetts Police Association, Massachusetts Teachers Association, Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, Retired State, County and Municipal Employees Association, SEIU Local 888, SEIU/NAGE, United Steel Workers and the AFL-CIO/CLC.

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AUGUST 2011

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Off-Duty RI IBPO Member saves drowning child in Massachusetts A three-year-old boy who nearly drowned in a Massachusetts pond is alive and expected to recover thanks to the quick response of an off-duty IBPO member from Cranston, Rhode Island, who happened to be vacationing nearby. Mallory Reis, a Cranston police officer and member of IBPO Local 301, was vacationing at Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth on July 9, 2011. “I was just sitting in the sun, watching the water, and all of a sudden I saw this little girl taking a boy out of the water and his body was

limp and everyone started screaming,” Reis told local media. The boy was blue and not breathing. Reis ran across the beach at Curlew Pond and began administering CPR. An off-duty New Bedford firefighter and a former child care center director assisted while they waited for EMS to arrive. The child started responding to CPR, breathing and then vomiting as firefighters arrived. Rescuers speculated that he may have choked on crackers as he fell into the water. “The minute he came to was the biggest

sigh of relief,” Reis told reporters. The child was taken by ambulance to Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, and then airlifted to a Boston hospital. He is expected to recover. “Police officers and first responders never think of themselves as ‘off-duty’ when someone’s life is at stake,” said David Holway, IBPO’s national president. “Officer Reis, and the other first responders who are called to emergencies day and night, deserve our sincerest thanks and support.”

August is National Immunization Awareness Month With a new school year right around the corner and flu season only a couple of months away, August is the perfect time to get up-todate on vaccines. No matter how old or young you are, vaccines are an effective and important way to maintain good health. By staying on top of your vaccines, you can protect yourself, your family and friends, and your community from serious, life-threatening illnesses. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island strongly encourages all Rhode Islanders to get vaccines to help protect against harmful illnesses. The best way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated every fall. A flu shot is recommended for everyone, especially those who have a weakened immune system or a chronic health condition, and pregnant women. If you have an egg allergy, do not get a flu shot before talking to your doctor. You can receive your shot from your primary care doctor or at a local flu shot clinic. If you are over age 65, have a history of lung problems or a weakened immune system, or are Native American, talk to your doctor about receiving a pneumonia vaccine. If you’re younger than age 65, get a one-time dose of Tdap, followed by a Td booster dose every 10 years to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whopping cough). A one-time dose of the Zoster (shingles) vaccine is recommended for adults age 60 and older. If you’re a BCBSRI member, some or all of the vaccinations listed above may be covered at 100 percent. Call BCBSRI Customer Service at (401)-459-5000 to confirm. It is important to speak to your

doctor about any other vaccinations you might need, such as varicella (chicken pox), hepatitis and meningitis. Speaking with your doctor about your job, health history, and travel plans can help determine the right vaccines for you. Visit www.bcbsri.com and follow them on Twitter @BCBSRI for more tips about how to live your healthiest life.

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Common Ground

AUGUST 2011

Radiation in the environment The horror of the recent earthquakes and tsunami in Japan has increased interest in the safety of nuclear reactors and the dangers of radiation in general. The recent tragedy in Japan has demonstrated once again the profound impact of radiation, both natural and manmade. Since the discovery of x-rays in 1885, many sources of ionizing radiation have been developed in both medicine and industry. Ionizing radiation is also produced when naturally occurring elements, such as uranium, radium and radon disintegrate to create other elements. We constantly receive small doses from minerals and building materials, fertilizer, and crushed rock. The human body contains isotopes of potassium and carbon, which produce internal radiation. To many cell biologists and health physicists, this is a sign that all life on earth has adapted to exposure to a minimum amount of radiation. There are three main types of ionizing radiation. Alpha particles have high levels of energy, but they move slowly and cannot pass through the skin. Beta particles are high energy electrons that can pass through the skin and the body. Gamma rays, or x-rays, are highenergy and highly penetrating. The impact of ionizing radiation on a cell’s DNA can have several different outcomes. It may kill the cell, or alter the way the cell functions. The cell may repair any damaged DNA. Radiation may cause the cell to divide uncontrollably (cancer). Many workers are

occupationally exposed to ionizing radiation. These include airline crews, atomic energy plant workers, dental assistants and dentists, fire alarm makers, television repairmen, industrial radiographers, petroleum refinery workers, physicians, pipeline workers, alloy workers and x-ray workers. Several occupational studies have established clear, significant associations between low-dose ionizing radiation and excess cancers. Protection from radiation entails a combination of distance, shielding, and time. Use every reasonable effort to minimize dose is the basis of health physics guidelines codified as the “ALARA” principle: As Low As Reasonably Achievable. Isocyanates is a general name for a group of chemicals including methylene bisphenyl di-isocyanate (MDI), toluene diisocyanate (TDI), hexamethylene diisocyanate (HDI), isophorone diisocyanate(IPDI), which have been built out of these chemical building blocks. They are used to make polyurethane foams, paints, sealants, adhesives, caulks and a wide variety of other materials. The largest use of isocyanates is in the construction industry. Isocyanates are reactive chemicals and work by eagerly binding to other chemicals. They are the hardener in twopart paints. In spray-on foams, isocyanate molecules bond with a long chemical chain, causing the material to harden or hold its shape. It can also react with proteins in our skin

and respiratory tract, potentially causing allergic asthma. When an asthma attack occurs, your system mistakes this combination of isocyanate and protein as an enemy and tries to narrow your airways to keep it out. Airborne exposures are most common in spraying polyurethane paints or adhesives or spray-inplace foams used in roofing and in sealants used around pipes and ducts, and as wall insulation used for energy conservation. Skin exposure can occur when any polyurethane products that are not fully cured are in contact with the skin. Exposures to pre-formed polyurethane are less hazardous as the surfaces should be completely cured, but if the surface is cut, fresh unreacted isocyanate can be released to contact skin. There is probably little airborne isocyanate exposure in caulks and other non-spray applications, but skin exposure may still be a danger. How much time it takes for each of these products to fully cure, to reach the point when they no longer present any danger to workers, is still a subject of research. Some cure instantaneously, and others can take as long as two weeks to fully cure. There are many many different types of isocyanates, but each one has a distinct Chemical Abstract or CAS number. Some form of MDI is often found in foams, sealants, adhesives, and caulks. HDI and its polymers (another type of isocyanate) are commonly found in outdoor coatings such as primers and topcoats.

To control exposure, wear a Tyvek suit with long sleeves and a hood to protect your skin if you are applying any spray-on polyurethane material. Wear nitrile gloves. A full face respirator with supplied air is recommended. Stay well back and upwind of anyone spraying a polyurethane foam or coating, the further the better but at least 20-25 feet. If you must work within 20 feet of the spray application, wear the same PPE and a full face mask with organic vapor cartridges, as well as an N95 pad over the cartridges. If you are using a caulk or nonsprayed application, wear nitrile gloves and protect any skin which might come in contact with the polyurethane material. If you are trimming or finishing foam, wear nitrile gloves if it is not crumbly. If it crumbles, creating dust, wear a Tyvek suit and eye protection. It is best to use an Air Purifying Respirator (APR), and to change the cartridge daily. If you are sanding a polyurethane coating, use the same respirator type (APR) and add nitrile gloves, a Tyvek suit, and eye protection. It is recommended that there be a 12 hour period after the end of spraying before unprotected workers can enter the area, 24 hours for residents and tenants. Do not allow open flames, cutting, welding, high intensity heat sources, or smoking in isocyanate storage or application areas. Do not mix unused A & B parts together for disposal or mix with other waste liquids for disposal.

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Common Ground

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Union snubbed by Bristol Fourth of July Committee By Amelia Pillsbury Last month, the Bristol Fourth of July Committee asked International Union of Operating Engineers Local 57’s parade float to leave moments before the start of the Bristol Fourth of July Parade, the oldest Fourth of July Parade in the United States. Committee members of the parade said that the float did not have a patriotic theme and insisted that it was for advertising purposes, which is not permitted. James White, president of IUOE Local 57, explained his frustration to Judy Squires, general chair of the Bristol Fourth of July Committee, in a letter he sent her July 8. “The union float was deemed not to have a ‘patriotic theme’ and was solely for advertising. I thought to myself how ironic it was that it

was organized labor who made it possible for thousands of the parade spectators to be able to enjoy the day out of work, as a paid holiday, only to have the union float be deemed not to have a ‘patriotic theme,’� said White in his letter. White went on to admit that he knew that the rules for entry stated, “floats which are determined to be solely mobile advertising displays for commercial and/or for-profit entities will not be accepted.� White defended IUOE’s float, writing that “unions are neither commercial nor for-profit. Unions exist for the sole purpose of improving the quality of life for working class people. This concept of improving the quality of life was what the Founding Fathers had in mind when drafting the

Declaration of Independence for which your parade celebrates.� A week after sending his letter, White received a phone call from Dick Devault, vice-chairman of the Fourth of July Committee and chairman of the parade. Devault maintained that the other floats from other companies were for entertainment, and that IUOE’s truck was not a float, but rather an advertisement. “I have never advertised for Local 57,� White said in an interview, “Why would I need to start now?� While speaking with Devault, White countered that the truck had flags attached to enhance a patriotic theme. Devault then explained to White that it was actually the driver of the truck who decided

to leave and not participate in the parade. “I know my truck driver did not decide to leave the parade,� White said. “The driver told me he was asked to leave.� Common Ground contacted Devault to ask for a list of the other floats entered into the parade. The list was sent via email and the only union-sponsored float listed was IUOE’s Local 57 which was asked to leave. However, numerous vehicles were listed from commercial companies such as Monroe Dairy, Dell’s Lemonade and TD Bank. Other floats contained marching units from companies such as Seekonk Speedway and AAA.

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Common Ground

AUGUST 2011

RI unemployment rate drops to 10.8 percent The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training announced last month that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for June 2011 was 10.8 percent, down one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month and down eighttenths of a percentage point from June 2010. The U.S. unemployment rate was 9.2 percent in June, up onetenth of a percentage point from the previous month but down three-tenths of a percentage point from June 2010. The number of unemployed RI residents—those residents classified as available for and actively seeking employment— decreased by 700 over the May figures, falling to 61,300 in June, the 15th consecutive over-themonth decline. Over the year, the number of unemployed RI residents dropped by 5,700, a decrease of 8.5 percent. Due to numerous eligibility requirements, the number of unemployed RI residents differs from the number of RI Unemployment Insurance recipients. The average weekly claim load for RI Unemployment Insurance benefits in June was 30,947, down 1,166 (-3.6 percent) from the May average of 32,113 and down 6,582 (-17.5 percent) from the June 2010

average of 37,529. The number of employed RI residents decreased 2,000 over the May figures, totaling 505,700 in June. Over the year, the number of employed RI residents was down 3,800 from June 2010. The Rhode Island labor force totaled 567,100 in June 2011, down 2,600 from May and down 9,400 from June 2010 estimates. The over-the-month decrease in the number of unemployed residents, combined with the decrease in the number of employed residents, caused the June labor force to drop to its lowest level since September 2009. The estimated non-farm payroll in Rhode Island totaled 462,400 in June, reflecting a loss of 1,500 jobs from the revised May employment estimate of 463,900. The May-to-June payroll decrease marks the end of four consecutive months of job gains in Rhode Island. Employment in the Educational Services sector declined sharply in June with the loss of 1,900 jobs. Smaller overthe-month employment losses were reported in Professional & Business Services and Health Care & Social Assistance, with each sector shedding 400 jobs. Manufacturing (-300) and Financial Activities (-200) also reported job losses in June.

The decline in Educational Services employment is attributed to large losses among the state’s private colleges and universities. Within Professional & Business Services, Employment Services, which includes temporary help agencies, was largely responsible for the loss. Job declines in the Health Care & Social Assistance sector were reflected in hospitals and residential care facilities, while Manufacturing sector losses were in durable goods production. Offsetting the job losses were gains reported in the Construction (+700), Accommodation & Food Services (+700), Arts, Entertainment & Recreation (+200) and Other Services (+100) sectors. Job growth in the Construction sector was fueled by gains in the specialty trade contractors subsector. The addition of 700 jobs in the Construction sector marks the largest over-the-month gain within the sector since April 2005 (+800). Local restaurants and lodging establishments provided the employment boost in the Accommodation & Food Services sector. Employment in the Wholesale Trade, Retail Trade, Transportation & Utilities, Information, Government and Natural Resources & Mining sectors remained unchanged over

the month. Over the year, employment was up 4,500 (+1.0 percent) from June 2010, with job gains reported in eight economic sectors: Retail Trade (+4,000) Accommodation & Food Services (+2,400), Information (+700), Health Care & Social Assistance (+600), Professional & Business Services (+500), Wholesale Trade (+500), Manufacturing (+400) and Other Services (+400). Transportation & Utilities and Natural Resources & Mining employment remained even over the year. Government employment was down 2,000 over the year, due to cutbacks of federal census workers and municipal employees. Educational Services (-1,900), Construction (-500), Financial Activities (-500) and Arts, Entertainment & Recreation (-100) also reported over-the-year job losses. In June 2011, workers in the Manufacturing sector earned $15.96 per hour. The average hourly wage was up 26 cents from May 2011, and up $1.27 from June 2010. Manufacturing employees worked an average of 39.7 hours per week in June, up a half-hour over the month and up eight-tenths of an hour over the year.

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Food and beverage workers approve contract at T.F. Green The food and beverage workers at T. F. Green Airport voted 75 to one for a three-year contract with HMSHost that covers all of the restaurants at the airport, according to a statement from UNITEHERE, Local 217. The union represents workers at the Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Providence Oyster Company, TGI Fridays, Quiznos, Johnny Rockets, Famous Famiglia and Wolfgang Puck restaurants. HMSHost is part of Autogrill S.p.A. The agreement includes raises of $1.35 per hour over three years

for the non-tipped classifications including grill cooks, baristas, dishwashers, utility workers, line cooks, cashiers, prep cooks and maintenance workers. Bartenders and wait staff receive smaller raises in consideration of the gratuities they receive. Among other provisions, the parties agreed to lower the percentage of health-care premium costs paid by employees for certain insurance plan options, and to reduce the hours needed to qualify for health-care coverage from 35 to 30 hours per week.

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Page 8

Common Ground

AUGUST 2011

Top Democrats reject CoburnLieberman plan to cut Medicare By John A. Pernorio According to The Washington Post, leading congressional Democrats “immediately recoiled” from a new proposal to cut $600 billion in Medicare spending over the next decade — in part by raising the eligibility age. Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) unveiled the proposal as part of a bipartisan effort to produce the kind of savings necessary to achieve the $2 trillion in debt reduction both parties say is needed to convince lawmakers to vote to raise the debt ceiling. The senators’ plan would raise Medicare’s eligibility age from 65 to 67 and assess higher premiums on wealthier seniors. Democrats say that no deal on the debt limit is possible without an agreement to close tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy, including subsidies

for major oil companies and a tax break provided to companies that buy private jets. They have promised they will not trim benefits to Medicare beneficiaries, “a point underscored by their chilly reception of the plan advanced by Lieberman and Coburn.” The two senators conceded that their plan would be unpopular. Democratic rejection of the proposal was swift. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) termed it “a bad idea.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called it “unacceptable.” Economists and credit rating agencies have warned that financial markets may grow turbulent if an agreement to raise the debt limit is not reached soon. John A. Pernorio is President of Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans

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Whether you are a union member or not, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO is committed to preserving the rights of all workers and advocating for decent wages, health and retirement benefits, safer workplaces, and a dignified quality of life for all working families. During these difficult times, now more than ever, workers need a strong, unified voice speaking out on each other’s behalf. By advocating for all workers, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO is working to preserve the middle class, and protect you and your family.

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Page 10

Common Ground

AUGUST 2011

Bread and Roses Labor Festival to showcase Lawrence’s cultural diversity The 2011 Bread and Roses Labor Festival will be held on Labor Day, Sep. 5, on the Lawrence Common in Lawrence, MA. The festival marks the 27th year of remembering the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike. Admission is free and the day’s activities will run from noon to 6 pm. The festival will host historical tours, children’s entertainment, food vendors, and music. Among the participants will be the female band Zili Misik, who have been infusing

Haitian, Brazilian and West African rhythms into original creations for 11 years. Also performing will be the Bread and Puppet Theater, featuring huge puppets made of papier-mâché, whose shows are often politically and morally motivated. The Angkor Dance Troupe, a non-profit organization aimed at teaching an appreciation for Cambodian culture, will perform traditional Cambodian dances. Other bands performing at the festival will include Ten Tumbao, an Afro-Latin-

Caribbean band, and the Itchy Feet Jazz Band. The Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence is also known as the Strike for Three Loaves. The strike, consisting largely of female and immigrant workers at the Lawrence mills, came soon after a new law shortened the work week. One mill owner decided to lower wages to match the reduction in hours, and a strike spread quickly from his mill to the rest of the town, growing to more than twenty thousand strikers and lasting more than two months.

Highways at risk Barry Schiller There was once a perception that RIDOT, (the Rhode Island Department of Transportation) would ride into town and impose massive new roads without much concern for local wishes. If that was ever true, it isn’t anymore. Now RIDOT is hard-pressed to maintain existing roads and bridges, and often has to say there is no money when communities want a project. But this situation might soon get worse. We have heard about possible cutbacks at RIPTA, but our highways are also at risk from the budget cutters. RIDOT is already planning for a significant drop in federal support. What would that mean for our highway program? RIDOT has already drafted the outline of a transportation improvement plan (TIP) based on expected reductions in federal aid. Since some projects (such as the new Sakonnet bridge, the I-95 Viaduct in Providence) just have to be done, most other programs would need to be cut back. For example, “Pavement Management,” which means resurfacing and

sometimes fixing sidewalks, currently averages about $45 million a year but needs about $71 million to make a dent in the backlog of roads that need repair. But this program may drop to about $8 million. Thus, on average, local road conditions are likely to get worse. Our bridge program, with its backlog of 164 structurally deficient bridges, now spends about $80 million a year, needs about $128 million, and is projected to get $45 million. Long delays are possible for major road improvements, even if they’ve already been approved or are under study. The bike and pedestrian program is likely to be eliminated entirely, leaving us with no new sidewalks and several unfinished bike projects. With bad roads, posted bridges, inadequate transit and half-finished, unconnected bikeways, Statewide Planning has said that we are likely to “sink.” That scenario wouldn’t do much for our construction industry either. Underlying this is a federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, which produces about $35

billion a year. We’ve been spending about $50 billion on transportation, with the General Fund making up the difference. The new House GOP leadership, unwilling to even consider raising the gas tax, wants to reduce spending to the $35 billion. Considering the competition with nearby Massachusetts for sales, raising the RI gas tax for more revenue is unlikely unless regional cooperation permits it. However, RIDOT will probably try to put tolls on I-95 to pay for the Providence Viaduct work. The solutions may not be politically easy, but our state cannot afford to maintain its infrastructure with a funding stream that loses purchasing power every year. Transportation has to be paid for, and we need to stand up to the anti-tax zealots who have scared the politicians. Barry Schiller is a member of the State Planning Council’s Transportation Advisory Committee and can be reached at bschiller@localnet.com.

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AUGUST 2011

Common Ground

Page 11

Healthcare Reform Commission recommends executive order to create exchange By Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts Last month, the Rhode Island Healthcare Reform Commission (HRC), of which I chair, voted to recommend three options to Governor Chafee on the issue of creating an online health benefits exchange. The exchange is mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Congress passed last year, and it requires states to provide an online marketplace for individuals and small businesses to purchase health care coverage by 2014. Over the past few months, Rhode Island has received several grants totaling over nine million dollars, largely to assist in the creation and management of the exchange. It is critically important that the structure of the exchange be in place by September 30th. If Rhode Island does not have an established authority to create the exchange by that date, it may be ineligible to apply for tens of millions of dollars in federal grants. Initially, the commission hoped to have the General Assembly pass legislation to create the exchange, which would have been structured as a quasi-public institution. However, disagreement over the bill’s final language delayed the legislative process, and the bill was not passed when the General Assembly ended its session. In response, the commission considered an alternative strategy, recommending that the governor issue an executive order establishing the exchange. While state law does not allow an executive order to replicate previously proposed legislation, the order could adhere closely to the intent of the original bill. In their most recent executive committee meeting, on July 16, the commission discussed three options for the delegation of responsibility for the exchange. The first option is that the exchange be run by the Health Department. Under the second option, a new department, or a new agency within an existing department, would host the exchange. The third option would create a nonprofit agency to manage the exchange. After considering public feedback from the previous week’s stakeholder meeting, the commission decided on the second option. While the commission had concerns about option one, primarily that the Health Department may already be overburdened, it remains open to this option if the administration deems it more legally viable. The third option was ruled out due to concerns about oversight and a nonprofit’s potential isolation from state agencies. The commission voted unanimously at the July 16 meeting to recommend that Governor Chafee issue an executive order following the second option, establishing the exchange in a new department or agency. With the issuance of the executive order, Rhode Island will continue to benefit from the new healthcare law and secure millions of dollars in federal funding to create an online marketplace for affordable coverage for individuals and small businesses.

For more information on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and its benefits to Rhode Island, please visit www.healthcare.ri.gov. Elizabeth Roberts is Lt. Gov. of Rhode Island.

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Common Ground

AUGUST 2011

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Common Ground

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National Labor News Aviation projects stopped and jobs lost due to Congressional inaction The Federal Aviation Administration issued additional “stop work orders” last month to construction and technology contractors for critical modernization projects around the country after Congress failed to pass an FAA bill. The FAA halted dozens of major projects ranging from long-term runway safety initiatives to NextGen air traffic control research and testing. The FAA told contractors to stop work on millions of additional dollars of construction projects to build and modernize control towers and other aviation infrastructure across the country. “I am making a simple and straightforward request to Congress: pass a clean FAA bill and immediately put thousands of FAA employees, construction workers, planners and engineers across America to work. In these tough economic times, we can ill afford to lay off hard-working Americans whose families depend on them,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The real world implications of Congressional inaction are serious. People are out of work and the FAA cannot conduct necessary work to keep our aviation system competitive and moving forward,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. The FAA is halting hundreds of millions of dollars in construction projects and research and testing in areas ranging from General Aviation and fire safety to navigation, weather and voice communication. Because Congress has failed to pass an FAA bill, construction workers, technicians, engineers, program managers and planners across the country have been told not to report to worksites and testing centers.

Nearly 4,000 FAA personnel, many needed to oversee various aspects of these projects, were furloughed on Saturday. Stopping work on these projects will significantly increase the ultimate costs of construction for taxpayers and could delay the programs. One project that is being stopped is runway status lights. Over $250 million in contracts to design and install runway status lights are stopped at airports around the country. These runway and taxiway lights help pilots know when it is safe to enter, cross or take off on a runway. The lights are slated for installation at the following airports: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport; Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport; New York LaGuardia Airport; Los Angeles International Airport; Newark Liberty International Airport; Ft. LauderdaleHollywood International Airport; Chicago O’Hare International Airport; Charlotte Douglas International Airport; Washington-Dulles International Airport; Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport; and Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. Another project, costing nearly $20 million in construction and engineering contracts to strengthen air traffic towers in earthquake prone areas, was also affected. Finally, over $14 million in projects to research NextGen weather technology systems for air traffic facilities and for aircraft cockpits were stopped as a result of Congress not passing the bill. The FAA is currently working to deploy a new automation system at certain air traffic

Richard Trumka and UFCW President to serve on Council on Jobs and Competitiveness President Obama asked AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and United Food and Commercial Workers President Joseph Hansen to serve on his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness last month. The Council on Jobs and Competitiveness is charged primarily with rebuilding America’s middle class by creating good jobs. According to a joint statement by Trumka and Hansen, the jobs crisis facing our nation threatens our long-term economic security, the strength and cohesion of our families and communities and our ability to compete successfully in the global economy. “America’s working families urgently need leadership that will get Americans back to good jobs, paying taxes, spending in their communities and saving for retirement,” said Hansen and Trumka. Last month, a White House event highlighted Walmart’s expansion in urban areas because tens of thousands of Walmart associates qualify for and utilize food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid. “Walmart undercuts the message of the need for good jobs that can rebuild our middle class. When Walmart opens in a community, it regularly displaces existing jobs with poverty-level jobs,” said Hansen and Trumka. The AFL-CIO President and UFCW President agree that there is no economic justification for the nation’s largest private employer to pay wages so low that any of its employees qualify for public assistance. They further feel there is no justification for highlighting a private employer with a business model based on suppressing wages for its 1.4 million hourly workers. In Trumka and Hansen’s statement, they called on the Administration to remain focused on the importance of a strong middle class and protecting and creating good jobs on the scale that is needed. They asked the Administration to stand with communities that have called on Walmart to strengthen the communities it enters rather than drive standards and wages down.

facilities which will serve as a foundation for NextGen, the modernization of our air traffic system. Currently, the En Route Automation Modernization or ERAM system is operational in Seattle and Salt Lake City where air traffic controllers are using it to handle live traffic. The FAA is putting on hold an aggressive testing and deployment schedule for 18 more facilities due to the lack of funding and employee furloughs. Nearly 4,000 FAA employees in 35 states, and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been furloughed and forced to go without pay. Large numbers of employees in New Jersey, New York, California, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, Illinois and the District of Columbia are being affected. This includes many of the FAA’s engineers, scientists, research analysts, administrative assistants, computer specialists, program managers and analysts, environmental protection specialists, and community planners. In addition to the FAA’s work on the construction of aviation facilities such as control towers, the lack of an FAA authorization has affected other airport projects through the Airport Improvement Program. Without congressional authorization and as a result the FAA is unable to get roughly $2.5 billion out the door for airport projects in all 50 states that could put thousands of people to work in good paying jobs. While this lapse in FAA’s authorization affects thousands of public and private sector jobs, it is important to note that the safety of the flying public will not be compromised.


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Common Ground

AUGUST 2011

Making It in America By Congressman David Cicilline

America has a proud tradition of making things. We built the world’s strongest middle class because so much of what made the world run was made in America. For millions of Americans, our tradition of manufacturing has been a source of opportunity and pride. And today, with millions of Americans still out of work, it’s time to restore that tradition. We have a real opportunity to strengthen and expand the manufacturing sector in Rhode Island. While manufacturing jobs have increased in recent months, the number of Americans involved in producing goods is still near its lowest point since World War II. The manufacturing jobs we’ve lost were well-paying and reliable jobs. In fact, average total compensation is about $63,000 for nonmanufacturing jobs, but nearly $74,000 for manufacturing jobs — a difference of more than 17 percent. Manufacturing is central to our entire economy, as it stimulates more economic activity than any other sector. Making things and selling our goods all over the world is a central part of America’s economic history. We have to make sure that it’s part of our nation’s future. That’s why I recently introduced my sixpoint Manufacturing Plan for Rhode Island,

including the official introduction of my Make It in America Block Grant Act of 2011. This set of bills is based on the idea that when we make things in America, more middle-class families will be able to make it in America. The future of making things in America is important because our international competitors, such as Germany and China, are ramping up investments in alternative energy and infrastructure. They’re doing their best to ensure that the industries and jobs of the future will be created there, not here. When our competitors outdo us in building products and preparing a workforce, innovation and opportunity migrate overseas. America used to lead the world in high-tech industries like computer chips, precision optics, and photovoltaic cells—but as we let other countries take the lead in manufacturing those products, we gradually lost the expertise needed to make new advances and create new jobs in those fields. The Manufacturing Plan for Rhode Island takes seriously our country’s need to invest in manufacturing, infrastructure, and a wellprepared workforce. This plan is rooted in my Make It in America Block Grant Act — legislation to support and strengthen our area manufacturers, once bustling in the costume jewelry and textile industries, but who now need support in adapting to compete in the new economy. The plan also requires the President to develop a national manufacturing strategy. It expands and makes permanent the research and development tax credit, which gives businesses

an incentive to invest in the technologies that lead to new products, new industries, and new jobs. If we want to turn around the trend of countries like Japan and China overtaking us in patent applications and other innovations, we have to recommit ourselves to investing in research and science. The manufacturing plan also includes policies that make sure everyone is trading by the same rules. It allows for the creation of Manufacturing Reinvestment Accounts, which provide tax incentives for manufacturers to invest in re-tooling projects or workforce training. It calls for the extension of the Build America Bonds program, which leverages private capital to create jobs and rebuild our infrastructure, and the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank — a public-private partnership to finance the construction of roads, bridges, and transit and information systems. There’s a reason why business and labor leaders both support a Make It in America agenda: wherever they are on the political spectrum, Americans can agree on the importance of out-innovating, out-educating, and out-building our competitors. In order to do so, we can draw on our proud tradition of making things, and the energy, hopefulness, and competitive drive that built our middle class. Those values are still with us—and they matter more than ever. U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline represents the First Congressional District of Rhode Island.

Climate change and transportation By James Celenza There is a solid scientific consensus that the earth’s climate is changing due to emissions from human activity. These changes include rising surface temperatures, melting ice caps, rising sea levels and increasing weather variability. And each of these changes is expected to have a dramatic impact on human health. While the main source of climate change is the production and consumption of energy, our transportation system makes a significant contribution because two principal greenhouse gases— carbon dioxide and water vapor— come out of the tailpipe. Passenger cars, light trucks and SUVs contribute about 17.5% of total US greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. (medium heavy trucks contribute an additional 5.7 %). In the Northeast the percentage is even higher. The Union of Concerned Scientists suggests that the transportation sector represents the largest source of CO2 emissions in the Northeast, roughly 30-40 percent of New England’s total contribution to global warming pollution.

Public health advocates see support for public transit as crucial to reducing the impact of global climate change. Mass transit agencies could reduce greenhouse gas emissions considerably by increasing ridership and making efficiency gains. Households could reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 30 percent, or 2 metric tons, by foregoing a second vehicle in favor of public transportation, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Investments in public transportation also have the benefit of supporting higher-density land uses that allow for fewer vehicle miles traveled. If 60 percent of new developments were designed to minimize driving and encourage walking, biking and public transit, up to 85 million metric tons of carbon gas emissions could be saved each year, according to the Urban Land Institute. An average private vehicle emits about 1 pound of CO2 per mile. An automobile driven by a single person 20 miles round trip will emit 20 pounds of CO2 (vehicles sold after 2012 must meet a standard of 250 grams per mile). Currently, there are 1,148 personal vehicles for every 1000 eligible drivers in the US. Over the course of a year, each vehicle releases more than 4,800 pounds (4 metric tons) of C02 into the atmosphere. James Celenza is director of Rhode Island Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

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AUGUST 2011

Common Ground

Page 15

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Common Ground

AUGUST 2011

Massachusetts nurses arrested after joining Unite Here! Local 26 in Hyatt protest By James Celenza As part of a nationwide protest against the Hyatt hotel corporation, more than 250 union members from Unite Here! Local 26, community supporters and dozens of nurses from the MNA/ NNU marched in front of the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge. The demonstration highlighted the two-year struggle of 100 housekeepers, whose firings from three Boston-area Hyatt hotels sparked an ongoing national protest and a local boycott. 

 The protest culminated with an act of civil disobedience, when 35 protestors were arrested after staging a sit-in at the front entrance to the hotel. A group of Cambridge police officers approached the protesters, and after repeated requests for the protesters to leave, each was handcuffed and escorted to a waiting sheriff ’s bus, while the crowd cheered and chanted, “What we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!”

 MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams

that out sources its housekeeping. Karen Higgins, former president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, said that this is just one of several activities the Massachusetts Nurses Association and National Nurses United are planning. The protest against Hyatt was part of a campaign for Main Street Contract for the American People, an effort to reverse policies that have placed the interests of Wall Street over the interests of nurses and other workers. The campaign calls for jobs with living wages, equal access to good education, guaranteed health care for all, good housing, a secure retirement, a clean environment and a fair taxation system. “We nurses are demonstrating today because we are committed, not only to healing our patients, but to healing our nation by combating corporate greed and abuse wherever it takes place,” said Higgins.

explained why the MNA/NNU has joined the demonstration. “We are here because what happened to these dedicated workers could happen to any employee. And for any of us to allow this behavior to go unopposed allows all employers to join the race to the bottom in the treatment of working people. We are here to stand up for these workers, and workers everywhere who are being abused and cast off by an unrestrained corporate culture that says profits are more important than people, that the bottom line for Wall Street is more important than the quality of life on Main Street,” said Kelly-Williams. 

 The “Hyatt 100” were forced to unknowingly train their own replacements and were then dismissed without warning. The hotel chain refuses to reinstate the fired housekeepers despite climbing profits. Hyatt is the only major national hotel chain in Boston

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Common Ground

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MA Unemployment rate at 7.6% The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported last month that the preliminary June job estimates show 3,235,100 jobs in Massachusetts, an increase of 10,400 jobs, with 10,300 added in the private sector. The total unemployment rate in June was unchanged at 7.6 percent. At 7.6 percent for two consecutive months, the Massachusetts unemployment remains well below the 9.2 percent national rate. Both the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed residents are the lowest since February of 2009. Six of the ten private sectors added jobs in June. The largest over-the-month gains were in Manufacturing, followed by Construction; Professional, Scientific and Business Services; Leisure and Hospitality; Financial Activities; and Educational and Health Services. June’s monthly gain follows a revised May monthly loss of 4,100 jobs statewide, with a loss of 1,300 jobs in the private sector. Since March of 2011, the Commonwealth has added 26,600 jobs (+0.8 percent), with a gain of 30,300 jobs (+1.1 percent) in the private sector. Also in this timeframe, Construction, Manufacturing, Information; Professional, Scientific and Technical Services; and Accommodation and Food Services have all posted solid job gains. Over the year (June 2010 - June 2011), jobs are up 50,000, for a growth rate of 1.6 percent. Private sector jobs are up 60,300, for a growth rate of 2.2 percent, with gains in eight of the ten sectors. By contrast, the national rate of over the year job growth is 0.8 percent, with private sector job growth up 1.6 percent. Manufacturing sector jobs were up 2,900 (+1.1 percent) as Non-Durable Goods added 1,600 (+1.8 percent) and Durable Goods jobs were up 1,300 jobs (+0.8 percent). Over the year, the sector has gained 4,100 jobs (+1.6 percent) primarily due to the gain of 3,300 jobs (+2.0 percent) in Durable Goods, compared to 800 jobs (+0.9 percent) in Non-Durable Goods. The Construction sector gained 2, 500 jobs (+2.3 percent) with gains in five of the last six

months. Over the year, this sector added 4,200 jobs (+3.9 percent), while adding 5,100 jobs (+4.8 percent) since March 2011. Professional, Scientific and Business Services gained 2,300 jobs (+0.5 percent). Within this sector, Professional, Scientific and Technical Services gained 1,100 jobs (+0.4 percent) totaling 4,600 jobs (+1.8 percent) over the last three months. Administrative, Support, and Waste Management Services also added 1,100 jobs (+0.7 percent) while Management of Companies and Enterprises gained 100 jobs (+0.2 percent). Over the year, Professional, Scientific and Business Services added 13,300 jobs (+2.9 percent) with the largest gain in Professional, Scientific and Technical Services accounting for 9,600 jobs (+3.9 percent). The Leisure and Hospitality sector added 1,400 jobs (+0.4 percent). This sector has now posted gains in nine of the last twelve months. Accommodation and Food Services gained 3,000 jobs (+1.1 percent), while Arts, Entertainment and Recreation lost 1,600 jobs (-3.2 percent). Over the year, jobs in Leisure and Hospitality are up 13,000 (+4.3 percent) as Accommodation and Food Services gained 12,700 jobs (+4.9 percent) while Arts, Entertainment and Recreation added 300 jobs (+0.6 percent). Financial Activities gained 1,200 jobs (+0.6 percent) as gains were recorded in both components. This sector has added 1,900 jobs (+0.9 percent) since March 2011. The majority of the monthly gain was captured in Finance and Insurance, up 900 jobs (+0.5 percent), while Real Estate and Rental and Leasing added 300 jobs (+0.7 percent). Over the year, Financial Activities has gained 2,600 jobs (+1.3 percent) with gains in both components. The Education and Health Services sector added 1,100 jobs (+0.2 percent) as Health Care and Social Assistance added 3,500 jobs (+0.7 percent) while Educational Services lost 2,400 jobs (-1.5 percent). Over-the-year, Education and Health Services jobs are up 15,800 (+2.4 percent) as Health Care and Social Assistance added 12,800 jobs (+2.6 percent) and Educational Services added 3,000 jobs (+1.9

percent). Mining and Logging employment remained unchanged. Over the year, jobs in this sector are down 100 (-8.3 percent). Trade, Transportation and Utilities lost 500 jobs (-0.1 percent). Year-to-date jobs are up 2,300 (+0.4 percent) in this sector. Wholesale Trade employment remained unchanged following a gain of 600 jobs in May. Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities lost 100 jobs (-0.1 percent), and Retail Trade lost 400 jobs (-0.1 percent). Over the year, Trade, Transportation and Utilities jobs are up 3,700 (+0.7 percent), with Retail Trade accounting for most of the growth. Other Services lost 400 jobs (-0.3 percent). Over the year, jobs in Other Services are down 400 (-0.3 percent). The Information sector lost 200 jobs (-0.2 percent) the sector’s first monthly loss since September 2010. Over the year, jobs are up 4,100 (+4.8 percent). Government added 100 jobs (+0.0 percent) in June. Local Government gained 800 jobs (+0.3 percent), and Federal Government gained 200 jobs (+0.4 percent), while State Government lost 900 jobs (-0.8 percent) due to continued losses in Educational Services. Over the year, Government has lost 10,300 jobs (-2.3 percent) with 9,800 jobs lost (-17.4 percent) in Federal Government due to the employment of census workers in 2010. State Government lost 400 jobs (-0.3 percent) while 100 jobs (0.0 percent) were lost in Local Government. The June estimates show that 3,224,100 Massachusetts residents were employed and 263,800 were unemployed, for a total labor force of 3,487,900. The labor force decreased by 9,400 from 3,497,300 in May. Since October 2009, there are 55,700 more residents employed and 40,600 fewer residents unemployed. Totals for June may not add exactly due to rounding. The unemployment rate is based on a monthly sample of households, while the job estimates are derived from a monthly sample survey of employers. As a result, the two statistics for June exhibit different trends.

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Common Ground

AUGUST 2011

Retiree leader reacts to AARP position on Social Security cuts By Ed Coyle A story in the Wall Street Journal — which states that AARP supports cutting Social Security benefits — makes it apparent to me that AARP is not representing their members on this issue. I will leave it to AARP’s members to decide how they feel about this. AARP does not speak for all seniors. And on this topic, probably not for many of their own members. There is no ambiguity about where the Alliance for Retired Americans stands on Social Security — never has been, never will be. We are against Social Security benefit cuts for seniors. The current recession is all the proof we need that Social Security is often the only safety net for millions of seniors. We

answer some basic questions of supporting cuts in benefits, a raise in the retirement age and means-testing. These are questions that any seniors’ organization ought to be prepared to answer directly. The Alliance for Retired Americans has fought side-by-side with AARP on many issues in the past. But if the story in the Wall Street Journal is accurate, we will be parting ways on this issue, because we just can’t let seniors down. Ed Coyle is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

have heard the argument that when the Baby Boomers retire, they will break the bank. Of course, their retirement will put a demand on the Trust Fund, but there are many alternatives to strengthen Social Security besides cutting benefits such as raising the payroll cap. The voices of doom are wrong. The Social Security Trust Fund has a $2.6 trillion surplus, and it is projected to grow to $4.3 trillion by 2023. We do not need to cut benefits. The Alliance for Retired Americans will always stand up for seniors and the middle class. We are for strengthening Social Security for today’s seniors and for generations to come. Our members hope that AARP will directly

Thank You to our advertisers and supporters! If you have an article you would like to submit, e-mail it to john@commongroundnews.net.

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AUGUST 2011

Common Ground

Page 19

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Page 20

Common Ground

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Common Ground MA August, 2011