Page 1

MARCH 2013

Gist threatens districts over teacher seniority

By Common Ground staff

Education commissioner Deborah Gist has threatened to withhold state funding and impose other sanctions on school districts and school superintendents if they use teacher seniority as a major factor in staffing decisions as the March 1 statutory deadline for layoff notices approaches. The Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals has issued a statement denouncing Gist for seeking to “bully, intimidate, and harass” school officials and expressing “outrage” over what it described as her “erroneous, misguided interpretation” of a state education regulatory document, known as the Basic Education Plan. “The Commissioner has exceeded her authority by asserting that a vague provision of the BEP related to staffing decisions trumps local autonomy and teacher bargaining rights,” the state AFT chapter said in a Feb. 1 statement. “In forcing school districts to use this flawed interpretation, she removes a local school au-

thority’s ability to seek solutions that best fit the needs of the district.” Gist threatens severe sanctions over seniority issue This is not the first time Gist has challenged the role of seniority in staffing decisions. She also issued a letter on the matter in 2009—but that letter merely urged districts to not make seniority the sole determining factor in such decisions. In this, her latest missive, dated Jan. 31, Gist goes much further and is much stricter, said Frank Flynn, the president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. In the letter, Gist states that seniority may only be a secondary factor in decisions on staffing reductions or changes. “In every other profession people value experience and she minimizes and diminishes it,” Flynn said. “She wants you to keep a one-year teacher and let go of a 30-year teacher.” School administrations around the state face a

March 1 deadline for issuing layoff notices to teaching staff. Such notices may be necessary in the event of budget cuts but they may also be triggered by a school closure or an overhaul of a school program, according to Flynn. Seniority could also be a factor when teachers return from long leaves of absences, he said. Districts that fail to comply could face severe sanctions. “Individuals engaging in or countenancing such infractions in derogation of the BEP shall face sanctions by this Department, up to and including loss of certification. LEAs [school districts] engaging in or countenancing such infractions … shall be subject to administrative orders enforceable in Superior Court and the potential loss or diversion of State aid,” Gist said. So far, no sanctions have been leveled against individual superintendents or districts, according to Elliot Krieger, spokesman for Gist. He declined to comment on the teacher union’s response to her letter. See Gist cont. on page 4

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Common Ground

Common Ground

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MARCH 2013

Cicilline unveils aggressive pro-labor agenda

By Common Ground staff

Fresh off a solid win in a race some observers once thought he could lose, David Cicilline hasn’t lost any time in unveiling an aggressive prolabor agenda after returning to the U.S. Congress this year. At the end of January, the Democratic Congressmen introduced the Make It In America Manufacturing Act intended on boosting federal support for manufacturing, with an eye towards job growth and economic development. Support for hard-hit manufacturing At the core of the legislation is a grant program that would be run through the departments of Labor and Commerce. The program would establish a revolving loan fund, issue grants to nonprofits such as community colleges, and make low-interest loans to manufacturing businesses, according to a summary of the legislation provided by Cicilline’s Congressional office. The idea was one of the touchstones of Cicilline’s first run for Congress, and it is something that he pushed in his first term. This latest legislative incarnation of his idea reflects feedback from Ocean State constituents and the Brookings Institution, according to Cicilline’s office. “If they’re given the chance to compete on a level playing field, American workers—especially those in our manufacturing sector—will outperform any of their competitors,” Cicilline said in a statement provided to Common Ground. “The Make It In America Manufacturing Act will help give small and medium-sized manufacturers the resources they need to grow jobs and get our state and national economy moving again.” In Rhode Island, manufacturing has been one of the hardest hit sectors in the recession and continues to

suffer declines. Jobs in the manufacturing sector have dropped 8.9 percent since the onset of the recession, a loss of more than six thousand jobs since the end of 2007, according to data from the 2010 Rhode Island Manufacturers Register cited in Reliable Plant, an industry publication. Rhode Island’s decline was among the most severe in New England, according to the report. The latest available report shows Rhode Island has 1,852 manufacturers with 60,312 employed. And those numbers are only expected to decline further over the next decade, according to a ten-year projection issued in 2008 by the Rhode Island state labor department. But not if Cicilline can help it. Proposal gains steam Cicilline’s legislation specifically is designed to boost exports and “domestic supply chain opportunities,” retrofit and upgrade manufacturing facilities, and close the skills gap that Cicilline says is holding back manufacturing growth—all with the ultimate goal of bringing more manufacturing jobs to Rhode Island and other states. A leading regional business organization has endorsed Cicilline’s plan, saying it expects it to lead to more jobs. “There is tremendous potential for job creation in the advanced manufacturing sector here in Rhode Island and throughout New England, and this innovative proposal would provide the kind of investment needed to support growth,” said James T. Brett, President and CEO of The New England Council. “The Council is proud to support Congressman Cicilline’s Make it in America Manufacturing Act and we look forward to working with him as he continues to fight for our region’s ongoing economic recovery.” Others groups that have backed the legislation include: American Small Manufacturers Coalition, National See Cicilline cont. on page 9

Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Page 3

What does ‘Right to Work’ really mean? By Common Ground staff

A state Senator has submitted a bill that would institute a so-called right to work law in Rhode Island. The bill has a slim chance of even coming up for a vote—it is sponsored by the twentysomething Republican legislator Nick Kettle—but it nonetheless raises the question as to what right-to-work laws really achieve. Although billed as a right-to-work work measure, the slogan is somewhat misleading. What such laws really provide—even according to their supporters—is the right to not to be in a union. Specifically, such laws bar labor and management from agreeing to contracts that have a “union security” clause, which ensures that all the workers who benefit from a collectively bargained contract must “pay their share of the costs of union representation,” according to a summary published by the Labor Research Institute at the University of Maine. The phrase is also something of a misnomer to critics, who say such measures really invite workers to give up

collective bargaining rights and other hard-won rights in the workplace. Workers who opt out of a union cede a number of rights—the right to have a vote and voice on the contract under which they work, the right to have a union rep advocate for them in disciplinary matters, the right to challenge unfair terminations, the right to have decent workplace conditions, and the right to enjoy all the other benefits that come with having a unionized workplace, according to Gary McGrane, a staff associate at the Bureau of Labor Education. “It’s important to understand that once you’ve gained these rights, you don’t want to lose them,” McGrane said. Right to work laws also undermine a basic principle of fairness in the workplace, he added: those workers who choose to opt out of paying union dues still enjoy the benefits of the employee contract the union negotiates

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with management without having to pay for receiving that benefit. But there’s also a downside for them: the union may agree to a contract with terms that they oppose, McGrane said. What it does, he said, is divide the workplace, pitting one group of workers against another. The only ones who end up benefitting from a divided workforce, he said, are the managers. For proponents of right-to-work laws, it’s an issue of individual rights: a worker should be able to choose whether he or she is in a union—they shouldn’t have to have that choice forced upon them. But McGrane suggested collective bargaining rights are a better guarantee of individual rights. “If anybody has ever worked in the workplace without a union, they know they don’t have individual rights,” he said. The case against right-to-work laws is bolstered by See Right to Work cont. on page 15

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Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Gist cont. from page 1 Looming battle unclear The Basic Education Plan is a state regulatory document that Gist said had the full force of state law. She also said that such regulations were legally viewed as a part of any collective bargaining agreement even if that contract made no explicit mention of the regulation. Flynn said the issue is that she is depending upon a flawed interpretation of a vague regulation. When it comes to seniority, the regulation simply states that seniority can’t be the primary factor in hiring, layoff, and reassignment decisions, Flynn said. “She went way overboard in her interpretation,” Flynn said. And now, she expects that her flawed interpretation will trump both the collective bargaining process and state law, in particular the Michaelson Act, which passed in 1966 and ensures that teachers have a right to collectively bargain over salaries and the terms and conditions of their employ-

ment, according to Flynn. Certainly a teacher’s employment status should be considered something that’s included as part of the terms and conditions of employment, Flynn said. For now, the union is taking a bit of a wait-and-see approach while the districts respond to the letter, according to Flynn. He said he is not sure whether they will comply with Gist’s order, but he said the state AFT is prepared to take action if collective bargaining rights are circumvented. He said the union would weigh all of its legal options in such circumstances. The issue is one that would presumably affect the Rhode Island NEA as well, although the union has yet to issue a public statement in response to Gist. However, the NEA has already signaled its willingness to fight for seniority in court, after the Portsmouth School District ended seniority-based promotions, moving to a so-called performance-based approach. The Portsmouth issue has been bat-

ted back and forth between the state Labor Relations Board and the state court system and remains unresolved, effectively meaning that the Gist’s position on seniority and staffing decisions remains in limbo, according to Flynn. One added worry: how the state would assess whether superintendents and districts are following the rules as Gist construes them. In other words, how does one determine whether seniority was merely a ‘secondary’ and not a main factor in a staffing decision? Ultimately, Flynn said you can’t, raising concerns in his mind about how Gist would enforce her rule. “It becomes capricious and arbitrary,” Flynn said. Issues rubs salt into sore wounds In a broader sense, the issue has only inflamed long-standing tensions between Gist and the state teacher unions, which most recently have been at odds with her department

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over the reform of the teacher evaluation system, pleading with her to slow down the implementation of the new system. “Her letter demonstrated a continued lack of respect for professionals, who, at the local level, can determine the best way to staff their schools,” the AFT said. “It also undermines the collaborative efforts going on in many of our districts.” The union said the letter “clearly devalues qualifications and certifications” and demonstrates a “lack of respect” for the role experience has in teaching. “Any actions taken as a result of this flawed interpretation would relegate teachers to the status of indentured servants instead of valued professionals,” the union concluded. “The RIFTHP is outraged that Commissioner Gist would threaten districts with the loss of desperately needed funds, just to further her own agenda.”

Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Page 5


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Mass. senate candidates fighting for labor vote

By Common Ground staff

Just weeks after former Senator John Kerry was confirmed as Secretary of State, the race to replace him is already well underway, with both Democratic candidates battling hard for labor votes and two GOP contenders also entering the fray. So far, two U.S. reps, Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch, have declared their candidacies for the special election that will be held on June 25. The state GOP was briefly struggling to find candidates but now has a crowded field of three: former Navy SEAL and business owner Gabriel Gomez, state rep Daniel Winslow, and former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan. On the Democratic side, Markey is widely perceived as having the financial and political advantage in the race for the party nomination, which will be

decided in an April 30 primary. Markey already has landed endorsements from Kerry, Vikki Kennedy, and Barney Frank. And he reportedly has $3.2 million in his campaign coffers, compared to $800,000 for Lynch. But when it comes to the labor vote, there isn’t necessarily a clear favorite so far.

Lynch has labor roots Lynch, a former iron worker and attorney, is running as an unabashed labor candidate. In his campaign video, he stresses his working class roots: his mother was a postal clerk and his father was also an iron worker. Lynch himself would go on to become an iron worker for 18 years, later becoming president of Iron Workers Local 7. “Stephen Lynch has never forgotten

where he came from,” the ad states. The video notes that he voted against “bad trade deals” because as an iron worker he personally witnessed the outsourcing of jobs to overseas factories. Lynch is also touting his votes against the Wall Street bailout and his opposition to privatization of Social Security and Medicare. So far, the New England Regional Council of Carpenters and the 75,000-member Massachusetts Building Trades have endorsed him. “We know Stephen Lynch as the youngest president of Ironworkers Union Local 7 who stood up for his members and represented them on the job, securing better wages, hours, working conditions, and a secure retirement,” the building trades council said in a release. “Hard work, skill and commitment

are values that count for a lot in the Building Trades. Steve Lynch exemplifies those values,” added Frank Callahan, the building trades council president. “He has worked hard, with great skill and maintained his commitment to the working families of Massachusetts that he learned as an Ironworker. He has earned the support of our 75,000 members.” Teachers back Markey According to one report, Lynch has racked up 30 union endorsements, but Markey has also won two major labor endorsements as well, from the 100,000-strong state Massachusetts Teachers’ Association and the NEA. “Congressman Markey has been a strong and effective advocate for public See MA Labor cont. on page 15

Page 6

Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Overhaul of state personnel system planned

By Common Ground staff

The classification system for Rhode Island state workers is outdated, unwieldy, unnecessarily redundant, and inconsistent in the salaries for positions with essentially the same responsibilities but different titles, according to a new report released in January. The state has a workforce of 13,000 and 1,700 job titles—too many, suggested the report, which was written by a consultant, The Segal Group, and was commissioned by the Department of Administration. “Many of the job classifications are designed to reflect a particular job within an agency even though the job classification itself can be found across agencies,” the report stated. “This leads to a proliferation of agency specific job titles with minor differences in function and duties and perhaps differences in pay that cannot be justified by the work performed.” Current classification system a mess For example, the state classification system has five different terms for maintenance workers—cleaners, cleaners of public buildings, janitors, senior cleaners,

and senior janitors. The disorganization in the classification system can have financial ramifications. Accountants who aren’t in a union at minimum salary earn about $1,000 less than some union accountants. But even among unionized accountants, there is a $1,000 difference in pay scale, depending upon the union. For instance an accountant who is a member of LIUNA has a starting salary of $37,335 as opposed to $38,536 for one who is a member of Council 94, the NEA, or RIASSE. The compensation is unequal at the maximum level as well, with a difference of $2,800 between a non-union accountant and the highest earning union counterparts. For clerk secretaries, there is an approximate $1,500-gap in minimum pay among union employees, depending on which union. For clinical social workers, who are all union-based, the gap widens to more than $4,000. For cooks, Council 94 members earn about $1,000 more than those in LIUNA at both the minimum and the maximum levels, according to the report.

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Reforming the classification system then becomes a basic issue of fairness, according to John Simmons, the executive director of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council and one of the members of the advisory group that guided the publication of the report. Beyond fairness, Simmons said there’s a need to create accuracy in employee classifications, ensuring that job titles are matched with qualified people and that they are paid at competitive rates. Cleaning up the classification system is also necessary to help the state in recruiting qualified staff, effectively evaluating performance, identifying any gaps in staff needs, and assessing “appropriate staffing and organization” in each department, the report said. Labor has a voice in the process So far, the overhaul is moving forward with strong union input, according to Philip Keefe, the president of SEIU Local 580. Keefe was one of three union leaders on a state advisory committee that guided the development of the report. The other two are Lynn Loveday, the vice president

of Council 94, and Pat Crowley, the director of government relations for the state NEA. Of the 16 concrete recommendations made by the consultant, labor participation was urged for at least ten of them. As the state takes the next step, The Segal Group has suggested that it continue to utilize an advisory group or committee to oversee the process. State administration director Richard Licht has indicated that he will retain the core group of committee members already in place, something Keefe is taking as an encouraging sign—and a contrast with the pension committee state Treasurer Gina Raimondo convened before proposing her pension reform plan. Raimondo never really addressed the suggestions made by the labor members of that committee, Keefe said, unlike the Chafee administration’s approach. “This administration has taken the totally opposite approach,” he said. In order to realistically overhaul the classification system—and, along with it, tinker with employee compensation— See Overhaul cont. on page 7

Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Page 7

Overhaul cont. from page 6 Keefe said the state needs workers to buy into the changes. In order to do that, he said labor needed to feel like it had been part of the process. “I don’t think I want to fight it. I don’t think the membership I represent wants to fight things. We want to be part of the solution,” Keefe said. “We want to be part of the solution by being part of the process and not being told, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’” Union leader cautiously backs reform In an interview, Keefe said he generally backs the recommendations for overhauling the state worker classification and compensation system. “Do you really need [five] classifications?” he said, referring to state-employed janitors. “I’m a union guy through and through, but let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot.” But Keefe’s tentative support hinges on a few caveats. First, he said he didn’t want to see employees suffer as a result of the changes—through reductions in compensation. Another caveat concerns a proposed replacement to longevity pay. The consultant examined the state compensation

system and concluded that eliminating longevity was a mistake. The report said that the elimination, along with other benefits reductions, has “reduced career earnings, contributes to low morale, and leads to significant difficulties retaining talent.” As an alternative, the group is recommending the state institute merit pay. Keefe is open to the idea, but warns that merit pay can be used as a weapon to punish employees who have personality conflicts with managers. “I can’t support arbitrary evaluations when it can be used to beat down people,” Keefe said. If the state can come up with strict criteria that can be universally applied, Keefe said he could support merit pay. A third area of concern is the ramifications of consolidating all of the redundant employee classifications. For example, what happens if all of the five different classifications for maintenance workers are merged into just one position? Assuming, hypothetically, that those workers are represented by different unions, Keefe wonders which union would represent the janitors after the consolidation and which union would be

willing to give up its membership. Simmons said the reform process is a balance between labor and management. Ultimately, Simmons, who once served as the Director of Administration under Providence Mayor David Cicilline, said both sides should benefit from the changes.

Of the 21 state jobs, 8 were above market, 2 were at market, and 11 were below market in the salaries. For example, state employed auto mechanics start out earning 82 percent of what their private-sector counterparts earns and, over the course of their careers, their income as a share of the private sector drops, ending up at 71 percent of priSweeping report has some surprises too vate sector salaries at the maximum level. The 104-page report also contained Civil engineers earn between 90 and 83 some new revelations on where state percent of those in the private sector. worker salaries and benefits stand in Building maintenance supervisors earn comparison with the private sector. The between 60 and 53 percent. consultant focused on 21 state jobs, “In other words, to be marked competranging from accountants and auto me- itive with the private sector average pay chanics to clinical social workers, legal rates the State would have to [increase counsel, and civil engineers—comparing pay] 8 percent at the minimum and 22 their compensation to that of their pri- percent at the maximum,” the report added. vate sector counterparts. “Compared to the private sector the That data, Keefe said, puts the lie to State’s pay rates at both the minimum the myth of the over-compensated state and the maximum of the range are below worker who retires to Florida on a fat market,” the report said. “At the mini- pension and buys a yacht. “That’s the holdover nonsense that the Carcieri admum of the range, the Serving State’s the payCity rates of Providence since 1854 are 7 percent below the private sector av- ministration spun that people bought erage. At the maximum of the range, the into,” Keefe said. State’s pay rates arePROVIDENCE 18 percent below the FIGHTERS LOCAL 799 FIRE private sector average.”INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS

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Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Firefighters and stress management Courtesy of American Addiction Centers Fire alarms. Speeding to the scene. Burning buildings, victims, and the seconds that make the difference between tragedy and triumph. It’s no wonder why firefighters have one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Stress causes an inflammatory response in the system, which can lead to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases—not to mention anxiety, depression, and PTSD. In a February 4 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about mental training to cope with stress, local fire Captain Ed Farley says, “Is it a stressful job? Absolutely. Is it an exciting job? Absolutely and very rewarding. But is it a heartbreaking job? Yeah. The things we see, how people live, the destruction that fire does, or a person in an accident, or a person in pain, you take that home with you.” The article also notes that persistent noise levels of constant firehouse radios and citywide alarms—sounds that may not be relevant to duty—can still elevate stress.

Coping mechanisms Oftentimes, stress can simply make one feel tired, rundown, ready for a break and longing for personal rewards; many firefighters turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Creating awareness about stress management among firehouses and implementing coping skills and changes in lifestyle can improve sleeping patterns, cognitive ability, immune function, and overall health.

For firefighters, stress can’t be avoided, but it can be managed. Coping techniques for acute and chronic stress include: • Spending time with loved ones • Deep breathing exercises • Positive thinking—even small, optimistic thoughts or funny anecdotes • Physical exercise The Gazette says, “Studies definitively show that stress management and a positive attitude improve outcomes for those diagnosed with major illnesses. City firefighters also say their awareness is raised about how stress might be affecting their professional and private lives.” Proactive changes are happening to help ease stress among stations. In one Pennsylvania fire district, a computerized system has been developed to more quickly send only the information relevant to respective firehouses. And instead of loud, screeching alarms, the sound is more of a “calming hum that gradually gets louder.”

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Cicilline cont. from page 2 Association of Counties, National Skills Coalition, United Steel Workers, AFLCIO, and National Association of Development Organizations. A similar version of the bill has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat. Cicilline fights for ‘Buffet Rule’ too Within weeks of the manufacturing bill, Cicilline came out with another major legislative proposal to make the so-called Buffet Rule U.S. law. Formally known as the Paying a Fair Share Act, the legislation would mandate that the

wealthiest sector of Americans—sometimes referred to in Occupy Wall Street lingo as the ‘one-percenters’—pay an effective tax rate that is at least the same as middle class families, according to an official summary of the legislation. Specifically, the legislation would institute a minimum 30 percent effective tax rate for the upper one percent of earners. The plan would cut the deficit by an estimated $53.6 billion over a decade, according to a press release. “As we work to get our economy back on the right track, we need to make sure that our tax code works for every hardworking man and woman across our

country,” Cicilline said. “I am proud to support the Buffett rule because middle class families should not be paying a higher percentage of their income in taxes than millionaires and billionaires.” Cicilline has a close ally for the Buffet Rule in his own delegation: on the Senate side, Rhode Island’s junior Senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, has been an outspoken advocate for the tax reform. Weighs in on State of the Union In his response to President Obama’s recent State of the Union speech, Cicilline said the President remained focused on the number one issue of the day—



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jobs. He said that Obama’s speech outlined a number of “common sense goals,” including the revival of manufacturing. “We are facing tremendous challenges both at home and abroad, and it’s critical that Republicans and Democrats start working together on the commonsense goals that President Obama outlined tonight—reinvigorating manufacturing, investing in our infrastructure, making education a priority, and developing new sources of clean energy,” Cicilline said. “I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground and real solutions that will move our country forward.”


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Common Ground

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Common Ground News & Radio

Massachusetts Senate Member List for 2013 Member Name


Member Name


Member Name


Michael Barrett Stephen M. Brewer William N. Brownsberger Gale D. Candaras Harriette L. Chandler Sonia Chang-Diaz Katherine Clark Cynthia Stone Creem Sal N. DiDomenico Kenneth J. Donnelly Eileen Donoghue Benjamin B. Downing

Third Middlesex Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex Second Suffolk and Middlesex First Hampden and Hampshire First Worcester Second Suffolk Fifth Middlesex First Middlesex and Norfolk Middlesex and Suffolk Fourth Middlesex First Middlesex Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden

James B. Eldridge Barry R. Finegold Jennifer L. Flanagan Robert L. Hedlund Patricia D. Jehlen Brian A. Joyce John F. Keenan Thomas P. Kennedy Michael R. Knapik Joan B. Lovely Thomas M. McGee Mark C. Montigny Michael O. Moore Richard T. Moore

Middlesex and Worcester Second Essex and Middlesex Worcester and Middlesex Plymouth and Norfolk Second Middlesex Norfolk, Bristol and Plymouth Norfolk and Plymouth Second Plymouth and Bristol Second Hampden and Hampshire Second Essex Third Essex Second Bristol and Plymouth Second Worcester Worcester and Norfolk

Therese Murray Kathleen O’Connor Ives Marc R. Pacheco Anthony Petruccelli Michael J. Rodrigues Stanley C. Rosenberg Richard J. Ross Michael F. Rush Karen Spilka Bruce E. Tarr James E. Timilty James T. Welch Daniel A. Wolf

Plymouth and Barnstable First Essex First Plymouth and Bristol First Suffolk and Middlesex First Bristol and Plymouth Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex Norfolk and Suffolk Second Middlesex and Norfolk Frist Essex and Middlesex Bristol and Norfolk Hampden Cape and Islands

Massachusetts House of Representatives Member List for 2013 Member Name


Member Name


Member Name


Member Name


Denise Andrews James Arciero Brian M. Ashe Cory Atkins Bruce J. Ayers Ruth B. Balser F. Jay Barrows Carlo P. Basile Matthew A. Beaton Jennifer E. Benson John J. Binienda Nicholas A. Boldyga Garrett J. Bradley Michael D. Brady Paul A. Brodeur Antonio F.D. Cabral Thomas J. Calter Linda Campbell Christine E. Canavan James M. Cantwell Gailanne M. Cariddi Tackey Chan Cheryl A. Coakley-Rivera Nick Collins Thomas P. Conroy Edward F. Coppinger Michael A. Costello Claire D. Cronin Sean Curran Mark J. Cusack Josh S. Cutler Angelo D’Emilia Marjorie C. Decker Robert A. DeLeo Viriato Manuel deMacedo Brian S. Dempsey Marcos A. Devers Geoffrey G. Diehl Stephen L. DiNatale Diana DiZoglio

Second Franklin Second Middlesex Second Hampden Fourteenth Middlesex First Norfolk Twelfth Middlesex First Bristol First Suffolk Eleventh Worcester Thirty-seventh Middlesex Seventeenth Worcester Third Hampden Third Plymouth Ninth Plymouth Thirty-second Middlesex Thirteenth Bristol Twelfth Plymouth Fifteenth Essex Tenth Plymouth Fourth Plymouth First Berkshire Second Norfolk Tenth Hampden Fourth Suffolk Thirteenth Middlesex Tenth Suffolk First Essex Eleventh Plymouth Ninth Hampden Fifth Norfolk Sixth Plymouth Eighth Plymouth Twenty-Fifth Middlesex Nineteenth Suffolk First Plymouth Third Essex Sixteenth Essex Seventh Plymouth Third Worcester Fourteenth Essex

Paul J. Donato Peter Durant James J. Dwyer Carolyn C. Dykema Lori A. Ehrlich Christopher G. Fallon Tricia Farley-Bouvier Ryan C. Fattman Robert F. Fennell Kimberly N. Ferguson John V. Fernandes Ann-Margaret Ferrante Michael J. Finn Linda Dorcena Forry Gloria L. Fox John P. Fresolo Paul K. Frost William C. Galvin Sean Garballey Denise C. Garlick Colleen M. Garry Susan Williams Gifford Anne M. Gobi Thomas A. Golden, Jr. Ken Gordon Danielle W. Gregoire Patricia A. Haddad Sheila C. Harrington Jonathan Hecht Carlos Henriquez Paul Heroux Bradford Hill Kate Hogan Russell E. Holmes Kevin G. Honan Steven S. Howitt Donald F. Humason, Jr. Randy Hunt Bradley H. Jones, Jr. Louis L. Kafka

Thirty-fifth Middlesex Sixth Worcester Thirtieth Middlesex Eighth Middlesex Eighth Essex Thirty-third Middlesex Third Berkshire Eighteenth Worcester Tenth Essex First Worcester Tenth Worcester Fifth Essex Sixth Hampden Twelfth Suffolk Seventh Suffolk Sixteenth Worcester Seventh Worcester Sixth Norfolk Twenty-third Middlesex Thirteenth Norfolk Thirty-sixth Middlesex Second Plymouth Fifth Worcester Sixteenth Middlesex Twenty-first Middlesex Fourth Middlesex Fifth Bristol First Middlesex Twenty-ninth Middlesex Fifth Suffolk Second Bristol Fourth Essex Third Middlesex Sixth Suffolk Seventeenth Suffolk Fourth Bristol Fourth Hampden Fifth Barnstable Twentieth Middlesex Eighth Norfolk

Jay R. Kaufman Mary S. Keefe John D. Keenan Kay Khan Peter V. Kocot Robert M. Koczera Stephen Kulik Kevin J. Kuros John J. Lawn Jason M. Lewis David Paul Linsky Marc T. Lombardo James J. Lyons, Jr. Timothy R. Madden John J. Mahoney Elizabeth A. Malia Brian R. Mannal Ronald Mariano Paul W. Mark Christopher M. Markey Paul McMurtry James R. Miceli Aaron M. Michlewitz Lenny Mirra Frank A. Moran Michael J. Moran James M. Murphy Kevin J. Murphy David M. Nangle Harold P. Naughton, Jr. Rhonda L. Nyman Shaunna O’Connell James J. O’Day Eugene L. O’Flaherty Keiko M. Orrall Jerald A. Parisella Sarah K. Peake Alice Hanlon Peisch George N. Peterson, Jr

Fifteenth Middlesex Fifteenth Worcester Seventh Essex Eleventh Middlesex First Hampshire Eleventh Bristol First Franklin Eighth Worcester Tenth Middlesex Thirty-first Middlesex Fifth Middlesex Twenty-second Middlesex Eighteenth Essex Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket Thirteenth Worcester Eleventh Suffolk Second Barnstable Third Norfolk Second Berkshire Ninth Bristol Eleventh Norfolk Nineteenth Middlesex Third Suffolk Second Essex Seventeenth Essex Eighteenth Suffolk Fourth Norfolk Eighteenth Middlesex Seventeenth Middlesex Twelfth Worcester Fifth Plymouth Third Bristol Fourteenth Worcester Second Suffolk Twelfth Bristol Sixth Essex Fourth Barnstable Fourteenth Norfolk Ninth Worcester

Thomas M. Petrolati William Smitty Pignatelli Elizabeth A. Poirier Denise Provost Angelo J. Puppolo, Jr. Kathi-Anne Reinstein David M. Rogers John H. Rogers Dennis A. Rosa Jeffrey N. Roy Byron Rushing Jeffrey Sanchez Tom Sannicandro Angelo M. Scaccia Paul A. Schmid, III John W. Scibak Carl M. Sciortino, Jr. Alan Silvia Frank I. Smizik Todd M. Smola Theodore C. Speliotis Thomas M. Stanley Ellen Story William M. Straus David B. Sullivan Benjamin Swan Walter F. Timilty Timothy J. Toomey Jr. Cleon H. Turner Aaron Vega David T. Vieira Joseph F. Wagner Chris Walsh Martin J. Walsh Steven M. Walsh Martha M. Walz Daniel B. Winslow Donald H. Wong Jonathan D. Zlotnik

Seventh Hampden Fourth Berkshire Fourteenth Bristol Twenty-seventh Middlesex Twelfth Hampden Sixteenth Suffolk Twenty-Fourth Middlesex Twelfth Norfolk Fourth Worcester Tenth Norfolk Ninth Suffolk Fifteenth Suffolk Seventh Middlesex Fourteenth Suffolk Eighth Bristol Second Hampshire Thirty-Fourth Middlesex Seventh Bristol Fifteenth Norfolk First Hampden Thirteenth Essex Ninth Middlesex Third Hampshire Tenth Bristol Sixth Bristol Eleventh Hampden Seventh Norfolk Twenty-sixth Middlesex First Barnstable Fifth Hampden Third Barnstable Eighth Hampden Sixth Middlesex Thirteenth Suffolk Eleventh Essex Eighth Suffolk Ninth Norfolk Ninth Essex Second Worcester

Common Ground

MARCH 2013

GENERAL COURT LEADERS AND COMMITTEES Massachusetts Senate Leadership and Committees

Massachusetts House Leadership and Committees

Therese Murray, President of the Senate Bruce E. Tarr, Minority Leader

Robert A. DeLeo, Speaker of the House Bradley H. Jones, Jr., Minority Leader

Committee on Bills in the Third Reading Benjamin B. Downing, Chair Anthony Petruccelli, Vice Chair Sal N. DiDomenico Richard T. Moore Bruce E. Tarr

Committee on Bills in the Third Reading Theodore C. Speliotis, Chair Paul McMurtry, Vice Chair George N. Peterson, Jr.

Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets Brian A. Joyce, Chair John F. Keenan, Vice Chair Sonia Chang-Diaz Kenneth J. Donnelly Michael O. Moore Michael R. Knapik Committee on Ethics and Rules Stanley C. Rosenberg, Chair Richard T. Moore, Vice Chair Stephen M. Brewer Karen Spilka Michael R. Knapik Richard J. Ross Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change Marc R. Pacheco, Chair James B. Eldridge, Vice Chair Gale D. Candaras Benjamin B. Downing Thomas M. McGee Robert L. Hedlund Committee on Post Audit and Oversight Cynthia Stone Creem, Chair Katherine Clark, Vice Chair Gale D. Candaras Eileen Donoghue Benjamin B. Downing Michael O. Moore Robert L. Hedlund Committee on Steering and Policy Katherine Clark, Chair Harriette L. Chandler, Vice Chair Mark C. Montigny Karen Spilka Bruce E. Tarr Committee on Ways and Means Stephen M. Brewer, Chair Jennifer L. Flanagan, Vice Chair Sal N. DiDomenico, Assistant Vice Chair Gale D. Candaras Eileen Donoghue Benjamin B. Downing Patricia D. Jehlen Brian A. Joyce Thomas P. Kennedy Thomas M. McGee Michael O. Moore Marc R. Pacheco Anthony Petruccelli Michael F. Rush James E. Timilty Michael R. Knapik Richard J. Ross

Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets Antonio F.D. Cabral, Chair Thomas A. Golden, Jr., Vice Chair Robert F. Fennell Colleen M. Garry Carl M. Sciortino, Jr. Lori A. Ehrlich James M. Cantwell John J. Mahoney Paul Heroux Todd M. Smola Nicholas A. Boldyga Committee on Ethics Martin J. Walsh, Chair David M. Nangle, Vice Chair Theodore C. Speliotis Kathi-Anne Reinstein Paul J. Donato Patricia A. Haddad Peter V. Kocot Shaunna O’Connell Elizabeth A. Poirier F. Jay Barrows Matthew A. Beaton Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change Frank I. Smizik, Chair Chris Walsh, Vice Chair James R. Miceli David B. Sullivan Carl M. Sciortino, Jr. Denise Provost Tricia Farley-Bouvier Ken Gordon Jeffrey N. Roy Marc T. Lombardo James J. Lyons, Jr. Committee on Personnel and Administration William C. Galvin, Chair Russell E. Holmes, Vice Chair Colleen M. Garry Bruce J. Ayers Stephen L. DiNatale James M. Cantwell Alan Silvia Aaron Vega Jonathan D. Zlotnik Shaunna O’Connell Geoffrey G. Diehl Angelo D’Emilia David T. Vieira Committee on Post Audit and Oversight David Paul Linsky, Chair Benjamin Swan, Vice Chair Robert F. Fennell Thomas A. Golden, Jr. Bruce J. Ayers

Thomas M. Stanley Danielle W. Gregoire Jonathan Hecht Josh S. Cutler Sheila C. Harrington Peter Durant Committee on Rules John J. Binienda, Chair Kate Hogan,Vice Chair Byron Rushing Thomas M. Petrolati Joseph F. Wagner Ronald Mariano Ellen Story Eugene L. O’Flaherty Kathi-Anne Reinstein Garrett J. Bradley Patricia A. Haddad Michael J. Moran Paul K. Frost Geoffrey G. Diehl Daniel B. Winslow Committee on Steering, Policy and Scheduling Louis L. Kafka, Chair Edward F. Coppinger, Vice Chair David M. Nangle Brian M. Ashe James J. Dwyer Diana DiZoglio Ken Gordon Mary S. Keefe Bradford Hill Susan Williams Gifford Committee on Ways and Means Brian S. Dempsey, Chair Stephen Kulik, Vice Chair Cheryl A. Coakley-Rivera, Assistant Vice Chair Angelo M. Scaccia Gloria L. Fox Thomas M. Petrolati Robert M. Koczera Christine E. Canavan Robert F. Fennell Kevin J. Murphy John P. Fresolo Walter F. Timilty Thomas M. Stanley William Smitty Pignatelli Carl M. Sciortino, Jr. Cleon H. Turner Linda Campbell Paul McMurtry Lori A. Ehrlich Sean Garballey Michael D. Brady Carolyn C. Dykema Timothy R. Madden Nick Collins Carlos Henriquez Rhonda L. Nyman Viriato Manuel deMacedo Angelo D’Emilia Matthew A. Beaton Geoffrey G. Diehl David T. Vieira Donald H. Wong

Page 13

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MA Labor cont. from page 3

data showing what has happened to the wages of workers in states that have adopted such laws. In states without right-to-work laws, the median weekly wages of full-time workers was 13.4 percent above those of their counterparts in the right-to-work states, a difference of $771 to $680, according to a report co-authored by McGrane. Likewise, the average annual salary for workers was 14.1 percent higher in free-bargaining states than right-to-work states, according to the report. The disparity is again mirrored in median household figures, with free-bargaining states 13.4 percent higher than those that are not. “The right to work really means that they can pay you minimum wage and you have no right or means to challenge or do anything about it,” said Philip Keefe, the president of SEIU Local 580 in Rhode Island. But Keefe does not expect the right to work movement to gain much traction in Rhode Island, despite the bill’s introduction. “I think our General Assembly is probably better informed than a lot of general assemblies in the country,” he said. Ultimately, McGrane said right-to-work is a union-busting tactic, even though supporters of such measures, like Kettle, deny it. McGrane said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. got it right back in 1961 when he issued the following warning about right to work laws: “We must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights … Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights.” “Basically it erodes democracy in the workplace,” McGrane said.

education and the rights of working men and women,” said MTA President Paul Toner in a news release. “He knows how to get things done. He is intelligent, hard-working and principled. If Ed Markey is elected, we are confident he will fight as hard for students and public education in the U.S. Senate as he has done in the House.” In a joint statement, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel praised Markey for his “unwavering commitment to educators and students” during his time in the U.S. House. “Markey also has a strong track record of backing special education funding, increased online privacy protections for children, programs to fight childhood obesity and fair access to student loans. He is leading the charge for new laws to make schools safe from gun violence,” the two unions said in the statement.

MARCH 2013

Page 15

for the U.S. House, but so far it hasn’t waded into the Senate race. The leading labor organization plans to make a statement by March 1, according to spokesman Tim Sullivan. In the meantime, it’s unclear whether the three Republican candidates will be able to draw union voters in the way that former Senator Scott Brown was able to in his first run for the office. But at least two of the candidates have demonstrated a potential for crossover appeal to nontraditional Republican constituencies. Gomez is an investments manager whose heritage—his parents are Columbian immigrants— might be able to draw Hispanic voters into the party. Winslow has also demonstrated an ability to appeal across the aisle, landing an endorsement from the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus in his 2010 race for the Massachusetts House.

No endorsement yet from AFL-CIO The Massachusetts AFL-CIO has previously endorsed Lynch in his run

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Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Flu Season: Five ways to build immunity By Joy Feldman, NC, JD

It seems to be that time of year again! It’s no secret that this year’s flu season is shaping up to be worse than average. Here’s the scenario. You and a friend are standing in a crowded restaurant and those around you are coughing, sneezing, and blowing their nose. A few days later, you wind up sick, blaming it on that night in the restaurant; however, your friend does not become sick. And, in fact, your friend remains perfectly healthy. What made the difference? What can you do to strengthen your immunity against those sneaky germs? We have to thank Ben Franklin for the old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Having a strong immune system can help you reduce your chances of picking up the flu. So what can you do? Sure, washing your hands and coughing into your sleeve are great ways to minimize contact with those germs, but let’s try to keep your body resilient during this season.

Here are five tips for boosting immunity: • Vitamin D is actually a hormone (it’s not a vitamin) and has receptor sites in every area of the body including the immune system and respiratory tissue. Numerous studies have shown vitamin D is necessary for the production of antimicrobial proteins from immune cells in response to infection. Low levels of vitamin D in the blood are linked with increased incidence of upper respiratory infection. Adults should keep optimum levels by taking at least 4000 IU daily. Get your levels checked if you think you are low.

• Familiarize yourself with immune-boosting tonics such as the Chinese roots known as Astragalus, Echinacea, and Golden Seal. These can be used to prevent illness and strengthen immunity once you do get sick. Make sure to add in plenty of Vitamin C and even give Bee Pollen a try (not recommended for those people who are allergic to bees). • Breathing deeply is crucial to optimizing your immunity. Here’s why. By moving air out, you bring more air in. Allowing your breath to be full and deep allows you to access healing in your body. Try this by using the muscles of your abdomen to squeeze out more air out of your lungs as you exhale. • Often overlooked, but challenging for many to manage are lifestyle measures. Make a concerted effort to get proper rest, eat and drink well, move your body, and manage stress. I recommend trying to get between at least eight to ten hours of sleep per night. And napping when possible.

• Eat an anti-inflammatory diet filled with lots of cooked vegetables focusing on those rooties, such as onions, garlic, beets, and turnips. Nutrient rich and loaded with minerals, these vegetables will boost your health. Joy Feldman is a writer, author, and lecturer. She is the author of Joyful Cooking in the Pursuit of Good Health and Is Your Hair Made of Donuts? Learn more about Joy at and

Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Page 17

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Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Middle class health insurance tax credits available soon Submitted by: Office of Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts

In 2014, many Rhode Islanders can look forward to the availability of new tax credits available under the Affordable Care Act for those purchasing health insurance. These tax credits, aimed at making health insurance more affordable, will be based on income, family size, age, and insurance for those who are purchasing their insurance independently though the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange, the new online marketplace now being developed as part of national health reform implementation in our state. Meanwhile, those who receive health care from their employers may benefit from a different series of tax credits directed at employers. These tax credits are available through the exchange to anyone whose family income is between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line, so families from a wide spectrum of incomes will benefit.

Those with lower incomes will be eligible for expanded coverage under RIte Care. For example, a 45 year old with a family of four who wants a plan that will cover 70 percent of their total medical costs would normally pay $1,187 monthly or $14,244 annually for their health insurance. Yet if the family’s income is $35,137 annually, the tax credit will reduce the total cost of this insurance by $1,070 to only $117 a month. Over one year, the family would save almost $13,000. As annual income increases, the value of the tax credit decreases so a family making $46,850 annually would pay about $3,000 annually for insurance. If the family earns $70,275, then their health insurance would cost less than $7,000 annually. Even if the family’s income is $93,700, the family would receive a total of $5,340 in credits for an annual cost of $8,904. Health care plans for individuals seeking insurance

from the exchange will receive similar discounts, although the amount of these discounts will be less due to the lower cost of health care for individuals. A 25 year old with an annual income of $30,000 would receive an $882 annual credit and only would pay $2,509 for a $3,391 health plan. Not only will these credits help to reduce the cost for families, they will also help to reduce overall health care costs. As the Health Benefits Exchange grows and more people who are eligible enter the insurance market, the Exchange will be able to demand better, less expensive, and smarter care from providers, resulting in improved health care for all who participate and better health outcomes for a healthier Rhode Island overall. For more information about the Health Benefits Exchange and the availability of tax credits please visit

Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Page 19

A few tips on applying for financial aid By Shelley Honeycutt and Gayle M Jendzejec CLU CFS CTS CEP RFC, the College Prep Collaborative As families with seniors in high school come out of the college application frenzy, they quickly find themselves in a financial aid marathon! Organizing the types of applications, as well as tracking deadlines for each college is no easy feat. Below are a few tips to keep in mind when going through this process. 1. Approximately 500 colleges nationwide require the CSS PROFILE to be filed in order to receive financial aid at their college. Check the list at to see if any of your student’s colleges require this form. Take note of the deadline! Remember the deadline could change if your student applied early action or early decision. 2. Every college nationwide requires the FAFSA form to be filed in order to receive any financial aid at their college. This also includes many

foreign colleges. Additionally, you will not have access to any federal loans if you do not file your FAFSA each year! The FAFSA form can be accessed by visiting

also request an institutional form to be filed. It is best to check each colleges’ financial aid webpage or call their office to find out if they require any additional forms.

3. The FAFSA form now requires you to perform a data retrieval via the IRS Web site in addition to filing the form. You can watch a short video on how to perform this data retrieval on YouTube, by searching ‘IRS Data Retrieval Tool 20122013 FAFSA’. The data retrieval is performed after you file your 2012 taxes.

Understanding the types of forms and tracking the deadlines are a large part of filing financial aid properly. Once you have these parts under control it might be a good idea to learn about what will be asked on the FAFSA. The College Prep collaborative will have a live FAFSA demonstration on several dates.

4. The FAFSA also has deadlines. It is best to check each college’s financial aid webpage or call their office to find out what their priority deadline is for financial aid. Be sure to file all forms prior to these deadlines. 5. In addition to these forms some colleges may

You can learn more about their events at If you would like a complimentary 30-minute consultation either by phone or in person, e-mail or call Gayle at 401-821-0080 ext 12.

Page 20

Common Ground

MARCH 2013

News that affects seniors and others By John A. Pernorio, President, Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans Saturday Postal delivery to end in August—to the detriment of seniors and others The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) recently announced that it plans to stop delivering mail on Saturdays, starting the week of Aug. 5, but will continue delivering packages. One of the biggest fears related to the change is that it would jeopardize low-cost delivery of medicines and medical supplies to seniors. But it isn’t a switch to online mail that’s causing the postal demise— it’s Congress. According to the blog, under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, Congress has for years forced the USPS to pre-fund 75 years’ worth of pensions for its employees. The USPS doesn’t actually receive money from the government, but needs Congressional approval to make any changes to its structure. Last year, the Postal Service defaulted on a pension fund payment

for the first two times in its history, and political infighting stopped Congress from bringing any remedy to the floor. The result was the cut in Saturday service.

If a hospital classifies your visit as an “observation stay,” you may get a big bill Medicare recipients who need more time to recuperate after leaving the hospital could be hit with unexpected expenses, if they don’t qualify for the standard 20-day stay in a nursing home. This is often because their hospitalization was billed as an outpatient “observation,” instead of an inpatient admission. Medicare has recently changed its policies to classify many hospital stays previously constituted as inpatient stays as outpatient stays. These include some hospital stays that involve major bone fractures and the patient remaining in the hospital for

several days. Under normal circumstances, Medicare recipients who require additional care after a hospital visit are entitled to a 20-day stay in a nursing home, as long as their hospitalization lasted at least three days. However, if their hospital stay was classified as outpatient rather than inpatient, Medicare does not pay for the nursing home stay, which can cost hundreds of dollars a day.

ARA appeals to Obama on SS, Medicare, and Medicaid On February 8, 2013, the following letter was sent to President Obama by the thirty-three ARA state presidents: Dear Mr. President: We write you as the national officers and the presidents of the state chapters of the Alliance for Retired Americans, a national organization of four million members dedicated to securing a better quality of life for all Americans in

retirement. We believe that you have the opportunity to renew the nation’s commitment to the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs during the State of the Union Address next week. Mr. President, we were heartened by your inauguration address. It captured the long American tradition that a lifetime of hard work should create the foundation for a secure retirement. And should unfortunate circumstances visit any one of us, these vital programs are a lifeline for continued personal and family security. Your words, “The commitments we make to each other—through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security—these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great” embody this great American tradition. See Seniors cont. on page 21

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Common Ground

MARCH 2013

The next fire: A deadly legacy By James Celenza

The devastating fire that took 237 lives in the Santa Maria Brazil nightclub in January was eerily similar to the fire that devastated The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island on February 20, 2003. Like The Station fire, Santa Maria’s Boate Kiss fire was caused by a band’s pyrotechnics, and, like The Station nightclub, the Brazilian club was overcrowded with no clear safe emergency evacuation plan. Another fire that also occurred this past January swept through the Smart Fashion Export factory in Bangladesh. Workers had to break open locked window grates, many jumping from the second floor to escape flames and dense smoke. One of the factory’s two main exits was also locked. Seven garment workers were killed. Three were teenage girls; the youngest was 15 years old. This too is eerily similar to other fires. One hundred and twenty-eight

garment workers—most young immigrant women—perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York City in 1911. Because of locked exits, many were forced to leap to their deaths. At a poultry plant in Hamlet, N.C., in the early ‘90s, 25 workers died because exit doors were locked. Recently, 188 workers perished in a toy factory blaze in Thailand, in which there were neither sprinklers, nor evacuation and exit plans. The nightclub and factory fires have much in common. There were no structural safeguards: no sprinklers or foam systems. Another shared factor was no clear paths of safe egress: either the doors were locked, blocked, or were too few for everyone to get out. In addition, there was no emergency evacuation plan or training in place. In the wake of The Station fire, Rhode Island’s fire code now requires sprinklers and fire alarms for

many venues, and mandates crowd management and safe evacuation. Federal OSHA also requires that worksites have an emergency action plan—specifically to address what to do during a fire, how to evacuate, and which exits to use. Each contributes to preventing fire tragedies from nightclubs to factory floors. On the 10th anniversary of The Station fire, the Rhode Island Fire Marshall’s Office, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and the Rhode Island Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (RICOSH) are recommending employers undertake getting designated employees training and certification on crowd management from the Fire Marshall’s unit. James Celenza is the director of the RI Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, an environmental and occupational health resource center.

Seniors cont. from page 20 We are concerned, Mr. President, that many in Washington will try to take advantage of the nation’s current fiscal situation and cause permanent damage to the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. We strongly urge you to resist such efforts. We urge you to speak forcefully in favor of strengthened Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. We recognize that long term efforts will be necessary to keep these programs financially sound as well as being able to provide benefits that are adequate to maintain a dignified quality of life. However, the debate over the current fiscal situation is not the forum for addressing the future of these programs. We applaud your leadership on vital issues such as health care reform which has benefited our members. We believe you are now in a position to demonstrate that same leadership on behalf of the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. Sincerely yours, Barbara J. Easterling, President, ARA, Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer, ARA, Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director, ARA John A. Pernorio, President, Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans & thirtytwo other state presidents


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Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Looking to SAVE MONEY on your Electric Bill? RESIDENTIAL and COMMERCIAL Electric Customers

Start SAVING up to 15% on the supply portion of your electric bill today! The only change is you save money: Take Advantage of Deregulation TODAY and choose to get YOUR electric supply from First Point Power.

· Your utility, billing, repair and meter reading remain the same.

· You continue to receive ONE BILL from your current utility.

· NO service interruptions · NO fees · NO deposit · Month to month so no penalty if you decide to leave us.

Deregulation of Electricity: Simply put, you have a choice of where you buy your electricity. Your local utility will continue to provide service, reliability, meter reading and you will still only get one bill from the utility. Enrolling online is easy: Just have a copy of your bill handy. Visit the website below, click “Sign Up” and complete the short form. If needed, we can talk you through the form; just call the Consultant below.

John J. Tassoni, Jr. 401.451.1305 Our Mission: To provide low-cost energy by procuring electricity at wholesale rates and pass the savings on to our customers.

First Point Power is a licensed competitive energy supplier located in Rhode Island. We serve residential, commercial, and municipal electricity supply markets across multiple states. As a member of Regional Power Pools, we are able to procure electricity at wholesale rates and pass on the savings to our customers. By working with the local utilty, we have created a service that includes a simple sign up process and easy bill pay by consolidating our charges on your utility bill so you still receive one bill from your utility.

Take Advantage of Deregulation TODAY & Choose to get YOUR Electric Supply From First Point Power. First Point Power, LLC is a licensed energy supplier located in North Kingstown, RI serving residential & commercial customers across multiple states. ver.2.24.12

Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Page 23

Transportation funding still at risk By Barry Schiller

Rhode Island had no bond for transportation at the 2012 general election, and registration and license fees are going up to help the Department of Transportation retire its debt. You might think that transportation financing is a problem solved. Unfortunately, think again! Four years ago, a “blue ribbon panel” Governor Carcieri appointed warned of a “transportation funding crisis” and estimated that Rhode Island needed about $285 million a year in additional revenue for ten years to get our transportation system in good shape. But nothing was done until Governor Chafee pushed through the fee increases noted above, eventually providing about $21 million annually—not nearly enough to fix and maintain our bridges, improve pavement condition, fix the Route 6/10 interchange in Olneyville, better connect Route 4 to I-95 south, eliminate the one traffic light on Route 146, finish the Blackstone Bikeway, and more. RIDOT is counting

on about $10 million in new toll revenue to fund maintenance of the new Sakonnet Bridge, but legislators from the area seek to eliminate these tolls— some with no alternative way to fund the approximately $38 million annual bill for maintaining Aquidneck Island’s bridges. Several bills reducing our gas tax have been filed—perhaps good politics but without consideration of the RIDOT and RIPTA budgets that both depend on gas tax revenue. On the national level, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates we need to spend about $2.2 trillion over five years for transportation infrastructure, but only about half is allocated. Instead, in Washington, federal funding is jeopardized by a climate of budget cutting. Fifty two billion has recently been taken out of the general fund for transportation since the national gas tax, not increased at all since 1993, and therefore cannot support the existing program. With the national debt accumulating, this is not

sustainable, especially as electric and hybrid cars become more widespread. Yet there seems little prospect of raising the gas tax, or finding a substitute. Meanwhile, competitors such as Europeans are spending proportionally more than twice as much as the United States to modernize surface transportation. On the transit side, RIPTA is currently operating under a deficit that threatens major service cuts, and may eventually cause the agency to run out of money, if nothing is done. Much of its five-year strategic plan for system improvements is unfunded, just as high gas prices and concerns over climate change and economic development make good transit more important. MBTA commuter rail services are also at risk as that agency, despite recent cuts and fare hikes, still has a huge debt burdening its budget. Both agencies face possible cuts in federal support, especially in the GOP-led U.S. House of Representatives that even

considered ending all assured federal transit funding in the last Congress. Amtrak is important to our region, but in his presidential campaign, Governor Romney called for its elimination and it remains a favorite target of the right-wing, even though its ridership, up 44 percent in a decade, is booming, and it gets only about 2 percent of federal transportation funding. Perhaps they dislike Amtrak because it is relatively high energy efficient and has a highly unionized workforce. Most of us want good roads, bridges, and transit, but any way to actually fund this runs into opposition from people who basically do not want to pay. It will take much public pressure and political leadership to solve this problem. Barry Schiller is a member of the State Planning Council’s Transportation Advisory Committee and can be contacted at

Common Ground

MARCH 2013

Page 24

Partnering with Rhode Island’s Municipalities to Provide the Most Effective and Cost-efficient Public Employee Benefits

PUBLIC EMPLOYEES’ LOCAL UNION 1033 Representing the Public Servants who make government work!






City of Providence Providence School Department Lincoln Public Library RI Department of Transportation Lincoln Water Commission Town of Lincoln

Narragansett Bay Commission Town of Narragansett Town of North Kingstown North Providence School Town of North Providence



Common Ground March  

A monthly labor publication featuring issues related to the labor community.

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