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MAY 2013

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Casino Dealer Academy opens to meet new demand

By Common Ground staff

Now that Massachusetts has made a bold play for the gambling market—with three destination-resort casinos in the works and a new slot parlor—southern New England suddenly faces a demand for dealers who will make up many of the thousands of jobs that are expected to be created. The New England Casino Dealer Academy has opened to meet some of that demand. Located in the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, the sprawling 6,000-square foot facility boasts 12 black jack, two craps, two roulette, and two poker tables—all state-of-the-art equipment that reflects an investment of several hundred thousand dollars. The craps and black jack tables are at least as good as those in any world-class casino, noted Joseph Tutalo, the Vice President Operations and Director of Training at the school. “If they gave us a license, we could open a casino here tomorrow,” Tutalo quipped. One certification the academy does have is a license to operate a private occupational school, from the state Division of Professional Licensure—something

that took about a year to obtain through an exhaustive review process that involved several state agencies, according to Tutalo. Thanks to that effort, the academy is the only such licensed school in southern New England, according to its Web site. With the license in hand, the academy started holding classes in early March, with a starting enrollment of 45 students and four teachers, according to Tutalo. The school now has seven instructors with extensive experience as dealers, floor managers, and other positions at casinos across the country, from local destinations like Foxwoods MGM Grand to the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City and the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Tutalo himself has a long resume in the casino world, including positions at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. The president and CFO of the academy is Michael Tassoni, the brother of Common Ground publisher John Tassoni. The academy expects to capitalize on a burgeoning industry in the region, Tutalo said. “This industry is exploding,” he said. “Massachusetts is going to ex-

plode. They’re going to have world-class casinos in Massachusetts.” He said the Bay State casinos will need to hire 3,000 dealers. An additional 450 dealers are expected to be hired at Twin River, which has been approved for the addition of table games. At one time casinos themselves might have handled the training for new dealers, but casinos don’t really do schools any more—in large measure because there’s little to stop the newly trained dealers at one See casino cont. on page 6

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Business loss affects all of us TM

By Common Ground staff

The state earlier this spring was rocked with news that two large companies are bailing out of the Ocean State or considering it. MetLife has already committed to vacating its Warwick office for a new location in North Carolina, while pharmacy giant CVS Caremark hinted that it may bolt if it loses its coveted tax credits. CVS and Metlife, experts say, are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a well-known fact that scouts from states like North Carolina—even neighbors like Connecticut and Massachusetts—are constantly wooing Ocean State businesses to their states, either luring them with a package of economic incentives or touting the benefits of lower fixed costs, including taxes, regulations, utilities, unemployment benefits, and the costs of transportation and production. “It’s classic economic development 101. Happens all the time,” said Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. “Sometimes people listen. Sometimes they don’t. It’s a very well-known fact that that kind of thing happens routinely.” And it should worry every Rhode Islander, White says. “The hollowing out of the private sector is a real concern to everyone,” White said. The loss of businesses can be especially detrimental to workforce development, according to White. Companies in the financial service industry prefer to be located in places where they are near peer companies because it is easier to recruit workers, White said. For the workers, accepting a position in an area with a cluster of related corporations has added job security: if the new job doesn’t work out, there are other options close by, she said. When businesses leave a state, on the other hand, the impact reaches far beyond workforce development or the growth of a particular economic sector, according to White. When people are not employed in positions

with high incomes, she said they have less disposable income to spend, creating a multiplier effect that spreads throughout the economy, limiting growth. “It’s a devastating problem to have,” White said. “You’ve got to be able to protect and defend what you have,” she added. Experts refer to the constant exit and entrance of businesses into an area the ‘churn of the economy,’ said University of Rhode Island economist Leonard Lardaro. Over time, he said any given area wants the so-called churn to turn in its favor—with more businesses and jobs coming in than are leaving. “It’s unfortunately impossible to not lose jobs, but you also have to try real hard to not gain them,” Lardaro said. Overall, healthy economies are ones where there are more jobs, with rising incomes and wages as people are better off. State and local governments collect more revenue in turn while entitlement spending decreases, improving the fiscal health of a local city or state, Lardaro said. But when the churn works against a local economy— meaning more businesses and jobs leaving than coming—it can have far-reaching deleterious consequences, according to Lardaro. At the local level, it means a city or town loses a vital source of tax revenue. But the city would actually lose twice. Not only would it lose in direct local tax revenues, but the departure of a business would also reduce revenues for the state—albeit the impact statewide would be less significant, but nonetheless could be enough to curtail the amount of state aid available to cities and towns, according to Lardaro. “It really hits from the lowest level all the way up,” Lardaro said. For example in 2012, CVS is reported to have paid $13.8 million in corporate income taxes—almost as much as the increased amount of aid Gov. Lincoln Chafee has proposed for distressed communities in his See Business Loss cont. on page 6

Common Ground

MAY 2013

Paying tribute to first responders at the Boston Marathon bombing The tragedy of the Boston Marathon Bombing brought out the best in Boston area’s fire and police forces—from the first responders who attended to the victims in the initial moments after the bomb blasts to the officer who brought milk to a local family during the citywide manhunt. “I … want to send our sincerest gratitude to all the first responders, fire fighters, police, EMS, volunteers and others who rushed to the aid of the injured and the countless nurses and doctors who continue to care for our citizens,” said Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman. “In the face of such heartache, the heroism and sacrifice of our union members and all those who leapt to action inspires us all.” “I want to take this opportunity to thank you for all you have done in the tragedy of the bombing at the Boston Marathon. We worked ‘together’ with the Boston Police, Boston EMS, and other branches of service. I have never been prouder to be a member of the Boston Fire Department,” said Richard Paris, the president of IAFF Local 718.

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MAY 2013

College entrance exam strategies By Shelley Honeycutt

Each year college-bound students sign-up for, and take college entrance exams like the SAT or ACT. Unfortunately, most students taking these exams do so with out a proper plan! This creates unnecessary stress, unfocused test preparation, and, ultimately, leads to wasting time and resources. Additionally, misinformation can lead to less than ideal test scores that do not support your college admissions goals! You do not need to spend thousands on test prep courses to obtain a good score or implement a solid test prep strategy. Simply having a clear understanding of each test, and which test will best support your admissions goals are your primary hurdles. Here are a few steps to take prior to considering an expensive test prep course. 1. Decide which exams will best support your admissions goals. Most students in the Northeast only know about the SAT tests. However the most widely taken college entrance exam is the ACT. The SAT/ ACT exam choice is open to most students unless

they are considering an engineering major. In this case, a college might require an SAT exam along with SAT subject tests in math and science. You can find out if the college you are applying to will require these tests by visiting their Admissions webpage. 2. Next, you will need to decide which test you will perform best on. The SAT test is a reasoning test that covers reading, vocabulary, grammar, writing, and math. The ACT test is a content-based test that covers grammar, math, reading, science, reasoning, and an optional writing section. Females tend to test better on the ACT verses the SAT. 3. Now you need to decide when you will take the exams. This can be tricky! It is usually best to look at your current high school courses and the content you will be covering. Match this content up with the content that will be covered on your chosen exam and register to take the exam after you

have completed these courses. You can find the test content for the SAT at www.CollegeBoard. org and the ACT content at 4. Now you just need to be concerned with getting your best scores on test day! First you should become familiar with the test instructions. Understand when it is in your favor to guess on questions or not. Learn what you should bring to test day and what not to bring! For high school juniors it is important to take the PSAT exam as high scores can qualify you for a National Merit Scholarship. Even if you are just a semi-finalist it can be listed on your college applications as an academic award. Some colleges will also give semi-finalists scholarship money. Ask your Guidance Counselor about the PSAT details. Taking the PSAT is the best way to practice for the SAT. If you have questions about your best test strategy learn more at

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Business, Labor see eye to eye on immigration reform

By Common Ground staff

National business and labor leaders were reported to have reached an historic accord in immigration reform this spring, in a compromise deal that allows temporary visas with guest workers while instituting limits to ensure U.S. workers are not adversely affected, according to national news reports. The landmark deal, brokered between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO at the end of March, is widely seen as critical to the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The failure to strike such an agreement is blamed for helping to scuttle a major effort at immigration reform in 2007 under President George Bush. But now, the prospects for success are brighter. After Congress returned from a two-week recess, a comprehensive immigration reform bill was introduced on April 17, earning praise from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “The bill introduced today is another step toward addressing a real crisis. The United States urgently needs a roadmap to citizenship for more than 11 million aspiring Americans,” Trumka said in a statement. “And while Washington, D.C., is full of legislative unveilings that dissolve into recriminations and unsolved problems, this time actually is different. Our cause is

unstoppable. There will be a roadmap to citizenship in 2013.” Other national labor leaders have also voiced their support. “Today’s announcement creates real hope for the vast majority of Americans who think it is time for commonsense immigration reform and for the millions of hardworking families who live every day in fear of being torn apart at any moment,” said Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union. “This bill would provide a roadmap to citizenship, protect workers and transform the lives of 11 million aspiring Americans by bringing them out of the shadows so they can fully contribute to our shared future,” she added. The general president of the Laborers International Union of North America, Terry O’Sullivan, has backed immigration reform as well. In a March 1 letter issued to members of Congress, O’Sullivan called for immigration reform that would limit abuses of migrant workers while also protecting domestic labor standards. “While undocumented workers have come to our country to seek economic opportunity, many unscru-

pulous employers have exploited their lack of status to drive down their wages and the wages of other workers,” O’Sullivan said. “It is time for Congress to stop these abuses and afford undocumented workers the opportunity to work without the fear of abuse and deportation.” The deal brokered at the end of March reportedly would institute up to 200,000 annual guest-worker visas for low-skilled workers. Business and labor groups were able to reach an agreement on wage-levels for those workers as well as what industries and jobs were not to be included in the new program. Among the excluded jobs were crane operators and electricians, according to a New York Times report. In Rhode Island, Laurie White the president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce said she favored immigration reform. White said the reform would enable businesses to retain talented workers. She also said creating a path to citizenship for millions of workers already here illegally was a ‘reasonable’ solution. But some on the labor side still have concerns about the deal. In his letter to Congress, O’Sullivan noted that the See Immigration cont. on page 6

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Casino cont. from page 1

Business Loss cont. from page 2

casino to jump to another, making it a costly investment for the casinos, according to Tutalo. That creates a need and an opportunity for the academy, which will have generally eight-week courses running in four-hour sessions in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Dealers will learn how to master every game they will ever need to know in the casino business—not only staples like poker, black jack, craps, and roulette, but also Asian games and novelties. Trainees will learn more than just the game itself. They will also be schooled in everything that makes someone an

effective dealer—how to handle the cards and chips, how to pick up on individual player styles, and even the rules on proper attire. “We teach them everything about the casino world,” Tutalo said. Key lessons will include the value of customer service, Tutalo said, noting that dealers are the first line of service customers often encounter in a casino. “Every player you lose is huge,” he said. One hundred percent tuition funding is available through the Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training and a similar arrangement is expected to be in place with its Massachusetts

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counterpart, according to Tutalo. The academy has also been designated as an approved training facility for the federal Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program. Besides serving as a training facility, the new academy also expects to support the local community by holding poker tournaments as fundraisers for local charitable causes, according to Tutalo. “It’s good for our dealers. It’s good for the whole situation,” he said. For more information, visit The academy is also on Facebook at NewEnglandCasinoDealerAcademy.

budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. Less state aid, in turn, creates pressure to make cuts elsewhere in the budget, often resulting in cuts to pay, pensions, and benefits for public employee union members. An exodus of local business has other foreseen effects as well. For example, businesses often sponsor local sports teams, such as Little League. When they go away, those sponsorships dry up. “It’s not a huge deal, but it’s something,” Lardaro said.

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“continued use of temporary ‘guest worker’ programs to reduce temporary labor shortages must be reevaluated and reformed.” He called for “serious reforms” that incorporate “strong worker protection provisions.” In the absence of such provisions, he warned that temporary guest worker protections lower the living standards of the existing workforce. O’Sullivan also urged Congress to pass a bill that ensures control of U.S. borders and enhances existing worker verification programs. In Rhode Island, David Palmisciano, the district business manager for the Carpenters Union Local 94, also raised some concerns. He said the public discussion over the immigration reform bill has overlooked what the penalty is for those who came to the United States illegally—or whether there should even be such a penalty. He noted that his family had immigrated to the United States early in the twentieth century, with his father arriving first, while the rest of the family had to wait. “They wouldn’t think of coming here illegally,” Palmisciano said. He worries that a path to citizenship for those who came here illegally, without some sort of penalty, will only further encourage illegal immigration. He worries that the current reforms under consideration do little more than put a Band-Aid on a system that is fundamentally broken.

Common Ground

MAY 2013

Uncertain future for labor unions

Page 7

By Common Ground staff

These aren’t exactly the best of times for the labor movement. In March, a right-to-work law took effect in Michigan, a traditional union stronghold. The new law comes on the heels of headline-making battles over collective bargaining rights in states like Indiana and Ohio. Public employee unions are under fire as a move to cut pensions and benefits sweeps the country. And union membership has fallen to an all-time low even as employment has recovered, the New York Times reported earlier this year. Rhode Island is certainly no stranger to such troubles. “[T]he causes of national union decline hits both Massachusetts and Rhode Island fully. The old shuttered mills were once unionized. In both states, manufacturing unions have declined, largely as jobs were lost due to globalization, and public employee unionism is declining with the shrink-

age of the state employee labor forces,” said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at the Clark University. Unions in this state have also taken hits in other areas, most notably in statewide pension reform and conflicts with education reformers. Common Ground asked four experts to weigh in on what they think the future holds for unions—a business advocate, a labor expert, and two leaders of local union organizations, one in the public sector, the other in the private. Laurie White: Unions vital to economic development Laurie White, the president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, has worked closely with the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council. “The building trades are a key economic development ally for the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce,” White said in an interview.

She said the chamber has allied with But what about public sector unions? the building trades on a number of ini White said public sector unions face tiatives, including the expansion of the a ‘very difficult challenge’ with penairport runway, the new nursing school sions. “They have a very difficult road at the University of Rhode Island, and to walk,” she said. other construction projects for the But she pointed to the outcome of state’s public higher education institupension reform in Providence as a modtions. She said the two organizations el. Though there were tensions between have the shared goals of economic deMayor Angel Taveras and city unions, velopment and job growth. both parties ultimately reached an “When we work together on issues, agreement, averting prolonged litigawe’re a very good team,” White said. tion. “The unions have very much been She said the building trades had provpart of the solution in Providence,” en indispensable to the expansion of the White said. airport runway, which had faced some Frank Flynn: ‘Difficult times’ local opposition in Warwick, includ From the front lines of the labor ing the threat of legal action from the movement, the head of one of the two city council. She credited the building statewide teacher unions offers a realistrades with helping to spread the mestic assessment of the challenges ahead. sage that the expansion was necessary Many of the troubles that have dogged the City since 1854 for jobs, safety, and theServing economic com-of Providence unions across the country dovetail with petitiveness of the state. “The voice of the decline of the economy, according the building trades was … essential to to Frank Flynn, the799 head of the Rhode PROVIDENCE FIRE FIGHTERS LOCAL that,” White said. INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS See Future cont. on page 11

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We are all pedestrians

MAY 2013

By Barry Schiller

Almost all of us are pedestrians at times and thus have an interest in pedestrian safety on the streets. Indeed, 3.3 percent of workers in the Providence metro area walk to work. Further, for health, environmental, and economic reasons we all have a societal interest in encouraging more and safer walking and walkable neighborhoods. Yet, in 2011, 14 of the 66 Rhode Island roadway fatalities (21 percent) were pedestrians. There is progress. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has implemented “road diets” such as those on stretches of Routes 2 and 44 that reduce driving lanes, making it safer for pedestrians that want to cross as well as for motorists. There are “build-outs” at intersections that slow, but do not stop, traffic, thus making crossings safer. Many towns have a “safe routes to school” program to encourage and enhance walking to elementary schools—once a common practice but now often replaced by traffic jams with parents delivering children by car. The ADA too is slowly helping make sidewalks more accessible for folks with disabilities (for example, wheelchair-friendly curb cuts). In 2012, the legislature passed a “complete streets” bill that generally requires accommodating all users, pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, as well as motorists, when roadways are built or rebuilt. Indeed, the Coalition for

Transportation Choices is sponsoring a workshop on this concept on May 13 (visit for more information). But budgets being what they are, few roadways will be rebuilt anytime soon so we largely have to look elsewhere to enhance pedestrian safety. As part of a national effort to reduce highway deaths, Rhode Island has an approved “Strategic Highway Safety Plan.” It largely calls for efforts to increase seat belt use, reduce drunk driving, better train young drivers, and combat speeding. The Rhode Island General Assembly is now considering legislation, not just to help do that, but also to combat distracted driving, which experts say is a growing danger. In addition, we spend about $30 million every year on highway safety, largely on signage, striping, traffic signals, and intersection improvements. Not just for motorists, all this should also benefit pedestrians, but they may need some additional consideration. For example, large turning radii at key intersections make fast right turns possible that can endanger pedestrians crossing with the light. See some Memorial Boulevard intersections in Providence for examples. Some cities and towns requested new sidewalks, but they can be expensive and very few are funded in the state’s $1.2 billion Transportation Improvement Program. Crosswalks are


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often not conveniently placed near bus stops. Sidewalks are often not cleared after snowstorms, even near schools or in commercial districts. Indeed, some pile up snow from their private parking lots onto the public sidewalk that block them long after much of the snow has melted. And, though RIDOT spends about $12 million a year to clear state roads for the benefit of motorists, they do not help clear the sidewalks on state roads, which they say is a municipal responsibility—not even at bus stops or even bus shelters. Indeed, their plows often pile up snow directly in front of bus shelters, blocking them for long periods. Municipalities also often ignore pedestrians: in my town of North Providence the town did not even clear the sidewalks adjacent to some town property such as Evans Field. We might be better off if we walked more and drove less. For this to happen, pay attention to how we allocate our resources, and what could be done on the streets you use. But also be careful crossing the street! Barry Schiller is a member of the State Planning Council’s Transportation Advisory Committee. He can be reached at

Teacher Union goes to court in contract battle The Cranston Teachers’ Alliance filed a lawsuit in Superior Court to stop the Cranston School Committee from violating the existing collective bargaining agreement late last month, in the latest clash over seniority rights, according to a union press release. The filing was in anticipation of a vote on April 22 by the Cranston School Committee to adopt a policy that the union says breaches its current contract. The complaint alleges that Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has interfered with the collective bargaining process by threatening to withhold education aid and revoke administrative certificates if her interpretation of the education regulation the Basic Education Plan (BEP) is not followed. In 2011, the Cranston Teachers Alliance and the Cranston School Committee renegotiated a collective bargaining agreement that saved the District $5.1 million. That agreement also changed the school staffing policy to comply with the 2009 revised BEP. “I am appalled that the Cranston School Committee would allow Commissioner Gist to bully them into abrogating our contract. The Cranston Teachers’ Alliance has always had the best interest in what is good for teaching and learning,” said CTA President Lizbeth Larkin. “We renegotiated our contract in 2011 to help the Cranston School Committee with their budget needs and to comply with Commissioner Gist’s interpretation of the Basic Education Plan. Now the School Committee is not holding up their end of the deal.” The CTA contends that the current contract is in compliance with the BEP and that the BEP regulation does not supersede the 47-year-old collective bargaining law for teachers.

Common Ground

MAY 2013

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Langevin and Cicilline highlight importance of Fair Minimum Wage Act

By Office of Congressman Jim Langevin During a press conference at the Rochambeau Library in Providence on April 3, U.S. Congressmen James Langevin and David N. Cicilline urged a renewed focus on legislation important to working Rhode Island families— most notably the Fair Minimum Wage Act that both lawmakers have co-sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives. “It is time for us to acknowledge that the decline of the American middle class and the rise of income inequality are related, in part, to a largely stagnant federal minimum wage,” said Langevin. “In addition to being the right thing to do for the hardworking families who now live in poverty, raising the minimum wage would boost our economy for everyone since low-income earners will most quickly spend that money at businesses in their communities.” “Passing the Fair Minimum Wage Act in the House would be a significant step towards ensuring that working Rhode Islanders know they will always be able to provide for themselves and their families,” said Cicilline, who was recently appointed to serve on the House Demo-

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cratic Whip Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity. “I am proud to stand with Congressman Langevin on this important initiative.” Following the press conference, Langevin and Cicilline blogged on the Huffington Post and reiterated their support for the Fair Minimum Wage Act and like-minded proposals that are important to working families. Over the past four years, the federal minimum wage has remained stagnant and lost value, failing to keep up with the cost of living and leaving working families to rely on government aid to make ends meet. Presently, a full-time minimum wage worker makes only $14,500—an income level that leaves many struggling to make ends meet below the poverty line. Companies like Costco and Stride Rite have supported a minimum wage increase in the past, along with several leading economists, including Harvard Professor Lawrence Katz and former Chair of the President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers Laura Tyson. “It’s exactly the right thing to do, it’s absolutely a necessity for all of those working tough, hard but necessary

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jobs in a currently downward economy, and it’s an important step in allowing those same hardworking citizens to inch a little closer toward a sustainable middle-class existence,” said Scott Duhamel, Secretary Treasurer of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council. The Fair Minimum Wage Act would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over three years and provide a higher minimum wage for tipped workers. Enacting the Fair Minimum Wage Act would increase pay for as many as 30 million Americans and offer tipped workers their first pay hike since 1991. “Raising the minimum wage is a win-win for Rhode Island; it puts more money in the pockets of low-wage workers and in the cash registers of local businesses,” added Kate Brewster, Executive Director of the Economic Progress Institute. Indexing the minimum wage to inflation is critical to taking partisan politics out of this debate. With passage of this bill, the purchasing power of minimum wage earners would no longer be held hostage by partisanship in Congress or powerful special interests.

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Common Ground

MAY 2013

Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts announces ‘Healthy Rhode Island’

Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, Chair of the Healthcare Reform Commission

Last month, Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts, chair of the Rhode Island Healthcare Reform Commission, kicked-off “Healthy Rhode Island: A Plan for Rhode Island’s Health Care System of the Future,” a major public effort to re-imagine the way the state keeps its residents healthy. Healthy Rhode Island is the federally-supported State Innovation Model (SIM) initiative announced in February. “The fact that tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders will have access to affordable health coverage in 2014 is an achievement in which we should all be proud,” said Roberts. “However, coverage is just the beginning. In order to

have a sustainable, high-quality health care system in Rhode Island, we must change how we provide health care and how we pay for it. At the same time, we must also develop strategies to maintain and improve the health of Rhode Islanders.” For the next six months, health care providers, insurers, consumers, government leaders, and community organizations will be brought together in a series of intensive working groups led by a nationally-recognized leader in health system transformation, The Advisory Board Company. The result will be a State Healthcare Innovation Plan, developed to chart the way from a health care system based on the volume of ser-

vices provided to a system based on the value of services provided, and focusing on improving the health of Rhode Islanders. The plan will identify reforms for how health care is paid for and delivered, and opportunities in health care policy and regulation to attain the plan’s objectives. The plan will also examine the role of community-based organizations that have not been traditional health care providers, but which have a great impact on the health of a community. “We are already seeing the move away from traditional ‘fee-for-service’ with some of our providers, and where that is happening, patients are happier, health outcomes are better, and cost trends are moderating,” Roberts said. “Now is the time to capitalize on the opportunity, with the support of the federal government, to set our health system on the path to the future.” The Healthy Rhode Island project is supported by a $1.6 million grant to the state from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). The project has selected The Advisory Board Company to lead this initiative because of its extensive experience in all subject areas of health care reform. It has an industry-leading reputation for helping hospital, health system, and physician clients navigate and succeed in health reform activities. The Advisory Board Company’s experts have previously worked with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in managing one of the largest health system transformations in the country, the Adirondack Medical Home Pilot. “Increasing costs and the demand for quality care continue to dictate

the transformation in health care payment and delivery systems,” said Dennis Weaver, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President, Southwind at The Advisory Board Company. “Development and implementation of a stronger, more effective health care model will ensure Rhode Islanders receive the highest quality, affordable care in the years to come.” Southwind, The Advisory Board Company’s health care management and consulting services program, will partner with Grinnell Appreciative Consulting, a Rhode Island-based company, and Milliman, an industryleading actuarial firm. The firms will develop a State Health Care Innovation Plan, which will be heavily derived from conversations with Rhode Island stakeholders and The Advisory Board Company’s research and data analysis. The Advisory Board Company is a global research, technology, and consulting firm partnering with 150,000 leaders in 3,700 organizations across health care and higher education. Through its innovative membership model, the Company collaborates with executives and their teams to elevate performance and solve their most pressing challenges. The Company provides strategic guidance, actionable insights, Web-based software solutions, and comprehensive implementation and management services. For more information, visit the firm’s Web site, www. Additional information about the Healthy Rhode Island initiative is available on the Rhode Island Healthcare Reform Commission Web site:

Common Ground

MAY 2013

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Future cont. from page 7 Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. “It is a very difficult time,” Flynn said, citing the right-to-work pushes in states like Michigan and Ohio. “There are those struggles going on. It’s disconcerting.” He noted that the economic downturn has also had a ‘devastating’ impact on membership in the building trades. And, he suggested that public opinion has turned against pensions for public employees as private citizens have lost their own retirement benefits due to corporate greed, downsizing, and offshoring of work. Public teacher unions, in particular, face a unique challenge from so-called education reforms who view the $9 billion education industry as an opportunity for privatization, according to Flynn. The American Federation of Teachers is a union committed to quality services and solution-driven unionism, Flynn said. Nationally, the union has developed its own model for teacher evaluations and has launched the AFT Innovation Fund for “great ideas for improving schools.” The fund seeks to encourage new approaches to teacher evaluations, curriculum standards, expanded learning time, and other initiatives, according to its official description. Since the fund’s inception in 2009 it has issued 25 grants for “groundbreaking work across the nation.” And locally, the AFT local in Providence has made national headlines and been praised by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan as a model for labor-

management partnerships for an approach to addressing failing schools that includes union input. And yet, two AFT locals in Rhode Island have been ground zero for some of the most dramatic battles between labor and management, after all the teachers at Central Falls High School were fired, followed by the mass termination of all the teachers in Providence. Flynn is confronting the challenges ahead with a promise: he says the AFT is dedicated to preserving collective bargaining rights. And he notes that there is no correlation between right-to-work laws and better public schools. One ray of hope: as the economy improves, so too should conditions for the labor movement, according to Flynn. If the economy improves, he said it would take away the justification in many people’s minds for eliminating public employee benefits. Labor expert: Unions must embrace globalization “Somehow unions must find a way to protect jobs and wages in an age of globalization. They must think and act globally, they must form alliances with unions overseas, they must consider how they can complement their usual bargaining with political power at home to limit importation of low-wage products that cost members’ jobs,” said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at the Clark University Graduate School of Management in Worcester, Mass. and the author of Unions in America. He said unions must gain public support and “present themselves as a new

civil rights movement” that can provide a voice for workers who “might otherwise be disenfranchised” because they are on the margins of the workforce. Chaison suggests a two-pronged approach: “[F]or the workers that they have always represented, the unions must think and act globally in a positive way rather than seeking to simply block globalization at all costs,” he said. And unions must also reach out to those they have not represented in the past, whom he described as “the poorest workers, the least skilled workers, the immigrant workers, and those who are no longer employed.” He says the local challenges facing unions in New England are also an opportunity. “Both Massachusetts and Rhode Island, centers of such innovation in the past in governance and free-thinking, could set examples for labor movements elsewhere by showing how unions with a broader repertoire of forms of representation and a global perspective, can be relevant to a labor force that still needs a voice,” Chaison said. David Palmisciano: Education and outreach key “The labor movement has slipped in the last 15, 20 years,” said David Palmisciano, the district business manager for the RI Carpenters Union Local 94. Palmisciano said that slip in prestige and strength was tied to citizens who no longer see the benefits of unions. Much of that shift is to be blamed on the media, he added. When public opinion looks down on people with pensions and health benefits, he said it’s a clear sign

the country is headed in the wrong direction. He said even rank-and-file members can contribute to the problem too, by taking unions for granted. Like Flynn, he puts some of the blame on the economy as well. “When the work went away, the members went away,” he said. In recent years, the union has not replaced members as they have retired, but he said the attrition itself does not explain large declines in membership. Overall, he said Local 94 has seen a 30 percent drop in its membership, from a peak of roughly 2,300 members before the recession to about 1,700 members today. He says labor needs to focus on education and public outreach to rebuild union ranks. Palmisciano said some members don’t realize how essential unions are to the level of wages they receive. And the public at large needs to be educated on how unions have contributed to workplace conditions they now take for granted—such as the five-day, 40-hour work week or the 8-hour workday. “We don’t have a 40-hour week because employers wanted to do that for us,” Palmisciano said. And he said young people entering the workforce need to realize that they are better off being in a union than going it alone. He recalled being taught that ‘collectively we bargain, singularly you pay.’ “I think you’ve got a little more pull as a group than a single entity,” Palmisciano said.

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Union Spotlight: Rising Stars at Local 51

By Common Ground staff

Fresh into his first term as the business manager for the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters, Local 51, Tim Byrne could be considered a rising star in the local labor movement in Rhode Island. Byrne entered the union in 1988 as a pipe fitter. Technically, he adds, he is a steamfitter—a point of pride for him. “Some of us still retain the moniker of steamfitter,” he said. A decade later, Byrne became a full-time employee in the union office, which is in East Providence. He began working behind the scenes as an organizer. “We don’t get a lot of limelight, a lot of face time,” Byrne said. But now he is getting more face time as the new business manager for Local 51, elected to fill a vacancy that expires in 2014. “The business manager’s position is to promote the union and to maintain the integrity of the contract and to create work opportunities,” Byrne said. Unlike public sector unions, however, Byrne said Local 51 has not come under public attack in recent years as fiscal pressures have thrust public pensions in the spotlight. Local 51 self-funds its pensions and must adhere to the requirements of the federal Pension Protection Act, although the union still has some pension funding issues of its own, Byrne added. The biggest issue facing his local is not pensions but high unemployment. As of last month, Byrne said he had a 33 percent unemployment rate among his members, although he is encouraged by signs that the economy is starting to turn a corner. Byrne said money is starting to flow a little more into projects that would hire his members. The effort to boost employment brings Local 51 into what has become a very high-profile public issue over the past month. Byrne said his union must contend with public sector contractors who don’t pay prevailing wages or cheat on wages. The state

Department of Labor, he said, can’t keep up with complaints because of budget cuts the department has faced. “It’s very difficult to compete with these people on a fair playing field,” Byrne said. He said Local 51 has more success in bidding for work with private companies because their skills makes them more competitive with non-union contractors who underpay workers in an effort to lower the price of their bid—violating the law. In many cases, Byrne said, the lower price comes hand in hand with lower standards on the project. One of his other top priorities since becoming business manager has been integrating college credits and courses into the apprenticeship program. That strengthens the qualifications of those in the program, combining traditional hands-on experience with classroom experience and a degree, Byrne said. “Since I’ve been here we’ve … pushed the college courses as an integral part of apprenticeship,” Byrne said. The union now has a partnership with Penn Foster, which offers online courses, and is in talks with the Community College of Rhode Island. He said the union has also stepped up training of journeymen, adding OSHA 30 training, continuing education credits, and other opportunities for them to upgrade their skills and qualifications. Asked to comment on his prospects as a rising start, Byrne responded: “I would say the leadership of the unions is very fluid.” He described the local labor leadership as comprised of long-time leaders as well as relative newcomers. “It’s almost like an apprentice,” he said. “It becomes a new [way] of thinking.” As for himself, he put himself in the middle—he may be new to the top leadership post, but Byrne has at least a decade experience under his belt as a member of the leadership team of Local 51. As for his immediate plans for the future, Byrne confirmed that he planned to run for re-election as business manager in 2014, when his current term expires. He credits the leadership team he heads up as “probably one of the best teams that we had.” “Everybody shares the load over here,” Byrne said.

Other Members of the Local 51 Leadership Team Paul Alvarez, Business Agent A member of the union since 1990, Paul Alvarez has worked as a journeyman and foreman for Montle Plumbing and Heating, Arden Engineering, Walsh Construction, and Delta Mechanical. Paul graduated from the instructor training program in Michigan and taught for eight years in the apprentice program. He has previously served as vice president and president of the local. He was elected business agent in November 2011. He has also been twice elected as a delegate to the national convention, in 2006 and 2011. John McMullen, Business Agent A third-generation steamfitter, John McMullen has been a member of Local 51 since 1982. He is a past president of the local, currently serves on the scholarship and pension committees, and has been a business agent since September 2012. John received his Bachelor’s degree from Roger Williams University in 1996, with a major in industrial technology concentrating in construction management and a minor in business administration. Brett LaPlante, Organizer/Business Agent Brett LaPlante started his career as a steamfitter in 1989 and is the third generation steamfitter in his family to graduate from apprenticeship school in 1995, with a certification as a welder. Brett would go on to become a foreman and general foreman. He became as welding instructor for Local 51 in 2008. In 2011, he was elected to the executive board and has served in his current post since September 2012.

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Health care reform: A view from 10,000 feet up By Robert Dumais, Principal with Allegiance Benefit Advisors From 10,000 feet up, the Affordable Part I of a two-part series Care Act’s 1,300 pages and subsequent Health care reform (a.k.a the “Patient 15,000 pages of regulations are aimed Protection and Affordable Health Care primarily at decreasing the number of Act” or “ObamaCare”) is here to stay, so uninsured Americans and reducing the you may want to get acquainted. overall cost of health care. Most experts The Supreme Court had the first opare hopeful, yet skeptical, that it will portunity to dismiss it in June of 2012, meet its objectives. The theory is that and did not. When President Obama the incredible added cost will be offset was elected to a second term in Januby the new premiums generated by inary 2013, health care reform’s existence suring some 49,000,000-plus individubecame fairly solidified. The fact of the als who are not currently insured. matter is that if you possibly thought While the percentages vary slightly that everyone but you would be impactdepending on who you are speaking ed, that is highly unlikely. In fact, the with, it is estimated that in a given popAffordable Care Act is so broad-reaching ulation, 10 percent of the people generthat that the Internal Revenue Code, ate 90 percent of the health care claims. ERISA, the Social Security Act, the So, in the United States, if we assume Public Health Service Act, and the Fair a total population of 320,000,000, we Labor Standards Act are all amended by are saying that 90 percent of the total its provisions; it’s that big! Colleges treat  the  SAT®  and  ACT®  equally,  and   taking  the  wrong  test  could  cost  you  in  terms  of   both  admissions  and  scholarship  money.   FIT4Testing Which Test? Diagnostic SAT or ACT SAT or ACT

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health care claims are coming from just 32,000,000 people. The optimistic view is that when the 49,000,000 million uninsured become insured, their claims will be much lower than the premiums they generate, and that difference will help offset claims generated by the other 271,000,000. Call it hopeless optimism, but the truth is that even the experts don’t know how this is going to play out. Many feel that the term “healthcare reform” is actually a misnomer, and that a better title would be “tax reform” as the act is expected to create an additional tax burden of more than $1,000,000,000 over the next decade. However, despite the fact that there are also some strong opinions that the act does not focus enough on some of the factors driving up costs, it does also appear to be a work in process which will likely further morph as we move ahead. Provisions of the Affordable Care Act began taking effect in 2010, with new changes scheduled each year through 2018. Some of the more notable changes which have already phased in are listed below. 2010: • Small business tax credits • Established temporary high risk pool • Coverage rescission prohibited • Adult children covered through age 26 • Pediatricians allowed as PCPs, direct access to OB/GYNs • No pre-existing condition limitations

allowed on dependants under age 19 • Lifetime and annual dollar coverage limits prohibited • Preventive services with no cost sharing 2011: • Established minimum loss ratios for the carriers, and provisions for rebates • Established formal rate review process • Limits set for allowing OTC medications with CDHPs • Discounts in Medicare Part D coverage (beginning to close the donut hole) • Automatic health coverage enrollment for groups with 200+ FTEs 2012: • Established uniform explanation of coverage and standard definitions • Defined appeals process • Established Accountable Care Organizations 2013: • Employee notification of access to Exchanges • FSA contribution limits • Implementation of high earner tax • Employers to report value of employer sponsored health benefits on W2s In Part II of this series, we will outline and explain changes effective in 2014, including the establishment of health benefit “exchanges,” followed by a discussion of “subsidies” for small employers, and “play or pay” provisions for larger companies.

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Page 19

Simple tricks to add more veggies to your diet

By Joy Feldman, NC, JD

No making faces. I know what you are thinking— yuck, more veggies. Most Americans today shy away from filling one half or more of their plate with vegetables. Yet, these magnificent marvels should be the high point of your meals. They do not require much time to cook and most of them offer some benefit to the body. Almost every vegetable study conducted shows how this food benefits the heart, blood, and even fights cancer in some cases. Steaming is the best way to cook most vegetables, but sautéing in olive oil, butter, or some coconut oil is acceptable. The following ideas are simple suggestions to creatively add more vegetables into your diet. Play with these ideas, adding your own creative spirit. OK, the secret you have been waiting for—how to add more veggies to your diet:

2. Vegetable Pizza: Try making your own pizza with a thin, wheat-free crust, followed by a thick layer of chopped up pre-cooked vegetables. Top with some tomato sauce and tasty cheese.

1. Vegetable Chili: Instead of making chili mainly with beans, substitute many more cooked veggies such as chopped onions, garlic, broccoli, or cauliflower. You can still have turkey or even lamb in your dish, with the added bonus of veggies.

5. Thick Vegetable Soups: Adding loads of vegetables to all kinds of soups is a simple and excellent idea. For fussy eaters, disguise the vegetables by cooking them for 10-20 minutes and then puree the soup so the vegetables blend in with rest of the soup.

3. Vegetable Enchilada or Taco: Fill those tacos with loads of cooked veggies, instead of loading them up with beans and beef. And try using mineralrich blue corn tortillas or blue taco shells instead of flour tortillas. Yum, your family will love this! 4. Vegetable Stews or Casseroles: This is a wonderful place to disguise vegetables. Start with some stew meat, and add chopped up veggies. Cook in a crock-pot or in the oven until everything blends together and it all taste like meat.

6. Enjoy these suggestions and do as your mama said—“Eat your veggies.” 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 at or

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Labor leader announces run for Boston mayor Dorchester, Mass.— Massachusetts State Rep. Martin J. Walsh, the now-former Business Manager of the Boston Building Trades, formally announced April 10 that he is running for Mayor of Boston. “I love this city—its people, its institutions, its traditions, and its innovations—and want to do all I can to see it continue to thrive. Boston is a diverse and welcoming center of creativity, where people are valued and possibilities are realized. The future of Boston depends on the education of our children, the strengthening of our working families, the protection of our vulnerable, and the growth of our businesses,” Walsh said in a press statement announcing his run. “I am running for Mayor because I have the skills, record, and passion to do the job,” he added. “I want to move our schools forward, create good jobs

for local residents, and create an environment where families can prosper and businesses can grow.” Walsh opened up a campaign account in early April and has over $200,000 in the bank, his campaign said. In the few days since he opened this account, Walsh has captured commitments for an additional $400,000 towards his campaign. Walsh, a lifelong resident of Dorchester, has represented the 13th Suffolk District in Dorchester since 1997. In the Massachusetts House, he has been a steadfast voice for civil rights, working families, youth, seniors, and addiction and recovery services, according to the press announcement. Walsh is the son of Irish immigrants, and attended St. Margaret’s in Dorchester and Newman Prep. He graduated from Boston College in 2009, working his way through college at night while serving in the state legislature. He currently holds a leadership position in the Massachusetts House as the Chairman of the Committee on Ethics, and he is the Co-chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party Labor Caucus. He serves as a Board Member for local organiza-

tions such as the Dorchester Boys and Girls Club, The Gavin Foundation, the University of Massachusetts Labor Caucus, Friends for Children, Project D.E.E.P., and the Neighborhood House Charter School. In the past, Rep. Walsh has been President of the Columbia Savin Hill Civic Association, Dorchester Allied Neighborhood Association, and the Savin Hill Baseball League. Walsh has also been the Business Manager of the Boston Building Trades, a position which he resigned effective Friday, April 12 to pursue the mayoral bid. He is a member of the Laborers Local 223. Walsh was scheduled to formally kick off his campaign on Saturday, May 4 with a rally at a Dorchester location to be announced. “We plan to gather hundreds of supporters, neighbors and friends, and begin a grassroots neighbor-to-neighbor campaign that will take us to all corners of the city,” Walsh said. “I will be a Mayor for all of Boston, and I look forward to meeting with voters and taking that message out there.”


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MAY 2013

Health Care Benefits for seniors in 2013

Page 23

By John A. Pernorio, President Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The act provides numerous benefits for seniors under Medicare and Medicaid. Here are the major changes for 2013. Free medical check ups under Medicare continue Prior to passage of the ACA, Medicare allowed for a one-time free check up when seniors joined the Medicare program. In 2011, seniors began receiving a free checkup; this benefit is now available on a yearly basis. Free preventive screenings continue Beneficiaries no longer have to pay any cost sharing for Medicare-covered preventive services that are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and rated A or B. The law also waives the Medicare deductible for colorectal cancer screening tests. Prescription drug discounts continue and subsidies increase In 2013, the Medicare Part D drug benefit doughnut hole is from $2,970 to $7,720. Prior to the passage of PPACA, when beneficiaries fell into doughnut hole, they had to pay 100 percent of the costs of their prescription medications. The new health care law pro-

vides drug discounts and subsidies to help fill in the doughnut hole. In 2013, Medicare beneficiaries who fall in the Part D drug benefit doughnut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on the price of their brandname drugs. Beneficiaries who fall in the doughnut hole will also receive a 21 percent government subsidy toward the cost of generic drugs and 2.5 percent subsidy for brand-name drugs. Thus, the total out-of-pocket costs (this includes what beneficiaries pay—deductible and co-payments—plus drug discounts) is $4,750. The doughnut hole will be closed by 2020. Expands ‘bundling’ pilot program to coordinate and improve care Establishes a national pilot program to encourage hospitals, doctors, and other providers to work together and coordinate care. Under “bundling,” hospitals, doctors, and providers are paid a flat fee for each episode of care, instead of the current system that pays for each service or test separately. This provides incentives for providers to work together, become more efficient, and provide better quality care. Increase payments to primary care providers Primary care providers under Medicaid will be paid at 100 percent of Medicare payment rate. This provision

is fully paid for by the federal government. Preventive care funding The law provides funding to state Medicaid programs to cover preventive services for patients at little or no cost. For more information visit: Note: Our site also has the text of Congressman David Cicilline’s resolution opposing the chained CPI which was introduced on April 17. (Congressman Jim Langevin has co-signed onto the resolution.)

Common Ground

MAY 2013

Page 24

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CommonGround May 2013 Edition  

A monthly labor publication highlighting news and issues relevant to the labor community.

CommonGround May 2013 Edition  

A monthly labor publication highlighting news and issues relevant to the labor community.