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FEBRUARY 2014

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Pensions, Taxes, Minimum Wage all on Agenda for New Legislative Session By Common Ground staff Pensions, taxes, and a hike in the minimum wage are among the many familiar issues that are expected to come up in the new legislative session that began last month, according to local labor leaders and news reports. Pensions again While passed more than two years ago, the landmark 2011 pension reform law remains a hot issue. No lawmaker has publicly expressed any interest in returning to the divisive issue, but the General Assembly may not have a choice: as rumors continue to swirl over the status of negotiations in the pension reform lawsuit, any possible settlement would have to be approved by state lawmakers.

As negotiations continue, one top lawmaker has already introduced a bill to ban the use of money from state pension system funds to pay for the suit. “It is a sad irony that, under current law, the state must use money from the pension system to defend the new law in court,” said Senate Majority Leader Ruggerio, D-Providence, the main backer of the proposed legislation. “That is essentially using future pensioners’ own money to fight against a suit they brought, and that’s just not right or fair. Of course, the state must pay its legal bills, but it should find the money elsewhere and not take it from the pension funds.” The cost of the state’s defense in the lawsuit has hit nearly half a million dollars, according to a Statehouse news release. Most of that has been spent on a law firm

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hired by the state, with some going to an actuarial consultant. “Taking money out of a pension system that so desperately needed the reforms enacted in 2011 makes little, if any, sense, and might result in further financial damage to a system we are trying to fix,” Ruggerio said. “Since the state enacted the law, the state should defend it with state money,” he added. “Pension funds are not being used to support the union challenge of the law, and they should not be used to defend it. Pension funds should pay for pensions.” Chafee’s budget: investments in infrastructure One of the biggest issues of the session will inevitably be the state budget. See Agenda cont. on page 3

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Common Ground

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265 GeorgeWashington Highway Smithfield, Rhode Island02917 401.451.1305 john@ricommongroundnews.com www.ricommongroundnews.com

Workers Prayer Lord Jesus, We offer you this day our works, Our hopes and struggles, Our joys and sorrows.

Give us and all workers of the world The grace to work as you did So that everything we do May benefit our fellowmen and Glorify GOD, our Father. Your Kingdom come Into all factories, farms, offices and into our homes. Give us this day our daily bread, May we receive it without envy or injustice May those of us who, today, may be in danger of sin Remain in Your grace, and May those who died in labor’s field of honor rest in peace. Teach us to be generous, To serve you as you deserve to be served, To give without counting the cost, To fight without minding the wounds, To work and pray as our right and duty, and To spend our life without expecting any return Other than the conviction that We are doing Your holy will. AMEN

FEBRUARY 2014

DePetro Boycott Movement Pressed Forward By Common Ground staff He may have returned to the airwaves last month, but the union-led effort to boot John DePetro from Rhode Island radio is not letting up. “We’re full steam ahead,” said Maureen Martin, the secretary-treasurer for the Rhode Island AFLCIO and the director of political activities for the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. “We’re not letting up one iota.” DePetro, never a friend of unions, stirred an outpouring of outrage last fall after calling a group of women protesters at a fundraiser for state Treasurer Gina Raimondo “whores.” Amid rising furor over his remarks, DePetro was kept off the air for weeks at the end of 2013. No official reason was ever given and his absence was variously described in media reports as a “vacation” and a “suspension.” Either way, DePetro was back on the air after New Year’s. “We’re disappointed WPRO-Cumulus wasn’t willing to do the right thing,” Martin said. “I think they’re making what they think is a business decision.” After securing an agreement by just about every statewide candidate to not appear on his show—a promise that most have upheld—the boycott movement is now taking it to the next level, asking candidates for office to put their money where their mouth is. Early in January, organizers issued a letter to all the statewide candidates, as well as the mayoral contenders in Providence, asking them to refrain from spending any money on advertising on WPRO, DePetro’s station, until he is taken off the air. Already, several candidates have responded in the affirmative, including Providence Mayor and Democratic candidate for Governor Angel Taveras and state treasurer hopeful Seth Magaziner. Two candidates for Secretary of State have also signed on: Nellie Gorbea, the former executive director of HousingWorks RI and Guillaume de Ramel, a Newport businessman. One fundraising group, American LeadHERship, a pro-female so-called super PAC that is backing Raimondo for Governor, is also on board with the advertising boycott. “Ironically that’s the organization that held the event for Gina Raimondo the night we held

the rally that caused all this ruckus,” Martin said. Boycott leaders next are taking their campaign to all advertisers on WPRO—after failing to get one of its more prominent and pro-women advertisers, jewelry maker Alex and Ani, to pull its ads. A letter to all advertisers was set to go out in mid-January, with personal phone calls planned to follow up with individual businesses, Martin said. “We don’t want to hurt any business,” Martin said. “We just want to get misogynists off the air so we can get back to business.” Local labor has also enlisted the support of their national counterparts, including the AFL-CIO, UFC, Laborers International, and, most recently, the Amalgamated Transit Union. All have pledged to help out in any way that might become necessary, according to Martin. Although DePetro is back on the air, most of those candidates who had promised to boycott it by not appearing as a guest on any WPRO show while he has his show have kept their promise. Some candidates have been asked to be a guest and have declined. Others have agreed, only to later call and cancel after remembering their commitment to the boycott, according to Martin. Notably, a few candidates, within a month of the boycott, have already broken their promise: GOP gubernatorial candidates Allan Fung and Ken Block. Martin called it “incredible” how quickly a candidate is willing to abandon a promise they voluntarily made, but she noted that “none of our friends have gone on.” DePetro, meanwhile, has claimed local labor is targeting him because of his anti-union views, something Martin denies. “This really is not about … somebody disagreeing with the unions. We’re not trying to silence him for that. It’s almost a badge of honor when they [union critics] go on [air] and bash us.” Martin said she can accept that some people disagree with unions, either on a particular issue or overall. “We can even have a shouting match … but we don’t need to degrade people,” Martin said.

www.ricommongroundnews.com


Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

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Agenda cont. from page 1 In mid-January, Lincoln Chafee proposed his final budget as Governor. Particularly important to labor in the $8.5 billion spending plan are the investments in education and infrastructure Chafee has proposed to help the state continue its climb out of the recession. In particular, Chafee called for a $125 million bond for a new engineering building at the University of Rhode Island and a $75 million bond for cleaning up brownfields. He is also calling for a $40 million bond for the state’s “mass transit hub infrastructure,” and a $35 million bond to renovate “arts and historical facilities,” according to news reports. In all, $275 million in new state borrowing was requested. The president of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council, Michael Sabitoni, said the labor group supports all of the bond questions. Sabitoni said the proposed projects would help the state in its economic recovery, attracting new businesses and private investment in the state. “If we don’t invest in ourselves, then how do we expect other people to come and invest in us?” he said.

Other issues: testing to contracts Besides pensions, a number of other issues are being advocated by labor this session. They include: Testing: The importance of standardized tests like the NECAP will be a focus of local teacher unions, according to Jim Parisi, a lobbyist for the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. “We are hoping to address the over-reliance on standardized [testing] as it relates to students graduating from high school and as it relates to teacher evaluations,” Parisi said. There are a number of possible approaches, he said, ranging from a complete prohibition to a moratorium while the issue is studied further. Teacher contracts: This year, teachers will press for a new law mandating that teachers will continue to work under the provisions of their old contract if it has expired and a new one has yet to be approved, according to Parisi. Although the continuation of contracts is already established by case law, school districts may not feel bound to follow it, especially after East Providence instituted unilateral changes to an expired teacher contract several years ago. Teacher unions are hoping that a new law will ensure other districts don’t follow suit. Independent Contractors: The Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council is hoping to close the last of a series of loopholes in the state’s wage and worker misclassification laws, according to Sabitoni. The proposed law would create a presumption that a worker is a full-time employee unless it can be proven otherwise. The intent, Sabitoni has said, it to prevent businesses from abusing the law by classifying their workers as independent contractors when, in fact, they are really full-time workers. The bill has been on the building trades’ wish list for a number of years.

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Developmentally Disabled Services: In addition to teacher contracts and testing, the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals will also press for increased funding for the state’s services for those with developmental disabilities, Parisi said. Although state lawmakers have restored some funding, they have not made up for the deep cut made several years ago—let alone enhance funding for those programs, Parisi said.

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Minimum Wage: Although the state minimum wage just increased to $8 an hour, labor is going to press for another increase, according to Maureen Martin, the secretary-treasurer for the Rhode Island AFL-CIO. At last fall’s convention, the AFL-CIO delegates passed a resolution calling for the minimum wage to be hiked to $8.50 an hour.

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Apprentices: The building and construction trades will also press for a new law mandating that publicly funded projects of $1 million or more reserve more than 15 percent of their manhours for apprentices. Sabitoni described it simply as “sound policy” to Member ATU have the industry train the workforce of tomorrow. He also noted that the law grants Local don’t 618have to exceptions where necessary: smaller businesses with just a few employees abide by it and the chief purchasing officer for a construction project can also waive it (401) if necessary, according to Sabitoni.

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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

Protecting Workers from Cold Weather Hazards By James Celenza, Director of RICOSH The first thing that happens to people when they are exposed to cold is their skin gets cold. Blood vessels in the skin and the extremities (nose, toes, fingers, and ears) constrict to reduce heat loss. We may begin to shiver if we continue to lose heat: shivering produces extra heat. Prolonged exposure to cold, however, (especially with increasing wetness or moisture) can soon overwhelm this simple benevolent strategy. As more heat is lost from our bodies, we become tired and fatigued easily. And, as the body gets cold, major organs such as the brain and the heart will conspire to consume and preserve body heat so blood flow to the extremities is reduced. And reactions become sluggish and clumsy. As a result, events like slips, trips, and falls, and objects being dropped, if we work near— or drive moving vehicles—pose more of a threat. Fluids in our tissue can actually freeze. This is what is meant by “frostbite”. The most common targets of frostbite are the extremities (nose, ears, fingers, and toes). Trench foot is a condition like frostbite where the feet become swollen and itchy, and then very painful. Extreme or prolonged cold exposure (usually com-

bined with demanding physical activity) can induce hypothermia, a life-threatening disorder. In severe cases of hypothermia, the brain is affected and victims are unable to think clearly or move well, which can further worsen their situation. Warning signs of hypothermia are shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. In hypothermia, the body fails to retain and produce heat and core temperatures fall. The victim will shiver uncontrollably, the pulse will drop and, as the condition worsens, shivering stops and pulse rate, blood pressure, and respiration rates fall significantly. The lungs fill with fluid (this is called pulmonary edema) and the heart gives out completely. Safety Procedures for Cold Weather Work • Provide heated trailers, shelters, or other warm areas, and take frequent breaks. • Schedule outdoor work during the warmest part of the day, and plan a work/rest schedule to avoid prolonged exposure to the cold.

should assemble a disaster supplies kit located in the vehicle when storm warnings are issued. • Shield work areas from the wind. • Employers should provide general and spot heating when tasks require prolonged exposure, especially fine work that requires bare hands. • Wear insulated, layered clothing and keep tabs on anyone in the cold environment, especially near water. • Regular fluid replacement. Make sure it is warm, caffeine-free, and non-alcoholic. Also, no tobacco. (The danger of hypothermia is increased by using alcohol and certain drugs like sedatives.) • Workers should be made aware of the signs of cold disorders and be trained in appropriate first aid techniques. Victims of hypothermia can be revived. • At the beginning of each winter season, hold a meeting to review cold hazards and procedures to be followed to prevent injury.

• Workers traveling during excessive cold weather

Sentinel Group Announces Lobbying Services Starting January 1, 2014 the Sentinel Group announces that it will be offering lobbying services and government relations. The Sentinel Group, headed by former state Senator John J. Tassoni, will be available for lobbying at the General Assembly, the state executive branch, for federal contracts, and for any other government relations services that may be needed. For more information, call 401-451-1305 or e-mail john@jtsentinelgroup.com


Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

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Rhode Island Teamsters Elect New Leadership By Common Ground Staff In a dramatic election upheaval, the leadership of one of the state’s largest unions has been voted out of office in favor of a new generation. After nearly a decade under Joe Bairos, Teamsters Local 251 has a new secretary-treasurer and slate of officers, after an election last fall. The new secretarytreasurer is Matthew Taibi, a former shop steward and 15-year veteran of the Teamsters. Paul Santos has also been elected the president and business agent, along with three new business agents and five new executive board members (see below for complete bios). Taibi said his slate of candidates, known as “United Action,” had run on a platform of increasing member involvement and directing more resources to the benefit of all members. By resources, the candidates particularly had in mind some of the salaries that Bairos and other officers had been earning. “We felt, for the level of representation, officer salaries were excessive,” Taibi said. Taibi and his team have promised to cut officer salaries by $250,000 a year, spending the savings on more education for stewards and agents and programs that engender increased member participation. Previ-

ously, the top two officers had earned about $150,000 each. That pay has now been drastically cut, by about $50,000 for each one, according to Taibi. Already within weeks of taking office, the signs of the change were obvious. When a reporter first called into to request an interview for Taibi, the automatic answering service offered options in not only English and Spanish—but also Portuguese. It’s all part of one of their campaign promises: to make union information available to their Spanish and Portuguese speaking members. The overthrow of the old leadership may be shocking to outsiders, but it was not sudden. Instead, the election results had their roots in a campaign Taibi and others launched early in 2013, to change the union bylaws. They called for shop steward elections rather than appointments, and also a voice for membership in the selection of who sat on the contract negotiating committees. In short, the campaign sought to bring more democracy and accountability to Local 251, Taibi said. The reformers did not get the necessary superma-

jority to force their changes, but Taibi says the union leaders could have adopted the changes on their own initiative. When they didn’t, “it really further cemented … the members’ viewpoint towards the previous administration,” he said. The election drew 2,751 voters—about a 54 percent turnout, which Taibi described as unusually high. Taibi won with 1,317 of the votes against 1,205 for Bairos. Santos edged out his predecessor, Kevin Reddy with an even larger margin, with a vote of 1,362 to 1,152, according to the certified election results. In a previous interview with Common Ground, Bairos had criticized Taibi and his slate for their lack of experience. Asked to respond, Taibi said that most of his slate had been shop stewards or organizers to varying degrees—but none had been business agents before. “There were no other avenues for us, so we exercised our right to run for office,” Taibi said. With over 5,700 members, Local 251 is one of the largest unions in Rhode Island. It is also one of the most diverse, particularly in terms of the various occupations it represents, which include workers at UPS and Rhode See Teamsters cont. on page 16


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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

Honoring Those Who Served Submitted by Phoenix House So many veterans who have risked their lives for our country have, as a consequence, developed addictions which threaten to destroy the future they fought so hard to protect. Phoenix House New England is proud to include in its broad range of care recovery housing specifically designated for U.S. veterans transitioning back into the community. Rhode Island has the second largest per capita number of deployed National Guard members in the United States, representing all branches of the military. While many veterans returning home have in place all the support they need to reintegrate into civilian life, a growing number of our veterans are finding the transition much more difficult. Many returning soldiers have been physically or psychologically injured while overseas and suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries, depression, and anxiety, as well as other challenges. For many, these factors

may exacerbate a pre-existing substance use disorder or cause its development. This, in turn, may lead to involvement with the criminal justice system, leading to a criminal record and dwindling opportunities for employment. Without the proper intervention, these unfortunate veterans face an endless cycle of recidivism and lost hopes and dreams. In an effort to support our veterans returning from deployment, Phoenix House New England will open Honor House in February 2014 to provide permanent sober housing specifically for veterans. Honor House will join eight recovery houses throughout Rhode Island operated by the Rhode Island Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependence (RICAODD), a Phoenix House program. Honor House, a four-bed permanent housing facility, will provide a safe, supportive, affordable, substance-free environment to help veterans in longterm recovery from drug and alcohol

abuse make the transition from recovery housing to independent living. The goal of recovery housing is to help each client learn to live independently with all the support needed to ensure sustained abstinence from substance use and a healthy and productive life. Each veteran is assigned a case manager who oversees his or her transition to independent living. This process may take anywhere from six months to two years, depending on individual needs. The case manager helps the client develop both short- and long-term goals focused on building and maintaining sobriety. This is accomplished through participation in 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Narcotics Anonymous. The case manager helps clients build their support networks, receive medical, mental health, and substance abuse treatment, secure employment, reconnect with family and friends, and eventually transition into the community.

Along the way, should there be a threat of relapse, the client is fully supported by the entire continuum of care available at Phoenix House and may immediately be admitted to the level of care needed. Through a grant from a member of the Phoenix House Foundation Board of Directors, financial assistance is available for veterans in need. Phoenix House employee and veteran to run in Boston Marathon In January 2014, Phoenix House welcomed to its staff Nicholas Sousa, a disabled Marine veteran, with specific responsibility for veterans entering recovery housing and transitioning into permanent housing. Sousa, 27, is an Iraq war veteran currently obtaining his Bachelor’s degree in psychology with plans to earn a Master’s degree. Sousa See Veterans cont. on page 7

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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

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Veterans cont. from page 6 served in the Marines from 2005 to 2010. In the process of training, Sousa injured his ankle which required reconstructive surgery, and he was told that he may never run again. However, Sousa did recover his ability to run and he intends to compete in the Boston Marathon in April 2014. He has been accepted as one of three people who will run to support The Journey Forward, a charity based in Canton, Massachusetts, which assists individuals recovering from debilitating injuries. He is committed to raising $7,500 on behalf of the charity by April 1, 2014. To contribute to Nicholas Sousa’s race to support The Journey Forward, donations may be made online through his Facebook page and the crowd-funding site crowdrise. com. Anyone who would like to contribute may search for Nicholas Sousa on that site. About us: Phoenix Houses New England offers a full continuum of care for its clients in the state of Rhode Island. Our programming provides a broad spectrum of services to adults that includes medically monitored detoxification, both long- and short-term gender-specific residential treatment, outpatient treatment, recovery housing, and education and prevention services. For more information about Phoenix House New England, visit www.phoenixhouse.org. For more information about recovery housing for veterans, please contact Heather Cabral at 401-725-0410.

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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

Brotherhood of Correctional Officers Elects New Leaders By Common Ground Staff The Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers has elected a new slate of leaders who say they will be more proactive in dealing with management and educating the public about issues they face in their workplace. In the election, now-former President David Mellon

was edged out by Richard Ferrucio, himself a former holder of that office. “I’m the new old group,” Ferruccio quipped in an interview. The slate of newly elected officers includes: John Lavery, as first vice president; Mike McKenna, second vice president; Michael Hogan,

secretary-treasurer; Richard Hahn, financial secretary, and John Meehan, recording secretary. Now on the executive board are: Byron Blackmar, Bill Bove, John Bray, Jacob Crane, Manny Leander, Joe Pelletier, and Dave Pezza. Rounding out the leadership team are Josh Macomber, the

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executive officer-supervisory, and Chris Box, the executive officer-professional. The new officers and board members took office in December and will serve for two-year terms. During that time, they plan to be much more active than the local leadership has been recently, according to Ferruccio. “You’re going to see a more active approach,” he told Common Ground— a recurring theme during his interview that applied to everything from labor-management relations to public relations. A key emphasis, he said, will be raising public awareness about issues within the state prison system that have an impact on public safety inside—and outside it. For example, he has expressed concern that recent overcrowding due to the closure of a facility has periodically caused 40 to 50 inmates to sleep on the floor at the intake service center at the state prison complex in Cranston. Not only is such a situation unsafe for the corrections officers he represents—but it’s also unsafe for the prisoners, according to Ferruccio. “It’s unacceptable,” he said. “It’s bad correctional practice.” One issue that Ferruccio has been personally outspoken about is the “good time” that is awarded to inmates, shortening their sentences. He has warned against increases to the amount of good time that can be earned in any given month. The current formula adds days for good behavior, as well as days

for jobs and the completion of any prison educational or behavioral programs. It is possible, according to Ferruccio, for an inmate to receive more in “good time” days per month then there are actual days in that month. (For example, an inmate could earn up to 67 good-time days in a 30-day period.) “It’s that type of compounding of good time that has reduced the prison population,” Ferruccio said. But, while taxpayers may save money in prison costs, they are paying for it in their communities, Ferruccio says. “There’s a cost … to every crime and someone has to pay that,” he said. It’s something that weighs on his mind every time he reads another report about a home invasion or a shooting. “I question whether a working criminal justice system could have prevented that,” Ferruccio said. “[I think] it would have.” In raising such issues, critics may accuse him, Ferruccio said, of trying to get more overtime or boost staffing inside prisons. But he says he is speaking out of conscience— and a sense that he is obligated to share with the public what he has learned from the unique vantage point he has on the how the state penal system works. “When you see something is wrong, you start to wonder why does nobody else see it?” Ferruccio said. “I think part of our responsibility is to share what we see on a regular basis.”


Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

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RI State Nurses Association Hires Tassoni, Lopes

Hon. John Tassoni (above) and Leonard Lopes (below) will represent the Rhode Island State Nurses Association in the General Assembly this legislative session.

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island State Nurses Association is excited to announce Leonard Lopes and the Hon. John Tassoni will represent the association in the upcoming legislative session. Both men bring invaluable experience as legislative and executive representatives. Lopes is a lawyer and lobbyist who is President of the Providence-based firm, The Victor Group. Tassoni, now President of The Sentinel Group, represented Smithfield as a Democratic Senator from 2001-2012, serving as Deputy Majority Leader during his tenure. He is also the publisher of Common Ground. Tassoni and Lopes will be lobbying the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, on issues, policies, and legislation that affect the nursing profession in Rhode Island. The Rhode Island State Nurses Association, a constituent member of the American Nurses Association, provides leadership and advocacy to the nursing commu-

Brett LaPlante Organizer/Agent

nity on issues related to the profession. This is the first time RISNA will be represented by lobbyists in both chambers of the legislature. Lopes believes that the presence of two lobbyists at the Statehouse will benefit RISNA, citing the value of different points of view. “John Tassoni brings an intimate and internal knowledge of the legislature which complements my years of experience as a lobbyist.” Tassoni, who in addition to his work at The Sentinel Group is also President of Mediation Services of Rhode Island, has stated that he will utilize his skills as a professional mediator in order to “bring consensus to differing parties.” When asked what excites them most about representing RISNA in the General Assembly, both Tassoni and Lopes cited their deep respect for the profession of nursing and their appreciation for the work done by the members and leadership of RISNA. Donna Policastro, Executive Direc-

John McMullen Business Agent

tor of RISNA, also expressed excitement for this new partnership. “The presence of two lobbyists working on behalf of RISNA at the Statehouse will be an invaluable asset,” she said. “I am confident that the combined experience and expertise of our two lobbyists will benefit all the nurses of Rhode Island.” About us: The Rhode Island State Nurses Association (RISNA), a constituent member of the American Nurses Association (ANA), is the authority on matters concerning the profession of nursing and nursing practice in the state of Rhode Island. RISNA is dedicated to the promotion, advancement, and protection of nursing, thereby improving the quality of and access to health care in Rhode Island.

Paul Alvarez Business Agent


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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

Looking ahead to the 2014 Elections By John A. Pernorio, President, RI ARA The 2014 elections will raise important issues for Americans. Will we continue to elect representatives that are only concerned with their own agenda, or will we elect Congressional members that will work to make America what it once was, a strong industrial nation that took pride in its workforce? A nation of workers who dream of working and supporting their families with good wages is commonplace, not the exception—a nation of people working together to reach their goals in life, where all generations, past, present and future can look to each other with respect and a helping hand. As we go forward into 2014, we still have many battles to fight for our members and future retirees. The Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans, along with the other New England Alliance for Retired Americans affiliated chapters, will be working on legislation to improve the quality of life for our members. Below are some of our current priorities and initiatives: •

We are working to explore the drafting of legislation that recognizes the need to improve physical access to many federally-funded facilities for all people of the United States, particularly people with disabilities.

We will continue to press for the repeal of the unfair GPO/WEP.

We will continue to fight against cuts to needed services for the elderly and disabled.

We will continue to fight against any and all cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

We will continue our opposition to privatizing Social Security and increasing the Social Security and Medicare eligibility age.

We will keep our elected officials informed on our positions concerning any legislation pertaining to our members.

We will continue to provide information that is important to our members through the RI ARA Weekly E-Newsletter.

We seek to form stronger regional bonds with the other New England ARA states to create a unified front in support of our members.

RI ARA will continue to look for support from local union leaders and their retirees.

Together, we can make this happen. For more information, visit: www.ri-ara.org

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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

Page 11

A Long Wish List of Unfunded Transportation Projects By Barry Schiller We have all heard about Rhode Island’s roads and bridges needing repair, and indeed some of that is underway or funded, including the Providence Viaduct and about 34 other bridges through 2016. Similarly, it seems the Apponaug bypass, and improvements to the Pell Bridge access, Route 138, Hartford Avenue, and Route 115 are funded, as are a highway safety program and an ongoing resurfacing program for interstates and about 40 other roads. But the state, cities, towns, and advocacy groups have a long list of desired projects that still have no identified funding. Perhaps most expensive is rebuilding the Route 6-10 interchange near Olneyville, with estimated costs up to $500 million. Besides finding funding, it will also be a challenge to accommodate the neighborhood and keep traffic moving. Other noteworthy highway intersection projects needing funding include Route 4 to Interstate 95 South, I-195 at Taunton Avenue, West Davisville on Route 403, I-95 at Thurbers Avenue, Route 146 at Route 116, and overpasses at the three Route 4 lights and on Route 146 at the traffic light at Sayles Hill Road. Also on the wish list are: reconstruction of Broad Street in Cumberland, School Street in Lincoln, parts of Route 5 and Post Road, Main Road in Tiverton, Coronado Road in Warwick, Atlantic Av-

enue in Westerly, the extension of Burma Road, and reopening Westminster Street to traffic between Empire and Green in Providence. Also not yet funded are improvements to Routes 94, 104, 114, 126, Fruit Hill and New London Avenues, and Bridgetown, Highland, Old Town, and Potter Hill Roads. A Pawtuxet Riverwalk, a Waterfront Drive connector to Newport Avenue in East Providence, and a very long list of local road improvements, hazard eliminations, and sidewalk requests from all over the state are also on this list. Some have advocated widening all of I-295 and I-95 all the way to Connecticut to six lanes, but there is not even an estimate of its cost. Extending our bike path network also has many advocates, and though a few projects such as extending the Coventry Greenway and a bike-pedestrian bridge in Providence are apparently funded, finishing the Blackstone bikeway is not, even though it might help promote a national park in the Blackstone Valley and it was a high priority of the area cities. It seems finishing the South County Bike Path all the way to the coast will need additional funds beyond its remaining earmark. Aquidneck Island has planners, bike advocates, and local government hoping for a bike path along the western shore and smaller projects are sought by Burrillville, Coventry, Jamestown, Tiverton, Warren,

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Warwick, West Warwick, and URI. There is a long unfunded wish list for our railroad system too. Pawtucket interests are advocating a commuter rail station there. Woonsocket is interested in establishing rail service and Cranston has asked for a commuter stop. The state would like a shuttle train between Providence and the T.F. Green Airport station and some would like an Amtrak station there, in part to expand the marketability of our airport. Capacity constraints may indicate a need for a third track in the corridor all the way to Kingston. Providence and RIPTA seek to start a streetcar system. Improvements to the freight rail system are sought at Quonset and the Port of Providence. There are a lot of potential jobs and transportation benefits to many proposed projects but those favoring them will have to help find funding or be very patient. With the backlog of repairs needed and the political obstacles to tolls, increasing the gas tax, or any other additional source of funding, it won’t be easy or quick to get these projects done. Barry Schiller is a member of the State Planning Council’s Transportation Advisory Committee and can be reached at bschiller@localnet.com


Page 12

Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

5 Things to Know about Scholarships By the Crush College Debt Team Scholarship searching should be an important part of everyone’s college funding plan. Start your scholarship searching early. This will give you time to learn how to effectively search and win scholarships! Here are the basic five things you should know about scholarships. 1. Scholarship deadlines are NOT just in January or June. Scholarship deadlines are sprinkled throughout the year. This means you should be searching and applying for scholarships all year long! 2. Always search for scholarships at your chosen college. Once you know where you will be attending use MeritAid.com to search for college-specific scholarships at your top college choices. 3. When you apply for financial aid, it is a gateway to state, as well as institutional aid and scholarships! Most states use your FAFSA data

to determine state grants and scholarship eligibility. Always file financial aid by your college’s priority deadline. These deadlines varies greatly from college to college, so be sure to research each college deadline well ahead of time. 4. Scholarship applications do NOT all require long essays or applications. Many scholarship committees use short online applications to help them determine winners more quickly. 5. Most colleges do NOT penalize students that win scholarships by lowering their financial aid. This is a common misconception. Every college will have its own scholarship policy, but most colleges are pro-scholarships. It is important to start searching early when it comes to scholarships and continue to do this throughout your time in college. Most students give up looking for scholarships after the first year in college. This is why there is always less competition for upper class-

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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

Page 13

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With an influx of formerly incarcerated individuals re-entering our communities and transitioning from parole and probation, finding the right location can be a real estate conundrum. Individuals being released on probation and parole back into our communities are in need of facilities for offices, processing, counseling, job training and placement, as well as living arrangements. In a three-part series, the Alliance for Safe Communities will review three separate incidents where communities clashed with re-entry agendas within the last four years. The first and most recently highlighted incident was in Providence’s downtown business district. The plan involved transferring the supervision of prisoners on parole and probation from the Urban League headquarters at 246 Prairie Avenue to vacant office space that was the former home of the General Treasurer’s office. The state Properties Committee voted to allow the Department of Corrections to sidestep the formal proposals process and enter into lease negotiations with Emanon Associates LP, owner of the Fountain Street building. Note that this agreement did not allow for the proper protocol for a proposal process with public meetings and notifications to entities such as the Providence Chamber of Commerce, the downtown community, and the Providence Police Department. This lack of transparency attached to the re-entry agenda is not an uncommon incident and has begun to strain the tolerance of taxpayers, communities impacted, and law-abiding citizens. Angus Davis, the chief executive officer of Swipely, a high-tech firm on Dorrance Street, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, and state Rep. John Lombardi were all very vocal in questioning the appropriateness of the new location for these services. As one official said, “When investing in an area one must look to public health, safety, and welfare in order to effect a rational decision.” Davis spoke a bit more harshly, referring to the facility as a “government-mandated criminal convention center on Fountain St.” In a letter to the Governor, Davis pointed out that the new facility would provide services to 1,500 convicted criminals in the heart of the city. Davis expressed concern for his 80 employees. He pointed out that the population served included violent criminals, and noted a recidivism rate among those who sought services at this facility. Although we cannot quantify Davis’ statistics, The Alliance for Safe Communities can share some basic statistics regarding the overall total statewide numbers of parolees and probationers that may shock Rhode Islanders. The state Department of Corrections summary statistics last posted on February 2013 list a grand total of 24,763 individuals on probation and parole in Rhode. That figure may seem disturbing to many as will the fact that only 8,383 of that total are under “Active Supervision” in the state. Rhode Island is ranked third nationwide for highest rates of formerly incarcerated on probation and parole. Recidivism rates are often referenced in the low range but actual raw data from the DOC Intake Facility paints a much different picture (see Outrage Volume 3 at www.asc-ri.org). The ratios of parole officers’ caseloads to specific type of crimes are also disturbing. Among the most overwhelmed caseloads are those for two of the most heinous crimes, domestic violence and sex offenses (http://www.doc.ri.gov/ administration/planning/docs/PP%20Statistics%20%2002-13.pdf ). After a public protest, Governor Lincoln Chafee’s administration announced JanuSee Offender cont. on page 15


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Common Ground

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Offender cont. from page 13

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ary 6 that it instead will seek proposals for housing the probation and parole offices. It would seem that the business district has won the battle against having this facility located in the epicenter of their city. Tourism will not be diminished due to the presence of this transitional population and employees and business owners will feel safer. I applaud the collective effort for addressing and assuring that this endeavor was a “bad idea” at the least. Not all districts can exert this much input as to where these types of facilities are placed by flexing their muscles. Next month, the Alliance will share with you the story of another type of facility: the re-entry headquarters and apartments for the multimillion-dollar nonprofit, “Open Doors.” Silver Lake Providence experienced a similar non-transparent and insidious location of a building with a much different outcome. I would caution those engaged in the most recent victory. There will be a new location sought, and hopefully with transparency and community input. The larger issue to consider is that a statewide problem exists and is not going away. The statistics offered by the Alliance for Safe Communities and the Department of Corrections data show that this large percentage of formerly incarcerated are returning to our communities. Re-entry is not happening on Pontiac Avenue Cranston, or the grounds of the ACI where most Rhode Islanders would prefer. Reentry may just happen in your own backyard—in fact, it is. With no public database as to how many or where the state’s halfway houses are located, the Alliance has warned for three years that communities would become inundated. The Providence business district’s battle is but one chapter to this story. Rhode Islanders need to realize that no matter where this one facility is located, it is the taxpayers “footing the tab” on a much larger statewide fiscal burden. Perhaps you may not be impacted with a facility in your backyard, but you most assuredly are burdened with the cost of its eventual destination for each and every client served.

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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

Teamsters cont. from page 5 Island Hospital along with some who work in manufacturing or for local cities and towns. Bairos had been at the helm of Local 251 in some capacity for about two decades. Asked if he planned to run again after his three-year term expires, Taibi said he did. “I plan on serving my members as long as I’m effective and as long as my members want me to serve,” he said. Teamsters Local 251: Meet the New Officers and Board Members Matthew Taibi, Secretary-Treasurer, has been an active Teamster of 15 years at United Parcel Service, where he served as a shop steward, and previously at SuperValu. Matt has taken extensive labor education courses in union representation and organizing. He has a degree in Business Administration. Paul Santos, President/Business Agent, has been at Rhode Island Hospital for almost 27 years and is a 20-year Teamster. He is an experienced union representative, organizer, and true union man. Paul was a leader on the Organizing Committee that brought the union to the hospital and served as a shop steward and union liaison.

Matthew Taibi Secretary-Treasurer, Principal Executive Officer, Executive Board Paul Santos President & Business Agent, Executive Board

Business Agents Eddie Carreiro started working at Rhode Island Hospital in 1990 and has been a Teamster since 1994. Eddie was one of the original leaders that helped organize Rhode Island Hospital. He has served as a shop steward and as a member of the Local 251 Strike Force, which provided solidarity and support on picket lines. Matthew Maini has been a UPS Teamster for 20 years. He has previously served as a shop steward and member of the Local 251 Strike Force. As a Teamster Organizer, Matt helped bring new members into our union. Matt served in the U.S. Navy before going to work at UPS in 1994. Al Torigian has been a Teamster for almost 25 years at United Parcel Service where he is a package car driver. Al was a leader on the picket line during the 1997 strike that won UPS’ best contract. In addition to the Teamsters, Al was a member of the United Electrical Workers (UE) for 16 years at General Electric.

Executive Board Members Tony Suazo, Vice President, has worked at Rhode Island Hospital for nearly 19 years. Sandra Cabral, Recording Secretary, has worked at Rhode Island Hospital for nearly 12 years. Carl Chicoine, Trustee, has worked at Rhode Island Hospital for 38 years. He was on the original union organizing committee for the hospital and has served as a shop steward. Decio Goulart, Trustee, works in the Laundry Department at Rhode Island Hospital and has been a Teamster for 9 years. Matthew Martins, Trustee, works in the Power Plant at Rhode Island Hospital as a Teamster electrician. Officer and board member profiles are taken from their campaign site: www.251unitedaction.org

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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

Page 17

Local Doctor Holds Clothing Drive for House of Hope By Common Ground Staff

A local chiropractic doctor is lending a helping hand to those in need. Last fall, in the six weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, Twin River Chiropractic held a clothing drive for House of Hope, an organization in Warwick that seeks to end homelessness. The Smithfield-based business ended up collecting 25 to 30 bags from patients—enough to fill the entire back office and spill over into the adjustment room, according to Dr. Steven D’Antonio, who owns the business with his wife and fellow doctor Jennifer D’Antonio. Given the cold weather, some contributed winter gear, while others donated regular shirts and pants, according to D’Antonio. “We had people bring all kinds of stuff,” he said. D’Antonio said he usually picks a different charity to help out each year during the holiday season. He says he is motivated by a desire to help out others—a spirit that he says was instilled by a martial arts instructor who once told him, “Your life is not yours alone. It belongs to your friends, your family, and your community.” He chose House of Hope this year at the recommendation of former state Senator John Tassoni, the publisher of Common Ground. D’Antonio said he prefers to help

out local charities because of the greater impact that is seen in the local community. Next year, instead of switching to another charity, he said he hopes to again contribute to House of Hope. “It’s always good to have charities like that to help out,” he said.

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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

Federal Emergency Unemployment Benefits Expire for Thousands Congressional News Releases PAWTUCKET – As of December 28, unemployment insurance benefits expired for nearly 5,000 Rhode Islanders, with double as many expected to lose their benefits over the last month, according to U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s office. Whitehouse, along with Senator Jack Reed, both Rhode Island Democrats, have been pushing for an extension of the benefits. “Even with the worst of the recession behind us, too many Rhode Islanders have been unable to find work. Emergency unemployment benefits help families stay in their homes and put food on the table while they search for jobs, and we should make sure these benefits remain available for those who need them,” Whitehouse said in a news

release. On the House side, Congressman David Cicilline, D-RI, announced late December that he was introducing a bill to extend federal emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) and called upon the House Speaker to act immediately. As of this writing, Congress had still not agreed to an extension of the unemployment insurance benefits. Overall, an estimated 1.3 million Americans have stopped receiving federal emergency unemployment benefits. “The day the Republican-led Congress skipped town for the holidays it left behind 1.3 million Americans who rely upon this assistance to survive as they continue to look for work. Nearly 5,000 Rhode Islanders who have al-

ready exhausted their state benefits are now without their last safety net,” Cicilline said at a press conference held at his district office in Pawtucket. “I’m not giving up this fight until we renew emergency unemployment benefits for people struggling to find work. We can’t turn our back on more than a million Americans, especially in Rhode Island where our unemployment rate is the highest in the nation.” Until December 28, Rhode Islanders who had exhausted their 26 weeks of unemployment benefits from the state were eligible to receive an additional 47 weeks of federal benefits. If Congress fails to extend federal EUC, 4.9 million Americans, including 21,700 Rhode Islanders over the course of 2014, will be affected, according to the Center on

Budget and Policy Priorities Analysis of the budget deal. The Economic Policy Institute has estimated that failure to extend Unemployment Insurance could cost the national economy 310,000 jobs over the course of the coming year. “I voted against the budget, which was the last vote Congress took before adjourning for the year because it failed to include an extension of these critical benefits. The minute Congress is back in session on January 7 I will introduce a bill to retroactively extend these benefits and make sure it is paid for by eliminating unnecessary subsidies and closing corporate tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas. I have written a letter to Speaker Boehner asking that he take up this bill immediately upon our return,” Cicilline said. See Cicilline cont. on page 19


Common Ground Cicilline cont. from page 18 Rhode Islanders in the First District can contact Cicilline’s Pawtucket Office at 729-5600 to receive more information regarding the expiration of Emergency Unemployment Compensation and to find other ways to receive state and federal aid. Below is a copy of the remarks Cicilline delivered at a press conference on December 28: Today I am standing with my constituents to talk about the importance of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation that expires today and that lawmakers in Washington left town without addressing or renewing. The day the Republican-led Congress skipped town for the holidays it left behind 1.3 million Americans who depend on this assistance to survive as they continue to look for work. Nearly 5,000 Rhode Islanders who have already exhausted all of their state benefits are now without any income to meet their

basic needs, no safety net at all. These are individuals who have worked hard, played by the rules, but have been hard hit by the Great Recession. There are just not enough jobs for those looking for work I am here today to make it clear that I’m not giving up this fight until we renew emergency unemployment benefits for people struggling to find work. We can’t turn our back on more than a million Americans, especially in Rhode Island where our unemployment rate is the highest in the nation. Until today, Rhode Islanders who had exhausted their 26 weeks of unemployment benefits from the state were eligible to receive an additional 47 weeks of federal benefits. Constituents like Rhonda from Rumford who has worked all her life, sometimes with more than one job, to make ends meet. She needs our help and she needs it today. Constituents

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like Rhonda don’t need a fix from Congress in a few weeks, they need help to buy groceries and keep a roof over their children’s heads. If Congress fails to extend federal EUC, 4.9 million Americans, including 21,700 Rhode Islanders over the course of 2014, will be affected, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Analysis of the budget deal. Failure to extend Unemployment Insurance is not only devastating for individuals, but will hurt our economic recovery. The Economic Policy Institute has estimated that failure to extend Unemployment Insurance could cost the national economy 310,000 jobs over the course of the coming year. These people have written to me and called my office with stories of hard work and dedication and their efforts to support themselves and their families. Erica of North Providence wrote saying: “One month of help can be the difference between someone getting a job and getting back on their feet or falling further into debt and hopelessness. I know this from repeated personal experience. I have hope that someday I will

Page 19

be able to help others instead of needing that help. But right now, I need help. I am genuinely terrified.” I voted against the budget, which was the last vote Congress took before adjourning for the year because it failed to include an extension of these critical benefits. The minute Congress is back in session on January 7 I will introduce a bill to retroactively extend these benefits and make sure it is paid for by eliminating unnecessary subsidies and closing corporate tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas. I have written to Speaker Boehner today, asking that he take this bill up immediately upon our return to Congress. I want to thank my constituents gathered here today for taking the time to tell their stories and I want you to hear what I have heard over the past months. Lawmakers in Washington need to understand the urgency and essential nature of these benefits and act now to help the more than one million Americans who are fighting for their lives.

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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2013

Rhode Island Now Tops the Nation in Unemployment Common Ground Staff with State Reports It’s no longer a tie. In December, the unemployment rate in Rhode Island increased by a tenth of a point to 9.1 percent, edging out Nevada, with which the Ocean State had been tied at 9 percent in the November, according to state data. While the situation worsened in Rhode Island, Nevada actually approved in December, dropping to an unemployment rate of 8.8 percent, but still ranking second worst in the nation. Illinois ranks third at 8.6 percent. The next worst New England state is Connecticut, at an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent. In Massachusetts, the rate is an even 7 percent. On the other end of the spectrum,

the state with the lowest unemployment rate is North Dakota, at 2.6 percent, followed by Nebraska, at 3.6 percent. The overall U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in December 2013, down three-tenths of a point from the previous month and down one and two-tenths points over the year.

dents declined by 700 over the month, decreasing to 500,700 in December. Over the year, the number of employed residents dropped 6,900 from December 2012. The state labor force totaled 550,500 in December 2013, down 300 from November 2013 and down 12,700 from December 2012.

How many are still looking for work? In Rhode Island, the number of unemployed residents—those classified as available for and actively seeking employment—was 49,900, up 400 from the previous month. Over the year, the number of unemployed dropped by 5,700. The number of employed resi-

Jobs based in Rhode Island Estimated nonfarm payroll in Rhode Island totaled 469,200 in December, reflecting a loss of 1,500 jobs from the November revised employment estimate of 470,700. Prior to the December decline, the local economy had experienced four consecutive months of

growth totaling 4,600 jobs. Over the year, jobs were up 3,600 since December 2012. The Educational Services, Construction and Other Services sectors each reported a loss of 400 jobs. The drop in Educational Services can be attributed to colleges and universities, which break for winter recess in December. Construction declines were mostly felt among specialty trade contractors, while the Other Services sector reported payroll declines in repair and maintenance services. Elsewhere, employment declines were also reported in Financial Activities (-300), Professional and Business Services (-200), Health Care and Social See Unemployment cont. on page 22

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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

Unemployment cont. from page 20 Assistance (-200), Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation (-100), and Mining and Logging (-100). Offsetting some of the December losses were job gains reported in the Accommodation and Food Services (+300), Retail Trade (+200), and Manufacturing (+100) sectors. Employment in the Information, Transportation, and Utilities, Wholesale Trade, and Government sectors remained unchanged. Over the year, total nonfarm employment rose by 3,600, as job gains appeared in seven economic sectors. The largest gain was reported in the Professional and Business Services (+1,400) sector, followed by Accommodation and Food Services (+1,000), Retail Trade (+900), Construction (+700) and Arts, Entertainment and Recreation (+700). Smaller over-the-year gains were also reported in the Manufacturing (+300) and Transportation and Utilities (+100) sectors. Employment in five sectors—Other

Services (-900), Government (-200), Health Care and Social Assistance (-200), Educational Services (-100), and Information (-100)—was down over the year. The state of manufacturing In December 2013, production workers in the Manufacturing sector earned $19.18 per hour, up 42 cents from November 2013 and up 77 cents from December 2012. Manufacturing employees worked an average of 41.5 hours per week in December, unchanged over the month and up an hour and one tenth from a year ago. About the methodology: The unemployment figures are based largely on a survey of households in Rhode Island and measure the unemployment status of people who live in the state. Unemployment rates prior to 1976 are not recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as official since the methodology used at that time is not comparable to today’s methods. The establishment

Dec. 13

Nov. 13

Dec. 12

9.1% 6.7% 469.2

9.0% 7.0% 470.7

9.9% 7.9% 465.6

RI Unemployment Rate US Unemployment Rate RI Job Count (in thousands) HIGHLIGHTS:

• The RI December unemployment rate increased by one-tenth of a percentage point to 9.1 percent. • RI-based jobs decreased 1,500 over the month, due, in part, to losses in the Educational Services, Construction and Other Services sectors employment figures are derived from a survey of businesses in Rhode Island and measure the number of jobs in the state. Rhode Island labor market information is available at www.dlt.ri.gov/lmi. Additional information on procedures for producing Current Employment Statistics (CES) estimates is available on the BLS Web site at www.bls.gov/sae/ cesprocs.htm. The January labor force figures are scheduled to be released on March 6. About the Department of Labor and

Training: The RI Department of Labor and Training offers employment services, educational services, and economic opportunity to both individuals and employers. The DLT protects Rhode Island’s workforce by enforcing labor laws, prevailing wage rates, and workplace health and safety standards. The department also provides temporary income support to unemployed and temporarily disabled workers. For more information, please call the RI Department of Labor and Training at 401-462-8000 or visit the Web site at www.dlt.ri.gov.


Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

Page 23

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Common Ground

FEBRUARY 2014

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Page 24

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