Sunday, September 09, 2012

Million Dollar Maggie's Concern for Workers

Some years back, the Conway Daily Sun was fined an enormous sum of money by the NH Dept. of Labor. They'd changed their payday schedule for employees from weekly to biweekly. Doesn't seem like a big deal - BUT- they hadn't filled out a form requesting permission from the NH Dept. of Labor to make this change. They were fined for not having that permit in place for 20 years, and it cost a small fortune. They appealed and lost.

I'm a caregiver for an elderly woman. She had been quite hale and hearty, but had a stroke which resulted in some physical limitations. She needed daily care. Her son, who lives in a nearby state was worried sick about his mother, and commuting back and forth from his house to hers, frantically trying to set up care for her while keeping his own business (which had been hit hard by the recession) going. He hired some caregivers. He didn't realize at the time that he was starting a business. He just thought he was taking care of his mother. He got some not-so-great advice from an accountant about things he did and did not have to do. As a result, he didn't do a thing he needed to do, and the NH Dept. of Labor threatened him with a $150,000 fine. That's more than his payroll for two years.

In 2008, a bill to allow businesses to have one free warning from NH Dept. of Labor before being fined went before the NH Senate. It was co-sponsored by Senators Jackie Cilley and Jeb Bradley. It was heard by the Commerce, Labor, and Consumer Protection committee, chaired by then-Senator Maggie Hassan. Hassan was opposed, and the bill failed.

In 2011, after the toxic red tide swept through the NH State House, and the Democrats lost control of everything, the bill was brought back by Senator Bradley and passed easily. New Labor Laws in Effect. The text of the bill; SB 66.

Fast forward to 2012. Maggie Hassan is running for governor of NH. She's raised and spent a million dollars in her campaign, and she's still neck and neck with challenger Jackie Cilley of the grassroots, shoestring budget campaign. The Hassan camp is on a hamster wheel of desperation, throwing out all manner of stuff in an effort to find something that will stick.

For the life of me, though, I can't understand why the Hassan campaign views the failure of that bill as a triumph. I know that they do, because they keep on boasting about it themselves, or they get minions to do it. Hassan has used this bill to attack Jackie Cilley.

Hassan has cast Cilley's work on the bill as anti-worker. She said state labor officials already had the option of warning employers first when the violations were not serious.

"I think it's important to make sure we are being sensitive to those enforcement issues and that we have the right kind of flexibility for the executive branch," Hassan said. "The way I understood this particular bill, was that it was going to prohibit the Department of Labor from imposing financial penalties even when violations were significant and had a real impact on workers' lives."

Now, in a state that has no broad based taxes, creativity is required to scrape up enough cash to run our tiny government and keep our roads passable. A cynical sort might say that the NH Dept. of Labor was assigning enormous fines to bring in funds that no one could call taxes or fees. The kind of fines that could have a devastating impact on a small business.

Were workers being harmed by the Sun's failure to file a permit twenty years earlier? It seems most unlikely.

As for me, if that $150,000 fine had been imposed, my boss would have closed his business and moved in with his mother to care for her. I would have LOST my job which would have had a real impact on my life - thanks to Million Dollar Maggie's concern for workers.


Anonymous said...

The proof is that Jackie Cilley has an A+ rating from the AFL_CIO. Hard to call that anti-labor.

The truth is she is pro-common sense and understands that we all benefit when business and labor work together. She sought to allow a warning and then a double fine for the second offense because then the business knew is was committing a violation.

Isn't the job of a governor to deal with all aspects of our economy?

Anonymous said...

Hassan strikes me as a fine example of the 1%. As it is, I feel there are too many unnecessary forms, red tape and ridiculous hoops to jump for running a small business or even a stand somewhere. Common sense dictates that safety for the public and fairness must prevail, but many of the laws are plain ludicrous and accomplish none of these things. In the end, the 1% enjoy reaping all rewards while the rest of us languish in unemployment or just scraping by.