RECENTLY, we watched with anger as Gov. Chris Sununu referred to people like us as “union bosses” during his televised debrief, simply because our fellow union members were demonstrating for their right to a fair contract. We want to set the record straight on exactly who the union is and what our fight for a contract is all about. With over 33 years of experience at Employment Security combined and one of us on the bargaining team that works to secure a contract for state employees, we speak from a place of knowledge.
Over a week ago, dozens of union members participated in a car rally where we beeped and honked outside of the State House in support for a contract that includes fair wages. Gov. Sununu — knowing full well that state employees have been out of contract for almost a year — told us during a recent press conference to “get your priorities straight.” He used the pandemic as a cover for why he is unwilling to give us a very modest wage recommendation that a neutral third party had advised his team to agree to.
To be clear, this neutral third party recommendation for low wage earners — the laundry aides at the state hospitals, the cooks at the veterans home, the highway maintainers who keep our highways cleared — results in a wage increase that averages 38 cents an hour over the life of a two-year contract! You read that correctly — Gov. Sununu wants the public to believe that state employees are not worth upgrading their earnings by 38 cents an hour. He said he can’t give us any raises because 100,000 New Hampshire citizens are out of work.
Yes, we know that 100,000 Granite Staters are out of work. We are processing those unemployment claims along with hundreds of other state employees. We work long days, seven days a week, to process those claims because we know that our neighbors, family, and friends rely on us so that they can keep going during these tough times. Are we still not worth a 38-cent upgrade?
Sununu likes to speak in deceptive language — he said in his briefing that he had offered us $8 million dollars. First, let’s be clear: no single state employee was offered $8 million dollars and declined. Secondly, $8 million dollars for low wage earners comes out to an average increase of 23 cents an hour. Why would these state employees take that offer when a neutral third party advised the governor’s team to agree to more?
The governor either takes us as fools or doesn’t understand the bargaining process. Either scenario is alarming.
The governor would want nothing more than for you to believe we’re greedy state employees. But we are just like everyone else, trying to keep up with the costs of daily living to keep our heads above water. The governor knows the value of our work, which is why he declared state services essential during the pandemic. He knows that he needs us to process unemployment claims, that the roads still need to be cleared, and that our most vulnerable — the children, veterans, and those in state hospitals — still need to be protected.
One helpful piece of information that we learned during that press briefing with the governor — noises annoy him. Well, getting short-changed annoys us more. So we’ll continue to make whatever noise we need to make to be taken seriously. This week the House and Senate voted to support the wage recommendations from the independent report and it has strengthened our resolve to fight for this contract on behalf of all state employees.
In case the governor needs to be reminded, people aren’t exactly staying silent anymore about the economic issues that have long gone unaddressed in this country, whether that’s protesting paltry teacher’s salaries in different states, auto workers in Detroit who picketed until they reached a fair deal, or any number of festering examples that exist in this country of people being intentionally devalued.
We won’t be quiet either. We’ll be as loud as we need to be, because we know the value of our work.