Thursday March 31 saw the largest labor rally in New Hampshire in over 20 years. Over 5,000 angry public employees, supported by many others affected by the cuts, took to the lawn of the state Capitol to protest the budget bill currently being debated by the legislature. A budget bill called "worse than Wisconsin" that not only directly attacks public sector unions, but destroys the living standards of those already hurting due to the economic crisis.
The New Hampshire $10.7 billion budget is 7% less than the prior year's budget. Attached to this bill is a provision that directly attacks public employee unions by making all public employees "at will" when their current contracts expire in an attempt to kill the unions. Over a thousand state jobs would be terminated under this budget. This continuation of the right wing attack on workers in New Hampshire is horrific in its growing scale across the country.
The bipartisan attack on taxpayers is taken to a new level in New Hampshire. There is no sign of “shared sacrifice” in a budget that gives millions in tax breaks to private interests and cuts essential services to the most vulnerably and economical depressed in the state. Funding for NH public universities are cut in half, resulting in huge tuition hikes.
Cuts to mental health services are so inhumane they will almost certainly result in people being thrust into dangerous situations. Consolidating ten mental health centers into seven when just a few years ago there where twelve is also inhumane. They are also slashing budgets for non-profits who provide services for the disabled by up to 40% through eliminating staff and creating dangerous workloads.
We see the same brutal attacks in public education through attacking the teachers rights to bargain and attacking their standard of living. Not only is public educationbeing intentionally underfunded, but privately owned charter schools are receiving millions in monies and tax credits. Still, plans are underway to completely eliminate public Kindergarten in New Hampshire!
The New Hampshire House voted to move the bill forward the night before the protest, knowing the rally would be the biggest in decades.
Critical care payments to hospitals are being suspended while the "Healthy kids" program, providing care to needy children, is being eliminated. New Hampshire state-run liquor stores provide annually increasing revenue that funds education and alcohol abuse prevention and treatment. The monies allotted to abuse prevention and treatment are completely suspended under this budget. Cuts, both minor and major, hit every aspect of life in NH, except those who actually caused this economic crisis: the bankers, billionaires and politicians who serve them.
This historic rally of over 5,000 heard speeches from nurses, students, union officials, religious leaders and many more. Protesters cried out "Come down and stand with us" to politicians from both parties inside the Capitol. Later on that day the American Federation of Teachers held a rally after school hours.
In addition to this savage budget, anti-union “right to work” laws are also being discussed in New Hampshire. More and more people are being affected by the avalanche of attacks that tries to make working people and the poor pay for a crisis created by the capitalist system. Now is the time to organize together the fight back against the butchering of workers rights and peoples services.
A coalition can be built in New Hampshire of unions, the people who receive services, youth and the unemployed to resist this budget. We can plan more actions to demand an end to all attacks on workers’ rights, job losses and service cuts.