Let's resolve to help N.H. workers in 2012
New Year's resolutions generally conjure up good intentions to lose weight and reorganize our homes or office desk.But for millions of Americans, this year's resolutions are more urgent. To find a job. To keep a job they already have. To make enough money to cover groceries and rent. To be able to send their kids to college and save for retirement.It's the American Dream, but one that's slipping further and further out of reach for the 99 percent. As the New Hampshire Legislature starts a new session, our lawmakers in Concord have an opportunity to help Granite Staters keep their New Year's resolutions by coming together and making jobs a No. 1 priority.The solutions are simple: Stop rewarding companies who outsource American jobs or manipulate their workers, make the 1 percent pay their fair share, and open up new employment opportunities for jobless workers.And the time to act is now.The Great Recession officially ended in the summer of 2009, but with more than 13 million people unemployed, it's clear the struggle isn't over for many American families.During the last year, our country has continued to suffer through a crisis unlike anything we've seen. Communities all across the country are struggling with long-term joblessness. In New Hampshire, 36,180 Granite Staters are unemployed, according to the most recent statistics.Yet our recovery remains threatened by irresponsible budget-cutting in Congress, in states and in cities across the country, as well as record numbers of home foreclosures, high levels of consumer debt and a weakened middle class.Instead of stepping up to the plate with common-sense solutions to grow our economy, many politicians have harnessed the jobs crisis to pursue a political agenda that rewards the 1 percent while demanding deep cuts for working people.Across the country, attempts to roll back collective bargaining rights, cut off state and local government funding and cripple schools and public safety institutions haven't created a single job. Here in New Hampshire, tea party enthusiast and House Speaker Bill O'Brien's state budget cost Granite Staters thousands of jobs.And his attempt to pass a so-called right-to-work bill was soundly rejected by Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike, who recognized that eliminating workers' rights will only weaken our economy.But O'Brien hasn't learned his lesson. Even though the session is over, he's vowed to keep pushing the right-to-work law under a new name, House Bill 383. (The House voted, 212-128, to approve the bill Jan. 5 and sent it along to the Senate for its consideration.)It's time for our elected leaders to stop scapegoating workers as the cause of the economic crisis in our country. Our teachers, firefighters, factory workers and nurses have had to pay the price for Wall Street's recklessness for too long. It's time for our leaders to focus on what we elected them to do -- creating and preserving good jobs and restoring balance to our economy.We need to stop funding companies that send jobs offshore and start rewarding companies that play by the rules and are making goods in the United States.We need to stop the discriminatory hiring practices that close doors to our jobless workers.We need to stop letting companies avoid responsibility for their workers by fraudulently misclassifying employees as independent contractors to save money.And we need to reform our tax system to ensure the top 1 percent are paying their fair share by closing corporate tax loopholes and taxing the richest among us.Now is the time for our elected leaders to act to create millions of jobs and put New Hampshire, and America, back to work with solutions on scale with the problems our economy faces.Mark MacKenzie is president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.