DURHAM, NH – Activists and advocates from the Raise Up NH Coalition and the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy gathered outside the Whittemore Center at the University of New Hampshire on September 16 to urge legislators to overturn Governor Sununu’s vetoes of the minimum wage and paid family and medical leave bills. An override would require a two-thirds majority vote.
The House of Representatives and State Senate voted to pass HB 731 to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022 and HB 712 to provide paid family and medical leave to Granite Staters. These policies have garnered strong support among NH residents with 79 percent in favor of raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour and over 80% for creating a paid family and medical leave program.”
State Representative Cam Kenney, a Democrat who represents Durham-Madbury, has worked in a variety of jobs in grocery stores and currently works as a server in a restaurant. As an essential worker, he has worked throughout the pandemic.
He noted that 10 years ago when he was hired for his first grocery store job at age 14, the minimum wage in Massachusetts was $8 an hour and New Hampshire’s was $7.25 an hour. “Since then Massachusetts has increased their minimum wage to $12.75 an hour, but New Hampshire’s minimum wage has remained at $7.25 due to the Governor’s vetoes.
“New Hampshire needs workers and workers need a livable wage. Our neighboring states understand this and we will continue to lose workers to neighboring states unless we act,” he added
Viola Katusiime of the Granite State Organizing Project noted that the vetoes do nothing to help businesses or workers. Though the pandemic has created economic hardships for employers and workers alike, the problem has been largely due to low demand for goods and services. The way to increase consumer spending and create more jobs is by raising the minimum wage, which puts more dollars in the pockets of workers who will spend it in the local economy. A better way to support businesses would be to provide rent subsidies and loans.
MK Kilcoyne of Dover was 22 when they were diagnosed with stage III Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of blood cancer. A paid family and medical leave program would have been a great help to their family.
Kilcoyne feels fortunate to have had supportive parents and the ability to access health insurance through them. “My parents would wake up with me at the crack of dawn to drive me to Boston for my chemo treatments. They used up all of their vacation days and sick time to make sure I was never alone during my treatments.”
When Kilcoyne was sent home after a stem cell transplant, the family had to rely on “Aunties” and neighbors during recovery because, without a paid family and medical leave program, both parents needed to return to work.
Amanda Sears of the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy noted that this pandemic has shown us how important it is for people to be able to stay home when they are sick to take care of themselves or their family members and in order to keep the community safe.
All of Governor Chris Sununu’s vetoes were sustained during the House session, including the paid family and medical leave bill on a 195-143 vote and the minimum wage bill on a 197-139 vote.
Raise Up NH is an initiative of the New Hampshire Alliance for a Moral Economy that unites faith, labor, and social justice advocates for the purpose of promoting improved economic conditions for working families.