George Nee

Courtesy of the Shelton family

Henry Shelton, a Roman Catholic priest turned social justice and political activist, longtime voice in Rhode Island for those who had none, passionate advocate for the poor and dispossessed  and thorn in the side of the state’s business and political establishment, died Wednesday at home in Cranston surrounded by his family. He was 86.


Economic inequity has become a touchstone of our times. This week, NPR and the University of Rhode Island both kickoff dialogues on income inequality.

Last week brought a glimmer of good economic news to a state and nation that have grown all too used to doom and doldrums. 

Will Hart / Creative Commons License

Labor Day marks the end of summer. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay reminds us that this holiday that honors workers once meant much more in Rhode Island.

There is much to like in what appears to be a reasonable Rhode Island House budget proposal  for the state fiscal year that begins on July 1st. There were goodies for business, beach-goers, retirees on pensions and small business.

But one neglected area is those who work long hours at minimum wage jobs. The budget does modestly increase the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps working families, but it does not raise the minimum wage.


As the days dwindle to 2016, Scott MacKay has some Christmas and New Year’s thoughts for Rhode Island’s politicians. With sincere apologies to Clement Moore.

Wikimedia Commons

For  workers and unions, there hasn’t been much to celebrate on Labor Day in recent years. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay says things may finally be looking up.


Work is the fulcrum of social mobility in our country. In Rhode Island, lawmakers have approved an increase in the minimum wage. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay says that falls far short of what’s needed to help the working poor.

Democrats claim to be the party of working people. Come campaign season, Democratic candidates boast at every turn that they care about ``working families’’ more than Republicans, the party Democrats brand as the tool of the rich and the one-percent.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Gov.-elect Gina Raimondo is meeting with Rhode Island business leaders as she shapes her new administration. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay hopes the business hierarchy steps up to help her.

Raimondo is taking over a state government that is much better off than the one Gov. Lincoln Chafee inherited from Don Carcieri four years ago. Unemployment was 11.4 percent; now it’s at 7.4 percent. The state budget deficit is much lower and cities and towns are not hovering over bankruptcy. Even Central Falls is out of receivership.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Conservatives love to say that liberalism and political correctness have led to a `War on Christmas’ RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay says the war is actually against Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving turkey hasn’t been stuffed yet but the frenzy of Christmas shopping has begun with the annual blizzard of tinsel and glitz. Stroll into your local CVS and you are greeted by shelves festooned with overstuffed Santa Claus figures.

In a rare move, the Rhode Island AFL-CIO has endorsed a Republican candidate for statewide office – Catherine Taylor, who is running for lieutenant governor against Democrat Dan McKee, the mayor of Cumberland.

In a statement, George Nee, president of the state AFL-CIO, said, `` the Rhode Island AFL-CIO is proud to endorse Catherine Taylor for the office of lieutenant governor.’’

The Rhode Island AFL-CIO’s COPE (Committee on Political Education) convention that was held in Providence last Friday decided to put the labor organization on record against Republican Allan Fung’s campaign for governor.

Aaron Read / RIPR

UPDATE: This was approved: Rhode Island’s low-skill minimum wage workers will very likely get a wage increase under legislation that the Rhode Island House is poised to approve before the end of the current legislative session.

The measure would jump the state’s floor wage for workers from the current $8 per hour to $9 on January 1, 2015. Such legislation has been approved by the state Senate and the House Labor Committee and has been posted for action by the full House tomorrow.

While economists and media outlets from Providence to Seattle engage in hand-wringing over inequality, Rhode Island’s political leaders seem to have no solutions at all. Smith Hill is bogged down in ridiculous debates over the master lever and the never-ending tsunami that is 38 Studios. Yet, we don’t hear much of anything about raising the state’s minimum wage from the current $8 an hour rate.

Don Boorman / RIPR

From the Vatican to the White House and the Rhode Island Statehouse, the talk these days is about poverty. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay on what our small state can do to alleviate this scourge.

The Gospels tell us that the poor shall always be with us. Pope Francis has dedicated the early months of his papacy to highlighting the need to help the poor and plane the rough edges from unfettered capitalism.

Today we celebrate the glorious history of the American labor movement. While unions have a storied past RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay wonders what the future holds.

Labor Day in Rhode Island has long been more than a summer’s end holiday. For decades, union leaders and their members have celebrated a movement that assimilated immigrants, fought vigorously for better pay and working conditions and was a fulcrum in the creation of a strong middle class.