Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

JOBS message from AFSCME

01.29.10

Dear Stephen,

President Obama made it clear last night that he will fight for jobs. He knows that we cannot lose sight of the millions of working families who are still suffering from the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. Too many Americans are out of work and too many jobs are at risk.

The President and Congress must act now or millions of Americans could lose their jobs in the months ahead. To this point, the President reminded the Democrats of their obligation to lead and served notice to Republicans that ‘just say no’ is not an option.

AFSCME agrees with the President that America needs to lay a foundation for long-term economic growth, and we continue to believe that providing affordable, quality health care for millions of additional Americans is not only the right thing to do, but is also a key to economic recovery.

We also agree that federal action is needed to keep our economy from slipping back into the ditch. Too many services in communities across the country are being cut to the bone. AFSCME members understand this first hand. Members like you are on the front lines of this crisis, trying to do more and more with less and less. State and local governments need help and they need it now.

AFSCME will fight for robust investment in vital public services. Indeed, investment in public services must be a part of federal jobs legislation. In the coming weeks and months, we will call you, our 1.6 million members, to lend your voice to our efforts to make this happen.

In solidarity,

Gerald W. McEntee
International President

Labor community giving funds to help Callahan defeat Charlie Dent

01.29.10

FEBRUARY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Labor community giving funds to help Callahan defeat Charlie Dent

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, January 18th- Democratic Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan is challenging incumbent United States House of Representative (Republican-15th Legislative District) Charlie Dent in 2010 and his recent fundraising success is partly because of labor unions donating to his campaign.

Mr. Dent is currently serving the second half of a third term in Washington, DC and his recent voting record has taken a sharp turn against legislation supported by the labor community. The 15th Congressional District seat has been held by a Republican for six consecutive terms. Pat Toomey represented the Lehigh Valley in Washington for six years and did not seek a fourth two-year term in 2004. Mr. Toomey is seeking the Republican nomination in 2010 for the United States Senator from Pennsylvania. The seat is currently occupied by Democrat Arlen Specter.

Mr. Callahan stated if he is to be successful in defeating Mr. Dent the labor community must support him financially and with their votes.

Mr. Callahan reported that he raised $380,000 for his challenge of Mr. Dent in the last three months of 2009 which was more than Mr. Dent raised. Mr. Callahan’s campaign stated it has more than $600,000 on hand to spend on the campaign.

The affiliated union members of the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley labor federation has pledged to support Mr. Callahan’s campaign and many have given funds.

Mayor Callahan is just beginning a new four-year term as Bethlehem Mayor and for months has been reaching-out to members of the labor community throughout the Lehigh Valley requesting their financial support and conducting strategy sessions.

According to one labor leader that represents workers employed by Bethlehem, Mr. Callahan is fair to his members.

David Saltzer, President of the the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Union Local 735, which represents 111 members of the Bethlehem fire department told the newspaper Mr. Callahan has been a good employer since becoming Mayor of Bethlehem. Currently, Local 735 has a four-year contract agreement with the city which will expire on December 31st, 2010. “We have negotiated one contract with him but things went well. He was fair to the members,” said Mr. Saltzer.

Mr. Dent had a labor voting record of nearly 35 percent in 2006, but dropped to 27 percent in 2007 and is now below 20 percent. He voted against raising the minimum wage, and the Card Check legislation.

Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaint against Pepsi Bottling Company

01.29.10

FEBRUARY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaint against Pepsi Bottling Company

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, January 4th- On December 23rd, 2009 the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 773, Hamilton Street in Allentown, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a Lehigh Valley employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

Local 773 filed the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against Pepsi Bottling Company, Vultee Street in Allentown, alleging the employer violated Section 7 of the NLRAct.

The newspaper discovered the complaint after reviewing ULP’s and petitions filed at the NLRB Region Four office. The newspaper is the only media in the Lehigh Valley that routinely reviews complaints and petitions filed at the regional office of the agency.

“The above named employer, by and through its agents, has repudiated the collective bargaining agreement by refusing to provide insurance coverage to injured employees for twelve months as required under Article IX,” states the ULP.

The complaint does not state how many workers the union represents at the beverage manufacturing facility in Allentown.

United States Chamber of Commerce challenges labor law

01.29.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

United States Chamber of Commerce challenges labor law

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 27th- The United States Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit on December 22nd alleging that a new State of Oregon law is unconstitutional because it is too pro-union.

The business organization jointly filed the lawsuit with Associated Oregon Industries and is arguing a new Oregon law “unconstitutionally eliminates an employer’s right to conduct mandatory meetings with employees to rebut union rhetoric and provide information about drawbacks of a unionized workplace.”

“Organzized labor hasn’t been able to muster the votes or the public support to pass Card Check, so they’ve moved on to “Plan B” to muzzle employers during union organizing drives. Just like Card Check, this law flies in the face of the country’s democratic values,” said Steven Law, chief legal officer and general counsel for the business organization.

Oregon is the first state in the nation to pass such a law that would prohibit employers from conducting mandatory meetings with their employees during union organizing campaigns. The Oregon legislation is modeled after language in the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct) legislation that is currently being held-up in Washington, DC.

The United States Chamber of Commerce told the newspaper the federal law pre-empts the Oregon law, which runs counter to fifty years of federal protection for employers’ right to hold mandatory meetings to rebut labor leaders’ rhetoric about unionizing. The business organization lawsuit also alleges the law violates employers’ speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The legislation became law on January 1st, 2010.

The law, known as SB 519, and the case is Associated Oregon Industries and Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Brad Avakian and Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 296.

“This legislation is organized labor’s first salvo in an apparent state-by state assault on federally protected employer speech,” said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the United States Chamber of Commerce public policy labor firm.

Organized labor has urgued for decades that the conducting of mandatory meetings with workers by employers during organizing campaigns were unfair because all employees must attend or face being discipline or termination.

Teamsters Union Local 401 members ratify new five-year labor agreement

01.29.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Teamsters Union Local 401 members ratify new five-year labor agreement

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 23rd- Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre, ratified a new five year labor agreement with Altadis USA in McAdoo, Luzerne County.

Teamsters Local 401 represents approximately 140 employees of Altadis USA.

According to James Murphy, President and Business Agent for Local 401, the contract was ratified on December 20th with around 67 percent of the participating members voting in favor of the successor agreement.

“This is a fair package for our members and it also allows for the company to remain competetive and continue to provide jobs for our members,” said Mr. Murphy, who negotiated the agreement for the Union.

Mr. Murphy told the newspaper Local 401 members will receive two percent pay increases each year of the pact.

Also, employees health insurance benefits will be paid for by the company. Employees can choose from several health insurance plans of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania. For family coverage there is a deductible for medical attention.

Mr. Murphy stated under the terms and conditions of the agreement there was contract language improvements including:

• layoff language;
• bereavement language; and
• shift differential

Study shows lack of jobs increasing poverty rates

01.29.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Study shows lack of jobs increasing poverty rates

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 18th- A newly released report shows that millions of families have experienced hardship during the first year of the Great Recession in 2008.

The report compiles Census Bureau data on poverty in 2008 by congressional district, with additional breakdowns on child poverty, women in poverty, and poverty among racial minorities.

The Census Bureau released its national estimates on September 10th, 2009, showing that the number of people living in poverty in 2008 rose from 37.3 million (12.5 percent) to 39.8 million (13.2 percent).

The number released in 2010 will reflect 2009’s dismal job losses and are expected to be significantly worse. The unemployment rate in 2008 averaged 5.8 percent, but is expected to exceed 9 percent on average for 2009.

“This data offers lawmakers a more detailed look into the growing poverty rates among their own constituents. As we head into the new year, we look forward to working with Congress and the administration to advance the necessary policies to help those most in need during this time of economic turmoil while laying the groundwork for a shared economic recovery,” said Melissa Boteach, an economist for the Center for American Progress Action Fund in Washington, DC.

The 2008 picture was particularly bleak for women, children, and minorities. The breakdown by congressional district reveals that the child poverty rate above thirty percent in thirty-six districts across seventeen states. Economists predict that next year’s data will show that one in four children in America was poor in 2009.

The study shows disparities by race and gender also continue unabated. Women’s poverty rates are above the district average in all but 15 of the 437 congressional districts analyzed, which include the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. More than one in four African Americans live below the poverty level in 188 congressional districts, and Latino poverty rates are higher than twenty-five percent in 145 congressional districts.

The United States House of Representatives passed the Jobs for Main Street Act in December, which includes effective job creation stategies such as aid to states and localities, new public service jobs for hard-hit communities, extensions of emergency unemployment insurance and COBRA provisions, improvements to the child tax credit, and investments in the national housing trust fund.

“Job creation strategies should focus on putting more Americans to work in the short term, but they should also focus on long-term solutions that provide the most vulnerable populations with the skills they need to access jobs, provide for their families and contribute to the economy. Without long-term solutions that equip more workers with the skills they need to access employment, the economy won’t truly recover for all Americans,” said Evelyn Ganzglass of the American Progress Action Fund. “Further, workers and their families also need supports to meet their basic needs and stay afloat as they search for employment or acquire the skills needed to access good jobs in growth areas of the economy,” Ms. Ganzglass added.

“We need both short and long-term plans to help families through the worst of the recession while keeping our eye on the bigger picture to ensure that education, training, and economic opportunity are available to those who need it most,” said Wade Henderson President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in Washington, DC.

Catholic teachers union president unhappy about comment

01.29.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Catholic teachers union president unhappy about comment

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 19th- Mike Milz, President of the Scranton Diocese Association of Catholic Teachers (SDACT), which once represented the teachers of the Scranton Diocese, told the newspaper he is disappointed with comments made by Cardinal Justin Rigali about the success of the Employee Relations Program that was implemented after the union was removed as the bargaining representative of the employees.

SDACT represented the teachers until August 2007 when the previous contracts expired and then Scranton Diocese Bishop Joseph Martino refused to negotiate for a new contract.

The union represented the teachers of seventeen of the fourty-two grade schools and nine of the ten high schools of the Scranton Diocese.

The new system eliminated the small school boards and created four regional boards. SDACT previously had contracts with each Board of Pastors that represented each school. Bishop Martino implemented a “Employee Relations Program,” after he told the union they no longer represented the employees.

Mr. Milz was a 33-year employee of the Scranton Diocese working as a science teacher and later a social studies teacher at Bishop Hoban High School in Wilkes-Barre, which is now called Holy Redemmer. Mr. Milz was laid-off by the Diocese of Scranton in 2008 and is now working for the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Union in the Lehigh Valley.

Mr. Milz stated the Employee Relations Program is nothing but a “company union” and the SDACT would like to represent the employees again after the new Bishop is named in 2010.

A meeting was held between officials of the Scranton Diocese and SDACT in October about representing the employees again. Mr. Milz stated the meeting held between the parties lasted for a little less than a hour in which the union was told no resolve of the union situation can be obtained until a new Bishop of Scranton is named.

Mr. Milz stated SDACT still has authorization cards signed by the workers indicating they would like to be represented by the union again. The cards were signed by the workers after Bishop Martino agreed to allow the union to represent the workers if a majority of them wanted to be SDACT members. However, Mr. Milz stated Mr. Martino went back on his word and later refused to discuss the union situation.

Study suggest ARRAct kept State residents from poverty

01.28.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Study suggest ARRAct kept State residents from poverty

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 20th- According to a recently released study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left leaning organization that conducts research and analysis on government policies and programs, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRAct) likely kept 189,000 Pennsylvania residents from falling into poverty.

Pennsylvania was one of eleven states to see a statistically significant increase in the official poverty rate from 2007 to 2008, according to the United States Census Bureau’s American Community Survey in 2008, 1.5 million Pennsylvanians, 12 percent of the population, were living below the official poverty level.

“These are difficult economic times, but the recovery act has kept things from being much worse, as this study shows. Thousands of Pennsylvania families are getting help making ends meet despite the worst recession in decades,” said Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

The study examined the following seven provisions of the ARRAct.

• a new Making Work Pay Tax Credit of up to $400 for workers ($800 for a
couple) earning up to $95,000 (up to $190,000 for a couple);

• an expanded Child Tax Credit for lower income working families with
children;

• an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, including increased tax credit
benefits for a working family with three or more children and for married
families to lessen the marriage penalty the Earned Income Tax Credit can
otherwise impose;

• additional weeks of emergency unemployment compensation benefits (paid
after a worker’s 26 weeks of regular state unemployment benefits expire);

• an additional $25 per week for unemployed workers to supplement their
unemployment benefits;

• a $250 one-time payment to elderly people and people with disabilities
who receive Social Security, SSI, or veterans’ benefits; and

• an increase in food stamps benefit levels.

“Congress agreed to expand the extra unemployment benefits through February. But with unemployment likely to remain high for some time, it will need to extend them futher,” said Ms. Ward.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s civilian labor force falls by 3,600 during past year

01.28.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

MSA’s civilian labor force falls by 3,600 during past year

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 29th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.4 percent, decreasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks before. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 7.0 percent.

The unemployment rate in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is 8.5 percent, decreasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,328,000 with 540,000 not working and 5,788,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 10.0 percent, decreasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month.

The main reason the unemployment rate fell in the region and in Pennsylvania was because of the decrease of the civilian labor force and residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work.

The civilian labor force in the MSA has fallen by 3,600 during the past twelve months, while the labor force in Pennsylvania has fallen by 167,000. At the same time the region has 253,100 civilians working, decreasing by 10,200 from twelve months before.

There are 15,375,000 civilians in the nation without employment. That number also does not include civilians that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work.

There are 26,400 residents in the MSA not working, increasing by 6,600 from twelve months before. That number also does not include civilians who unemployment benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

The MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,950,300 with 261,600 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA is second at 1,110,100 with 95,100 without jobs; the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 416,400 with 38,700 not working; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 280,300 with 21,000 without employment.

Of the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA is tied with the Erie MSA for the highest unemployment rate. The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in the commonwealth at 9.3 percent, with the Williamsport MSA, the Reading MSA and the Johnstown MSA tied for the third highest unemployment rate.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.9 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 7.0 percent with the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA and the Lancaster MSA tied for the third lowest at 7.5 percent.

Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.0 percent, which decreased by three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and jumped two and four-tenths percentage points from one year ago.

Lackawanna County has a labor force of 106,200, unchanged from the report before but fell by 1,400 during the past twelve months. There are 9,500 Lackawanna County residents without jobs, decreasing by 300 from the previous report but increasing by 2,400 from one year ago. That number also does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.7 percent, which decreased by four-tenths of a percentage point from the report before and increased by a whopping two and five-tenths percentage points from twelve months ago. The labor force in Luzerne County decreased by 5,800 during the past year. Of the labor force 15,400 do not have a job, increasing by 3,800 from one year ago.

Wyoming County has a unemployment rate of 9.4 percent, increasing by two and five-tenths percentage points from one year ago. Wyoming County has a labor force of 14,300, increasing by 200 from the previous report and dropping by 200 from one year ago. There are 1,400 Wyoming County residents without jobs, increasing by 200 from the previous report and jumping by 400 from twelve months before.

Hearing held to discuss teachers retirement fund shortfalls

01.28.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Hearing held to discuss teachers retirement fund shortfalls

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 20th- According to the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) Union, which is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s largest school employee union, new legislation touted as a solution to rising costs in the state school employee pension plans will not help and could actually increase costs to taxpayers.

“Instead of dealing responsibly with the pension spike, this legislation would actually add more administrative costs, and shift more of the burden of funding school employee pensions back to the Commonwealth. This legislation would make it even more difficult to balance the state budget over the next several years,” said James Testerman, President of the PSEA.

Legislation sponsored by State Representative Glen Grell (Republican-87th Legislative District) and State Senator Gene Yaw (Republican-23rd Legislative District), would change the current system of funding school employees pensions from local school districts to the state government.

Mr. Testerman testified before the state Senate Finance Committee on December 16th and told legislators that proposals such as House Bill 2315 would have no impact on Pennsylvania State Education Association members future employer contribution spike for the state and school districts in 2012. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association, which supports the legislation, acknowledged at the same hearing that future costs are “unknown” and that any savings would not occure until 2020.

“There are no easy solutions to look past such schemes and pledged PSEA’s assistance in developing a responsible plan to address the funding crisis and protect the solvency of the Public School Employees’ Retirement System.

Under a provision of the legislation, school districts contributions would be capped at their current property tax index and the PSEA stated the proposal would benefit wealthier districts over poorer ones, who would have to come up with a larger percentage of pension costs through local revenues.

Mr. Testermen stated over the last ten years, school employees contributed more than $7.3 million into the pension system while their employers, the state and school districts combined, paid about half as much.

“We now have to deal with the cost of two recessions, plus the impact of employer underfunding, all coming due at one time. This problem is unique to Pennsylvania. It was created by legislation and not by standard pension accounting,” added Mr. Testerman.

“Some of the solutions being discussed make for good sound bites, but won’t do anything to reduce the projected payment increase, and are actually long-term problems that will hurt our ability to attract and retain quality education professionals over the long term.”

The hearings were held to discuss the solvency of the Public School Employees Retirement System and the unfunded accrued liability rate of the pension fund expected to be more than 30 percent by 2012.

Mr. Testerman testified that lawmakers need to look past schemes that will not solve the pension crisis problem and pledged the PSEA assistance in developing a responible plan to address the funding crisis and protect the solvency of the Public School Employees’ Retirement System.

“There are no easy solutions, but one thing is clear, the state and school districts must keep their promise to fully fund school employees’ pensions,” Mr. Testerman stated.

Complaint filed against CMC Hospital being investigated

01.28.10

January 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Complaint filed against CMC Hospital being investigated

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, December 20th- The complaint filed by the union that represents nurses at the Community Medical Center (CMC) on Mulberry Street in Scranton is under investigation a source confirmed to the newspaper.

In the previous edition of the newspaper it was reported the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) Union, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, filed a Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against the CMC on October 28th, 2009 alleging the employer violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (3) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The complaint was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four Office in Philadelphia.

PASNAP is affiliated with the California Nurses Association (CNA) and represents nurses at the CMC and the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital on North River Street in Wilkes-Barre. The union has failed to gain a successor contract agreement with Community Health Systems (CHS) which owns and operates the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. CHS is the largest owner of for-profit hospitals in the country. The previous agreement expired on August 30th and the union represents approximately 450 nurses at the medical center.

Of the three medical centers in Scranton, Moses Taylor Hospital is the only one that does not have any unionized employees. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Healthcare Pennsylvania, formerly called SEIU 1199P, represents workers including nurses at the Mercy Hospital on Jefferson Avenue.

According to a source at the NLRB, the agency will soon determine if there is merit in PASNAP’s claim CMC officials violated the NLRAct.

According to information provided on the ULP, the union alleges the employer, by its officers, agents, and representatives terminated Elizabeth Webber because of her activities on behalf of PASNAP, and because she engaged in concerned activities with other employees of the CMC for the purposes of mutual aid and protection, and in order to discourage membership in the union.

Message from Working Families Party

01.26.10

It’s been an awful week in politics. Democrats are running away from national healthcare reform. Many learned the exact wrong thing from the MA election, and are now pushing for even more watered-down, big-business-approved legislation ## or no reform bill at all.

This problem ## Democratic weakness and bowing to corporate interests ## is why the Working Families Party exists. And it’s why we’re asking you and everyone you know to pledge to vote on the Working Families ballot line today. Just click here:

http://action.workingfamiliesparty.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=603

We’re no spoiler party. We support Democrats a lot of the time ## and when we do, it’s because we expect them to put the interests of progressives and working families first. These politicians know that they could lose the WFP’s support ## and their elections ## if they don’t do the right thing.

The more of us there are, the more they’ll be compelled to listen. So if you’re sick and disgusted with the news from Washington, there’s something you can do about it today: tell the Democrats you’re voting on the Working Families Party line.

There’s never been a better time to jump on board. And if enough people do, it’ll make news, in New York and maybe even nationally. All you need to do is take the pledge:

http://action.workingfamiliesparty.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=603

It’s a dark moment. But if it means that tens of thousands of us roll up our sleeves and get to work actually holding Democrats accountable, we’ll come out of this better than we went in.

Thanks,

Bob Master and Sam Williams, WFP Co-Chairs

Dan Cantor, WFP Executive Director

They Still Don’t Get It

01.25.10

They Still Don’t Get It

By BOB HERBERT

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/23/opinion/23herbert.html?ref=opinion

How loud do the alarms have to get? There is an economic emergency in the country with millions upon millions of Americans riddled with fear and anxiety as they struggle with long-term joblessness, home foreclosures, personal bankruptcies and dwindling opportunities for themselves and their children.

The door is being slammed on the American dream and the politicians, including the president and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill, seem not just helpless to deal with the crisis, but completely out of touch with the hardships that have fallen on so many.

While the nation was suffering through the worst economy since the Depression, the Democrats wasted a year squabbling like unruly toddlers over health insurance legislation. No one in his or her right mind could have believed that a workable, efficient, cost-effective system could come out of the monstrously ugly plan that finally emerged from the Senate after long months of shady alliances, disgraceful back-room deals, outlandish payoffs and abject capitulation to the insurance companies and giant pharmaceutical outfits.

The public interest? Forget about it.

With the power elite consumed with its incessant, discordant fiddling over health care, the economic plight of ordinary Americans, from the middle class to the very poor, got pathetically short shrift. And there is no evidence, even now, that leaders of either party fully grasp the depth of the crisis, which began long before the official start of the Great Recession in December 2007.

A new study from the Brookings Institution tells us that the largest and fastest-growing population of poor people in the U.S. is in the suburbs. You don’t hear about this from the politicians who are always so anxious to tell you, in between fund-raisers and photo-ops, what a great job they’re doing. From 2000 to 2008, the number of poor people in the U.S. grew by 5.2 million, reaching nearly 40 million. That represented an increase of 15.4 percent in the poor population, which was more than twice the increase in the population as a whole during that period.

The study does not include data from 2009, when so many millions of families were just hammered by the recession. So the reality is worse than the Brookings figures would indicate.

Job losses, stagnant or reduced wages over the past decade, and the loss of home equity when the housing bubble burst have combined to take a horrendous toll on families who thought they had done all the right things and were living the dream. A great deal of that bleeding is in the suburbs. The study, compiled by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, said, “Suburbs gained more than 2.5 million poor individuals, accounting for almost half of the total increase in the nation’s poor population since 2000.”

Democrats in search of clues as to why voters are unhappy may want to take a look at the report. In 2008, a startling 91.6 million people — more than 30 percent of the entire U.S. population — fell below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, which is a meager $21,834 for a family of four.

The question for Democrats is whether there is anything that will wake them up to their obligation to extend a powerful hand to ordinary Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court, back from the big banks, the giant corporations and the myriad other predatory interests that put the value of a dollar high above the value of human beings.

The Democrats still hold the presidency and large majorities in both houses of Congress. The idea that they are not spending every waking hour trying to fix the broken economic system and put suffering Americans back to work is beyond pathetic. Deficit reduction is now the mantra in Washington, which means that new large-scale investments in infrastructure and other measures to ease the employment crisis and jump-start the most promising industries of the 21st century are highly unlikely.

What we’ll get instead is rhetoric. It’s cheap, so we can expect a lot of it.

Those at the bottom of the economic heap seem all but doomed in this environment. The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston put the matter in stark perspective after analyzing the employment challenges facing young people in Chicago: “Labor market conditions for 16-19 and 20-24-year-olds in the city of Chicago in 2009 are the equivalent of a Great Depression-era, especially for young black men.”

The Republican Party has abandoned any serious approach to the nation’s biggest problems, economic or otherwise. It may be resurgent, but it’s not a serious party. That leaves only the Democrats, a party that once championed working people and the poor, but has long since lost its way.

Grayson: Court’s Campaign Finance Decision “Worst Since Dred Scott”

01.23.10

Grayson: Court’s Campaign Finance Decision “Worst Since Dred Scott”

By Nick Baumann

http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/01/grayson-courts-campaign-finance-decision-worst-dredd-scott

Alan Grayson, the first-term Democratic congressman from central Florida, really didn’t like Thursday’s Supreme Court decision legalizing unlimited corporate spending in election campaigns. “It’s the worst Supreme Court decision since the Dred Scott case,” he told me last night. In Dred Scott, Grayson explained, the Supreme Court decided that neither slaves nor the children of slaves could ever be US citizens. In Citizens United v. FEC, decided Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled “that only huge corporations have any constitutional rights,” Grayson said. “They have the right to bribe, the right to buy elections, the right to reward their elected toadies, and the right to punish the elected representatives who take a stab at doing what’s right.”

I wrote a profile of Grayson for the most recent issue of Mother Jones. You can read the whole thing here.

Like independent campaign finance reform groups, Grayson saw this decision coming. Last week, he filed five bills that he hopes will help counteract the effects of the Court’s decision. On Wednesday night, he launched a website, savedemocracy.net, to rally support for these measures. On Thursday morning, he delivered over 10,000 signatures from a web-based petition to the Supreme Court. After the court issued its decision, he introduced a sixth campaign finance reform bill.

The Court’s decision creates serious problems for the Fair Elections Now Act (FENA), a bill that Grayson co-sponsored that would institute publicly financed elections. “The funding from FENA is a drop in the bucket compared to what the oil companies might spend to defeat representatives who don’t want to drill everywhere,” Grayson warned. “It’s a drop in the bucket compared to what Wall Street’s prepared to spend to reward those who vote for bailouts and punish those who won’t.” The Supreme Court has “created a whole new problem…. that really isn’t addressed by that bill,” Grayson said, while emphasizing that he still supported FENA because it is “a step in the right direction, but not sufficient.”

Via Grayson’s website, here are the six bills “and what they aim to accomplish,”:

The Business Should Mind Its Own Business Act (H.R. 4431): Implements a 500% excise tax on corporate contributions to political committees, and on corporate expenditures on political advocacy campaigns.

The Public Company Responsibility Act (H.R. 4435): Prevents companies making political contributions and expenditures from trading their stock on national exchanges.

The End Political Kickbacks Act (H.R. 4434): Prevents for-profit corporations that receive money from the government from making political contributions, and limits the amount that employees of those companies can contribute.

The Corporate Propaganda Sunshine Act (H.R. 4432): Requires publicly-traded companies to disclose in SEC filings money used for the purpose of influencing public opinion, rather than to promoting their products and services.

The Ending Corporate Collusion Act (H.R. 4433): Applies antitrust law to industry PACs.

The End the Hijacking of Shareholder Funds Act (H.R. 4487): This bill requires the approval of a majority of a public company’s shareholders for any expenditure by that company to influence public opinion on matters not related to the company’s products or services.

The fifth measure has already gained the support of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the chair of the House Judiciary committee, Grayson said. Grayson hopes the committee might hold a hearing on that bill sometime in the next 30 days. Grayson circulated his proposals among his colleagues on Thursday. He has a decent record with winning support for populist ideas— last year he signed up over 100 cosponsors for Texas Republican Ron Paul’s bill to audit the Federal Reserve.

Still, what Grayson could really use is the support of President Barack Obama, who has slammed the Supreme Court decision and promised a “forceful” legislative response. Grayson’s bills would certainly qualify. The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder has reported that the White House and other Hill Democrats are seriously considering three options for responding to the decision, including one that bears a resemblance to Grayson’s sixth bill—requiring shareholders to approve of independent political expenditures. When we spoke, Grayson also voiced support to another idea Ambinder says is under consideration—a “Stand by Your Ad” requirement. As Ambinder describes it, “The head of an insurance company would be forced to say, ‘I’m Honus Wagner, the CEO of Acme, and I stand by this ad.’” Grayson emphasized that such a move would be consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision today, which explicitly allowed Congress to pass tough disclosure requirements.

The Court’s Blow to Democracy

01.22.10

New York Times Editorial

The Court’s Blow to Democracy

Published: January 21, 2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/opinion/22fri1.html

With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century. Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.

Congress must act immediately to limit the damage of this radical decision, which strikes at the heart of democracy.

As a result of Thursday’s ruling, corporations have been unleashed from the longstanding ban against their spending directly on political campaigns and will be free to spend as much money as they want to elect and defeat candidates. If a member of Congress tries to stand up to a wealthy special interest, its lobbyists can credibly threaten: We’ll spend whatever it takes to defeat you.

The ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission radically reverses well-established law and erodes a wall that has stood for a century between corporations and electoral politics. (The ruling also frees up labor unions to spend, though they have far less money at their disposal.)

The founders of this nation warned about the dangers of corporate influence. The Constitution they wrote mentions many things and assigns them rights and protections — the people, militias, the press, religions. But it does not mention corporations.

In 1907, as corporations reached new heights of wealth and power, Congress made its views of the relationship between corporations and campaigning clear: It banned them from contributing to candidates. At midcentury, it enacted the broader ban on spending that was repeatedly reaffirmed over the decades until it was struck down on Thursday.

This issue should never have been before the court. The justices overreached and seized on a case involving a narrower, technical question involving the broadcast of a movie that attacked Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 campaign. The court elevated that case to a forum for striking down the entire ban on corporate spending and then rushed the process of hearing the case at breakneck speed. It gave lawyers a month to prepare briefs on an issue of enormous complexity, and it scheduled arguments during its vacation.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., no doubt aware of how sharply these actions clash with his confirmation-time vow to be judicially modest and simply “call balls and strikes,” wrote a separate opinion trying to excuse the shameless judicial overreaching.

The majority is deeply wrong on the law. Most wrongheaded of all is its insistence that corporations are just like people and entitled to the same First Amendment rights. It is an odd claim since companies are creations of the state that exist to make money. They are given special privileges, including different tax rates, to do just that. It was a fundamental misreading of the Constitution to say that these artificial legal constructs have the same right to spend money on politics as ordinary Americans have to speak out in support of a candidate.

The majority also makes the nonsensical claim that, unlike campaign contributions, which are still prohibited, independent expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” If Wall Street bankers told members of Congress that they would spend millions of dollars to defeat anyone who opposed their bailout, and then did so, it would certainly look corrupt.

After the court heard the case, Senator John McCain told reporters that he was troubled by the “extreme naïveté” some of the justices showed about the role of special-interest money in Congressional lawmaking.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens warned that the ruling not only threatens democracy but “will, I fear, do damage to this institution.” History is, indeed, likely to look harshly not only on the decision but the court that delivered it. The Citizens United ruling is likely to be viewed as a shameful bookend to Bush v. Gore. With one 5-to-4 decision, the court’s conservative majority stopped valid votes from being counted to ensure the election of a conservative president. Now a similar conservative majority has distorted the political system to ensure that Republican candidates will be at an enormous advantage in future elections.

Congress and members of the public who care about fair elections and clean government need to mobilize right away, a cause President Obama has said he would join. Congress should repair the presidential public finance system and create another one for Congressional elections to help ordinary Americans contribute to campaigns. It should also enact a law requiring publicly traded corporations to get the approval of their shareholders before spending on political campaigns.

These would be important steps, but they would not be enough. The real solution lies in getting the court’s ruling overturned. The four dissenters made an eloquent case for why the decision was wrong on the law and dangerous. With one more vote, they could rescue democracy.

Ironworker Sworn in as N.J. State Senate President

01.22.10

Ironworker Sworn in as N.J. State Senate President

by Mike Hall, Jan 20, 2010

http://blog.aflcio.org/2010/01/20/ironworker-sworn-in-as-nj-state-senate-president/

Steve Sweeney, a member of Ironworkers Local 399 and one of the early graduates of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO’s Labor Candidates School, was sworn in last week as president of the New Jersey State Senate.

Sweeney, who was first elected to the State Senate in 2001, is the first union member to serve as president of the upper chamber.

He said at his swearing-in ceremony:

“I accept this task with great humility and an ironclad belief that New Jersey’s best days are ahead of us. I will bring the work ethic here that I did in my career as an ironworker.”

New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech says Sweeney’s swearing-in “marks a milestone for the labor movement in New Jersey.”

As a union member, Sweeney now holds one of our state’s most powerful and prestigious positions.

Also, for a few days last week, Sweeney became New Jersey’s first labor governor when he was sworn in as acting governor while outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine (D) was traveling out of state. Sweeney had the opportunity to sign several labor-related bills, including one strengthening collective bargaining rights for Delaware River Port Authority workers. He told reporters that after his brief time in the governor’s office:

I guess I’m going to be a trivia question.

The Labor Candidates School was founded in 1997, and more than 500 of its graduates have been elected to public office in the Garden State. The school gives union members an opportunity to learn campaign basics, including fundraising, election law, public speaking and media relations.

No More Senate Super Majority Illusion

01.20.10

No More Senate Super Majority Illusion

There is very little upside to the election of a Republican Far Right Senator to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) for Democrats, progressives and reformers. My list is very short: (1) everyone should now understand that we never had a real workable Senate Super Majority to begin with despite all the media hype, (2) watering-down progressive legislation has now been shown to produce electoral defeat for Democrats and (3) Democratic candidates at all levels can now clearly see that they will suffer if Democratic House and Senate members do not start acting more aggressively in opposition to Republican actions and spin.

The Senate Democrats should never let Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) caucus with them. Lieberman was rejected by Connecticut Democrats at the polls. He was not elected as a Democrat. He often opposes the Democratic legislative agenda in the Senate. Lieberman supports and campaigns for Republicans. Letting Lieberman join the Democratic caucus raised unrealistic expectations without adding his vote behind the legislation Democrats were trying to pass! For Democrats, the fictional 60th Senate Democratic member illusion was a “lose, lose” proposition.

Of course, some elected Democratic Senators remain unreliable votes. Neither Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) nor Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) are guaranteed yes votes on most progressive legislative issues. It is obvious that relying on a 60 member Super Majority to pass legislation is and always will be a mistake. A simple majority vote of Senate members can reduce the number of Senators it takes to end a filibuster. I suggest moving to 55 instead of the current 60, as a reasonable compromise, unless Senate Republicans stop threatening to filibuster everything Democrats want to do in terms of passing laws and budgets. Ending filibusters entirely would be a better approach.

Watering-down healthcare reform left the Democratic base discouraged for basically nothing in return. Republicans remain devoted to defeating all real healthcare reforms. Corporate Democrats filled the Senate version full of compromises that left independents unhappy with the results. If we had no filibuster threat, the Senate could have given us a much better product to sell to the voting public.

Republicans can be counted on to do everything possible to disrupt debate and progress on legislation in the Senate. It pays for them. It helped defeat great Democratic candidates in state and local elections in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia in 2009. With the election of Scott Brown to the Senate in January 2010, the Republicans smell blood. Their shark instincts are in full attack mode.

Republican tactics and spin make bipartisan compromise basically impossible! It is time to tell the public to forget it and why!

Democrats should never have let the idea that “Obama and the Democrats own the economy” to gain traction. Anyone with even a little bit of honest understanding of how an economy operates should have been responding to every statement along this line. Our message should have been that the Republican economic train-wreck started about 30 years ago and would take at least 2 full Presidential terms to fix. This answer is good politics and actually true. Obama should have been publicly attacking Republican efforts to undermine his agenda as attacks on the American middle class designed to benefit greedy corporations. It would have been good politics and is true! There is still time to correct our messaging.

Every local Democratic officeholder and/or candidate in America needs to put pressure on Senate Democrats to move aggressively to pass legislation with a real economic populist approach. Local Democrats should demand an end to the filibuster blackmail. It is time to move to regulate and tax imported manufactured goods. Bring our factory jobs back home. Pass the Employee Free Choice Act without watering it down. Raise taxes on the wealthy. Pass a second stimulus bill. Regulate abuses on Wall Street including executive pay at publicly traded corporations.

Make economic populism the core principle behind our Democratic Party. Show we are not the “Republican-lite” alternative. Be aggressive, forceful and brave. Be winners! Be real Democrats!

Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.midatlanticlabor.com ). Phone: 443-907-2367. Email: demlabor@aol.com. Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702.

Feel free to publish or reprint in full without prior approval.

In Trade, Too Often, the Victim is Blamed

01.18.10

In Trade, Too Often, the Victim is Blamed

by Leo W. Gerard
President, United Steelworkers International

A screwy thing happened after the United Steelworkers and eight domestic steel producers won their trade case late in December against Chinese manufacturers of the steel pipe used for oil and gas drilling.

Instead of describing it as an important victory for U.S. industry and workers, one in which they proved to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) that China violated international trade rules, the media characterized it as Americans unnecessarily picking a fight with the Chinese.

What else is new? It’s exactly what happened in September when the United Steelworkers won tariffs in a trade case regarding imported Chinese tires.

What’s particularly disturbing about this stance from the media is that it occurs only when a trade case involves manufactured goods. The media strongly supports protections for copyrighted material - movies, music etc. The media have made clear they oppose Chinese piracy of intellectual property - you know, like the written and filmed products that media members produce.

But their reaction is completely different when the Chinese violate international rules regarding manufactured goods. Then, the media blame the victims ## the U.S. industries and workers - the same way defense attorneys accuse rape victims.

Here http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/03/AR2010010301961.html , for example, is the Washington Post contending that the ITC decision to impose duties of between 10.4 and 15.8 percent on Chinese pipe heightened trade hostilities between the U.S. and China:

“The current tensions began in September, when the United States imposed a staggering 35 percent import fee on tires from China.”

The Dow Jones Newswire in a story by Henry J. Pulizzi also charged the U.S. with provoking the Chinese by imposing duties, beginning with a reference to the steel pipe decision:

“The ruling adds more tension to the U.S.-China trade relationship. Ties between Washington and Beijing are already frayed by the Obama administration’s imposition of duties on Chinese tire imports and China’s criticism of U.S. moves as protectionist.”

These reporters act like the decisions themselves initiated animosity between the U.S. and China over trade. That completely disregards how the process starts - with China violating international trade rules it had agreed to obey in ways that cause U.S. businesses to collapse, factories to close, thousands of U.S. paper workers, tire workers, steelworkers and others to lose their jobs, and their communities to suffer.

We could sit back and just take it and allow U.S. industries to die, one after another, while China keeps its citizens employed by providing subsidies and supports forbidden under international law to its industries and then selling the goods in the U.S. at prices below production costs.

But that doesn’t sit well with most Americans. They believe their country should enforce trade rules. That is what U.S. industry and unions are demanding. That is what occurred in the tire and steel cases. That is what the United Steelworkers and paper manufacturers are seeking in a trade case to be heard later this year.

Demanding adherence to the rules isn’t protectionism. And the media need to stop saying it is. Here’s how Dan DiMicco, chief executive officer of Nucor, the nation’s second largest steelmaker, explained it, “It is not protectionism when countries are held accountable for the agreements and obligations they freely entered into to have access to the USA and world’s markets.”

In addition to falsely making this a protectionist fight, the media wrongly contend the tariffs were political. Dow Jones, for example, tried to make the unanimous ITC decision in the steel case political, writing:

“The ITC is an independent federal agency tasked with investigating the impact of alleged ‘dumping’ of foreign products on U.S. industries. While its six commissioners are split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, the decision fits with the Obama administration’s push to address U.S. manufacturers’ concerns about Chinese competition.”

Dow Jones implies here that somehow Obama managed to strong-arm all three Republican ITC members to vote his way in this case. None of the stories suggesting politics were involved in the tariff decisions note that Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama and nine Republican Congressmen joined dozens of Democrats in signing letters to the ITC supporting the duties.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has written that failure to enforce trade laws and compel China to stop manipulating its currency could cost the U.S. 1.4 million jobs over the next couple of years. He describes China’s behavior as mercantilist - supporting industry for export of goods to maintain high employment and trade surpluses.

He quoted economist Paul Samuelson:

“With employment less than full. . . all the debunked mercantilist arguments” - that is, claims that nations who subsidize their exports effectively steal jobs from other countries - “turn out to be valid.”

That is what China is doing to the U.S. - stealing jobs.

The U.S. doesn’t have to let it happen. America can enforce international trade laws. It works. Shortly after President Obama imposed the tire tariffs, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. announced plans to add capacity to its Findlay, Ohio plant and hire up to 100 workers. Other U.S. tire plants began recalling laid off workers.

American manufacturers, workers and communities are the victims of unfairly traded Chinese exports. They’re fed up with the media blaming them when all they’re asking for is justice.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leo-w-gerard/in-trade-too-often-the-vi_b_418424.html?view=print

National Labor College launches ‘College for Working Families’ degree program

01.15.10

National Labor College launches ‘College for Working Families’ degree program

By Ron Moore

http://www.examiner.com/x-2071-DC-Special-Interests-Examiner~y2010m1d14-National-Labor-College-launches-College-for-Working-Families-degree-program?cid=examiner-email

In its continuing effort to maintain the union worker’s reputation as the most productive in the world, the National Labor College today announced plans to establish a new online service that will bring high-quality degree programs to the AFL-CIO’s 11.5 million members and their families. Tentatively named the College for Working Families, the program will build upon the College’s existing distance learning curricula to combine the advantages of online learning with the on-the-ground resources of labor unions throughout the nation to provide programs specifically suited to the special needs and interests of union members and their families.

Richard Trumka, Chair of the College Board of Trustees and President of the AFL-CIO, also announced that the College’s Board of Trustees has approved the selection of The Princeton Review, Inc. and its subsidiary, Penn Foster Education Group, Inc. leading providers of postsecondary educational services, as its partner to implement the College for Working Families.

“Expanding good jobs is a top priority for the AFL-CIO and to achieve this, workers’ skills and knowledge must match the role of employers in a changing job market,” Trumka said. “This new online education venture demonstrates our strong commitment to playing a significant role in ensuring that quality education for America’s workers and their families remains affordable and accessible. We believe this is one of the best ways to retain and grow good jobs in this country.”

According to Trumka, the College programs will enable working adults to build on their prior training and experience, notably in formal and informal learning provided through union- and industry-sponsored training programs, as well as through local institutions, particularly community colleges.

“In the course of their work union members gain a wealth of knowledge,” Trumka said. “The College for Working Families will be able to leverage an intimate understanding of the nation’s organized workers to provide efficient, effective programs leading to a range of academic degrees that will support the increasing need of working men and women and their families to expand their knowledge in an affordable and accessible manner.”

Today’s approval is expected to result in the formation of a joint venture that will bring together the skills and significant financial resources of The Princeton Review and Penn Foster in development and delivery of the College’s programs with the expanded academic offerings of the National Labor College to ensure a quality educational experience. The College will retain majority control of the joint venture, and will continue to be solely responsible for the integrity and quality of the programs of the new College for Working Families. The joint venture is subject to the negotiation and execution of definitive agreements among the AFL-CIO, the College and The Princeton Review which are currently expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2010. Implementation of certain anticipated programs may be subject to regulatory approvals.

National Labor College President William Scheuerman said the College went through a thorough evaluation process before selecting The Princeton Review and Penn Foster. “We underwent an extensive process to identify a partner with deep experience helping working Americans achieve their educational goals,” he said. “We were particularly impressed with Penn Foster’s demonstrated expertise in providing high-quality student services and support, elements that we consider essential to the success of this ambitious undertaking.”

“It is critical that the American workforce can be successfully educated and retrained without driving tuition costs beyond the point of affordability,” explained Michael Perik, The Princeton Review’s President and CEO. “We are confident that, through this partnership, we can help ensure that the students who enroll in the College will have a successful learning experience and will contribute in important ways to the growth of the American economy.”

The National Labor College is located in the suburban Washington, D.C. area in Silver Spring, Maryland.

For more information click here http://www.nlc.edu

Nine-Million-Member Union Coalition Calls For Defeat Of Cadillac Tax

01.14.10

Nine-Million-Member Union Coalition Calls For Defeat Of Cadillac Tax

by Sam Stein

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/12/nine-million-member-union_n_420524.html

A coalition of federal and postal employees, numbering nearly nine million members, sent a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday insisting that the final health care bill not include an excise tax on high-end insurance plans.

Sixteen unions penned the letter amidst increasingly tense negotiations between House and Senate leaders over how to structure the pay-for provision in the final health care bill. The Senate favors the tax, citing its benefits in reeling in health care costs. Approximately 190 House Democrats have signaled that they will oppose it out of concerns that it will unfairly hit working-class families.

The letter from the federal and postal employees frames the tax as both inequitable and potentially damaging to the prospects of recruiting future government employees. The groups write:

“While the excise tax is slated to be imposed on the insurers on so-called high cost plans, the tax will be passed on to enrollees in the form of higher premiums, co-pays or reduced benefits. [Blue Cross blue Shield] plans cover approximately 48 % of [Federal Employees Health Benefits Program] enrollees, or nearly 3.8 million Americans. Single enrollees would be subject to the effects of the tax in 2013, while families are hit in the third year. Including other, non-BC/BS plans, more than one-half of active and retired enrollees will face the effects of these taxes that accumulate to thousands of dollars in the middle to out years of the Senate-passed bill. Because we understand the value of all health care is counted towards the threshold amounts, enrollees with dental or vision coverage, or a Flexible Spending account, could reach the thresholds even sooner and feel the effects of this tax earlier.

Characterizing this tax proposal as a “Cadillac tax” is a misnomer. It hits the average blue collar and white collar employee or annuitant. FEHBP insurers will simply reduce coverage and, as the taxes increase, a downward spiral towards less coverage will ensue, which is antithetical to health care reform’s states purpose. Penalizing FEHBP enrollees with this tax is a huge disincentive to qualified applicants seeking federal or postal employment. It is bad for the government and bad policy overall.

The note to congressional leaders is the latest lobbying salvo by the labor community in opposition to the excise tax. Also on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) hosted several major union leaders to discuss their opposition to the provision.

The unions signing the letter are as follows:

American Federation of Government Employees
American Foreign Service Association
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
American Postal Workers Union
Federal Managers Association
Laborers’ International Union of North America
National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association
National Air Traffic Controller Association
National Association of Letter Carriers
National Association of Postal Supervisors
National Association of Postmasters of the United States
National League of Postmasters of the United States
National Postal Mail Handlers Union
National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association
National Treasury Employees Union
Professional Aviation Safety Specialists