Interfaith Justice Group To Congress: Employee Free Choice Act Is Consistent With Biblical Morality – 05/13/09
By Doug Cunningham
If you’re a truly devout Christian or Jew your faith guides you to support labor unions and the Employee Free Choice Act labor law reform that would make it easier for workers to form unions. Reverend Jim Wallis of Sojourner Magazine.
[Wallis]: “The right to organize is a moral right. And workers need that, and the context has been very unfair. Intimidation, obstacles, prevention of democracy in the workplace has been a real problem. This bill is trying to correct that imbalance.”
Dr. Joseph Fahey is a Catholic theologian at Manhattan College.
[Fahey]: “I think and I think many of us Catholic scholars believe that the Employee Free Choice Act is firmly rooted in Catholic social teaching.”
California Nurses Association Protests Lack Of Single Payer Advocates At Senate Health Care Hearing – 05/13/09
Doctors and nurses protesting the lack of testimony supporting single payer national health care were ejected from the third round of Senate hearings on health care reform. Jesse Russell reports.
With no one invited to represent single payer healthcare at the final of three Senate Finance Committee hearings on healthcare, single payer advocates for the second time in two weeks protested from the audience. Nearly 20 registered nurses from the California Nurses Association stood and silently turned their backs to committee chair Senator Max Baucus. On their backs they wore signs that said “Nurses Say: Patients First. Stop AHIP. Pass Single-Payer.” AHIP is the lobbying arm that represents the private insurance industry. After the nurses were arrested five additional supporters took turns standing up and expressing their disappointment that the Senate wouldn’t invite a single representative when a recent study showed 60 percent of Americans support such a system. Noting May 12 as the birthday of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale one registered nurse quoted “The Lady with the Lamp” as she was hauled off by Capitol police:
Brace yourselves. With today’s release of the Social Security and Medicare trustees’ annual reports showing the nation’s sinking economy has had an impact on the Social Security Trust Fund, doomsayers will be crying for drastic medicine that’s not needed.
The trustees 2009 report on Medicare paints a compelling case for comprehensive health care reform to rein in the skyrocketing health care costs that are driving Medicare closer to the financial brink and weighing down the entire economy.
A closer look at the Social Security 2009 report shows the program continues to run large surpluses and remains capable of paying scheduled benefits in full for the next three decades. The trustees reaffirm that the Social Security system is sound and faces no immediate danger, says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
No doubt, Social Security alarmists and doomsday prognosticators will use these projections to justify dramatic “reforms” such as benefit cuts and raising the retirement age. However, the Social Security system remains structurally sound. Radical changes are not necessary to bridge short-term revenue decreases or to address the program’s long-term solvency.
According to the report, the recession has marginally reduced the size of the Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) trust funds in the near term, but Social Security continues to run significant surpluses to meet its projected obligations for years to come.
Edward F. Coyle, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, says current and future retirees should be “suspicious of sky is falling” predictions because such warnings
mask an ongoing ideological agenda to cut benefits to current and future retirees.
In a statement this afternoon, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) says:
It is not surprising that Social Security’s annual financial picture deteriorates in a downturn….This short-term falloff in revenue has a relatively limited effect on the program’s finances as indicated by the limited movement in the projected date of the Trust Fund’s depletion.
…Retirees and near retirees have lost more than $10 trillion in housing and stock wealth in the last two years. It would be incredibly malicious policy to amplify the impact of these losses by cutting Social Security benefits, especially since people in these age cohorts already paid for these benefits through their Social Security taxes.
But Medicare faces a more troubled future. The costs of the Medicare program are expected to grow fivefold over the next 75 years, driven in large part by surging health care costs.
President Obama repeatedly has said that bringing health care costs under control through comprehensive health care reform is vital to rebuilding the economy. The same holds true for Medicare, says Sweeney.
Skyrocketing Medicare costs cannot be brought under control without national comprehensive health care reform. We urge the president and Congress to move swiftly to address this great crisis.
In a statement accompanying the reports, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said:
The Medicare Trustees Report makes clear today there is no more important long-term fiscal policy measure than gaining control of the growth of Medicare costs by delivering health care services more efficiently. These savings can only be achieved in the context of a larger effort to control health care costs and improve quality more generally.
The impact of the recession on the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds underscores the critical need to support President Obama’s plans to reform health care and create a lasting economic recovery. Putting more Americans back to work will send more money into these Trust Funds, and a universal, more efficient health care system will alleviate the severe strain that our health care crisis imposes on both families and employers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is moving forward on several new workplace safety measures that languished for years under the Bush administration. The move follows last week’s unveiling of the Obama administration’s Labor Department budget that boosts OSHA’s funding by $51 million and includes the hiring of 160 new safety inspectors.
According to the Labor Department’s regulatory agenda released yesterday, the safety agency will move on several rules stalled under Bush’s OSHA, including rules to protect workers from exposure to dangerous substances and chemicals such as silica (which can cause serious respiratory disease), diacetyl (a flavoring additive linked to “popcorn lung”) and beryllium (a light metal that can cause lung damage, especially to metal and dental workers).
One of the group’s leading the call for a silica standard is the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD). The BCTD developed a model standard that includes exposure monitoring, training, medical surveillance and compliance.
OSHA also will take action on several other issues, including rules concerning working in confined spaces in construction, shipyard and other industries; blood-borne pathogens; and protecting workers who “blow the whistle” on employers’ unsafe practices.
While the issues are at various stages of the rule-making process, action will be quicker on those involving exposure to dangerous chemicals. That’s because in January, the Obama administration announced it was withdrawing a last-minute move by the Bush administration—a procedure known as advance notice of proposed rule making—that workplace safety experts said could reduce the rule-making process by as much as two years.
In addition, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is taking several rule-making steps related to monitoring or reducing the allowable respirable dust levels in the nation’s coal mines. Coal dust causes the deadly disease black lung that robs victims of the ability to breath.
Recent studies have shown that after years of decline, the rate of the deadly disease has doubled and is appearing in younger and younger miners. Last September when the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released the report, Mine Workers (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts said the two main causes behind the increase in black lung disease were the lack of enforcement of the current respirable dust level standard and an exposure limit that is far too high.
For a detailed a look at the regulatory agendas of OSHA and MSHA, plus those of other Department of Labor agencies, click here.
|Stewart Acuff speaks to the Arkansas AFL-CIO state convention about the Employee Free Choice Act.|
Community members around the country are taking action in support of workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain, including small business owners in Madison, Wis., and Trinidad, Colo., as well as religious leaders in Shreveport, La. Union members and allies of workers in Jacksonville, Fla., and Jonesboro, Ark., also are turning out in big numbers for town hall meetings to urge passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Former Rep. Pat Williams, who represented Montana in the U.S. Congress for more than a decade, says the Employee Free Choice Act is critical to restoring a free workforce and a strong economy:
“We have to re-empower workers to bargain collectively with their employers. Who said freedom stops at the workplace door? Who said democracy stops there? People need to have a choice.”
Montana military veterans visited Senate offices in Missoula, Billings and Great Falls over the past week, encouraging Sen. Jon Tester to support the Employee Free Choice Act, a critical bill to restore the freedom to form unions and bargain. And veterans from Alaska to Maine are joining this important fight.
Their actions are all part of a nationwide grassroots campaign focused on giving workers a choice in how they form unions, ending widespread intimidation and firing of workers who are seeking to form unions, and making sure that workers who choose a union can get a fair first contract.
Dorsey Roland, a U.S. Army veteran and member of Letter Carriers (NALC) Local 4319, wrote a new op-ed published in the Anchorage Daily News describing why veterans are getting involved with the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act. Roland says the bill is about fairness for workers, accountability for corporations and an economy that works for everyone:
According to a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs, 18 percent of veterans recently back from tours of duty are unemployed. And of those who are employed, 25 percent earn less than $21,840 a year. That is wrong. Veterans have sacrificed too much to be left in the cold.
Since Friday, when we wrote about international union support for the Employee Free Choice Act, more letters backing this critical legislation have poured in from around the world.
In separate letters to United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard, leaders of unions in eight countries, along with an international union federation, have expressed solid support for the bill. The latest letters come from all corners of the world: Paraguay, Japan, Ghana, Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand and Togo, the base of the 13-member International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM).
Global union leaders point out the legislation would bring the United States in line with international labor standards. Now, a report released at the historic global summit on organizing shows the United States has the lowest rate of union membership among developed nations and the anti-union tactics used in this country are being exported to other countries.
In one of the letters, Terezinho Martins Da Rocha, president of the Brazilian rubber workers union, says:
There is no defense for employers who interfere in workers’ decisions to form trade unions. Unfortunately, every day in the United States working women and men are intimidated and dismissed simply for trying to exercise their right to organize.
It is time for the United States to join the other democracies around the world that respect the fundamental rights of workers to form trade unions and bargain collectively with their employers.
Kiyoshi Ochiai, chairperson of the Japanese unions affiliated with the ICEM, writes:
Our trade union stands firmly behind the American trade unions in your efforts to get the United States Congress to pass this legislation into law, with the support of President Barack Obama….[W]e consider it an essential element in a free society that workers be allowed to join a trade union in an unobstructed way.
On Friday, we told you about letters of support from Saman Pronprachathum, general secretary of the Petroleum & Chemical Worker’s Federation of Thailand and the top leaders of the Indonesian paper workers union who spoke out for the legislation, saying “a strong economy depends on workers [being] given the opportunity to join a trade union and to bargain collectively so that fair wages and social benefits are lifted for all in a society.”
Click here to read some of the letters from global unions supporting employee free choice in the United States.
|Actor Danny Glover tells a Michigan crowd the value of saving U.S. auto jobs.|
With more than 7.2 million paychecks dependent on U.S. autos, a coalition of unions and allies is taking part in a nationwide ”Keep It Made in America” bus tour to send the message that millions of jobs are tied to the fate of the U.S. auto industry. The tour, which kicked off yesterday, will travel to 34 cities in 11 states and ends in Washington, D.C., May 19 for a daylong “teach-in” on the impact of the automotive supply chain in communities and to present a plan to save the auto industry.
The tour is sponsored by the United Steelworkers (USW), the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) and the Mayors and Municipalities Automotive Coalition (MMAC). Says Scott Paul, executive director of AAM:
We all have a stake in a strong domestic automobile industry. That’s why we will put forward a plan to strengthen the automotive supply chain and get America back to work.
Bus tour participants include actor and social activist Danny Glover, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, community leaders, elected officials, labor leaders and workers from steel, iron, glass, plastics and rubber, aluminum and auto parts facilities, along with local auto dealers, community employers and local community and elected leaders.
To find out where the bus tour will stop and for real-time updates, click here. You’ll also be able to contact members of Congress to urge them to support legislation that builds a stronger auto industry in the United States and reject plans that send jobs off-shore.
USW President Leo Gerard says the U.S. jobs crisis goes deeper than the auto companies and assembly workers in Detroit. Reducing U.S. auto manufacturing would drive down jobs in industries across the board, from the people who make auto catalogs and shipping boxes to workers making glass for windshields, rubber for tires and other materials. The nation’s service sector would suffer, as well, Gerard adds:
Nationwide, if we cut American auto jobs to support auto imports, the consequences for service-sector jobs will be severe. The waitress at the neighborhood diner, the teacher at the community school, accountants, bankers, firefighters, and police officers will all likely see their jobs affected.
Auto parts suppliers drive economic growth in states across the country. In 19 U.S. states, auto parts suppliers are either the top industrial employer, or among the top five industrial employers. Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Missouri are among the states on the “Keep it Made in America” tour.
Speaking yesterday in Hamtrack, Mich., Glover told the crowd that saving the auto industry is good for the country because it saves good jobs. And it’s important to help more workers join unions so they, too, can have benefits and decent wages.
Supporting unions, supporting free choice, the Employee Free Choice Act, those are the things that we have to be supporting in terms of the union.
Local officials also understand the importance of auto industry jobs. Shreveport (La.) Mayor Cedric Glover says:
Shreveport is nowhere near Detroit, but making quality American vehicles and making parts for those vehicles has created terrific business opportunities in our community for other manufacturers, auto dealers, advertisers, radio and TV stations, and dozens of other local companies. These are the companies that form the tax base to pay for local services like schools, police, and fire departments, and they sponsor kids’ programs and contribute to local charities. Our quality of life has benefitted from opportunities afforded by the U.S. auto industry.