Visa Program IT Workers Exceed Total Number Of Jobless U.S. Workers Within The Same Occupation- 06/02/09
As the United States investigate cases of fraud within the H-1B visa program, some staggering numbers have been released. Jesse Russell reports.
According to government statistics in January of 2009 “the total number of workers employed in the information technology occupation under the H-1B program substantially exceeded the 241,000 unemployed U.S. citizen workers within the same occupation.” There is a cap of 85,000 H-1B visas annually in the United States. According to an article on ComputerWorld.com the concern from the U.S. government was expressed in court documents filed during a case against Vision Systems Group relating to visa fraud charges.
By Doug Cunningham
The IUE-CWA is filing a legal objection to try and stop the bankruptcy sale of some GM assets. The unions says the sale will strip GM of resources needed to pay for health care and other benefits for 41,000 IUE-CWA GM retirees. The union, the industrial arm of the Communications Workers of America, says its moving aggressively to protect the interests of its retirees. The union says it’s claim against GM will be more than $5 billion. In its legal filing in GM’s bankruptcy case the IUE-CWA says GM is violating bankruptcy code by treating retiree union groups differently under the bankruptcy filing. UAW retirees, the union says are having their health and life insurance benefits protected while the IUE-CWA and other unions representing 6,500 more retirees are not being protected. The IUE-CWA says this is grossly unfair and its retirees will be left holding an empty bag, so its going to court to object.
Workers Losing Jobs In GM Bankruptcy Will Get Most Of Their Pay For A Year, Obama Says Bankruptcy Plan Is Viable – 06/02/09
By Doug Cunningham
GM’s bankruptcy cuts 20,000 jobs in nine states, but union contracts and pensions remain intact. Under UAW contracts the workers will get most of their pay for a year and buyouts of up to $115,000 are being offered for early retirements. The union also convinced GM to build a new small car in the U.S. rather than in China. GM CEO Fritz Henderson.
[Henderson]: “This is not the end of General motors, but the start of a new and better chapter. We will have far less debt, fully competitive labor costs and the ability to generate sustained and positive bottom-line performance.”
At the America’s Future Now conference, nearly all of us are focused on one Big Picture question: How can we build on the progressive election victories of 2008 so we can make long-lasting change that improves people’s lives?
At one of the day’s sessions, “A New and Enduring Progressive Majority?” experts agreed that, while demographic trends are pointing in the right direction for progressives, it’s important to give constituencies the information and the tools they need—not only during the election cycle but also during battles over policy and governance.
One of the panelists, Karen Nussbaum, executive director of Working America, the AFL-CIO community affiliate for workers who don’t have a union on the job, spoke about ways to reach voters who have deep economic concerns but who don’t have the advantage of being a union member to help mobilize them as a voting constituency.
Union members have access to two things that their neighbors don’t—good, reliable information and a sense of power in the economy.
Nussbaum said the questions are: What can we do to give a broader range of people that kind of experience? And what happens if we do?
Among other results of Working America’s efforts, Nussbaum said:
- Working America members voted by 67-30 percent for Barack Obama over John McCain, despite more than 60 percent describing themselves as being moderates or conservatives.
- White, male, gun-owning veterans in general voted for McCain by a large margin, but more white, male, gun-owning veterans who were working America members voted for Obama than McCain.
- Working America mobilized 200,000 members in Minnesota, home to the closest Senate race in the country, where literally every vote mattered in an outcome that’s still pending.
The efforts continue today: Working America members have delivered 5,600 letters to Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln in support of the Employee Free Choice Act and made tens of thousands of phone calls to Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. Working America, which includes 2.5 million members, also is partnering with the AFL-CIO on the new online Unemployment Lifeline to assist and mobilize workers hurt by the economci crisis.
What Nussbaum calls “the increasing precariousness of economic stability” is a major driver of progressive change, especially for those who are most vulnerable to economic downturns, including younger workers and working moms who are critical to the progressive majority.
Page Gardner of Women’s Voices. Women’s Vote says those voters historically shut out of power are an essential voice in progressive economic policy because it affects their lives the most.
They care about good jobs; they need health care; they want this country to take care of its children through education.
This is not just about voting; this is about voting for change….We need to make sure the change they voted for is realized.
Gardner said the key to ensuring there’s a strong and enduring progressive majority—one that votes for and elects leaders that fight for an economy that works for everyone—is developing leaders from a diverse array of communities and making sure there are tangible policy results that come from progressive election victories.
The nation’s economy is in a tailspin, and one of the best ways to help turn it around is by passing the Employee Free Choice Act, several speakers said this morning at a national gathering of progressive leaders.
Sponsored by Campaign for America’s Future, the previously titled “Take Back America” annual conference has been renamed “America’s Future Now” to emphasize that this could be the greatest period of progressive reform since the 1960s.
Opening the three-day conference in Washington, D.C., Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, told participants the Employee Free Choice Act is
essential to insuring that the blessings of the next prosperity will be widely shared, that the American middle class will expand, not decline, and that the progressive majority will be consolidated.
Economist Robert Kuttner and Jared Bernstein, economic adviser to Vice President Biden and chief of staff of the White House Middle Class Task Force, echoed Borosage’s support for the Employee Free Choice Act during a panel on the economy.
Kuttner says the best ways to restore the economy start with passing the Employee Free Choice Act, increasing the minimum wage and creating an industrial policy “so the promise of clean energy becomes a jobs and energy policy.”
Bernstein agreed, saying unions are the key to making sure that as the economy grows, the benefits are distributed equitably. He quoted Biden, who told the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department conference recently:
We can’t achieve a strong middle class without a strong labor movement.
The election of Obama and a Democratic Congress is a big step in the right direction, Borosage said, but it’s up to progressives to make sure our leaders enact the right kinds of policies.
These next years could witness the greatest period of progressive reform since the 1960s. The choices we make are likely to set the framework for our society, our economy and even our survival for decades.
That’s why the Obama administration’s approach to the financial crisis is so important and wrong, Kuttner said. Obama’s banking and mortgage rescue plans are helping the wrong people—those who created the financial crisis, he said. Instead, those plans should be helping people who are facing foreclosure and helping to reform the entire banking system.
Progressives must define an agenda, articulate it and fight for it, Kuttner said. According to Bernstein, one of the big items on that agenda should be stronger regulation of financial markets. When no one is paying attention to unfettered free markets, the result is bad policies, he said.
The financial crisis is an example of free markets gone wild, said another panelist, Georgetown University law professor Emma Coleman Jordan. She pointed out the double standard of the government putting billions into the financial industry without demanding the same kind of accountability and business plan that the auto companies were required to have.
Jordan said the disastrous management practices of Wall Street and the automakers will not change as long as the same management that created the problem is still in charge. She called for the Obama administration to force changes in the CEOs and boards of directors at financial institutions that accept federal funds just as it has at General Motors. Otherwise, she said:
It’s like giving massive infusions of blood into a rotting corpse and expecting it to raise up.
Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, summed up the panelists’ views, saying the economic crisis demands bold action and bold ideas, not just the same old policies of rewarding the rich. Or as Kuttner put it:
This president could transform our economy and our politics. President Obama needs to demonstrate that he is getting his program into high gear and creating an economy that works for the people.
Nontenure-track faculty at Michigan State University (MSU), who work on year-to-year contracts, now have more job security after voting last week for a union. The 650 full-time and part-time workers now will be represented by the Union of Nontenure-Track Faculty/AFT.
Job security, health insurance and wages are the top concerns of the new union members. Says sociologist Ralph Pyle, who has been teaching at MSU for 12 years:
Although I have been treated well in my department, I feel that I would have more peace of mind if I knew that my job was secure.
“What matters to me most is having a voice,” says Naoko Wake, a visiting assistant professor in MSU’s Lyman Briggs college.
Now we will be real citizens of the university community.
This is the second time in four months that nontenure-track faculty at a Michigan university have joined a union affiliated with AFT Michigan. In February, part-time faculty at Western Michigan University (WMU) formed a new union, the Professional Instructors Organization.
“Salary and job security are among the big issues for many part-time instructors,” said Karl Schrock, an adjunct instructor in the School of Music.
As educators we are committed to our students and this university, yet we are often left to struggle with stagnant wages, few resources, and undue hardships created by the constant uncertainty of future appointments.
Part-time instructors at WMU are employed on a semester-by-semester basis, although many of them have taught at the university for 10, 20 and even 30 years.
Other nontenure-track employees at the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Henry Ford Community College and Wayne State University voted for unions in recent years.
More than 23,500 people took the AFL-CIO 2009 Health Care for America Survey and more than 6,000 told us their personal stories of struggles with the nation’s broken health care system.
The survey is now closed and the results are being analyzed. A full report on how respondents are coping with their own health care costs and how they believe health care reform should be shaped will be released later this month.
Many of those who took the time to share their stories told us how they have lost their jobs and their health coverage in the economic downturn and now are struggling to foot the bill for their health care—or are going without coverage. Others told of paying more and more in premiums and co-payments, yet finding fewer and fewer health care costs covered.
Duncan from Oregon sums up the nation’s health care crisis facing millions of Americans:
If I lose my job, I lose my health coverage. My health is good for my age. My wife’s health is not good.
If I lose my job, I lose my house—we become street people, no health care. This sort of thing has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen until citizens regain control of their government and the concept of private insurance is relegated to history.
As part of the union movement’s effort to shape health care reform, we will share the results of the survey with national and state leaders and the media. Congress, the Obama administration and the media are hearing about health care reform from drug companies and insurance companies. We want to make sure they hear from working families as well.
If you and your family have health insurance, you’re paying more than $1,000 a year in a “hidden tax” that’s part of your premium costs.
Private health insurance premiums are higher, at least in part, because uninsured people who receive health care often cannot afford to pay the full amount themselves. The costs of this uncompensated care are shifted to those who have insurance, ultimately resulting in higher insurance premiums for businesses and families.
The study reinforces the argument that health care reform that provides comprehensive, high-quality health care to all, makes economic sense. According to “Hidden Health Tax: Americans Pay a Premium,” during 2007 and 2008, one of every three nonelderly Americans—86.7 million people—went without health insurance for some period of time. When those who do not have health insurance get sick, their first response is often to avoid or delay seeking care due to the cost.
When the uninsured do obtain care, they struggle to pay as much as they can afford. Often, however, the uninsured cannot afford to pay the entire bill, and a portion of it goes uncompensated. To make up for these uncompensated care costs, doctors and hospitals charge insurers more for the services provided to patients who do have health coverage. In turn, the costs that are shifted to insurers are passed on in the form of higher premiums to consumers and businesses that purchase health coverage.
People without health insurance received $116 billion worth of care from hospitals, doctors and other providers in 2008, according to the report. Those costs were covered as follows:
- The uninsured paid for, on average, more than one-third (37 percent) of the total costs of the care they received out of their own pockets.
- Third-party sources, such as government programs and charities, paid for another 26 percent of that care.
- The remaining amount, approximately $42.7 billion in 2008, was unpaid and constituted uncompensated care.
To make up for this uncompensated care, the costs were shifted to insurers in the form of higher charges for health services. These higher charges are then passed on to families and businesses in the form of higher premiums—$1,017 for families and $368 for single people, says Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA.
As more people join the ranks of the uninsured, the hidden health tax is growing….That tax hits America’s businesses and insured families hard in the pocketbook, and they therefore have a clear financial stake in expanding health coverage as part of health reform.
California Labor Federation communications organizer Rebecca Greenberg reports on the organization’s Building Workforce Partnerships conference.
Economic stimulus, green jobs, energy efficiency…these are terms workers have been hearing quite a bit about lately. This week in San Jose, Calif., unions, government, business and environmentalists joined leading economists at the California Labor Federation’s annual Building Workforce Partnerships conference to address the potential of jointly addressing economic security, energy independence and government stimulus to build a fundamentally stronger economy for America’s workers.
Speakers at this year’s conference, which focused on “The Great Transition,” explored creative and collaborative ways unions can join with our allies to address the energy crisis, get people back to work and use stimulus dollars to build sustainable and green economic growth, while restoring fairness to the workforce.
California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski opened the conference.
A green-collar job is not necessarily a good job. The challenge that we have here is how to make it so. Together, this unique collection of people can create the kind of real sustainability we need in the great transition to the new economy.
In the morning plenary, AFL-CIO Policy Director Thea Lee said we have to act boldly to rebuild our economy:
We’re not talking about a small change. We’re talking about fundamental economic transformation. Right now we have a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us to come together and say, “We need a new economic model,” and we have the power to put it in place. The stimulus package was a good start, but it’s not enough. We need to continue to push the government to do the right thing, to be bold.
Experts from across the board agree that restoring workers’ freedom to bargain collectively for economic well-being is an essential component to regaining economic stability and growth.
Thomas Kochan of the Institute for Work and Employment Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology put it this way:
Unions are historically the most successful and consistent engine for economic progress to improve wages and benefits. If we have any hope of restoring the middle class and bringing about economic recovery and shared prosperity. We have to restore collective bargaining by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.
Many workshops highlighted specific tools and programs already in place to help workers through the transition, including job training apprenticeship programs, work sharing alternatives to layoffs and government assistance for displaced workers. Christine Owens, executive director of National Employment Law Project, told participants:
Unemployment insurance (UI) isn’t just about modest income during job loss—It’s about having access to services and the opportunity to look for jobs. President Obama sees that we need to do a better job integrating UI with education and training. UI can help workers move into new careers so there’s a better match between what workers can do and what employers need.
The conference concluded with a special roundtable discussion on the “Green New Deal,” featuring Phil Angelides, chairman of the Apollo Alliance; Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club; and economist James Galbraith.
Pope’s closing remarks put the exclamation point on the conference’s overall message:
For 25 years, we’ve tried to build an economy by building the penthouse first, and hoping it will all trickle down. But it’s the workers at the foundation level that really need the training, opportunities, livelihoods and communities that grow our economy. Let’s build the foundation first.