A first-time home buyers tax credit could be extended. Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle expressed a desire to add more time to the $8,000 tax credit which is set to expire on November 30. One possible plan could see an extension to April with an added expansion that would open the credit up for home owners who have been in a home for five years or more. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said once unrelated issues are settled the buyer credit will most likely make it to the floor for a vote.
A new book takes a hard look at some possible solutions for the economy that the financial sector might not like. Jesse Russell takes a look:
By Doug Cunningham
The UAW says thousands of U.S. auto jobs are expected to be created by Fisker Automotive’s decision this week to produce a plug-in electric vehicle in Wilmington, Delaware. UAW President Ro ngettelfinger says it’s great news for the U.S. economy, for Deleware and for manufacturing workers. A former GM factory will be used to produce the vehicles. The project is supported by more than $528 million in low-cost loans from the U.S. Department of Energy.
By Doug Cunningham
The AFL-CIO is saddened and angered by news of the assassination of Honorio Llorente Melendez, a union organizer for the CUT—Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (Unitary Central of Workers) of Magdalena Medio—in Colombia.
Until he was fired recently for trade union activity, Llorente had served as treasurer of Sintrainagro (National Union of Agricultural Industry Workers) in Santander. A court hearing on his unlawful firing was scheduled to take place this week.
Llorente is among at least 25 trade unionists killed this year in Colombia, which remains the deadliest country in the world for trade unionists.
Llorente, a father of five, was killed Oct. 17, allegedly by paramilitaries, in Puente Sogamoso, a community in Puerto Wilches, Santander. Prior to his murder, Llorente and his colleagues had received numerous death threats because of their organizing work. The CUT of Magdalena Medio had appealed to government authorities for protection, but its request was denied by the local police.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka expressed his outrage at Llorente’s murder, saying:
We join our sister organization, the CUT of Colombia, in condemning the ongoing violence against trade unionists and other human rights defenders in Colombia, as well as the ongoing impunity of all of those responsible for this violence.
The AFL-CIO extends its condolences to the family and friends of Brother Llorente and stands in full solidarity with them. The AFL-CIO and CUT of Colombia demand that President Álvaro Uribe and the Colombian government order a full investigation, prosecution, conviction and sentencing of those responsible for this unconscionable crime. They also call upon the U.S. Congress to demand the same.
The two federations urge the Colombian government to protect the ability of all workers and trade unionists in Colombia to exercise their fundamental rights without fear of violence.
At the Oregon AFL-CIO convention, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, who got her start organizing in Oregon, spoke yesterday to hundreds of delegates from across the state and encouraged them to start now on educating and mobilizing union members. Shuler told delegates:
Last year, you helped transform our country. And everything you did in 2008, we must do from now to 2010—and here’s why. The sharks you defeated last November are still circling out there. They’ve never given up. They’re just as vicious now, and they want to destroy everything you won. Don’t let them do it.
You have a big job next year: electing a governor who’s pro-working family, pro-union, pro-us; making sure we re-elect the representatives who stand up for what’s right; and beating back the two initiatives that our right-wing pals have dreamed up for 2010….So it’s not too early to get ready.
Oregon union members and Working America members made a critical difference in one of last year’s closest and most important Senate races, sending Jeff Merkley, a true friend of working families, to Washington. Shuler said we need to be as active in the 2010 elections as we were in 2008.
She also laid out her vision for the policies we need to build a stronger economy—including health care reform, job creation, the Employee Free Choice Act and financial reform.
Shuler also talked about what we need to do to build a union movement that will help secure a fairer economy for generations to come:
There’s one thing we have to get right, and that is to give the next generation hope. Fight for them, embrace them and welcome them into our movement. Our job is to make this movement exactly what it should be, which is a place where they know they belong, where they’re excited about what’s coming up next, and where they’ll build a lot better life than what they’re stuck in right now. That’s how our movement can grow. I hope you make it your personal mission, like I have.
Here’s the latest news from the battle for health care reform:
• While much of the media focuses on the Senate, the House bill is expected to be released tomorrow, with a vote coming soon. Call your members of Congress and ask them to support real reform.
• In the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson writes that a health care excise tax could hurt middle-class families because companies
have the power to impose health care costs and cutbacks on workers, who have little or no power to resist. if employers opt for cheaper policies to avoid the excise taxes on more expensive plans, their savings may not be passed on to workers as higher wages but simply kept by the employers. Out-of-pocket health costs for workers would rise, but into-pocket wage increases to cover those costs might not be forthcoming.
The senators’ version of health care finance assumes that workers will pocket the benefits of a cost-conscious system. The senators assume wrong.
• As a small number of senators threaten to withhold votes when the Republicans try to filibuster health care reform, it was reassuring to hear yesterday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) would use the budget reconciliation process to pass it with a simple majority vote. The restrictive rules of the process would enable opponents to strip significant provisions from the legislation, so it is a way second-best option. But it still beats acceding to the threats and demands of those who want to gut the bill.
• Anna Turner of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) says the House bills, with a small surtax on top earners, offer a better way to pay for health care.
• Check out, and vote on, 20 short videos with real-life health care stories submitted to Organizing for America.
• The CEOs who make up the Business Roundtable—many from health insurance companies—are trying to scare people away from a public health insurance option.
• And, finally, great moments in timing: One North Carolina insurance company sent its customers a letter telling them their premiums were going up 11 percent—then sent those same customers a flier asking them to contact their senators and oppose health care reform. Stay classy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina!
Prime time last night was well worth watching. The NewsHour on PBS profiled AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann hosted California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro.
NewsHour showcased Trumka’s start as a coal miner in Pennsylvania and his graduation from Villanova Law School, his rise to president of the Mine Workers and his key role in the tough battle against Pittston Coal Co. The segment included clips from those early days, through to his emotional acceptance speech at our convention in September, when he was elected AFL-CIO president.
As NewsHour pointed out, Trumka made his name “as a bulldog against corporate overreach” while he was AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer.
The segment went on to show a clip of Trumka saying:
I’ll stop demonizing big business just as soon as they put their country before their profits and they put their workers before their greed.
Watch this great segment here.
Later, on the Olbermann show, DeMoro discussed health care fraud—the fraud of health insurers who won’t pay claims, who overcharge patients and who fight against real health care reform legislation.
Watch it here.
The growing number of overseas-educated teachers in U.S. schools has put many talented educators in classrooms, but the trend also has led to a host of concerns about exploitation, questionable hiring practices and harmful effects in the countries that are losing their most qualified teachers.
An estimated 19,000 migrant teachers work in U.S. schools, according to a recently released report by AFT. ”Importing Educators: Causes and Consequences of International Teacher Recruitment” examines the growing number of allegations that recruiting agencies have intimidated teachers, forced them into housing contracts, misrepresented their pay, charged them exorbitant fees and threatened to pull their visas. These practices continue because the international teacher recruitment industry is almost entirely unregulated, according to teacher union leaders.
In the report, AFT calls for federal, state and local governments to take steps to monitor the hiring and treatment of overseas-trained teachers. In addition, the union is recommending that officials:
- Develop, adopt and enforce ethical standards for the international recruitment of teachers;
- Improve access to the government data necessary to track and study international hiring trends in education; and
- Foster international cooperation to protect migrant workers and mitigate any negative impact of teacher migration in their home countries.
AFT is collecting stories from other teachers who have experience with international recruitment practices. Use this form to send them your story.
Says AFT President Randi Weingarten:
It is an outrage that these abuses are occurring in the United States. The AFT is adamant that all teachers working in our school system must be fairly treated, no matter what country they are from.
Take what happened recently in Louisiana. According to a federal complaint AFT filed with the U.S. Department of Labor Oct. 20, a company that recruited Filipino teachers to work in Louisiana schools cheated those teachers out of thousands of dollars and held them in virtual servitude. The complaint alleges that each teacher recruited by Universal Placement International was forced to pay some $15,000 in fees that federal law dictates should be paid by the employer. The AFT alleges that the recruited teachers paid the money to Universal Placement before working a single day as a teacher, and signed an illegal contract, under duress, requiring payment of additional fees.
The allegations, backed by the facts, show these teachers to be victims of worker abuses like the ones in our students’ history books: indentured servitude, debt bondage and labor contracts signed under duress. What makes these allegations especially heinous is that the victims are good teachers, that school districts and tax dollars are involved, and that all this is taking place in 21st-century America.
The teachers came to the United States under the H-1B visa program, which last year brought an estimated 6,000 teachers to the United States to fill hard-to-staff jobs in subjects such as math, foreign languages and special education. The AFL-CIO has called for Congress to reform the H-1B program to eliminate abuses.