DPE General Board
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Presidents Room, AFL-CIO
June 1, 2011 – May 31, 2012
For a PDF version of this report, click here.
Since the last meeting of the DPE General Board, the DPE Executive Committee elected a new Treasurer. Two valued DPE affiliates, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) became one, SAG-AFTRA. DPE continued its lead role in highlighting the ways that intellectual property affects jobs, incomes, and benefits for U.S. workers. In the face of right-wing assaults on U.S. professional and technical people, jobs, and labor standards, DPE coordinated crucial responses by its affiliates in Congress and the Executive Branch.
In the United States, professionals and related workers remain the largest major occupational group and the fastest growing. The unions that they created make DPE a vibrant forum. DPE research and publications analyze changes in U.S. and global labor markets. Through DPE, its affiliated unions develop plans, achieve consensus, and act collectively.
This report reviews DPE activities under these headings:
● DPE Welcomes New DPE Treasurer and Merger of Two Affiliates
● For U.S. Workers, DPE Leads Way on Intellectual Property
● Against Right-Wing Assaults, DPE Coordinates Crucial Responses
● Outreach to Professional Associations
● Research and Publications
● Communications and Connections
The unions of DPE offer the single most effective route for professional and technical people to achieve a voice and fairness in the workplace and to serve the public. Your contributions enable DPE to take productive action on behalf of your unions and the professional and technical people they represent. DPE is honored to serve as your meeting place.
DPE Welcomes New Treasurer and Merger of Two Affiliates
Since the 2011 General Board meeting, DPE has welcomed a new Treasurer and the merger of two affiliated unions.
In October 2011, the DPE Executive Committee unanimously elected Francine Lawrence as the DPE Treasurer. Lawrence (right) has served since September 2011 as the Executive Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), to whichshe was elected unanimously by the AFT Executive Council. Lawrence became an AFT vice president on its Executive Council in 2008, chaired the AFT Teachers Program and Policy Council from 2006 to 2008, and serves as the chief AFT spokesperson for the Global Campaign for Education. From 1997 to 2011, Lawrence led the Toledo, Ohio Federation of Teachers, which provides a model for school reform that works. She was a speech-language pathologist in the Toledo Public Schools for many years.
On March 30, 2012, voters in AFTRA and SAG concluded a mail ballot that began on February 27. Big votes and huge majorities approved merging their unions into one, SAG-AFTRA. More than half of the eligible voters in each union participated. More than 80 percent of the voters in each union approved.
The merger brought together – in the words of a SAG-AFTRA release – “more than 150,000 actors, announcers, broadcasters, journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals.” It also marked the successful completion of a lengthy process that SAG-AFTRA National Co-Presidents Ken Howard and Roberta Reardon began in 2010.
For U.S. Workers, DPE Leads Way on Intellectual Property
Working with its affiliated unions, DPE continued its lead role in conveying the message that digital theft and the online sale of counterfeit goods hurt U.S. workers, jobs, incomes, and benefits. DPE urged U.S. lawmakers, trade representatives, and diplomats to strengthen domestic and global protections for U.S. intellectual property (IP).
Among other activities, DPE hosted a special meeting of the Arts, Entertainment, and Media Industries (AEMI) unions with White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) Victoria A. Espinel and Aaron Cooper, Chief Counsel for Intellectual Property and Antitrust of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. I testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary on proposed legislation to oppose rogue websites. And with the DPE staff, I assisted the White House in arranging an event – at which AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka spoke – that released a major federal study showing the importance of IP-intensive industries.
Here is a quick chronology:
June 15, 2011: DPE Executive Director David Cohen and I joined Nancy Fox of SAG in a meeting of IP stakeholders hosted by IPEC Espinel (right) to discuss the preliminary results of an unprecedented study by federal economists to identify IP-intensive industries in the U.S. and measure their importance to the U.S. economy. The U.S. Department of Commerce released the final study at a White House event on April 11, 2012 (see below). Official White House photo.
June 16: I joined Terrie Bjorklund of AFTRA, Nancy Fox of SAG, Hal Ponder of AFM, and Scott Harbinson of IATSE to talk with Michael Castellano, Senior Policy Adviser & Senior Counsel to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about action on the Protect IP bill (the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, S. 968), introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on May 12 and unanimously passed by the Committee on May 26.
July 12: DPE released a statement commending private agreements of July 5 and 7 that should help to protect U.S. IP. DPE noted that government leadership was a key to achieving both agreements. The July 5 agreement brought together Internet payment system operators (PSOs) and IP rights-holders and set out best practices for PSOs as they address copyright infringement and the sale of counterfeit products. The July 7 agreement – between Internet service providers (ISPs) and makers and distributors of movies, television shows, and recorded music – created both a system of Copyright Alerts to ISP subscribers and a Center for Copyright Information to support the system and educate consumers.
September 14: I spoke at a symposium, “Online IP Theft in the 21st Century,” sponsored by the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. It drew about 130 participants from academia, government and law enforcement, and industry. DPE Executive Director David Cohen and I were the sole participants from labor.
For hundreds of thousands of skilled professionals in the arts, entertainment, and media industries, I said, “online infringement costs jobs, steals wages, and cuts benefits.” I stressed that “online theft offers a rare case where the facts, the politics, and the policy align” and urged support for the PROTECT IP bill. It would, I said, “offer public law enforcement and private parties … more and necessary tools to fight infringement.” Right: Paul E. Almeida; left: Mike Robinson, MPAA (photo: David Cohen, DPE).
September 19: I joined Terrie Bjorklund of AFTRA, Scott Harbinson of IATSE, representatives of the other entertainment guilds, their industry counterparts, and two key staffers for U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Counsel Michael Tecklenberg and Policy Adviser Kenneth DeGraff, to discuss a House companion bill for the Protect IP bill in the Senate.
October 4: I joined other panelists in a Capitol Hill briefing to oppose online theft. Mark McKinnon, co-chair of Arts + Labs, moderated the breakfast briefing on “Rogue Websites Legislation.” Other speakers included Copyright Alliance Executive Director Sandra Aistars, Michigan State University Professor John Spink, and David Tognotti, General Manager, Vice President of Operations, and General Counsel at Monster Cable Products, Inc.
October 26: I chaired a meeting of the AEMI Industry Coordinating Committee (AEMI ICC), which brought together representatives from Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), American Federation of Musicians (AFM), AFTRA, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), SAG, and Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). We hosted two special guests: IPEC Victoria A. Espinel and U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chief Counsel for Intellectual Property and Antitrust Aaron Cooper. Espinel addressed IP law enforcement, voluntary private agreements, public and consumer education, and legislative reforms. Cooper focused on the PROTECT IP bill.
J. Walter Cahill, IATSE Third Vice President, spoke about Creative America, a new grassroots coalition formed by labor unions, guilds, studios, and networks that launched a public campaign to protect American jobs and creativity against content theft. He said that IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb saw a need to show that digital theft threatens ordinary working Americans. Other AEMI unions in the coalition include AFTRA and SAG.
DPE Executive Director David Cohen and I recounted DPE activities to strengthen IP protections: my speaking at the October 4 Capitol Hill briefing (see above), Cohen’s attending an October 18 Senate meeting about the PROTECT IP Act, and Cohen’s urging Senate staff to provide floor time for the PROTECT IP Act before 2011 ended.
November 3: I wrote to all Senators asking that they co-sponsor the PROTECT IP bill.
November 16: I testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary and urged its members to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261), the House companion bill to the PROTECT IP bill in the Senate. Among the six witnesses at the three-and- a-half hour hearing, I was the sole labor representative. The hearing drew an unusually large number of members of Congress, a packed hearing room, and intense media scrutiny. I focused on three messages: the importance of the legislation to U.S. workers, jobs, incomes, and benefits; the risks that rogue websites pose to workers both as workers and consumers; and the strong belief of the unions affiliated with DPE in the First Amendment and an open Internet, which do not contradict their support for fighting online crime. Almeida, right; at left, Katharine Oyama, Google (photo: Cecelia Rogers/Library of Congress).
November 29: At a White House event, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a campaign to enlist public support for fighting IP crime. Representing DPE at the event was Executive Director David Cohen. The tagline: “Counterfeits Hurt. You Have The Power To Stop Them.” The DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance funded the National Crime Prevention Council – best known for “McGruff the Crime Dog” – to undertake public service advertising. At left is a sample print ad.
December 13: At a Capitol Hill event, surrounded by key members of Congress and examples of counterfeited brand-name goods, I described the threat to U.S. workers, jobs, incomes, and benefits from foreign rogue websites. I led a line of speakers representing different American industries and the people who work in them.
January 17, 2012: An outpouring of concerns from the tech community led Congress to shelve the PROTECT IP bill and the Stop Online Piracy bill.
February 16: DPE Executive Director David Cohen spoke about digital theft and the need for legislation to counter foreign rogue websites on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, a program on WHYY in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley that Sirius-XM also carries.
February 17: DPE Executive Director David Cohen attended a White House meeting on intellectual property enforcement and U.S. government personnel overseas. Moderated by a representative from the office of the White House Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, the meeting brought together representatives from multiple federal agencies with intellectual property rights holders.
March: In a powerful act of worker and union solidarity, AFT joined DPE in spreading the word about the cost for workers of digital theft. AFT leaders heard about the problem through DPE. The March/April 2012 American Teacher – the national AFT publication – included an open letter to AFT members, “Countering digital theft: Illegal downloading of music, TV and movies hurts workers.” The piece bore the bylines of Ray Hair, President of AFM; Ken Howard, President of SAG; Matthew D. Loeb, President of IATSE; and Roberta Reardon, President of AFTRA. The letter from the four presidents pointed out:
Teachers and professors battle the plague of plagiarism—students stealing ideas and text—that the Internet makes easy. For our members, digital theft is plagiarism on steroids. It’s not only stealing ideas and text. It’s stealing livelihoods.
April 11: DPE Researcher and Representative Jennifer Dorning and I attended a White House event that DPE assisted in organizing, “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus.” (See June 15, 2011 above.) The U.S. Commerce Department released a comprehensive report finding that U.S. IP-intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs. The IP-intensive industries contribute more than $5 trillion dollars to, or 34.8 percent of, U.S. gross domestic product. Speaking at the event, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka said, “This report shows the profound importance of intellectual property to American living standards and our future. Intellectual property protections – copyrights, patents, and trademarks – translate into jobs, incomes and benefits.”
May 3: At the International Anti-Counterfeiting Conference in Washington, DC, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) released a Statement of Best Practices encouraging marketers to counter online piracy and counterfeiting. I commented: “This is an important announcement for job protection and job creation; we should all be looking for ways to support online businesses that do the right thing. No one should be doing business with rogue sites that deal in stolen goods that undermine the ability of hardworking middle-class people to make a living.” I urged others in the advertising community to follow the lead of ANA and the 4A’s.
Against Right-Wing Assaults, DPE Coordinates Crucial Responses
Since the last meeting of the General Board, DPE has coordinated crucial responses in Congress and the Executive Branch by its affiliates to right-wing assaults on U.S. professional and technical people, jobs, and labor standards. It has also continued its public policy and legislative work in targeted areas.
Opposing the Computer Professionals Update Act (CPU Act, S. 1747): On October 20, 2011, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced the CPU Act. The highly respected and nonpartisan Congressional Research Service says the bill “effectively eliminates overtime pay for all IT [information technology] professionals.”
DPE pushed back. It has worked to flag for Congress how bad the bill is, to avoid a possible companion bill in the House of Representatives, and to prevent a weakening of wage protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that other industries would rush to join.
On November 9, I sent a letter to all Senators asking that they oppose the bill: “The CPU Act marks one more corporate assault on U.S. workers. In these tough economic times, cutting the pay of U.S. workers is a terrible idea.” In a DPE Alert! on the same day, DPE urged other labor groups to join its opposition. On December 9, I sounded the alarm in Senator Bennet’s home state with an interview on Denver radio, AM 760, “Colorado’s Progressive Talk.”
On February 5, 2012, the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, a newspaper in Senator Hagan’s home state, published “Bill seeks to limit OT for high-tech workers.” On February 23, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carried “Bill would cut overtime for some in IT.” Both articles quoted DPE Executive Director David Cohen, who described the CPU Act as “a terrible idea at a terrible time.”
On February 16, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released an analysis by EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey, “Misguided CPU Act would cut tech workers’ wages.” Its conclusion: “While labor law regarding IT pay should be updated, it should be updated in a way that increases workers’ pay, instead of cutting it…”
Eisenbrey recalled that the original intent of the IT exemption from overtime pay protections under the FLSA was to “apply only to the very top experts in computer software” – people “who had so much authority that they could essentially control their own hours.” Now, though, IT employers want to expand the exemption to every IT worker. Their goal: higher profits through lower wages.
A goal of the FLSA was to encourage employers to hire more employees rather than exploit the employees they have. With high long-term unemployment, that goal remains crucial. As Eisenbrey commented, “It’s hard to have a life if your employer can order you to work 90 hours a week, and it makes me think about the job creation possibilities of having two employees each work 45 hours a week rather than one working 90 hours.”
With its affiliated unions, the AFL-CIO, and others, DPE has thus far stalled the bill.
Three co-sponsors were originally on the bill: Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Johnny Isakson (R-GA). Having two Democrats from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee – Hagan and Bennet – on the bill made the risk of its becoming law a real one.
In the months since its introduction, only three more Senators have joined them, all Republicans: Scott Brown (MA), Tom Coburn (OK), and Richard Burr (NC). No Senators have signed on since February. That was the month before the AFL-CIO Executive Council unanimously passed a statement that DPE proposed, “For American Workers, Overtime Protections Bring Jobs, Income, and a Life,” and before DPE, AFT, IBEW, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), and the AFL-CIO launched a mini-lobby day opposing the bill.
On March 14, 2012, the AFL-CIO Executive Council unanimously adopted a statement from DPE calling for Congress to strengthen overtime pay protections instead of attacking them. I presented the statement, “For American Workers, Overtime Protections Bring Jobs, Income and a Life,” to the AFL-CIO Policy Committee. The statement begins:
Now is the time to expand overtime protection, not take it away. The purposes of the overtime laws are as urgent today as they ever have been. Those purposes are to encourage businesses to hire new employees instead of overworking existing employees, and to compensate workers for the burden of working long hours. With 24 million workers in need of full-time employment, we need to give employers more incentives to hire.
The Executive Council statement denounced the CPU Act. The Executive Council observed:
The corporations lobbying for S. 1747 would undoubtedly prefer to pay their employees less and overwork their existing workforce rather than hire new workers or pay a fair wage. This is not new behavior on the part of employers. In fact, it was in response to this kind of behavior that Congress passed the FLSA.
On March 28, DPE worked with its affiliated unions AFT, IBEW, and IFPTE, as well as a delegation from the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, IFPTE Local 2001 (SPEEA), the AFL-CIO, and Communications Workers of America (CWA), to visit the offices of Senate leaders and members of the HELP Committee and oppose the CPU Act. Participating in the visits were member activists from across the country. AFT generously hosted a breakfast briefing before the visits began, at which DPE Executive Director David Cohen highlighted for the group key points in the materials that DPE assembled.
On March 29, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the Senate HELP Committee, introduced the Rebuild America Act. Among its provisions is one to raise and index the threshold beneath which professionals automatically qualify for time-and-a-half when they work beyond 40 hours in a workweek.
DPE continues to mobilize in opposition to the CPU Act.
Guest worker visa programs and other immigration measures affecting professional and technical workers: DPE has provided a strong voice on Capitol Hill and nationally in highlighting abuse of the guest worker visa system. Among other things, DPE has reminded policy-makers and the public about the ample supply of highly skilledU.S. graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, despite management and industry claims of a shortage. (For examples of forums in which I presented the perspective of U.S. professional and technical workers on immigration, see “Communications and Connections” below.)
I remain Vice Chair of the AFL-CIO Immigration Committee, and DPE continues to be the resource in the AFL-CIO about “high tech visas” – H-1B and L-1. On April 3, 2012, DPE and 19 unions and associations sent a letter to President Obama asking him to oppose expansion of the L-1B visa program. DPE drafted the letter in response to a March 22 letter to the President from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 62 multi-national corporations. The Chamber was calling on the President to make it easier to import low-skilled, low-paid L-1B visa guest workers.
The L-1B visa allows multi-national corporations to transfer foreign employees with “specialized knowledge” to work in the U.S. for up to five years. Tens of thousands of L-1B visas were granted in 2010. Big business is specifically calling on President Obama to lower the standard of what it means to have “specialized knowledge,” so that businesses can import more guest workers. Businesses like L-1B visas because they do not have to pay the workers a minimum wage or show that no qualified American worker is available for the job.
Abuse of the L-1B visa has been well documented. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “so many foreign workers seem to qualify as possessing specialized knowledge” that it “appears to have led to the displacement of American workers…”
On April 18, DPE Research Intern Charlie Fanning and I attended an all-day strategy session on “Immigrant Workers in the Workplace and Community,” co-hosted by the AFL-CIO and the Southern Poverty Law Center. More than 125 representatives from labor, community, and advocacy groups sought to develop a shared analysis of the laws and politics that immigrant workers face and to update strategies for protecting worker rights. Participants expressed a need to share technical assistance and best practices. I participated in a breakout session on temporary work and temporary workers, an important topic for professional and technical workers. Fanning helped to coordinate the event with the Immigration and Community Action team. He also co-authored a paper with AFL-CIO Assistant to the President for Immigration and Community Action Ana Avendaño, “Fighting the ‘Race to the Bottom’: A Legislative Approach to Protecting Immigrants and Low-Wage Workers in a Globalized Labor Market,” that was distributed to the audience.
In April, DPE also published Gaming the System 2012: Guest Worker Visa Programs and Professional and Technical Workers in the U.S., an update of our special report first published in 2009 that, as I reported last year, led to high visibility for visa abuses and an exchange in 2010 of dueling reports between the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and DPE. (See “Research and Publications” below.)
In May, DPE responded to a report calling for the U.S. to auction guest worker visas to the highest bidder. The report, Rationalizing U.S. Immigration Policy: Reforms for Simplicity, Fairness, and Economic Growth, by Giovanni Peri of the Hamilton Project proposed that employers be permitted to purchase work permits for guest workers at auction. The work permit would be used by the employer to hire a temporary guest worker for up to five years after the worker obtains a visa to enter the country. Employers would be free to pay the guest worker any wage. The goal of the auction system is to create a market-based immigration system.
DPE’s response made clear that a virtually unfettered free-market immigration system is an extremely poor substitute for sensible immigration policy that balances the needs of employers and workers. The auction scheme includes no protections for wages or workers, but instead grants employers extensive access to the global labor pool. Free markets tend to lower worker wages, which is accomplished by flooding the market with low-cost labor.
DPE reiterated its support for the immigration reform proposal crafted by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall and supported by the AFL-CIO. This proposal would de-politicize our immigration system by putting it in the hands of an independent commission that would assess labor market needs on an ongoing basis. The commission would be required to examine the impact of immigration on the economy, wages, workforce, and business.
Correcting a radical redefinition of who is a “supervisor”: Many professional and technical people guide other employees. Three National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions in 2006 threatened to transmute that fact into supervisory status. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), supervisors have no protections for forming or joining a union.
Collectively known as the Kentucky River cases after the 2005 Supreme Court decision that asked the NLRB to revisit its definition of “supervisor,” the cases – Oakwood Healthcare, Golden Crest Healthcare, and Croft Metals – radically expanded the category of employees to whom the term applies. The cases thus threatened union protections and representation for large numbers of employees in every occupation, industry, and sector.
Unions affiliated with DPE made responding to the Kentucky River cases a priority. After extensive work with its affiliated unions in 2006 and 2007, DPE hosted a February 2007 conference, “Crossing Kentucky River: Next Steps for Professional and Technical Employees,” that drew participants from 19 unions, two other trade departments, five union law firms, and the AFL-CIO.
In March 2007, House and Senate sponsors introduced the RESPECT Act – the Re-Empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Tradeworkers Act – in both chambers. It specified that a supervisor must have authority over other employees for a majority of his or her work time and took away assigning or directing other employees as criteria for supervisory status. It would thus have corrected the NLRB decisions. Unfortunately, it failed to become law.
On August 25, 2011, DPE Executive Director David Cohen joined a meeting of union legislative representatives convened by staff members for Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) (right). The topic: a possibility that Blumenthal would reintroduce the RESPECT Act. On March 7, 2012, he did. Co-sponsoring S. 2168 were Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL). Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) joined them on March 28; Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), on May 23.
On March 8, I wrote all members of the Senate asking that they co-sponsor the bill. I explained that “for professional and technical workers,” the bill is “among the highest and most urgent priorities.”
On March 29, Senator Harkin introduced the Rebuild America Act (S. 2252), which among other provisions incorporated the RESPECT Act into a series of proposed amendments to the NLRA.
Monitoring and sign-ons: The AFL-CIO Legislative Committee meets weekly when Congress is in session. DPE monitors the meetings. DPE also responds to requests to sign on to joint letters supporting the legislative priorities of its affiliated unions or allied social justice organizations. Topics for joint letters included opposing the privatization of government functions, opposing legislation that would reduce state and local revenues, supporting legislation that would enable state and local governments to levy the same taxes on online and remote sellers as on brick-and-mortar merchants, supporting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Act (SNAP, or food stamps), supporting the development of new antibiotics, and opposing a constitutional balanced budget amendment.
Outreach to Professional Associations
A core element of the DPE mission that its affiliated unions defined is “building alliances with professional associations and societies promoting the interests of professional and technical workers.” The work of DPE in the last 12 months continued to honor that emphasis.
DPE has worked with its affiliated unions and others to develop programs and policy resolutions, and disseminate information, at meetings of the American Library Association (ALA) and its companion organization, the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA); and the American Public Health Association (APHA). DPE Researcher and Representative Jennifer Dorning co-chairs the AFL-CIO/ALA Joint Committee on Library Services to Labor Groups, serves on the ALA-APA Committee on the Salaries and Status of Library Workers, and chairs the APHA Labor Caucus.
The work of DPE with these organizations led to programs at ALA and APHA featuring speakers and panelists from, among others, AFT, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and the United Steelworkers as well as the Coalition of Labor Union Women.
DPE also continued to host Professionals for the Public Interest: Associations and Unions Defending Professional Integrity (PftPI) and the PftPI website. PftPI brings together 10 national unions, all affiliated with DPE; eight national and global professional associations; and DPE, which serves as the managing partner. Coordinating PftPI activities is its Joint Working Group (JWG). I have chaired each JWG meeting.
Since the last meeting of the General Board, the endorsing organizations of PftPI unanimously welcomed the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) to their ranks. AFGE Secretary-Treasurer J. David Cox serves also as Chair of the DPE General Board.
The JWG also agreed that PftPI should sign on to a joint letter urging Congress to enact the Whistleblower Protection Act to strengthen whistleblower protections for federal employees. The JWG decision followed a briefing at its April 28, 2011 meeting by Tom Devine and Shanna Devine of the Government Accountability Project, which organized the letter, and a recommendation from the PftPI Policy Subgroup chaired by Raymond Garant of the American Chemical Society.
The JWG also authorized Garant as the subgroup chair and me as Chair of PftPI to write letters to decision-makers informing them of established PftPI positions. Approval of a letter to Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels commending improvements in the U.S. Department of Labor Whistleblower Protection Program prompted the broader delegation of authority.
I thank you and your unions for the support that makes the work of DPE with PftPI possible. Our collaboration with professional associations through PftPI since 2007 creates a union exchange with professional associations on a scale that did not exist and enables us to learn from and about the professional associations with whom we are working.
Research and Publications
The research and publications program of DPE remains intensely practical. DPE Fact Sheets provide statistical portraits of the professional and technical workforce and highlight the benefits of union membership for professionals. DPE Researcher and Representative Jennifer Dorning has updated 11 Fact Sheets as well as the “Professionals in the Workplace” pages on the DPE website, revised DPE’s special report on guest worker visas, and compiled affiliate organizing victories.
The updated fact sheets include:
- The World of Work: A Labor Market Overview (the U.S. workforce has been transformed as a result of changing demographics, globalization, free trade, and public policy);
- Library Workers: Facts and Figures (198,000 librarians and 37,000 library technicians responded to an estimated 1.5 billion library visits last year);
- The STEM Workforce: An Occupational Overview (STEM workers account for nearly 25 percent of the professional labor force, and STEM jobs are expected to grow faster than average for all occupations from 2010 to 2020);
- Nursing: A Profile of the Profession (nursing has a higher than average unionization rate and will continue to be one of the fastest growing among all occupations);
- The U.S. Health Care System: An International Perspective (the U.S. spends for health care well over double the average of other countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development);
- Intellectual Property Theft: A Threat to U.S. Workers, Industries, and Our Economy (copyright infringement and the sale of counterfeit goods cost the American economy billions of dollars annually and hundreds of thousands of lost jobs);
- Safe-Staffing Ratios: Benefiting Nurses and Patients (state-mandated safe-staffing ratios improve the safety of both patients and nurses);
- Professional Women: A Gendered Look at Occupational Obstacles and Opportunities (although today’s professional women are rapidly deconstructing outdated gender norms in society, the workplace, and the home, many obstacles remain for gender equality);
- Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians: Facts and Figures (the 268,030 pharmacists who dispense medications and the 333,500 pharmacy technicians who assist them play an integral role in our health care system);
- School Administrators: An Occupational Overview (school administrators in colleges and public and private schools provide essential educational, curricular, and often financial leadership for our educational institutions); and
- Guest Worker Programs and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce (while skilled guest workers can supplement our science and engineering workforce when a labor shortage exists, the current system substitutes guest workers for U.S. workers and drives wages down).
In August 2011, the “Professionals in the Workplace” section of the DPE website was updated. It provides information about various professionals and employment sectors, including professional and technical employees; women in the professional workforce; social service professionals; teachers and college professors; librarians and library paraprofessionals; health care professionals and technicians; professional performers; scientists and engineers; science and engineering technicians; the professional computer workforce; and television and radio broadcasting professionals and technicians.
In April 2012, DPE updated its special report on the use of temporary guest worker visas. Gaming the System 2012: Guest Worker Visa Programs and Professional and Technical Workers in the U.S. explores the impact of the estimated 350,000 guest worker visas that the STEM sectors use every year. Because powerful employers benefit from the immigration system, Congress has been unwilling to work toward comprehensive immigration reform that would curb employer abuses and protect workers. The report calls for reforming the skilled guest worker system to eliminate employer incentives to displace U.S. citizens and permanent residents, while preserving the ability of employers to hire talented guest workers.
In April 2012, DPE published its annual report highlighting the organizing victories of professional and technical workers in its affiliated unions.
Communications and Connections
DPE communications and connections rely on both electronic and personal outreach. On the electronic side, DPE continues to expand its website to spotlight the unions affiliated with DPE as well as current programs and campaigns.
The website enables DPE to track how many people visit the site and the pages they look at. Each month, the website averages 1,038 unique visitors (the number of unique individuals who looked at the site) with an average of 1,184 total visits. This is a 21 percent increase in unique visitors from last year. Nearly 85 percent of the visitors have not visited the site before.
A more detailed analysis shows that the page “I’m a Professional. What Can a Union Do for Me?” had an average of 236 unique page views per month, and the average visitor spent over four-and-one-half minutes on the page. This is a 159 percent increase in unique page views from last year. In just the past five months this page has averaged 361 unique page views per month, which is a 297 percent increase over last year.
“Professionals in the Workplace” and the related content had an average of 207 unique page views per month. These pages provide an occupational sketch for a number of highlighted professions and special interest groups. The “Teachers and College Professors” page had the most unique views with an average of 31 per month. It was followed closely by “Women in the Professional Workforce” with an average of 26 views per month.
“Issue Fact Sheets and Reports” had an average of 71 unique page views per month. The average visitor spent over three minutes on this page, which has a high number of repeat visitors, averaging 139 total page views per month.
DPE also continues to circulate its monthly electronic newsletter, DPE NewsLine, and to issue DPE Alerts!, one-time bulletins flagging time-sensitive news, events, or action.
Personal outreach includes DPE governance meetings, meetings of the AEMI ICC, and participating in events with allied organizations or that focus on topics of DPE expertise, from an international meeting of actors’ unions to forums about immigration to a discussion of high-tech employment.
On March 22-23, 2012, at the invitation of its affiliated unions, DPE participated in a meeting of the International Federation of Actors – North America (FIANA) and its English-speaking group (ESG). FIANA/ESG Convenor Stephen Waddell, Executive Director of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television and Radio Artists, put DPE on the agenda. DPE Executive Director David Cohen and I explained the DPE structure and operations, highlighted the activities of its affiliated arts, entertainment, and media unions, and reported on polling of unorganized professionals. AFTRA President Roberta Reardon and National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth and SAG National Executive Director David White supplemented the presentation, which led to an active discussion with unions from Australia, Canada, and Great Britain.
Since the last meeting of the General Board, I offered a labor perspective on immigration in a number of forums. In addition to the April 18, 2012 strategy session on “Immigrant Workers in the Workplace and Community” (see “Guest worker visa programs and other immigration measures affecting professional and technical workers” above), I spoke at a Georgetown University workshop, “Dynamics of the Science and Engineering Labor Market: Projections, Regulations, and Employment Patterns,” on July 11, 2011, and at a retreat on foreign labor recruitment sponsored by the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (Center for Migrant Rights) at George Washington University on October 17-18, 2011.
On a January 12, 2012 panel looking at “Employment Relations and Alternative Strategies for Workers in High-Tech Occupations,” I served as the discussant. Chaired by Daniel Marschall of the AFL-CIO and George Washington University at the annual meeting of the Labor and Employment Relations Association, the panelists included Danielle van Jaarsveld, University of British Columbia, on “WashTech and Mutual Aid Logic in Organizing High-Tech Workers”; Chris Benner, University of California, Davis, on “Craft Guilds and Social Networking to Organize High-Tech Workers”; Johanna Weststar, Saint Mary’s University, on “Opportunities or Threat to Collective Action Among Video Game Developers?”; and Chip McCormick, CommerceHub, on “Alternative Organizational Forms of Open Source Software Developers.”