The purpose of this newsletter is to inform you of recent DPE activities and emerging issues affecting the professional and technical workforce. NewsLine will be published on the first of every month. Feedback welcomed; send to firstname.lastname@example.org
In This Issue:
- Guest Workers
- Trade Agreements
- FCC regs
- Outreach to Future Professionals
- PR strategies for professional unions
- Affiliates News:
- IFPTE Convention
- Joe Greene Retires, AFSA Elects New President
- Verizon Workers Authorize Strike
OT FOR PROFESSIONALS
Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 1938. Its goals: to establish a 40-hour workweek, reward workers with time-and-a-half pay for working longer and spread employment. Now the Bush Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed redefining FLSA exemptions to swallow the rule. There was only one logical place to go: back to Congress. DPE has been a leader of the charge.
The Bush DOL announced its proposed regs on March 31, 2003. They would allow employers – on an almost automatic basis – not to pay workers earning $65,000 or more a year for overtime. For workers earning between $22,100 and $65,000, the proposed regs would lower the bar to reclassify workers as executives, administrative or professional. Employers could load on the work – and not pay for overtime. An Economic Policy Institute study (http://www.epi.org/publication/briefingpapers_flsa_jun03) estimates more than eight million white-collar workers could lose rights to overtime pay.
After legislation to stop the Bush DOL failed in the House of Representatives by a three-vote margin on July 10, the action moved to the Senate. DPE President Paul E. Almeida wrote each member of the Senate urging support for the Harkin amendment to the FY 2004 Labor/HHS Appropriations bill. He also wrote to 159 professional associations and societies to highlight the threat to their members and seek their participation in addressing Congress and DOL. And in consultation with the AFL-CIO legislative task force, DPE targeted three Republican senators for lobbying work. Almeida and DPE Assistant to the President David Cohen visited the staffs of two and spoke with the staff of a third. DPE has followed up by seeking grassroots action from its affiliates and the AFL-CIO.
Other DPE affiliates have joined the struggle to bring home the enormous harm that the proposed Bush DOL regs would inflict. DPE affiliate websites seeking worker action against the proposed regs include those of AFGE, AFSCME, AFT, AFTRA, CWA, IBEW, IFPTE, SEIU, UAW, and UFCW. Meanwhile, the Newspaper Guild sponsored a media briefing – attended by DPE staff – on July 29 at the National Press Club aimed at journalists who will also be adversely affected by the rules. Action on legislation in the Senate has been pushed back to September enabling organized labor to intensify its grassroots efforts, over the August congressional recess.
DPE has posted a Fact Sheet, Bush Administration Proposes Disappearing Act for Overtime Pay. To see the DOL battle-plan, check http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/. For updates, check Breaking News, or contact David Cohen, 202-638-0320 x13, mailto: email@example.com.
Congressional action on this issue continued to heat up in July. On the 29th Executive Director Mike Gildea testified before the Senate Judiciary Sub-committee on Immigration about ongoing abuses under the L-1 “intra-company transfer” visa program. Increasingly corporations have shifted from using the H1-B guest worker visas to L-1s to bring in foreign workers by the truckload. Unlike H-1B, the L-1 program contains few limits and no worker protections. Between 1995 and 2001 L-1 guest workers doubled from 29,000 to over 59,000. In many situations companies have used this visa to replace American professional/technical workers to take advantage of lower paid foreign guest workers. The 3/10/03 issue of Business Week Magazine contained a lengthy expose on the problem. Gildea’s testimony addressed a number of reforms and linked the guest worker visa issue to the outsourcing tidal wave. A Senate subcommittee markup is expected possibly as early as September. The testimony can be found on the DPE website at www.dpeaflcio.org under the subsection entitled Public Policy, Policy Letters and Statements.
Earlier in the month, after weeks of consultations with DPE, Rep. Rosa De Lauro (D-CN), Chris Shays (R-CN) and others introduced H.R. 2702, a comprehensive L-1 reform bill in the House. Among other fixes, the bill would:
- Impose an annual limit of 35,000 on L-1 visas;
- Limit renewals of the one year visa to three instead of five;
- Impose a $1,000 visa fee, similar to the H-1B program;
- Include prohibitions on the replacement of U. S. workers with debarment, civil penalties and back pay remedies for violations;
- Require payment of the prevailing wages and benefits to guest workers;
- Restrict visas to only the primary employer and disallow access to outplacement “body shops”;
- Ramps up DOL, BCIS and State Department enforcement and monitoring of the program.
DPE, the AFL-CIO, CWA and IFPTE are continuing to solicit more House co-sponsors for the De Lauro bill. In addition, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CN) and Nancy Johnson (R-CN) have also introduced an L-1/H-1B reform bill. The L-1 provisions are not as comprehensive as the De Lauro proposal but the H-1B reforms are a good start. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) has expressed interest in introducing a companion bill to the De Lauro measure in the Senate
The guest worker controversy flared up big time during congressional consideration of the Chile and Singapore Free Trade Agreements because the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) had embedded in them new professional visa allotments for each country. However, as a result of efforts begun last Fall by the DPE and the AFL-CIO, substantial restrictions were imposed upon these guest worker provisions by Congtess. During House and Senate hearings and markups, the USTR was upbraided by Republicans and Democrats alike for treading on Congress’ turf re. national immigration policy. House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) was particularly incensed. As a result, the visas allowed under the agreements (5,400 for Singapore; 1,400 for Chile) will be, as the DPE had originally recommended, counted under the H-1B cap. The $1,000 fee will also apply. Other limitations parroting H-1B language were also included. Throughout this effort, other AFL-CIO staff provided invaluable assistance.
Sensenbrenner now believes he has a commitment from USTR to never again include immigration provision in trade agreements and numerous legislators, particularly GOP conservatives, voiced their commitment to oppose any future trade agreements should they do so. Ironically at a meeting of the USTR’s Labor Advisory Committee last January, DPE Executive Director Mike Gildea had raised this matter with Ambassador Zoellick—the USTR. At that time he said that such immigration provisions would continue to be a matter for routine discussion in future agreements. The backfire created that DPE helped to create hopefully will persuade him otherwise. Despite the changes made to the guest worker provisions the DPE joined with the AFL-CIO in urging the defeat of the trade agreements. The DPE letter to the House and Senate opposing the trade agreement can be found on the DPE website at www.dpeaflcio.org under the subsection entitled Public Policy, Policy Letters and Statements.
As a follow up to his mid-June testimony, President Almeida and Executive Director Mike Gildea met with Brad Knox, Counsel to the House Committee on Small Business to continue a dialogue on the issue of the globalization and outsourcing of white collar jobs. Knox is very interested in working with DPE on future strategies to address these issues. Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO hosted the second of its ongoing task force meetings on the issue discussing latest developments as well as possible federal and state legislative strategies. The task force was created as a result of DPE General Board action at its June annual meeting. The full text of Almeida’s June testimony is available on the DPE web page www.dpeaflcio.org under Breaking News.
SCRAMBLING FCC’s SIGNAL
The House and Senate took the first steps toward blocking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from changing decades-old rules on media ownership, which would set the stage for mega-mergers and decrease diversity among media owners.
- In passing the H.R. 2799 — the State, Justice, Commerce (departments) FY 2004 appropriations bill—the House sustained an anti-FCC amendment added to the bill by an overwhelming bi-partisan vote of the Appropriations Committee. The proviso would prevent the FCC from spending funds to enforce its rule allowing networks to own stations that collectively reach 45% of the national television audience, up from the current 35%. A similar plan is under consideration in the Senate. During debate, the House rejected by a 174-254 vote a DPE-backed amendment to block funding for FCC to implement their repeal of the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban. Thirty Republicans joined the effort while a lot of normally pro-labor Democrats voted no fearing it would jeopardize the audience cap rollback.
- In the Senate, support for S 1046 — a bill to roll back much of what the FCC did — continues to gain momentum. As of this writing 45 Senators are already co-sponsoring the bill including 11 moderate and conservative Republicans.
- On a third front, a bipartisan group of 35 senators led by Dorgan and Lott signed onto a Congressional Resolution of Disapproval, a move that could overturn the entire FCC ruling. This strategy was last use to negate the Clinton-era ergonomics OSHA rule in 2001. Although no firm date has yet been set for debate on this resolution, Senate sponsors were pushing for a September vote.
OUTREACH TO PRE-PROFESSIONALS
DPE hosted the second of three summer meetings of high school students visiting Washington for 11-day National Young Leaders Conference programs. Engineering featured prominently among the career goals of this group of 32, as did law, writing, broadcast journalism, and medicine; other students favored urban planning, acting, and fitness training. President Almeida, David Cohen and Pamela Wilson talked about the role of unions in providing a voice for professionals and improving working and social conditions. Questions included: How do you form a union and what are the benefits of membership? How do you negotiate benefits? What were the effects of 9/11 on union members? Students also asked about strikes and their consequences and about the policies and programs of the AFL-CIO. For information about NYLC and its programs, see http://www.cylc.org/nylc or email Pamela Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org
UNIONS ARE FOR PROFESSIONALS: SPREADING THE WORD
During the week of October 23, Jamie Horwitz communications director for AFT and others will be conducting a public relations training program at the George Meany Labor College for the staff of DPE affiliates. It will focus on strategies and techniques for public relations campaigns involving white collar issues. For information, contact email@example.com.
LINKS TO PROFESSIONAL SOCIETIES
To reach the present population of professionals with the message that unions promote high standards and quality work, improve the status of the professions and strengthen them as providers of meaningful, rewarding careers, the Department has been establishing relationships with professional societies, including the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), among others. President Almeida and Assistant to the President, Pamela Wilson, are scheduled to meet with key representatives of the 64,000 member American Library Association in early August to begin a dialog regarding possible connection and collaboration in legislative, college outreach, and other matters. Librarians and library assistants are represented by seven DPE affiliates, including AFSCME, AFGE, AFT, CWA, IFPTE, SEIU, and RWDSU, UFCW. The Department will be involved in labor-related committees existing within ALA.
Resources to assist the Department and its affiliates reach out to similar organizations include a series of publications which detail the benefits of membership in professional societies. Three were published in this year. The 2003 publications focus on: Journalism and Communications; Psychological and Social Service Occupations; and Societies for College and University Teachers, by Academic Discipline. These three join similar publications detailing the benefits of membership in Societies for Scientists and Engineers; and Professional and Technical Health Care Workers. An earlier publication focuses on Societies for Business and Professional Women. All these publications include a listing of the dates and locations of major meetings and conferences of these organizations to assist those affiliates interested in establishing a presence. A fourth, somewhat briefer 2003 publication expands on the list of nurses’ societies provided in the health care workers’ publication to provide a more exhaustive list of professional societies for nurses, including their missions, membership numbers, and contact information. For additional information, call or email Pamela Wilson: 202/638-6684; firstname.lastname@example.org.
IFPTE’s 54th CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
In late July President Almeida attended the IFPTE convention participating in a workshop on Globalization and International Relations and mapped out some of the steps necessary for Congress to take to correct both in-sourcing (guest worker programs) and outsourcing of white collar jobs. Almeida also addressed the convention in plenary session about the DPE and role of leadership in the labor movement and swore in the re-elected officers of IFPTE including President Greg Junemann and Secretary-Treasurer Dee Gorczyca.
JOE GREENE RETIRES
Dr. Joe L. Greene, president of the American Federation of School Administrators, a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council and a Vice President of the DPE announced his retirement as of July 25. Greene, AFSA’s first African American president, led the union for 12 years and was instrumental in AFSA becoming a DPE affiliate in 2000. A former high school principal and mathematics teacher in Detroit for many years, he previously served as treasurer of AFSA, president of the Organization of School Administrators and Supervisors of Detroit and president of the Michigan Federation of School Administrators. Baxter M. Atkinson succeeds Joe as AFSA president. See http://admin.org for further details.
VERIZON WORKERS AUTHORIZE STRIKE
President Almeida took part in a meeting of the AFL-CIO Strategic Approaches Committee held by conference call on July 16 regarding the status of CWA/IBEW-Verizon negotiation. Members of both unions have voted to give union leaders authorization to call a strike if contract talks falter. The main issues for the 80,000 union members from Maine to Virginia are job security, health benefits and mandatory overtime. The contract expired on August 2 and as of this issue negotiations are continuing.