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:
- Almeida Testifies before House Committee
- Bush Makes DoL Into “Diss Our Labor”
- Guest Workers
- SAG and AFTRA: Close But No Cigar
- Media Ownership
- Unions Are For Professionals: Spreading the Word
- Young Leaders/Future Union Members
- Organizing Research Network Conference
- Task Force on Partnership to Meet Skills Shortage
- DPE Governance
PRESIDENT ALMEIDA TESTIFIES BEFORE THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON SMALL BUSINESS ON THE “GLOBALIZATION OF WHITE COLLAR JOBS: CAN AMERICA LOSE THESE JOBS AND STILL PROSPER?”
On June 18, on behalf of DPE affiliates and the AFL-CIO, President Almeida addressed the growing concern of outsourcing and the adverse effect of the H1-B and L-1 visa programs on the workforce.
At the conclusion of Almeida’s testimony, Chairman Manzullo (R-IL) stated that he was looking for the one question to ask the panel, and the question was provided by Mr. Almeida. Manzullo asked, “If these cost-saving job shifts are taken to their logical extreme, even American corporations should be wondering where their future consumers will be located and how they will buy the goods and services that are offered.”
The following are excerpts from Almeida’s testimony:
“The surge of outsourcing can be traced to the explosion in the last five years of H1-B and L-1 visas which saw in excess of one million foreign guest workers enter the U.S. As they developed their core competencies in high tech and other fields, they have returned home and taken these and future white collar and other jobs with them. “
“Based on a survey of the world’s 100 largest financial services firms, Deloitte Research found that these companies expect to shift $356 billion worth of operations and about two million jobs to low-wage countries over the next five years. Forrester Research Inc. predicts that American employers will move about 3.3 million white-collar service sector jobs and $136 billion in wages overseas in the next 15 years, up from $4 billion in 2000.”
“When manufacturing jobs started moving offshore, we were told not to worry: that the U.S. comparative advantage was in services and high technology. We were assured that the new global division of labor was both natural and benign: we would keep the high-paying, high-skilled jobs, while the developing countries would do the actual work of making things. For decades, American workers were told to simply acquire more skills and education in order to succeed in the U.S. job market.”
The full text of the testimony is available on the DPE web page, www.dpeaflcio.org, under Breaking News.
BUSH MAKES DOL INTO “DISS OUR LABOR”
So you thought the Department of Labor was supposed to help American workers? Which Administration were you thinking of? The Bush DOL works to hike corporate profits and CEO pay. The money to re-elect George W. has to come from somewhere.
Proposed regulations from the Bush DOL would allow employers – on a virtually 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 for classifying workers as executives, administrative or professional. Then employers could load on the work without paying 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 their rights to overtime pay.
To build opposition, IFPTE reserved the DOL auditorium for the day that written comments were due, June 30, 2003. Then DOL saw the advisory announcing the event – and suddenly the auditorium was unavailable! It just seemed right that organized labor take the fight outside. DPE President Paul E. Almeida led DPE staff in joining a rally of more than 200 workers in front of DOL. Among the speakers: AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, CWA President Morton Bahr and workers from CWA, IFPTE and UFCW. National media coverage followed.
DPE prepared, circulated and posted a Fact Sheet, “Bush Administration Proposes Disappearing Act for Overtime Pay,” http://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/factsheets/fs_2003_bushpay.htm; participated in the AFL-CIO legal and legislative task forces and worked with the federation on its comments to the DOL, flagged the issue for DPE affiliates, and met with affiliates to develop strategy. To see the DOL battle-plan, check http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/. For updates, check “Breaking News” on the home page of the DPE website, or contact David Cohen, 202-638-0320 x. 13, email@example.com.
DPE has been in month-long discussions with Rosa De Lauro (D-CN) regarding the development of a bill to reform the L-1 visa program. Increasingly corporations have shifted from using the H1-B guest worker visas to the L-1 “intra-company transfer” visa to bring in foreign workers by the truckload. Almost 60,000 of these foreign guest workers were admitted into the U.S. last year—a near 50% increase in less than five years. In many situations, L-1’s replaced U.S. workers. Companies are using this visa to employ their lower paid staff instead of hiring U.S. workers. The 3/10/03 issue of Business Week Magazine contained a lengthy expose on the problem. The De Lauro bill, which will be introduced after the July 4 recess, will contain a litany of proposed reforms and labor protections. DPE, the AFL-CIO, CWA and IFPTE are now working to find GOP co-sponsors for the De Lauro bill. House and Senate hearings on guest worker issues are likely to occur in July.
SAG AND AFTRA: CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR
Landslide majorities of voters in the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) voted to consolidate the two unions. That wasn’t enough.
Under the constitutions of the two unions, 60% of the voters in each union had to approve the proposal. Mail ballots went out on June 9 and were due by June 30. Each union saw record voter response, 53.97% of eligible SAG voters and 57.55% for AFTRA. A tally on July 1 brought the results: While 75.88% of AFTRA voters favored consolidation, the SAG yes vote was 57.78%, 2.22% short of approval.
AFTRA National President John Connolly and AFTRA National Executive Director Greg Hessinger expressed “our hope that the cooperation and unity that have been built with our colleagues in SAG as part of the consolidation effort will help us to work through” potential conflicts with SAG. SAG President Melissa Gilbert declared her appreciation for “the hard work and good will of AFTRA’s leadership throughout the referendum process.” She promised that SAG officers and staff will bring “the same vigor and sense of purpose that have marked their activities throughout the consolidation debate” to avoiding conflict “with our sister union.”
DPE assisted the SAG and AFTRA committees that developed the proposal. DPE also supported consolidation in the meetings that brought more than 85% of each national board to recommend the proposal to the members. DPE President Paul E. Almeida said, “DPE was, and is, proud to have helped develop an unprecedented degree of consensus among the leaders of AFTRA and SAG. As SAG and AFTRA create new means to overcoming the challenges that confront them, we stand ready to assist them, as we do for all DPE affiliates.”
Despite an avalanche of public opposition, as expected, the Federal Communications Commission all but eliminated regulations limiting monopolistic cross-ownership of TV and newspaper properties. The agency immediately came under a firestorm of criticism from Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Commerce Committee. Legislation was introduced by Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Fritz Hollings (D-SC) to reverse the FCC action. The legislation, amended by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) in Committee markup, disallows newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership—a major issue for several DPE affiliates. The Department lobbied target Senators to support both the Stevens bill and the Dorgan amendment. A DPE policy letter went to all of the members of the Committee. The bill was reported out by voice vote with all Democrats except John Breaux (D-LA) supporting it. On the GOP side, Senators Lott (MS), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), Snowe (ME) and Burns (MT) along with Stevens voted aye. Advocates for the bill are now trying to round up additional co-sponsors (now at 38) and are pressing Senate leadership for floor action.
UNIONS ARE FOR PROFESSIONALS: SPREADING THE WORD
On June 17, the Department held the first-ever meeting of its affiliates’ public relations directors and staff to strategize on ways to effectively communicate to both the press and the public the message that unions are for professionals and other highly skilled white collar workers, and that the labor movement is no longer a predominantly blue collar preserve. In fact, white collar workers account for about 50% of all union members. PR directors and staff from 10 affiliates joined DPE in a discussion about ways to improve internal and external communications. Periodic meetings of this group will be held. The meeting was organized by Jamie Horwitz, Associate Director of Public Affairs, American Federation of Teachers, who has been assisting the Department with public relations for the last few months. Beginning on October 23, Mr. Horwitz and others will be conducting a public relations training program at the George Meany Center for the staff of DPE affiliates. It will focus on strategies and techniques for public relations campaigns involving white collar issues. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
YOUNG LEADERS/FUTURE UNION MEMBERS
As part of its ongoing effort to reach out to young people with the message that unions are for professionals, DPE hosted a meeting of 22 high school students visiting Washington for an 11-day National Young Leaders Conference program. With career goals ranging from rock star to pediatrician, to social worker, author, and engineer (all, President Almeida pointed out, represented by DPE) the students questioned President Almeida, David Cohen and Pamela Wilson about the role of the labor movement, the costs and benefits of union membership, the rising costs of medical – and malpractice – insurance, and the representation of the 4A’s. For information about the National Young Leaders Conference and its programs, see http://www.cylc.org/nylc or email Pamela Wilson at email@example.com.
ORGANIZING RESEARCH NETWORK CONFERENCE
In June the Organizing Research Network (ORN) held its annual conference at Harvard University. ORN seeks to bring together scholars and organizers who share a commitment to and research interests in union organizing. The purpose of the network is to encourage and promote more and better research on organizing, as well as to improve the communication of thoughts, ideas and information about the research. ORN strives to expand the research agenda on organizing to cover the concerns of all segments of the workforce, from professional workers to low-wage earners, to attract more researchers to the field, to generate interactions between workers, organizers and researchers, and to connect young scholars to potential mentors.
President Almeida participated in a panel on “Organizing Best Practices: Professional Employees.” The other presenters on panel were Cornell Professor Rick Hurd, who presented results from a survey of nurses who were involved in an organizing campaign; followed by Danielle Van Jaarsveld (a newly-minted Cornell Ph.D.), who spoke about pre-union structures or not-yet-collective bargaining unions such as CWA’s WashTech affiliate; followed by Damone Richardson (a Cornell labor educator based in New York City, who worked previously as a researcher for the IAM), who presented research done with Maria Figueroa of Cornell on organizing targeting in the entertainment industry. Almeida provided reaction to the three presentations, and discussed research done by DPE, along with offering thoughts about organizing engineers and other professionals.
Several DPE affiliates participated and presented at this conference including AFGE, AFT, SEIU and AFSCME.
TASK FORCE ON PARTNERSHIP TO MEET THE SKILLS SHORTAGE
On June 3 the task force, a joint venture of the Albert Shanker Institute and the New Economy Information Service, held its first meeting. The 15-member task force began its work by tackling their mission and purpose. Record layoffs in engineering and other technical occupations along with a new emphasis on outsourcing, led the task force to determine that a broader look was needed to address skills upgrading and enhancement. DPE affiliates on the task force include AFT, CWA, IBEW and IFPTE.
The DPE General Board held its annual meeting at AFL-CIO headquarters on June 10. Discussions centered on the recent adverse rulings by the FCC on media ownership, the upcoming rule changes by the DOL on overtime, and the H1-B and L-1 visa issues. Minutes from the Board meeting will be distributed to Board members in the near future. The Executive Committee met prior to the Board meeting and again by conference call to discuss and act on the finances of the department and proposed actions to address those concerns.