The purpose of this newsletter is to inform you of recent activities by the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO as well as emerging issues affecting the professional and technical workforce. NewsLine will be published on the first of every month. Issues of NewsLine are accessible on the DPE web page www.dpeaflcio.org. Feedback welcomed; send to email@example.com.
In This Issue:
- Guest Worker Visas
- Congressional Casualty: Worker Training
- Another Congressional Casualty: Overtime
- Registration is Underway: Sign up for the Unconference Conference
- The Dominant Service Sector
- Outreach to Professional Societies – Progress at APHA
- National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO)
- Reporting Salaries in the Art
GUEST WORKER VISAS—In the death throes of the 108th Congress, disciples for bringing in more foreign workers to take American jobs succeeded in blowing still another hole in the annual limits on the H-1B guest worker visa program. Led by Sen. Saxby Chambliss(R-GA) who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration along with Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA), a last minute amendment was added to the Omnibus Appropriations bill to allow in another 20,000 foreign workers with advanced degrees form U.S. colleges and universities. This action comes at a time of record-level joblessness among many professional occupations especially the IT industry where hundreds of thousands of these U. S. workers remain on the unemployment lines. In 2003 the annual H-1B cap had receded from 195,000 annually to 65,000. However, a previously approved exemption allows an additional 27,500 foreign workers on average to come in to the U.S. In addition, since the “temporary” H-1B visa is good for up to 6 years, some 125,000 more renew annually. With the new exemption, over 230,000 foreign professionals will be getting guest worker visas and American jobs each year!
The amendment did close a loophole in still another guest worker program—the L-1 “intra-company transfer” visa. Job placement, body shops—many of them Indian owned—that were the subject of some high profile media exposés were excluded from accessing the program and prospective visa applicants are now required to have worked for the petitioning company for one year, not six months as is required under current law. FYI, the L-1 program has no annual cap— or for that matter any worker protections—both of which are among many reforms advocated by the DPE and contained in the labor-backed, comprehensive L-1 reform bill introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) in 2003. For a number of years nearly 60,000 foreign workers came in under the L-1 program.
While the new provision reinstated some other so-called worker protections that had expired when the H-1B cap rolled back, these “safeguards” are widely viewed as ineffective. Conversely, sponsors rolled back enforcement of a program that is widely abused, lacks teeth and is weakly enforced. The new language allows employers to be classified as “in compliance” if violations are “corrected” within 10 days. This “get out of jail free” provision allows employers to break the law until they are caught—then allows them to make good once they are detected. The provision did not specifically define “technical” or “procedural” violations. The guest worker visa package also dealt unions a blow regarding the H-1B job training monies that had been previously underwritten by the $1,000 visa fee (see below). The DPE, a number of our affiliates along with the AFL-CIO and other groups representing tech workers and engineers lobbied members of both the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees to no avail. DPE’s policy letter on the issue can be at www.dpeaflcio.org in the public policy, policy letters directory.
CONGRESSIONAL CASUALTY: WORKER TRAINING—In a second major setback in the Omnibus Appropriations bill, Congress agreed to President Bush’s FY 2005 budget proposed to eliminate some $100 million in DOL monies available under the H-1B Technical Skills Grant Training Program. This job training initiative invested private sector dollars paid to the government as part of the $1,000 H-1B visa fee to upgrade the skills of displaced American workers in H-1B impacted occupations. From the 2000 through December 2003 program, over $300 million had been allocated to over 124 training grants affecting thousands of workers in 35 states and DC. The program had blended some of the best in private and public sector training expertise from small businesses, education—including community colleges and four-year institutions, unions with a long and successful track record in job training, major Fortune 500 corporations, various business alliances and consortiums as well as over 100 state and local workforce development agencies. Unions participating in the program include CWA, IBEW, AFSCME, SEIU, IAM, IATSE, and IFPTE along with state and local AFL-CIOs. DPE’s efforts to convince House and Senate appropriators to reject the Bush proposal were turned aside. DPE’s policy letter on the funding issue can be at www.dpeaflcio.org in the public policy, policy letters directory.
Yet at the same time the remaining H-1B training monies were obliterated, Congress in the very same omnibus bill reinstated the H-1B visa fee that had lapsed in 2003. Funds dedicated to job re-training were however and, in a sign of things to come, unions were disqualified from the program as direct grant recipients.
End of Session Quote: “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” –Mark Twain
ANOTHER CONGRESSIONAL CASUALTY: OVERTIME—In negotiating the omnibus bill, GOP leaders also bent to White House demands that they reject several congressional bipartisan attempts to restrain or reverse administration policies. As a result, the administration’s new overtime rules will stand, and it will be able to proceed with the Department of Labor (DOL) regulations finalized on August 23. By enlarging the professional, executive, and administrative categories of workers not entitled to overtime pay, those regulations could cost more than six million Americans their overtime pay protections.
Expect the Bush administration to launch a new campaign in the 109th Congress by promoting proposed legislation it claims would give ”flextime” and ”comp time” to employees.
REGISTRATION IS UNDERWAY: SIGN UP FOR THE UNCONFERENCE CONFERENCE! The Department for Professional Employees (DPE) has posted registration information for its unconference conference, Organizing Professionals in the 21st Century,scheduled for March 14-16, 2005, at the Crystal City Hilton in Arlington, Virginia. Please visit www.dpeaflcio.org.
Professional and technical workers form the fastest growing, and one of the most heavily unionized, segments of our economy. This conference gives the opportunity for national and local union decision-makers, organizers, key staff, and researchers to share what’s working, tap newly commissioned research, brainstorm, and shape a research agenda for our future.
The hard work of a Planning Committee that’s been meeting since January 2004 has created a unique conference structure. DPE will ask every participant, from the start of the conference, to note questions and ideas that the conference sessions spark. Before the conference ends, every participant will join in a breakout session to set priorities for testing ideas with research.
Already confirmed: a lead plenary session about population, economic, and technological trends for professionals with Dr. Lynn Karoly, Senior Economist at the RAND Corporation, and co-author ofThe 21st Century at Work: Forces Shaping the Future Workforce and Workplace in the United States, published this year; and Dr. Richard Hurd, Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations at the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations and author of, among many other studies, a DPE special report, The Organizing Challenge: Professional and Technical Workers Seek a Voice(1997).
Eight other plenary sessions and a dozen workshops range from “Professionals Organizing to Function as Professionals” to “Into Cyberspace and Beyond! New Tactics for Organizing.” Among other topics: building a union without collective bargaining, alliances and affiliations between unions and professional associations, outreach to pre- and young professionals, professional education as a core for organizing, and forms of organizing in entertainment and media, education, health care, engineering and science, information technology, the public sector, contingent employment, and outside the U.S.
For questions or comments, please contact David Cohen at 202-638-0320 extension 13, firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE DOMINANT SERVICE SECTOR — More than three out of every four jobs in the U.S. economy are in the service sector. Employment in this sector is expected to increase by almost 20% between 2002 and 2012, while employment in the goods-producing sector will increase by little less than 4%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that in 2012, the service sector will employ 129.3 million people.
A new fact sheet from DPE provides information about the service sector, including current and projected employment; the offshoring of white collar jobs; women’s situation; union membership; and service sector trade. To obtain a copy, visit the Web site: www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/factsheets/fs_2004-7_service_sector.htm.
If you have questions or comments, contact Pamela Wilson at email@example.com.
OUTREACH TO PROFESSIONAL SOCIETIES – PROGRESS AT APHA—At this year’s Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association, held in Washington, DC from November 6-10 and attended by more than 13,000 public health professionals, the Labor Caucus sponsored five 90-minute sessions: Organized Labor and Public Health: Natural Allies or Reluctant Partners;
The Nurse Staffing Crisis: Aspects of the Problem;
Worker’s Freedom to Join Unions: It’s a Public Health Issue;
The Nurse Staffing Crisis: Solutions; and
The Labor Movement and National Health Policy
These sessions were planned in collaboration with the AFL-CIO Nurse Committee, the AFL-CIO Public Policy Department, and other Caucus members.
Speakers from DPE affiliates, including AFSCME, AFT, SEIU, UAN, and USWA, were featured, as were representatives from the AFL-CIO and CLUW, and academics and public health officials sympathetic to labor. The sessions were cosponsored by several major Sections and Caucuses within APHA. The Caucus is planning to produce several publications based on the excellent presentations made at its sessions, ensuring broad dissemination of important material.
The Labor Caucus has the purpose of advancing the debate on relevant issues among union members and those who support the health and welfare of workers and their families, both within APHA and within their labor organizations, and supporting and promoting the right of workers in the health care industry to organize. Pamela Wilson currently chairs the Caucus and is continuing efforts to expand the connection and presence of DPE and its affiliates within the association. In addition to the sessions, DPE brochures, fact sheets, and other labor materials were distributed at a variety of APHA and related meetings and events where DPE had a presence, including the Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) annual meeting, the Physicians for Human Rights training, and the November 12-14 Universal Health Care Action Network conference.
DPE’s Lunch and Learn series continues this work. The keynote speaker at PNHP was Doug Dority, past president of UFCW and current chair of America’s Agenda: Health Care for All, thanks to a connection made at the first DPE Lunch and Learn in February 2004, which featured PNHP national coordinator and APHA past president, Quentin Young, MD.
The Labor Caucus exists to foster connection and collaboration between the labor and public health communities. APHA has been supportive of labor, most recently by expressing strong support for the 3,800 DC hotel workers represented by UNITE HERE Local 25 in their dispute with 14 major hotels. The Labor Caucus worked with UNITE HERE, urging APHA’s support, reaching out to APHA executives and members, assisting with the development of materials, and facilitating their distribution to the APHA Governing Council and membership.
Contact Pamela if you would like to know more about the Labor Caucus and its programs: firstname.lastname@example.org
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF WOMEN’S ORGANIZATIONS (NCWO)–- DPE has been a member of this umbrella organization for some 200 groups collectively representing more than 10 million women. DPE has been attending NCWO meetings, and distributing information at meetings and via their Website. Most recently, DPE was asked to contribute an essay for a book entitled, 50 Ways to Improve Women’s Lives. The essay, “Support Labor Unions,” describes the benefits of union membership for professional and other women. The NCWO book will be published in March 2005 by Inner Ocean Publishing, the publishers of the best-selling MoveOn.Org book, 50 Ways to Love Your Country. Events to promote the book are being planned for bookstores and venues throughout the country.
For further information about DPE’s work in this area, contact Pamela, email@example.com.
REPORTING SALARIES IN THE ARTS – DPE has been working with the arts unions to facilitate more accurate reporting of salaries for actors, musicians and other artists by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A meeting involving the New York BLS and AEA, AFTRA, AGMA and SAG was held on November 3; the subject was on the agenda of the Labor Research Advisory Committee meeting in DC on November 17, thanks to AFL-CIO chair, Frank Parente. A follow-up meeting at the national office is being arranged for early 2005. Adjustments in reporting will be made to reflect the overwhelmingly part-time nature of such employment. Contact Pamela Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like further information.