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:
- Off-shoring and Outsourcing
- FCC Media Rules
- Protecting Media Workers
- Task Force on Workforce Development
- Albert Shanker Institute Board Meets
- Organizing to Organize
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
In a not-so-happy New Year’s greeting to American workers, the Department of Labor announced in late December that it will issue its final OT regulations by the end of March. In response, Sen. Arlen Specter (PA) announced that he will hold hearings when the Senate reconvenes on Jan. 20. For details, see “Labor Dept. Plans to End Overtime Controversy in March” under “Breaking News” on the DPE web site.
Also in December, DPE staff worked with the AFL-CIO and the Senate Democratic Policy Committee staff, to put together a 12/11 hearing that focused on the issue, “Will the Bush Administration’s Overtime Proposal Mean A Pay Cut and Longer Hours for American Workers?” The two hour event, which was broadcast by C-Span, featured leaders and workers from DPE affiliates. Among them, UFCW President Douglas Dority, who voiced “the concerns, the anger and the outrage of working families across the U.S. over the largest, single pay cut for workers in history.”
Personalizing the impact on professional workers were: IFPTE member John Garrity, an electronics technician at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Philadelphia and a part-time sales associate at Home Depot; SEIU member Cathy Stoddart, a registered nurse at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh (and, until now, a Republican activist); and UFCW member John Miller, a policeman in Annapolis, MD. Also testifying were Ellen Bravo, national director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, and Ross Eisenbrey, vice president and policy director of the Economic Policy Institute. Senate DPC Chair Byron Dorgan (ND) chaired the hearing which was also attended by Senator Ted Kennedy, as well as Representatives Ted Strickland (OH), John Tierney (MA), Linda Sanchez (CA) and Raul Grijalva (AZ).
Although Sen. Harkin (IA) could not attend, he submitted a written statement vowing to “offer the overtime amendment to every piece of legislation until we succeed.” Harkin’s amendment to stop the regs had been added by the Senate to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill but was later jettisoned during session-ending wheeling and dealing over the catch-all, omnibus 2004 spending bill. While that bill was approved by the House of Representatives Dec. 8, the Senate adjourned a day later without taking action. It will be among the first issues debated upon their return.
In another development, the American Public Health Association has now posted on its website the new policy resolution in support of overtime pay protections adopted at its recent national convention. The statement had been drafted in consultation with the DPE. The Association warned of “the jeopardy in which the proposed regulations would place patient health and care, as already overburdened health professionals find their hours longer, their pay lower, their quit rates higher, and their recruiting efforts less successful, all of which would worsen already inadequate staffing levels and imperil patient safety …” See http://www.apha.org/legislative/policy/2003/LB-03-03.pdf.
OFFSHORING AND OUTSOURCING
Credit card customer service from India, software help desks in the Philippines and radiology technicians diagnosing x-rays in Eastern Europe or China are all apparently part of the new globalized world order for American workers, consumers and patients.
Large U.S. companies such as GE, Visa, Bank One, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Chevron-Texaco, and Oracle, under pressure to lower costs have moved operations abroad and contracted with foreign companies to supply important services. The growth of technology is a key factor enabling employers to transmit data, files and documents around the world ultimately shifting service and other skilled work from its traditional location close to the end market. Over the next decade experts contend an estimated 3.3 million white collar jobs will disappear from the U.S. job market.
What are some of the options to protect these jobs? Alter current “high-tech” visa programs; require companies doing public work to use U.S. workers as nine states are currently contemplating? President Almeida presented a series of policy solutions to the D.C. Chapter of the Industrial Relations Research Association in December. Full remarks are available on the DPE’s web page.
On this same subject, President Almeida attended the Information Policy Institute’s (IPI) symposium on off-shoring along with over 85 attendees from over 60 different organizations representing labor, industry, government and academia. Outsourcing is becoming an increasingly politicized economic phenomenon whose magnitude is unclear and its domestic consequences poorly understood. By bringing together experts from different sectors, IPI set out to add new perspectives to the ongoing debate. For more info, see the IPI web page at www.infopolicy.org.
FCC MEDIA RULES
Besides the overtime issue, when the Senate revisits the 2004 omnibus spending package a battle is potentially brewing over one of the FCC’s new media rules – an increase in the national audience cap. Last summer, in the first congressional salvo, the House – in the Commerce/State/Justice (departments) FY 04 funding bill – wiped out funding for implementation of this revised rule that had increased the cap from 35% to 45%. The Senate Committee version of the same bill later followed suit. Facing the possibility of an embarrassing defeat for the Administration and the FCC if the amendment was retained, House and Senate Republican conferees on the omnibus package – which included the funding measure – agreed to a 39% audience limit. Unlike the original CSJ restriction, which was a one year funding delay, the new provision would be a permanent statutory change. While this so-called “compromise” represented a significant defeat for the Administration, congressional Democrats were outraged that they were excluded from the conference discussions and are opposing the 39% fix. This issue, along with overtime controversy, may further delay final action on the omnibus bill.
Meanwhile, DPE began discussions with key news and entertainment affiliates regarding possible grassroots strategies and tactics for the January 28th FCC meeting in San Antonio, Texas. The second in a series of such forums, the ostensible purpose of the agency sessions is to hear from local groups about how well they believe local media is paying attention to localism – local news coverage of local issues. The proposed hearings were first referenced by FCC Chairman Powell after the June 2nd adoption of their new rules repealing most of the government’s restrictions on media ownership. The Department has touched base with the San Antonio labor council, as well as other public interest organizations, which are anxious to give Mr. Powell the kind of local reception he deserves. Separate discussions are also underway regarding media strategies, including the development of a broad-based poll of media workers, for February 11th in Philadelphia when oral arguments are to be heard on the new FCC rules, the implementation of which have been stayed, pending a decision by the Federal Appeals Court.
PROTECTING MEDIA WORKERS
The DPE is actively lending a hand to the local AFTRA campaign in the Maryland legislature to outlaw non-compete agreements in broadcast and radio markets throughout the state. Non-compete covenants, which are forced upon off and on-air talent, forbid these employees from working for a competitor within the same media market even if the media worker is terminated – with or without cause –or their contract is not renewed. Non-compete restrictions can be imposed for up to a year or longer and often preclude a media professional from working within a broadcast market that can cover hundreds or even thousands of square miles. Such restrictions have a devastating effect upon the careers of these workers by, in effect, preventing them from earning a living or improving their economic standing within their chosen profession. For both aspiring and veteran broadcasters and journalists, these caveats are often the non-negotiable price of being hired in a take-it-or-leave-it environment that allows media employers to amass unreasonable economic leverage over these professionals.
The Maryland effort is part of a national state-by-state AFTRA initiative to prohibit these covenants in as many jurisdictions as possible. In the last year, AFTRA’s campaign succeeded in Arizona, Illinois and D.C. In recent weeks, due in part to the efforts of the DPE’s Mike Gildea, over a dozen additional Maryland legislators have signed onto the bill as new co-sponsors including the House Majority Leader. The Maryland legislature convenes on January 14th.
TASK FORCE ON WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
In December the task force – a joint venture of the Albert Shanker Institute and the New Economy Information Service – continued their efforts that began in England when the group went to study the UK’s agenda for the 21st Century National Skill Agenda. The UK at all levels – government, employers and unions – has recognized the need for a skills agenda for the UK to stay competitive in the global economy. The task force evaluated the UK model and invited their representative to further brief the full Task Force on their program to determine how the US should address skills upgrading and enhancement in today’s economy. The final report will be completed later this year. DPE affiliates that are part of the task force include AFT, CWA, IAM, IBEW and IFPTE.
ALBERT SHANKER INSTITUTE BOARD MEETING
In December, President Almeida attended the Shanker Institute Board meeting. The Institute reviewed the recent study trip to look at professional unions in the UK. This project is being done in conjunction with the New Economy Information Service. For more information about the Institute, see their web page at www.ashankerinst.org.
ORGANIZING TO ORGANIZE
On January 27, 2004, the Planning Committee for the 2005 DPE organizing conference, “Organizing Professionals in the 21st Century,” will hold its first meeting. Our thanks to the Planning Committee members and their unions, AEA, AFSCME, AFT, TNG-CWA, IFPTE, UFCW and WGAE. For questions and comments, please contact David Cohen.