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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
In This Issue:
- Everybody In, Nobody Out
- Guest Worker Visas
- Actors’ Equity goes to Washington
- Lunch and Learn Programs Planned
- DPE in the News
- Organizing Conference 2005
EVERYBODY IN, NOBODY OUT: DPE SPONSORS PROGRAM ON UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE: On February 5, DPE sponsored the first in a series of programs on the state of the health care system and proposals for its reform. Some 50 people participated in a program and discussion of universal health care led by Quentin Young, M.D., National Coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), former president of the American Public Health Association, and a leader in public health and medical and social justice issues for more than 50 years.
In January 2004, the Institute of Medicine released Insuring America’s Health: Principles and Recommendations (www.iom.edu/uninsured), and called on the federal government to take action to achieve universal health insurance by 2010. Dr. Young led a discussion of the corporate takeover of medicine in America and the PNHP proposal – supported by more than 10,000 physicians – for a universal program of national health insurance that would provide comprehensive care for everyone. The proposal appeared in September 2003 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association and received widespread media attention (www.pnhp.org).
Participants included representatives from AFSCME, AFT, AFTRA, AFGE, CWA, IBEW, IFPTE, NWU-UAW, SEIU, IBT, UFCW, USWA, the AFL-CIO, Alliance for Retired Americans, Working for America Institute, Americans for Democratic Action, the Gray Panthers, Health Care for All, George Washington and Howard universities, D.C. Department of Health, Metro DC Public Health Association, among other national and local organizations
For further information about this and other programs in the series, contact Pamela Wilson by phone: 202/638-6684, or email: email@example.com.
OFFSHORING/OUTSOURCING—the hemorrhage of white collar professional and technical jobs moving off-shore hit Congress full force in February. White House commentary describing this threat as “a good thing” created a political firestorm. On this is issue the Department has been hard at work:
- The Department has drafted a policy resolution for consideration/approval at the upcoming AFL-CIO Executive Council meetings. The resolution—which was developed at the request of the DPE Executive committee–includes over a dozen suggested legislative options for confronting the offshore tidal wave;
- Executive Director Mike Gildea conferred with AFL-CIO staff regarding one of those options—extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits for service sector workers whose jobs are lost to trade. Proposals are now being developed in the House and Senate to accomplish this goal.
- Gildea joined AFL-CIO representatives at a meeting requested by the staff of Senator Chris Dodd (D-CN) to discuss legislative ideas. One—to prevent the offshoring of federal government contracts—was quickly shaped by Dodd into legislation and is now being debated in the Senate as an amendment to S. 1637—the FSC/ETI legislation.
- President Paul Almeida testified before the MD House of Delegates Health and Government Operations Committee on legislation to ban the offshoring of state contracts. Representatives of AFSCME, CWA and the state AFL-CIO also testified. Some 35 states have now introduced proposals to deal with offshoring making it the most prominent issue in the state legislatures this year. The AFL-CIO’s offshoring task force—set up at the request of DPE last summer and now includes Federation staff, affiliates and the DPE—has now developed model legislation, fact sheets, a state status report and a wealth of other materials. The Federation is working with closely with the state AFL-CIO’s to advance the anti-offshoring agenda. For testimony see www.dpeaflcio.org/news/speeches.htm.
- The AFL-CIO, DPE and key affiliates led by AFSCME have developed, in consultation with Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) an amendment to the pending Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare) legislation an amendment to prevent the off-shoring of service contracts funded by federal dollars.
- In February President Almeida addressed a gathering of 100 students, educators, and business representatives at George Mason University. The program was sponsored by the Technology Management Program and The Technology Management Education Association. Also presenting at this forum was Chris Israel Deputy Assistant Secretary for Technology Policy at the U.S. Commerce Department. After presentations were made a lively question and answer period followed. Surprisingly many from the business community voiced concerns over the issue of trading away the nation’s technical expertise.
GUEST WORKER VISAS—Executive Director Mike Gildea testified before the House International Relations Committee regarding the much abused L-1 visa program. L-1 was originally intended to facilitate the “intra-company transfer” of strategic personnel within global corporations that have U. S. facilities. After training in the U.S. side of the operation, the L-1 non-immigrant worker is then supposed to return to their home country or to another overseas location for re-employment. But the program, which has doubled in size in just the last five years to nearly 60,000 visas annually, has morphed into something that now victimizes highly skilled, American professionals and facilitates the offshoring of U. S. white collar jobs. At the request of the Republican staff and Committee Chairman Henry Hyde—who opened the hearing with a strong statement calling for reform of the L-1 program.
Gildea helped facilitate the appearance and testimony of two displaced workers:
- Pat Fluno was a former tech employee of the Siemens Corp in Florida. She and her co-workers were replaced by L-1’s who were “body shopped” into the worksite by an Indian owned outplacement firm that brokers L-1 and H-1B visas and owns—through its subsidiary operations—facilities in India that are taking in a huge volume of offshored U.S. work. She was one of the workers who had to train the L-1 workers who then replaced her and her colleagues. Pat was the lead feature in last year’s Business Week exposé on L-1 abuse. She had testified with Mike last year at the Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearings on L-1 in late July.
- Sona Shah, a 32 year-old, first generation Indian-American worker, is a former tech worker from NJ who was fired (along with her co-workers) and replaced by guest workers at a company that was using (and misusing) L-1, H-1B, F-1, B and other visa categories. Much of the work that she and her colleagues did has now been outsourced, using the very same guest workers that displaced her and now are back in India. Her story connects the dots of how the L-1 and H-1B visas are used first and then the work is offshored. She has been featured on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Moneyline.
Several L-1 reform bills are pending. The AFL-CIO has endorsed H.R. 2702—a comprehensive L-1 reform bill introduced by Rep Rosa DeLauro (D-CN) and drafted in consultation with the DPE last June. Gildea’s House testimony can be seen on the DPE website www.dpeaflcio.org/news/speeches.htm.
On a related issue, DPE again worked with DeLauro’s staff to develop interrogatories for her to use at House Appropriations subcommittee hearings at which the key witness was DOL Secretary Elaine Chao. The questions dealt with lax enforcement of the H-1B program and the Bush administration budget proposal to eradicate the worker re-training fund, underwritten by the $1,000 H-1B, visa fee. In 2002 the DPE had worked with Senate appropriators to kill this proposal.
DISNEY-COMCAST—At the request of key media/entertainment affiliates, the Department joined ongoing strategy discussions regarding efforts to block the corporate takeover of Disney by Comcast. The proposed media mega-merger would create one of the largest, multi-faceted media conglomerates in the world. Since taking over AT&T cable operations several years ago, Comcast has been on a relentless campaign to bust CWA and IBEW unions in the former AT&T cable operations (see www.comcastwatch.com). The AFL-CIO, through its Corporate Affairs Department, had been facilitating consultations among Disney unions regarding possible share-holder tactics in light of the Comcast bid and the internecine battles on the Disney Board over the continued tenure of CEO Michael Eisner. Writers Guild, CWA, DPE and others signed on with public interest and media reform organizations to co-sponsor anti-Comcast press and public events during the recent Disney stock-holders meeting in Philadelphia. DPE, AFL-CIO and other affiliates are continuing these strategy sessions and are now considering potential legislative and regulatory tactics as well.
ACTORS’ EQUITY GOES TO WASHINGTON: TWO PRESENTATIONS OF “THE JOBLESS CHRONICLES” WOW DC AUDIENCES!
On February 11th, Actors’ Equity President Patrick Quinn, and Executive Director Alan Eisenberg traveled to Washington, D.C. to present to key politicians the Union’s position on non-Equity tours and to highlight the importance of the upcoming Production Contract negotiations with the League of American Theaters and Producers. Joining the contingent were Kate Burton, Kathleen Chalfant, Tony Roberts, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and key staff members.
The kick-off event was a special presentation of THE JOBLESS CHRONICLES, at the AFL-CIO headquarters. Based on the real stories of individuals who have lost their jobs, THE JOBLESS CHRONICLES was created in response to the proliferation of non-Equity tours and the loss of work for Equity actors on the road. The rousing 20-minute musical puts a satiric spotlight on employers who look only at the bottom line, and the plight of the millions of jobless Americans, highlighting issues like health insurance, etc.
Later in the day, Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney hosted an influential private party on Capitol Hill in honor of Actors’ Equity Association. In attendance were New York Congressmen Major Owens, Ben Carden, Eliot Eagle and Jerry Nadler; Congressman Brad Sherman of California, Congressman William Jennings Jefferson of Louisiana, and representatives from the offices of Arizona Congressman Raul M. Grijalva and Congresswoman Karen McCarthy of Missouri.
A highlight of the evening was an encore performance of THE JOBLESS CHRONICLES.
Congressman Rangel congratulated Equity on its 90th Anniversary and the innumerable contributions the Union has made to the American Theater. President Quinn addressed the group, again pointing out the importance of the upcoming negotiations and the impact the non-Equity tours has had on Equity members and the theater in general. Ruby Dee echoed Quinn’s comments and urged the assemblage to assist Actors’ Equity in its campaign to reclaim the road. She also spoke about the importance of unions and the need to stand in solidarity. Each Congressman spoke, pledging support for Equity in the coming negotiations and applauded the Union for its numerous contributions to the American theater, as well as the historic leadership roles Equity has taken against segregation and the Blacklist. Congressman Rangel also thanked Equity for its contributions to the recovery of New York City in the weeks and months after September 11th.
OVERTIME – As this is written, Congress is in the throes – again – of trying to beat back the Bush Administration assault on overtime pay. Senator Harkin has proposed an amendment – again – to keep the Bush Administration from ending overtime pay protections for more than 8 million American workers.
The vehicle today is S. 1637, a proposal to revise U.S. export tax breaks: the Foreign Sales Corporation mechanism (FSC) and the Extraterritorial Income Act (ETI). The export tax breaks drew World Trade Organization rulings of illegality and European Union retaliatory tariffs. In a letter to Senators that urged reshaping U.S. tax incentives to support domestic production and jobs, DPE President Paul E. Almeida also expressed support – again – for the latest Harkin amendment.
Muddying the already murky legislative waters are two complications. First, Senate Democrats have offered other amendments to S. 1637, among them one by Senator Dodd to restrict the off-shoring of federal contracts that DPE supports. Second, Republicans are renewing threats to poison the Harkin amendment with other amendments to it.
Bush Department of Labor (DOL) threats to issue final regulations this month lend urgency to the legislative battle. DOL proposed the dramatic cutbacks in overtime pay protections on March 31, 2003. A bipartisan majority of the Senate passed an earlier version of the Harkin amendment on September 10, 2003, and a bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives instructed its conferees to accept the amendment on October 2, 2003. The Bush Administration threatened to veto the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill if the amendment were attached. Republican Congressional leaders rolled the funding into omnibus legislation from which they stripped the amendment.
LUNCH AND LEARN PROGRAMS PLANNED: After a very successful lunch and learn“EVERYBODY IN, NOBODY OUT” described aboveDPE is planningtwoprograms for the spring.
1. Understanding the Power of the Health Insurance Industry will feature a panel presentation and open discussion of the role of the insurance companies in our current problems along with their record on health care.
2. The U.S. will lose up to 3.3 million jobs in such areas as information technology, call centers and computer software to India, China and Eastern Europe in the next decade. A program on The Effects of Offshoring on Women Workers willfocus on the effects of the increasing exodus of white collar jobs overseas on a range of women workers including IT professionals and call center employees, among others.
For further information, contact Pamela Wilson by phone: 202/638-6684, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
DPE IN THE NEWS—The Department continued to garner a lot of news coverage related to outsourcing and guest worker visas. In February, Executive Director Mike Gildea’s House testimony on the abuse of L1 visas was covered by CNN on Lou Dobbs’ Moneyline program. Gildea was also featured in the Rocky Mountain News (Denver), the Charlotte News Observer, the Orlando Sentinel, the Montclair Times, the BNA Daily Labor Report as well as several on-line news services—CNet News, ZDNet, and the Economic Times on-line. He was particularly popular in the Indian press after his testimony on the abuse of L-1 visas by Indian companies. Excerpts of the testimony were carried in The Hindu and the Hindustan Times.
ORGANIZING CONFERENCE 2005: HOLD THE DATES! – Put the dates on your calendar now: March 14-16, 2005. The Planning Committee chose and cleared those dates for “Organizing Professionals in the 21st Century,” the white-collar organizing conference that DPE is organizing in partnership with its affiliates, the Albert Shanker Institute, and the Organizing Research Institute (ORN). In preparation for the March 18 meeting of the Planning Committee, DPE President Paul E. Almeida and Assistant to the President David Cohen have met with Eugenia Kemble of the Shanker Institute, Fred Feinstein of ORN, and Guy Molyneux of Peter Hart Research. David Cohen also attended a two-day seminar sponsored by the Meany Center and Harvard Trade Union Program on using cases.