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:
- Legislative Activities H1-B and L1 Visas
- Lunch and Learn : Understanding the Power of the Health Insurance Industry
- Fact Sheets on Nurses
- Organizing Conference 2005
- AFL-CIO UALE Education Conference
- Note Worthy
OVERTIME – Despite bipartisan majority votes in the Senate and House of Representatives last fall, the Bush Department of Labor (DOL) is still trying to cut back overtime pay protections. The result: a second bipartisan vote in the Senate on Tuesday, May 4 in favor, 52-47, of the Harkin amendment.
While this victory reminds the Bush DOL of the continuing national opposition to its efforts to pay off its corporate campaign contributors at the expense of workers and the 40-hour week, the final regulations that DOL issued on April 23 will take effect on August 23, absent inclusion of the Harkin amendment in the final Foreign Sales Corporation/Extraterritorial Income legislation (FSC/ETI – S. 1637).
The Harkin amendment allows DOL to expand overtime pay protections but not to eliminate them for workers who have them now. The Senate first voted to pass the Harkin amendment on September 10, 2003. The vehicle then was the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriations bill. The target was the overtime regulations that the Bush DOL proposed on March 31, 2003, which would have ended overtime pay rights for more than 8 million workers. The House followed on October 2, 2003 by passing a motion to instruct its conferees to accept the Senate amendment. In the face of a Bush White House veto threat, the Republican Congressional leadership rolled the appropriations into an omnibus bill early this year and stripped out the Harkin amendment.
On April 19, the Bush DOL sparked news stories citing anonymous sources and announcing that its final regulations were new and improved. The news stories focused on an increase from $65,000 in the proposed regulations to $100,000 in the final regulations for the salary level above which employees would be unlikely to receive overtime pay protections, and on an increase in the floor below which workers would automatically receive overtime pay protections from $22,100 to $23,660. On April 20, DPE President Paul E. Almeida e-mailed an alert to all DPE affiliates warning that “the vast majority of American workers fall between the cap and the floor,” noting that we didn’t yet know what the voluminous regulations meant for those workers, and seeking the input of DPE affiliates.
When the Bush DOL published the final regulations on Friday, April 23, the warning proved entirely justified. To see the final regulations, go to http://www.dol.gov/esa/regs/fedreg/final/2004009016.htm. While the political firestorm that DPE affiliates, DPE and the AFL-CIO generated did lead to improvements – for example, the increases in the floor and cap as well as better protection for many first responders – the final regulations hid many nightmares in their pages of fine print. Despite the Bush DOL claims that workers earning between $23,660 and $100,000 would not lose overtime pay protections, that is not true. The final regulations redefine the salary basis test to allow employers to pay employees on an hourly, daily, or shift basis, still treat them as not entitled to overtime pay, and even use compensatory time (at the suggestion of the National Association of Manufacturers). The final regulations also end overtime pay protections for some 1.2 to 2.3 million team leaders as well as millions of other workers: registered nurses, nursery school teachers, assistant managers in retail establishments, insurance claims adjusters, chefs and sous chefs, many financial services employees, and others. The final regulations also lessen the requirements for eliminating overtime pay protections for computer employees.
On Friday, April 30, President Almeida sent another Alert! to all DPE affiliates seeking their aid for a vote on the Harkin amendment that “could come as soon as Tuesday.” On Monday, May 3, President Almeida wrote every member of the Senate asking that they vote for the amendment. To see the letter, go to http://www.dpeaflcio.org/archives/policy-letters-and-statements/. DPE also joined a letter that AFT initiated focusing on the damage from the new regulations to registered nurses; other signers included AFSCME, AFT, ANA, CWA, IBT, UAW, SEIU, and UAN.
Senate Republicans sought to defuse the momentum behind the Harkin amendment with an amendment from Senator Gregg (R-NH) that explicitly shielded 55 occupations. While the Gregg amendment passed 99-0, it did not eliminate the need for the Harkin amendment to protect hundreds of other occupations. The 52-47 Senate majority that approved the Harkin amendment included five of the six Republicans who voted to protect overtime pay before: Campbell (CO), Murkowski (AK), Chaffee (RI), Snowe (ME) and Specter (PA). Our praise for and thanks to these courageous Senators; you may wish to send your own thanks to them. In the face of Bush Department of Labor misrepresentations and White House pressure, we lost only Stevens (AK).
Our next steps are likely to include seeking a vote in the House to instruct its conferees to accept the Harkin amendment to the FSC/ETI bill.
In the wake of news accounts on April 19, Workers Independent News Service interviewed Assistant to the President David Cohen on April 21 for its radio station subscribers. To hear the story that resulted, go to http://laborradio.org/audio/headlines/lo/winshead042104.mp3 and listen to the second story (after an account of discrimination at Boeing); for the full interview, click on http://laborradio.org/audio/raw/raw042204.mp3.
For questions or comments, please contact David at 202-638-0320 extension 13, firstname.lastname@example.org.
OFFSHORING—Continues to be a major focus of the Department as both Congress and the state legislatures moved forward on a variety of proposals.
- Senate action continued on the FSC/ETI bill—S. 1637. The Harkin amendment on overtime was added (See summary in Newsline below). As of this writing, a host of Senators have lined up a variety of amendments to deal with the offshore outsourcing controversy. In the House, the Small business Chairman Don Manzullo’s block of over 20 recalcitrant republicans continues to block consideration of the H.R. 2896—the FSC/ETI bill. Manzullo and his allies think the bill contains too many tax breaks for companies that outsource offshore. (The DPE had sent a policy letter to the Senate in early March supporting the Harkin amendment and efforts to reduce or eliminated billions of dollars left in the bill for companies that offshore U.S. jobs)
- DPE developed a Fact Sheet analyzing most recent BLS reforecast of 10 year job projections. Analysis shows dramatic shift of job creation from higher-end white collar jobs, to lower-end service industry employment with significant losses in key tech sector occupations. The fact sheet is available on the DPE website— www.dpeaflcio.org (under public policy, issue fact sheets, entitled Offshoring High Tech) For further information, contact Pamela Wilson at email@example.com.
- On the press front, Executive Director Mike Gildea was featured live on April 1 on the Fox News Channel Network in a debate on offshoring and was quoted in USA Today on the same issue.
- President Almeida participates in a policy forum in San Francisco sponsored by The Economist and the World Affairs Council of Northern California entitled “The New Jobs Migration” focusing on the ramifications of white collar outsourcing. Panelists include: Diana Farrell, Director, McKinsey Global Institute; John Templeton, Co-convener, Coalition for Fair Employment in Silicon Valley; Harris Miller, President, Information Technology Association of America; and Ben Edwards, Moderator, American Business Editor, The Economist.
- President Almeida addresses the legislative conference of the Utility Workers Union of America on the offshoring crisis.
- President Almeida participates in a forum at MIT sponsored by The Indian Entrepreneur of Boston and the Indian American Political Forum for Political Education. Panelists included: Dr. Amar Gupta, Professor, Sloan School of Management, MIT; Max Michaels, Director, Cryztal Capital; David L. Andre, CTO, Upromise; Dr. Lakshmi Srinivas, Professor of Sociology, Wellesley College; Ian Fletcher, VP for Government Relations, American Engineering Association; Sona Shah, IT Programmer; and moderator Dick Gordon, host of NPR’s “The Connection.”
LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITIES H1-B and L1 VISAS—Executive Director Mike Gildea joined several WashTech-CWA delegates in town for the CWA legislative conference in visits to members of the Washington state Senators and Representatives to discuss issues related to the H-1B/L-1 guest worker visas, pending amendments re.offshore outsourcing and H-1B worker training funds.
LUNCH AND LEARN: UNDERSTANDING THE POWER OF THE HEALTH INSURANCE INDUSTRY, Program and Discussion, 12 noon –1:30, May 11 — This lunchtime program and discussion will address the power of the health insurance companies and their role in our current health care problems, as well as the barriers to change. Gail Shearer, Director, Health Policy Analysis at the Consumers Union, and Jon Gabel, Vice President of Health Systems Studies at the Health Research and Educational Trust will present a brief history of the health insurance industry in the U.S., discuss the political power of the insurance companies, developments in the employer marketplace, including the impact of the trend toward defined contribution health care, and the possibilities for change. This is the second in a series of DPE programs examining the state of the health care system and proposals for change. We encourage active participation in these programs: Please spread the word.
For further information, contact Pamela Wilson by phone at 202/638-6684 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org
FACT SHEETS ON NURSES: Two new DPE fact sheets on nurses are now available.
- VITAL SIGNS – A Brief Overview of the State of the Nursing Profession in the United States, includes a wealth of statistical and other information gleaned from a variety of sources on: the size and demographic composition of the nurse work force; the projected need for nurses; enrollment in nursing schools and the shortage of nursing school faculty; pervasive understaffing and its dangers to patients and nurses; mandatory overtime and floating; nurse burnout, job dissatisfaction, and departure from nursing; the effects of recruiting nurses from abroad; the high risk of occupational safety and health hazards; wages and benefits; and union organizing.
- THE COSTS AND BENEFITS OF SAFE STAFFING RATIOS – Understaffing poses threats to patients’ lives and drives nurses from their chosen profession. This fact sheet details the growing evidence that understaffing threatens patients’ lives, results in longer hospital stays, and causes nurse turnover. It examines the cost to hospitals of implementing safe staffing ratios, as well as the evidence that nurses return to nursing when safe staff ratios are in place.
To obtain copies of fact sheets or a publications list, visit the Website, www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/factsheets/htm, or email Marcie Lawrence, email@example.com. For information about ongoing research, contact Pamela Wilson, by phone: 202/638-6684, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ORGANIZING CONFERENCE 2005 – The Planning Committee for the March 14-16, 2005 DPE organizing conference, “Organizing Professionals in the 21st Century,” met for the third time on May 4. Also attending were representatives from Peter D. Hart Research, who joined a discussion of attitudinal research that will be undertaken in advance of the conference and released to conference participants. DPE circulated that latest draft of the conference proposal to the Organizing Directors of all DPE affiliates and invited their input. The Committee will meet next on June 1. For questions or comments, please contact David Cohen, 202-638-0320 extension 13, email@example.com.
AFL-CIO UALE EDUCATION CONFERENCE – On April 14-16, 2004, Assistant to the President for Education and Organizational Development David Cohen attended the annual AFL-CIO/United Association for Labor Education conference in Chicago, IL. Among the many valuable sessions were an account of state legislative action opening the way to organizing by AFSCME Executive Assistant to the President Paul Booth; a first-hand history of the evolution of call centers into heavily automated, scripted, and monitored employment by CWA National Representative Teri Pluta; a description of extraordinary alliance, coalition, community, and political work by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Executive Officer of the South Bay Labor Council; and multiple tales of the automation and dehumanization of work from Charley Richardson of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch has just released “Addressing the Regulatory Vacuum: Policy Considerations Regarding Public and Private Sector Service Job Offshoring,” now available on-line at http://www.citizen.org/hot_issues/issue.cfm?ID=794.
The Task Force on Workforce Development of The Albert Shanker Institute and The New Economy Information Service has just released a report “Learning Partnerships: Strengthening American Jobs In The Global Economy.” The surge of global competition into our labor markets, sweeping technological changes, and impending shifts in the demographics mix of our labor force call for a national campaign to improve the skills and professionalism of the American workforce. DPE affiliates among the task force participants include AFT, CWA, IAM, IBEW and IFPTE. These issues are addressed in a report which can be found at: http://www.newecon.org/TFReport4-20-04.pdf.