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:
- Organizing for the Times: An Unconference Conference
- Guest Worker Visas
- Overtime: In Case you Wondered Why the Election Matters
- AEMI Committee Meets
- International Comparisons in Health Care: Lunch and Learn Program and Discussion with Gerard Anderson, Ph.D.
- Private Health Insurance Premiums Rose 11.2% in 2004
- Outreach to Professional Associations –– APHA Meets in D.C.
- Physicians for Human Rights Advocacy Training and Dinner Celebration Includes DPE
- Strengthening the Link to Women’s Organizations
- Professionals, Unions, Leaders and Power
- International Union Outreach
- Working on the Curriculum
- DPE Publication
ORGANIZING FOR THE TIMES: AN ‘UNCONFERENCE’ CONFERENCE – On March 14-16, 2005, DPE will sponsor a conference on “Organizing Professionals in the 21st Century”at the Crystal City Hilton in Crystal City, Virginia. The conference Planning Committee – representatives from DPE affiliates AEA, AFT, TNG-CWA, AFSCME, IFPTE, UFCW, and WGAE, as well as the Albert Shanker Institute and the Organizing Research Network – met on September 10 and 20, 2004 to refine a draft agenda. The hard work of the Planning Committee promises a chance to share new approaches and fresh information, both grounded in solid data. The committee is also seeking input and involvement from other DPE affiliates, singly and through meetings such as the September 13 meeting of the Arts, Entertainment, and Media Committee. For questions or comments, please contact David Cohen at 202-638-0320 extension 13, firstname.lastname@example.org.
GUEST WORKER VISAS – The month-long return of Congress following the six-week summer recess brought on a pitched battle over renewed efforts to expand professional guest worker visa programs.
Background: A year ago, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary’s Immigration Subcommittee, introduced legislation—S. 1635—to deal with one of the abuses under the L-1 program, namely to prohibit outplacement firms (aka body shops) from having access to the program. While this single shot reform is needed, it fell woefully short of solving a myriad of other L-1 problems addressed by the comprehensive reform bill—H.R. 2702—introduced by Rep Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and strongly supported by DPE. In late spring when the bill was first scheduled for markup, DPE sent a letter to the members of the full Judiciary Committee outlining other options for improving the bill and amending the underlying legislation. DPE Executive Director Mike Gildea lobbied the staff of many of the Committee members to try to encourage Senators to offer amendments but there were no takers.
Substance: Suddenly, in early September a new substitute version for the Chambliss legislation emerged that would have included a proposal to blow a huge whole in the H-1B annual visa limit of 65,000 visas by adding still another open ended H-1B exemption—this one for foreign graduates of U.S. institutions with masters or PhD degrees. The impetus for this effort were Republican Senators Chambliss, Hatch, Grassley with Democrats Kennedy and Leahy participating in negotiations, (H-1B already exempts from the visa cap any foreign guest worker applying for a visa who will be employed in higher education and non-profit or government research institutions. From 2000 through 2004, according to government statistics, over 110,000 foreign guest workers came in under this exemption or about 27,500 per year).
Regarding the newest exemption proposal, Senate staff estimated that some 30,000 to 40,000 additional H-1B visas would be issued annually—a 61% increase over the current 65,000 cap! However, the DPE believed this estimate to be a low ball calculation. Yet, even if this number were to be correct, the 40,000 would come on top of the 27,500 already exempted, the 65,000 allowed in under the cap as well as the 115,000 H-1Bs (average per year from 2000-03) that renew their three year H-1B visa for a second three year term (total = nearly 250,000 annually). While the new iteration of the Chambliss bill also purported to enhance enforcement against visa fraud, it also allows employers to be classified as “in compliance” if “technical” or “procedural” violations are “corrected” within in 10 days. In other words without even defining “technical” or “procedural” violations, this provision would have allowed employers to break the law until they are caught—then allow them to “make good” once they were detected. Considering how few violations are ever found under the law, this proposal simply amounted to still another enforcement loophole. The proposed substitute bill also re-instated some of the very limited and for the most part ineffectual “worker protections” that expired when the visa cap receded from 195,000 to 65,000 last year as well as the increased the visa fee from $1,000 to $1,500.
Action: The DPE along with the AFL-CIO and the CWA immediately began making the rounds to tell Senators that the new bill was unacceptable. The DPE and the AFL-CIO sent letters to all Committee members to this effect. Democrats were advised that such legislation would not help the Kerry-Edwards ticket especially among swing vote techies now in play because of the Bush Administration support for off-shore outsourcing. In the end both sides backed away and the Judiciary Committee reported S.1635 as a clean bill. In other words, the Committee unanimously voted to approve the original bill which:
Banned subcontractors from hiring and then farming out to other businesses L-1 workers; and required that an L-1 applicant have one year prior work service with the sponsoring employer for one year.
However, the recent BCIS announcement that the 2005 H-1B cap has already been reached for the year will undoubtedly return the H-1B issue to the forefront perhaps as early as the “lame duck” Congressional session expected to begin on November 15.
OVERTIME: IN CASE YOU WONDERED WHY THE ELECTION MATTERS – For more than a year-and-a-half, the Bush Administration and Republican Congressional leaders have relentlessly sought to benefit their constituents, giant corporations who fund their campaigns, at the cost of overtime pay for U.S. workers. Their efforts have blocked representative democracy, a national outcry, and repeated votes in Congress to stop the regulations that the Bush Department of Labor (DOL) proposed.
Next is November 2. If reelected, George W. Bush will veto preserving overtime protections. If elected, John Kerry will protect workers, overtime pay, and family time. Seems like a pretty straightforward choice – and given that the Congressional session is ending not with a bang but a whimper, it’s the only immediate choice we’ve got.
Congress adjourns on October 8. It returns for a lame-duck session on November 15, most likely to pass an omnibus funding bill. (A stop-gap continuing resolution for funding the government expires on November 20.) Republican Congressional leaders used the last omnibus funding bill, in January 2004, to strip out the Harkin Amendment, which would have preserved new overtime protections for lower-wage workers and restored overtime pay for others.
The regulations that the Bush DOL issued took effect on August 23. They imperil overtime pay for more than 6 million U.S. workers. Hundreds of workers met the effective date with a demonstration outside DOL, while others mounted protests around the country.
On September 8, 2004, DPE President Paul E. Almeida wrote every member of the House of Representatives. He focused on two legislative vehicles. First, he asked that the Representatives vote for an Obey amendment to the Fiscal Year 2005 Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education appropriations bill that parallels the Harkin Amendment. Second, he asked that they vote to instruct the House conferees on the Foreign Sales Corporation/Extraterritorial Income legislation to accept the Harkin Amendment that a bipartisan majority of the Senate passed on May 4. Unions affiliated with DPE, other unions, and the AFL-CIO lobbied vigorously for the same action.
On September 9, 2004, a bipartisan majority of the House voted 223-193 for the Obey amendment to the Labor-HHS funding bill. In the majority were 200 Democrats, 22 Republicans, and one Independent. No Democrat voted against the amendment.
On September 15, 2004, a bipartisan majority of the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 16-13 to match the Obey amendment with the Harkin Amendment on the same Labor-HHS funding bill. Joining the Democrats were two Republicans: the Committee Chair, Arlen Specter (PA), and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (CO).
Stay tuned for November: for Election Day on November 2 and for the return of the lame-duck Congress on November 15. And while you stay tuned, remind your members: your vote matters!
For questions or comments, please contact David Cohen at 202-638-0320 extension 13, email@example.com.
AEMI COMMITTEE MEETS—The DPE’s Arts, Entertainment and Media Industries (AEMI) Committee met in New York City in mid-September to discuss a range of topics including legislative updates on the FCC media rules, overtime pay, runaway (film and music) production, and anti-piracy measures. 13 union reps from 8 media and entertainment unions attended along with DPE and AFL-CIO staff. Among the materials circulated to committee members was a Special DPE Report on the grassroots San Antonio Mobilization for the FCC local hearings on localism in broadcasting and media. DPE affiliates had played a big role in this effort that was detailed in the February edition of Newsline. (A copy of the report is available from the DPE website www.dpeaflcio.org on the homepage section entitled Newsworthy.) Other issues discussed were joint bargaining in the entertainment industry, the inaccuracy of BLS wage data for performers, various affiliate outreach initiatives and programs initiatives for pre-professionals in these industries, and the March ’05 DPE organizing conference. Attendees also provided updates on some of their key activities.
INTERNATIONAL COMPARISONS IN HEALTH CARE: A LUNCH AND LEARN PROGRAM AND DISCUSSION WITH GERARD ANDERSON, Ph.D., 12 noon-1:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 19 – We spend twice as much as other developed countries, yet judging by lifespan and infant mortality, we are less healthy than most. Join the Department in this special opportunity to put US health care in international perspective. We will examine the cost of care and major health indicators, as well as the cost of prescription drugs in the US compared to other developed countries. The role of private insurance in other countries will also be addressed.
The program and discussion will feature Gerard Anderson, Ph.D., Professor of Health Policy and Management and International Health at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Hospital Finance and Management.
Among those already registered for this program are representatives of AFA-CWA, AFT, AFTRA, IBEW, the Laborers, NEA, the Teamsters, AFL-CIO, George Meany Center for Labor Studies, Working for America Institute, CLUW, ARA, Commission for Labor Cooperation, American Public Health Association, Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association, D.C. Health Department, Families U.S.A., Universal Health Care Action Network, Health Care for All, Center on Disability and Health, American Medical Students Association, George Washington University, National Consumers’ League, Economic Policy Institute, Urban Institute, Center for Economic and Policy Research, New America Foundation, Campaign for America’s Future, Women in Government, International Center for Research on Women, National Federation of Women’s Clubs, the German Embassy, Greater Washington Coalition of Mental Health Care Professionals and Consumers, and the Kamber Group.
This is the fourth 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 or to register, contact Pamela Wilson by phone, 202/638-6684, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org
PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE PREMIUMS ROSE 11.2% IN 2004 – Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums increased an average of 11.2% in 2004 – less than last year’s 13.9% increase, but still the fourth consecutive year of double-digit growth, according to the 2004 Annual Employer Health Benefits Survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust (HRET). Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose at about five times the rate of inflation (2.3%) and workers’ earnings (2.2%). The survey also found that the percentage of all workers receiving health coverage from their employer in 2004 is 61%, down significantly from a recent peak of 65% in 2001. Consequently, there are at least five million fewer jobs providing health insurance in 2004 than in 2001.
“Since 2000, the cost of health insurance has risen 59%, while workers’ wages have increased only 12%. Since 2001, employee contributions increased 57% for single coverage while workers wages have increased only 12%,” said Jon Gabel, Vice President for Health Systems Studies at HRET, a presenter at the DPE August 26 Lunch and Learn program, Understanding the Power of the Health Insurance Industry.
Pamela Wilson attended the September 9 briefing on the findings of the survey. Copies of the survey report and summary findings are available on the web at www.kff.org/insurance/7148.
OUTREACH TO PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS –– APHA MEETS IN D.C. The American Public Health Association (APHA) represents more than 50,000 public health professionals. Its 2004 Annual Meeting will be held from November 6-10 in Washington, D.C.The Department has been developing and expanding its connection with APHA for several years. Pamela Wilson currently chairs the Labor Caucus within APHA and is continuing efforts to expand the connection and presence of the affiliates within the association.
Programs for the 2004 Annual Meeting have been planned in collaboration with the AFL-CIO Nurse Committee, the AFL-CIO Public Policy Department, and other Caucus members. The session on Organized Labor and Public Health was planned by Gregory DeLaurier, Ph.D., Organized Labor and Tobacco Control Network, who developed this for the Annual Meeting as a Continuing Education Institute.
This year the Caucus will have five 90-minute sessions during the Annual Meeting. These will all be held at the Convention Center. The sessions are:
Organized Labor and Public Health (10:30 a.m.-12 noon, Monday, November 8);
The Nurse Staffing Crisis: Aspects of the Problem (4:30-6:00 p.m., Monday, November 8);
Worker’s Freedom to Join Unions: It’s a Public Health Issue (12:30-2:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 9)
The Nurse Staffing Crisis: Solutions (2:30-4:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 9)
The Labor Movement and National Health Policy (12:30-2:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 10)
These sessions will feature speakers from DPE affiliates, including AFSCME, AFT, SEIU, UAN, and USWA, as well as the AFL-CIO, CLUW, Kaiser, and academics and public health officials sympathetic to labor. The sessions will be cosponsored by several major Sections and Caucuses within APHA. The Labor Caucus will also be joining the Occupational Health and Safety Section in co-sponsoring a Social from 6:30-8 p.m. on Monday, November 8.
We urge you to encourage participation at these events and at the Labor Caucus Business Meeting (6:30-8:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 9) where the program for 2005 will be discussed.
For further information about APHA and the Annual Meeting, visit their Website: www.apha.org. Contact Pamela if you would like to know more about the Labor Caucus and its programs: email@example.com
PHYSICIANS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCACY TRAINING AND DINNER CELEBRATION INCLUDES DPE – On Sunday, November 7, PHR will conduct a health and human rights advocacy training for 75 medical students, which will be followed by the annual Activist Physicians Dinner. The afternoon program will include a workshop on the benefits of union representation led by Dan Lawlor, M.D., Executive Assistant to the President, National Union 1199, AFSCME, Mark Levy, Executive Director, CIR/SEIU, and DPE President Paul E. Almeida. The evening program will feature Dr. Paul Farmer, Paul Wright, and Dr. Jack Geiger. For further information, contact Pamela Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org
STRENGTHENING THE LINK TO WOMEN’S ORGANIZATIONS – With a view to developing further connections to organizations representing salaried and professional women, Pamela Wilson attended the September 21 meeting of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, a network of more than 100 women’s organizations which collectively represent more than ten million women. Member organizations include professional societies, as well as service, media, and legal advocacy groups. DPE was on the agenda to discuss its mission, events and Website resources. Representatives from NCWO have been attending DPE Lunch and Learn programs as well as disseminating materials. For further information see www.womensorganizations.org or contact Pamela at email@example.com
PROFESSIONALS, UNIONS, LEADERS AND POWER – On September 19-24, 2004, the United American Nurses (UAN) hosted its fourth annual Labor Leader Institute in Seattle, WA. More than 100 national, state, and local nurse leaders participated. UAN invited DPE Assistant to the President for Education and Organizational Development David Cohen to lead two workshops, “Professionalism and Unionism: Are They Compatible?” and “Making a Difference through Leadership and Power.” The first session analyzed the elements of a union, showed how each could strengthen professionalism, and contrasted a union with a professional association. It also gave participants a chance to air and answer the questions they feared the most from prospective members. The workshop on leadership and power started from the participants’ experiences to identify sources, types, and uses of power; to compare leadership, power, and management; and to highlight obstacles to constructive change and ways to overcome them. David reports that the Institute sparked tremendous enthusiasm and focus among the participants.
INTERNATIONAL UNION OUTREACH – At the request of the AFL-CIO International Affairs Department, DPE staff Pamela Wilson and David Cohen met on September 13, 2004 with a delegation from the Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU), the largest union in Ireland. The nine delegates were all Board members or staff of the Institute for the Development of Employee Advancement Services (IDEAS), which SIPTU established to offer organizational services with a focus on training and development. In an energetic and interactive exchange, the delegates asked about services that unions affiliated with DPE provide, challenges facing DPE and its constituent unions, and new initiatives.
WORKING ON THE CURRICULUM – DPE and AFT are among the labor sponsors for a joint labor-management project funded by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, “Workplace Issues and Collective Bargaining in the Classroom,” administered by the Community Services Agency of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO. DPE Assistant to the President Pamela Wilson participated in a meeting of the joint labor-management Collective Bargaining Education Committee on September 23, which, among other things, reviewed preparations for a second train-the-trainer for teachers and other educators. Scheduled for October 21-22, 2004, at the National Education Association Headquarters, 1201 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC, the session will introduce teachers to using the exciting and interactive project curricula. For information about the project or the training, contact Jim Auerbach at the Community Services Agency, Jauerbac@dclabor.org. For information about DPE’s participation, contact David Cohen, firstname.lastname@example.org.
DPE PUBLICATION—In mid-September, President Almeida requested the assistance of affiliated unions in the development of a new publication on professionals in unions. Based on an earlier DPE work, the new edition would feature a number of well-known professionals including actors, musicians, athletes, scientists, educators and other front-line white collar workers with testimonials about the importance of unions to their careers and occupations. Affiliates were asked to identify a staff contact within their organization that would assist the Department in gathering worker profiles. Timelines for completion of this project are geared to next year’s DPE organizing conference (March 14-16) and the AFL-CIO convention in July. Affiliates are asked to respond back to the DPE by Wednesday, October 13. For further information, contact Mike Gildea at email@example.com or 202-638-0320.