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:
- Professional Guest Worker Visas Rejected
- Nurses: Patient Advocates, Not Supervisors
- Health Information Technology
- DPE Fact Sheet Provides International Perspective on Health Care
- Updated Fact Sheet on the Costs and Benefits of Safe Staffing Ratios
- DPE Lunch and Learn Program
- Reaching Out to Professional Societies – APHA
- DPE in the News
PROFESSIONAL GUEST WORKER VISAS REJECTED – In a big win for the DPE, IFPTE, CWA as well as other allies like the IEEE, the labor-opposed, Senate-approved increases in H-1B visas reported in the October edition of NewsLine have been dropped from the conference report on the Budget Reconciliation bill. In addition, the House-passed L1 visa fee increase supported by labor was also jettisoned.
With the 2005 session rapidly coming to an end, Judiciary conferees could not agree on how to reconcile their differences on the visa issues on this must-pass bill. Meanwhile, conservative Republicans in the House threatened to vote no on the bill if the H-1B provisions weren’t scuttled. This action represents a huge success for opponents of expanding the H-1B program and a major defeat for the army of lobbyists representing big business, high tech, the immigration bar, the Indian lobby and so many others. A year ago these forces—led by Senator Ted Kennedy, D-MA—succeeded in grafting on to a last minute budget bill a 20,000 increase (by way of an new exemption) in the annual H-1B visa allotment.
Next year will however likely give H-1B apologists another bite at the visa apple. Ample opportunities to revisit the issue will arise in one or more venues: During Senate committee and floor deliberations on the House-passed border security/immigration legislation—H.R. 4437 (likely to be considered by the Senate early next year; and separate, Bush-backed expansion of the low skilled guest worker visas which may arise in both the House and Senate.
The DPE letters to lead Judiciary conferees—Representatives Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Conyers (D-MI) as well as Senators Specter (R-PA) and Leahy (D-VT)—urging that the H-1B language be dropped can be found on the DPE website at www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/letters.htm.
NURSES: PATIENT ADVOCATES, NOT SUPERVISORS – National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chairman Robert Battista announced in September 2005 a priority for deciding when nurses function as supervisors and thus should be excluded from bargaining units. In November President Bush nominated for an NLRB vacancy a management lawyer, Peter Kirsanow, so far to the right that a Democratic Senate staffer called the nomination “deliberately provocative.” The sequence underscores the urgency of DPE efforts with its affiliated unions.
In 2003, the NLRB posed 10 questions to the parties in three cases. A logjam of some 60 other cases piled up behind the first three. The NLRB questions suggested an unprecedented – and potentially disastrous – confusion between the professional role of Registered Nurses (RNs) and supervisory status.
At the request of AFT, DPE convened a meeting in September of interested unions affiliated with DPE. The effort to anticipate an NLRB decision has moved forward on three tracks. The first track focused on RN collective bargaining. On November 15, AFL-CIO Associate General Counsel Nancy Schiffer chaired a second meeting organized by DPE of lawyers and negotiators. As the participants agreed in their first meeting on October 27, the participants brought to the table legal research and contract language and together analyzed the benefits and drawbacks of different approaches.
A second track is focusing on union messages, education, and mobilization. On December 12, David Cohen led a second meeting of union communication and education staff with health care and nurse specialists. Nancy Schiffer shared the memo that came out of the collective bargaining work group, Suzanne Martin of UAN contributed a 2002 article she co-authored explaining the issues, and Mary Lehman MacDonald of AFT described the results of a survey of AFT nurse leaders. This second group will confer next in January.
A third track began when David Cohen briefed the AFL-CIO health care task force of legislative representatives on December 6.
To read or print out 10 questions on which the NLRB invited briefs in 2003, click onhttp://www.nlrb.gov/nlrb/press/releases/kyriver.pdf. Of the many briefs responding to the questions, two may be especially useful: the amicus (“friend of the court”) brief of the AFL-CIO, http://www.nlrb.gov/nlrb/about/foia/Oakwood%20KY%20River/7-RC-22141%20(Brief%2013).pdf, which focuses on the legal arguments; and the brief from the UAW and USWA joined by a number of other unions as amicus curiae, http://www.nlrb.gov/nlrb/about/foia/Oakwood%20KY%20River/7-RC-22141(Brief%2014).pdf, which ties the realities of nursing to the legal debate.
For questions or comments, contact David Cohen at DPE, email@example.com, 202-638-0320, extension 13.
HEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY – Health information technology (HIT) promises to become a powerful tool. Like other powerful tools, it may be put to good uses or bad. The Department for Professional Employees (DPE) is working with the AFL-CIO, unions affiliated with DPE, and consumer groups for constructive outcomes: among others, improved quality of care; secure, private and accessible medical records; rapid identification of harmful drugs and drug interactions; and avoidance of duplicative paperwork and testing.
As the Bush Administration and Congress rush to implement nationwide HIT, DPE and its union allies are pushing for principles that will respect patients and the health care workforce: input for health care workers from the start in the development and implementation of HIT; integrating HIT in the workplace; keeping the analyses of HIT data from being off-shored, with the attendant threats to U.S. jobs and patient data confidentiality; and providing funds for retraining workers HIT displaces. DPE has urged also the creation and maintenance of a firewall shielding electronic medical records from employers and insurers.
With these goals, DPE has participated actively in a coalition of consumer groups hosted by the National Partnership for Women and Families, including in November contributing to a coalition briefing paper for the consumer representative on the American Health Information Community (AHIC) at the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services; attended the November 29, 2005 AHIC meeting; flagged developments for unions affiliated with DPE; and responded to pending legislation.
For questions or comments, please contact David Cohen at DPE, 202-638-0320 x. 13, firstname.lastname@example.org.
DPE FACT SHEET PROVIDES INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE ON HEALTH CARE – Despite having the smallest percentage of the population with government assured coverage of any developed nation (34% versus 100% in most developed countries), Americans pay the highest health care taxes in the world. The U.S. spends considerably more on health care than any other developed country and also spends the highest proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health care: 14.6% in 2002, compared to an OECD median of 8.3%. One primary reason for the high cost of U.S. health care is the high administrative costs. This new fact sheet includes information on the three main types of health care programs in OECD countries, and covers the high private administrative costs of the U.S. health care system; health insurance: the rising premiums and falling coverage, and the quality of U.S. health care in an international context.
UPDATED FACT SHEET ON 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 DPE fact sheets, 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
DPE LUNCH AND LEARN PROGRAMS
THE LESSONS OF KATRINA – “Today we’re going to look at the public health through the lens of Katrina. We’ll hear about the broken public health system, we’ll hear from labor working on the frontlines of the disaster, and we’ll discuss how we can build and strengthen labor-community connection and collaboration,” said DPE President Paul E. Almeida, introducing the November 9 Lunch and Learn program, “Katrina Reveals: The Broken Health Care System: The Need for Labor-Community Coalitions.” The program attracted more than 65 representatives of labor, public health, government, public interest, community, and professional organizations, as well as university faculty and students and media representatives. Among the organizations represented were AFGE, AFSCME, AFT, UFT, CWA, IAFF, IAM, IFPTE, OPEIU, the AFL-CIO, the Laborers, Coalition for Labor Union Women, Center to Protect Workers Rights, American Public Health Association, Metro D.C. Public Health Association, Red Cross, Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, Centers for Disease Control, NIOSH, Department of Labor, DC Primary Care Association, D.C. Department of Health, National Medical Association, AARP, Older Women’s League, Howard, George Washington, Georgetown, Drexel, Morgan State, and Tulane Universities, Center on Disability and Health, Exodus Ministries, Gray Panthers, Campaign for America’s Future, CA Health Care Organizing Project, U.S. Labor Against the War, American Chemical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, WPFW, Press Associates, WebTV, and Indy Media.
The program and discussion featured Georges Benjamin, M.D., Executive Director, American Public Health Association and a panel of union representatives, including Patrick Morrison, Director, Department of Occupational Health and Safety, IAFF; Denise Bowles, Industrial Hygienist, AFSCME; Ellie Engler, Program Coordinator and Industrial Hygienist, UFT, and Adele Stan, Communications Specialist, AFGE.
The Katrina Lunch and Learn was the ninth in a series of DPE programs examining the health care crisis. We encourage active participation in these programs: Please spread the word.
COMING SOON… HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF THE WAR IN IRAQ, Noon – 2:00 p.m., Thursday, February 23. This program and discussion will feature Barry Levy, M.D., co-editor of War and Public Health; Terrorism and Public Health: A Balanced Approach to Strengthening Systems and Protecting People, and most recently, Social Injustice and Public Health; Past-President, American Public Health Association; former Executive Director, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War; and a union panel featuring Nancy Wohlforth, Secretary-Treasurer, Office and Professional Employees International Association and Co-Convener of U.S. Labor Against the War, and Greg Junemann, President, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, among others.
A Lunch and Learn on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Displacement and other Psychological Problems in the Aftermath of Katrina and Other Disasters is being planned for the spring.
For further information about the series, contact Pamela Wilson by phone, 202/638-6684, or email, email@example.com
REACHING OUT TO PROFESSIONAL SOCIETIES – APHA
THE FIREFIGHTERS WERE FEATURED ON A MAJOR PLENARY AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION
The December 14 plenary session, From Ache to Bayou Gauche: Public Health Disasters,included a presentation by Patrick Morrison, Director, Health and Safety, International Association of Firefighters. This resulted from the November 9 Lunch and Learn, Katrina Reveals: The Broken Public Health System; The Need for Labor-Community Coalitions which featured APHA Executive Director, Georges Benjamin, M.D. and a panel of labor representatives, including Patrick Morrison.
This year’s Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association, was originally scheduled for November 4-9 in New Orleans. The rescheduled and relocated meeting was held in Philadelphia from December 10-14 and attended by more than 11,000 public health professionals.
The Labor Caucus sponsored three sessions:
- Issues of Concern to Labor
- The Role of Labor Physicians in Identifying Health Hazards
- A Voice at Work for Health Care Workers
These sessions were planned in collaboration with the DPE nurse affiliates, the AFL-CIO, and other Caucus members. Speakers from DPE affiliates included Cheryl Johnson, President, UAN, Harriet Rubenstein, Health Professionals and Allied Employees, AFT, Teddie Potter, Minneapolis Community and Technical College, NEA/AFT. The scheduled speaker from the Federation of Physicians and Dentists was unable to participate at the last minute due to a medical emergency. Pamela Wilson, DPE moderated one session. The sessions also featured and academics and public health professionals who are sympathetic to labor. The sessions were cosponsored by several major Sections and Caucuses within APHA. DPE is planning to produce several fact sheets based on the excellent presentations made at the Labor Caucus sessions, ensuring broad dissemination of important material. The presentations will also be posted to the DPE Website.
The Labor Caucus exists to foster connection and collaboration between the labor and public health communities. It 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 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, and the Activist Physicians Dinner. Materials were also distributed via the Medical Care Section’s booth. Pamela also had the opportunity to participate in the planning meeting for the 2006 Annual Meeting.
Contact Pamela if you would like to know more about the Labor Caucus and its programs: firstname.lastname@example.org
DPE IN THE NEWS – As a prelude to the program, DPE worked with the Washington, D.C.-based Pacifica station, WPFW, 89.3 FM to arrange for a one-hour special edition of To Heal DC, devoted to labor on the frontlines of Katrina, which aired on November 7. The program featured interviews with the four labor presenters. Pacifica estimates that this program was heard by between 10,000 and 20,000 listeners over a six-state area comprising DC, MD, VA, W. VA, DE and parts of PA. It can also be heard on the Web. In addition, DPE Assistant to the President, Pamela Wilson, worked with To Heal DC producer, Joni Eisenberg to develop an announcement for the program which was played repeatedly on the radio prior to the program. The Department is now working with Joni Eisenberg and others at WPFW on a project to develop a series of Radio Town Hall Meetings aimed at Katrina evacuees. This would involve a number of DPE affiliates, as well as community and public health organizations. This program was also reported in an article in Press Associates Union News Service on November 21 (Katrina Lunch & Learn).
BNA’s Daily Labor Report, December 15 issue features President Almeida’s response at the National Press Club to Dr. Mridula Sharma presentation on outsourcing to BPO’s firms in India