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:
- Guest Worker Visas
- Trade Adjustment Assistance
- Future Careers, Future Unions
- Distinguishing ‘Professional’ and ‘Supervisory’ for Nurses
- Fact Sheets: Nurses Vital Signs & Scientists and Engineers: Vital Statistics
- Signing On
GUEST WORKER VISAS—There is the widespread public perception among citizens of all political stripes that U.S. immigration policy is a monumental disaster. In October, the U.S. Senate was doing its best to make this train wreck even worse.
Last month’s Newsline reported on DPE-backed action in the House Judiciary Committee to establish a first time ever base fee for the L-1 inter-company transfer visa which became the Committee’s piece of the congressional budget reconciliation (revenue-raising) package. However, when the issue moved to the Senate, proponents of more guest worker visas—led by Sen. Ted Kennedy—were again successful in pushing through a back door increase in H-1B guest worker visas.
First, with Kennedy on point, the Senate Judiciary Committee considered a proposal to nearly double the number of annual H-1B visas available. They would do this by going back to 1991 and sweeping up an estimated 300,000 unused H-1B visas and allow them to be used at a rate of 60,000 each year for the next 5 years. (Note—under current law nearly 230,000 H-1B visas are approved or renewed each year) To the newly found visas Kennedy and his allies would attach an additional $500 on top of the existing $2000 visa fee. With 300,000 new H-1B visas available over the next 5 years, in essence the federal government would be selling more visas (and displace American workers in the process) in order to rake in tens of millions in additional revenues to fight the federal budget deficit! This proposition had the support of Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) and ranking Democrat Pat Leahy (D-VT).
DPE, with the help of the CWA, IFPTE and the IEEE (Institute for Electronic and Electrical Engineers), fought back by lobbying committee Democrats and sympathetic Republicans to support the House position. During committee markup, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) offered the House language on the L-1 fee as a substitute amendment but it was rejected. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) then countered with a compromise to cut the H-1B increase in half and add a $750 visa fee. Her labor-backed substitute won approval.
On the floor, the Senate’s most senior member, the indefatigable Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), took up the fight and offered a floor amendment to wipe out the Senate Judiciary Committee’s proposal to increase H-1B and other employment-based visas and instead substitute the House alternative. DPE and its allies went to work again lobbying all of the Democrats and a handful of Republicans. But with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bill Gates, immigration lawyers, hospital associations, colleges and universities and major IT and other corporations leading a lobbying onslaught to get more visas, Byrd was defeated by an overwhelming 85-14 vote.
Once the House passes its version of the budget reconciliation bill, the matter goes this month to a House-Senate conference to work out the differences between the two versions. The DPE will be again supporting the House, L-1 visa fee alternative. DPE policy letters on the Senate fight can be found at http://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/letters.htm.
TRADE ADJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE—Last month DPE Executive Director Mike Gildea and AFL-CIO representatives met with Congressional staff to refine a proposal to overhaul this program. TAA provides an array of unemployment, retraining and health care assistance benefits to workers displaced by foreign trade. The original draft proposal would, for the first time, extend coverage to displaced service sector employees, including professional and technical workers.
In late October, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced the labor-backed legislation as the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Improvement Act with 75 co-sponsors, including Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)—the Ranking Member on the House Ways and Means Committee—which has oversight of American trade policy and Rep. Ben Cardin, Ranking Member on the Trade Subcommittee.
The new legislation would:
- Extend trade TAA benefits to displaced service and professional workers, such as software programmers, high tech workers as well as to entire industries if those industries are subject to a trade remedy under US laws that protect domestic industries.
- Amend eligibility requirements for TAA to cover those who lose jobs due to overseas production to any country, not just those countries with whom the U.S. has trade agreements.
- Simplify the application process for wage insurance.
- Strengthens the data collection and reporting requirements by making it mandatory for the Department of Labor to track and make public data on both service sector and manufacturing job trends and TAA usage.
- Dramatically increases the funding cap for job training programs and enhances health care subsidies for displaced workers.
The legislation is expected to be the Democratic standard bearer in next year’s anticipated fight over the re-authorization of TAA.
FUTURE CAREERS, FUTURE UNIONS— How are unions identifying professional issues and using occupational identities? What are we doing to broaden skill development for members and prospective members? How do we reconcile democratic processes with effective functioning?
In a November 3 meeting of the Committee on the Evolution of Professional Careers, representatives of 10 unions affiliated with DPE – AEA, AFSCME, AFT, AFTRA, TNG-CWA, IATSE, IAMAW, IFPTE, UAN, and USW – responded to these questions and recounted their unions’ activities. Representatives from the Albert Shanker Institute added to the exchange. DPE President Paul E. Almeida chaired the meeting for IFPTE President Gregory J. Junemann, the Committee Chair, who faced a last-minute conflict.
A theme that emerged from the participants’ responses was the power of professional career and skills development to attract and retain members – and to build a union through aligning its activities with a professional identity. The discussion continued from earlier meetings analyzing the accelerating trend away from traditional employment that professional and technical workers confront. The Committee built on the discussion to begin thinking through ways DPE can add value and focus to its affiliates’ work.
DISTINGUISHING ‘PROFESSIONAL’ AND ‘SUPERVISORY’ FOR NURSES— In 2003, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced 10 questions to the parties in three cases. Its questions suggested an unprecedented – and potentially disastrous – confusion between the professional role of Registered Nurses (RNs) and supervisory status. Wrong answers could lead the NLRB to exclude many RNs from bargaining units. DPE President Paul E. Almeida has noted the harm could extend to every professional.
At the request of AFT, DPE convened a meeting in September of interested unions affiliated with DPE. Later that month, DPE Assistant to the President for Education and Organizational Development David Cohen met in Chicago with RNs at the UAN Labor Leader Institute, convened by UAN Assistant to the Director of Organizing Judy Stack, to hear their thinking about explaining the issues to other RNs and the public.
The effort to anticipate an NLRB decision has moved forward on two tracks. On October 27, AFL-CIO Associate General Counsel Nancy Schiffer chaired a meeting of lawyers and negotiators that focused on RN collective bargaining. The participants – one or more representatives each from AFSCME, AFT, CWA, UAN, and USW as well as DPE –refined approaches and allocated tasks. The group will meet again on November 15.
On November 1, David Cohen led a second meeting of union communication and education staff with health care and nurse specialists. The participants analyzed goals for mobilizing, potential audiences, and tasks necessary to create effective common messages and outreach. This second group will reconvene on December 12.
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.
NEW DPE FACT SHEETS AVAILABLE
NURSES: VITAL SIGNS – A Brief Overview of the State of the Nursing Profession in the United States. For the first time, the U.S. Department of Labor identified “Registered Nurse” as the occupation expected to increase the largest job growth in the next seven years. At the same time that the U.S. is experiencing a severe nursing shortage that will intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows.
This new fact sheet 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. Find it at: http://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/factsheets/fs_2005_nurses.htm
SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS: VITAL STATISTICS – In 2004, 3,140,000 professional workers were employed in computer and mathematical occupations, while 2,553,000 were employed in engineering occupations and 1,056,000 in life and physical sciences. Together they accounted for 24% of the professional and technical labor force. Meanwhile, the latest Labor Department projections show that due to the increasing exodus of highly skilled jobs overseas, the vast majority of occupations expected to experience the largest job growth are low-wage service occupations. This is in sharp contrast to previous projections, which anticipated an IT boom.
This new fact sheet includes information on: current numbers and recent growth; occupational employment projections reflecting the offshoring of high tech and IT jobs; median weekly earnings; women’s situation; Blacks and Hispanics; and union membership.
Find it at: http://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/factsheets/fs_2005_scieng.htm
To comment on the fact sheets or to obtain information about ongoing research, contact Pamela Wilson: 202/638-6684 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SIGNING ON—DPE has joined its affiliates’ legislative efforts in protecting health care privacy and opposing the contracting out of federal employees’ work. For a coalition letter on health care privacy, see http://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/letters/ltr_sw_2005_10_20.htm. For letters to Congress opposing privatization, see http://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/letters/ltr_dab_2005_09_28.htm and http://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/letters/ltr_snt_2005_11_04.htm.