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 is published every month. Issues of NewsLine are accessible on the DPE web page www.dpeaflcio.org. Feedback welcome; send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In This Issue:
- Guest Worker Visas
- New Models: English Unions Launch unionlearn
- China, Democracy, and Labor Rights
- Lunch and Learn with DPE – Mental Health in the Aftermath of War, Hurricanes and other Disasters
GUEST WORKER VISAS
- Senate Immigration bill – The Senate continued its consideration of immigration legislation which included the largest expansion of the H-1B program since its inception in 1990. No committee hearings were held on these far-reaching changes which were strongly supported by labor-backed Senators Ted Kennedy and Arlen Specter. DPE efforts to persuade Committee Democrats to eliminate or modify these changes fell on deaf ears during Judiciary Committee deliberations.
As reported by the Committee, the bill would:
- Mandate a retroactive increase to 195,000 from the current 65,000 H-1B visa cap (exclusive of existing exemptions) for the years of 2004-2006, in effect allowing for a one time visa grab by employers of nearly 400,000 visas!
- Increases the 65,000 visa cap to 115,000—a 60% hike!
- Requires an automatic 20% annual hike in the new cap whenever the visas are exhausted, thus establishing a new annual cap for each successive year. This in effect rips the lid off of any meaningful annual visa limitation.
- Adds still another open-ended exemption from the cap for any foreign national that has an advanced degree in science, technology, engineering or math from anywhere on the planet.
Taken together, within one year over 600,000 new foreign professionals could flood the U.S. market, the result of which would be to inflict serious economic harm on the best and brightest of our American workers.
In addition the legislation radically changes the foreign student’s visa rules as well putting tens of thousands of foreign students in direct competition with our own undergraduate and graduate students for full and part time job opportunities. In its letter to the full Senate, the DPE charged that these revisions would take away from our own undergrads “jobs to pay their way through school, to help pay off thousands of dollars in education loans and in many situations to gain the skills and experience necessary for a successful career.”
The DPE blasted the Senate bill as the “Great American Jobs Giveaway” under which “highly skilled, highly educated U.S. professionals would continue to lose their jobs, be foreclosed from finding employment opportunities right here in the U.S. while wages and working conditions in key white collar occupations would continue deteriorate under the crushing weight of an army of lower wage, easily exploitable foreign guest workers.”
As of this writing no floor amendments to address the H-1B provisions were contemplated as Senate debate on the measure continued. For a copy of the DPE letter go to the DPE website at
2. House H-1B hearings – On March 31, 2006 the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration held a one-day hearing on the question of increasing the H-1B annual visa cap. The AFL-CIO worked with Committee staffers and the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) to facilitate the testimony of David Huber, a Chicago area tech worker who had been replaced by H-1B visa workers. He highlighted his over two-and-a-half-year search for re-employment during which he encountered employer after employer who were only interested in hiring more of the same. The DPE filed with the Committee for the hearing record a comprehensive statement detailing a series of over 20 reforms necessary to clean up the H-1B program and highlighting the connection between H-1B and the off-shore outsourcing of U.S. professional and technical jobs. The statement can be accessed on the DPE website as above.
NEW MODELS: ENGLISH UNIONS LAUNCH unionlearn – On Tuesday, May 2, 2006, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) of England launched “unionlearn,” a new TUC initiative for workplace learning and skills. At its heart: union learning representatives (ULRs) who flag learning and professional development opportunities for bargaining unit employees.
Participants in the March meeting hosted by the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) and the Albert Shanker Institute (ASI), “New Ways to Work, New Models for Unions,” heard about union learning representatives from Tom Wilson, Head of the TUC Organisation and Services Department. See “New Models for Unions” in the March 2006 DPE NewsLine. John Lloyd, Head of Policy and Strategy for the British union Community, described ULR programs in March 2005 at the DPE organizing conference, “Organizing Professionals in the 21st Century.”
Over the last dozen years, ULRs have connected tens of thousands of English workers with educational and training programs, stemmed or reversed membership losses, and brought into union activism unprecedented numbers of women, minorities, and younger employees. The number of ULRs has soared to some 14,000, with a target of 22,000 by 2010. In one union, ULRs have become a part of a workplace team that includes union stewards and union health and safety representatives.
Among the audience in London for the TUC debut of unionlearn was a delegation of American Federation of Teachers officers and staff led by AFT Secretary-Treasurer Nat LaCour, hosted by the TUC and sponsored by ASI. At the invitation of ASI, David Cohen, DPE Assistant to the President for Education and Organizational Development, accompanied the delegation. Its week-long study tour included meetings with English unions developing ULR models and representing workers in education, health care, and public services.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber described the May 2 launch as “a great opportunity to showcase the crucial role of trade unions in boosting UK skills and productivity.” He called on employers to support workplace learning. The UK Department for Education and Skills is working in partnership with the TUC and providing funding for the unionlearn startup.
CHINA, DEMOCRACY, AND LABOR RIGHTS – On April 6-7, 2006, the Albert Shanker Institute (ASI) sponsored and hosted “Democracy and Worker Rights: A Discussion on Labor’s Approach to China.” A key question at the conference was how U.S. unions should relate to the All China Federation of Trade Unions, which the Chinese government and Communist Party staff and control. On behalf of DPE President – and ASI Board member – Paul E. Almeida, David Cohen represented DPE.
LUNCH AND LEARN WITH DPE – MENTAL HEALTH IN THE AFTERMATH OF WAR, HURRICANES, AND OTHER DISASTERS – DPE President Paul E. Almeida said, “Today’s program is our first to focus explicitly on mental health, and it won’t be our last.” He pointed to the need to look at, “the psychological impact of war, hurricanes and disasters, as well as models and services to ameliorate the suffering they engender.”
The program attracted 60 people from labor, social service organizations, government, academia, the complimentary medicine community, public health, public interest and community groups. Among the organizations represented were AFGE, AFSCME, IAM, IAFF, IFPTE, OPEIU, Utility Workers, LIUNA, AFL-CIO, CLUW, U.S. Labor Against the War, Labor Heritage Foundation, United Association of Labor Educators, National Labor Relations Board, DC Department of Health, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, DC Commission on Aging, Older Women’s League, Institute of Social Medicine and Community Health, National Medical Association, Community of Hope, Center for Mind-Body Medicine, Crossings Foundation for Human Enrichment, George Washington and Howard universities, Park College, Guns Aside: Reaching Out to Others Together, Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Single Payer Now, and WPFW 89.3 FM.
The rich and interesting agenda featured Kevin Washington, Ph.D., counseling psychologist; C.E.O. R.A.M. (Restoring Ancestral Memories) Enterprises, motivational and empowerment consultants; Howard University faculty; Richard (Rick) Weidman, Vietnam Veterans of America; former New York State Veterans Programs Administrator; Anne Anderson, Coordinator, Psychologists for Social Responsibility; main author of Remembering September 11, 2001: A Manual for Caregivers; Kevin Dwyer, Past-President, National Association of School Psychologists; consultant to NYC Turnaround for Children; and Patrick Morrison, Director of Health and Safety, IAFF; facilitator of critical incident and peer counseling services post 9/11 and in the Gulf Region. The session was moderated by Pamela Brewer, Ph. D., psychotherapist in private practice; host of MyNDTALK on WPFW, 89.3 FM., a weekly call-in program focused on relationships & mental health resources, who has also hosted several MyNDTALK Specials on the psychological impact of Hurricane Katrina.
As a prelude to the program, Pamela Wilson, Assistant to DPE President Paul E. Almeida, worked with Joni Eisenberg, host of To Heal DC on the Washington, D.C.- based Pacifica station, WPFW 89.3 FM, to coordinate a special edition devoted to a discussion of mental health in the aftermath of disaster. This program aired on April 24 and promoted the Lunch & Learn program. Pacifica estimates that this program was heard by between 10,000 and 20,000 listeners over a six-state area comprising DC, MD, VA, WVA, DE and parts of PA. It can also be heard on the Web. The Lunch & Learn was publicized via announcements on several programs on WPFW, and by the D.C. Primary Care Association, Metro DC Labor Council, Press Associates, the National Council of Women’s Organizations, the Older Women’s League, the DC Labor Women’s listserv, the Spirit of 1848 & other groups.
A brief summary of the program will be posted to the DPE Website in the near future, along with materials and resources from the program, http://www.dpeaflcio.org/.
FUTURE PROGRAMS IN THE SERIES will address Depression, Substance Abuse & the Workplace; models, including the Veterans’ Administration Health Care System, and health information technology. For further information about the series, contact Pamela Wilson by phone, 202/638-6684 or email, email@example.com
LUNCH & LEARN RESOURCES NOW AVAILABLE ON WEBSITE – DPE has now posted information and resources from the series of Lunch & Learn programs on the Heath Care Crisis. Transcripts, PowerPoint presentations, fact sheets, articles, and links to Websites are among the materials available. The subjects include:
- Health Consequences of the War in Iraq
- Katrina Reveals: A Broken Health Care System; The Need for Labor-Community Coalitions
- What’s Wrong With the Pharmaceutical Industry?
- Focus on Women: Pro-Active Strategies for Longer and Healthier Lives
- For Universal Health Care in America, Look Beyond the Beltway: States Are Leading the Way
- Getting and Keeping Health Insurance (or Finding Affordable Care When You’re Uninsured)
- Do We Get What We Pay For? International Comparisons in Health Care
- Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care
- Understanding the Power of the Health Insurance Industry
- The Physicians’ Proposal for Single Payer National Health Insurance
Materials and resources will be posted soon after meetings occur.