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.
In This Issue:
- NewsLine & Website Survey: Please Help Us Improve
- From Nightmare to Reality: Kentucky River Strikes
- Misclassifying Employees as Independent Contractors
- Bill Gates Gives Senate HELP Committee a Solo Performance
- Outreach to Associations: American Public Health Association
- American Library Association
- Mark Your Calendar for April 28 Workers Memorial Day
- Identifying Jean Lucas
- Heading Back to Shore? An Updated Look at Outsourcing
- DPE Signs On
- DPE in the News
NEWSLINE & WEBSITE SURVEY: PLEASE HELP US IMPROVE – DPE would like your feedback on NewsLine and our website (www.dpeaflcio.org). Our Intern, Kathleen Hyland, has developed this survey as part of her graduate work in Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University. Please click on the link below and answer 15 brief questions about your experience with both our newsletter and website. While Kathleen will incorporate the results into a research paper, no identifying information will be used, and we will use your feedback privately to improve our programs. Thank you in advance for your participation.
FROM NIGHTMARE TO REALITY: KENTUCKY RIVER STRIKES – Last month, in less than two weeks, a nightmare became a reality.
On February 7, the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) hosted a chance to analyze three crucial NLRB decisions, Oakwood Healthcare, Golden Crest Healthcare, and Croft Metals. (See the January 2007 DPE NewsLine, “Crossing Kentucky River: Next Steps for Professional and Technical Employees.”) Speakers warned the cases dramatically expand the definition of who is a supervisor. In every occupation, industry, and sector, the Oakwood cases raise a devastating possibility: that any employee who guides another’s work could become a supervisor and lose union protections.
On February 20, that possibility became a reality. In Salt Lake Regional Medical Center, the NLRB Regional Director in Denver decided on an NLRB remand that, under the Oakwood cases, he should exclude 64 of 88 challenged charge nurses from a bargaining unit of an estimated 150 to 180 Registered Nurses. To read the decision, click onhttp://www.nlrb.gov/shared_files/Regional%20Decisions/2007/27-RC-8157%202-20-07.htm. The decision continues a case in which ballots on whether to certify a unit of the United American Nurses were impounded in 2002.
At a November 2006 meeting of the Arts, Entertainment and Media Industry (AEMI), Industry Coordinating Committee (ICC), two-thirds of the unions reported Oakwood issues in organizing or bargaining. Those reports helped to set the scene for the February DPE conference.
In late 2006, a task force of lawyers from the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions developed proposed legislation to repair the radical and dangerous Oakwood redefinition of “supervisor.” Earlier this month, DPE President Paul E. Almeida and Executive Director David Cohen met with AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel and Legislative Representative Kelly Ross. We expect the proposed legislation to be introduced in Congress this month.
For information or comments, please contact DPE Executive Director David Cohen, email@example.com, 202-638-0320 extension 13.
MISCLASSIFYING EMPLOYEES AS INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS – A line of DPE work that began in March 2006 has converged with an AFL-CIO legislative effort.
In March 2006, DPE and the Albert Shanker Institute hosted a Presidents’ Meeting, “New Ways to Work, New Models for Unions.” From that conference emerged three DPE work groups – on union learning representatives, professional associations, and independent contractors.
The DPE Work Group on Independent Contractors and Antitrust met in fall 2006 and drew officers or senior staff from 10 unions: AFT, AFTRA, CWA, IAMAW, IAFF, IATSE, IBEW, IFPTE, SAG, and USW. Its members detailed how unscrupulous employers misclassify employees as independent contractors to minimize costs. The damaging consequences include allowing workers to be exploited with regard to wages, benefits, and occupational safety and health; blocking workers’ ability to organize and bargain collectively; undermining workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance; and depriving states of revenues. The work group proposed to the AFL-CIO Lawyers Coordinating Committee (LCC) that the LCC schedule a workshop on combatting misclassification at its annual conference; the LCC agenda for its April 25-27 meeting in Chicago includes “Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors: Legislation, Enforcement, and Litigation.”
Last month the AFL-CIO Legislative Department initiated a Contingent Worker Task Force of union legislative representatives. Chaired by AFL-CIO Legislative Representative Kelly Ross, its first meeting drew heavily on the preliminary work and materials developed by the DPE Work Group on Independent Contractors and Antitrust. The AFL-CIO task force took up approaches for combatting misclassification, from enacting legislation to simplify how to distinguish employees from independent contractors, to more vigorous enforcement of existing law. Its starting effort is to achieve a consensus about which approach to pursue. DPE circulated materials about the differing approaches to its work group and asked for its input.
For additional information or comments, please contact DPE Executive Director David Cohen, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-638-0320 extension 13.
BILL GATES GIVES SENATE HELP COMMITTEE A SOLO PERFORMANCE – On March 7, the US Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee heard from one witness and one witness only, Bill Gates. Gates once again sang his favorite song: our education system is not up to par, we don’t graduate enough students with math and science degrees, and there should be no cap on the H-1B visa program. Businesses in the US should be able to bring to the states as many foreign guest workers as they want – period. No limits.
Senator Kennedy asked Gates how soon the United States needs to address its immigration policies to remain competitive. Gates replied, “These are incredibly urgent issues and we need to start now.”
“This is an acute crisis,” Gates added, referring to the alleged shortage of H-1B visas for foreign engineers and other scientific talent. “It takes not only your high-paying job but other jobs created around it to another country.” He urged that a change in H-1B visa rules to expand entry of skilled foreign workers could only benefit the United States. “There is no downside I can see,” Gates said.
This is no new story for Gates. US tech workers have been hearing this story for close to ten years. First there was Y2K and the threat that if businesses weren’t allowed to bring in foreign tech workers, we would face major issues when the clock struck 12:01 am on January 1, 2000. Also, workers and their organizations were told if businesses couldn’t bring in workers, it would lead to outsourcing.
Well, workers came – and work was outsourced.
Gates of all people should understand the rule of supply and demand. With research centers around the world in England, India and China, Gates has access to any talent he wants. What H-1B visas do is to allow businesses to bring workers to the US at the cheapest price possible, thus causing wages to stagnate and diminishing opportunities for US graduates in engineering and science.
Research by DPE and others clearly indicates that there is no shortage of tech workers in the US. There is plenty of access to world talent with a H-1B visa cap of 65,000 yearly. As reported in the newly issued DPE fact sheet, H-1B AND IT WORKERS, H-1B is a frequently abused non-immigrant visa category provided for in the Immigration and Naturalization Act that allows American companies – in response to a particular labor shortage – to temporarily employ foreign workers who have the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree. This fact sheet focuses on the current situation, examining the demand for IT workers, including projections for IT employment, the number of guest workers coming in under H-1B, trends in IT wages between 2000 and 2005, and the effect of the large number of IT guest workers on US wages; supply, including the U.S. educational pipeline, low minority presence in IT occupations, and the misrepresentation of high turnover rates; and the need for H-1B repair and reform.
To obtain copies of this and other DPE fact sheets, visit the DPE 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.
OUTREACH TO ASSOCIATIONS: AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION – The2007 Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association, Politics, Policy and Public Health, is scheduled for November 3-7 in Washington, D.C. It is expected to attract some 14,000 participants.
The Labor Caucus is routinely allocated three sessions at the Annual Meeting. The 2007 sessions include:
* Information Technology in the Health Care Workplace: Impacts and Implications;
* Dude, Where is My Retirement?
* International Public Health and the Labor Movement: Labor’s Response
To Global Health Issues, Trade Initiatives, Globalization, and Workers’ Health.
These sessions are being planned in collaboration with Sharon Pinnock, AFGE, Barbara Coufal, AFSCME, Jay Witter, UAN, Liz Bettinger, USW, Cynthia Mariel, Solidarity Center, and other Caucus members.
Two special sessions are also in the works:
* Workers Free Choice To Form Unions – Myth or Reality – In collaboration with Peter Dooley, Director of LaborSafe and author of the APHA Resolution on the Right for Employee Free Choice To Form Unions, the Labor Caucus is developing a session on the need for the Employee Free Choice Act. The resolution was sponsored by the Labor Caucus and the Occupational Health Section, which will co-sponsor this session.
* Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Other Mental Health Issues in the Aftermath of War –The Labor Caucus is collaborating with the Peace Caucus to plan this session.
Both sessions will feature DPE affiliate and other speakers.
In addition, the Labor Caucus is working with Peace Caucus Program Planner, Patrice Sutton, and others to bring Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq to Washington for the Annual Meeting. This powerful photographic exhibit features additional text about the war’s impact on public health, researched and written at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ College of Public Health, with data on civilian casualties; the war’s impact on the natural environment, physical infrastructure, health care system, and health status of Iraqis; and the long-term effects on U.S. troops and their families. The exhibit also includes a focus on the number of journalists killed in Iraq (more than were killed during two decades of war in Vietnam). Further details will be supplied in future editions of NewsLine.
For additional information about the Labor Caucus and its programs, contact its Chair, DPE Assistant to the President, Pamela Wilson: 202/638-0320 or email@example.com. For information about the Annual Meeting, visit the Website, www.apha.org.
AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION – In June 2006, the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association adopted a resolution, Employee Free Choice Act: Support the Freedom to Form Unions. On March I, ALA Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff issued a strong supporting statement: “The American Library Association-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) would like to take this opportunity to announce its support of H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act. Formed for the purpose of promoting “the mutual professional interests of librarians and other library workers,” the ALA-APA is a strong advocate of workers’ rights, and protecting the right to form unions is a cause we strongly support.” The full statement can be seen at: http://www.ala.org/ala/washoff/gettinginvolved/alaapaab/ALA-APA_EmployeeChoice.pdf
The resolution on the Employee Free Choice Act was developed by representatives of DPE, the AFL-CIO, and ALA-APA.
Coming soon…The ALA Annual Conference, June 21—27, in Washington, D.C. Sessions featuring representatives from DPE affiliates including AFSCME and AFT are included in the program. Jim Brown, Director of the Health Insurance Resource Center, Actors’ Fund of America, who runs the Access to Health Insurance/Resources for Health Care Website, www.ahirc.org, will return to ALA to discuss affordable health care options.
Library workers are represented by several DPE affiliates including AFGE, AFSCME, AFT, CWA, IFPTE, and OPEIU. For information about ALA and the Annual Meeting, see www.ala.org; for information about DPE’s involvement, contact Pamela Wilson by phone, 202/638-6684 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR FOR APRIL 28 – More than three decades ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Unions and our allies have worked hard to make that promise a reality, winning protections that have saved hundreds of thousand of lives and prevented millions of workplace injuries. Nonetheless, the toll of workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths remains enormous. Each year, thousands of workers are killed, and millions more are injured or diseased because of their jobs.
Many employers, in a race to the bottom in the global economy, have been pushing to cut wages and benefits and loosen protections. Dozens of important safety rules have been withdrawn. Voluntary compliance has been favored over issuing new protective standards and enforcement. With fewer and fewer workers having the protection of unions, more workers are afraid to speak out and raise job safety concerns, fearing retaliation and firing.
On April 28, the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the fight for safe workplaces. We will fight to make workers’ issues a priority and to keep and create good jobs in this country. We will fight for the freedom of workers to form unions and, through their unions, to speak out and bargain for safe jobs, respect and a better future. We will demand that the country fulfill the promise of safe jobs for all workers. It’s time.
GOOD JOBS, SAFE JOBS, IT’S TIME! Observe Workers Memorial Day – April 28.
IDENTIFYING JEAN LUCAS – A caption for a photograph in the January 2007 NewsLine story “Crossing Kentucky River: Next Steps for Professional and Technical Employees” incorrectly identified conference speaker Jean Lucas, a certified Registered Nurse and a former president of Health Professionals and Allied Employees Local 5118, American Federation of Teachers. With apologies and thanks, we’re glad to link her image and name.
HEADING BACK TO SHORE? AN UPDATED LOOK AT OUTSOURCING – President Almeida addressed a gathering of students, educators, and business representatives at George Mason University Technology Management Speakers Series in March. Also presenting at this forum was Teresa Weipert, Accenture and Curtis Anderson, USDA. The panel explored the current state of outsourcing from different perspectives, providing a comprehensive view of the risks and rewards for an array of technology outsourcing scenarios. Moderator J.P. Auffret Director, Master of Science in Technology Management, School of Management, George Mason University framed the discussion with a look at the latest data on the impact of off-shore outsourcing on US workers and US competitiveness.
DPE SIGNS ON – On March 5, DPE joined an AFGE letter to the Senate seeking collective bargaining and other civil service protections for Transportation Security Administration officers. Other unions affiliated with DPE pitching in included AFSCME, AFT, CWA, IAM, IFPTE, and USW. To read the letter, click on http://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/letters/.
In February, DPE also signed coalition letters to House and Senate committees urging that legislation to create a national framework for health information technology (HIT) provide for “an independent, non-partisan advisory body charged with developing a national, government-wide HIT policy framework to ensure the privacy and security of consumers’ health information.” See http://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/letters/ and http://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/letters/.
DPE IN THE NEWS— DPE President Paul Almeida’s comments were the lone voice protesting Bill Gates’s appearance before the Senate’s HELP Committee (see “Bill Gates Gives Senate Help Committee A Solo Performance,” above) as reported in BNA’s Daily Labor Reports on March 8.