The purpose of this newsletter is to inform you of recent activities by the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) 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 is welcome; send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In This Issue:
- PftPI Panelists Focus on Science in Public Policy
- AFT Shows How School Reform Should Happen
- Visa Programs Are Out Of Control
- Opposing Employers’ Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors
- DPE Welcomes Research Intern
- DPE In the News
PFTPI PANELISTS FOCUS ON SCIENCE IN PUBLIC POLICY – On October 27, 2010, a distinguished array of panelists focused on “The Use of Science in Public Policy.”
DPE President Paul E. Almeida (right) introduced the session, the third Forum sponsored by Professionals for the Public Interest: Associations and Unions Defending Professional Integrity (PftPI). He observed:
“At the press conference that launched Professionals for the Public Interest, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, said – and I quote – ‘The simple fact is that the people who do the work that we do, care more about the work than anybody else and can do more than anybody else about improving public services that are essential to American safety, well-being and success.’
“I believe that’s true for professionals generally, including scientists. I believe also that one of the most important jobs that unions do is to provide a voice for professionals who want, above all, to do their jobs right.”
Moderating the panel was Dr. Josh Trapani, a senior policy analyst at the Association of American Universities who served previously as the staff director for the Science for Policy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). He referred to the August 2009 report from the BPC, “Improving the Use of Science in Regulatory Policy.” He stressed how essential it is to maintain a clear separation between scientific research and making policy.
Dr. Susan Wood, director of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, was the lead author of “Strengthening Science in Government: Advancing Science in the Public’s Interest,” a March 2010 report. She noted that to recruit and retain scientists for federal agencies, a strong morale is essential. Scientists in the federal government find nothing more dispiriting than a sense that their agency has forsaken its scientific principles. Her observation that “Not all managers are suitable for managing scientists, and not all scientists are suited to be managers” drew rueful laughter.
Dr. Michael Holsapple, the 2010 president of the Society of Toxicology and executive director of the Health and Environmental Sciences Institute, underscored the value of transparency for moving credibly from science to policy. For risk assessments, he said, transparency is a necessity at each step: data, process, and decision-making.*
Dr. Carol Henry, a professorial lecturer at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, a consultant to the Society of Automotive Engineers International, and formerly vice president for Industry Performance Programs at the American Chemistry Council, listed standards for research that should, she said, lead policy-makers and non-governmental organizations to accept industry research on the same basis as academic and governmental research. Her argument reflected a 2008 article for which she was the lead author, “Scientific and Legal Perspectives on Science Generated for Regulatory Activities.”
The last panelist to speak, Dr. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist in the Health and Environment program of the Natural Resources Defense Council and a professorial lecturer at George Washington University, opposed Dr. Henry’s suggestion. Dr. Sass stressed that industry research may be designed to avoid finding adverse effects from a product or process. She also denounced the bureaucratic barriers blocking journalists from speaking with federal scientists, who are paid by the public to protect the public and should presumably be free to inform the public.
The American Chemical Society, an endorsing organization of PftPI, organized the panel, while the American Association for the Advancement of Science, another organization in PftPI, hosted the event. For more information about PftPI, which DPE began organizing in 2007, contact DPE Executive Director David Cohen, email@example.com, 202-638-0320 extension 113.
[*] Dr. Holsapple referred the audience to a 2010 article from which he quoted: Schreider J, Barrow C, Birchfield N, Dearfield K, Devlin D, Henry S, Kramer M, Schappelle S, Solomon K, Weed D, Embry M. 2010. Enhancing the credibility of decisions based on scientific conclusions: transparency is imperative. Toxicological Sciences. 116(1):5-7 (2010).
AFT SHOWS HOW SCHOOL REFORM SHOULD HAPPEN – Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida is the eighth largest school district in the United States – more than 25,000 staff and 190,000 students. Despite its size, it’s setting a high bar for school reform and student achievement. How? Through a partnership among its administrators, Board of Education, and the teachers’ union, the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.
Hillsborough was one of six case studies at the National Conference on Collaborative School Reform on October 6 through 8, 2010. Organized and hosted by the American Federation of Teachers, which invited DPE President Paul E. Almeida and Executive Director David Cohen to participate, the meeting brought together superintendents and other school administrators, teachers’ union leaders, school board members, and academics. Its goal: to stimulate teams from school districts across the United States to collaborate in fostering top-quality teaching and student achievement. In the words of AFT President Randi Weingarten: “I don’t know a better theory of change than doing things collaboratively.”
Only days after the conference ended, on October 14, 2010, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined Weingarten and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel to announce “plans to convene a national education reform conference on labor-management collaboration early next year.” To read the Education Department news release, click here.
For a detailed account of the AFT conference, photos, and video, click here.
VISA PROGRAMS ARE OUT OF CONTROL – The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a new briefing paper, The H-1B and L-1 Visa Programs: Out of Control. Author Ron Hira, Associate Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, examines the glaring problems with the H-1B and L-1 visas and calls on Congress to take action. These visas harm the U.S. economy by creating an unfair advantage for employers that do not hire U.S. workers. H-1B and L-1 visas also displace and deny opportunities to U.S. workers.
OPPOSING EMPLOYERS’ MISCLASSIFICATION OF EMPLOYEES AS INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS – Employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors cheat the workers out of benefits, federal and local governments out of taxes, and honest employers out of business. Unions affiliated with DPE have strongly opposed these abuses for years.
On October 27, 2010, IATSE Third Vice President J. Walter Cahill and DPE Executive Director David Cohen joined a conference call convened by the AFL-CIO to discuss legislative and regulatory possibilities to strengthen federal enforcement of employee protections.
DPE WELCOMES RESEARCH INTERN – DPE has hired Dakota Bidgood (right), a graduate student at George Washington University, as our new research intern. Dakota will be researching and updating DPE Fact Sheets and working on special projects. He comes to DPE from Ohio where he was active in the Student Democrats, the Student Senate, and local politics. Dakota graduated from Hiram College in 2010 where he majored in Political Science and minored in Public Leadership.
DPE IN THE NEWS – An October 4, 2010 piece on the AFL-CIO Now Blog, “Professionals Make Up Largest Group of Union Members” by James Parks, quoted DPE President Paul E. Almeida at length. An October 20 piece invited people to “Join Forum on Appropriate Use of Science in Public Policy” (see “PftPI Panelists Focus on Science in Public Policy” above).