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:
- An Honored Life
- Morton Bahr Retires
- DPE’s AEMI Committee Charts New Direction
- Finding a Voice: Nurses and Supervisory Status
- Health Information Technology
- Lunch and Learn with DPE
- Organizing Internally and Professionally
- Guest Worker Visas
- Trade Adjustment Assistance
- Outreach to Associations – at APHA: Co-Sponsorship & Continuing Education Credits for Labor Caucus Sessions
- American Library Association
- Union Membership: It’s Good for Our Health
- Women Organizing Women: Berger-Marks Foundation Launches Report
- DPE in the News
AN HONORED LIFE — On September 28, 2005, the United States Senate adopted a resolution (S.Res. 256) honoring the life of former American Federation of Teachers President Sandra Feldman. Offered by Senator Schumer for Senators Clinton, Murray, Bingaman, Kennedy, and himself, the resolution mourned Feldman as “a vibrant and dedicated public servant” and recognized her contributions to public education. To see the resolution, click on http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getpage.cgi?dbname=2005_record&page=S10602&position=all.
MORTON BAHR RETIRES – A fundraising dinner on September 22 honoring Morton Bahr, the just retired president of the Communications Workers of America, raised more than $1.5 million that will be used to fund the educational wing of the Yitzhak Rabin Center.
President William Jefferson Clinton, Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Dalia Rabin, chair of the Center, all spoke of Bahr’s fierce commitment to education and opportunity for working families and the state of Israel.
President Clinton thanked Bahr and CWA for a lifetime of “contributing to the betterment of America,” adding that because of these efforts, “we were able to lift 100 times as many people from poverty to the middle class.” Clinton recalled his partnership with Prime Minister Rabin and his family, noting that “we were fighting for a cause – peace – so much bigger than ourselves. People who love peace in the world will always be in Prime Minister Rabin’s debt. In the last ten years, hardly a day has gone by that I have not missed Yitzhak Rabin in a personal, aching way. The only thing we can do is to be more like him.”
Senator Kennedy called the tribute to Bahr an especially fitting one, combining Bahr’s passion for helping ordinary people gain educational opportunity and the chance for advancement with his commitment to the ideals of the state of Israel.
Dalia Rabin, chair of the Center, praised Bahr for his dedication to learning and his vision to empower generations to come with the tools to improve their lives. She spoke about the importance of educating young people about the democratic process and the values of tolerance and co-existence. “The freedom to express ourselves and the right to make changes through the democratic process are the values that shaped my father’s life and they are the values that are at the core of building a strong and stable democracy. Those values find their voice at the Yitzhak Rabin Center,” she said.
Bahr, president emeritus of CWA, expressed his appreciation to the Rabin family, to President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton, and to the countless others whose efforts support the work of improving the lives of working families through education and opportunity.
Among his many positions in the labor movement Morty was the past Chairman of the Department for Professional Employees. “Morty was a strong advocate for the role that professional and technical workers play in our society and their need to have a voice in the workplace,” said Paul Almeida, DPE’s President.
On behalf of the men and women of the unions of the DPE, the General Board wishes to thank Morty for his service and devotion to the members of his union and to the labor movement.
DPE’s AEMI COMMITTEE CHARTS NEW DIRECTION — Acting on one of the most sweeping reforms passed by the 2005 AFL-CIO Convention, the AFL-CIO Executive Council received a status report on behalf of the 10 unions that make up DPE’s Arts Entertainment and Media Industries Committee (AEMI). Rich Trumka, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, reported that these unions are working to create a new Industry Coordinating Committee (ICC). The creation of the ICC is subject to the approval of the leadership of the 10 unions. The Arts, Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications ICC is the first announced since the AFL-CIO Convention, which drew up plans for ICCs to bring together unions that represent workers in an industry, occupation, region or by employer and develop an organizing plan as well as contract standards. The 10 unions in the ICC—Actors’ Equity Association, American Federation of Musicians, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Communications Workers of America, Theatrical Stage Employees, Electrical Workers, Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA, Screen Actors Guild, The Newspaper Guild-CWA and the Writers Guild of America, East—represent nearly one million workers in these sectors. “For the first time, all of the major AFL-CIO unions in these sectors will work together to devise joint organizing and collective bargaining strategies in conjunction with their long-standing collaborative work on legislation and public policy,” said Paul Almeida, president of the federation’s Department for Professional Employees.
FINDING A VOICE: NURSES AND SUPERVISORY STATUS — At the request of AFT, DPE hosted a meeting in September to anticipate potentially crucial NLRB decisions about nurses and supervisory status. A negative outcome could strip nurse leaders from bargaining units nationally. Among the steps on which the participants decided was to seek input from Registered Nurses (RNs) at the United American Nurses (UAN) Labor Leader Institute in Chicago. On September 21, 2005, Judy Stack, Assistant to the UAN Director of Organizing, gathered eight RNs from across the United States. David Cohen, DPE Assistant to the President for Education and Organizational Development, sketched briefly the cases pending before the NLRB, the questions it asked in 2003, and the potential for harm its coming decisions could pose. RNs responded to three questions David posed: what charge nurses do – and how – at the hospitals where the participating nurses work; how to explain the NLRB issues to other RNs in ways that would motivate them to action; and how to explain those issues to the public. Their responses will provide a starting point for a meeting of unions affiliated with DPE to develop a common message.
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 — Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt created the American Health Information Community (AHIC) to enable the development of health information technology (HIT), including standards for access to and exchange of electronic health records. DPE joined a letter of September 26, 2005 urging that he “establish a structured and visible way” for consumers of health care services to participate. Also signing on were the AFL-CIO and AFSCME. To see the letter, click on https://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/letters/ltr_hhs_2005_09_26.htm. DPE also signed on to a letter to Nancy Davenport-Ennis, who was appointed as the consumer representative to AHIC. See https://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/letters/ltr_ahic_2005_09_26.htm. For questions or comments, contact David Cohen, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-638-0320, extension 13.
LUNCH AND LEARN WITH DPE ¾
LUNCH AND LEARN MATERIAL NOW POSTED TO THE WEBSITE — Some eighteen months ago, DPE began sponsoring a series of Lunch and Learn programs to discuss problems in the health care system and proposals for change. These programs have covered: the pharmaceutical industry; women’s health; international comparisons in health care; ethnic and racial disparities; the power of the health insurance industry; getting and keeping health insurance or finding affordable care if you’re uninsured; the physicians’ proposal for a national health program, and efforts to achieve universal health care in the states. DPE is now posting summaries of the Lunch and Learn programs to our Website, along with the materials presented or a source related to the topic. https://www.dpeaflcio.org/interest/Health_Care_Programs_and_Resources/index.cfm
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY? — On September 15, more than 50 representatives of labor, government, academic, professional, women’s, consumer and community organizations, and the German Embassy, participated in a Lunch and Learn with Marcia Angell, M.D., the author of The Truth about Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What To Do About It, published in 2004 by Random House. A former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Angell had a front-row seat on the spectacle of the pharmaceutical industry. She watched drug companies become vast marketing machines with unprecedented control over their own fortunes. She saw them gain nearly limitless influence over medical research, education, and how doctors do their jobs.
Dr. Angell noted that Americans spend a staggering $200 billion a year on prescription drugs, and that figure is growing at an annual rate of 12%. Drugs are the fastest-growing part of the health care bill. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry is stunningly profitable: In 2002, the top 10 drug companies in the U.S. had a median profit margin of 17%, compared to 3.1% for all other companies of the Fortune 500 list. The U.S. is the only advanced country that does not limit pharmaceutical price increases in some way. And by their own figures, drug companies spend 35% on marketing and administration, twice what they spend on research and development. Innovation comes mainly from NIH-supported research in academic medical centers.
Now a member of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Social Medicine, Dr. Angell is a nationally recognized authority in the field of health policy and medical ethics.
COMING SOON…Save 12 noon – 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 9 for the next program in the series, focused on public health. Entitled, KATRINA REVEALS: THE BROKEN PUBLIC HEALTH SYSTEM; THE NEED FOR LABOR-COMMUNITY COALITIONS, this program will feature APHA Executive Director, Georges Benjamin, M.D., and a panel of labor experts.
For more information, contact Pamela Wilson, by phone: 202-638-6684 or email: email@example.com.
ORGANIZING, INTERNALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY — On September 18-22, 2005, the United American Nurses (UAN) hosted its fifth annual Labor Leader Institute in Chicago, IL. More than 100 national, state, and local nurse leaders participated. DPE Assistant to the President for Education and Organizational Development David Cohen joined Susan Washington, Executive Assistant to the AFL-CIO Executive Vice President, in leading a general session on internal organizing: how to ask RNs in established bargaining units to become members. UAN also invited David to lead three workshops, “Professionalism and Unionism: Are They Compatible?” – held twice – and “Making a Difference through Leadership and Power.” The first workshop showed how each element of a union could strengthen professionalism and contrasted a union with a professional association. It also gave participants practice responding to prospective members’ doubts. The workshop on leadership and power started from the participants’ experiences to highlight obstacles to constructive change and ways to overcome them. For questions or comments, contact David, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-638-0320, extension 13.
GUEST WORKER VISAS — The DPE backed GOP efforts in the House Judiciary Committee to approve H.R. 3648 that would implement two long sought labor reforms in the L-1 intra-company transfer visa program. The underlying bill was designed to meet the committee’s responsibility to find $60 million in federal savings obligated the Republican leadership’s FY 2006 budget agreement.
By way of background, L-1 visas are granted to multi-national companies to allow them to “temporarily” transfer foreign executives, managers, and professional workers with specialized skills to their U.S. subsidiaries for up to five years. However, unlike the more widely used H-1B visa program for highly skilled foreign workers, the L-1 program lacks any reasonable restraints or limits. For example, there are no safeguards to protect U.S. workers from being displaced or to mitigate abuse of foreign workers from abuse. The program also lacks any numerical limitation on the annual issuance of L-1 visas and visa fee requirements are almost non-existent. H.R. 3648 would impose a new $1,500 application fee for L-1 visas and prevent companies from seeking reimbursement from the visa holders. The DPE had testified in the House and Senate in 2003-04 in support of a long list of L-1 reforms. The testimony can be found on the DPE website at https://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/letters/ltr_tst_2004_02_04.htm
In a rare about-face in party politics, Democrats on the committee sided with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in opposing the bill while Republicans sided with organized labor in supporting it. Ranking Democrat John Conyers (D-Mich.) referred to a letter from the Chamber protesting the proposed fee increase. Sensenbrenner countered with letters of support from the AFL-CIO, the federation’s Department for Professional Employees, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Conyers said the bill should be rejected on grounds that the overarching Republican budget agreement-of which the L-1 provision was a small part-is unfair to taxpayers.
In covering the story and DPE’s work on the issue, the Bureau of National Affairs Weekly Labor Report reported that:
labor groups said the bill provided an opportunity to examine flaws in high-skill guestworker programs such as the L-1 and H-1B programs. “We feel it’s a step in right direction,” said Michael Gildea, executive director of the AFL-CIO Department of Professional Employees. “It adds an L-1 fee where we haven’t had one.”
But, Gildea added, the bill would not stop employers from looking to the L-1 visa for filling jobs with foreign workers. “Companies that can afford to pay $2,000 or more will continue to buy them up,” he told BNA.
The letter from the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees lashed out at both the L-1 and H-1B visa programs. “[C]orporations are allowed to bring in tens of thousands of foreigners, principally from India, to work in the U.S at bargain basement rates for periods of five, six, seven years or longer,” the Sept. 19 letter said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is now considering counterpart budget reconciliation proposals dealing with visa fees.
TRADE ADJUSTMENT ASSISTANCE ¾ DPE Executive Director Mike Gildea and AFL-CIO representatives met with House Ways and Means Committee Democratic staff on a proposal to overhaul this program which provides an array of unemployment, retraining and health care assistance benefits to workers displaced by foreign trade. The reform proposal would, for the first time, extend coverage to displaced service sector employees, including professional and technical workers. The reform bill is expected to be introduced shortly and will be the Democratic standard bearer in next year’s anticipated fight over the re-authorization of TAA.
OUTREACH TO ASSOCIATIONS ¾ AT APHA: CO-SPONSORSHIP & CONTINUING EDUCATION CREDITS FOR LABOR CAUCUS SESSIONS: Three sessions planned for the Annual Meeting by the Labor Caucus: A Voice at Work for Health Care Workers (Session #5117); Issues of Concern to Labor (Session #3373), and The Role of Labor Physicians in Identifying Health Hazards (Session #4237) include speakers from AFSCME, AFT and UAN, among others. These sessions are being co-sponsored by the Occupational Health and Safety Section, Public Health Education and Health Promotion, the APHA Committee on Women’s Rights, Injury Control and Emergency Health Services, and others. As in the past, continuing education credits will be available for nurses, physicians, and other health professionals attending these sessions. APHA’s Annual Meeting is now scheduled for December 10-14 in Philadelphia. For information about the Annual Meeting, go to APHA’s Website, www.apha.org; for information about the Labor Caucus and its programs, contact Pamela Wilson, by phone: 202/638-6684, or email: email@example.com.
AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION ¾ The 2006 Annual Conference of the American Library Association, scheduled for June 22-28 in New Orleans, will include a special program on Getting and Keeping Health Insurance (or Finding Affordable Care if You’re Uninsured) with Jim Brown, Director, Health Insurance Resource Center, Actors’ Fund of America, who runs the Access to Health Insurance/Resources for Health Care Website: www.ahirc.org
The AHIRC database was created by the Actors’ Fund in 1998 as a health insurance resource for artists and people in the entertainment industry. Since then, it has expanded to include resources for the self-employed, low-income workers, the under-insured, the uninsured who require medical care, and many other groups, including a broad range of union members. This program will provide information valuable to library workers in both their personal and professional lives.
Jim Brown was the featured speaker and discussion leader at a DPE Lunch and Learn on May 11. DPE has been working with the American Library Association Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) assisting in the development of programs, resolutions and materials. A fact sheet on library workers is available from our Website, www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/factsheets.
UNION MEMBERSHIP: IT’S GOOD FOR OUR HEALTH: On Labor Day, Assistant to the President Pamela Wilson was the guest speaker at a gathering of about 40 health care activists from the California Physicians Alliance, San Francisco Health Care for All, and the California Universal Health Care Organizing Committee. She discussed the ways in which union membership benefits both physical and mental health. This program was part of an on-going series held each month in San Francisco by a coalition of organizations working for universal health care in California.
WOMEN ORGANIZING WOMEN: BERGER-MARKS FOUNDATION LAUNCHES REPORT ¾ On September 26, DPE President Paul Almeida and Assistants David Cohen and Pamela Wilson attended a reception at the National Press Club to celebrate the launch of the reportWomen Organizing Women: How Do We Rock the Boat Without Getting Thrown Overboard. The report highlights the experiences and insights of a group of highly skilled union organizers captured during a retreat in November 2004 where they explored the best ways to increase the ranks of women organizers and support them in their work.
The Berger-Marks Foundation (www.bergermarks.org) honors the memory of Edna Berger, pioneer organizer for The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America (TNG-CWA) and her husband Gerald Marks, the noted Tin Pan Alley composer. An outstanding organizer in TNG-CWA, Berger was the first international woman organizer on the TNG staff. She organized newspaper unions for many years and a scholarship fund was set up in her name to encourage women union organizers. Marks willed 75% of his music royalties, including those from the popular song “All of Me,” through the Newspaper Guild to Fund the Foundation’s work. DPE Secretary-Treasurer and TNG-CWA President, Linda Foley is the president of the foundation.
The report is available on the DPE Website at www.dpeaflcio.org
DPE IN THE NEWS — During September and early October DPE’s activities were featured in the following national publications:
Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, September 27 edition: major feature/cover story on unions and white collar workers
BNA’s Daily Labor Report, Friday, September 30 and Friday, October 7 editions: re L-1 visas and the AFL-CIO’s new Industrial Coordinating Committee (ICC)
Variety, Thursday, October 6 edition: re ICC
Backstage, Friday, October 7 edition: re ICC