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:
- Welcome, Utility Workers!
- Common Ground Around Doing Work Right
- Outlawing Employer Misclassification
- Billions in U.S. Taxes Fund Jobs Where?
- The Future of Unions: A British Perspective
- Equal Pay Day Brings No Relief
- American Library Association: Preparing for Annual Meeting
- Kaiser Permanente Forum
- DC CLUW Chapter Honors AFSCME, CWA Activists
- San Francisco Program Addresses Health Care Minus the Insurance Industry
- SiCKO Plays to a Crowd at the AFL-CIO
- DPE Signs On
- DPE in the News
WELCOME, UTILITY WORKERS! – The Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) affiliated with DPE. Representing workers in the electric, gas, nuclear, water, and service industries, UWUA is organizing increasing numbers of professional and technical workers, from chemists to engineers. Our thanks and welcome to UWUA National President D. Michael Langford, National Secretary-Treasurer Gary M. Ruffner, and the members of UWUA.
COMMON GROUND AROUND DOING WORK RIGHT – On April 21, 2008, representatives from the DPE Work Group on Professional Associations met for a fifth time with representatives from professional associations. They agreed to a narrative of key elements defining professional integrity and challenges to it. That document will become a starting point for a leadership discussion on June 5, 2008, “Strengthening Professionalism in the Public Interest.”
Since July 2006, representatives from unions affiliated with DPE – including AFM, AFSCME, AFT, AFTRA, IAM, IBEW, IFPTE, SAG, UAN, and USW – have met in the DPE Work Group to investigate how unions could learn from, and work with, professional associations. Volunteers from the work group have met monthly since November 2007 with representatives from eight professional associations, in disciplines ranging from engineering and science to education, health care, and human services.
For more information about the project, please contact DPE President Paul E. Almeida, email@example.com, 202-638-0320 extension 14, or DPE Executive Director David Cohen, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-638-0320 extension 13.
OUTLAWING EMPLOYEE MISCLASSIFICATION – On April 15, 2008, the DPE Work Group on Independent Contractors and Antitrust met for an update and exchange about legislative initiatives to combat employers’ misclassification of employees as independent contractors.
AFL-CIO Legislative Representative Kelly Ross and Associate General Counsel William Lurye briefed the group about three bills: the Obama-Durbin-Kennedy-Murray Independent Contractor Proper Classification Act of 2007 (S. 2044), introduced in September 2007; a bill from Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced that day (H.R. 5804); and a draft House bill circulating for comment. The first two bills focused on Internal Revenue Code Section 530, a loophole that provides a “safe harbor” for, among other things, common practices – even if wrong – and that thus rewards an accumulation of employers’ abuses. The third bill seeks to require employer record-keeping and notification about employees and independent contractors and to assess civil penalties for abuses.
Misclassification of employees as independent contractors by unscrupulous employers hurts the employees, federal and state governments, and employers who follow the law. Misclassification means an outlaw employer does not withhold income taxes from workers’ pay, may force workers to contribute on their own for Medicare and Social Security taxes, and avoids the employer’s paying its share for workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. It deprives the federal and state governments of billions of dollars with which to pay for workplace benefits. And by lowering the cost to bad employers, it makes good employers less competitive.
The unions participating in the April 15 meeting responded by explaining the particular concerns of the workers they represent to Lurye and Ross. Those range from vigorous support for combatting misclassification to the potential for an unintended interaction of the legislative proposals with laws and regulations affecting specific industries.
For more information, please contact DPE Executive Director David Cohen, email@example.com, 202-638-0320 extension 13.
BILLIONS IN U.S. TAXES FUND JOBS WHERE? – Earlier this year, the Bush Department of Defense took an unprecedented step. It awarded a contract worth tens of billions of dollars – for the aerial refueling tanker replacement – to a European contractor over a domestic one. Those billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, absent a change in the decision, will be funding foreign jobs rather than employing U.S. workers.
On April 17, 2008, members of Congress from the Senate and the House, from both parties, joined IFPTE President Gregory J. Junemann, SPEEA–IFPTE Local 2001 President Cynthia Cole, and SPEEA Midwest Council Chair Debbie Logsdon in speaking out at a rally on Capitol Hill. The speakers from Congress included Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Representatives Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Todd Tiahrt (R-KS). Showing the support of DPE was Executive Director David Cohen.
For more about the rally, see the IFPTE website, www.ifpte.org, and the website of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), www.speea.org. For the March 4, 2008 AFL-CIO Executive Council resolution, “Offshoring America’s Economic and National Security,” click on http://www.aflcio.org/About/Exec-Council/EC-Statements/Offshoring-America-s-Economic-and-National-Security
The USW denunciation of the Bush Administration deal, and John McCain’s role in lobbying for the European contractor, is at http://www.usw.org/usw/program/content/4538.php.
THE FUTURE FOR UNIONS: A BRITISH PERSPECTIVE – On April 9, 2008, DPE hosted Tom Wilson, head of the Organisation and Services Department at the British Trades Union Congress, in a stimulating trans-Atlantic exchange. In addition to representatives from unions affiliated with DPE and from the Albert Shanker Institute, the participants included the new President of the National Labor College, Bill Scheuerman.
In a presentation titled “The Future for Unions,” Wilson tracked the decline and renewal of British unions from 1979 to date. A precipitous fall in membership ended about 1997. In Wilson’s view, the subsequent stabilization, and even a slight increase in union membership, should not, however, distract observers from a fundamental shift. The members of British unions are decreasingly low-wage workers with low skills, and instead increasingly professional, managerial, and related workers.
Wilson commented that this shift from low-skill to high-skill workers as union members raises a question of how to reconcile the historic mission of unions – championing the lowest-paid and most vulnerable – with the interests of a changing constituency. The shift, he said, has led British unions to a far greater emphasis on promoting skills (see www.unionlearn.org.uk), to a tension between an occupational union identity and the clout of larger membership numbers, and to a greater demand by union members for professionalism from their unions.
Tom Wilson’s publication, The Future for Unions, is accessible online at http:www.scribd.com/doc/36126140/The-Future-for-Unions.
EQUAL PAY DAY BRINGS NO RELIEF – Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA) spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference on April 23, held in conjunction with Equal Pay Day, to support the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act by the Senate. Other speakers –and organizers of the event – included Marsha Zakowski, President, Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW); Rosalyn Pelles, Director, Department of Civil, Human and Women’s Rights, AFL-CIO; Michele Leber, Chair, National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE); Margot Dorfman, CEO, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce; and Lilly Ledbetter, whose complaint of wage discrimination was denied by the Supreme Court decision in May 2007.
Later on April 23, a minority of primarily Republican senators once again made it harder for women workers to overcome pay discrimination. The Senate fell four votes short of the 60 required to begin consideration of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Ledbetter, one of the few female supervisors at the Goodyear plant in Gadsden, Alabama, was earning 20% less than the lowest paid man in the same position when she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Lower court rulings supported her claim and awarded her damages, but the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, held that her claim was not filed within 180 days of Goodyear’s initial discriminatory pay decision and therefore was not valid. In July, the House of Representatives passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to reverse the effect of the Supreme Court decision and establish each discriminatory paycheck as a violation of law. The struggle for fair pay continues.
Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the current year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned in the previous year, based on U.S. Census Bureau statistics of median wages of fulltime, year-round workers.
Pamela Wilson, Assistant to DPE President Almeida, attended the press conference. For more information about the wage gap, see DPE’s fact sheet, Professional Women: Vital Statistics, https://www.dpeaflcio.org/programs/factsheets.htm, and visit the National Committee on Pay Equity’s website, http://www.pay-equity.org/.
AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION: PREPARING FOR ANNUAL MEETING
JOINT AFL-CIO-ALA COMMITTEE PROGRAM FOCUSES ON PENSIONS AND HEALTH CARE REFORM, FEATURES BOOK SIGNING – Entitled “Dude, Where Is my Retirement?” the Committee’s program for the annual conference of the American Library Association focuses on retirement income (in)security, a subject that regularly occupies the public, especially as the population ages. Pension plans once taken for granted are evaporating. Along with pension reform, the program will address the need for a fundamental reform of our health care system. Scheduled for 10:30 – 12 noon on Monday, June 30 at the Anaheim Convention Center, the program features Thomas Mackell, J.D., M.A., Ph.D., Chairman of the Board of Directors, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and Steven Wallace, Ph.D., Associate Director, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, and Professor, UCLA School of Public Health.
In a new book, When the Good Pensions Go Away, published in April 2008 by Wiley Press, Dr. Mackell analyzes the coming retirement crisis. “In the brave new world of outsourced jobs, short-term gigs and on-again, off-again health care coverage, American workers cannot rationally plan their economic futures. It is like being placed in a lifeboat without oars with the desire to row to a safe haven,” he wrote in a chapter titled “The Fractured American Retirement Dream.” The book seeks to help Americans retire with dignity and inspire a collective call to action to hold political leaders accountable for finding a viable solution before a major collapse in the economy occurs.
The AFL-CIO-ALA Joint Committee on Library Services to Labor Groups is finalizing plans for the annual conference, including the development of materials. Jessica Storrs, Research Librarian, AFSCME and Jannie Cobb, Librarian, National Labor College are among the active union members of this committee. Working with Eileen Hardy, Marketing Specialist, American Library Association, Joint Committee Co-Chair Pamela Wilson, Assistant to DPE President Almeida, has arranged for a book signing to follow the program.
Ms. Wilson is working with ALA member, Patricia Anderson, Library Director, Montville Township Public Library, and Christine Silvia-DeGennaro, AFL-CIO to develop a Living Wage Resolution for adoption by the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) and with ALA-APA Director Jenifer Grady and union and other members of the Committee on the Salaries and Status of Library Workers, to finalize programs and materials for the June 26-30 conference in Anaheim. AFSCME is among the unions to be featured in a series of valuable programs sponsored by ALA-APA. For a listing of programs, times and locations, see http://ala-apa.org/salaries/confprograms.html.
ALA-APA ANGELS RECEPTION – “Thirty library leaders will be honored as ALA-APA Angels at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June. The ALA-Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA) is celebrating five years of service by honoring some of the many people and organizations that have helped it grow and flourish in its missions of providing certification and supporting better salaries,” states an ALA-APA release.
“ALA-APA angels were instrumental in the creation and development of ALA-APA. They represent thousands of library employees who gave their time, energy, ideas and contributions to shape the work that ALA-APA is doing through the Certified Public Library Administrator Program and in advocating for fair pay.” AFT, AFSCME, and DPE are among the ALA-APA union angels.
The ALA-APA’s Angels Reception will be held from 7:30 – 9 p.m. on Friday, June 27, in Anaheim, Calif. All are invited to attend to support their colleagues and ALA-APA. Tickets for this fundraising event are $25 and may be purchased online at http://www.ala.org/template.cfm?section=alaregistration&template=/cfapps/registration/change/default.cfm and onsite. Join in celebrating the achievements and bright future of ALA-APA – the Organization for the Advancement of Library Employees, which advocates for improving the salaries and status of librarians and library support staff.
For information about ALA-APA, including the fundraising reception, contact ALA-APA director Jenifer Grady by phone, 312-280-2424 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about ALA and the Annual Meeting, see www.ala.org. To discuss DPE’s involvement, contact Pamela by phone, 202-638-6684, or email, email@example.com.
KAISER PERMANENTE FORUM – “You create the best quality care by having the front-line workers mobilized to find the innovations to do that,” said John August, Executive Director, Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions to a crowded room on April 24, at the First Annual Health Care Forum presented by the Kaiser Permanente Health Care Institute at the National Labor College (NLC) in Silver Spring, MD. He noted that when front-line workers are part of the team developing strategies and techniques to improve health care quality and reduce costs, the results are effective and often innovative. Examples range from those easily implemented, like a reflective vest to be worn by nurses dispensing medications to remind workers and supervisors: “Don’t Interrupt” (distraction is a major cause of medication errors) – to a complete overhaul of operating room procedures.
Entitled “Preserving Quality of Care and Protecting Union Benefits in the Maelstrom of National Health Care Reform,” the forum focused on preserving and improving quality care, and Kaiser Permanente as a model for maintaining quality; it also addressed the components of health care reform, the political outlook for reform, and bargaining and protecting union health benefits. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and George Halvorson, Chairman and CEO, Kaiser Permanente, were the keynote speakers. Mr. Sweeney said, “Our goal is not just to create universal health coverage, but high-quality, affordable universal health coverage. And that’s going to require a strong government role in controlling costs and enforcing standards of care.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) gave the luncheon address. Terrence O’Sullivan, General President, LIUNA; Walter Allen, Jr., Chief Financial Officer/Executive Director, OPEIU Local 30 and Southern California Labor Lead for the Labor Management Partnership; and Dale Chase, President, AFSCME Council #67 were among the speakers.
“Failed global policies are stripping away the nation’s best jobs, and with them, essential benefits like health care. The debate over health care is central to this year’s national elections. The NLC is committed to playing a crucial role in the labor movement’s discussion on health care,” said NLC President Bill Scheuerman, Ph.D., who indicated that a discussion of the health care system itself might be the focus of the next program on health care at NLC.
Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest nonprofit health insurer, has had a unique labor-management partnership for over 10 years that involves more than 160,000 union, management, and physician employees. In 2007, Kaiser and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions donated $450,000 to the National Labor College to fund the Kaiser Permanente Healthcare Institute, a program at the college dedicated to educating labor leaders and union members on health care issues. As part of the grant, the NLC is sponsoring an annual health care forum for leaders of unions and allied organizations.
Pamela Wilson, Assistant to DPE President Almeida, participated in the one-day forum.
DC CLUW CHAPTER HONORS AFSCME, CWA ACTIVISTS – The late Susan Ellen Holleran, former CLUW State Vice President of DC, who retired in 2005 from AFSCME after many years working on and expanding special projects; and Barbara Easterling, the first woman elected Secretary-Treasurer of CWA and the first woman to serve as Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, were honored for their labor activism on April 27 at the DC Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women’s Gloria Johnson Awards Luncheon.
To learn more about Ms. Holleran, a creative and talented advocate for women and the working class, see http://www.laborheritage.org/holleran.htm. Pamela Wilson, Assistant to DPE President Almeida, was among the many attendees at the luncheon.
After retiring from AFSCME, Ms. Holleran worked as a volunteer at the CLUW Cervical Cancer Prevention Works program. She died on December 15, 2007 of cervical cancer, an almost always preventable disease. All unions and union members are encouraged to join the CLUW team on Saturday, May 17 in Washington, DC for the second annual Walk To Beat The Clock to raise awareness about cervical health and the tools women have to prevent cervical cancer. This year, the CLUW team will walk to commemorate Susan Holleran’s life. The deadline to sign up for the team is May 11.
SAN FRANCISCO PROGRAM ADDRESSES HEALTH CARE MINUS THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY – Michael Lighty, Director of Public Policy, California Nurses Association (CNA) and Cindy Young, Senior Health Policy Advisor, California School Employees Association (CSEA), were the speakers at a well-attended forum, “Unions Speak Out for Health Care Minus the Insurance Industry,” sponsored by the California Universal Health Care Organizing Project & the California Universal Health Care Education Project. Pamela Wilson, Assistant to DPE President Almeida, participated. For information from CNA, see www.calnurses.org.
SiCKO PLAYS TO A CROWD AT THE AFL-CIO – Nearly a hundred people from labor and the community packed the AFL-CIO’s Gompers Room at noon on April 25 for a free screening of Michael Moore’s Academy Award-nominated film, SiCKO. Our healthcare system “is costing thousands of lives every year,” said Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) in his introduction to the film. Mr. Conyers is author of the HR 676 bill, which would create a universal single-payer healthcare system in the U.S. California Nurses Association (CNA) Communications Specialist Donna Smith – whose terrible struggle with the broken US healthcare system is documented in SiCKO – also spoke. DPE joined the DC Labor Film Fest, the AFL-CIO, CNA, CLUW, OPEIU, and USW in sponsoring and promoting this event, including arranging for interviews on Pacifica Radio, WPFW, 89.3 FM. To Heal DC host Joni Eisenberg interviewed Ms. Smith on April 14 and 28.
DPE SIGNS ON – In a letter of April 15, 2008 to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, DPE joined AFSCME, the AFL-CIO, and many other organizations in support of giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to approve biogeneric drugs; to see the letter, click on https://www.dpeaflcio.org/policy/letters/Biologics%20letter%20to%20Dingell%20and%20Barton04-15-08.pdf.
DPE IN THE NEWS – On April 7, 2008, Lou Dobbs Tonight reported that the Bush Department of Homeland Security is extending the time foreign students can stay to work in the U.S. The report featured DPE President Paul E. Almeida, who contrasted the annual number of U.S. science, technology, engineering, and math graduates with the smaller number of U.S. high-tech jobs. To see a video excerpt, click on http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2008/04/07/ldt.h1b.visas.cnn?iref=videosearch. To read the transcript of the entire show, go to http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0804/07/ldt.01.html.