|Update: Stopping the War on Workers
May 12, 2011
IBT - Legislative sessions are winding down in many states, but the momentum continues for working families to use our strength in numbers to reclaim the American dream.
Though 14 states tried to pass right-to-work (for less) bills to destroy unions, only New Hampshire has come close to succeeding. Public opinion has shifted in favor of collective bargaining rights as unions took center stage in many state capitols. A Gallup poll in April showed almost half of Americans agree with workers and their unions. Only 39 percent agree with the governors who attacked working people. The popularity of those governors – Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, Rick Snyder in Michigan, John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Scott in Florida, and Paul LePage in Maine – has plummeted in the polls.
Protest moved to action in Wisconsin, where Teamsters gathered signatures to recall Republican senators who voted to strip collective bargaining rights from public sector unions. In Wisconsin’s entire history, only four recall elections have been held. Remarkably, volunteers gathered enough signatures to require six Republican senators to face recall on July 12. Paid, out-of-state companies collected enough signatures to recall three Democratic senators who left the state to prevent the anti-worker vote, including our Teamster brother, Dave Hansen. Those signatures, however, are riddled with error. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is alleging fraud and trying to quash the recall elections for the three senators.
Ohio law allows citizens to repeal unpopular laws. SB 5, the bill to take away collective bargaining rights from government workers, is extremely unpopular. A Wenzel Strategies survey from April shows 51 percent of Ohio voters favor a repeal of SB5, compared with just 38 percent who said they would vote to keep the new law in place.
As soon as Gov. John Kasich signed SB 5, Teamsters prepared for a massive signature-gathering drive. Local 436 trained 63 petition gatherers in one night. Teamsters throughout the state fanned out to collect the 300,000-plus signatures to put the veto on the 2011 ballot in November.
In Florida, the Legislature passed a budget that lets the state privatize prisons in Region 4 of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) system. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign this attack on FDOC officers into law. With the passage of this bill, correctional officers at facilities in 18 counties in the state will face an uncertain future as their livelihoods and families’ future will be sold to the lowest bidder. Teamsters International Vice President Ken Wood denounced the prison privatization, saying, “This legislation is an attack on dedicated public employees in the state of Florida.”
The good news in Florida is the failure of an effort to prevent public unions from using automatic payroll deduction to collect dues and to take away the right of unions to use payroll deductions for political purposes. A similar effort failed in Kansas.
An attempt to weaken child labor laws in Maine was killed by a unanimous committee vote last Friday.
In Massachusetts, the House passed a bill that takes away public unions’ right to bargain collectively for health benefits. Senate President Therese Murray has said she opposes the bill, as does Gov. Deval Patrick. The bill’s fate is uncertain.
Last week, the New Hampshire Legislature passed a right-to-work (for less) bill to destroy unions despite Democratic Gov. John Lynch’s veto threat. Today, Gov. Lynch vetoed the bill. Speaker of the House William O’Brien is expected to bring up an override vote of the veto as early as May 25. Teamsters Local 633 in Manchester has taken charge of counting votes to make sure opponents of the bill would be there to block any attempt to override the veto.
We have neglected to mention the good work of Vermont Local 597 in South Barre, which was the lead organizer of the Feb. 26 rally in Montpelier. Dan Brush wrote a resolution to support the right of collective bargaining, which was passed by the House and Senate and forwarded to the Governors of Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana.
Teamsters were by far the largest contingent at a May Day rally that drew 2,000 people near the Statehouse in Hartford. Connecticut workers haven’t endured the kind of assaults experienced by workers in Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and elsewhere. But Dave Lucas, Teamsters Local 671’s principal officer, told the crowd that they’d better be ready. “It can come up on you any time,” he said. “We gotta be ready for it and send a message: “Don't bring that crap here.”
Connecticut Teamsters came from Locals 493 in New London, Local 1150 in Stratford and Local 671 in Bloomfield. Joint Council 10 from New England brought four or five carloads of Teamsters (along with the Teamsters truck). Teamsters drove all the way from Local 633 in Manchester, N.H., Local 10 in Boston and Local 40 from Mansfield, Ohio. Local 671 gave “Stop the War on Workers’ t-shirts to members and sold them to others at cost. They were gone by the end of the day.
“We really beat the bushes to get them to go, to get them aware, and it really worked,” Lucas said. “This took on a meaning. We got something going.”
To stay on top of our battle against corporate-backed politicians who are waging war on workers, go to www.stopthewaronworkers.org.
What follows are the legislative priorities of the Teamsters Union for the second session of the 111th Congress. Included are links (govtrack.us) that provide a summary and the status of House and Senate bills that support our goals, as well as a list of companies and organizations that support or oppose the bills. You can also join the discussion in the Q & A section.
Creating and Keeping Good Jobs
Pension Reform: With unemployment rates at all-time highs across the country, it is time to save jobs by protecting pensions. Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Pat Tiberi (R-OH) have introduced H.R. 3936, the Preserve Benefits and Jobs Act of 2009. This legislation would provide funding relief for both single- and multi-employer pension funds. The Teamsters Union supports H.R. 3936.
Health Insurance Reform: With nearly 40 million uninsured Americans, the Teamsters Union supports health insurance reform. Any reform measure should require employers to provide coverage, prohibit lifetime and annual limits on benefits, make insurance affordable, and control costs.
Energy and Climate: We must get America running on clean energy by creating clean energy incentives while protecting jobs, wages, benefits, and labor standards. The Teamsters Union supports a balanced approach to comprehensive energy and climate legislation.
State Recycling Programs: Recycling creates 10 times as many jobs per ton of waste as landfills and incinerators. The Teamsters Union supports more investment in recycling programs and incentives to expand recycling infrastructure. In particular, the Teamsters support the State Recycling Program included in S. 1733, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.
Fair Trade: The U.S. has lost more than 3 million manufacturing jobs since 1998. Our trade policy must be fixed. The Teamsters Union supports S. 2821, the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development, and Employment Act (TRADE Act), and its House companion, H.R. 3012. The TRADE Act establishes a new trade policy framework for the country, lays the foundation of how trade agreements should be negotiated and articulates what agreements can and cannot include.
Protecting Workers' Rights and Safety
Employee Free Choice Act: If given the chance, most American workers would join a union; however, a recent study showed that 30% of employers fire pro-union employees. The Teamsters Union support S. 560, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), and the House companion bill, H.R. 1409. The Employee Free CHoice Act would give workers a fair and direct path to form unions through majority sign-up, help employees secure a contract with their employer in a reasonable period of time, and toughen penalties against employers who violate their workers' rights.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization/Express Carrier: Workers at different companies who perform the same tasks in the same industry – such as express delivery drivers – should be treated equally under the law. Unfortunately, they aren't. Last year, the House passed the FAA reauthorization bill, H.R. 915, with the Express Carrier Employee Protection Act included. The Act requires employees of express delivery companies to be covered by the Railway Labor Act only if they perform airline-specific functions; other jobs at express carriers would be covered by the National Labor Relations Act. The Teamsters Union supports inclusion of Express Carrier Employee Protection Act in the final FAA reauthorization bill.
Clean Ports Campaign: Ninety-five percent of the goods imported to the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico flow through our ports. For decades, a loop in the law allowed employers to deny port drivers' basic rights by misclassifying them as independent contractors. The Teamsters Union, as part of the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports, supports a federal amendment to the Motor Carrier Act. The amendment would allow ports to require harbor trucking companies to employ their drivers instead of using them as independent contractors.
Worker Misclassification: For many years and in many industries, employers have wrongly classified employees as "independent contractors." It deprives workers of employment protections, and gives employers an unfair competitive advantage by driving their costs down. The Teamsters Union supports H.R. 3408, the Taxpayer Responsibility, Accountability, and Consistency (TRAC) Act, and the Senate version, S. 2882. This legislation would solve the growing problem of worker misclassification by closing the Section 530 "safe harbor" loophole which currently allows employers to circumvent the Internal Revenue Service's classification test, and misclassify workers as independent contractors.
Cross-Border Trucking Pilot Program: In 2007, the Bush Administration opened the borders to trucks from Mexico. As many as 100 Mexican carriers, who do not meet U.S. safety standards, were granted authority beyond the commercial zones. The Teamsters Union persuaded Congress to end the program in 2009. In response, the Mexican government is now imposing tariffs on certain U.S. exports. The Teamsters Union urges the U.S. Trade Representative to challenge the Mexican tariffs on U.S. products, and to support a permanent ban.
Ensuring Financial Security for Working Families
Financial Services Reform: In the aftermath of a full-blown global economic crisis and the worst recession in decades, bold action is needed to secure economic security, eliminate predatory lending, ensure fairness for taxpayers, and protect workers and their jobs. The Teamsters Union supports the House-passed bill H.R. 4173 – the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009.
At the Capital: A powerful, independent voice for working families
Teamster politics is about supporting those who support us, regardless of which political party they belong to.
Teamsters Local 355 is deeply involved in state politics. We have to be. Because our public sector members, and their contracts, depend on the people in elected public offices – from governors down through the state and local levels.
First, we work through Maryland Teamsters PAC our non-partisan political action arm – to help elect candidates who support us on important issues like taxes, pensions, working conditions and health care.
Second, our officers and staff work the state Legislatures to make sure our representatives understand the critical issues affecting working families. We urge them to stand with us. And when they've committed to help us during their campaigns, we remind them to come through when it counts.
Third, we keep our members informed, and ask them to contact their governor and their state senators and representatives on issues that really matter to us.
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