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Legislative Committee Members


Cody Reiffenberger     Carson Turnquist     Justin Marco

July 16, 2009

Fellow Members of Local 7270:

 

Two members of your Legislative Committee, Tony Howe and Andy Lucas, attended the National CWA Legislative Conference that was held in Washington DC on June 24th and 25th. The conference once again gave those of us in attendance an opportunity to listen to speeches from various individuals, including the Vice-President of the United States, on topics of importance to the working men and women of this country. The conference also gave us, along with other CWA members from Minnesota, an opportunity to visit the offices of the US House of Representatives from Minnesota and also the Office of our US Senator. While in these various offices we took the opportunity to discuss a variety of issues which included some of the following:

HEALTHCARE REFORM

The need to reform the Healthcare industry in this country was one of the main focal points as we visited our members of Congress. About 1 out of every 7 Americans, or about 47 million, have no Healthcare coverage at all. This number is continually increasing as the number of Americans losing their jobs increases. The pressure that the cost of insurances puts on families, small businesses and corporations was emphasized. The following four points were stressed as we continued our discussion:

All Employers should be responsible for covering their workers. This will level the playing field with businesses who currently provide healthcare for their employees, versus those that do not. Building on the “employer-based system” will allow those who have coverage to keep it, while decreasing costs as we all help pay for costs that are incurred by the uninsured. Current businesses who do not provide healthcare coverage would be required to do so, or pay into a public trust that covers those without employer paid coverage.

Guarantee coverage for pre-Medicare retirees. As more workers lose their jobs or retire early because of layoffs this has become a bigger and bigger problem for Americans ages 55 to 64. This coupled together with more and more employers eliminating coverage for retirees in this age bracket has accelerated the seriousness of this issue.

Guarantee Americans a choice of private or public health insurance plans. This will create competition between current private insurance companies and public ones. This step will help ensure more credibility within the healthcare industry and will help to reduce costs that are presently incurred. The main difference in cost between private and public health insurance plans is in the administration of the program. The administrative costs for private insurance is normally around 30% of the premium, while public administrative costs are typically in the 12% range.

Do not tax the health care benefits of working families. This would put a tremendous stress on working families as many struggle just to make ends meet during these difficult financial times. We also stressed that this would result in more American‘s being without healthcare coverage, as many workers will drop coverage to avoid the paying of an additional tax. We stressed that there are other ways to raised funds that are needed, such as negotiating lower drug prices and reducing payments to private insurers.

EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE ACT

This has been an issue that has indeed generated much publicity during the past few months. I am sure that we all have heard and seen in the various media, advertisements that stated if this act were to become law workers would lose the right to a secret ballot. This is simply not the case!!! If this act were to become law the following would apply:

Workers would have the opportunity to chose whether they would want a secret ballot or a simple signing of a card to determine whether or not they would be represented by a union. Presently the employer makes this decision not the worker.

This bill states that if an agreement on a first contract is not reached after 90 days of bargaining then either the workers or the employer can request a Federal Mediator. If an agreement is not reached after 30 days of mediation, then the dispute would be submitted to binding arbitration. The results of the arbitration would be binding on the parties for two years.

This bill would also increase penalties on employers for violations that occur.

We stressed that the enactment of this bill is very important to the working men and women. We cited that this bill would give the American worker a choice to unionize which would be free of employer harassment and retaliation. We also cited that today only 38% of newly certified bargaining units are able to reach a contract after one year, this needs to change. It appears that this act will have a much easier time in the House versus the Senate. In the Senate 60 votes are needed for cloture that would limit debate and the threat of a filibuster, while in the House all you need is a simple majority.

We also discussed the need to renegotiate the various “Free Trade” agreements that exist today, stressing the need for workers rights and environmental concerns. We also discussed issues on Civil Rights, Flight Attendant FMLA, preserving the right of journalists not to reveal anonymous sources, the need for Satellite providers to provide local channels--same as cable providers, etc..

We would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to once again go to our nations Capital and voice concerns on issues that are important to each of us and our families. We feel that this trip was productive and continues to be a great way of having our voices heard. Thank you once again for the opportunity.

In Unity,

Andy Lucas Tony Howe

 

 

 


 

2009 Legislative Conference      

             The 2009 State Legislative conference was held in Downtown Saint Paul at the Hilton Garden Inn. Carson Turnquist, Vice President local 7270 and I were fortunate enough to attend. The conference opened with Tim Lovaasen, President of the CWA Minnesota State Council. Tim opened with a brief intro on what would be discussed at the conference; things such as: Green Job initiatives, Health care, and the employee free choice act.

             First we discussed the Employee Free Choice Act; the main purpose of this legislation is to make it easier for workers to organize a labor union. First, it helps to streamline the process of forming a labor union whereby by reducing the amount of time it takes to organize. It limits a companies ability to unjustly intimidate and coerce employees by threatening their jobs and firing those it deems union friendly by allowing unions to organize faster. Second, it would force bargaining on the initial contract to happen no more than 10 days after a request to form a labor union has been received. Also, if within 90 days after bargaining has commenced the two parties have not reached an agreement, then both parties would be able to file a request to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to assist in the bargaining as much as it can for 30 days. If after 30 days the mediators cannot settle the dispute bargaining could then go to an arbitration board. The arbitration board would then render a decision settling the dispute and bind both parties to that decision for 2 years. Also, this act would strengthen enforcement of the NLRB regulations during organizing drives; again, making it safer and easier to organize a labor union at the work place. All of us who belong to a union, who have good health care, who make livable wages, know just how important it is to have bargaining power! More information can be found on the AFL-CIO website at http://www.aflcio.org/

             Next we heard from Lisa Stager, Vice President of the Machinists Union Local Lodge 1833 out of Bloomington, MN and President of the Minnesota State Council Machinists; we also heard from Steve Gordon with the International Association of Machinists. Both came to talk to us about the NWA Delta merger; the main point of focus us the the merger could eliminate union contracts for 12,000 members. Steve Gordon referred to Deltas management as “plantation style.' This merger could end up costing thousands of jobs.

             Next we heard from MN House Majority leader Tony Sertich. He focused mainly on Minnesota's economy, and that relatively speaking our economy is in no better shape than that of California. He blamed our economic downfall on layoff's and business closings. Tony put it in perspective for us when he advised that Minnesota could layoff all government workers and it wouldn't even solve half the problem. He summarized Minnesota's spending like this: 40% of budget spent on Education, next in line was health care, followed by payments and credits to cities and counties and then higher education. We also heard how since Tim Pawlenty was elected Governor he has raised “fee's and surcharges” by 1.5 billion dollars. He also shared that Pawelenty's way of reducing our deficit was to borrow a billion dollars over a 20 year loan with interest; all that does is push back the deficit to our children and grand children, and even puts interest on it. I was also astonished to learn how bad Minnesota's income gap was; in this state CEO's earn an average of 425 times the amount of working class individuals. Also, Sertich stated that the top class earners (making 250,000 or more) pay an average of 8% income tax to Minnesota where the Working class pays an average of 12%. It  uneven taxing, putting more burden on the backs of certain groups through fee's and surcharges, and the large amount of unnecessary administrative jobs in government offices that upset the balance of Minnesota's budget.

             Next we heard about the Buy American initiative. The concept of this is that taxpayer's money should go to only buy goods and services from American workers. This should be an obvious one to our legislators, but as it was pointed out, even though the new economic stimulus plan has a Buy American clause, it can be waived with the request of the recipient. A representative of the United Steelworkers advised us of a MN State Resolution that would require Minnesota to only use money that it gets from the Federal Stimulus to buy American Made goods or services.

             Next we heard about the Blue/Green Alliance. The idea of this alliance is to create more jobs by investing in green companies and energy. We discussed the initiative to have Governor Tim Pawlenty implement a “Green Jobs Plan” in Minnesota. We were then invited to a press conference at the Capital where the Sierra Club and others wanted to officially ask Governor Pawlenty to implement this Green Jobs Plan in hopes of creating thousands of jobs. Carson and I headed over to the State Capital and sat in on the press conference. From there we helped deliver thousands of signed cards in a petition to get Governor Pawlenty to act. We then headed off and took took part in some lobbying of State Senators and Congressmen; unfortunately all were busy and we only had a chance to talk to several of their assistants. You can learn more about the Blue Green Alliance at: http://www.bluegreenalliance.org

             Overall this experience was great; we learned a lot about the initiatives going to vote in the MN House, and we learned the process of lobbying. It is very important to get show our strength as a union of workers to the legislators at the capital. Thank you for the opportunity to do this and I hope to serve on the legislative committee for our local a long time!

 

Chris Koecher
Steward – Operations
Legislative committee local 7270

 

 


 

 

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