In a wide-ranging address before reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney renewed the federation’s call for universal health care, increases in the minimum wage and an end to the rampant outsourcing of U.S. jobs to low-wage foreign countries.
Sweeney also predicted the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would vastly improve workers’ organizing rights, would pass before President George Bush completes his second term.
Sweeney dismissed as fiction GOP claims of a robust economic picture in the U.S. and called for an aggressive response to a corporate strategy of shifting healthcare costs to employees while shrinking or eliminating pensions for hundreds of thousands of workers.
“Wounded workers aren’t the only casualties of the corporate job-killing strategy,” said Sweeney, who called outsourcing a self destructive strategy that leaves businesses with consumers who don’t have enough money to spend or save.
“It leaves governments with more demand for public services and subsidies – and fewer taxpayers to pay for them.”
During questions and answers following Sweeney’s formal remarks, the AFL-CIO president urged more members of Congress to co-sponsor the Employee Free Choice Act. The legislation currently has 208 co-sponsors in the House, including 10 Republicans, and 42 sponsors in the Senate.
The widening influence peddling scandal that forced Republican strongman Tom DeLay to step down as House Majority Leader has set off a race to succeed him and a legislative blitz to “clean up” the sleazy lobbying practices on Capitol Hill.
DeLay was an early victim of the widening Abramoff scandal. Abramoff has plead guilty to bribery charges and in his plea agreement, the Justice Department named three targets for further investigation. One, listed as “Staffer A” in court documents, was identified as DeLays’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Tony C. Rudy.
The scandal has set off competing attempts to “reform” lobbying practices. Republican proposals put a fig leaf of reform over the scandal in hopes of averting an election disaster in November.
For example, under GOP House Speaker Hastert’s touted ban on interest groups from buying meals and lavish trips for lawmakers, they would still be allowed if the trip or meal was classified as a fundraising event.
Democrats have floated their own more comprehensive reforms to ban gifts and open up the legislative process.
Reform is also playing a role in the race to replace DeLay as House majority leader. DeLay’s protégé, Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt, has been at the heart of the DeLay influence machine, serving as his deputy when DeLay was House whip and then succeeding DeLay as whip when DeLay became majority leader in 2003.
Blunt has been acting majority leader since DeLay’s indictment last September on fundraising violations. Blunt was instrumental in passing President Bush’s tax cuts that favored the wealthy and strong-arming passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
Running against Blunt are Ohio Congressman John Boehner, who held a leadership post in the House until he and other leaders were ousted in 1998 in a power struggle engineered largely by DeLay and Arizona Congressman John Shadegg who is running as a reform candidate.
The award-winning PBS program NOW turns its eye to executive pay in the U.S. and asks if it’s harming investors, workers, and the economy.
The program airs on Friday, January 20, 2006 at 8:30 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and examines the growing pay gap between high-level executives and the nation’s workforce, which some say has hurt shareholders while workers fight for decent wages, healthcare and retirement benefits.
The report features interviews with IAM members at Boeing and explores whether the high compensation is necessary and justified, or bad for business and the economy.
In an effort to encourage more female members to pursue leadership positions within the Machinists Union, the IAM Women’s Department will begin posting monthly profiles of exceptional female leaders within the IAM on their website at www.goiam.org.
“These stories will spotlight positive, solidarity-building achievements,” said IP Buffenbarger in a letter announcing the program. “The examples they set will hopefully foster even greater levels of union activism among our sisters.”
The IAM Women’s Department is entering its ninth year and continues to promote community service, equality and union solidarity among all IAM members.
Fred K. Hoehler Jr. served generations of labor activists as the founding director of the George Meany Center for Labor Studies, now the National Labor College, until his death January 4 from complications of prostate cancer. He was 87.
Hoehler was hailed as a true innovator and labor pioneer by former AFL-CIO President Thomas R. Donahue, who called Hoehler “the most significant contributor to U.S. labor education. He trained thousands of labor leaders in this country. He was a pioneer in lifelong education.”
Born in1918 in Cincinnati, Hoehler served in the U.S. Army’s air corps during World War II, and taught at the University of Puerto Rico and Penn State University before joining the AFL-CIO as assistant director of the Department of Social Security in 1954. He served as executive director of the Meany Center for Labor Studies from its opening on Labor Day 1969, until he retired in 1984.
“Fred Hoehler really planted the seeds of excellence and commitment to broad-based education for workers,” said current Meany Center President, Dr. Susan J. Schurman. “That has now blossomed into the National Labor College. The labor movement owes much to his vision.”