From our friends at the IBB:
Ways & Means Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) is pushing to bring Fast Track legislation for the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to a vote in the House. Please call your representative on Wednesday, June 3rd, at 888-804-8311 and urge them to vote NO on Fast Track.
Representative Ryan’s Fast Track bill has already passed in the Senate, and if approved by the House, would allow secretive trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to be rushed through Congress, with devastating consequences for jobs and wages for America’s working families.
As written, the TPP would force working Americans to compete with horribly-abused sweatshop workers overseas in countries like Vietnam, where the minimum wage is less than 60 cents an hour, and in Malaysia, where up to a third of workers in the countries export-oriented electronics industry are forced laborers — a euphemism for modern-day slaves.
Granting a Fast Track rubber-stamp for the TPP would accelerate a global race to the bottom in wages and working conditions that nobody wins — except, of course, for big, transnational corporations that are eager to exploit labor abuses abroad to pad their obscene profits.
We need our elected officials looking out for us, not corporate elites. TAKE ACTION ON JUNE 3rd: please call your Congressperson at 888-804-8311 and urge them to vote NO on Fast Track.
The good news is that, together, we can win this fight. Literally thousands of organizations — representing the environmental, family farm, civil rights, consumer, Internet freedom, student and other movements — have united with labor in saying NO to Fast Track. We need your voice, too.
This really is the time for action. Fast Track proponents are trying to move quickly.
Senator John McCain recently proposed an amendment to the pending Keystone XL bill that would open up new loopholes in the Jones Act as a special favor to oil refiners and another slap at the U.S. maritime industry. McCain has been a persistent critic of the Jones Act and its limits on shipments by foreign-flagged or foreign-built ships.
McCain’s latest amendment would threaten national security by opening U.S. waterways to foreign vessels, jeopardizing jobs of American maritime workers who build, repair and sail U.S.-flagged vessels.
The Jones Act was enacted nearly a century ago to ensure that the U.S. could maintain a viable maritime industry. It restricts U.S. domestic trade to U.S.-built vessels flagged, owned and controlled by U.S. citizens.
Tell Congress to leave the Jones Act alone.
For more information on the amendment visit the Maritime Trades Department Website:
Download a fact sheet on the amendment (pdf)
WASHINGTON (PAI)–By a 196-211 margin, the GOP majority in the U.S. House rejected a Democratic attempt to aid low-wage workers. All 186 voting House Democrats and 10 Republicans favored the move, which would have barred federal contracts to firms that violate minimum-wage and overtime-pay laws. All the opponents were Republicans.
But not all pro-worker moves failed during the long debate on the night of May 29-30. By voice vote, lawmakers reaffirmed “Buy America” language in federal law, offered by Rep. Allan Grayson, D-Fla. And by a 225-183 margin, they approved a second Grayson amendment, inserting a federal “reporters shield law” into the money bill they debated.
Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., co-chairs of the House Progressive Caucus, tried to insert the ban on contracts to firms that steal wages from their workers. All three moves came during debate on the money bill funding the State, Justice and Commerce Departments for the year starting Oct. 1. They lost when the majority questioned what their amendment actually said. Ellison said the firms owe the workers at least $4 million.
Ellison and Grijalva were going to bat for low-wage workers who toil in restaurants in food courts in federal buildings, such as the Reagan Center in downtown Washington, at Union Station, at the Smithsonian Institution, and on various military bases nationwide.
For more than a year, those underpaid – and sometimes unpaid – fast-food workers whose firms had contracts at the facilities, have staged periodic 1-hour walkouts demanding a living wage, longer hours and the right to organize without employer interference.
Their leaders, from the group Good Jobs Nation, recently met top Obama wage and hour enforcement officials to press their case against the fast-food firms. In a prior response, Obama issued an executive order saying any fast-food firm signing a new contract with the feds must pay the workers at least $10.10 an hour. His order doesn’t help workers right now.
Ellison and Grijalva tried to put the purchasing power of the federal government behind the cause of raising the workers’ wages. They didn’t succeed. “The federal government could lead the way by disqualifying contractors who practice wage theft, but House Republicans voted tonight against an amendment to do exactly that,” they said afterwards.
“No hardworking American should ever have to worry about whether her employer will refuse to pay her when she works overtime or take money out of her paycheck, especially if she works for a federal contractor,” Ellison told his colleagues during the floor debate.
“Right now, federal contractors who violate the Fair Labor Standards Act are still allowed to apply for contracts,” he continuing, saying the amendment denies contracts “to those who violate the Fair Labor Standards Act to deny workers the pay they earned.
“We may not agree on the minimum wage or we may not agree on a lot of other things,”
Ellison told the Republicans. “But Americans on both sides of the aisle believe that a penny earned is a penny that must be paid. Any time a contractor is found to have violated a
worker’s rights and is found to have been guilty of that, according to the law, that contractor should not benefit from the money in this particular bill.”
The shield law, a key cause of The Newspaper Guild-CWA, would let reporters protect their sources from Justice Department subpoenas – such as the subpoena which sent then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller to jail for 85 days during the controversy over who leaked a CIA operative’s name – in almost all cases. The House voted for the shield, 225-183.
Reporters have been waiting for 42 years for a federal shield law, Grayson said. His move would have barred the Justice Department from using money for such subpoenas. But House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., called Grayson’s amendment vague and said the issue of who it covers deserves more hearings and study.
“Journalists are in a quandary,” Grayson told his colleagues. “The Constitution and the 1st Amendment provide for freedom of speech and of the press. It is completely incongruous
to say we have freedom of the press, but the federal government can subpoena your sources and put them and you in prison – you, if you don’t comply.”
Ironically, three days later, the U.S. Supreme Court raised that possibility in the case of New York Times reporter James Risen, a Newspaper Guild member. It said prosecutors could jail him for refusing to reveal a source. That drew protests from TNG President Bernie Lunzer.
Grayson asserted that 49 of the 50 states have some form of reporter’s shield law, curbing prosecutorial zeal to subpoena journalists and force them to reveal their sources. That revelation threat, on the federal level, chills sources from exposing wrongdoing via the press, he noted. The threat also lets prosecutors toss journalists in jail.
Grayson’s Buy America amendment would help prevent Obama’s U.S. Trade Representative from negotiating the principle away when talking with other governments about trade pacts. Nobody spoke or voted against it.
Workers and their allies have been lobbying against giving the president – Obama and his successors – so-called “fast-track” trade authority to push legislation implementing trade pacts, without worker rights, through Congress on single up-or-down votes. The votes would occur after little debate and with no changes allowed.
Grayson invoked the possibility of fast-track to convince his colleagues to let the USTR know the 80-year-old Buy America language must stand.
“Hard-earned American taxpayer dollars should be reused here at home. They should be going back into our economy and putting Americans back to work. I would hate to see this fundamental principle of government procurement undermined in any way by any agreement now being negotiated by the Trade Representative or anybody else in this administration
or any future administration,” he explained.
WASHINGTON — Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., on Thursday continued to express concern about the impact of sequestration on Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
During a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which both senators serve, Shaheen cited a letter from Paul O’Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council at the shipyard, in asking Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of Naval Operations, to elaborate on the long-term impact of sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board cuts in federal discretionary spending that kicked in last March.
Barring an agreement by Congress, another round of sequestration is slated to take place in January under a 2011 legislative deal that paved the way for an increase in the federal debt ceiling.
Questioning Greenert, Shaheen read verbatim from the O’Connor letter, in which he asked: “With nine and a half more years of sequestration hanging over our heads, nine and a half more years of furloughs and layoffs, how will we attract the best and brightest men and women to our technologically sophisticated, complex, precision-based industry?'”
O’Connor’s letter continued: “The security, instability and volatility of sequestration on our shipyard and national work force cannot be understated. The personal impact, mission impact and national security impact are real, and contrary to the best interest of America.'”
Replied Greenert: “I’m glad we get to see that letter, because it very clearly states the debilitating effect of doing this year after year. … We think we are saving costs, (but) we’re just avoiding costs.”
Greenert, who appeared at the Armed Services Committee hearing along with the top uniformed officers for the U.S. Army, Air Force and Marine Corps, went on to express his concern for the state of nuclear shipyards such as the Kittery, Maine, yard, whose mission focuses on repair and modernization of nuclear-powered submarines.
“I’m concerned about the shore infrastructure,” Greenert told Shaheen. “We’re deferring work that’s going to come to roost.”
Ayotte’s inquiry on the overall size of the Navy’s fleet led to a discussion of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s loss of the USS Miami project this past summer. The Navy announced in August it had decided not to repair the submarine, which was damaged in a fire set by civilian worker Casey Fury, citing the impact of sequestration and cost of the repairs.
“Unfortunately, due to sequestration, we lost the USS Miami, which was a project Portsmouth had,” Greenert said. “But the overruns, the furloughs, and the need to have to go to a commercial work force instead of using a federal work force … it was just too much, and we couldn’t afford that submarine and continue to do the others.”
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, also a member of the Armed Services Committee, echoed Shaheen and Ayotte’s contention that sequestration has compromised the capabilities of the U.S. military.
“It seems to be that we’re telling you that you have to cut a finger off and you get to decide which one,” he said. “That’s an unattractive form of having to make decisions.”
Starting July 8th, mandatory furloughs for upwards of 700,000 Department of Defense workers will go into effect. Each worker is required to take 11 unpaid holidays – one per week – meaning their pay will drop 20% for 11 weeks. We can’t allow this to continue.
Use the letter below to automatically contact your members of Congress and tell them these furloughs have to stop. Take a minute of your time and make a difference for your fellow feds today!
Use this Automatic Form to Contact Your Legislators Today!
(When contacting Congress be sure to do so as a constituent, on your own time, using your own computer)
The Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO strongly condemns the passage of H.R. 1120, in the House of Representatives.
This legislation is another example of the all-out assault by many Republicans on the National Labor Relations Board and on basic workers protections. While 10 Republicans stood up for workers’ rights and voted “no” on H.R. 1120, the vast majority of Republican members voted for the bill’s passage.
The bill would “prohibit the National Labor Relations Board from taking any action that requires a quorum of the members of the Board until such time as Board constituting a quorum shall have been confirmed by the Senate.” Meanwhile the Republicans have frustrated the appointment of qualified leadership to the NLRB through parliamentary tactics.
“The passage of this bill is just another example of the cynical Republican policies designed to frustrate the rights of workers on the job and the utter disdain for the vital work that the NLRB performs,” said Ron Ault, president of the Metal Trades Department.