As President of the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, I speak for a wide array of labor organizations that represents workers employed in the manufacturing, production, service and maintenance segments of the general aviation, shipbuilding and energy segments of the workforce.
America’s Metal Trades Unions look forward to working with Congress on developing a bipartisan infrastructure package. At the same time, we strongly urge you to oppose attempts to include divisive proposals in any comprehensive infrastructure bill or legislation whose mission is to privatize our nation’s vital government institutions such as airports, seaports, roads, bridges, energy, water and sewer substructures.
Bipartisan support for legislation investing in our nation’s infrastructure will be critical to getting a bill to the President’s desk. While Congress will face many challenges as it considers a comprehensive infrastructure bill, divisive privatization proposals full of risk and unintended consequences should not be one of them. Handing over our nation’s infrastructure to special interests is surely not in the best interest of America or its working families.
As Congress works to bring our nation’s infrastructure into the 21st century, we look forward to working with you to find common sense, bipartisan solutions that benefit all Americans.
Re: Metal Trades Department Strongly Opposes H.R. 3808, the Infrastructure Expansion Act of 2017.
The Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO, is writing in opposition to H.R. 3808, the Infrastructure Expansion Act of 2017, which would prohibit states from establishing strict liability standards for certain construction accidents. This bill would be an unprecedented intrusion into state liability law. Its scope is vast, covering any such “project for which Federal financial assistance is used, directly or indirectly.” These terms are undefined and vague, but a common sense reading suggests they are meant to cover far more worksites than just those receiving federal grants.
Construction is one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation. Currently, states like New York insist on strict liability for contractors and owners when it comes to sites covered by this bill, that is, those “with an elevation or gravity related risk occurring on that project.” This is because New York has determined that those controlling safety at a construction site should be exclusively responsible for ensuring safety and limiting hazards. New York has done this to protect not only workers from unsafe scaffolding, ladders, flooring, elevators and other hazards, but also pedestrians walking on sidewalks and streets where there is active construction.
But even in New York, an accident alone does not establish liability. A defendant cannot be held liable unless they have violated a required safety standard. They cannot be held liable if an accident was solely caused by the worker’s negligence (i.e., being intoxicated at work, etc.). In other words, New York has carefully developed its law over decades, balancing interests to both encourage safety and provide proper remedies for those who have been hurt.
H.R. 3808 directly tramples on a state’s right to decide what’s best for its workers and residents regarding the responsibility of local contractors and building owners to ensure safe construction sites. It would overturn traditional state common law and interfere with a state’s right to establish tort remedies, one of the most basic and traditional of state functions. Please oppose this harmful legislation.
Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO
WASHINGTON, DC–As the labor representative for workers at the major shipyards building Naval vessels in the U.S., I am deeply disturbed by the allegations that Austal, USA violated the False Claims Act.
For years, the Metal Trades Department has suspected that the company is abusing the Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) center by garnering state and local tax incentives while failing to properly train prospective employees. The legal allegations brought forth in the June 2014 lawsuit filed by the Gardner Firm PC, only further justifies our concerns.
As reported by Law360’s Jacob Fischler in Ex-Workers Say Navy Shipbuilder Faked Employee Records, the “employees were sometimes misrepresented as supervisors to skirt government provisions about how many supervisors were required per shift, as well as to boost their reimbursement potential.” We believe that this type of misrepresentation is rampant at Austal, USA.
Employees at Austal have had their voices ignored repeatedly. Our representatives have expressed concern to the Navy that these practices might be happening. We were not kept abreast of what, if any, action was taken by Navy personnel. This company has violated U.S. laws, fired employees who complain. As outlined in the lawsuit, three of the five relators—those named in the suit—were fired after reporting the alleged fraud to supervisors. The environment of intimidation and fear has caused most to keep their head down for fear of losing their jobs.
These new accusations, as well as the repeated OSHA citations issued to Austal, USA shows the callous disregard this company has for both U.S. regulations and its workforce. The U.S. Navy and the hard-working men and women in our shipyards deserve better.
I am honored to be at the White House to witness the signing of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. The Metal Trades Department and its affiliated unions have been advocating for and supporting this action for many years.
Our organizations have witnessed first hand the abuses of unscrupulous federal contractors wage theft of their workers and the unlawful retaliation when workers try to exercise their rights. The terms of the Contractor’s federal contracts require them to obey and abide by the laws. Although the vast majority of contractors play by the rules, every year tens of thousands of American workers are not treated fairly. Many are denied overtime wages, not hired or paid fairly because of their gender or age, or have their health and safety put at risk by corporations contracting with the federal government that cut corners. Today, President Obama is cracking down on federal contractors who put workers’ safety and hard-earned pay at risk.
This Executive Order means that there will be consequences that will actually deter this unlawful action.
We thank President Obama for issuing this Executive Order.
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The Metal Trades Department is a trade department of the AFL-CIO. It was chartered in 1908 to coordinate negotiating, organizing and legislative efforts of affiliated metalworking and related crafts and trade unions. Seventeen national and international unions are affiliated with the MTD today. More than 100,000 workers in private industry and federal establishments work under contracts negotiated by MTD Councils. Workers retain membership in their own trade unions.
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.
Washington, D.C.—A bipartisan coalition of labor unions and maritime business owners affiliated with the Shipbuilding Council of America have jointly sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to pass a defense appropriations bill and avoid sequestration cuts before the Navy begins widespread lay-offs and cancellation of ship maintenance on February 15, 2013.
In the letter the coalition stresses that “If no action is taken, the magnitude and indiscriminate nature of sequestration coupled with the 2013 Continuing Resolution will trigger significant reductions in operating budgets across the United States Joint Forces, degrading our military readiness and resulting in economic harm to workers and communities across the country.”
Explaining that the situation has “profound consequences for America’s workers and communities,” the letter urges Congress to pass a budget before February 15, 2013 and that failure to do so would result in:
- Up to 46,000 Department of Defense civilian employees will be immediately laid off.
- Another 800,000 workers will face furlough days resulting in a 20 percent pay cut.
- More than 100,000 people could lose jobs in the shipbuilding and repair industry and our supply chain.
The letter continues outlining the already dire consequences of inaction on the federal budget citing the February 6, 2013, Navy cancellation of the deployment of the U.S.S. Harry Truman aircraft carrier strike group, which had been scheduled to deploy to the Persian Gulf later that week. “This leaves the United States with only one aircraft carrier in place to provide critical air power for our troops in that volatile region. Looking ahead, the Navy plans to cancel all 3rd and 4th quarter repair and availabilities to address budget shortfalls due to another continuing resolution.”
The letter is signed by Ron Ault, President of the Metal Trades Department and the presidents of its affiliated unions including Patrick D. Finley, Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons; Thomas Buffenbarger, IAMAW; Joseph Nigro, SMWIA; James A. Williams, IUPAT; James T. Callahan, Operating Engineers; Newton Jones, IBB; Gregory Junemann, IFPTE; William Hite, UA; William R. Dougan, NFFE; and David J. Holway, NAGE. It is also signed by Frank Foti, SCA Chairman, CEO Vigor Industrial and the more than 100 maritime business owners who make up the Shipbuilding Council of America.
Addressing job losses in the letter the coalition explains “the jobs to be lost are in all 50 states, not just Navy homeports and coastal areas. Highly skilled workers will be laid off and might leave the industry altogether. Communities where these workers live will feel the effects in reduced support for local businesses and reduced revenue for schools and local municipal services at a time when our economy is just beginning to show signs of recovery. Many small businesses, and minority-, veteran-, women-owned and disadvantaged companies, face going out of business. New workers, including veterans, will not be hired.” And that “Once lost, many of these jobs will not return to our economy.”