By a vote of 75-20, the Senate has given final passage to a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that would make it tougher for transportation workers to unionize. Under the bill, the National Mediation Board -- the agency that manages labor issues for the railroad and airline industries -- would not be allowed to call for an union election unless at least 50 percent of the employees of a company sign authorization cards requesting an election.Read Full Article
In a move designed to get corporations jazzed up about donating to Republican candidates and not much else, the House of Representatives today passed a bill to weaken the National Labor Relations Board, which is in charge of enforcing the labor laws and remedying instances of unfair labor practices. The bill, which its sponsor, Rep. Tim Scott [R, SC-1], has titled the "Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act," would amend the labor laws so that employers could legally take retaliation against workers trying to form a union by relocating or outsourcing their jobs. The vote was 238-186.Read Full Article
No jobs bills on the calendar yet. But don't worry, they're going pivot soon. For now, Congress is sticking to pretty much what they've been doing all along. In the House they'll be treading water with suspensions bills, passing anti-union legislation that's going to die on the Senate. Stuff like that. In the Senate they'll start out by voting on a motion to overcome Republican opposition to a bill to apply sanctions to the military regime in Burma. That bill will probably pass unanimously, but the Republican minority is going to use the Senate rules to make sure it takes up as much of the Democratic majority's time as possible, because, you know, they don't want them to have time for other stuff that might be more popular, like job creation.Read Full Article
The August jobs report is out -- the first since the debt deal passed and the S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating -- and the key number to the whole thing is zero. Zero jobs were created in August. The private sector produced a measly 17,000 jobs, but those gains were entirely erased by the 17,000 jobs that were lost in the public sector due to state and local government budget cuts. Hours worked were down, wages were down, and the unemployment rate for blacks jumped by nearly a full percentage point to 16.7% nationally. There's basically nothing good in the report to point to.
When Congress comes back next week, the focus is going to be on competing jobs bills from the Republican House and the Obama Administration. Unfortunately, it looks like none of them are going to pass. Both sides have decided that their best move is to try to use the gridlock to their advantage politically. They're not willing to do for the jobless what they did for the banks with TARP -- throw the political concerns aside and do what it takes to save them. But it's not just jobs bills that Congress will be fighting over when they come back. They also have some important authorization bills up for renewal that have so far been stymied over partisan battles on union-organizing rules and other issues. If they're not going to pass a job-creation measure they should at least find a way to pass these bills so they can prevent millions of of private and publica jobs from being lost.Read Full Article
The Committee of Veterans' Affairs yesterday voted in favor of reporting legislation to expand collective bargaining rights for health care workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill would amend a section of U.S. law that Democrats say the Veterans' Department is misusing to block certain VA health workers from negotiating over basic pay issues, like overtime, weekend pay, and physician incentive pay.Read Full Article
While all the attention on the Republicans' union busting agenda has been focused on the states, Republicans in Congress have been quietly moving forward with anti-union legislation on the federal level. In February, the House Transportation Committee marked up a Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill that contains an innocuous looking provision that would actually titl union formation rules further in the favor of anti-union interests.Read Full Article
The DISCLOSE Act vote is going to get most of the attention in the Senate today (and for good reason), but there's something else interesting on the calendar as well -- a "resolution of disapproval" regarding a recent rule update from the National Mediation Board that eases the union formation process for airline and train workers.
The resolution is S.J.Res.30, and it may well be the only bill in Senate to be co-sponsored by all 41 members of the Republican caucus.Read Full Article
A measure that would provide billions to fund the Federal Aviation Administration and modernize airport infrastructure is being held up over a provision that would allow FedEx workers to unionize as easily as UPS workers.Read Full Article
The health care debate isn't just between Democrats and Republicans. Liberals too have been fighting one another – particularly on the issue of the excise tax on so-called “Cadillac” health insurance policies - and now the president has entered the fray.Read Full Article
The White House, congressional Dems and labor leaders appear to have struck a deal to raise the threshold for which high-cost health care plans will be taxed to pay for health care reform. Unions were aiming to exempt "collectively bargained" plans from the tax altogether.Read Full Article
Another key senator has come out against the Employee Free Choice Act, basically sealing its death (in its current form). Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] today announced that she will vote against the bill, and against moving it beyond a Republican filibuster. Senator Lincoln voted in favor of the bill in 2007.Read Full Article
Today, Democrats in both the House and Senate will officially introduce organized labor's chief legislative priority - the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) - for the 111th Congress. Normally, the introduction of a bill into Congress isn't big news, but the battle over EFCA has been especially epic. The bill would be a huge boost for the formation of new unions, and probably the most significant change to US labor law since the 1950s. By taking away employers' powers to demand a secret ballot elections for union certification after a majority of employees have already signed union authorization cards, EFCA would tip the scales significantly in the union organizers' favor.Read Full Article