Posts Tagged ‘legislation’
Wednesday, May 20th, 2015
During a meeting of the Michigan House Committee on Commerce and Trade, Republican lawmakers sneakily introduced a substitute bill replacing HB 4052. The new legislation, sponsored by Rep. Earl Poleski (R), overrides all local ordinances governing employers’ relationships with their employees. Because of the way it would impose state control, opponents have dubbed it the “Death Star” bill. Not only does it have implications for any local ordinance that controls minimum wage, benefits, sick leave, union organizing and strikes, wage disputes, apprenticeship programs, and “ban the box” policies (blocking employers from asking about felony convictions), but it would also override the LGBT protections that exist in 38 Michigan municipalities.
“A local governmental body,” the new HB 4052 reads, “shall not adopt, enforce, or administer an ordinance, local policy, or local resolution regulating the relationship between an employer and its employees or potential employees if the regulation contains requirements exceeding those imposed by state or federal law.” Because state law does not include employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, all of the municipalities who do protect LGBT workers would have their ordinances voided, similar to a law that passed earlier this year in Arkansas.
East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett (D) posted on Facebook Tuesday expressing great concern about the bill’s consideration, noting it would invalidate not only its LGBT protections, but also its Equal Benefits Ordinance, which requires the city’s contractors to offer partner benefits to employees’ same-sex partners. Describing Tuesday’s committee hearing, Triplett explained, “When State Representative Stephanie Chang pointed out that the bill would
invalidate Michigan’s 38 local nondiscrimination ordinances, the Chairman was forced to ask: ‘Will this bill really do that?’ The answer is: yes, absolutely.” East Lansing was the first community in the country to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation; its first ordinance became law in 1972.
The “Death Star” may be one of the most sweeping preemptive bills ever considered in any state. Ten states have passed bills prohibiting cities from enacting paid sick day policies, legislation championed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Last month, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a law overriding local bans on fracking. Michigan itself tried to preempt local minimum wage laws over a decade ago, but then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) vetoed the bill, and Wisconsin lawmakers failed to pass a similar bill last year.
Michigan Democrats have been pushing for LGBT nondiscrimination protections at the state level, but have so far been unsuccessful. Republican lawmakers are also considering a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), like those recently considered in Indiana and Arkansas, but Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has said he won’t sign such a bill if LGBT protections aren’t passed as well.
This blog was originally posted on May 13, 2015 on Think Progress. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: The author’s name is Zack Ford. Zack Ford is the editor of ThinkProgress LGBT at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, hailing from the small town of Newport, PA. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Zack blogged for two years at ZackFordBlogs.com with occasional cross-posts at Pam’s House Blend. He also co-hosts a popular LGBT-issues podcast called Queer and Queerer with activist and performance artist Peterson Toscano. A graduate of Ithaca College (B.M. Music Education) and Iowa State University (M.Ed. Higher Education), Zack is an accomplished pianist with a passion for social justice education. Follow him on Twitter at @ZackFord.
Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 guaranteed equal treatment in the workplace, in public facilities, and in public accommodations, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or sex. Equality was not the norm in 1964. Remembering where we started may provide hope and inspiration for the next fifty years.
This is the first of a two part posting: first, a history we have lived, second, imagining and planning for the future.
Looking Back – Part 1
By beginning with a look at the United States of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, we can better appreciate the magnitude of the changes we have experienced. There and then were the conditions which the Civil Rights Act was meant to address. The United States Supreme Court struck down segregated schools and the doctrine of “separate but equal” public facilities, only in 1954. A year later, the Court called for dismantling segregated public schools with “all deliberate speed.” In practice, communities and states intent on resisting the required changes made much of “deliberate” at the expense of “speed.”
In 1960, as part of the Wilmington, Delaware school district’s long delayed preparation for desegregation, I, with a few classmates, had a chance to visit the black school about six blocks from our own. The only apparent equal part was the architectural plan. The two schools had the same floor plans. Even as an eleven year old, I could see that the black school had almost no books, that the sandstone bricks were crumbling, the toilets broken and foul. By contrast, my own school had well maintained granite, a fully stocked library, plenty of classroom supplies and materials, clean and functioning lavatories.
The lack of adequate facilities and the open lie of “separate but equal” were but the tip of the iceberg of de jure segregation. Our country had opportunities only for a select few. We did not tolerate differences. We murdered those who challenged the assigned order. State sponsored and state enforced racial separation — combined with political disenfranchisement, and an economic and social caste system — was violent, brutal, and unremitting. In the Summer of 1964, the world witnessed the terrorism supporting American segregation in the murders of James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.
Lynchings, counted in the thousands, were carried out over generations, not only in the South, but throughout the country. “Race riots”, actually pogroms and massacres of entire communities, terrorized people of color. The ferocity of racial as well as ethnic violence characterized and defined American society in the first half of the twentieth century.
Pervasive discrimination was not limited to African Americans. Universities had quotas for Jews, Catholics, and other minorities. Large corporations, law firms, hospitals would not consider ethnic minorities for hire. Women had limited rights to own property. Gays were invisible. In quantitative terms, almost two-thirds of our country’s people suffered discrimination. Freedom and opportunity were reserved for members of a small and privileged class consisting almost exclusively of economically fortunate, white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant men. The norm, the life experienced by most people, included closed doors, hatred, persecution, and violence.
When we hear the stories of individuals we can begin to understand the extent and severity of discrimination in the mid-twentieth century United States. From my own family stories: a young woman limited to secretarial work for men who were far less talented than she, a high school girl learning from her admired father that his field of work was closed to all women, a man who died unable to tell his family of his love for another human being, a woman hospitalized for “hysteria” as she came to terms with her love of another woman, an entire family whose parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins were slaughtered after the United States refused them safe haven from Nazi genocide.
There are few in my generation, coming of age in the 1960’s, who do not know such stories. The details may vary. The story tellers may be Asian, Hispanic, African American, Irish, Native American. Regardless of one’s origins, America of the early and middle twentieth century held up the torch of liberty and opportunity while unapologetically shutting doors and crushing hopes.
Discrimination and violence strike deeply. At its core, discrimination is a disregard and disrespect of another person’s humanity. It is an expression of contempt and hatred. When we suffer discrimination, the pain stays with us for years. It is felt for generations. When we engage in discrimination, when we tolerate contempt and hatred, and when we acquiesce in violence, we rend the fabric of our communities. We corrupt our souls.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, at the time of its passage, represented our country’s highest aspirations in the face of social and political realities far different than our Constitution’s promises. The ongoing success of that legislation is all around us. Women and minorities have entered the workplace. Many have risen to positions of prominence. People with physical and emotional challenges are emerging from the shadows of dependence and isolation. We are beginning to understand the waste of human potential and the pain we inflict in denying and demonizing love and sexuality. We have made room for a true diversity of spiritual beliefs and practices.
But we can’t take our progress for granted. As we try to imagine the challenges and opportunities of the next fifty years, an appreciation of how far we have come may help us choose compassion over misplaced caution and progress over the next iteration of “all deliberate speed.”
We now have a chance to be on the right side of history. In my next post, I will discuss how we might get there.
This blog originally appeared in CELAvoice.org on October 7,2014. Reprinted with permission. http://celavoice.org/author/marvin-krakow/
About the author: Marvin Krakow (B.A., Yale, 1970, J.D. Yale, 1974), a founding partner of Alexander Krakow + Glick LLP, focuses on discrimination based on race, age, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and ethnicity, wrongful termination of employment, civil rights, and class actions. He has won seven, and eight figure results. He helps victims of sexual harassment and rape, and represents whistle blowers. He argued landmark cases before the California Supreme Court, Loder v. City of Glendale and Superior Court v. Department of Health Services (McGinnis).
Thursday, August 21st, 2014
A “whore,” “gold-digger,” “desperate loser,” and “just a bad girl.” These are only a handful of the sexist comments that Whitney Wolfe, co-founder of the mobile dating app Tinder, alleges she was subjected to by chief marketing officer Justin Mateen. Last month, Wolfe brought suit against Tinder for sex discrimination and harassment. Wolfe’s legal complaint details how Mateen sent outrageously inappropriate text messages to her and threatened her job, and how Tinder CEO Sean Rad ignored her when she complained about Mateen’s abuse. Wolfe claims that Mateen and Rad took away her co-founder designation because having a 24-year-old “girl” as a co-founder “makes the company look like a joke” and being a female co-founder was “sluty.”
The conduct, which Wolfe’s complaint characterizes as “the worst of the misogynist, alpha-male stereotype too often associated with technology startups,” unfortunately remains the norm, and Wolfe is not alone in her experience. Last year, tech consultant Adria Richards was fired after she tweeted and blogged about offensive sexual jokes made by two men at a tech conference. After one of the men was fired from his job, Richards experienced horrendous Internet backlash, including rape and death threats. She was then fired by Sendgrid after an anonymous group hacked into the company’s system in some twisted attempt at vigilante “justice.”
In 2012, junior partner Ellen Pao filed a sexual harassment suits against a venture capital firm, alleging retaliation after refusing another partner’s sexual advances. And back in 2010, Anita Sarkeesian was the target of online harassment after she launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a video series to explore female stereotypes in the gaming industry. An online video game was even released in which users could “beat up” Sarkeesian. These are just some of the many examples of demeaning attacks against women in the testosterone-driven tech world.
There are many state and federal laws that prohibit the kinds of workplace harassment that these women experience, including the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Bane and Ralph Act, and the California Constitution. These laws provide strong protections against gender harassment in employment and other contexts. So why do these attacks on women continue to happen in an industry that is supposedly progressive and populated with fairly educated adults?
It doesn’t help that tech companies are also notorious for their lack of diversity. This year, Google released its first diversity report which revealed that 70 percent of its workforce was male, and 61 percent was white. The workforce was also predominantly male and white at Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Another report this year shows that the percentage of women occupying CIO positions at companies has remained stagnant at 14 percent for the last decade. These numbers confirm what the stories reflect — that this industry truly is “a man’s world.” And this needs to change.
Some may dismiss Wolfe’s lawsuit and similar complaints as coming from women who are hypersensitive. Indeed, Wolfe claims that when she complained about Mateen’s harassment, she was dismissed as being “annoying” and “dramatic.” While some degree of social adaptation may be expected when joining any company, particularly freewheeling start-ups, there are limits that must be respected. Those limits are crossed when the pressure to conform to a white, male norm is so great that women who challenge this norm are further harassed or their voices suppressed.
Unfortunately, this marginalization of women who challenge the macho culture even comes from other women, who blame the “feminists” for making it harder for women to advance in tech. This also needs to change. Women who speak out about sexism and misogyny in the tech industry deserve the support of their colleagues, and men who turn to vitriol and juvenile behavior to intimidate deserve censure.
But change will not be achieved without help from sources outside the industry. Attorneys and employee advocates must continue to bring attention to the rampant sexism that is “business as usual” in the tech industry. We need to encourage tech companies of all stages and sizes to comply with employment laws, adopt proper HR practices, promote diversity and inclusion, and use objective standards to measure performance. If the tech industry is serious about encouraging young girls to become coders and developers, it also needs to place women in conspicuous leadership roles and pay real attention to change the “guy culture.”
The tech world doesn’t have to be a man’s world, and it shouldn’t be.
This blog originally appeared in CELA Voice on July 25, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://celavoice.org/author/lisa-mak/.
About the Author: The authors name is Lisa Mak. Lisa Mak is an associate attorney at Lawless & Lawless in San Francisco, exclusively representing plaintiffs in employment matters. Her litigation work focuses on cases involving discrimination, harassment, whistleblower retaliation, medical leave, and labor violations. She is an active member of the CELA Diversity Committee, Co-Chair of the Asian American Bar Association’s Community Services Committee, a volunteer and supervising attorney at the Asian Law Caucus Workers’ Rights Clinic, and a Young Professionals Board member of Jumpstart Northern California working to promote early childhood education. She is a graduate of UC Hastings School of Law and UC San Diego.
Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, more than 40 million Americans work in jobs where they have no access to paid sick days. In addition to the potential loss of wages and jobs for working families, the lack of paid sick days forces many people to go to work when they are contagious and get co-workers and customers sick and decreases productivity for workers who show up unable to perform to their normal level of ability. More and more cities and states are recognizing the realities of the damage having a workforce without paid sick leave does to workers and to the economy.
While corporations and their political allies spread falsehoods about paid sick days, more and more localities are ignoring those misrepresentations and doing the right thing for workers and the economy:
In 2006, San Francisco became the first locality in the nation to guarantee access to earned paid sick days for all workers in the city. In 2008, the District of Columbia and Milwaukee passed paid sick days standards that included paid “safe” days for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. And, in 2011, the Connecticut legislature became the first in the nation to pass a statewide paid sick days law, and Seattle became the fourth city. Legislators and advocates continue to advance proposals in Congress and in more than 20 other states and cities.
Numerous labor and social justice organizations also are mobilizing to support paid sick days, including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Interfaith Worker Justice, worker centers around the country and others.
Paid sick days campaigns or legislation exist in Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Miami, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York City, New York, North Carolina, Orange County (Fla.), Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Portland (Ore.), Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on March 5, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.
Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
A new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) shows that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is engaged in a widespread campaign to suppress the wages of already low-wage workers. ALEC has created model legislation that is designed to weaken or repeal state minimum wage laws, reduce minimum wages for young workers and tipped workers, weaken overtime compensation rules and stop local governments from passing living wage ordinances.
The report found that since January 2011, 31 state legislatures have introduced 105 bills that attack wage standards at the state or local level. More than half of those bills were directly sponsored or co-sponsored by legislators with ties to ALEC. The report also warns that increased conservative strength in state legislatures means that working families face a stronger threat than they have in recent years.
NELP describes ALEC’s agenda:
The American Legislative Exchange Council—a “forum for state legislators and private sector leaders to discuss and exchange practical, state-level public policy issues”—has been the subject of substantial criticism over the past year for its promotion of controversial voter ID legislation, “Stand Your Ground” laws and measures to roll back environmental protections. In recent years, however, ALEC-affiliated state legislators from across the country have also conducted a parallel effort to weaken wage and workplace standards designed to protect the earnings and economic security of the country’s lowest-paid workers.
Although ALEC is trying to influence state legislatures to suppress wages, working families in 24 states are building momentum across the United States to raise the minimum wage. Read more about efforts to raise the federal minimum wage here.
This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on March 6, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.
Wednesday, December 26th, 2012
New data has shown that while a majority of jobs eliminated during the downturn were in what we describe as the middle range of wages, the great majority of jobs added as the economy improves were low paying jobs, reported Katherine Rampell in the business section of the New York Times on Friday, August 31, 2012. This was documented in a study done by the National Employment Law Project.
The study by Annette Bernhardt examined 366 occupations followed by the Labor Department. Bernhardt separated them into three equal groups by wages, with each representing a third of American employment in 2008.
The middle third consisted of jobs like construction, manufacturing, and information. These jobs paid median hourly wages of $13.84 to $21.13. Over 60% of these jobs were lost during the recession. When the middle third jobs returned, they represented only 22% of total employment growth.
In the category of higher wage occupations, those that had a median wage of $21.14 to $54.55 reflected only 19% of job losses. However, when growth in the economy began, only 20% of new jobs were the result of the upturn. This was only a 1% increase which doesn’t even cover new entrants into the labor force.
Low wage jobs with median hourly wages of $7.69 to $13.83 accounted for 21% of job losses during the downturn. The startling fact is that low wage jobs now constitute 58% of all job growth. The jobs with the fastest growth were retail sales at a median wage of $10.97 per hour. At this salary, workers would be eligible for food stamps.
Each category has grown by more than 300,000 workers since June 2009. Many of these new paying jobs were taken by recent high school and college graduates who were previously unemployed. Others were taken by older workers who formerly had jobs that paid much more, who were desperate.
Mid-wage and middle class jobs have been disappearing at a rapid rate. Some of this is due to automation, but the bulk of the job loss is the result of employers taking millions of jobs overseas to low wage paying countries.
At the same time, corporations and their Republican robots are passing so called “Right to Work” legislation which further erodes the wage structure. The labor movement, the trade unions, and their progressive allies are the only institutions that can bring back middle class livable wages.
This post was originally posted on Union Review on December 19, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Seymour Slavin is an Independent Nonprofit Organization Management Professional at Union Review.
Thursday, September 13th, 2012
Let the uncertain fate of a proposal to raise Albuquerque, New Mexico’s minimum wage be a lesson to you: Proofreading matters. Groups pushing to raise the minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50, with tipped workers receiving 45 percent of that, collected 25,000 signatures, more than 12,000 of which were certified by the city clerk. But they apparently didn’t proofread what they gathered signatures on.
The signatures were gathered for a proposal reading: “Starting in 2013, employers of tipped employees like waitresses and waiters be paid at least 45 percent of the minimum wage in cash wages from their employers.” Did you catch that? “Employers” and “employees” are reversed at the beginning of the sentence, suggesting that restaurant owners would be the ones getting paid.
With restaurant owners typically among the biggest opponents of raising the minimum wage (or offering paid sick leave, or anything else that benefits workers), if the measure passes as written, or if the typo is corrected and the measure passes, lawsuits against it taking effect are a guarantee. City law does in fact allow for typos to be fixed, but that wouldn’t necessarily prevent a lengthy legal battle.
The typo is not the only confusion regarding the measure:
The city charter says once the petitions for an initiative like the one OLE used are submitted, the city clerk has 10 days to certify the signatures. After that, city council has two weeks to act on it or the proposal goes on a ballot 90 days from when it was submitted.
No action was taken at Wednesday’s city council meeting so according to the charter, voters should get a say before November 9.
However under state law, city council needs to pass an election resolution to put the issue on the ballot, something it hasn’t done yet.
Whatever it takes, this is a fight worth having. Raising the minimum wage is popular, it’s the right thing to do for workers struggling to make ends meet, and it definitely doesn’t hurt job creation—in fact, evidence suggests it helps job creation. Nationally, the workers who benefit from a minimum wage increase are overwhelmingly at least 20 years old, with majorities being women and full-time workers.
And if it’s a fight worth having, it’s worth proofreading. Twice, if necessary.
This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on September 7, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
According to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, it takes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration more than seven years on average to write a new workplace safety rule. Some rules take nearly two decades to finalize. “The process for setting safety standards at OSHA is broken,” said Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA). “Even when the evidence is undeniable that our workers are dying from workplace hazards, OSHA still takes an eternity to issue a new safety rule. While reasonable safety rules are delayed to provide never-ending opportunities for stakeholder input, workers’ lives and livelihood are at risk.”
This post originally appeared in ThinkProgress on April 24, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Pat Garofalo is Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Pat’s work has also appeared in The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, and In These Times. He has been a guest on MSNBC and Al-Jazeera television, as well as many radio shows. Pat graduated from Brandeis University, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Brandeis Hoot, Brandeis’ community newspaper, and worked for the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.
Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
Wisconsin prohibits employers from discriminating “on the basis of age, race, creed, color, disability, marital status, sex, national origin, ancestry, arrest record, conviction record, military service, use or nonuse of lawful products off the employer’s premises during nonworking hours, or declining to attend a meeting or to participate in any communication about religious matters or political matters,” and it ensures that this law has teeth by allowing victims of discrimination to hold their employers accountable in state court. That’s about to change, however, as the Wisconsin legislature recently voted to strip the state’s workers of their ability to actually enforce this law — leaving anti-worker Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) as the only obstacle to the law’s total repeal:
The Equal Pay Enforcement Act was meant to deter employers from discriminating by giving workers more avenues to press charges. Among other provisions, it allows individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state circuit court system, rather than just in federal court.
In November, the state Senate approved (SB 202) rolling back this provision. On Wednesday, the Assembly did the same. Both were party-line votes. The legislation is now in the hands of Gov. Scott Walker (R). His office did not return a request for comment on whether the governor would sign it. . . .
Women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men make. In Wisconsin, it’s 75 cents, according to [the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health], which also estimates that families in the state “lose more than $4,000 per year due to unequal pay.”
Walker, of course, has no power to repeal federal law, so he cannot strip Wisconsin workers of their right to be free from race, gender and other forms of discrimination that are banned by national civil rights laws. Nevertheless, Wisconsin law provides additional protections, such as safeguards for people with criminal convictions, that are not available under federal law.
Moreover, as Amanda Terkel points out, Wisconsin state courts can enable victims of discrimination to receive swifter justice instead of waiting for an increasingly overburdened federal judiciary to act. And this problem is only likely to get worse as Walker’s political allies in the U.S. Senate wage an unprecedented campaign of obstruction against President Obama’s nominees to the federal bench.
It’s tough to imagine something more fundamental to a just society that a guarantee that employers will not discriminate, which is why it is so baffling why Wisconsin lawmakers do not believe that their state should protect against such discrimination.
*Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author’s and not views expressed by Today’s Workplace/Workplace Fairness.
This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on February 27, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Ian Millhiser is a Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the Editor of ThinkProgress Justice. He received a B.A. in Philosophy from Kenyon College and a J.D., magna cum laude, from Duke University. Ian clerked for Judge Eric L. Clay of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and has worked as an attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center’s Federal Rights Project, as Assistant Director for Communications with the American Constitution Society, and as a Teach For America teacher in the Mississippi Delta. His writings have appeared in a diversity of legal and mainstream publications, including the Guardian, the American Prospect and the Duke Law Journal; and he has been a guest on CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English, Fox Business and many radio shows.
Thursday, June 9th, 2011
It was just a few months ago when Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers were granted the right to form a union following months of contentious debates in Congress.
The move paved the way for the largest federal labor election in U.S. history; balloting began in early March. But two amendments recently passed by the House of Representatives could undermine the efforts of more than 45,000 airports workers to organize as union run-off elections are set to conclude in the weeks ahead.
Last Thursday, the Republican-led House approved legislation that would eliminate collective bargaining and cut the TSA’s budget, which the unions and the federal agency say would cost thousands of jobs. The amendments were part of the 2012 homeland security budget bill for fiscal year 2012.
Rep. Todd Rokita’s (R-Ind.) amendment, which passed 218–205, prevents the use of federal funds for collective bargaining by the TSA workers, who provide security for the nations’s airports. Another measure cuts more than $270 million from the agency and was led by Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), who is also House Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The timing of the bill coincided with a report released by Rep. Mica on Friday, which found that private screeners operate more efficiently and could save the government at least $1 billion over five years. A TSA spokesperson told the Washington Post that the 10 percent workforce reduction would cutabout 5,000 jobs.
In a statement, Rep. Rokita echoed similar sentiments, but went further by saying collective bargaining “would hamper the critical nature of TSA agents’ national security responsibilities.” He added that collective bargaining would make it difficult for people to settle disputes with the security workers.
The financial undercutting and rollback of union rights comes as the workers are currently voting to decide whether the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) or the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) will represent them.
In April, neither union received a majority vote, leading to a run-off election that will continue until June 21; ballot counting will occur two days later. The landmark voting came just two months after TSA administrator John Pistole allowed limited collectively bargaining rights for the first time in the agency’s ten-year history.
In spite of the election, both unions have separately called on their supporters to mobilize against the House bills. “AFGE will not allow these corporate, right-wing politicians to make being in a union un-American,” saidnational union president John Gage in a statement. “This amendment is nothing but a repeat of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s unfounded attack on the right of all Americans to have a voice at work and the right to bargain collectively.”
The NTEU also appealed to some Senate members in hopes that the bill will not pass under the Democratic majority. President Colleen M. Kelley also called Rep. Mica’s study “partisan” and refuted the report. She writes:
In the wake of 9/11, Congress and the President determined, with wide public support, that airport security functions are better performed by federal employees. Not only does NTEU question the validity of the study, I believe the American traveling public would be loathe to return to the days [of] less than a decade ago, when low-paid, ill-trained employees of private contractors handled air passenger screening duties.
An updated study by the Government Accountability Office found that using private screeners would cost 3 percent more after an analysis of revised data from the TSA. A 2007 GAO study found that the costs were upwards of 17 percent. In January, Pistole suspended private screening programs because he did not find any “substantial advantages.”
This article originally appeared on the Working In These Times blog on June 8, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Akito Yoshikane is a freelance writer and reporter for Kyodo News. He regularly contributes to the In These Times blog covering labor and workplace issues. He lives in New York City.