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Posts Tagged ‘LIUNA’

Treasury Rejects Labor’s Top Obamacare Demand

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

David MobergOn Friday afternoon, following a major labor convention at which many union leaders forcefully advocated revisions in the Obama administration’s interpretations of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Treasury Department released a letter that effectively dismissed at least one of labor’s key demands.

A major concern at the quadrennial AFL-CIO conference in Los Angeles this week was the ACA implementation looming in October, particularly the exclusion of multi-employer health plans—which are jointly administered by unions and employers in many industries—from the state health exchanges. UNITE HERE, the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Teamsterswere particularly concerned because many of their members use the multi-employer plans.

As the administration had promised, President Obama met on Friday with a labor delegationheaded by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka to discuss labor’s request for administrative changes to address their problems with ACA. Obama told the delegation that their multi-employer union plans would not  be eligible for participation in the exchanges, according toForbes. Then shortly afterwards, the Treasury letter, addressed to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), came to public attention. Hatch had previously written to the Treasury asking if they agreed with him that multi-employer plans should be kept out of the exchange.

Originally made possible by the predominantly anti-labor Taft-Hartley law in 1947, the multi-employer, non-profit plans allowed workers in fields such as construction—who may work in short stints and for multiple employers—to have a steady source of insurance. Union analysts think the lack of subsidies will put Taft-Hartley plans at a disadvantage, incentivizing employers to abandon the plans and buy insurance directly from exchanges. This would leave workers in the lurch when they are between jobs.

The Taft-Hartley plans would also be put at other disadvantages in the new insurance market. Even though the non-profit multi-employer plans have never discriminated on the basis of pre-existing conditions, they will still have to help pay for for-profit insurance companies to newly cover people previously excluded on this basis. Unions argue that this arrangement unjustly increases the costs of their Taft-Hartley plans. Some union plan officials also want more time to adjust to the cost of eliminating caps on how much any insured individual can receive in insurance payments over a year or a lifetime. There are other concerns, ranging from insurance requirements for federal contractors to definitions of part-time workers, for whom employers do not have to provide insurance.

Most union leaders have not commented on the letter. Staff-level talks between unions and the administration are scheduled for this week, and many leaders apparently still hope to salvage some ACA reforms, even if they don’t win everything.

Union passions on the subject run hot, and some leaders, such as LIUNA president Terry O’Sullivan, wanted the AFL-CIO to pass a resolution at the conference calling for the repeal of the ACA if the administration did not agree to reforms. Instead, the resolution endorsed single-payer insurance as labor’s ultimate goal, but called for improvements in the ACA (and in Medicare as well). Meanwhile, most unions appear ready to continue negotiating with the Obama administration and see what they—like big business, which won huge exemptions recently (notably a year delay in implementing the key mandate to provide insurance)—can finally win from their frustrating talks.

This article was originally printed on Working In These Times on September 18, 2013.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: David Moberg is a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing in 1976. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. He has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy.

Training Workers for The Green Jobs of Today and Tomorrow

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

You’ve probably heard lots of buzz about “green jobs” lately. But, you may have wondered, what does all that buzz translate to in the real world? How is the green jobs movement affecting real people and real communities? And are new green jobs being created in ways that make them good jobs — jobs that can help a worker achieve the American Dream — too?

Here’s a good story that answers all those questions: Seattle NPR affiliate KPLU reports on how Washington state has allocated nearly $15 million of the Federal stimulus money they received to create good jobs “weatherizing” buildings to make them more energy efficient — and how the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA, a CtW affiliate) has created a training program to provide its workers with the skills they need to fill those jobs:

Inside an old home in west Seattle, 23-year-old Joseph Cortez is cutting insulation as an instructor looks on. He gets praise for catching on quickly. He’s a trainee with the Laborers International Union of North America. His new position is part of a demonstration project, meant to show what the federal government’s five billion dollars in stimulus spending for weatherization can do. The union says their training program could create thousands of high-quality jobs and upgrade millions of homes in Washington State alone.

Cortez is newly married and has a child on the way, so he’s grateful for the prospect of union career, specializing in green building.

“Not a job paying minimum wage,” he says, “but a job that’s paying $20 an hour, so that we can live comfortably and have a great success in our lives.”

Washington passed a law in May that guarantees access to these jobs for low-income and disadvantaged populations. Cortez fits the demographic. The union plans to train hundreds more this summer.

And the program isn’t just benefiting people like Cortez. The retrofitting of the single mom’s home where he’s working is being done at no cost to her – $3,500 worth of work, which will also save her an estimated $350 a year in heating costs.

LIUNA’s not just training workers for green jobs in Washington state, either. Green for All reported a few months back on LIUNA’s weatherization training work on the other side of the nation, in Newark, New Jersey:

On a snow covered street in a suburb of brick houses in Newark, a sea of green hard hats filled the street to celebrate the first house “weatherized” as part of this new pilot program…

Laborers Local 55 will train the first class of 25 Newark residents in green construction techniques this winter. The weatherization work on homes will continue through January, and the laborers will earn accreditation while being paid union rates, with health benefits.

Ray Pachino, Vice-president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, spoke of the immediate benefits of weatherization:

“In our training center, where we had some of these workers training on Saturday, they put some of their newly learned skills to work and did some insulating around the building, especially in the garage area. We got a call this morning that the temperature in the garage was ten degrees warmer with the thermostat ten degrees lower.

So it works! It does work.”

From coast to coast, there’s lots of work to be get our economy ready for the energy challenges of the 21st Century — and the working men and women of LIUNA are leading the way.

Jason Lefkowitz: Jason A. Lefkowitz is the Online Campaigns Organizer for Change to Win (http://www.changetowin.org/), a partnership of seven unions and six million workers united together to restore the American Dream for everybody. He built his first Web site in 1995 and has been building online communities professionally since 1998. To read more of his work, visit the Change to Win blog, CtW Connect, at http://www.changetowin.org/connect .

This article was originally posted at CtW Connect on July 1, 2009. It is reprinted here with permission from the author.

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