With members of Congress eager to recess, as scheduled, on Oct. 6 – and keenly aware that their votes on crucial issues may affect the outcome of the November elections – working people have an opportunity to make progress on some important issues. Among them:
INCREASING THE MINIMUM WAGE
The New York City Central Labor Council recently issued an alert pointing out that there is still hope that an increase in the minimum wage can be achieved in this session of Congress. They asked all affiliates to urge their members to immediately contact their congressional representatives, and press them to enact a raise now. The labor movement supports a measure introduced by Democrats in Congress: a one-dollar increase over two years. Republicans want to phase the increase in over three years, and link it to a package of $122.8 billion in tax cuts – more than 90 percent of which would go to the wealthiest 10 percent of taxpayers.
PROTECTING OSHA ERGONOMICS STANDARD
The political fight on OSHA’s ergonomics standard entered its final stages after Congress returned on Sept. 5. Action is focused on an appropriations bill for labor and health and human services,part of the 2001 budget Congress is scrambling to complete. Republicans attached a rider to the bill which would prohibit OSHA from moving forward with an ergonomics standard that would protect millions of workers from job-related injuries. Blocking such a standard has been a major priority of big business for many years. President Clinton has promised to veto the measure if it comes to his desk.
Republicans may send the bill to the President for a certain veto or they may try to resolve differences with the White House on this and other bills. In either case a showdown on the ergonomics issue is anticipated soon. 802 members are urged to let their senators and representative know where they stand on the issue.
RESTORING COPYRIGHT PROTECTIONS
Artist groups and the recording industry recently agreed that they will join in urging members of Congress to restore language of the Copyright Act that gives artists control over their sound recordings. Last November, at the request of the Recording Industry Association of America, Congress amended the U.S. copyright law to define sound recordings as “works for hire.” The amendment was quietly slipped into an enormous budget bill and enacted (see July/August Allegro).
After lengthy negotiations, groups including the RIAA, NARAS, the AFM, AFTRA, the Music Managers Forum, the Artists Coalition and AmSong announced they had reached agreement to ask Congress to do away with the amendment altogether. Action could come before the end of the year.
HEALTH CARE JUSTICE WEEK SET FOR OCT. 13-22
Hundreds of individuals and organizations across the nation will join in Health Care Justice Week, Oct. 13-22, to express the widespread demand for health care justice, and to show candidates for public office at all levels – especially Congress – that Americans support a national guarantee of health care for all. The actions are being coordinated by U2K – the Universal Health Care 2000 Campaign, consisting of over 400 national, state and local organizations, active in 39 states.
U2K was developed to bring the issue of universal health care to the fore during this election year. “While polls show that the majority of Americans believe that health care is a basic human right,” say the campaign’s organizers, “our nation’s political leaders have sidestepped this issue. Elements of the health care industry have stymied meaningful public discussion of these issues with expensive misinformation campaigns.”
In New York, activists have focused on a voter registration drive and on taking delegations to meet with candidates for office. Events planned for Health Care Justice Week include an Oct. 12 forum on how to make prescription drugs affordable, sponsored by the Public Health Association at Judson Church, 55 Washington Square South, and an Oct. 18 speak-out for patients and providers, which will open with the presentation of a report on managed care by the National Association of Social Workers. It will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Hunter College Auditorium. For more information contact Mark Hannay, Metro New York Health Care for All, 130 William St., Suite. 700, NYC 10038; tel. (212) 964-3534; firstname.lastname@example.org.