AFL-CIO URGES MORE MEMBERS, MORE VOTERS
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney urged union leaders to “take the offensive in a war here at home” against the president, congressional Republicans and corporations who he accused of waging a war on workers. Addressing the federation’s biennial convention on Dec. 3, Sweeney called for the labor movement to recruit 1 million new union members a year and elect more labor-friendly lawmakers.
He decried Republicans in Congress for resisting direct aid to idled workers in their economic stimulus package, Bus’s efforts to win “fast track” authority to deny the Senate the right to amend trade deals, and pharmaceutical companies’ efforts to profit from the bioterrorism scare.
Sweeney said the AFL-CIO will urge its affiliated unions, which represent 13.2 million members, to top last year’s record turnout of union voters in the 2002 elections as part of an all-out effort to elect labor-friendly lawmakers. An exit poll after the 2000 elections showed that union households accounted for a record 26 percent of voters, up from 19 percent in 1994. About two-thirds of them voted Democratic.
COBRA BILL CONTINUES TO BUILD SUPPORT
Despite the economic downturn that New York State now faces, progress is being made on the COBRA Subsidy Bill (S-3043/A-7660) that Local 802 has been advocating. This bill would set a higher income level for eligibility for COBRA subsidies, for workers in the entertainment industry. The New York State Senate Health Committee was set to vote the legislation out of committee in November, and it will then move to the Rules Committee – the final committee to consider it before a full vote.
The New York State AFL-CIO points out that “the proposal provided by this bill benefits a larger income class than similar previous experiments. More and more workers in key New York industries find themselves uninsured and a potential burden for the ratepayers of the state. Indeed, estimates available indicate that some 60 percent of the World Trade Center displaced workforce are without COBRA access or unable to afford coverage. This bill provides a reasonable avenue toward broadening affordable, adequate health insurance.”
FULL $20 BILLION IN SEPT. 11 AID IS SOUGHT
A few days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush announced that New York State would receive $20 billion in federal funding for rebuilding efforts. But only $9.6 billion has been delivered to date, and the total amount promised by the end of the year is just $11 billion. For a time, the entire New York State congressional delegation, Republicans and Democrats alike, was poised to fight for the $20 billion to be distributed immediately. However, under intense pressure from the Bush administration, New York State Congressional Republicans agreed to accept $11 billion, with the remainder to be disbursed sometime in the future.
The New York State AFL-CIO continues to lobby Congress to allocate a portion of these funds for unemployment insurance and COBRA subsidies for people affected by the WTC disaster. The AFL-CIO is seeking individuals who have lost health coverage – either because they lost a loved one, or have lost a job due to the tragedy. These examples will be used to make the case to the press, and to Congress, that many people cannot afford COBRA coverage. If this applies to you, please call me at (212) 245-4802, ext. 176.
HAVE MUSICAL INSTRUMENT, WILL TRAVEL
On Nov. 16, members of both the House of Representatives and Senate approved the Conference Report to S-1447, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. The report included a provision that makes it clear that lawmakers want to enhance security while working with the music industry to ensure that musicians’ needs are addressed. President Bush signed the bill on Nov. 19, as Public Law 107-71. Section 135 of the Conference Report mandates the new Undersecretary of Transportation for Aviation Security to develop security procedures for “all passengers transporting a musical instrument on a flight of an air carrier.”
For several decades, musicians who wish to fly with their musical instruments in-cabin have been forced to miss flights or have had checked instruments broken or stolen, as the result of inconsistent application of airline policies on carry-on baggage.