CITY COUNCIL PASSES THREE PRO-WORKER BILLS
A battle is shaping up between the City Council and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani over three important pro-worker bills, which the council recently passed and the mayor has vowed to veto.
On Feb. 29, Council members passed a bill to create 2,500 temporary jobs to provide training for welfare recipients. Those accepted into the program will be able to learn a marketable skill through on-the-job training and mandatory classes. The jobs will pay about $7 an hour and last a year. Holders of these jobs will no longer receive welfare but will be eligible for day care, federally-funded medical insurance and tax credits. This pilot program is scheduled to run for three years, providing jobs and training to a total of 7,500 workers at an estimated cost of $56.2 million, including $9.5 million in city funds.
The Council passed another bill to provide a 20-day grievance procedure for workfare participants who have complained about a lack of protective gear and other safety hazards on the job.
Council members also adopted a measure that would affirm unions’ right to organize and picket businesses at the city-owned wholesale public markets – the Fulton Fish Market and Gansevoort Meat Market in Manhattan, and the Hunts Point Produce Market in Queens.
Mayor Giuliani is expected to veto the bills and, if the Council overrides his veto, to take the issues to the courts.
ASBESTOS BILL THREATENS THOUSANDS OF WORKERS
Labor and community organizations are mobilizing to defeat the Ashcroft-Hyde asbestos bill (HR-1283/S-758). This asbestos manufacturer’s bail-out bill would permanently bar the majority of workers and consumers who have been injured by asbestos from ever collecting compensation from the negligent companies.
The legislation has powerful backing: it is a top priority of House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and was introduced in the House by Judiciary Committee Chair Henry Hyde (R-Ill.). It is being promoted by an army of lobbyists and a multimillion dollar campaign, largely funded by the owners of GAF, a company with a potential liability of more than a billion dollars to compensate tens of thousands of workers and consumers who were exposed to dust from GAF’s asbestos products. GAF has also paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to the bill’s congressional sponsors.
Among a small but influential group of Democrats supporting the bill is Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had the support of many unions, including Local 802, in his election campaign. It is vital that Sen. Schumer hear from constituents who oppose the bill. Write him at the Dirksen Building, Room 229, Washington, DC 20510. You may wish to remind him that Local 802 endorsed him in his election.
OSHA WON’T INSPECT HOME OFFICES
The business community’s effort to end OSHA jurisdiction over workplaces that are in an employee’s home achieved a partial victory on Feb. 25, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration instructed enforcement staff to refrain from any inspections of home offices, even when the agency receives a complaint about a safety and health violation in such an office.
However, OSHA rejected business demands that it give up all jurisdiction over home workplaces, saying it would continue to inspect “home-based work sites, such as home manufacturing operations, when OSHA receives a complaint.” OSHA’s policy is that the “employers are responsible in home work sites for hazards caused by materials, equipment or work process which the employer provides or requires to be used in an employee’s home.”