Maria Cantwell on Jobs
Democratic Jr Senator (WA)
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:
Rep. CHARLES RANGEL (D, NY-15): The House, for weeks, has attempted to save the free world from a fiscal disaster. We have bailed out the banks and those who held mortgages. At the same time, we provided for energy extensions, we provided tax breaks for those people that tax provisions have expired. We provided for hurricane relief, for mental health. So over $1 trillion is out there for this House to ease the pain of millions of Americans.
While we were dealing with these gigantic powers, we overlooked the fact that over the last 12 months the number of unemployed workers has jumped by over 2 million, leaving 10 million Americans struggling for work. These are hardworking people that have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
Rep. JERRY WELLER (R, IL-11): This important legislation provides additional needed assistance to the long-term unemployed. It's important that we pass this legislation today as our last act before we leave for the election campaign.
This legislation focuses the most additional benefits on workers and States where the unemployment rate is highest and where jobs are hardest to find. This program continues the requirement that those benefiting from extended unemployment benefits had to have worked at least 20 weeks. Americans were rightly concerned about proposals to eliminate that work requirement and allow 39 weeks or, under the legislation before us today, as many as 59 weeks of total unemployment benefits to be paid to those who have previously only worked for a few weeks.
Opponent's argument to vote No:None voiced.
This bill lacks fiscal discipline. It continues subsidies for the wealthy and increases farm bill spending by more than $20 billion, while using budget gimmicks to hide much of the increase. It is inconsistent with our trade objectives of securing greater market access for American farmers. [Hence] I must veto H.R. 6124.Proponents argument for voting YEA:We had a meeting this morning with the Secretary of Agriculture to talk about implementation. So [despite the two vetoes], the work has been going on within the department of agriculture to get ready for implementation.
This is a good bill. It has wide support in the Congress. It does address all of the issues that have been brought to the Agriculture Committee.
SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. ALEXANDER: Let me begin with this story. In March 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the Salvation Army for allegedly discriminating against two employees in a Boston area thrift store. What had the Salvation Army done to earn this lawsuit from the Federal Government? Well, it had required its employees to speak English on the job. The English rule was clearly posted, and the employees were given a year to learn it. But this lawsuit means that a small business in Missouri would have to hire a lawyer in order to make sure they have a clear business reason to require their employees to speak our common language on the job.
So I have an amendment to bring some common sense to this subject. It would be to take $670,000 used by the EEOC, which it is using to bring actions against employers who require their employees to speak English.OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. KENNEDY: Let's look at what the law is and what the Alexander amendment provides. The law currently says that if there is a need to speak English on the job, fine; employers can require that. But employers cannot use English-only rules as an excuse when they want to fire minorities who are performing the job correctly. In this fact situation, those employees had performed the job correctly for 5 years.
In addition, this amendment reduces the EEOC's ability to fight all forms of discrimination because it cuts the entire budget. That means race, age, religion, and disability cases will be harmed. I hope the amendment will be defeated.LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment passed, 54-44
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. KLOBUCHAR: The focus of this amendment is to make sure the subsidy and the safety net in the farm bill go to the people whom it will most help; that is, family farmers. The top 20 business recipients in the country have each gotten more than $3 million under this farm bill. Under the current system, a part-time farmer can have an income as high as $2.5 million from outside sources and still qualify for Federal farm benefits. I do not believe we should be handing out payments to multimillionaires, when these payments should be targeted to family farmers. This amendment places reasonable limits on the incomes of those who receive farm payments: If you are a full-time farmer, you can get the subsidies as long as your income does not exceed $750,000. If you are a part-time farmer or farm investor, you can participate in farm programs if your income does not exceed $250,000.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. CHAMBLISS: I am disheartened that farm program critics continue to try to lead us into believing that there is a vast army receiving benefits to which they are not entitled. Stories about people receiving program benefits continue to make the headlines. But most of the people I know in these situations don't consider themselves wealthy. This debate is not about wealthy landowners and millionaires receiving program benefits. It is really about farmers in general, regardless of their economic situation, receiving program benefits. A few short months ago the debate was about making payments to millionaires and now we are at $750,000 and people want to go even further. This amendment is actually an assault on everyday farmers; but is disguised as an assault on wealthy landowners and millionaires.
Proponents support voting YES because:
The principle at stake here is the freedom that all workers should have to organize for better working conditions & fair wages. There are many employers around the country who honor this freedom. Unfortunately, there are also many employers who do not. These employers attempt to prevent workers from unionizing by using tactics that amount to harassment, if not outright firing. In fact, one in five people who try to organize unions are fired. These tactics are already illegal, but the penalties are so minor, they are not effective deterrents.
Opponents support voting NO because:
Democracy itself is placed at risk by this bill. The sanctity of the secret ballot is the backbone of our democratic process. Not one voter signed a card to send us here to Congress. None of us sent our campaign workers out to voters' houses armed with candidate information & a stack of authorization cards. No. We trusted democracy. We trusted the voters to cast their ballots like adults, freely, openly, without intimidation, and we live with the results. But here we are, poised to advance legislation to kill a secret ballot process.
Let's be clear. Every American has the right to organize. No one is debating that. This is a right we believe in so strongly we have codified it and made it possible for workers to do so through a secret ballot.
Status: Cloture rejected Cloture vote rejected, 51-48 (3/5ths required)
Proponents support voting YES because:
We have waited for over 10 years to have a clean vote on the minimum wage for the poorest workers in this country Low-wage workers had their wages frozen in time, from 10 years ago, but when they go to the supermarket, the food prices are higher; when they put gasoline in the car, the gasoline prices are higher; when they pay the utility bills, the utility bills are higher; when their kids get sick, the medical bills are higher. All of those things are higher. They are living in 2007, but in their wages they are living in 1997.
Opponents support voting NO because:
This bill is marked more by what is not in the bill than what is in it. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They create two-thirds of our Nation's new jobs, and they represent 98% of the new businesses in the US. What protection does this bill provide them? None whatsoever.
We can do better. In the interest of sending the President a final measure that provides consideration for small businesses and their workers, the very men and women who are responsible for our economy's recent growth and strength, we must do better.
To: Labor Secretary Elaine Chao
Dear Secretary Chao:
We write to express our serious concerns about the Department's proposed regulation on white collar exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act. These sweeping changes could eliminate overtime pay protections for millions of American workers.
We urge you not to implement this new regulation that will end overtime protections for those currently eligible. Under current law, the FLSA discourages employers from scheduling overtime by making overtime more expensive. According to a GAO study, employees exempt from overtime pay are twice as likely to work overtime as those covered by the protections. Our citizens are working longer hours than ever before – longer than in any other industrial nation. At least one in five employees now has a work week that exceeds 50 hours. Protecting the 40-hour work week is vital to balancing work responsibilities and family needs. It is certainly not family friendly to require employees to work more hours for less pay.
Overtime protections clearly make an immense difference in preserving the 40-hour work week. Millions of employees depend on overtime pay to make ends meet and pay their bills for housing, food, and health care. Overtime pay often constitutes 20-25% of their wages. These workers will face an unfair reduction in their take-home pay if they can no longer receive their overtime pay.
We urge you not to go forward with any regulation that denies overtime pay protections to any of America's currently eligible hard-working men and women.
As the federation of America’s unions, the AFL-CIO includes more than 13 million of America’s workers in 60 member unions working in virtually every part of the economy. The mission of the AFL-CIO is to improve the lives of working families to bring economic justice to the workplace and social justice to our nation. To accomplish this mission we will build and change the American labor movement.
The following ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Federal Aviation Administration Fair Labor Management Dispute Resolution Act of 2006: Prohibits the FAA from implementing any proposed change to the FAA personnel management system in cases where the services of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service do not lead to an agreement between the Administrator and FAA employees, unless Congress authorizes the change during the 60-day period. Requires binding arbitration if Congress does not enact a bill into law within the 60-day period.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. OBAMA: Because what air traffic controllers do is vital to our safety, I became very concerned by a letter I received from Illinois air traffic controller Michael Hannigan. He wrote that "the air traffic controllers are not being allowed to negotiate in good faith with the FAA."
What was clear in Michael's plea was the sense that he and his colleagues felt that they were being treated unfairly. I looked into it and came to the conclusion that if we did not restore a fair negotiation procedure, it would threaten agency morale and effectiveness.
The problem is this: the FAA Administrator currently has the extraordinary authority to impose wages and working conditions on her workers without arbitration. In order to do that, she merely has to declare an impasse in negotiations and if Congress does not stop her from imposing her terms and conditions within 60 days, the Administrator can go ahead and act unilaterally. That authority denies air traffic controllers and all other FAA employees the opportunity to engage in and conclude negotiations in good faith.
It is in the best interest of the agency and public safety to have management and labor cooperate in contract negotiations.
EXCERPTS OF BILL:
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; never came to a vote.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to provide for an increase in the Federal Minimum wage and to ensure that increases in the Federal minimum wage keep pace with any pay adjustments for Members of Congress.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. CLINTON: This legislation will raise the minimum wage over the next two years and link future increases in the minimum wage to Congressional raises. Today, working parents earning the minimum wage are struggling to make ends meet and to build better lives for their children. The Federal minimum wage is currently $5.15 an hour, an amount that has not been increased since 1997. Sadly, during that time, Congress has given itself eight annual pay raises. We can no longer stand by and regularly give ourselves a pay increase while denying a minimum wage increase to help the more than 7 million men and women working hard across this nation. If Members of Congress need an annual cost of living adjustment, then certainly the lowest-paid members of our society do too.
My legislation would increase the minimum wage first to $5.85 an hour, then to $6.55 an hour, and ultimately to $7.25 an hour within the next two years. In addition, my legislation then ensures that every time Congress gives itself a raise in the future that Americans get a raise too. This is the right and fair thing to do for hardworking Americans.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; never came to a vote.
Amends the National Labor Relations Act to require the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to certify a bargaining representative without directing an election if a majority of the bargaining unit employees have authorized designation of the representative (card-check) and there is no other individual or labor organization currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit.
Excerpts from Letter from 31 Senators to the Compass Group: Senate cafeteria workers are currently pushing for a union through the majority sign up process, but their employer, the Compass Group, has resisted the drive, even after the NLRB upheld charges against the company regarding discriminatory behavior. Although the Compass Group promised the NRLB they would end further unlawful intimidation, the Compass Group has discouraged their organizing campaign.
We request there that the Compass Group commit to reaching an agreement with the union seeking to organize these workers, and recognize the union as the worker's exclusive bargaining representative on the basis of majority representation of signed authorization cards.
OnTheIssues explanation: At issue is how the workers would unionize: the controversial aspect is the "majority of authorization cards," known as "card-check," which makes unionization much more likely.
Opposing argument: (Cato Institute, "Labor's Day is Over," Sep. 6/2009): Card-check would effectively abolish the secret ballot in workplace elections for union representation. It would also require employers to submit to binding government arbitration if they cannot reach an agreement with union representatives, forcing companies to submit to contracts that may imperil their very survival.
Opposing freedom argument: (Heritage Foundation, "Card Checks Block Free Choice," Feb. 21, 2007): Union activists argue that publicly signing a union membership card in the presence of union organizers, known as card-check organizing, is the only way that workers can freely choose to unionize. However, with card checks, union organizers know who has and has not signed up to join the union. This allows them to repeatedly approach and pressure reluctant workers. With this technique, a worker's decision to join the union is binding, while a decision to opt out only means "not this time."
[Note: A woman named Lilly Ledbetter filed a lawsuit for gender-based discriminatory compensation. The Supreme Court ruled that Ms. Ledbetter could only sue for damages going back 180 days, and the 180 days was calculated from the time her employment contract was initiated, i.e., her hire date. This new law changes the 180-day period to two years, and also calculates the date from the time of each paycheck, rather than the hire date. -- Ed.]
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