Jan 152015
 

In 1894, American workers staged our first labor strike in Pullman, Illinois. Before it was over, more than 150,000 people were involved and federal troops would kill several protesters by indiscriminately shooting into crowds. Labor organizers say that throughout their history companies have used force or replacement workers to punish strikers and end strikes. They claim company managers sometimes harass, intimidate and fire workers who attempt to organize co-workers or encourage strikes. In an attempt to settle labor disputes as amiably as possible, most collective bargaining agreements now contain a mediation and/or arbitration clause. These “alternative dispute resolution” processes bypass the legal system. The mediation process typically involves a third-party moderator who helps parties negotiate a settlement amongst themselves. Binding arbitration uses a third-party referee, agreed upon by both employer and employees, to decide the final resolution of a dispute. Arbitration avoids worker strikes and allows neutral third-parties to decide a dispute without litigation. However, arbitration is not used to resolve disputes when a new union is being certified –a procedure that is often lengthy and contentious. Unions have proposed using arbitration to help allay this difficult process. Employers disagree saying, unions will not have any incentive to make reasonable contract demands since the further apart they are from employers, the more likely an arbitrator will be called in to settle the dispute. Employers are concerned that once an arbitrator is brought in to settle an impasse regarding an initial labor contract, companies will no longer be able to negotiate or implement their own terms.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.169 – Labor Relations First Contract Negotiations Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current labor dispute policy and wish to defeat H.R.169

I support amending the National Labor Relations Act to require mediation and, if necessary, binding arbitration of initial contract negotiation disputes, and wish to pass H.R.169

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

There are about 155 million Americans workers -when we are all working. During the Great Recession, about 8.5 million Americans, or 6% of all workers, lost their jobs during 2008 and 2009 alone. The official unemployment rate in 2009 was 10.2%. It is now about 5.8%, the lowest it has been since before the 2008 financial crisis. However, these figures do not count the number of unemployed people who have stopped looking for work or those who are underemployed. If these people were included, our actual unemployment rate would be nearly double what it is reported to be. A year after the start of the Great Recession, we passed a $787 billion stimulus package which most economists agree helped stop our economic slide and began a gradual retreat from the brink of collapse. Since then, polls have overwhelmingly reported that most Americans believe job creation should be our most important goal -but Congress has yet to pass any bills which validate this belief. Unemployment benefits are usually paid for 26 weeks, not counting extensions. However, our 2013 sequester cuts reduced the amount of these benefits by about 15% -or about $62 per week for those receiving maximum benefits. The average unemployment benefit is about $289 per week.

Pending Legislation:

S.1170 & H.R.2381 – Youth Jobs Act

H.R.2177 – Unemployment Restoration Act

H.R.1436 – Job Opportunities Between our Shores Act

H.R.3016 – Jobs for Urban Sustainability and Training in America Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current unemployment policy and wish to defeat S.1170 & H.R.2381, H.R.2177, H.R.1436 and H.R.3016

I support funding employment opportunities and training for low-income youth by establishing the Treasury the Youth Jobs Fund, with an initial appropriation of $3 billion for 2014; making Fund allocations to each state to provide summer and year-round employment opportunities to low-income youth; awarding allocations and competitive grants to local entities for work-based training and other work-related and educational strategies and activities of demonstrated effectiveness to provide unemployed, low-income young adults and low-income youths with skills that will lead to employment, and wish to pass S.1170 & H.R.2381

I support restoring the sequester cuts to unemployment insurance by making available for obligation, in the same amount and manner as if such order had not been issued, any budgetary resources sequestered under the presidential sequestration order for federal payments to a state; applying the same requirements for 2014-2021 with respect to any presidential sequestration order that might be issued and wish to pass H.R.2177

I support grants to carry out demonstration and pilot projects that provide education and training programs for jobs in advanced manufacturing, and wish to pass H.R.1436

I support providing $5 billion grants to large cities with high unemployment rates to provide job training, public works projects and economic development programs, and wish to pass H.R.3016

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Since 1971, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) has been responsible for developing and enforcing workplace safety and health regulations. OSHA’s mission is to “assure safe and healthful conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” Since OSHA’s inception, workplace fatalities have decreased 65%, from 38 deaths a day to 13, while injury and illness rates have dropped 67%. During this time American employment has nearly doubled. Most of the debate about OSHA centers on the cost of its regulations versus the actual benefit in reduced worker injury, illness and death. However, studies have found the costs of compliance with OSHA rules are often overestimated by both OSHA and the industries it regulates. Some question OSHA’s effectiveness because the maximum penalty it can levy against safety violators is 6 months in jail. During more than 30 years of OSHA’s existence, it has only secured a total of 12 criminal convictions. Advocates claim we need to revise OSHA’s laws to make it a felony to willfully commit a safety violation that results in the death of a worker. In 2011, more than 4,600 American workers were killed on the job. Construction workers led our nation in workplace fatalities with 738 deaths, or nearly 18% of all workplace fatalities.

Pending Legislation:

S.665 & H.R.1648 – Protecting America’s Workers Act

I oppose reforming current worker safety policy and wish to defeat S.665 & H.R.1648

I support amending the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to expand its coverage to federal, state, and local government employees; prescribing requirements relating to: a employer’s duty to furnish a place of employment free from recognized hazards causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to any individual performing work there; the posting of employee rights; employer reporting of employee work-related deaths or hospitalizations; a prohibition against employers adopting or implementing policies or practices that discourage or discriminate against employee reporting of work-related injuries or illnesses; a prohibition against the loss of wages or employee benefits due to an employee participating in a workplace inspection; investigations of incidents resulting in death or the hospitalization of two or more employees which occur in a place of employment, and wish to pass S.665 & H.R.1648

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill making it a felony to willfully violate occupational safety standards which result in the death of a worker

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Child farmworkers are exempted from many federal labor laws that regulate the employment of children in nearly all other industries. Other 12-year olds are not permitted to work more than 3 hours on a school day but children who work on farms can work unlimited hours before and after school. There are more than 300,000 children working for a living in our agriculture industry. Many of these children are members of families which need help providing for them. More children are injured and killed while working on farms than any other job. Each year, about 100,000 children are injured and more than 100 die while working with dangerous farm tools and heavy equipment. Some of these children work from 10 to 12 hours in sweltering heat, without plentiful water or restrooms. They are also exposed to large doses of pesticides that may cause cancer or damage their reproductive and nervous systems. Nearly half of these children are never able to finish high school. Child advocates claim this exploitation will continue as long as these conditions are legal.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current child farmworkers labor policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to extend federal labor law protections to child farmworkers

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs), including carpal tunnel syndrome, account for more than one third of all America’s sick days. These injuries can be caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression or sustained or awkward positions. WMSDs force more than a million American workers, many of them women, to take time off from work each year. Women make up about half our workforce but account for two-thirds of all repetitive-motion injuries. Including workers compensation claims, the total cost to our economy from these types of injuries is about $50 billion each year. Ergonomics is the science of designing workplace equipment which maximizes productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. In 2000, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) formulated a set of ergonomics standards to prevent WMSDs. However Congress, using an obscure law called the Congressional Review Act (CRA), overturned OSHA’s rules soon after they were proposed because it feared these rules would be too costly to implement. The CRA allows Congress to review and override new federal regulations issued by government agencies. The only time CRA has ever been used was when Congress dismissed OSHA’s ergonomic standards. Since this dismissal, it is estimated at least 13 million Americans have sustained WMSD injuries, costing our economy more than half a trillion dollars. Opponents of ergonomics standards claim the implementation of these rules could cost businesses billions to meet its requirements. Supporters say WMSDs are already costing us $50 billion each year. They say this one-time cost to employers is preferable to a million people being injured each year.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current ergonomic standard policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to implement the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s 2000 ergonomics standards

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

At least 300,000 children are now being used to fight armed conflicts in more than 20 Third World countries including South Sudan, Somalia, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most of these soldiers are boys and girls between 15 and 18 years old but some are as young as 9. Child advocates say the longer a conflict lasts, the greater chance children will be recruited or forced to fight in it. Children are used as soldiers because they are cheap, expendable and easy to influence. Child soldiers carry supplies and are used as spies and sentries in addition to laying mines and fighting. Female child soldiers are often sexually abused. Many children are abducted and forced to join militias but some join because of poverty, alienation or dislike of the government. Sometimes schools, villages and farms are destroyed to remove options other than fighting for these children. In 2008, we passed the Child Soldiers Protection Act that criminalizes military forces which recruit and use children for fighting -but this legislation hasn’t had much effect in Africa. Some non-government organizations that are active in this cause have had success preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers. They have also succeeded in securing their demobilization and assisting their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current child soldier policy

I support efforts, including financial aid to non-government groups, to assist in reducing or eliminating the use of children as soldiers

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Many consumer products including clothes, shoes, appliances, electronics and toys are made in Asian and Central American factories. Workers in these factories are often subjected to low pay, long hours, abusive supervisors, and poorly lighted or ventilated workplaces. In 2013, an eight story building collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1,127 garment workers. Several factories housed in this unsafe building sold apparel to many of the largest Western clothing retailers. Soon after this disaster, the European Union threatened to limit Bangladesh’s duty-free trade access if garment companies didn’t help make factories safer. At least 69 European retailers then signed a legally-binding agreement to improve factory safety conditions. The “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh” provides for independent safety inspections along with help financing fire-safety and building improvements in these garment factories. Nearly all American garment companies have refused to sign this accord because they would not agree to the use of binding arbitration to resolve disputes.

Advocates say sweatshops are just as prevalent here as they are in foreign countries, producing many of the shirts, dresses, blouses and skirts sold on the racks of big American clothing retailers. A Labor Department survey of state-registered cutting and sewing shops in New York and Los Angeles found that nearly two-thirds of these operations don’t pay their workers minimum wages or overtime. This ratio would have undoubtedly been much higher if the survey included the hundreds or thousands of fly-by-night operations that don’t bother to register with a state. Advocates claim it is not uncommon for the employees of American garment manufacturers to be crowded together in small rooms with few facilities, being irregularly paid a mere dollar or two per hour. Most of these workers don’t complain to authorities because English is not their native language and because they fear being deported. Advocates say there is not enough inspectors to police this industry.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current sweatshop policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to hire additional inspectors to police the American garment manufacturing industry

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to limit Bangladesh’s duty-free trade access unless American garment firms sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

There are now at least 220 million child laborers worldwide. About 13 million of these children work in India. These are young children between the ages of 5 and 14 working full time in adult occupations. As many as 300,000 children, some as young as 5 years old, work making carpets in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Morocco. These children work long hours but are paid very little. Many are not allowed to attend school and many suffer vision and respiratory problems from this painstaking work. Most of these hand-tied wool carpets are exported to Western nations. Human rights advocates say the only way to discourage child labor is to boycott products made by children. These advocates now certify carpets with the GoodWeave label, which consumers can find on carpets that that have not been produced with exploitative child labor. However, the use of child labor exists in many other nations and industries. Cocoa and mine workers in Africa, electronics workers in China, silk weavers and textile workers in India, and agricultural industries in most developing countries all use exploitative child labor. Advocates claim this situation exists because labor standards, including those for child workers, are not subject to World Trade Organization (WTO) regulation. They claim WTO’s “free trade” rules prohibit the consideration of child labor standards in trade legislation. This is because countries that would ban the importation of products made with child labor could be accused of enacting barriers to trade and be subject to retaliation. Advocates disagree, arguing that worker rights such as collective bargaining, freedom of association and the elimination of abuse and discrimination in the workplace are matters for WTO consideration. Some third-world governments believe Western nations are using the issue of child labor standards to protect their own industries. They claim efforts to bring labor standards into the WTO represent a smokescreen for undermining the comparative advantage of lower-wage developing countries.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current child workers policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill requiring the World Trade organization to establish international child labor standards, including laws that protect collective bargaining, freedom of association and elimination of workplace abuse and discrimination, as well as setting school attendance requirements for working children

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Sudan’s government is responsible for supporting raids into Southern Sudan to kidnap and enslave Dinka women and children as well as members of other ethnic groups. These captives, many of them Christians, are sold to Northern Sudanese households, forced to convert to Islam, and compelled to work as laborers, servants and concubines. These people are offered for sale in Sudan’s slave markets for as little as $10. One recent account describes Sudanese slavery as a result of hostilities between Islamists to the north and those in the south, many of whom are Christian converts, saying “The Arab slave-takers pick their victims based on race, ethnicity and religion and consider the blacks in the South to be inferior infidels.” Many tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been abducted. In 2008, it was estimated that at least 35,000 people were enslaved on the borderland of Northern and Southern Sudan. Abductions continue to this present day. A few non-government organizations have established slave buyback programs which have freed a number of the enslaved. However, others warn that paying ransoms for kidnapped people will only encourage and enable more kidnappings.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.1692 – Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current Sudanese slavery policy and wish to defeat H.R.1692

I support directing the President to develop a comprehensive strategy to end serious human rights violations in Sudan and to promote comprehensive peace and democratic reform by imposing sanctions on any person or government that: has assisted Sudan in the commission of serious human rights violations including selling, leasing, or transferring military equipment to Sudan that contributes to serious human rights violations; is interfering or has interfered with the delivery of humanitarian aid to Sudan; is impeding the peace process or threatening the stability of any part of Sudan or the region; failed to execute an International Criminal Court arrest warrant against any Sudanese official if such person or government had the jurisdictional authority to execute the warrant and failed to make the arrest without reasonable justification, and wish to pass H.R.1692

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Many federal construction contracts, through the use of “project labor agreements,” require contractors to use unionized workers when building these projects. However, opponents of this policy claim these projects are more costly when only union labor is used. Supporters claim that if our federal government encourages the use of non-union labor, many states and companies will follow its example. They say this “race to the bottom” of the labor market will reduce the living standards of working Americans. Some claim these standards have already been eroded by private companies that receive taxpayer dollars for doing work for our government. Recent studies show that hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts, loans, grants and property leases are awarded to companies that pay low wages and provide few benefits to their employees -even as compensation for these company’s executives has soared. Critics say these companies are using taxpayer dollars to fuel our nation’s low-wage economy and increase income inequality. These companies employ at least 2 million American workers who maintain federal buildings, work in its food and vending concessions, and operate our parks, museums and much more. Advocates say there is compelling evidence showing it would be much cheaper for us to perform these jobs in-house than using private contractors. They claim significant savings would be realized even after paying these employees a living wage with benefits. In 2014, President Obama issued an executive order to increase the minimum wage paid to employees of federal contractors to $10.10/hour.

Pending Legislation:

S.109 & H.R.436 – Government Neutrality in Contracting Act

S.196 – Assuring Contracting Equity Act of 2013

H.R.882 – Contracting and Tax Accountability Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current federal labor contract policy and wish to defeat S.109 & H.R.436, S.196 and H.R.882

I support removing the requirement for union labor on federal construction projects by ensuring that bid specifications, project agreements, or other controlling documents for federal construction projects do not: require or forbid a bidder, contractor, or subcontractor to enter into or adhere to agreements with a labor organization with respect to that construction project or another related construction project, and wish to pass S.109 & H.R.436

I support increasing small business procurement of federal contracts by increasing from 23% to 25% the government-wide small business procurement contract goal, and 5% to 10% the government-wide procurement goal for small disadvantaged businesses and women-owned businesses and wish to pass S.196

I support prohibiting government contracts or grants to be issued to individuals or business entities with seriously delinquent federal tax debts; requiring the head of any executive agency: in evaluating any offer received in response to an agency solicitation for bids or proposals for a contract, to consider a certification that the offeror has a seriously delinquent tax debt to be definitive proof that the offeror is not a responsible source to do business with the federal government; and to initiate a suspension or debarment proceeding against an offeror or a grant applicant after receiving an offer for a contract or grant application that contains a certification that such person has a seriously delinquent tax debt, or after receiving information from the Secretary that a submitted certification is false, and wish to pass H.R.882

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill requiring federal agencies to evaluate the cost effectiveness of replacing private contractors with in-house services and to enact such a change if these evaluations conclude significant savings are likely

I support identifying a legislator who will require employees of federal contractors to be paid a living wage of at least $15.00/hour with benefits

 Posted by at 12:00 am