The first full week of November has not been a particularly good one for working people on Capitol Hill. On November 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the U.S. - Peru free trade deal by a 285-132 margin, with 109 Democrats supporting it and 116 opposing it. This trade deal is the latest in a succession of job-killing, job-exporting schemes modeled after the disastrous NAFTA, and its passage was a major goal of the Bush administration and big business.
UE Political Action Updates
Delegates to the 70th UE National Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have debated and passed unanimously a new Policy Action Resolution for the coming two year period. This resolution – the product of the UE Convention Policy Action Committee – sets the political action priorities of our union for the coming two year period, until the convening of the 71st Convention in 2009. The Policy Action Committee and its Policy Action Resolution were first introduced in 1993 as a tool to help assist in better achieving some of the high priority political action goals of our union.
With Congressional Republicans blocking most significant legislation proposed by Democrats in the House of Representatives and Senate, both chambers have adjourned for the customary August month of vacation and visits to home states and districts. With more than half of the year gone, it looks increasingly likely that Congress is heading for a political train wreck this fall as the logjam of urgent legislation continues to pile up.
As expected, when the U.S. Senate took up consideration of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)(H.R.800), Republican Senators closed ranks to block a vote on this critical legislation to restore the right to organize. A total of 60 votes are needed under Senate rules to end filibuster and proceed to an actual vote on the legislation. When the late morning vote was called on June 26, an insufficient majority of 51 Senators supported the cloture motion to end the filibuster by Republicans.
The “Employee Free Choice Act” (EFCA) (HR.800/S.1041) is due for a Senate vote any day now. This legislation provides for automatic recognition of a union when a majority of workers have signed union cards, replacing the existing broken and employer-corrupted “election” process. The bill also provides real penalties for bosses who break the law and fire or harass workers trying to join a union, as well as facilitating the negotiation of first union contracts on a rapid basis.
To view a list of Senate co-sponsors of the EFCA, visit;
On May 10, several Democratic Party leaders in Congress, led by House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY), and including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), announced a new "deal" with the Bush Administration to pave the way for more job-killing, NAFTA-like trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, Peru and Panama. These Democrats claim that this still-secret deal includes protections for labor rights and the environment.
In late March a delegation of UE leaders visited Washington D.C. as part of our union-wide Mobilization for Health Care and Retirement Security. Led by the three National Officers and Regional Presidents, the leadership group met with 16 Congressional offices on March 27. Meetings were held with eight members of Congress in-person, and with senior staff members of 8 additional Congressional offices and committees.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted on March 1 to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (HR800) by a solid 241-185 margin. The widespread illegal and disgraceful conduct of corporations during union organizing drives is such that a total of 13 Republicans were compelled to support this critical legislation. Two Democrats voted against the bill, along with 183 Republicans. Nine House members did not vote. See how your lawmaker voted: go to: clerk.house.gov/evs/2007/roll118.xml
By a narrow 213 to 210 vote on July 10th, the House of Representatives failed to derail the ongoing Republican plan to repeal overtime pay for as many as 8 million white collar, professional, and technical workers. House Democrats rallied to the defense of overtime pay by offering an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have blocked the Labor Department from unilaterally re-classifying potentially millions of workers as “exempt” from entitlement to overtime pay.
Both the U. S. Senate and House of Representatives are moving quickly to produce a Medicare reform bill before the summer Congressional recess. Pressure has been building over the past two decades to grapple with the problems and shortcomings associated with Medicare, the federal program providing health insurance for retired Americans. Medicare benefits have deteriorated in recent years, costs have skyrocketed, and the lack of any prescription drug coverage for seniors is an ongoing national disgrace.