WASHINGTON – The Teamsters announced yesterday the union’s legislative agenda for their 110th Congress, targeting key issues for working families, including the Employee Free Choice Act, a minimum wage hike, fair trade and raising economic and work standards on a variety of fronts.
‘The mid-term elections demonstrated that Americans demand change in this country,’ said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President.
‘The Democratic majorities in the House and Senate have an extraordinary opportunity to improve the lives of working families.
‘The Teamsters will work tirelessly to ensure that workers are the focus of the new Congress. Access to good paying jobs, affordable health care and a secure retirement should be a right, not a privilege, for all Americans.’
The Teamsters also will continue to lead the fight against free-trade agreements modelled after the job-killing NAFTA and CAFTA agreements that do not contain labour or environmental protections.
The union also is mobilising to raise the minimum wage, to stop unsafe cross-border trucking and to pass important legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act.
‘The Employee Free Choice Act strengthens protections for workers to choose to form a union,’ said Governmental Affairs Director Mike Mathis.
‘The National Labour Relations Board has failed workers and rewarded companies that violate the law. Passage of this act will ensure that all Americans will have their basic right to organise protected.’
Additional issues on the Teamsters’ agenda include beefing up rail and port safety and security and making improvements to background check procedures to protect workers’ rights and privacy.
Employee Free Choice Act
The Teamsters will continue to fight for passage of this important bill.
A bipartisan coalition reintroduced the Employee Free Choice Act in Congress in April 2005 (S. 842 and H.R. 1696). The act would strengthen protections for workers to choose to form a union.
It would require employers to recognise the workers’ union after a majority sign cards authorising representation.
It also would provide for mediation and arbitration of first-contract disputes, and would authorise stronger penalties for violation of the law.
The minimum wage has not been increased in 10 years, and its real value has plummeted to a 50-year low.
Teamster members generally make more than the minimum wage, but all workers should have an opportunity to earn a living wage from their hard work.
The Teamsters will support ‘clean’ bills that would raise the minimum hourly pay to $7.25 per hour over two years.
Such a change would affect nearly 5.6 million workers currently earning the minimum, and could raise the pay of another 9.2 million who earn just above the minimum.
Workers in 26 states already have a higher minimum wage than the federal $5.15 an hour.
Now is the time to make universal health care a reality.
Despite a 7.7 per cent rise in costs over the last year, benefits are being reduced.
Close to 16 per cent of all Americans do not have any health insurance. Eighty per cent of the nearly 46 million uninsured Americans are from working families.
Quality, affordable health care for all Americans must be a priority for this Congress.
We must ensure that all Americans are provided with retirement security and work to reverse the decline in defined benefit pension plans. More than 40 per cent of working families are in danger of not having enough retirement funds.
The Teamsters Union is educating members of Congress about the Bush administration’s plans to construct a NAFTA superhighway.
This highway is intended to ease the movement of imported goods from Mexican ports into the United States to a major distribution point in Kansas City. It would allow global conglomerates to exploit cheap labour and nonexistent work rules, and to avoid potential security enhancements at US ports.
If the Bush administration succeeds, American drivers and their families will be forced to share the roads with unsafe, uninsured trucks, and millions more good paying American jobs will be lost.
One weapon of mass destruction in an unchecked container will be too many.
Peru and Colombia Free Trade Agreements
These free trade agreements are almost identical in every way to previous agreements that follow the flawed NAFTA/CAFTA model.
There are no labour or environmental protections, and both agreements would permit foreign governments to take control of vital infrastructure assets.
The Teamsters will fight these agreements and push for worker protections, to stop the flow of jobs overseas and to stop undermining US domestic regulations.
Overtime Pay for Drivers
The Teamsters have blocked several attempts by FedEx and UPS to reverse a change in SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users) that allows drivers of vehicles 10,000 pounds or less to be paid overtime.
This change in last year’s highway bill removed this class of vehicle from the authority of the Transportation Department secretary, and consequently removed drivers of these vehicles from the Motor Carrier Exemption to the Fair Labour Standards Act.
It is estimated that close to 1 million workers are now eligible for overtime pay. This issue is sure to come up again in the new Congress, and the Teamsters will continue to fight a reversal of this law.
The nation’s passenger railroad continues to be starved for cash and has received only enough funding to fail for more than a decade, forcing the carrier to defer capital maintenance to an unacceptable extent.
The White House has stocked the Amtrak Board with ideologues whose goal is the dismantling and privatisation of the system.
Because of chronic underfunding, contract negotiations have been at a standstill and the vast majority of Amtrak workers have not had a general wage increase since 1999.
The Teamsters Rail Conference and all of rail labour are committed to securing full funding for Amtrak to address all deferred issues and to provide a base for growth in the 21st century.
Background Check Uniformity/Redundancy
The Teamsters Union has been in the forefront of protecting workers’ rights and privacy, and limiting offences that disqualify them since Congress enacted additional background checks after 9/11.
Improvements were made in limiting disqualifying offences for drivers who haul hazmat, giving them rights for appeal and limiting look-back periods.
While the Transportation Security Administration followed the hazmat model to some degree for port workers, additional improvements were made in limiting disqualifying offences.
That model is the basis for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC). Final regulations implementing TWIC have now been released, and the Teamsters will continue to push the Bush administration and Congress to make worker background checks uniform and less intrusive across the transportation modes.
The Teamsters will also work to ensure that workers do not have to bear the burden or expense of undergoing multiple background checks to satisfy security requirements in various sectors of the industry.
Federal Prison Industry Reform
Federal prison industries continue to unfairly compete with the private sector by using cheap prison labour and limiting competition for federal contracts.
The Teamsters will continue to support and work for passage of legislation that removes these barriers and allows the private sector to compete on a level playing field.
Kentucky River Decision
The National Labour Relations Board recently ruled that some workers with minor authority over other workers were supervisors and should not be able to belong to a union.
This new definition of supervisor could affect more than eight million workers, and the Teamsters Union, along with all of organised labour, is committed to reversing this decision.