2001: A Look at OUR Union's Top Priorities During the 107th Congress

2001 National Cap Conference Report

by Mark Caruso & Dan Shepherd

The UAW Community Action Program, known as CAP, was held in Washington D.C. from February 4-7, 2001. Vice-President Mark Caruso and Dan Shepherd were your Delegates from Local 892. It was a busy four-day conference that was basically divided into two separate sections. Sunday afternoon was registration and assignment of workshops followed by a dinner for the 1500 delegates. After dinner we listened to a speech from President , Stephen P. Yokich. He then introduced Senator Edward Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy told it the way it is since labor does not have a friend in the White House. He reminded us that although George W. says he wants a bipartisan government, it was corporations and financial institutions that put him in office. The session adjourned at 8:00pm. 

On Monday, each delegate was required to attend workshops from 7:30 - 5:00pm. Delegates participated with presenters covering all the issues that would concern working people. A few of these issues were Medicare, Social Security, minimum wage, the economy, campaign finance reform, education which included vouchers, tuition assistance for college, and human rights.  

Tuesday morning we attended a Plenary session at 7:45am and enjoyed a media panel discussion. The panel included Howard Fineman from Newsweek magazine while Karen Tumulty represented Time magazine. Mike Malloy represented the Al Gore campaign team and E.J. Dionne was there from a major newspaper. The mediator for the panel was the renowned radio personality Peter Werbe. The panel fielded questions form the delegates concerning the past election and legislation that is being brought to the forefront now that the Republicans have total control. What we could  have done in Florida to possibly bring about a different result to the election vote recount, and the impact that Bill Clinton had on election results.  It was very interesting to hear the different views of the panel members who at times became adjitated with each other. After the panel discussion, Rep. David Bonier and Senator Debbie Stabenow honored us with speeches. It was great to now that working people do have friends in D.C.

Tuesday afternoon the delegation went to Capital Hill to visit our legislatures. Our first stop was at the office of Hon. Mike Rogers. He was very receptive of us and fielded all our questions. The main concern was what he was going to do to help the General Motors workers when Oldsmobile is phased out. GM was given large tax breaks and after it was approved, announced the closing of Olds plants. Mike is not in favor of increasing the minimum wage, nor is he in our corner when it comes to allowing a portion of the Social Security money to be invested in the stock market.

It was then Hon. Nick Smith's turn to be blessed with our presence. Congress was in session, so we could not visit with Nick until 4:00pm.  Nick was his same charming self. Each issue that we brought up, he would give a very detailed explanation that would leave you wondering if he would support us. Usually he would state no when pressured. He is in favor of campaign reform, as long as it would included special interest groups from being able to use money for political purposes. However, labor unions fall into the special interest groups he is talking about. We also visited Lynn Rivers office, but she was in session so we left a note with her aid. That evening we had a Congressional Dinner from 6:00 - 9:00pm. This dinner is were all the legislatures are invited to dinner so the delegates can have a chance to talk to them one on one. We visited with many of Michigan's representatives and tried to find out were they stood on the issues that we had discussed the previous day.

On Wednesday, we covered more proposed legislation that would effect working men and women in this country.  We developed an agenda that the UAW and the rest of the labor movement will be actively involved in over the next year. The following is a summary of our top priorities:

(1) Participation in the political process: 

The UAW strongly opposes Paycheck Deception proposals that would silence the voice of union members in the legislative political process. These proposals       would effectively undermine the ability of labor unions to spend their treasury funds to pay for communications dealing with legislative political issues that have a direct impact on the wages, benefits and lives of union members. Yourunion worked very hard during the last General election to educate the members on the issues and where the candidates stood on these issues. This legislation would nearly make all that information impossible to distribute. Thereby leaving the large corporations to push for legislation that benefits them.

(2) Fair Labor Standards Act:

We oppose efforts by the business community to pass measures that would undermine the 40-hour workweek and overtime requirements in the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act). Congressional Republicans and the business they support continue to raise the posibility of a so-called "bonus bill." Under this approach, anything that an employer could characterize as "bonus" (pay tied to quality improvements, production bonuses, attendance bonuses and etc.) would not be calculated in the calculation of overtime rates. This legislation would result in millions of workers having their overtime pay decreased. Secondly, you can expect Republicans to champion so-called "comp time" bills. These bills would allow the substitution of "compensatory time off" for the now mandatory overtime pay. GOP leaders characterize these bills as "family Friendly." The reality is that these bills would allow employers to force employees to take compensary time off, rather than receive the overtime pay, as is the case under present law.

(3) National Labor Relations Act: 

The UAW opposes several corporate proposals that would undermine the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively under the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act). In particular, we oppose the so-called "TEAM Act", which would legalize company dominated unions in which management could hand pick who would serve as the representatives for workers.

(4) Workplace Health and Safety: 

We oppose any attempt to overturn the new ergonomics standard that protects workers from repetitive motion injuries. We also oppose any Disapproval Resolution that would overturn the new standard and prevent OSHA from issuing any similar worker protection without the advance approval of Congress.

(5) Trade: 

The UAW opposes any "fast track" trade legislation, or any attempts to expand NAFTA to the rest of South America, unless these measures incorporate strong protections for worker rights and the environment, and provisions to safeguard American workers against import surges that could threaten their jobs.

(6) Social Security and Medicare: 

The UAW opposes any attempts to privatize Social Security and Medicare. This includes proposals that would eliminate Social Security's guarantee of a defined, inflation-protected retirement benefit, and replace it with a system of risky individual accounts. It also includes proposals that would replace Medicare's guarantee of a defined health care benefit, and substitute a system of vouchers that would shift the risk of health care costs to retirees.

The UAW urges Congress to enact legislation to guarantee prescription drug coverage for all Medicare beneficiaries. It should not provide subsidies just for the poor or for private insurance companies. In addition, the UAW believes that the projected federal surpluses should be used to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, instead of being wasted on tax cuts for the rich. The surpluses should also be used to expand access to health care, including programs to guarantee coverage for all children.