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The Ironworkers Political Action League (IPAL) serves the Iron Worker membership in two crucial capacities. The first is the raising of funds to be used in efforts to elect pro-union and pro-worker candidates to public office. The second is to lobby critical legislation, keep legislatively informed, and review legislative matters that affect the livelihood of Ironworkers and their families. Both of these functions serve to achieve the same objective: increasing the political and legislative clout of the Ironworkers.Ironworkers Political Action League
The success of these efforts absolutely depends on the Iron Workers membership contributions. It is clear that the battle for work, wages, safety and retirement will be waged not only at the collective bargaining table, but in the political arena as well. The combined challenge of the new economy and the increasing practice of anti-union politics must be recognized as a grave threat. If the Ironworkers are to excel in the Twenty-First Century they must continue to build political power and be prepared to wield it. Building this power will be accomplished through organizing to increase membership, raising funds via the IPAL contribution checkoff, and becoming – and staying – politically active. Our livelihood depends on it.
Please use the following link to the new Ironworkers Legislative Action Center. The new website makes fighting for ironworkers and their families easier and more effective than ever.
White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families
Last week the President and Vice President welcomed the officers and Presidents of Change to Win, the officers and Executive Council members of the AFL-CIO, and the Presidents of NEA and NTEU to the White House to announce the signing of several executive orders and describe the White House Middle Class Task Force. They were very pleased that they were able to open the doors to organized labor and the millions of members they represent in the first full week of the Administration, and that the President had the opportunity to personally express his commitment to working with them and their members:
"I believe we need to reverse many of the policies toward organized labor we've seen these last eight years, policies with which I have sharply disagreed. I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem; to me, and to my administration, labor unions are a big part of the solution. We need to level the playing field for workers and the unions that represent their interests.
"Because we know that you cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement. And we know that strong, vibrant, and growing unions can exist side by side with strong, vibrant, and growing businesses. This is not an either-or proposition between the interests of workers and the interests of shareholders. The American economy is not -- and has never been -- a zero-sum game."
Attached, please find the President's and Vice President's remarks and below, the press release describing the task force. You can view the task force website at www.AStrongMiddleClass.gov.
Here is a description of each of the orders signed today:
Require federal contractors to post a balanced notice of workers' rights
Prevent use of government funds for anti-union activity
Give workers a chance to keep their jobs when a federal contract providing services to a federal building changes hands.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 30, 2009
White House Announces Middle Class Task Force
Washington, DC -- President Barack Obama today announced the creation of a White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families to be chaired by Vice President Joe Biden. The Task Force is a major initiative targeted at raising the living standards of middle-class, working families in America. It is comprised of top-level administration policy makers, and in addition to regular meetings, it will conduct outreach sessions with representatives of labor, business, and the advocacy communities.
President Obama said: "The strength of our economy can be measured by the strength of our middle class. That is why I have signed a memorandum to create the Task Force on Middle-Class Working Families -- and why I have asked my Vice President to lead it. This is a difficult moment. But I believe, if we act boldly and swiftly, it can be an American moment - when we work through our differences and overcome our divisions to face this crisis."
Vice President Biden said: "America's middle class is hurting. Trillions of dollars in home equity and retirement savings and college savings are gone. And every day, more and more Americans are losing their jobs. President Obama and I are determined to change this. Quite simply, a strong middle class equals a strong America. We can't have one without the other. This Task Force will be an important vehicle to assess new and existing policies across the board and determine if they are helping or hurting the middle class. It is our charge to get the middle class -- the backbone of this country -- up and running again."
The Vice President and members of the task force will work with a wide array of federal agencies that have responsibility for key issues facing middle class and working families, and expedite administrative reforms, propose Executive orders, and develop legislative and policy proposals that can be of special importance to working families.
The White House unveiled today the initial version of the Task Force's new website: www.AStrongMiddleClass.gov. Transparency is a key priority for the taskforce and any materials from meetings or reports produced will be made available to the public and on the website. The website will be updated with additional content as the Task Force gets underway.
President Obama has set the following goals for the task force:
Expanding education and lifelong training opportunities, improving work and family balance, restoring labor standards, including workplace safety, helping to protect middle-class and working-family incomes and protecting retirement security
Members of the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families will include the Secretaries of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Commerce, as well as the Directors of the National Economic Council, the Office of Management and Budget, the Domestic Policy Council, and the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors.
The Middle Class Task Force's first official meeting will be on February 27, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The topic of the first meeting will be: "Green Jobs: A Pathway to a Strong Middle Class."
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Creating the Task Force on Middle-Class Working Families The White House January 30, 2009
Thank you all for joining us today. It is a privilege to be among this diverse group representing labor unions, non-profit organizations, and advocates for our business community. And I am pleased to be here with our Vice President, Joe Biden.
Today we learned that our economy shrank in the last three months of 2008 by 3.8 percent -- the worst contraction in close to three decades. This isn't just an economic concept; this is a continuing disaster for America's working families. As worrying as these numbers are, it's what they mean for the American people that's so alarming: families making fewer purchases, businesses making fewer investments, employers sustaining fewer jobs.
The recession is deepening and the urgency of our economic crisis is growing. Yesterday, we reached a new threshold: the highest number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits on record. Every day it seems there is another round of layoffs -- another round of jobs lost and families' lives turned upside down. We lost 2.6 million jobs last year and another 2.8 million people who need and want full-time work had to settle for part-time employment.
This is a difficult moment. But I believe, if we act boldly and swiftly, it can be an American moment -- when we work through our differences and overcome our divisions to face this crisis. While our GDP may have grown smaller, what is undiminished is our innovative spirit, our work ethic, our values, and our resolve and resilience as Americans.
For two years, I traveled across this country. I met thousands of people -- hardworking, middle class Americans -- who shared with me their hopes and their hardships. These are the men and women who form the backbone of our economy, the most productive workers in the world -- they do the jobs, build the products, and provide the services that drive America's prosperity.
And these are the folks who approached me on the campaign trail, in union halls and church basements, coffee shops and shop floors. Who told me about jobs lost and homes foreclosed. Hours cut and benefits slashed. The costs of life slowly chipping away at the hopes of affording college or a new home or retirement -- like the American Dream in reverse. These are the families who have, by no fault of their own, been hit hardest as the economy has worsened.
They need us to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment plan -- a plan that will save or create more than three million jobs over the next few years and make investments that will serve our economy in the years to come.
We'll double our capacity to generate renewable energy while redoubling our efforts to use energy more efficiently. We'll rebuild crumbling roads, retrofit aging transit systems, and renovate 10,000 schools for our children. And we'll bring the health care system into the 21st century by computerizing medical records, saving countless lives and billions of dollars.
I am pleased that the House has acted with urgency in passing this plan, and I hope that we can strengthen it further in the Senate. But what we cannot do is drag our feet or delay too much longer. The American people expect us to act, and that's exactly what I intend to do as President.
But passing my plan is not the end but the beginning of what we must do.We now need to create jobs. But not just any jobs. We need to create jobs that sustain families and sustain dreams. Jobs in new and growing industries. Jobs that don't feel like a dead end but a way forward -- and a way up. Jobs that will foster a vibrant and growing middle class. Because the strength of our economy can be measured by the strength of our middle class.
That is why I have created the Task Force on Middle-Class Working Families -- and why I have asked my Vice President to lead it. There is no one who brings to bear the same combination of personal experience and substantive expertise. Joe has come a long way, and achieved a great deal, but he has never forgotten his roots as a working class kid from Scranton, Pennsylvania. He's lived the American Dream, and lived and worked to make that Dream a reality for others.
This task force will bring together my economic advisors and members of my cabinet to focus on the policies that will really benefit middle class families. Policies to create jobs that pay well and provide a chance to save. To create jobs in growing fields and train workers to fill them. To ensure that workplaces are safe and fair -- as well as flexible for employees juggling the demands of work and family.
At the same time, I believe we need to reverse many of the policies toward organized labor we've seen these last eight years, policies with which I have sharply disagreed. I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem; to me, and to my administration, labor unions are a big part of the solution. We need to level the playing field for workers and the unions that represent their interests.
Because we know that you cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement. And we know that strong, vibrant, and growing unions can exist side by side with strong, vibrant, and growing businesses. This is not an either-or proposition between the interests of workers and the interests of shareholders. The American economy is not -- and has never been -- a zero-sum game.
Finally, I will be signing three executive orders designed to ensure that federal contracts serve the taxpayers efficiently and effectively.
One of these orders will prevent taxpayer dollars from going to reimburse federal contractors who spend money trying to influence the formation of unions.
We will also require that federal contractors inform their employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Federal labor laws encourage collective bargaining, and employees should know their rights to avoid disruption of federal contracts.
And I am issuing an order so that qualified employees will be able to keep their jobs even when a contract changes hands. We shouldn't deprive the government of these workers who have so much experience in making government work.
We need to keep our energy focused and our eyes fixed on the real measure of our prosperity: the success of the folks Joe and I have met across this country who are working hard every day. And I am eager to see this task force in action and to discuss with Joe its findings.Thank you. Now I'd like to introduce Vice President Biden.
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Vice President Biden
Announcement of the Middle Class Task Force
January 30, 2009
Thank you for that generous introduction, Mr. President.
It's a pleasure to see you all here today as we announce the creation of our Middle Class Task Force. I want to thank the outstanding individuals who have agreed to serve on the task force with me. It's good to see so many leaders from organized labor join us here. You've dedicated your lives to making better lives for working people. I'm proud that in this administration you'll have allies in that effort.
Mr. President, thank you for convening and empowering this task force.
In doing so, you have sent a very clear signal to everyone in this country who goes to work without expecting public acclaim or big bonuses...the people Teddy Roosevelt called the "doers of deeds"..the men and women who teach our children, protect our neighborhoods, build our homes, staff our hospitals and work on the line.To this -- America's great middle class -- you have said, simply: We are on your side.
For too many years, we've had a White House that failed to put America's middle class the front and center of its economic policies. Even when our country was on solid ground, the middle class was slipping. When productivity went up almost 20% from 2000 to 2007, the income of working families fell by $2000. Now with our economy struggling, the pain is getting worse. Trillions of dollars in home equity...retirement savings...college savings...Gone. And every day, more and more Americans are losing their jobs. For many people, the work of a lifetime has disappeared. It's cruel...And it's threatening to sap the spirit of our nation.
Mr. President, you said it best in your inaugural address, "A nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous."
Quite simply, a strong middle class equals a strong America. Clearly, our most urgent task is to stabilize our economy and put it on the path to recovery. On top of this urgent task, though, we have an important long-term task as well. We need to make sure the benefits of a strengthening economy reach the people responsible for that strength. That is why President Obama has asked me to lead this task force: To bring together those Cabinet Secretaries that have the greatest impact on the well-being of the middle class in our country.
We'll be looking at everything from access to college with the Department of Education, to business development with the Department of Commerce, to child care and elder care with Health and Human Services, to restoring balance in the workplace with the Department of Labor.
This task force reflects a critical insight by the President -- we have to bring together the knowledge, talent, and skill of people from across the whole range of government to best tackle these problems.
With this task force, we'll have a single, high-visibility group with one goal: To raise the living standards of the people who are the backbone of this country -- America's middle class.
So today, with the signing of the President's executive orders, we begin the work of the task force.
I want to announce that our executive director will be Dr. Jared Bernstein, a man who has dedicated a substantial portion of his professional career to studying the economic issues that most impact on the lives the middle class.
We're also launching our website today. www.AStrongMiddleClass.Gov
This website won't just be a source of information...it will be a conversation.
It will be a place for people to find out what we're doing, and to share their own ideas and experiences. We'll also be listening to people's stories in meetings we hold all across the country.
Our first task force meeting will be held on February 27th in Philadelphia. The focus of that meeting will be green jobs -- those jobs that pay well, can't be outsourced, and help us move towards a cleaner, more self-sufficient energy future.
Each month to follow, we'll focus on a different concern.
How do we make retirement more secure?
Child and elder care more affordable?
Improve workplace safety?
Get the cost of college within reach?
Help weary parents juggle work and family?
Create the jobs of the future?
At the end of the day, it will be our responsibility to offer, clear specific steps to meet these concerns and others.
This task force will be fully transparent.
We'll consult openly and publicly with outside groups who can help us develop the most far-reaching and imaginative solutions to these problems.
And we'll put all the materials from our meetings and any report we produce up on our website. None of this will happen behind closed doors.
There are some people who say we've entered an age where only a few people can prosper -- and everyone else has to fall behind. We do not accept that.
That has never been America's story at any point in our history. And the President and I are determined that it will not be America's story today. The American story is one of expanding opportunity and shared prosperity. It's a story about the future, not the past. It's a story in which we put the middle class families that are the heart of our nation at the heart of our efforts. Where I grew up, the men and women were proud. They didn't want government to solve all their problems. They just wanted leaders who understood their problems...and leaders whose policies gave them a chance to show what they could do.
They wanted leaders like you, Mr. President. They wanted leaders like those gathered in this room. And they wanted a White House ready to say:
The measure of our success will be whether the middle class once again shares in the economic success of this nation.
Now the President will sign the executive orders.
This is a speech given by Stewart Acuff, Special Assistant to President John Sweeney, AFL-CIO, at the North American Iron Worker/IMPACT Labor Management Conference on February 8 – 12, 2009.
The Real Economic Stimulus
Our government is in the process of releasing the 2nd $350 of the $700 billion the Congress approved a couple of months ago to bail out the banks and financial industry.
They have asked for this money as they prepare an economic stimulus package of another $850 billion to $1 trillion.
Now we know the economic stimulus is critical and necessary. We have to help get it passed. I would not argue against it, but allow me to make a couple of observations about the banks financial bailout.
De-regulation costs all of us a ton of money when it doesn’t work.
If it’s costing us about a trillion dollars to bail out the free market system, then the free market system is hardly free.
Unrelated or unfettered capitalism is always ultimately disastrous.
Unmitigated greed destroys.
The ideas Newt Gingrich used to brag about and blather about that came out of the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute are costing the rest of us and our kids and grandkids a whole lot of money.
Ayn Rand wrote fiction – not policy.
Much of this – certainly this economic stimulus and the economic stimulus we all got last spring – is based on the universal acknowledgement that there just isn’t enough spending power or buying power throughout our economy to power our economic engine.
You see, while our productivity has gone up by 75% in the last 30 years our wages have stagnated, flat lined. And so working families have borrowed to keep up – incurring mortgage debt as we took out second mortgages or lines of credit on our homes, insidious credit card debt, medical debt as more and more of us lost our healthcare and health insurance, education debt as higher education became more and more expensive for the kids of working families.
We felt their recession and threatened depression long before they did. We felt it in closed factories and the disappearance of 3 million plus middle class, unions manufacturing jobs. We felt it as communities collapsed around those closed plants. Delphi, paper mills, auto plants, South Chicago, Gary, Toledo, Buffalo, South Georgia and Birmingham.
We felt their recession as the number of our fellow Americans without healthcare rose to 47 million and the number of us with inadequate or unreliable healthcare rose to another 40 million.
We felt their recession as the number of Americans living in poverty increased 20% while George Bush was president.
We know something was desperately wrong with free market economics as we produced more and more wealth with every day of our work while our wages flat lined and CEO pay went from 40 times as much as the average worker in 1980 to 400 times as much as the average worker today.
How did all this happen?
What happened in these last 30 years?
Over the last 30 years workers in America have lost the freedom to bargain collectively with the corporations that ran this economy and our jobs. So while CEO’s negotiated contracts that paid them $10 million to $400 million a year with $200 million severance packages when they drove a company into the ditch, we lost our freedom to bargain our way into the middle class, to bargain from a decent standards of living, to bargain for our kids and grand kids to have the same kind of opportunity we had. A corrupt corporate culture has done all it could to deny workers the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively.
30,000 workers a year are retaliated against for exercising supposedly protected workers rights.
1 in 5 union activists in organizing campaigns will be fired.
Almost all employers in the private sector will do anything to stop workers from forming a union. Even when workers do form a union, employers refuse to bargain in good faith.
The real, effective, and best economic stimulus is to restore to workers in America the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively. That is the most common sensical and cost effective way to restore balance in our economy. Allow us to bargain collectively and we will bargain for a greater share of the wealth we create. Just as we did between 1935 and 1955 when our great middle class was created by workers bargaining for dignity and fairness.
All this is why we must pass and enact the Employee Free Choice Act.
The Employee Free Choice Act will do three things to restore the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively to America’s workers.
Impose real penalties on employers who violate the law
Force corporations to negotiate in good faith by allowing workers to seek arbitration
Allow workers to avoid the corporate attack campaigns by forming their union through majority sign up.
In the five years since we introduced this legislation we have made incredible progress. In 2007 it passed the House overwhelmingly 241-185. We got a majority vote in the Senate but could not overcome a Republican filibuster and the promise of the George Bush veto.
But now things are different.
Our new President supports the Employee Free Choice Act as does a strong majority in the House and a majority in the Senate and 73% of the American public. Our job is to create a filibuster proof majority of support in the Senate and a national groundswell demand for an economy that works for all. The stakes could not be higher:
The economic health of our nation
The future of our country as a nation of opportunity
The provision of a future full of hope and opportunity for our kids and grandkids
To win right now, we must do two things:
Run the best and biggest possible ground campaign, mobilize 100’s of 1000’s of workers to contact their Members of Congress about the immediate urgency of this legislation
Make sure everyone understands the Employee Free Choice Act is about the economic health of America – not a narrow, institutional issue for our labor movement. We must demonstrate that the Employee Free Choice Act enjoys broad public support.
Change must mean real change in people’s lives – healthcare, good jobs, fair trade, workers rights.
Victory is in our reach. Turning around America is up to us. Winning healthcare for all, creating good jobs and fair trade, and restoring the freedom to organize and bargain is just a matter of mobilizing the most effective ground campaign in our history.
One and a half million workers have signed the Millions Workers Demand. 100’s of 1000’s have taken action in the last five years.
It is up to us to move 100’s of 1000’s to turn around America and restore economic health and balance to middleclass America.
IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO ALL MEMBERS:
Dear Local Union Officers & Members:
We have an incredible opportunity to change the direction this nation is headed in by electing leaders who will fight for working families instead of big corporations. The issues at stake in the 2008 elections impact all working Americans: skyrocketing job loss, healthcare costs and gas prices, plus the decimation of pensions and worker safety protections.
We can win these elections by mobilizing union members to vote – we cannot afford to let anyone sit these elections out.
I am counting on you to work with the membership of our union to focus on the issues, highlight candidate differences and mobilize members and their families to turn out to vote. The AFL-CIO Labor 2008 Campaign is underway and our locals need to join in, specifically, I need you to:
Reach out and join forces with the Labor 2008 lead political staff for your state. For contact information call your state AFL-CIO or local AFL-CIO Central Labor Council.Implement the Labor 2008 Ten Point Plan as soon as possible. The enclosed plan involves recruiting a local union coordinator, leafleting worksites, and calling and mailing members regularly. The plan was developed over the past 10 years, incorporating feedback from union members about how they like to receive political information. If every local union adopts the Ten Point Plan, we can positively impact the outcome of the November 2008 elections.
Recruit volunteers from your local union to go door-to-door with other Labor 2008 volunteers during a massive effort in September 2008 to reach out to union members in their homes. Our goal is to get each local union to recruit one percent (1%) of their membership for this important action.If you have any questions, please contact Dave Kolbe at 202-383-4805. Never has more been at stake for our union. I hope you will join the fight for a better economy and a more secure future for our brothers and sisters.
Joseph J. Hunt
The 10 Point Program
Recruit a key contact at each local worksite
Commit to program
Attend regular planning meetings
Be available by e-mail or fax
Plug into communication web
Distribute leaflets at all union worksites
Leaflet at least once a month, increasing in Fall 2008
Maximize contact through union publications
Include Labor 2008 information in every issue
Report on issue agenda
Report on votes
Report on support for organizing
Utilize regular mailings from local presidents and business agents
Include current leaflets and issue materials in all local union mailings
Use targeted mail in 2008Maximize impact of union phone calls
Include current message in all calls
Make multiple calls to targeted members in Fall 2008
Update local membership lists
Work with state federation or international union
Receive quality list with phone numbers, e-mail, registration and changes of address
Increase voter registration by 10 percent
Conduct massive GOTV for 2008 elections
Get out the vote
Build rapid response network in the workplace
Recruit activists for issue mobilization
Generate letters, calls and e-mails to elected officials
Meet with elected officials
Link politics to organizing
Schedule regular meetings to educate elected officials
Identify opportunities for elected officials to help organizing
Integrate support for organizing into candidate screening process