|ONLINE VERSION||NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2000|
|OCTOBER - NOVEMBER|
October 1 & 2 — Secretary-Treasurer Seminar, Bloomington, Minnesota
October 5 — Ethics Committee Censures Shuster
The House ethics committee reprimanded E. G. "Bud" Shuster, Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, for "serious official misconduct" over the Pennsylvania Republican's ties to his former chief-of-staff-turned-lobbyist Ann M. Eppard and other campaign-related improprieties.
In its Letter of Reproval, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct told Shuster, "by your actions you have brought discredit to the House of Representatives." A letter of reproval is the mildest form of official sanction that the committee could have administered.
On October 6 Washington Post staff writer Juliet Eilperin noted the contrast between the "unusually stinging rebuke" in the "committee's strongly worded ‘letter of reproval'" and Shuster's defiant behavior on the House floor defending his actions and in his formal response to the panel. "The sharp contrast ... highlighted the ambiguous nature of the ruling, in which the panel took pains to chastise the lawmaker but issued one of the lightest available penalties."
On October 8 the Post reported that "no one has ever accused the House ethics committee of being a zealous enforcer of the lax House rules that are in its keeping. The history of the panel — and some would say, its purpose — is that whenever it can, it looks the other way."
Congressional Accountability Project director Gary Ruskin, who filed the initial ethics complaint against Shuster four years ago, said the committee's move set a dangerous precedent. "This liberal permissiveness and coddling of members of Congress is absolutely wrong," he said. "They let him off with zero punishment. That's a message that's not lost on members."
Shuster has been T&I Committee chairman since 1995 but is ineligible to continue as chairman next year because of party rules that limit terms.
October 11 — Labor On The Bus
On October 11 in Charleston, West Virginia, a huge Social Security and Medicare prescription drug rally kicked off a four-week series of AFL-CIO "people-powered" bus tours to "rev up for a massive get-out-the-vote-effort on election day." The tours were designed to energize and mobilize union members in selected states and congressional districts with stops in dozens of cities and towns for issue rallies, worksite leafleting, phone banking and meetings with activists. Joining President John Sweeney on the first bus tour, through West Virginia and Kentucky were Rev. Jesse Jackson, Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts, Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka and former Mine Workers president, Communications Workers President Morton Bahr, IUE President Ed Fire and Steelworkers International Vice President Leon Lynch. Other bus tours were held in Oregon, Washington State, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Along with mobilizing around working family issues such as health care, education, good jobs and workers' rights, the tours supported AFL-CIO endorsed candidates, including Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Joe Lieberman as well as congressional, state and local candidates.
October 12 — Minimum Wage Rally
AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney addressed the following remarks to participants in a minimum wage rally held on October 12 in Washington, DC:
Brothers and sisters, it is distressing that 10 million American workers, most of them adult women, still do not have the minimum wage increase they need and deserve.
It is disgusting that millions of working families continue to live in poverty because our federal minimum wage is stuck at $5.15 an hour.
And it is disgraceful that the Republican leadership in Congress refuses to raise the minimum $1.00 an hour over two years, without demands to slash overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and give billions in tax breaks to business.
Brothers and sisters, it is distressing, it is disgusting, it is disgraceful. The leaders of the majority in the United States Congress know no shame.
Mr. Lott [R-MS] and his colleagues in the Senate pushed through a bill stretching the increase over three years, doling out an $18 billion tax break and rolling back overtime protections for workers. In the House, Mr. Hastert [R-IL] and his friends upped the price tag with an obscene $122 billion in tax cuts and more overtime reductions.
How shameful are these bills? The House version would give $11 in benefits to the wealthy for every one dollar in additional earnings for minimum wage workers.
President Clinton has pledged to veto this unfair, unbalanced, un-American proposal and we thank him for that.
And now, with only days left in this Congress, the Republican leadership stalls.
Brothers and sisters, distress and disgust are not enough. We must have action. Minimum wage workers deserve better and that's why we have come together to tell Trent Lott and Dennis Hastert and the Republican majority that they must do better. That's why more than 400 organizations have joined together under the banner of the Coalition on Human Needs to demand a minimum wage raise now, with no killer strings attached — no tax cuts for the wealthy and no weakening of overtime laws and worker protections.
The federal minimum wage is the most important protection workers have against employers who would otherwise victimize the most vulnerable workers in our society — older Americans, younger Americans, women, minorities and immigrant Americans.
It is in their name that we rally here today. It is in their interest that we protest here today. Thank you and keep on working for working families!
Are Working People Better Off Today?
James F. Gilwee of the Crow Law Firm, on the designated counsel list of most of the rail unions including the BMWE, sent a contribution of $2,500 to the Coalition to Defend America's Working Families on October 17 even though the firm's significant sum budgeted for political contributions this election cycle had already been exceeded. With the contribution, Gilwee, a "Labor Democrat and damn proud of it" enclosed a copy of the article he wrote a few months ago entitled "Are Working People Better Off Today After Eight Years of A Democrat in the White House Than They Were After 12 Years of a Republican Administration? You Decide." While we'll all know the results of the election (as I write this a day after the election I have to say maybe we won't) by the time you read this, the hard facts outlined in Gilwee's article (which has been shortened for space) remain the same and are valuable to keep in mind for next time.
One of the benefits of being designated legal counsel for each of the 13 rail brotherhoods is I have an opportunity to read their newsletters and have direct access with not only the international presidents, but the national, state, and local legislative directors and/or representatives. I regularly attend local meetings and this summer I have attended a number of picnics and other union- sponsored activities at both the local and joint protective board level. I am also a union member of UTU Local 1201.
Over the past few months, I have become concerned that working people are being led down the Republican "primrose path" by slick sound bites and false promises in the same manner as occurred when Ronald Reagan was first elected President in November 1980. We all know the disastrous course labor was subjected to under that Republican Administration, starting with the annihilation of the Air Traffic Controllers' Association and continuing with the devastating result of PEB 219 being crammed down rail labor's throat.
The Republican Party will attempt to portray this election with specific "hot button" issues geared to create a reaction by working people in favor of the Republican Party's candidate. These include such issues as tax reform, abortion, gun control, and school vouchers. This strategy is designed to separate working people from voting what is in their best overall interest by being caught up in "yellow press" emotionally charged concerns. As TCU International President, Robert Scardelletti, once said: "After all is said and done, the important issue is your economic well- being...vote your job!"
Make no mistake about this. The Republicans and their railroad CEO handlers are interested in the following agenda:
First, they wish to eliminate your railroad retirement rights and throw you into social security, saving them millions upon millions of dollars each year in railroad retirement tax.
Second, they wish to eliminate the Railway Labor Act which gives you some protection for continued employment in order to make you an "at will" employee, subject to being discharged without reason or fault.
Third, they wish to eliminate the Federal Employer's Liability Act, the act that protects and compensates you for your on-the-job injury by substituting a worker's compensation system, which is totally unfair to employees who work in an industry as hazardous as the rail industry.
Fourth, the intent of the Republican Party is ultimately to eliminate all effective labor unions (see "right to work" legislation bills regularly introduced by the Republican Party in state legislature). As an example, the Republican Party pushed in California for passage of a state initiative under the proposition law, knowing they couldn't pass this in the legislature. California Proposition 226, the so-called Paycheck Protection Measure, was aimed at silencing workers participation through their union and the political process. Fortunately, the voters of California in 1998 soundly rejected this intrusion into their rights. However, the big monied Republicans and their corporate handlers are back with this same initiative, trying for passage in Oregon and other states.
As you sift through political material and watch the 30-second political sound bite advertisements on television, please consider the following:
Big Business—Big Bucks
On April 26, 2000, a black tie dinner was held in Washington, D.C. for Presidential candidate George W. Bush. This single event raised $21.3 million dollars for the Republican Party. Each corporate executive "salivated" at the opportunity to contribute $250,000. How many working people do you think attended this event? This is just one of the multi-million dollar fundraising events the "industry fat cats" have paid into the Republican Party. UPRR was "honored" to contribute $1.5 million dollars to the Republican National Convention.
How has George W. been getting his "message across" to the American public? Surprisingly enough, from the back of the platform of a special train. The train and tracks are obviously not owned by working people. Further, word has it that the railroad company jet or jets were made available to George W. and his entourage at a moment's notice. Not many working people have company jets.
Where do you think rail issues and workers' welfare stand if George W. is elected and we have a Republican Congress ? How effective will the Federal Railroad Administration be in protecting working people's rights, if this top federal railroad official is appointed by George W. and no doubt comes from railroad top management? How effective will the courts be in protecting workers' rights with the type of judge appointed by George W., who fits the Republican mold.
As an example, consider just three Republican presidential appointments and their direct effect on issues important to you:
Wages—PEB 219—A Republican President appointed Chairman Robert Harris. This disastrous "award" is still being felt every two weeks in the take home pay by the rank and file.
Railroad Retirement—A Republican President appointed Glenn L. Bower (the "neutral" member) who immediately tried to "privatize" your retirement system for the benefit of the carrier. V. M. "Butch" Speakman, former President of BRS and current labor appointee to the three person RRB stated in the April 1992 Signalman's Journal:
. . . a review of the details of the destructive efforts engineered and/or supported by Bower ‘clearly demonstrates that the Public Member is prepared to kow tow to the Management Member's whims without concern for the impact on our retired members.' Speakman continued, ‘I'm convinced that their concerted efforts are designed to disrupt, dismantle and/or eliminate the hard earned benefits presently provided our retirees by law.'
Injury Compensation—A Republican President appointed Clarence Thomas (he of Anita Hill Senate Confirmation hearing fame) to the U.S. Supreme Court. Thomas authored the Gottschalland Carlisle decision eliminating the right of rail employees to recover for most emotional injuries under the Federal Employers' Liability Act. With one stroke of the keyboard Thomas changed 75 years of employee protection, making rail employers unique in that they are the only industry to reject compensation for this injury!
Finally, consider railroad contributions to the Republican Party. International President Edward Dubroski in the winter 1999, Locomotive Engineer's Journal reports:
Soft Money Contributions from Corporate Treasuries 1997-1998
Democrats Republicans Total
But the railroads argue at every bargaining session "times are tough."
Big Railroad—Big Compensation
Each rail labor member knows how his or her paycheck shrunk with the PEB 219 award. But what about railroad top management? How has railroad top management fared? Here's a look back:
In the Wednesday, April 14, 1993, Sacramento Bee business section, the following article appeared:
UP Officials Reaping Riches of Rising Stock:
Big Money Bonus for Executives
Five years ago when Union Pacific stock was bouncing along on the bottom, a novel bonus was instituted:
If the stock price hit $50 in climb, the top executive could expect a reward. On Thursday, April 5, 1993, the plan expires-and because the company stock has been better than $50 since April, fifty-five managers will share in the 31 million dollar cash pool.
Drew Lewis (President Reagan's former Secretary of Labor-what does that tell you), who in 1993 was CEO of UPRR reaped $3 million dollars in this "cash pool." How much was given to employees of the Union Pacific Railroad who were actually responsible for this turnaround? You're right, the big zero.
In reviewing every single annual report for every western Class I railroad over the last ten years, each of these railroads has bragged to their shareholders how many multi-millions of dollars net income was made and how these corporations have become profitable multi-billion dollar corporations. It appears no CEO of any Class I railroad when considering salary, stock options, and bonus has ever made less than $1 million dollars per year during this decade. Most made substantially more.
How have the top executives for the Class I railroads fared recently? Quoting from the July/August 2000 BMWE Journal (BMWE President Mac A. Fleming is editor) on U.S. CEO pay out-of-whack globally:
An AFL-CIO news release in April announced their updated Executive PayWatch website—www.paywatch.org—which gives visitors the tools they need to get the real scoop on CEO pay. CEO pay is growing faster than all major economic indicators—up 23%, according to the New York Times. The average CEO of a major U.S. corporation made $11.9 million in 1999, 476 times what the average blue-collar American worker made. That's up from 42 times more in 1980 and 85 more in 1990. U.S. CEO pay dwarfs foreign CEO pay. German CEOs make 13 times more than the average German manufacturing employee. In Japan, the CEO- to-worker pay ratio is just 11-to-1. ‘What looks excessive in the context of U.S. workers is truly outrageous when viewed globally,' said AFL-CIO Secretary- Treasurer Richard Trumka. ‘The global economy is not working for working families when boards of directors hand U.S. CEOs tens of millions of dollars a day.' GE's Jack Welch, for example, earned over $90 million in 1999, as much as the total earnings of half of GE's Mexican workforce of 30,000. A GE worker in Mexico makes about $2 an hour. GE also operates in China and India, countries where workers are often paid pennies an hour.
Checking the site for the four major railroad CEOs recently, we found that John W. Snow led the pack in 1999, raking in $6,859,054 in salary, bonus and other compensation from CSX. If you add in the $2,813,000 in stock option grants awarded to Snow, that's a total of $9, 672,054. And Snow has $1,484,075 in unexercised stock options from previous years. That's not counting the value of perks that CEOs often enjoy such as: free country club memberships, luxury company car or chauffeur service, no interest loans, use of the company resort home or penthouse suite, free financial and tax-planning services. In 1998, David R. Goode, raked in $4,224,858 in salary, bonus and other compensation from Norfolk Southern. If you add in the $1,942,500 in stock option grants awarded to Goode, that's a total of $6,167,358. Robert D. Krebs, raked in $1,473,134 in salary, bonus and other compensation from Burlington Northern Santa Fe. If you add in the $3,246,585 in stock option grants awarded to Krebs, that's a total of $4,719,719. Plus Krebs has $17,061,900 in unexercised stock options from previous years. I'm sure you will all have sympathy for Richard K. Davidsonwho only raked in $938,095 in salary, bonus and other compensation from Union Pacific. Adding $1,048,422 in stock option grants awarded, that's a total of a paltry $1,986,517 for Davidson in 1998.
It's so tough to be a railroad CEO these days. Imagine Dick Davidson having to live on a mere $1,986,517. Further, imagine his embarrassment at an Association of American Railroads' meeting when he has to look Robert D. Krebs from BNSF in the eye, who was given $4,719,719 for the same period of time and who had $17,061,900 in unexercised stock options. What humiliation!
But gee, when these railroad top executives and CEOs leave, it must be very difficult for them. Consider former Southern Pacific Transportation Company CEO, Edward Moyers: In September 1995 in the UTU News International President Charles Little editorialized in part, "Southern Pacific rewarded Edward Moyers, former CEO who left in February, with more than $5.87 million, including a $3.6 million in a stock bonus."
When your friends and relatives have retired or left their railroad employment, many of them after twenty or thirty years of service, what type of bonus or stock options was given to them?
But What Can I Do, I'm Not A Railroad CEO? I Work With A Blue Collar and Carry a Lunch Bucket
Surprisingly enough, a lot! Get registered. If you think you will be out of town on Election Day, get an Absentee ballot and mail it in. Make sure everyone in your household is registered. Make sure your friends are registered. Make sure everyone votes. Make sure everyone votes for candidates who support rail labor issues.
Again, quoting from the BMWE JOURNAL: "In 1998, 67,245 Oregon union members weren't registered to vote—and with 3,250 votes, working families could have regained control of the state house."
If working people do not stand up to be counted at the polls; if working people take the attitude, "It's too much trouble for me to get registered or to vote;" if working people take the attitude, "Why should I spend my time making sure my family and friends are registered to vote;" if working people get sucked in by the yellow press 30-second hot button Republican sound bites; then the Air Traffic Controller Association obliteration, the PEB 219 disaster and other slams at working people under the 12 years of Reagan/Bush will seem like walks in the park.
November 2 — Failure of Congress to Conclude Work
"The Republican-led Congress has failed at the job America's working families sent them to Washington to do — improving the education of our children, helping families with their health costs, strengthening Social Security, bolstering workplace safety, and advancing fairness and rights for Americans," said AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney in a News Release issued as Congress adjourned for the elections.
"With only a few days left before the national elections, Republican leaders have given up all but a facade of working on the nation's agenda — and sent members of Congress home to campaign for their own jobs.
"Despite the support of bipartisan majorities in Congress for an agenda including landmark education advances — reducing class sizes and modernizing crumbling schools — a real patients' bill of rights, improved workplace safety and targeted tax cuts for working families, Republican leaders blocked such sorely needed reforms at the insistence of their corporate special interest backers. They proposed instead to squander our national wealth on a tax cut for the wealthy [including the railroads who will reap $200 million a year because of the fuel tax repeal].
"Now those Congressional leaders are headed home, ignoring the long list of unfinished business. Shame on them and shame on us if this reckless disregard of public trust goes unanswered."
November 7 — Election Day
As this is being written in order to meet the BMWE JOURNAL deadline, the final outcome of the presidential election remains unknown. The AFL-CIO has received numerous reports from union members of voter intimidation as well as confusion and errors in recording their choice for president and AFL-CIO staff was sent to Florida to coordinate a voting rights effort among union members. "In the next hours and days, we will do everything we can to make sure that election is not taken away from American voters," John Sweeney said in a November 9 memorandum to all Executive Council Members and affiliate leadership, including BMWE President Mac A. Fleming. For a BMWE perspective on these unique circumstances, please see the President's Perspective.
"In the ‘Cliffhanger' presidential election, massive mobilization and high turnout by union members made the difference in key states," said the AFL-CIO in a News Release issued on November 8.
"While the outcome of yesterday's presidential election remains uncertain, and Al Gore appears to have prevailed in the popular vote by less than a percentage point, America's union members were decisive at the polls — voting overwhelmingly in favor of the Gore-Lieberman ticket by a margin of 63 percent to 32 percent.
"Union households made up a record high 26 percent of voters yesterday, up from 23 percent in 1996 and 1998, according to a national survey of union members conducted by the independent polling firm Peter Hart Research Associates.
"The high turnout and overwhelming support for Al Gore by union members played a pivotal role in many states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington. Around the country, union members also mobilized in record numbers around key elections, winning the state senate in Colorado, defeating two "paycheck deception" ballot initiatives that attacked the voice of working families in Oregon and defeating voucher initiatives in California and Michigan.
"‘We stood up and turned out for an America that's about real people, not about special corporate interests,' said John J. Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, whose affiliated unions represent more than 13 million working men and women and 40 million members of union households.
"‘Al Gore is on the right side of the issues that matter most to working families — our children's future, a financially secure old age, health care for the sick, and a free and fair voice at work,' he added. ‘That's why union families mobilized at an unprecedented level to bring him into office.'
"According to the poll, 62 percent of union members say that they made their decision on issues — not on personality or other factors. Issues cited as most important to union members were the economy, Social Security and health care.
"‘Clearly, if Al Gore does not prevail and we face a Bush win in the electoral college, it will be a tremendous disappointment to working people,' said Sweeney. ‘With a Bush administration, working men and women will have to fight a tough battle to maintain the advancements we've already won over the years. We've reunited our ranks and re-sparked the soul of our movement,' he added. ‘We've built a solidarity and culture of mobilization that will last.
"In this election cycle, the union movement launched its largest grassroots mobilization effort ever — the Labor 2000 program — which activated the nation's union members in political activities to influence crucial working family issues such as Social Security, health care and education.
"Union members added 2.3 million people in union households to the voter rolls — up from half a million added in 1998. More than 1,000 Labor 2000 coordinators (compared with 400 in 1998) trained and organized hundreds of thousands of union volunteers to help educate union members about the candidates and get out the vote, with an additional 500 coordinators joining the effort in the final few weeks. All told, Labor 2000 activists made 8 million personal phone calls (up from 5.5 million in 1998) and sent out 12 million pieces of mail — not including the phone-banking and mailings conducted by individual union affiliates and state labor federations.
"‘No other group in America has built a long-lasting structure that can turn out hundreds of thousands of activists in every township in the U.S.," said Sweeney. ‘It's clear that many everyday working people are disengaged from politics and civic life, and no other group is doing as much as we are to turn that around. Union members from all walks of life — janitors and engineers, doctors and nurses, telephone operators and teachers, steelworkers and construction workers — joined together as never before to help make working families' voices heard in the political arena.'
"One of those union members was Mary Jule Kapacs, a Steelworkers union member from Scranton, Penn., who was active in turning out the vote in her district. ‘If working families aren't involved in political activities, the only voices that will be heard in Congress and the White House are those of HMOs, insurance companies, and other corporate interests,' she said. ‘It's up to people like me to make sure that children have health insurance, schools are rebuilt, seniors have security, and workers' rights are honored in America.'
"In addition to phone-banking and reaching out to co-workers at home and on the job, many union members mobilized in cyberspace — sending out 60,000 e-vote cards to their friends and family, urging them to vote — and downloaded 3.5 million leaflets from the AFL-CIO's website to distribute in work sites and neighborhoods.
"And more than 900 union members — up from roughly 600 in 1998 — ran for office themselves this year, with help from Labor 2000 and the National Labor Political Training Center [including the BMWE's Tim Even and Gary Hart, see box]. Today, more than 2,000 union members around the country hold or ran for elected office at the state and local level.
"During the course of the campaign, America's unions used a variety of innovative strategies to reach out to working families and draw attention to the issues that concern them the most. A ‘Texas Truth Squad' tour by union members from Texas traveled the country to describe the impact Governor George W. Bush's policies had on working families. The AFL-CIO's ‘Working Women Vote' program engaged more than 3 million working women in forums and roundtable discussions and registered tens of thousands to vote through ‘ironing board brigades' at work sites and in neighborhoods around the country.
"To energize union members during the final weeks, Labor 2000 embarked on a ‘People Powered' bus tour, in which more than 20 union leaders boarded buses that rolled through 25 cities in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Washington, West Virginia and Oregon."
At a press briefing on November 8, Sweeney added that "real campaign finance reform is incredibly important to the survival of American democracy. America's working people and their unions were outspent 15-to-1 in this election cycle — that's up from 11-to-1 in the previous two election cycles. We've got to get corporations out of American politics and give this country back to the working people who built it.
"Yesterday's election will have real impact on real working people in this nation — the fullness of that impact is up to us. The incredibly ambitious mobilization effort during this election cycle gives us a glimpse of how we can do that — through sustained grassroots mobilization and organizing and by continuing to bring people together to rebuild their communities and improve their lives."
Investing In Our Future — the Maintenance of Way Political League
If you ever doubt the impact of political decisions on the lives of railroad workers and their families, here are just four reasons why you should think again ... and why a strong MWPL is so important:
The Railway Labor Act
Think about it. For as little as the cost of a soft drink or two each week, you could be making an important contribution. If 25,000 BMWE members contributed a $1 each week, our political action fund would total $1.3 million each year.
By working together and by contributing to the MWPL we can provide a counter to the political sentiments of wealthy individuals and corporate America — political sentiments that are virtually always at odds with the views of workers. Think about that as you consider your contribution to the MWPL.
The easiest way to participate in the MWPL is to specify an amount to be deducted from your payroll check through your employer's dues checkoff program. Or get a postage-paid authorization form from your state legislative director or local lodge or system officer. Or mail your check or money order payable to the MWPL to the attention of Grand Lodge Secretary- Treasurer, William E. LaRue, Suite 200, 26555 Evergreen Road, Southfield, Michigan 48076.