|ONLINE VERSION||MARCH 2001|
|From Washington, DC|
|AFL-CIO Calls Upon
Congress For Swift Action to Enact Election and Campaign Finance
Saying the nation must act now to ensure that the wholesale disenfranchisement of voters in Florida and elsewhere will never be repeated, the AFL-CIO Executive Council unanimously adopted a policy resolution the week of January 8 to enact comprehensive election reforms designed to enhance voter participation. The AFL-CIO is already on record strongly in favor of campaign finance reform and also urged speedy action in that area.
The 54-member (including BMWE President Mac A. Fleming) Executive Council, representing 66 unions with over 13 million working men and women, called upon Congress to enact legislation anchored in basic principles fundamental to any democracy — chief among them the idea that the right to vote is a right guaranteed to all, not a privilege reserved for the well- educated, the affluent or the well-connected.
"Never again can we tolerate voter disenfranchisement on the massive scale that occurred in the November 2000 elections," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
"Tens of thousands of voters, disproportionately African American and Latino, were denied their right to vote and to have their vote counted. Such disenfranchisement profoundly threatens the faith of citizens in our democracy and our system of justice and casts a pall over the progress we have made in more than three decades of fighting for voting rights for all Americans," he said.
The Executive Council also vowed to defend working families against efforts by right wing groups, big business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and President George W. Bush to silence their voices in the political process with deceptively named "paycheck protection" measures that could be added to campaign finance reform bills in the U.S. Congress and in some State Houses.
"Union leaders elect their own leaders, vote on their own dues, and determine together how to use the union's resources. ‘Paycheck protection' undermines union democracy and erodes the principle of majority rule, and has no legitimate place in any genuine campaign finance reform proposal," said Sweeney.
Amtrak Fights For Funding
On the last day of the last Congress, despite widespread and vocal bipartisan support, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) refused to allow a $10 billion bond proposal which would provide badly needed capital funding for Amtrak to be attached to a final appropriations bill.
Lott, an Amtrak supporter, apparently was acting largely at the behest of Senator John McCain (R-AZ) chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and a critic of the national passenger railroad, reported Don Phillips of the Washington Post. McCain said he opposed the measure because there had not been hearings.
Under the plan, Amtrak would have the authority to sell bonds in order to raise funds for capital improvements. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) had pushed the proposal as a way for the railroad to develop high-speed rail in key corridors. Lautenberg and two other strong supporters, William Roth (R-DE) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) are not returning to the Senate.
"The money would have been spent to add tracks, close grade crossings and do other work to allow states to launch faster short-distance trains," reported Phillips. "About $3 billion would have gone to begin work on the deteriorating New York-Washington Northeast Corridor, Amtrak's busiest route."
Lott and Senate Democratic leader Thomas Daschle (D-SD) pledged to jointly reintroduce the legislation and McCain has promised to hold hearings and to abide by "the decision collectively of Congress" even if he disagrees with it.
Bush's Schemes Am-Bush Workers
When it comes to pocketbook issues, George W. Bush's proposals are squarely on the side of Big Business and the rich. His $1.8 trillion tax cut scheme would give the wealthiest Americans hefty tax breaks and siphon surplus money that could be used to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. Bush's plans for Social Security and Medicare also mean workers would pay more for medical costs and have a less secure retirement.