DGA finalizes legislative issues

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers supports a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration laws. We believe the solution should be founded on a few key components: a humane and practical system to adjust the status of unauthorized immigrants and offer them an accessible path to citizenship; a rational approach to border security and effective internal tracking systems; a fair and efficient worker authorization system; the improvement, but not expansion of temporary foreign worker programs; and a data driven process which relies on sound economic indicators in determining genuine labor shortages.

In the construction industry we know all too well how undocumented workers have been used to undermine labor standards. It is common industry practice for unscrupulous contractors to purposely seek out an unauthorized workforce because they know they can pay them less, protect them less, and respect them less. For too long we have tolerated a system which strips workers of rights and turns a blind eye to employers who financially benefit from hiring an exploitable workforce. We must provide these workers legal status and an accessible path towards citizenship.

In order for any immigration system to have integrity, it must provide for a rational approach to border security and internal tracking processes. Border control alone is not likely to be sufficient it must be complimented with a much more effective internal visa tracking system. Since most unauthorized immigrants enter the country to work, an effective workforce authorization process is essential. Once we regularize the status of the currently undocumented, we must not allow lax enforcement of law-breaking employers to return us to the current unacceptable and inhumane situation.

The expansion or creation of new temporary foreign worker programs is not a solution. We must re-examine this exploitive workforce model. Temporary foreign workers in the U.S. today often face harsh abuses. Creating an even greater pool of these workers who possess limited labor rights will only play into the hands of unlawful employers seeking to drive down wages and standards and not recruit available U.S. workers.

Status: S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” was introduced April 17, 2013. No House bill has been introduced at this time.

Boilermakers’ Message to Representatives: We need a new immigration system that is founded on the economic reality facing our country. We are currently recovering from a recession that has taken a toll on the American worker. Today, we have 7.6 percent unemployment nationally, and in the construction industry our workforce is experiencing a 14.7 percent unemployment rate, near double the national rate. We have a job shortage, not a worker shortage. While unemployment rates do not tell the full story of what is happening in our local labor markets they do offer an important base line. In looking to the future flow of workers through a newly crafted immigration system it is critical that data and economics play a significant role in how we make decisions on how many skilled workers we invite to enter and labor in our country.

Energy Policy and Climate Change

We can create good American jobs by investing in a clean energy future. Our nation can grow high-quality jobs that put Americans to work, reduce our dependence on imported energy, and protect the environment from the risks of climate change. We support an “all of the above” energy policy, but it must include advanced coal technologies as part of our nation’s emerging policy framework. We also need to make sure that regulations established to address climate change and other environmental concerns do not have the unintended consequence of prohibiting the construction of new, state-of-the-art coal generating capacity or contribute to job losses across a broad range of construction, manufacturing and transportation sectors.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology will ensure responsible use of our nation’s fossil energy resources. The deployment of CCS will create millions of good paying jobs for Boilermakers and other union craftsman, while ensuring a future for affordable, reliable energy from coal. Coal-fired power generation remains among the most labor intensive energy technologies, supporting good jobs in construction, mining, transportation, and other sectors. With the EPA having recently proposed regulations on greenhouse gas emissions for newly constructed coal and gas power plants, the investment in this technology is imperative. For example, under the auspices of DOE’s Carbon Capture Program, researchers at The Ohio State University (OSU) have successfully completed more than 200 hours of continuous operation of their patented Coal-Direct Chemical Looping (CDCL) technology - a one-step process to produce both electric power and high-purity carbon dioxide (CO2). Since CO2 separation occurs simultaneously with coal conversion in this process, chemical looping offers a low-cost scheme for carbon capture. The process can produce power, synthesis gas, or hydrogen in addition to high-purity CO2.

A strong national energy policy that encourages the development of new technology is essential to our energy security and economic development goals. We support and applaud President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy. The United States must establish policy mechanisms that will facilitate new financing for clean energy technologies and bring them to market. Both regulatory certainty and financing assistance are essential to bringing private investment off the sidelines, and ensure energy developers have the financing and credit they need to invest in new energy infrastructure.

One example where Congress can avoid certain unintended consequences is in the management of coal combustion residuals (CCRs). By providing legislative and regulatory certainty thru establishing new federal standards for the management of CCRs, Congress can avoid job losses across a broad range of industries, including the potential of further coal plant closures, and avoid the necessity of EPA regulating CCRs under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). We could experience the net loss of an estimated 183,900 to 316,000 jobs under EPA’s proposed hazardous waste regulatory program for CCRs (subtitle C), and an estimated 39,000 to 64,700 jobs under EPA’s proposed non-hazardous (solid) waste regulatory program (subtitle D). Recycling of CCRs is a valuable resource, and nearly half are recycled. The uses include the making of a superior grade of cement and in other building materials and the reclamation of abandoned coal mines.

Boilermakers’ Message to Senators and Representatives: Support legislative proposals that would encourage the development and deployment of advanced coal technologies and other common sense energy policies that will enhance our energy security and create new employment opportunities for American workers.

We strongly support:

  • Creation of a federal framework that facilitates carbon capture, transportation, and storage. We support the establishment of a national indemnity program for the first “early mover”, commercial-scale carbon capture and sequestration projects to ensure this technology comes to market.
  • The Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act of 2013, currently in draft form in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and urge the House and Senate to move this legislation to ensure the safe management of CCRs without detrimental impacts on the nation’s economy, jobs and environment.

American Shipbuilding

The Jones Act — The Jones Act is essential to American economic, national, and security interests. Every job created in an American shipyard results in four additional jobs in other parts of the economy. In addition, the U.S. Navy has made it clear: Repeal of the Jones Act would harm our nation’s ability to meet strategic sealift requirements and military shipbuilding needs. Despite continued strong calls from American shipping companies to modify or repeal the Jones Act because it increases their operating costs and decreases their profitability, a GAO Report issued March 14, 2013 examining (1) maritime transportation to and from Puerto Rico and how the Jones Act affects that trade and, (2) possible effects of modifying the application of the Jones Act in Puerto Rico, found that it could not substantiate those claims due to the multitude of factors that may influence freight rates and product prices. In addition, GAO reiterated that the original goal of the Act remains important to military preparedness and to the shipbuilding and maritime industries.

U.S. Maritime Administrations (MARAD) Small Shipyards Grant Program — On April 8, 2013 the Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration announced $9.8 million in grants available to 10 small shipyards, with the expected grant amount to average 1 million dollars per grant. It is expected that the grants will be awarded by July 24, 2013.

The Title XI Maritime Guaranteed Loan Program — This program provides small and medium sized ship owners with affordable finance rates at reasonable terms to allow ship owners to replace and expand their fleet. Commercial shipbuilding creates and sustains good jobs in U.S. shipyards, strengthens the defense industrial base, and provides modern sealift capability for national security. The President’s FY14 budget request for 2.6 million dollars is to fund salaries and administration expenses.

The United States Navy and Coast Guard FY14 Budget — The Navy’s FY14 budget includes $15 billion for shipbuilding and conversion, which would maintain the construction of vessels from FY12. Due to sequestration, the Navy is still trying to determine how many overhauls, conversions, and repairs of existing vessels will be performed in FY14. This uncertainty spells the potential layoffs of several thousand Boilermakers.

The U.S. Coast Guard has proposed a FY14 budget cut that funds the service at a level below FY12.The Coast Guard is proposing a FY14 budget of about $9.8 billion — compared to a FY13 budget that with the continuing resolution effects totaled about $11 billion, and a FY12 budget of about $10.7 billion. The budget provides about $743 million for surface assets, including funding of the seventh National Security Cutter (NSC), meant to replace the aging fleet of High Endurance Cutters that were first commissioned in 1967.

Boilermaker Federal Employees — The Boilermakers Union represents Federal Employees in Naval Shipyards and Coast Guard Facilities across the nation. Under a 2010 law, federal pay rates were not increased in 2011, 2012, and again this year. The last general raise, 2 percent, was paid in January 2010. Due to sequestration, on top of receiving no wage increases for three years, they are being furloughed an average of 14 days this year. This amounts to a 20% overall wage reduction.

Boilermakers’ Message to Senators and Representatives:

  • Oppose any effort to repeal or weaken the domestic-build requirements of the Jones Act.
  • Oppose any effort to further reduce the Navy and Coast Guard budgets below current levels.
  • Support an FY14 authorization and appropriation of $60 million for the Title XI Ship Loan Guarantee Program to provide financing for the construction of replacement vessels for the aging Jones Act fleet.
  • Oppose any effort to expand on Federal Employee wage freezes and furloughs.
  • Congress must repeal, not replace, “sequestration.”

Trade and Manufacturing: No More of the Same Bad Deals

Trade policies should promote high-standards, good jobs, and a level playing field for American workers. Trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) have failed to live up to their promises. Unfortunately, the recently passed trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia will only expand trade deficits, undermine our economic recovery, and cost jobs. For too long, U.S. trade policy has reflected the priorities of multi-national corporations, instead of the best interests of American firms and workers. It is time to work for a better trade policy that encourages exports without promoting the off-shoring of existing domestic jobs.

The Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP), currently being negotiated between the U.S. and eleven Pacific Rim nations—Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, presents the Obama administration with an opportunity to reform U.S. trade policy so it helps U.S. businesses export goods, rather than outsource jobs. The president and his team have an opportunity to deliver a new trade model for the 21st century that creates jobs, protects the environment and ensures safe imports. Negotiations must include provisions that will benefit U.S. workers. Unfortunately, for years the global corporate agenda has infused trade policy with its demands for deregulation, privatization, tax breaks and other financial advantages for Big Business, while shrinking the social safety net in the name of “labor flexibility.” Global businesses that are the primary beneficiaries of U.S. trade policy want the Trans-Pacific FTA to look as much like prior FTAs as possible. This agreement is particularly troubling due to the serious lack of transparency over negotiations after 3 years of talks. Shielding not only proposals, but agreed upon texts from public view until after negotiations have concluded and the pact is finalized is not consistent with democratic principles.

Status: The Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement is still being negotiated, with Mexico, Canada and Japan recently joining the original eight partners.

Boilermakers’ Message to Representatives: Congress must reject a renewal of Fast Track Authority and insist that certain issues be addressed before any agreement is signed so that a TPP, a European Union-U.S. Agreement or any other U.S. trade pact actually improves the quality of life for Americans and people throughout the world, including: Prioritization of human and labor rights; Respect for local development goals and the procurement policies that deliver on them – including “Buy American” preferences; No elevation of corporations to equal terms with governments; Safeguards against currency manipulation; and Improved consumer and environmental standards.

We believe a much greater degree of public and congressional oversight is needed if the TPP and other pacts are to achieve these high standards. Before granting the administration any special trade policymaking authority the draft TPP texts need to be made public.