Conn. congressman receives second legislator of year award
WHEN IT COMES to lawmakers who reliably fight for labor causes — especially IBB causes — Joe Courtney’s name frequently appears at the top of the list. The U.S. representative from Connecticut’s 2nd congressional district received his second Abe Breehey Legislator of the Year Award May 17 during the Boilermakers’ annual LEAP conference in Washington, D.C. He received his first award in 2007 during his first term in Congress.
International President Newton B. Jones introduced Courtney and presented him with the award, which is named for the union’s late legislative director who passed away unexpectedly in 2011.
Jones cited Courtney’s 99 percent AFL-CIO lifetime voting record as well as his support of major naval shipbuilding programs that employ Boilermakers, such as Virginia-class nuclear submarines constructed by Local 614 members in Groton, Conn., and Littoral Combat Ships being built by Local 696 members in Marinette, Wis.
“We can always count on Congressman Courtney and his excellent staff to alert us every single year when it’s time to push back on efforts to reduce or eliminate Navy shipbuilding programs that would detrimentally affect Boilermakers,” Jones said.
Courtney, who is co-chair of the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus and Ranking Member of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, said 10 ships will soon “go under contract” as part of “the largest shipbuilding budget since the Reagan era: surface ships, submarines, the Ohio-class [nuclear submarine] replacement program.”
“You’re going to be part, I think, of a very positive success story in terms of job growth [in naval shipbuilding].
— Rep. Joe Courtney
Describing himself as “incredibly bullish” about increased funding for naval shipbuilding, he noted, “This is an opportunity to really grow the unions of the Metal Trades. You’re going to be part, I think, of a very positive success story in terms of job growth. Your members are part of something very special when they go to work every day . . . building these incredible vessels.”
Courtney has also stood with the Boilermakers on issues like raising the minimum wage in 2007 from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour; fighting against Fast Track trade authorization that makes it easier for the president to ram through unfair trade deals; and leading the charge to repeal the so-called Cadillac Tax, a provision of the Affordable Care Act that punishes higher-premium health plans with a 40 percent tax over a certain dollar threshold.
“…The Cadillac Tax was a really bad idea,” Courtney said. “It has been my obsession and mission to get that out of the law. It punishes not just collective bargaining agreements where people have given up wage increases for the benefits of their health plan; it also is based on a totally flawed assumption about how premiums are calculated.”
Last year, largely through Courtney’s efforts, Congress agreed to extend the effective start date of the tax by two years, to 2020.
Courtney urged Boilermakers to continue fighting for a full repeal of the tax, especially during the 2016 election season.
He thanked the Brotherhood for 10 years of partnership, saying, “Your union is very special to me . . . [and is] an incredible ally.”