Gridlocked Congress, elections challenge conference delegates
WHEN THE LEAP conference convenes in Washington, D.C., in late April, delegates will strive to get their message across to a Congress mired in GOP obstructionism. Making this situation even more complex is the fact that 2012 is an election year for the presidency, the U.S. House, and one third of the Senate — as well as numerous state and local positions. Clearly, lawmakers will be distracted by re-election campaigns.
Boilermakers will not be deterred from pursuing our key issues, however. Just the opposite. Now is the time for delegates to remind lawmakers that unions play a vital role in elections — both in terms of campaign funding and get-out-the-vote efforts. Many of those in Congress are there because unions made a decisive difference in their elections. And some will rise or fall in November 2012 based on labor’s involvement.
Unions and their members are not very happy with those candidates who received our backing during past elections but have failed to champion our issues sufficiently, particularly on matters such as unfair trade and Employee Free Choice. It will be important to let lawmakers know what we expect of them in return for our support as well as to thank them for their backing on working-family issues they did support.
The war being waged by the far right against unions gives added urgency to our lobbying efforts as well as our involvement in elections this year. Should antiunion forces gain more political power this year, the consequences would be grave for all workers.
Some of the key issues we will address are discussed below. Other issues along with specific legislative and policy proposals will come into sharper focus in the coming weeks and months.
As always, the Department of Government Affairs welcomes member recommendations as we prepare for the LEAP conference and the start of a new congressional session.
Protecting Employment Opportunities for Construction Division Boilermakers
WITH NO COMPREHENSIVE energy and climate policy emerging from Congress in the near future, we must look to the various rules recently proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency that affect coal-fired power plants. Traditionally, EPA regulations have been a source of significant work for construction Boilermakers. However, some of these new regulations may potentially force the closing of more coal-fired power plants than EPA anticipates.
To help avoid unnecessary or premature plant closings, the Boilermakers support a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senator Manchin (WV) and Senator Coats (IN) that will harmonize the compliance dates for two new rules — CSAPR (Cross-State or Transport Rule) and Utility MACT (maximum achievable control technology) — in order to maximize time for retrofits. And while no legislation currently addresses carbon capture and storage (CCS), we will continue to promote federal investment in advanced coal technologies which hold the potential for significant employment opportunities for Boilermakers.
Promoting our Nation’s Shipbuilding Industrial Base
DESPITE POLICIES ON the books calling for a 313-ship Navy, the U.S. fleet and shipbuilding industrial base continues to decline. Our shipyards are facing challenges and threats unlike any in recent history, especially in the face of potentially devastating defense budget cuts starting in 2013 — cuts which may force the Navy to maintain a fleet of less than 300 ships. Yet, Congress continues to allow the Navy to continue its misguided policy of leasing foreign-built vessels.
In addition, we must deliver a clear message supporting the Jones Act, which reserves our domestic waterborne commerce to vessels owned and crewed by nationals and built domestically.
We will continue our efforts to promote sound policies that support our nation’s shipbuilding industry, both in the defense and commercial areas, and increase employment opportunities for shipbuilding sector Boilermakers.
Preserving the Safety Net
SUCCESSFUL PROGRAMS SUCH as Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance must not be used as bargaining chips for further budget cuts. As in the past, the Boilermakers union will strongly oppose any attempts to “privatize,” even partially, or otherwise undermine these programs.
With so many Americans out of work — and with the wealth gap grotesquely wide — it is imperative that we preserve these program, which are literally a lifeline for many seniors, the poor, and the middle class.