Support grows for health care bill

Steelworkers Local 1375 in Warren, Ohio, and International Association of Machinists Local 794 in Albuquerque, N.M., have joined the list of labor organizations calling for the passage of HR 676, the “Medicare for All” act introduced in Congress by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.). Thirty-five labor organizations, including the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the Coalition of Labor Union Women, have called for passage of the bill, a universal single-payer health care plan which supporters say would provide Americans all medically necessary care and remove profiteering from the nation’s health care system.

More information on the bill and copies of sample resolutions of support can be found at www.pnhp.org.

Labor on the air

DALLAS — A new tool of struggle for working people has developed thanks to the tireless efforts of local labor editor, Gene Lantz. He has created a new hourly radio program on local FM station KNON 89.3 called “Worker’s Beat,” a show devoted to the issues and struggles working people face both locally and nationally.

The show often plays host to local labor leaders and activists, and it also takes calls from listeners. Listeners can also enjoy a collection of rare labor tunes throughout the lively hour-long show.

KNON broadcasts “Worker’s Beat” every Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. on the local airwaves and all over the world through the web site www.knon.org.

American-Islamic group supports EFCA

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) formally endorsed the Employee Free Choice Act Feb. 24. The group also agreed to promote its support of this legislation throughout its U.S. chapters and encouraged members to become more involved in workers’ freedom to form unions at the local and state levels.

CAIR is America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, with regional offices nationwide and in Canada.

Union addresses high cost of housing

NEW YORK (PAI) — Faced with New York’s notoriously high housing costs and city residency requirements for municipal workers, Communications Workers Local 1180 is taking the extra step to help its members find a place to live. It plans to build apartments.

With a 2-bedroom apartment in the Big Apple so expensive that you must earn $40,700 to even look at it, the local created the nonprofit New York Workers Family Housing Corp. Its objective is to get city land in Far Rockaway, Queens, and build 1,500 affordable housing units, a senior center, a community garden and recreation facilities. “We’re not just building housing, we’re creating a community,” says Local 1180 President Arthur Cheliotes, who is also president of the new corporation.

Bush targets FMLA

The Bush administration has sided with businesses in considering the overhaul of the regulations carrying out the Family and Medical Leave Act. FMLA allows eligible workers up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during any 12-month period for childbirth, medical leave, or the care of an immediate family member with a serious health condition.

FMLA opponents are pushing to change the definition of “serious health condition” to only include leave lasting more than 10 days; the current definition is any condition that requires leave for at least three days for treatment and recovery. Half of all those who have utilized the FMLA have taken leave for less than 10 days.

The proposed changes also include allowing employees to take no less than half days at a time without pay, which would affect employees requiring frequent short treatments, such as prenatal visits.

The administration claims that the changes will help ease the burden on U.S. manufacturing firms.

The FMLA has allowed more than 50 million Americans to benefit from job-protected leave since it was enacted 12 years ago.

Labor Update is compiled by Roberta Wood (rwood@pww.org). Matt Parker, Carolyn Taylor and PAI contributed items to this week’s column.

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