Issues / Legislation » Legislative Weekly Reports

Week Ending November 13, 2015

AFSCME Warns Congressional Staff about Ideological Riders

As Congress works to revise the Fiscal Year 2016 funding bills before temporary funding runs out December 11, AFSCME has been meeting with legislators to urge them to support increased investments in public services provided by states and localities and to push back strongly against the inclusion of ideological policy "riders," which GOP legislators want to attach to the funding bills to overturn labor and other protections.  These riders would be added to the must-pass end of the year funding bill.

On Thursday, AFSCME joined with coalition allies to brief congressional staff on the most troubling riders and to urge members of Congress to reject them.  AFSCME outlined the riders that would block the Department of Labor from ensuring that workplaces are safe, workers are paid fairly and contractors are in compliance with civil rights, labor rights and other legal requirements. AFSCME noted that the rule to provide home care workers with basic federal wage and hour protections could be under further attack. We also warned about harmful provisions that would block the National Labor Relations Board from streamlining union elections and updating a rule that defines joint employer to ensure that all employers actually setting the rules and determining wages and benefits are represented at the bargaining table.

AFSCME and our allies continue to urge Congress to pass a “clean” year-long spending package, without harmful policy riders, to avoid a government shutdown and to increase investments in public services.  

Appeals Court Upholds Ruling Blocking President Obama’s Executive Actions for Immigrants

On November 10, a three judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 vote, upheld a Texas District Court judge’s decision blocking implementation of President Obama’s executive actions of November 20, 2014 that established a Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Permanent Residents (DAPA) program and expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Together, these actions would give five million currently undocumented immigrants temporary legal status, thus freeing them from the threat of deportation and giving them work authorization.  In addition to the benefits for the affected immigrant families, local communities and our economy as a whole would benefit from millions of workers coming out of the shadow economy.  Wages would increase for all workers when employers can no longer depress the wages of undocumented immigrants, this additional income would flow through local economies, and all levels of government would receive more tax revenues.  The U.S. Department of Justice will request that the U.S. Supreme Court accept this case for review during its current session, which would ensure a decision no later than June 2016. Assuming a favorable decision, implementation of DAPA and expanded DACA would proceed before the end of President Obama’s term in office. 

Bipartisan Legislation to Reform Employment Visa Programs Introduced

On November 10, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced The H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act (S. 2266). The legislation would toughen requirements that qualified American workers are given the first opportunity at high-skilled jobs, increase enforcement, strengthen wage requirements and ensure labor protections for both American workers and visa holders. Sens. Durbin and Grassley have introduced similar legislation going back to 2007.  “The H-1B visa program was never meant to replace qualified American workers, but it was instead intended as a means to fill gaps in highly specialized areas of employment that cannot be filled by Americans.  The abuse of the system is real, and media reports are validating what we have argued for years, including the fact that Americans are training their replacements,” Senator Grassley said. Senator Durbin added: “For years, foreign outsourcing companies have used loopholes in the laws to displace qualified American workers and facilitate the outsourcing of American jobs. [This bill] would end these abuses and protect American and foreign workers from exploitation.”

AFSCME District Council 37 in New York City experienced first-hand abuses in the H-1B visa program in the 2000’s, when several hundred information technology (IT) municipal workers across many departments lost their jobs.  In this case it was a two-step process – first the city privatized the work, then the private companies brought in lower-paid, temporary H-1B visa holders.  AFSCME strongly supports the Durbin/Grassley bill while we continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform legislation. 

Retirees Save with New Medicare Law

It was announced that states will save $1.8 billion as a result of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, easing the increase in Medicare Part B monthly premiums for 2016.  States have programs that pay for part or all of Medicare Part B premiums for low-income Medicare beneficiaries.  States would have had to pay $159.30 a month for these individuals but thanks to the law signed by President Obama last week, the Medicare Part B premium for these individuals is now $121.80 a month.  This monthly difference means New York will save $154 million, Pennsylvania will save $82 million, and Ohio and Illinois will save around $50 million, money that should be available for other state or locally administered programs and services. 

Most Medicare beneficiaries will see their Part B premiums remain at $104.90 a month.  But Medicare beneficiaries who are not receiving Social Security were about to see a 52% increase (from $104.90 a month in 2015 to $159.30 or more a month) in 2016.  These beneficiaries will also benefit from this law.  Those who have deferred Social Security or who are not covered by Social Security will now have a $121.80 monthly Part B premium in 2016.  The annual deductible for all Part B beneficiaries will be $166.00 in 2016. A deductible is the amount beneficiaries owe for covered health care services before Medicare begins to pay.  

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