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07-08-09, 08:49 PM #1
Union Leaders to Meet With Obama Next Week to Discuss Healthcare Legislation and a Bill to Make it Easier to Unionize
A dozen union presidents will meet with President Obama in the White House next Monday to discuss health-care legislation as well as a bill that would make it easier to unionize, labor leaders and administration officials said on Tuesday.
Labor leaders said they hoped to talk with the president about the status of health-care legislation and what the nation’s labor unions can do to advance the administration’s efforts to assure passage of such legislation, including the enactment of a public option in which a government-run health insurance entity would compete with private insurers.
Union leaders also said they wanted to reiterate their opposition to enacting a tax on employee-provided health benefits to help finance health-care reform. Such a move that would hurt union members disproportionately because so many receive health benefits from their employers.
One top A.F.L.-C.I.O. official said the labor leaders also wanted to voice their hopes about enacting the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it far easier for workers to unionize.
That bill has been stalled because supporters have had a hard time rounding up 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Several moderate Democrats have voiced opposition to the bill because it would make it easy for workers to unionize without an election, making it easier for workers to win union representation as soon as a majority sign cards saying they want a union. Labor leaders are talking with several senators about various compromises that might help ensure 60 votes.
“We just want to have some give and take about how things are going, but clearly people want to know more about what the White House thinks on various issues,” said the A.F.L.-C.I.O. official, who insisted on anonymity because the meeting has not yet been officially announced.
Union officials said those who will meet with Mr. Obama include John J. Sweeney, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., Andrew L. Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union and Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, as well as the presidents of the steelworkers, communications workers, Teamsters, and food and commercial workers.
Union officials said they also expected to discuss trade, what should be done to revive manufacturing and whether the administration should push for a second stimulus package as the unemployment rate heads toward double digits.
A.F.L.-C.I.O. officials also said that Richard Trumka, the federation secretary-treasurer, who is running to succeed Mr. Sweeney as president plans to name Liz Shuler to be his running mate for secretary-treasurer. Ms. Shuler is executive assistant to the president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Mr. Trumka, the former president of the United Mine Workers, plans to officially announce his candidacy on Thursday. Labor leaders say that Mr. Trumka may run unopposed. Clarification: Ms. Shuler would be the second woman elected to the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s No. 2 post. (The first was Barbara Easterling, who served for three months.)
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