HEALTH AND SAFETY
Almost all workers participate in Social Security by making payroll tax contributions, and almost all elderly Americans receive Social Security benefits. In fact, 97 percent of the elderly (aged 60 to 89) either receive Social Security or will receive it.
Social Security is financed through a dedicated payroll tax, paid by employees and employers alike. Payroll taxes account for 89% of Social Security’s revenue. Policies to temporarily defer and/or permanently repeal the payroll tax will put Social Security in jeopardy. Executive action was taken in August to temporarily defer payroll taxes which funds Social Security and Medicare. If a permanent payroll tax cut were put in place, it could deplete the Social Security Trust fund by mid-2023.
Without Social Security benefits, about 4 in 10 Americans aged 65 and older would have incomes below the poverty line, all else being equal, according to official estimates based on the 2018 Current Population Survey. Social Security benefits lift more than 15 million elderly Americans out of poverty.
Medicare plays a key role in providing health and financial security to 60 million older people. Like Social Security, Medicare is a social safety net program that Americans pay into during their working years through taxes. The program helps to pay for many medical services, including hospitalizations, physician visits, prescription drugs and preventive services.
Medicaid provides health care coverage to 7.2 million seniors. Medicaid is the principal source of long-term care coverage for seniors covering nursing home care and other long-term services and supports, as well as other medical care and supportive services that Medicare doesn’t cover. It also covers premiums, deductibles, and cost-sharing for Medicare beneficiaries.
Another avenue for retirement security is defined benefit plans. Several of these plans were first established by UAW members. Unfortunately, in recent decades many employers have stopped offering defined benefits, consequently workers have had to face uncertainty over whether their benefits could be cut after decades of contributing their hard-earned investments. The House passed the Butch Lewis Act (H.R. 397) to strengthen multi-employer pension plans, which cover millions of union retirees. The UAW endorsed the Butch Lewis Act aimed at helping multi-employer plans that are in danger of going insolvent by establishing a federal loan program to protect the retirement income security of over 1 million workers, retirees and pension beneficiaries across the country. However, the Senate must vote on it before it can be signed into law.
According to a recent survey, one in five adults have nothing saved for retirement or emergencies. The COVID 19 downturn threatens to further undermine American’s vulnerable retirement systems. According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, half of all working adults were not saving enough for retirement even when unemployment was low, now that unemployment is so widespread, that number is closer to 55%.
The UAW represents 80,000 workers in higher education including academic student employees, post-doctoral scholars, and academic researchers at public and private universities across the United States. Recent administration anti-immigrant policies target workers and students who come to the United States to live, study and work, adversely affecting tens of thousands of UAW members in higher education. These members teach hundreds of thousands of students a year, conduct critical research that is a vital driver of U.S. industry and technology, and bring billions of dollars in research funding into their universities and local economies. Our members are also on the front lines of research, pursuing vaccines and therapies for COVID-19.
The screening conducted for the refugee resettlement program is extremely rigorous. For decades, candidates have waited nearly two years for approval of their applications to enter through humanitarian programs. It would be a clear violation of U.S. and international law to deny people safe harbor based on the religion they practice or the country of their birth.
The U.S. immigration system has been broken for a long time. Millions of undocumented workers have been forced into an underground economy, where they are marginalized on the job and in their communities. This has allowed employers to skirt wage-and-hour laws and use the threat of deportation to keep workers from organizing. When employers can cheat certain workers on wages and benefits and intimidate them out of exercising their rights, all workers are injured. By removing the fear of deportation, immigration reform with a path to citizenship will strengthen our bargaining power with employers and bring millions of hard-working people out of the shadows.
All undocumented immigrants pay sales taxes that stimulate our state and local budgets, and many pay federal taxes as well. However, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for most public welfare benefits, so they contribute more to our public budgets than they receive, creating a positive net fiscal impact. Studies consistently show that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than our general population.
The UAW has long called for comprehensive immigration reform to bring workers out of the shadows.
The Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), passed by the House, takes a necessary step toward ensuring that people can live and work without fear and are afforded critical labor protections, in every industry. Senate should pass H.R.6
Pass the HEROS ACT. Support the HEROS Act to provide much needed support to workers in need of workplace protections, those who are unemployed and need assistance with food, rent and making ends meet. HEROS also provides help for states that have been on the front lines of this pandemic and are facing tremendous financial pressures.
Raise the federal minimum wage. The minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation, leaving many full time workers struggling to make ends meet.
Restore fairness to our tax system. Republicans in Congress passed a bogus tax bill with the false promise that it would stimulate investment, job growth and wage growth. What it stimulated was a billion-dollar giveaway to the rich and widening inequality.
Develop a plan for manufacturing. We need policies that help grow and support domestic manufacturing across the country, with good wages, benefits and training.
Support the PRO Act. Workers have lost power in their relationship with employers with the devastating effect of stagnant wages, lost benefits and less secure employment. We need to free workers to organize and regain power.
Invest in American jobs first
Bring manufacturing back to the U.S.
Put labor at the table to negotiate every trade deal
Work to repeal Right-to-Work laws
Check the abuse of corporate power over labor and hold corporate executives personally accountable for violations of labor laws
Encourage and incentivize collective bargaining and workers who form their own union
Ensure that workers are treated with dignity and receive the pay, benefits, and workplace protections they deserve
Workers’ rights have to be part of any trade deal — For trade to work for workers and our communities, workers’ rights must be incorporated into the agreement, with strong, swift enforcement mechanisms.
Coronavirus confirms manufacturing is essential — The continuous shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), respirators, and ventilators during the pandemic drives home the point that manufacturing production, engineering and R&D is essential to America’s national security. Going forward, U.S. trade policy must ensure America maintains and re-establishes core manufacturing industries.
Trade policy is only one tool in America’s industrial policy — Trade policy doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and to realize the best results from any trade agreement or tariff, it is imperative that other parts of our industrial policy, like tax, labor laws, and R&D spending, point in the same direction. This in part explains why recent steel and aluminum tariffs have not stopped the continued shuttering of America’s steel mills.
Trade deficits — Our members who work in the agricultural implement industry have been hit hard by trade decisions in recent years that have contributed to drops in sales. While it may be encouraging to see new and different action taken on our trade policy, the approach has often allowed corporate special interests to game negotiations, and worse still, it hasn’t reduced the U.S. trade deficit with the world. In 2019, the U.S. overall goods and service trade deficit was 14% higher than it was in 2016.
Mexico — The recently renegotiated NAFTA, renamed the USMCA, will not bring back the hundred of thousands of good U.S. manufacturing jobs that have been lost. At best, it will only stem the tide of outsourcing. Throughout negotiations, the UAW and pro-labor House and Senate Democrats fought for real labor reform and enforcement in Mexico. Now that the agreement has gone into force, the real work starts. The U.S. must use the enforcement mechanisms in the USMCA to ensure Mexico implements its labor reforms, breaking up phony unions and their corporate protection contracts, allowing workers’ rights and independent unions to flourish.
China — After years of escalating tariffs, the U.S. and China reached a modest agreement in which China agreed to purchase more U.S. agricultural goods and reform some of its unfair trade practices. Workers’ rights were not even part of the negotiations. China continues to deploy unfair trade practices. To date, China has been not meeting their agricultural purchases, and has done little in terms of reform.
Japan — A “Stage One” agreement with Japan has been implemented that includes U.S. tariff cuts on machine tools, fasteners, steam turbines, bicycles and parts, and musical instruments. The agreement did nothing to crack down on Japan’s unfair trade practices. The UAW remains concerned that such trade policies come at expense of U.S. workers and manufacturing which could ultimately increase the U.S. auto trade deficit and hurt the U.S. domestic auto industry.
OSHA should issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect workers from COVID-19, followed by a permanent standard covering infectious diseases in the workplace.
The Defense Production Act and other policy tools should be used to ensure all workers have access to adequate quantities of high quality, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as appropriate training on how to use it.
OSHA should restore the 2016 rule requiring employers to electronically transmit injury and illness data they already collect to OSHA.
Congress should restore OSHA’s ability to issue citations for record keeping violations based on employer records for the past five-and-a-half years.
Policies put in place that weaken the Toxic Substances Control Act should be reversed. Bans should be issued for deadly chemicals such as asbestos, methylene chloride and trichloroethylene.
The 2017 Amendments to the Risk Management Plan Standard should be restored to protect workers and surrounding communities from deadly releases of toxic chemicals.
Voter suppression efforts by anti-worker politicians at the federal, state and local levels have been emboldened by the 2013 Supreme Court ruling in the Shelby County v. Holder case. The ruling gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required federal oversight of election laws in certain Southern states.
In recent years, our country has witnessed some of the most extreme voter suppression attempts in decades. Twenty-five U.S. states have enacted voting restrictions, including strict photo ID requirements, early voting cutbacks and registration restrictions. Registered voters have been intentionally purged from voter rolls and hundreds of polling stations have been closed, many in predominantly African American communities.
Politicians at all levels of government have repeatedly, and falsely, claimed the 2016 and 2018 elections were marred by millions of people voting illegally. However, extensive research reveals that fraud is very rare, voter impersonation is virtually nonexistent, and many instances of alleged fraud are, in fact, mistakes by voters or administrators. The same is true for mailed ballots, which are secure and essential to holding a safe election amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Anti-union forces have also used similar voter suppression tactics to dampen turnout by union members in elections.
Gerrymandering has already expanded in several states, by manipulating voting districts through redrawing lines that weaken the voting power of certain groups. Gerrymandering in many states is used to further political agendas rather than to ensure fair representation of the citizens they represent.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of expanding voting options including online or vote by mail (no-excuse absentee), providing online and same day voter registration, and additional protections for in-person voting. Voters should not risk their health and safety to exercise their fundamental right to vote in the upcoming election. Long lines, confusion at the polls, voters not getting their ballots on time are just some of the reasons that Congress should direct funding to states to expand safe access to the ballot.
The House passed several UAW-endorsed bills to expand voting rights and reverse the Shelby County v. Holder case. However, these bills have not advanced through the Senate. The bills are:
The For the People Act (H.R. 1) which would make Election Day a holiday, limit efforts to purge voting rolls, expand same day voter registration and promote online voter registration.
The Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) reverses the misguided Shelby v. Holder decision by the Supreme Court in 2013 that gutted voter protections established in the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The UAW supported this bill because it empowers Americans to vote and ensures that everyone has equal access to participate in the voting process, a core value of our democracy.
Preserving the Affordable Care Act is essential. The need for affordable, attainable health insurance for all was emphasized with the COVID-19 crisis as many Americans lost employer-sponsored insurance when laid off.
Fighting back against Big Pharma and high prescription drug costs. We must work to lower the cost of prescription drugs and hold BIG PHARMA accountable for price gouging. Support for the Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3) is crucial.
Protecting Americans with Pre-existing Conditions. We must support H.R. 986, a bill that prevents insurance companies from charging higher premiums or taking away health care coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
Restoring Medicaid enrollment assistance and benefits. Recent cuts to funding for consumer enrollment assistance has fallen more than 80 percent from its 2016 level.
Opposing increasing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. Raising the age and turning the guaranteed benefit program into a voucher system – where seniors would be given a set amount of money to purchase coverage in the private market – would raise the out-of-pocket costs for seniors.
Make testing widely available to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Ensure a strong national public health system. Funding must be made available to hospitals and health care systems broadly to ensure our country is prepared to respond to public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Restore funding to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Funding is essential to preventing further outbreaks and managing disease and global health.
Replenish the National Emergency Medical Stockpile. The stockpile was left unprepared for the coronavirus and efforts to bulk up the stockpile fell victim to partisanship.
Support the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Ensuring access to affordable health care to all citizens is crucial. We must close the gap between insured and uninsured. Access to health care is even more paramount during a pandemic.
Support for the House-passed Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. The HEROES Act would strengthen workplace protections by requiring Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency temporary standard to protect frontline workers from contracting COVID-19. HEROES would also help states, localities, and territories with nearly $1 trillion in aid, protect workers by extending unemployment insurance, and provide full COBRA benefits to workers who have been laid off.
Support greater use of the Defense Production Act (as part of the HEROES Act) to ensure we have the medical supplies and personal protective equipment we need to stop the spread of this pandemic. States would no longer be forced to bid against each other and the federal government to acquire emergency supplies. Implement a comprehensive, coordinated plan to respond to the COVID-19 crisis which starts with large scale testing, ensuring that frontline workers are safe, and increasing production of PPE which has been in short supply throughout the crisis.
Ensure affordable or free coronavirus testing for all.
Ensure that drug companies are not allowed to price gouge COVID-19 drug treatments and vaccinations once developed.
Promoting and enacting policies that promote the creation and retention of manufacturing jobs in the United States. In the U.S., 2 million jobs were lost between 1980 and 2000 and 5.5 million jobs were lost between 2000 and 2017. When manufacturing stays in the U.S., autoworkers aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit. The tens of thousands of UAW members employed in the agricultural implement sector who manufacture combines, tractors, and products needed by our emerging biofuel industry will benefit as well. Even before the pandemic hit, it was clear that policies were needed to reinvest in the U.S. worker and incentive companies to maintain and create good manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
Expanding “Buy American” promotions. Create incentives to use taxpayer monies to support American products and jobs. Include labor and U.S. build and content requirements in all programs that provide subsidies for companies. Taxpayer dollars should be used to promote good jobs in the United States.
Enacting trade and tax policies that also strengthen middle-class manufacturing jobs and hold companies that turn their backs on U.S. workers accountable. The 2017 “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” (TCJA) lets companies pay lower U.S. taxes on profits earned offshore than on products made in the United States.
Preventing the outsourcing of U.S. jobs overseas. It is estimated that about 300,000 jobs are outsourced each year.
Strongly support the Protecting the Right to Organize Act’s (PRO Act). The bill would amend some of the country’s decades-old labor laws to strengthen workers’ right to collectively bargain for better wages, a secure retirement, and health and safety on the job.
Federal judges, many of whom are hostile to labor, are being confirmed at a breakneck speed as long-standing traditions and rules have been brushed aside. In 2019, 320, or 75% of the Senate’s votes were on nominees for federal courts and executive branch changes.
By stacking the federal courts with anti-worker and anti-civil rights judges, our court system and all Americans will be impacted for decades.
Conservative judges on the Supreme Court and lower courts are ruling on cases that impact the lives of working people ranging from health care, voting rights, labor and health and safety in the workplace.
To date, the Senate has confirmed 200 judges (2 Supreme Court, 53 Circuit Courts, 143 District Courts, and U.S. Court of International Trade.) The lack of diversity among recently appointed federal judges is significant. Of the 200 confirmations, 152 (76%) were men, 171 (85.5%) were white, and 131 (65.5%) were white men.
The fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is pending before the Supreme Court. The entire ACA could be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in a lawsuit known as California v. Texas (formerly Texas v. Azar) which would eliminate health care coverage for millions of Americans, raise premiums, end protections for people with pre-existing conditions, put insurance companies back in charge, and force seniors to pay more for prescription drugs.
The Supreme Court hears approximately 2% of the cases it is asked to review each year. This means that the vast majority of cases filed in federal courts are ultimately decided by judges sitting on the district or circuit courts.