News & Commentary

October 20, 2021

Jason Vazquez

Jason Vazquez is a staff attorney at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 2023. His writing on this blog reflects his personal views and should not be attributed to the IBT.

In the latest on congressional Democrats’ ongoing machinations to maneuver their “big, boldbudget blueprint through the grueling legislative process, President Biden and congressional leaders are reportedly nearing consensus with respect to the contours of the package. In a meeting with nineteen lawmakers on Tuesday, Biden disclosed to members of the House Progressive Caucus that in order to assuage moderate Democrats’ anxieties over the cost of the legislation, his proposal for free community college as well as the existing child tax credit would likely be removed from the final bill. Nevertheless, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), chair of the Progressive Caucus, expressed optimism about “getting to an agreement on a really transformational bill that will fundamentally lift people up.”

As hospitals in New York rapidly consolidate—reflecting an overarching national trend—a small network of private medical systems has increasingly come to dominate the state’s healthcare industry. These conglomerates exploit their market power to raise prices and drive up healthcare costs. In response to such developments, several unions, collectively representing hundreds of thousands of the state’s medical workers, recently orchestrated a coalition to advocate for legislative action redressing the situation. “We’re launching this campaign because the days of our members being held hostage here in New York by predatory hospital pricing is coming to an end,” explained the president of SEIU 32BJ.

As labor unions in Tennessee, invigorated by the nationwide labor shortage, intensify their organizing efforts and adopt more militant tactics, the state’s employer associations and their legislative allies are seeking to enshrine the jurisdiction’s “right-to-work” law into the state constitution. The Tennessee legislature endorsed an amendment in April that would do precisely that, which the state’s voters will be asked to approve in a referendum next November. State lawmakers have asserted that the right-to-work law “has been one of the most important factors that has driven the economic growth of Tennessee,” a contention which discounts the fact that the average income in the state is nearly twenty percent below the national average, which is consistent with the general trend in right-to-work states.

In organizing news, thousands of professors and part-time faculty at the University of Pittsburgh overwhelming voted to unionize with United Steelworkers, the exciting culmination of years of organizing efforts. The union victory may not be the last at the university; as I detailed four weeks ago, Pitt staff—i.e., employees other than faculty or grad students—recently began a unionization drive at all five campuses in the Pitt system.

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