A United Steelworkers local union member from Texas was named one of the top volunteers in the nation for leading a project to provide scholarships for survivors of domestic violence to study for family-sustaining employment at union-represented oil refineries.
Priscilla Puente, an oil refinery worker and member of USW Local 227 in Pasadena, Texas, on Thursday night won the Jefferson Awards Foundation’s Outstanding Public Service by an Employee honor. The award was announced at the national ceremony in Washington, D.C. Puente leads her local union’s efforts to raise money for scholarships that help woman at The Bridge Over Troubled Water shelter. The Jefferson Award is considered America’s gold seal of public service.
“The work of Priscilla Puente and her USW sisters and brothers is life-changing, and we’re so proud that she has received this well-deserved national honor,” said Leo W. Gerard, USW International President. “Priscilla understands that family-supporting employment means economic freedom, and that freedom helps victims of domestic abuse become survivors.” Puente, a member of the union’s Women of Steel and Next Generation activist programs, was among 14 members and retirees honored as 2016 winners of Jefferson Awards as part of the USW Cares program, which encourages and highlights the community service work of our union. She was selected as the USW’s overall Jefferson Awards Foundation Champion volunteer for 2016 and represented the union at the national ceremony, where she was selected out of volunteers from around the nation for the top award. “I hope this honor helps shine a light on the important work of Bridge Over Troubled Water, whose mission is really the same as our mission as a union,”
Puente said. “They want to break the cycle of domestic violence, and we’re actually helping do that by helping people help themselves. We’ve shown that if you give someone in need a family-sustaining job, you change their life.”
“Words cannot express how proud we are of Priscilla for winning such a prestigious national honor,” said Ruben Garza, director of USW District 13, which covers Texas. “She represents what it means to be a Steelworker: someone who works hard not just on the job but in our communities. Steelworkers really do have big hearts and we hope this award helps inspire more people to help those in need.”
The USW is in its first year as a Champion with the Jefferson Awards Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to building a culture of service through a variety of programs and awards.
About the Jefferson Awards Foundation: The Jefferson Awards Foundation is committed to tapping into the incredible capacity and spirit of Americans. Its Youth programs, Students In Action, LEAD360, and GlobeChangers, support, train and empower youth to be leaders and changemakers. Its vast network of Media Partners honors local unsung heroes who are the best of their communities. Its Champions and National Partners are engaging, activating and celebrating their millions of constituents and employees. All together, working to build a culture of service in the country. For more information: www.jeffersonawards.org, @JeffersonAwards.
The International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO is the largest union of maritime workers in North America, representing upwards of 65,000 longshoremen on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Great Lakes, major U.S. rivers, Puerto Rico and Eastern Canada.
In its 125-year existence, it has had a turbulent history.
One of the first incarnations of the modern longshoremen’s union, the Longshoremen’s Union Protective Association (LUPA), was formed to combat the exploitation of the workforce along the U.S. coastal regions in 1864.
Another version of the union was formed along the Great Lakes region, as the Association of Lumber Handlers, which would later become the ILA.
In 1914, the New York-based LUPA would be absorbed into the ILA. Dramatic events throughout the ILA’s history have led to a now modern union that is focused on preserving jobs and protecting wages.
Social Security has a Union Label. The 1935 passage of the original Social Security act was preceded by long-term labor movement activism. Every subsequent improvement and extension of social security protection was moved forward by labor movement action. Protections for disabled workers, Medicare and Medicaid, all part of the Social Security program, were the result of pressure from the labor movement and its allies in government and beyond.
The important role of Labor in social progress was acclaimed by President Obama, who said: “It was the labor movement that helped secure so much of what we take for granted today. The 40-hour week, the minimum wage, family leave, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, retirement plans. The cornerstones of the middle-class security all bear the union label.” But progressive achievements are not invulnerable to attack.
In 2016, Social Security is under attack again. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has sought large reductions in Social Security programs throughout his career in Congress. The upcoming election could threaten these programs if Ryan and his allies win big and maintain Congressional majorities.
Donald Trump, the likely GOP presidential candidate, called Social Security a Ponzi scheme in 2000 and has since indicated that for political reasons he cannot criticize it. His plan for supporting Social Security relies on projected corporate tax cuts to spark the economy, trickle-down economics in other words. His fiscal policy would actually result in a huge budget deficit requiring cuts in all federal programs.
Hillary Clinton, the AFL-CIO endorsed candidate for the presidency, has pledged to protect and improve benefits under the Social Security program. Democrats have countered Republican criticism of Social Security’s solvency with proposals like raising its revenue by raising the income cap on contributions.
Unfortunately, the assault on the middle class and workers’ rights has many sides. The extension of right-to-work laws remains a Republican goal. Trump, told South Carolina Radio Network, “I love the right to work.”
With all of this in mind, union voters should remember all of the ways in which our country has been improved by the labor movement’s progressive agenda, social progress proudly displaying the Union Label.
J David Cox, Sr
By J. David Cox, Sr., AFGE National President
You can have fast lines or good security, but you can’t have both. At least not with the skeleton crew with which the Transportation Security Administration is currently operating.
Airports all across the country are reporting massive lines, with hours-long waits for passengers becoming the norm. It’s unpleasant, but also entirely avoidable.
Transportation Security Officers have asked for more staffing resources for years, but our call has fallen on deaf ears in an austerity-obsessed Congress. After years of neglect, it’s no wonder the situation has gotten as dire as it is today. And if something isn’t done soon, the waits will only get longer and longer.
The TSA Officer workforce has declined by more than 5,000 since passenger volume began to increase steadily in 2011. In fact, since 2013, air travelers have grown 15 percent while the number of Transportation Security Officers has dropped 10 percent. What was once a workforce of 47,000 screening 740 million passengers a year, has now dwindled to around 42,000 officers screening a record 800 million passengers. So long as Congress sits on its hands, that gap is only expected to widen.
The good news is that this is not a complicated problem. It’s common sense that more airline passengers require more screeners to process them safely and quickly. The bad news is that Congress funded just a few hundred new screeners in its most recent budget, which won’t even make a dent as the summer travel season heats up.
That’s why we’re calling on Congress to end the waits once and for all by hiring a minimum of 6,000 new screeners to staff security checkpoints. This will bring staffing back up to 2011 levels and restore sanity and security to screening lines across the country. With thousands of passengers missing flights due to long waits, Congress would be wise to move quickly.
But the problem goes beyond just underfunding. For a year now, Congress has been raiding funds from TSA ticket fees that are supposed to offset the cost of passenger screening. In 2014, Congress decided to divert billions in fee revenues away from security toward what they called “paying down the deficit.” This change has led to $12.6 billion in ticket fees being diverted away from security screening over the next ten years – all at a time when TSA needs those resources the most.
TSA officers show up to work every day and do their job to keep the flying public safe. Last year, they discovered a record 2,653 firearms at security checkpoints across the country, on top of countless other weapons and dangerous items. The haul was a 20 percent increase from 2014, despite the lower staffing levels. There hasn’t been another 9/11 thanks to their often thankless work. They’ve been doing more with less for years, and the long lines are proof positive that we can’t wait any longer to act.
Robbing ticket fees and shortchanging security budgets is not leadership – it’s an unacceptable security risk. It’s time for Congress to do their job and take immediate action to end the waits by staffing the TSA.
J. David Cox Sr. is national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents more than 670,000 federal and D.C. government employees nationwide.