Labor leaders have launched a media blitz denouncing what they term an attack by Congress on working American families, but at least one member of Utah's congressional delegation says the complaints are unfounded.
Ed Mayne, president of the Utah AFL-CIO, ripped a recent bill passed by the House of Representatives now headed for the Senate that he said would weaken worker safety rules, cut college loans and hurt retraining programs for laid-off employees.At the same time, Mayne said Congress in another action has sliced $270 billion from Medicare over the next seven years but has given tax breaks to individuals earning more than $200,000 yearly and to big corporations.
"We think it's important for the citizens of Utah to know how their congress people are voting," Mayne said, pointing to Reps. Enid Waldholtz and Jim Hansen, both Utah Republicans who voted for House Bill 2127 and supported the budget resolution conference agreement.
Utah's AFL-CIO has joined with the national labor group to run a series of TV and radio commercials through Labor Day that support labor's view that Congress is undermining worker safety and hurting children, the elderly and middle Americans.
Mayne said labor officials realize government must be more efficient and less expensive, but budget trimming can be done carefully without hurting people.
"We're going to tell Congress to stop pandering to big business and the rich with this $245 billion tax break and start standing up for America's working families," Mayne said.
Mayne said OSHA enforcement money will be cut by one-third, which will cut in half the number of federal officials investigating sweatshops, child labor law violations and safety rules.
For her part, Waldholtz termed this a "hit-and-run campaign" and said her critics were trying to undermine Republican efforts to balance the budget by reducing com-plex issues to 30-second sound bites.
"Eighty percent of the OSHA violations have been paperwork violations. That doesn't keep anyone from being injured on the job. We did reduce OSHA funds but required them to direct their efforts to preventing workplace injuries in the first place," Waldholtz said.
As for education, she said Pell grants for the neediest students have been increased while work-study and minority programs have the same funding levels as before. Congress also wants to consolidate 100 different dislocated worker programs that are scattered throughout many government agencies, making it confusing and inconvenient for workers to get retraining help, she said.
Waldholtz said Medicare expenditures will rise 6 percent yearly, offering an average of $4,800 per recipient to $6,700 by 2002, but the yearly rate of growth has been slowed to save it from bankruptcy.