Today's Fair Shots - April 19th 2017

1-'Buy American' Measure Gets a Second Hearing

2-Huntsville Newspaper Details Capitol Visits by AFSCME Correctional Officers

3-IBEW Local in Austin Schedules a Washer Tournament; Sounds Like Fun

1. Members of the United Steelworkers were at the Capitol again yesterday to promote SB 1289 by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, which would establish "Buy American" preferences for iron and steel used in taxpayer-funded projects.

  The bill received a friendly hearing in the Senate Business and Commerce Committee and, as noted in this space last week, has shown signs of breaking out. Two sessions ago, the Legislature approved "Buy American" language as part of a larger water development bill, but this is the first stand-alone measure that appears to have attracted bipartisan support. The identical companion bill, HB 2780 by Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, has also had a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee. The bills are now awaiting votes in each committee.

  Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, who has been a hero on "Buy American" issues over several legislative sessions, is continuing her advocacy on the topic and examining the bills closely, said Brother Lee Medley, a USW member from Santa Fe, Texas. 

  Also among those advocating for the bill today: Brother David Beard, a USW member from Texarkana, and Richard Rock, a retiree from Corpus Christi. The job-building measure has support from management representatives in the steel industry as well.

  On a related topic, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka yesterday issued this statement on an Executive Order by President Trump on "Buy American":

  We welcome efforts to improve the effectiveness of "Buy America" and "Buy American," both of which commit taxpayer funds to support good jobs and businesses in America. Today's executive order is a good first step toward making Buy America provisions more effective and discouraging excessive waivers, but more needs to be done to pivot the U.S. economy toward steady wage and job growth. 

  Although short on specifics, today's order addresses critically important issues. With respect to immigration, the labor movement consistently has called for reform, rather than expansion, of temporary work visa programs that make U.S. and foreign workers more vulnerable to discrimination, displacement and exploitation. A serious look at the impact of these captive-work programs on rights, wages and working conditions is long overdue. It's crucial that working people's experiences inform efforts to crack down on employer fraud and abuse. 

  The labor movement will continue to push for trade, procurement and immigration reforms that unite and empower communities, while protecting the rights, dignity and livelihoods of all working people. Executive orders alone cannot accomplish the sweeping changes necessary to achieve a fairer, more inclusive economy, so we urge the administration to work with Congress to further improve these programs.

2. The Huntsville Item ran an excellent article by Rachel Rekowski, communications director for the Fair Shot Texas Coalition, regarding visits by Correctional Officers to the Legislature to advocate for their livelihoods and those of other working people in Texas.

  From the article:

  Three Huntsville residents traveled to Austin last week to spend the day talking with lawmakers about issues important to them as correctional employees. 

  Dannie Silcox, Cheri Siegelin, and Yolanda Scott work at Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison units in the Huntsville area and are American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees members.They spoke with their representative, Ernest Bailes, and several other legislators who represent districts that contain state prisons. 

  "We came to Austin today because it's important for legislators to hear from those of us who are in the trenches, doing this work every day to keep Texas safe," said Silcox, who has been correctional officer for three years.

  Silcox's motivation to become a correction officer came from her family. She's seen both sides of the system with family members who are offenders and family members who are correctional officers. 

  "I respected those in my family who chose to become correctional officers, and I wanted to become someone they could be proud of," she said.

  At the Goree Unit in Huntsville, Silcox was mentored by Siegelin, who's been a correctional officer for 15 years. Siegelin is a CO V, which is the highest classification. 

  "As a correctional officer, I walk into situations that most people would walk away from. I don't expect to be celebrated every day for the work I do, but I want to be respected," Siegelin said.

  One issue particularly important to Siegelin is creating a CO VI position. 

  "It's important to create incentives for correctional officers who have the most experience, and creating a higher classification will give them something to work toward. Retaining quality officers should be a top priority," Siegelin said.

  Scott, an administrative assistant for TDCJ in Huntsville, is passionate about her work because she cares deeply about her community. When she's not at work or taking care of her husband and four children, she can be found tutoring students or volunteering to feed hungry families. 

"We try take care of each other at our unit, but the state needs to invest more money in our staff and the facilities. Too many of my coworkers struggle to get by," Scott said.

  Silcox, Siegelin and Scott spoke with legislators about many issues, including creating a CO VI position, closing unnecessary private prisons and investing more in public units, promoting safe staff levels by reducing turnover and filling more positions, increasing safety by providing better training, investing in equipment and facility repair, keeping employee retirements secure and making healthcare affordable.

  Read more:

3. The RENEW program of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Reach out and Engage Next-Generation Electrical Workers) is sponsoring a "Washer Tournament" to benefit the Central Texas Food Bank.

  Don't know what a "Washer Tournament" is? See:

  VIA IBEW 520:

  Washer Tournament Benefiting The Central Texas Food Bank

  Where? Local Union 520 Hall - 4818 E. Ben White Blvd., Austin TX 78741

  When? Saturday April 22th start @10am (Band @11am)

  Cost? $20 per two man team plus a non-perishable food item. Spectators welcome.

  •   50/50 Tournament

  •   50% of entry fees go to 1 winning team.

  •   The other 50% benefits the Central Texas Food Bank.

  •   Live Band

  •   Sausage Wraps and Hot Dogs

  •   Questions or sign-up:

  Email Kasey Lansangan or Ronnie Hardi