Alarmed as Dems abandon EFCA’s essential principles

There have been several members of Congress who recently shifted their positions from being co-sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) to advocating for a compromise measure. The most recent example, highlighted in The Hill article “Melancon tries to navigate business and labor interests” (July 8), is of Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La).

Rep. Melancon, while remaining a co-sponsor of EFCA, is apparently considering a Senate run, and has jumped on the compromise bandwagon. I find this growing trend alarming.

As principals, educators and school administrators, AFSA members believe there are so many ways that our children, families and communities will benefit from the Employee Free Choice Act becoming law. When families have stability through job security, better wages and benefits, the children come to school better prepared to learn.

AFSA realizes that elected officials are facing tremendous pressure from the corporate community. The campaign to smear EFCA is backed by millions of dollars, in an attempt to mislead the press, the public and lawmakers. I thank Rep. Melancon and all members of Congress who support EFCA, but urge them not to cave in to that pressure. To do so would be to forget the workers in their districts who believe in them, and believe that they will fight for a better life for them.

According to The Hill article, an aide to Melancon said the representative is working on a “bipartisan solution” that would bring labor and business together. Whether or not this becomes a reality, legislators must remain steadfast in supporting the core principles of the Employee Free Choice Act, which include: allowing workers to choose for themselves how to form a union; establishing stronger penalties when companies violate the rights of workers forming unions and negotiating first contracts; and, providing mediation and arbitration when workers and the employer can’t agree on a first contract.  If an employer cannot support these principals than they obviously do not support workers, job protection, retiree benefits, and access to quality and affordable health care coverage.

The Employee Free Choice Act is a key factor in turning around our economy and building a strong middle class. I hope that Congress will do what is right and not compromise on their values.

From Jill Levy, international president, American Federation of School Administrators; member, AFL-CIO Executive Council, Washington

Let’s seize opportunity to change chemical laws

As a toxicologist, I agree with Cal Dooley of the American Chemistry Council that the time has come to update the Toxic Substances Control Act, a 30-year-old law (op-ed, “The chemical-law formula,” July 7). But true reform will require updating the tests used to obtain the information upon which chemical safety decisions are based. These antiquated tests, many of which use animals, were developed in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. They often provide inaccurate information about the effects of chemicals in humans —and that puts public health at risk.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academy of Sciences are among the many respected scientific organizations calling for toxicity testing methods that are human-relevant, faster, cheaper, and use fewer or no animals. In its 2007 report “Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and Strategy,” the NAS outlines an approach to chemical testing that will provide regulators with more information on the chemicals in our environment and a better understanding of chemicals’ potential effects on humans.

Pulling toxicity testing into the 21st century will require effort and support from everyone. Environmentalists, government regulators, chemical companies, animal protection groups, public health advocates, Congress and President Obama’s administration will all need to work together to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity. If we don’t provide the resources to update testing methods now, we will continue to waste time, money and animals, and fail to protect people, well into the future.

From Kristie Sullivan, MPH, scientific and policy adviser, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington

Renewables more than bit players in energy mix

In their op-ed “Doubling renewable energy use,” (July 8), the authors say that “renewable energy still accounts for less than 2 percent of America’s electricity generation.” This statement is not only factually incorrect, but it also continues to perpetuate a myth promoted by many detractors of renewable energy technologies — namely, that renewables are only bit players in the nation’s energy mix.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the mix of non-hydroelectric renewable energy sources (solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal) accounted for 3.95 percent of U.S. electricity generation in March 2009 — the latest month for which data has been compiled. More importantly, these technologies are among the fastest-growing electricity-generating technologies, both in the United States and worldwide. If small and large hydropower resources are included in the calculations, then renewable electricity sources account for about 10 percent of the nation’s electrical production.

From Ken Bossong, executive director, SUN DAY Campaign, Takoma Park, Md.