by Neal Tepel
Thousands of union members from across Long Island attended the annual Congressional Night on Monday April 12, 2010. US House of Representative members Carolyn McCarthy, Gary Ackerman, Steve Israel and Tim Bishop addressed key issues of interested to working families. New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand participated by speaker phone. Rep. Peter King did not attend. The federation represents 250 unionized working men and woman on Long Island with John R. Durso as President.
Congressman Gary Ackerman mentioned that all Americans should have access to affordable and quality health-care coverage and drastically needed health-insurance reform was finally passed by Congress. He said that far too many people have inadequate coverage, including over 70,000 of his constituents who are completely uninsured. The legislation passed eliminated coverage denials because of pre-existing conditions. Coverage will no longer be dropped when individuals become sick and eliminated annual and lifetime caps on medical care.
The bill passed by Congress finally brings the type of health insurance reform that Americans need and deserve said Rep. Ackerman. Congressman Steve Israel spoke about the importance of delivering mail six days including Saturdays. He said that Americans rely on a fully-functional postal system for regular deliveries of Social Security checks, veteran’s benefits payments, and medications. Many small businesses don’t shut down on Saturday and retailers and other small businesses depend on reliable postal service. We should not take the drastic step of depriving Americans of weekend mail delivery, said Rep. Israel.
Congressman Tim Bishop spoke about the importance of extending benefits for unemployment to Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are struggling to find work on the heels of the deepest recession since the Great Depression. Unemployment benefits will be reinstated retroactive to the beginning of April after Senate Republicans stood in the way of the speedy passage of an extension last month. Rep. Bishop said that although the recovery is beginning to take hold, there are still thousands of Americans who want work but cannot find it. By extending unemployment benefits and COBRA coverage, we are giving people the time and help they need to get back on their feet until our job market is fully recovered.
Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy spoke about the importance of the Employee Free Choice Act to working men and woman. The passage of EFCA would have enabled workers to bargain more effectively for wages, benefits, and working conditions. An original cosponsor of the bill Rep. McCarthy said that it would have reformed a broken union election process in which employers frequently intimidate, harass, reassign, or even fire workers who support the formation of a union.