New Year’s Day is an occasion to offer best wishes for the year ahead. As the Co-Chairs of this Fund, we certainly hope all Laborers and their families, all LIUNA leaders and signatory employers, and all the administrators, staff and consultants of LIUNA’s health and welfare funds enjoy success and prosperity in 2012.

Yet, we know that will not come easily.

Our troubled economy, both at home and around the world, is a fundamental obstacle. Construction contractors and Laborers are particularly affected. Projects are frozen, and government spending has tanked. Many contractors are out of business, and many Laborers endure reduced hours or lay-offs. Even those still working feel the pain of family members and friends who are suffering. And financial stress often leaves emotional turmoil in its wake.

No one knows when this enduring recession will break. Unfortunately, events in Europe and Asia may have as much say as events in North America. Given the gridlock in Washington and state capitals – as well as in Ottawa and Canada’s provinces – political action is unlikely to provide relief anytime soon. Jockeying for victory in the fall elections, politicians are locked in a fierce holding pattern, unwilling or unable to tackle social problems large or small.

Politics intrudes in all our lives – including in the realms of health promotion and workplace safety – when it prevents effective government action. No one expects government to have all the answers, but, rightly, we look for resources and direction as we make our way through hard times.

Absent such support, we must be strong, creative and self-reliant as we face the year ahead. Yet, we are not alone. We have lots of friends and allies who also are rising to the challenge.

In this issue of LIFELINES, we scan the year ahead, looking at some of the key issues, problems, solutions and services that are coming down the pike for Laborers, contractors, LIUNA and our health care benefits providers. Here at the Fund, we have several initiatives planned, and we note that federal agencies and professional associations continue to persevere, often in ways that defy the gridlock. While the Supreme Court plans to decide the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Mental Health Parity Act is making progress and fulfilling its promise. We investigate and share our perspective on these developments.

While 2012 is unlikely to witness the end of this recession, it is bound to open new avenues of advance toward safer work and improved health. With the dedication of our professional staff and the hard work of everyone in the field, we expect great things from the Fund and real progress for us all.

With that expectation firmly in mind, we wish you health and happiness in 2012.