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Published: December, 2018; Vol 15, Num 6

Message from the Co-Chairmen:

Facing Health and Safety Challenges Head On

At the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA), our focus is always on the safety and well-being of the men and women of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and their families. We often talk about what can be done to reduce risk and keep Laborers safe on construction jobsites. Unfortunately, for those living in California, there was nothing they could do to stop the devastation caused by the recent wildfires. The staggering impact caused by natural disasters, whether it is a wildfire, hurricane or any other event, leaves a lasting impression on those affected and entire communities. At times like these, we want to remind LIUNA members and their families to lean on their fellow union brothers and sisters for support and to reach out to their Local Union to see what services and assistance might be available.

The last several months have included several important issues for LIUNA members. November’s midterm elections gave working people across the U.S. an opportunity to elect candidates who share the values of LIUNA and the entire labor movement. Leading up to the election, LIUNA members worked to help elect members of Congress, state governors and other state representatives who were clear about their desire to protect prevailing wages, strengthen workers’ rights and improve the lives of union members and their families. On election day, LIUNA urged members to use their collective voice to elect candidates committed to supporting the creation of good-paying jobs that also offer safe working conditions and strong benefits. At a time when the political climate in the U.S. seems more divided than ever, LIUNA leaders at District Councils and Local Unions are working with candidates on both sides of the aisle.

Having support in Congress may become especially important later this year when the Senate makes its recommendation about how to address the projected bankruptcy of the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s (PBGC) Multi-employer Insurance Program. The PBGC, which covers 10 million people, projects it will go bankrupt by 2025. The current 2019 budget proposed by the President includes a plan to raise an additional $16 billion for the PBGC by increasing premiums. Similar to the proposed Cadillac Tax, this premium increase would effectively pass along the health care costs of those covered by PBGC to healthy multi-employer plans like LIUNA’s. It’s our view that LIUNA’s health and welfare funds shouldn’t be expected to shore up a failing program, which is why LIUNA strongly opposes any increase to PBGC premium rates.

In more positive news, both chambers of Congress recently voted in favor of America's Water Infrastructure Act, which will create construction jobs by investing billions of dollars into new water infrastructure projects. As we’ve seen since the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan became national news in 2014, cities and towns across the U.S. are in desperate need of new distribution pipes and other updates to their water infrastructure. Without these vital improvements, the risk for exposure to lead and other harmful substances will continue to exist in the drinking water that our communities rely on every day.

Lastly, as the holidays approach, we want to take a moment to remind everyone to celebrate this time with family and friends safely and responsibly. That might include drinking in moderation at a holiday party, spending within your means when it comes to buying holiday gifts or just taking some extra time when traveling in bad weather. Instead of getting caught up in holiday stress, focus on spending quality time with the people you care about. On behalf of the LHSFNA’s Board of Trustees, and the LIUNA District Councils, Local Unions, members and signatory contractors we jointly represent, we hope that you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.