United MEC Government Affairs Committee Update

Date: November 20, 2013
Type: Report


In a bipartisan 64-32 vote, the United States Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) earlier this month.  Every democrat and independent member of the Senate voted yes.  They were joined by ten Republicans:  Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ), Orrin Hatch (UT), Dean Heller (NV), Mark Kirk (IL) John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH) and Pat Toomey (PA). 

The legislation creates federal workplace protections for gay and transgender people by making it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on their sexual or gender identity.  ENDA does not create any "special rights" but is based on the labor principle that workers should be judged on their abilities.  Currently, in many states, employers are permitted to fire workers for no other reason than their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

ENDA now moves to the Republican controlled House of Representatives where its prospects are unclear.  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has expressed opposition to the bill so he may not schedule ENDA for a vote. 


At the request of retired United Flight Attendant Alice Hoagland and The Families of 9/11, the AFA-CWA Political/Legislative Policy Committee has added the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) H.R. 3143/S. 1535 to our legislative agenda.   This bipartisan legislation, introduced in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, ensures that victims of terrorist attacks have the power to hold terrorist financiers accountable. 

The legislation makes modest changes to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FISA) so that foreign sponsors of terrorism cannot invoke "sovereign immunity" in cases arising from a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.  JASTA allows victims of terrorism to pursue civil suits against foreign states and sponsors of terrorism in U.S. federal court. 


The United States is currently negotiating an expansive new free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, also known as "NAFTA on Steroids",  that is the most secretive and least transparent trade negotiations in history.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the biggest and most destructive trade agreement you have never heard of.  

The TPP is more than a "free-trade" agreement.  It is part of the overall corporate and Wall Street agenda to make the world a safe haven for corporate investment and profits by reducing labor costs; undercutting workers' rights; dismantling labor, environmental, health care, food safety and financial laws; and allowing corporations to challenge U.S. laws in special international tribunals rather than our own court system. 

The TPP is being secretly negotiated by 600 corporate advisors who have full access to the draft text of the negotiations but the public, consumer, labor, environmental, human rights and public health group and others have been excluded.   Even members of Congress are restricted as to what they can see about the TPP and how they can see it. 

The Administration is trying to complete the TPP as soon as possible.  The lobbyists, for the giant multi-national corporations negotiating the TPP, are now trying to persuade Congress to pass Fast Track Promotion Authority so they can push the deal through. 


Fast Track, if passed by Congress, bypasses the Constitutional obligation of Congress to oversee and carefully consider trade agreements.  If Fast Track is enacted, Congress must vote on whatever is presented without amendment and with an "up or down" vote.  It denies Congress any opportunity to debate or amend the deal and would allow TPP to be rammed through without evaluation of the impact it will have on consumers, workers and the environment. 

At least 194 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress have publicly raised concerns with President Obama about the TPP trade deal.  Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA) authored a letter signed by 152 Democratic House members to spotlight the serious shortcomings of the TPP negotiating process and to take a stand opposing Fast Track. 


A 29-member congressional budget negotiating committee is working to set spending levels for fiscal year 2014 and to avert another possible government shutdown.  A government spending extension expires on January 15, 2014. 

In the coming weeks we will need to remain engaged and active and continue to call on Congress to pass a responsible budget that invests in the middle class, strengthens our economy and takes a balanced approach to reducing the deficit.  We will need to stand strong against tea partiers in Washington who want to end Medicare as we know it, cut off access to affordable health care and protect tax loopholes for millionaires and multi-national corporations.

The federal budget is a reflection of our priorities as a nation.  Getting a handle on the federal deficit will


  • The State of Hawaii is the 16th State to pass marriage equality legislation.
  • President Obama has nominated Jeh Johnson, former Pentagon general counsel, to head the Department of Homeland Security. 

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