Congress Lets Working People Down


In December, a terrible piece of legislation was passed over the Teamsters’ strident opposition. The Omnibus Appropriations Bill, also known as the CRomnibus, is a disaster.

Congress passed, and President Obama signed, a spending bill that will make life harder for working people and further empower the wealthy.

The CRomnibus bill extends the hours a truck driver may work to 82 a week, lets Wall Street gamble with taxpayer-insured funds, threatens pensions and lets rich people spend more money on political campaigns.

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa called out the political cowardice of the members of Congress who voted for it.

“With the passage of the omnibus spending bill by the Senate, we have witnessed the latest attack by corporate interests on working families. Big business and Wall Street have bought and paid for influence and access that has allowed them to continue to enrich corporations at the expense of the middle class,” Hoffa said.

“Our union has always opposed pension cuts and we are disappointed that the House and Senate have decided to take this action,” Hoffa said. “As the rules for this legislation are being written, we will continue to remain vigilant in fighting to protect pensions.”

“A Disaster”

With this bill, banks will once again be free to make the same risky investments that helped send our country into a recession.

“The individuals that we entrust to protect us and vote in our best interest continue to fail in their duties and break that trust,” Hoffa said. “To them, I offer this word of caution—the same boots that our 1.4 million members put on the ground to help elect them can just as easily help march them out of office. Whether in the Senate or House, our members have a long memory and they will recall how their elected representatives voted [on this issue] when they are casting their votes in the future.”

The Fiscal Times also calls the bill a disaster and lists many ways it harms working people:

“The CRomnibus boosts special interests at the expense of ordinary people in a host of other ways…It cuts a whopping $346 million, about 3 percent, from the IRS, at a time when the agency’s workload will increase with Obamacare. The IRS cuts signal to wealthy earners that they can freely engage in tax avoidance, with little expectation of an audit…Trucking  companies can make roads less safe by giving their employees 82-hour work weeks without sufficient rest breaks. Pell grants for college students will be cut, with the money diverted to private student loan contractors who have actively harmed borrowers.

“I’m not done. The bill eliminates a bipartisan measure to end ‘backdoor’ searches by the NSA of Americans’ private communications. It blocks the EPA from regulating certain water sources for farmers. It adds an exception to allow the U.S. to continue to fund Egypt’s military leadership. In a giveaway to potato growers, it reduces nutrition standards in school lunches and the Women, Infant and Children food aid program.”

Hours of Service

One of the most shameful aspects of the CRomnibus was that Congress rolled back hours-of-service rules. Now companies can force drivers to work long hours with insufficient rest.

The bill changes the hours-of-service rule to let truck drivers work 82 hours a week instead of the current 70.

“Just about everything that could go wrong with this bill went wrong, especially that so many of our elected officials saw fit to endorse it,” Hoffa said. “This bill endangers lives by rolling back hours of service. It takes apart important financial reforms and lets the big banks gamble with taxpayer money again. It also raises the amount of money the wealthy can give to political candidates by a factor of 10.

“But perhaps the most disappointing thing about this bill was how many supposed friends of working people or the middle class voted for this bill,” Hoffa said. “The Teamsters Union and our members are paying attention.”

There were members of Congress that made principled stands against this terrible legislation, though. Just not nearly enough.

“It will not have my support,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “This is a moral hazard. We’re being asked to vote for a moral hazard.”