PITTSBURGH, Dec 18, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United Steelworkers (USW) issued the following statement in response to the passage of the $1.15 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, otherwise known as the Omnibus, which provides funding for all discretionary spending and keeps the government open until September 30, 2016. This agreement also extends $650 billion in tax breaks to businesses and individuals.
Both the Omnibus and tax extenders package are not ideal but represent some important gains for working families and investment in our economy.
While the majority of Americans prepared for the holidays and time with their families, extremist Republicans threatened to shut down the government over hundreds of policy riders on issues as diverse as union rights, women's health, retirement security and worker safety, to name a few.
The USW commends Leaders Reid and Pelosi for their work to produce a compromise bill largely free of ideological policy riders which would have hurt working families.
The inclusion in the deal of a two-year delay on the excise tax otherwise known as the "Cadillac tax" is an important deferral of a tax which has adversely impacted workers and collective bargaining efforts.
"Our members have deferred pay increases to hold onto their health benefits," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard, "and we are engaged in difficult bargaining with some of our largest employers in part due to the impending 40 percent excise tax."
Other hard-won provisions in the bill provide continued funding for the critical work USW members perform in both the nuclear and defense sectors.
Congress, however, built the legislative package in a manner that includes needless and harmful policy provisions. The demand by Republican negotiators to lift the crude oil export ban will impact USW-represented workers at 63 refineries, negatively affecting refining here in the U.S. while bowing to oil industry demands and increasing costs for consumers.
"Our members want to take U.S. crude, refine it for U.S. consumption, and create value added products for the U.S. market and for export," Gerard said. "Lifting the crude oil export ban undermines our domestic oil security, and will decrease investment in U.S. refining assets. It is a very simple equation; every barrel of crude oil exported will be refined overseas and imported back into the U.S. It's a net job loser for America, and Congress should have demanded a much higher price for trading away America's energy security."
The tax extenders package, which passed the House, provides some protection against increased taxes for struggling American workers and permanently extends the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Care Tax Credit for low income workers and beneficial tax credits for higher education.
USW also applauds the extension of some corporate tax provisions that will ensure continued research and development and investment in production in America. However, this tax deal unfortunately perpetuates the double standard of paying for business tax credits by increasing deficits while demanding up-front payment for tax breaks for domestic spending.
"It's unfortunate that this compromise is the best the current Congress can provide to America's working families," said Gerard.
The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors. For more information: http://www.usw.org/.
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SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)