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The American Federation of Teachers and a number of other labor unions have formed an unusual alliance with some of the nation's largest businesses in an effort aimed, in part, at bringing about some form of national health insurance.

The group, called the National Leadership Coalition for Health Care Reform, held its first meeting March 9. The 21 companies involved include American Telephone & Telegraph Company, the Du Pont Company, and the Marriott Corporation. The nine unions, in addition to the aft, include the Communications Workers of America--for whom health-care costs were an issue in a major strike last year.

Rising health-care costs and the growing pool of Americans--especially children--who have no health insurance have been of increasing concern to several groups in recent years. The new coalition is significant, however, because it is the first attempt by large corporations and labor organizations to jointly formulate a possible solution.

"In the past, such plans have floundered for lack of cooperation between those who stand to benefit the most," said Gregory Humphrey, one of two aft representatives to the coalition.

The issue of rising health-care costsplayed a role in teacher strikes last fall in Sacramento, Calif.; Upper St. Clair, Pa.; East St. Louis, Ill.; and Great Falls, Mont. (See Education Week, Sept. 29, 1989.)

At its first meeting, participants said, the group set three goals for any possible solution to the issue--affordability, access, and quality. It also voted to include possible government solutions, such as national health insurance, in its deliberations on the subject.

Absent from the group is the National Education Association, which, like the aft, has long advocated national health insurance. A spokesman for the nea said the union had not been invited to join.

A coalition spokesman has been reported as saying that the group's membership is still growing.

Labor Dept. Charges Burger King With Child-Labor-Law Violations

In the first initiative of a federal crackdown on alleged child-labor-law violators, the U.S. Labor Department has filed suit against the Burger King Corporation over what is says are repeated violations at almost every one of the nearly 800 restaurants owned by the company.

The suit, filed this month in federal district court in Miami, alleges that Burger King has employed minors under the age of 16 for more hours than permitted, during hours not permitted, and in occupations not permitted under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The suit does not name the nearly 4,600 Burger King franchises.

"This action serves as a notice to employers that we will not hesitate to use available legal processes, in addition to investigative efforts, to protect America's children," Secretary of Labor Elizabeth H. Dole said in a statement.

By law, 14- and 15-year-olds may work only three hours a day when school is in session and a maximum of 18 hours during a five-day school week. They are also allowed to work only between 7 A.M. and 7 P.M.

In addition, the law forbids such workers to operate such hazardous equipment as food-cutting and broiling machines.

A spokesman for Buger King said last week the company had not yet received a copy of the suit. "But whatever the allegations are, if they have not already been fixed, they will be," the spokesman said.

The majority of the alleged violations were at company-owned facilities in Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and North Carolina. Corporate officials were not available for comment last week.

The suit seeks to enjoin Burger King from violating all child-labor laws and asks that the company be required to pay all legal costs associated with the suit. Civil fines for such violations are assessed through separate proceedings. Such fines can be as high as $1,000 for each violation.

Vol. 09, Issue 26

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