iMail for Monday, November 06, 2006

Special Election Edition

New Governors Will Reshape National Politics

A massive transformation of the nation’s political landscape is in the making,” declared IP Tom Buffenbarger on the eve of the critical midterm elections. “If working families turn out as expected tomorrow, we could see a landslide victory in the thirty-six gubernatorial races.

“Governors directly affect the lives and livelihoods of our members. Their economic development programs can mean more jobs. Their education plans can mean new opportunities for working class kids. And their appointments of public utility commissioners and insurance regulators can mean lower monthly utility bills and insurance premiums,” explained Buffenbarger.

“The IAM spent the last eighteen months educating its members about these issues and the impact governors have on their lives and livelihoods. And I think that effort will pay huge dividends tomorrow. Then, over the next four years, our members will have a chance to work with governors who care about working families. 

“With the stroke of a pen, a labor-friendly governor can expand collective bargaining rights, limit outsourcing of state jobs and provide funding for public works projects,” said Buffenbarger. “Regardless of what happens in the House and Senate, we expect to benefit from the shakeup in governors’ mansions on Election Day.”

Of the 36 governor’s offices up for grabs on November 7, labor-friendly gubernatorial candidates are expected to prevail in key states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan and Colorado.

Machinists on Strike at Raytheon

Local 933 workers at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ voted on Sunday to reject the company’s contract proposal. As a result of the vote, nearly two thousand IAM-represented workers went on strike at one minute after midnight Sunday night. The IAM negotiating committee had recommended rejection of the proposal due to several issues; including the company’s failure to properly address employee medical costs and the company’s insistence that all future workers would be excluded from the current pension plan, despite the fact that the pension plan is heavily over-funded.

A very large and determined group of the workers met at the Tucson Convention Center and voted by over 90 percent to reject the proposal and go on strike. “We tried to get an agreement with Raytheon; but this company insisted on reducing the standard of living for the families of these workers even as they announce tremendous profits from their defense contracts,” said Bobby Martinez, Directing Business Representative for IAM Local 933. “Many of our members haven’t had a raise in six years; the families of this area deserve better; it just isn’t fair. We are disappointed that Raytheon would choose to reap huge profits from the war effort, and then attack their workers.”

Raytheon recently announced a 41 percent increase in earnings per share and is poised to continue this level of earnings as one of the nation’s largest defense contractors.

Turnout Will Make the Difference

Tuesday, November 7 will mark the end of a labor-wide effort to reach out to union families across the U.S. to tap into the groundswell for change after six years of one of the most anti-labor administrations in history. Volunteers from hundreds of lodges have spent hours manning phone banks, handbilling plant gates and visiting union households to make sure working families know the issues and know who is working for them or against them.

“Tomorrow it’s up to union households across America to show up and cast their ballots,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “Our members have done an incredible job educating our members and their families about candidates who are on our side and those who aren’t. On Election Day, don’t leave it to someone else to decide who wins and who loses. Show up, cast your vote and let your voice be heard.”

Close Contests Shape Up For State Houses

Making your way past relentless campaign ads for high-profile House and Senate races, you might not notice another battle shaping up for more than 6,000 state legislative seats in 46 states up for grabs on November 7.

State Legislatures determine many important working family issues such as utility regulation, college tuition and other education funding, insurance regulation and supporting good-paying jobs. And, the party that controls the state legislatures after the 2006 election will have a distinct advantage in the election cycle going into the 2010 census. After the census, all states must redraw their voting districts which determines the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives. The party in power in each state has a big influence on that process. Former GOP House Majority leader used a special redistricting scheme in Texas to erase four Democratic House seats in the last election.

Today, control of state legislatures is almost evenly split. Out of 7,382 state legislative seats in the U.S., Democrats hold 21 more than Republicans, a margin of less than one half of one percent, according to a report in the New York Times. Republicans control both the House and Senate chambers in 20 states, the Democrats in 19. Nebraska has a nonpartisan legislature and the parties split control in the remaining 10 states. Some legislatures are so narrowly divided that in 17 states, a shift in just three state Senate races and a shift of five or fewer seat in 12 state House races would shift party control.

Voters in Six States Poised to Raise Minimum Wage

Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio will have a golden opportunity to do what Congress has failed to do since 1997; raise the minimum wage in their state when they step into the voting booth on November 7.

Ballot initiatives in Ohio and Colorado would lift the minimum wage there to $6.85 per hour, raising the pay rate for 719,000 workers in Ohio and 138,000 workers in Colorado. Similar ballot initiatives in Missouri would raise the minimum hourly pay rate to $6.50 per hour, benefiting nearly 256,000 workers, or 10 percent of the state’s workforce, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The state initiatives are a response to a refusal by GOP leaders in Congress to allow legislation to raise the minimum wage, stuck at $5.15 per hour since 1997. Earlier this year, the U.S. set a record for the longest period of time without a federal minimum wage increase.

District 5 in Accord with North Dakota Tractor Maker

District 5 members in Fargo, North Dakota have reached an agreement with CNH America LLC, effective November 1, 2006. The new five-and-a-half-year contract was ratified by a majority of the 520 members employed at CNH.

“The IAM Bargaining Committee worked hard for its members and are hopeful the agreement will bring mutual success to the Union and the Company,” said District 5 DBR Dennis Walworth.

Members at the Fargo location manufacture four-wheel drive agricultural tractors, construction wheel loaders and backhoes. Fargo is one of CNH’s 39 manufacturing facilities located around the world.