IP Tom Buffenbarger, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) President Jimmy Williams logged 1,900 air miles over a 52-hour period this Labor Day weekend to urge union members to get involved and vote in the upcoming midterm elections.
Events on the whirlwind tour included a rain-soaked gathering in Allentown, PA with Governor Ed Rendell, a drier rally at Local 1746 in East Hartford, CT with IAM-endorsed Senate candidate Ned Lamont and the annual Labor Day Parade in Detroit, MI. Additional events included the Lorain County Labor Day Picnic where thousands of union members cheered Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland and a pair of Labor Day events in Wisconsin featuring Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.
“It’s absolutely critical for union members to take advantage of the opportunities we’ll have on Election Day 2006,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “The Bush administration and GOP conservatives will be fanning divisive smokescreen issues this year but the economic stakes for union members could not be higher.”
The IAM has targeted a dozen governors’ races around the country, including the contests in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Maryland, where having a worker-friendly chief executive can make a real difference in pocketbook issues like jobs, utility rates, insurance premiums, commuter delays and educational equity.
The IAM surveyed workers in five key states about the upcoming elections and revealed broad support for a surprising list of basic pocketbook issues.
“Samuel Gompers once asked, ‘What does labor want?’” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “This year, the answer is clear. Labor wants more jobs, tougher utility regulation, lower insurance premiums, shorter and less costly daily commutes and more educational opportunities for our children.”
The survey, conducted for the IAM by Fingerhut, Granados Opinion Research, polled 625 likely voters in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Unlike earlier surveys that outlined broad problems facing U.S. workers, the IAM survey uncovered concerns that could be successfully addressed at the state level.
The issues that drew the largest margins of support: tax policies to discourage outsourcing; an excess profits tax on oil companies and health care coverage for working families, should encourage Democratic candidates that the populist themes that once defined the party and its candidates still resonate for voters.
“Given the gridlock in Washington, the best hope for progress on these issues lies in the governor’s office,” said Buffenbarger. “Action at the state level on any one of these issues could save working families in these states thousands of dollars each year.”
The IAM is also launching an internet campaign at www.RallyAround.Us to engage workers across the country in these all-important governors’ contests. Voters in 36 states, including those surveyed, will elect governors in the upcoming midterm elections.
On August 31, thirty-five newly organized Flight Simulator Specialists at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, NM, ratified a first contract with Lockheed Martin. The technicians are members of Local 794 in Albuquerque, NM.
“To organize these highly skilled workers, then bring back a successfully negotiated contract a month later is amazing work,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson. “It is a testament to the talent and hard work of everyone involved. Red Dow and his committee did a great job, and we are very proud of them”.
The workers voted overwhelmingly to join the IAM on July 20th and the election was certified on July 31, 2006.
“One month to the day, these determined members have a ratified agreement,” said President/Directing Business Rep. Ernest “Red” Dow. “I would like to welcome and thank the 35 new members. Special thanks goes to In-Plant Committee Gary Fisher, Yolanda Prior and Jonothan LaForte. Their tireless efforts gave their fellow Sisters and Brothers a ‘Collective Voice’ they can be proud of.”
Striking members of Local 470 in Lake Charles, LA voted August 31 to ratify a new contract with PPG Industries, bringing an end to a three-month strike over health care costs, pension benefits and starting pay for new employees.
The strike drew members, their families and the community together in a spirit of solidarity despite the difficulties endured in any work stoppage. “Every one of those members can walk back in that plant with their head held high,” said District 161 DBR Terry Taylor. “They held the line and walked their pickets 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our local is stronger for what we have been through together.”
Threats by PPG officials to permanently replace strikers and prolonging the strike by refusing to negotiate key issues left many workers and community leaders bitter. “PPG logged record profits thanks to the productivity of this work force,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “The value of these workers and their families is beyond question. I salute their effort and commend them for their courage and determination.”
District 34 in Cincinnati, OH organized employees at New Process Steel in Butler, Indiana, bringing 27 new members into the Machinists union.
“We welcome these new members into the IAM family,” said Eastern Territory GVP Lynn Tucker, Jr. “On behalf of the Eastern Territory, congratulations to District Lodge 34 Organizer Steve Metzger, Directing Business Representative David Brandenburg, Business Representative David Schooley and to all of the team for a job well done.”