iMail for Thursday April 17, 2008

Trade Offsets Threaten U.S. Jobs, National Security

According to a new report by IAM Trade and Globalization Director Owen Herrnstadt, the U.S. government’s failure to develop a coherent policy on trade offsets, a form of outsourcing, has resulted in thousands of lost jobs and the transfer of technological innovation to other countries.  This transfer poses a serious threat to our nation’s security.

“Over the 14-year period 1993-2006, U.S. companies reported over 8,500 transactions, valued at $42 billion, that involved the transfer of production and technology to 42 countries,” says Herrnstadt. “A U.S. government report concludes that over 16,000 jobs were lost each year between 2002 and 2005 due to offset transactions in the defense industry.”

The report (
), issued as part of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) Agenda for Shared Prosperity, points out that demand for such deals is increasing steadily in all regions.

Offsets “can and do assist in the creation of enterprises in other countries, ultimately resulting in greater competition for U.S. companies and their workers,” says Herrnstadt. “At the same time, other countries develop powerful companies that come back to compete fiercely with U.S.-based companies.” Herrnstadt cites the aerospace industry in China as a growing concern.

U.S. policymakers should immediately adopt policies that will enable the United States to aggressively use offsets to its own advantage. Additional measures recommended in the report include: strengthening prohibitions on offsets in all multilateral and bilateral trade agreements; shining a light on current offset transactions in both the defense and commercial industries and creating a meaningful commission to devise an effective policy.

Airline Mergers Fuel IAM Organizing Efforts

Fifty IAM members from five West Coast local lodges attended an organizing seminar in Seattle, WA, to prepare for possible representation battles if proposed airline mergers are approved. Local 2202 hosted the event and was joined by members from Seattle, WA Locals 1351 and 1040, Local 1885 in Portland, OR and Local 601 in Anchorage, Alaska.

Grand Lodge and District representatives presented information ranging from identifying organizing leads to discussing various communication methods used during organizing campaigns.

These newly-trained organizers will play a critical role in our union at a time when airline mergers are threatening our members,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr.

The recently announced Northwest Airlines – Delta Air Lines merger proposal threatens the union representation rights of 12,500 IAM members at Northwest. Largely non-union Delta would be the survivor if the merger is approved, and the airline is hoping its ground workers will remain non-union after the merger. Click here ( to view an IAM video on the potential impact of airline mergers.

The Machinists Union is actively organizing Delta Air Lines’ ground workers to garner support if a National Mediation Board election is held to determine union representation at the combined carrier. Another organizing seminar is scheduled at Local Lodge 1833 in Minneapolis, MN.

WWW Center Prepares to Honor Fallen Members

Workers Memorial Day is commemorated each year on April 28 with services, speeches and prayers to remember the thousands of workers killed and injured in workplace accidents.

The IAM holds its own unique service at the William W. Winpisinger Center, where bricks inscribed with the names of fallen members are placed alongside the hundreds of other IAM members who died since the memorial was dedicated in 2001.

This year will see the addition of five IAM members, including Eugene (Geno) Campagna, who served as President of Local 1529 in Sidney, NY. Campagna perished in an auto accident on the way home from work. Motor vehicle accidents are among the leading causes of workplace-related fatalities in the United States.

Also memorialized this year will be Thomas Cherry of Local 83 in Garland, TX. Married and the father of two boys, Cherry died on July 25 when a truck fell on him as two trucks were being undecked.

Two highly regarded IAM representatives will also be among those remembered at this year’s Winpisinger Center service. Danny Givens, a Business Representative serving members of District 75 in the Southern Territory, died on Labor Day, September 3. District 837 President Rick Smith died on January 18 after a long career as an IAM representative in numerous capacities.

Minneapolis, MN, Local 1833 member Denise Wilson worked for Northwest Airlines for 13 years before she died from a heart attack on August 9. The mother of a daughter and a son, her name will be read aloud along with the others to the tolling of a bell and a long moment of silence for all those who suffer each year from work-related accidents, injuries and illnesses.

Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Gains Momentum

With Equal Pay Day quickly approaching, the Senate next week is expected to take up the Fair Pay Restoration Act. Also known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the legislation would effectively overturn last year’s Ledbetter decision by the Supreme Court and restore the ability of workers to sue for pay discrimination.

Despite being paid less than her male counterparts at Goodyear Tire Co. for years, the Supreme Court last year ruled that Lilly Ledbetter did not file her lawsuit within 180 days after Goodyear made their initial decision to pay her less. The Senate bill, which has 42 co-sponsors, would link the time for filing a pay discrimination claim to the instance when a worker receives a discriminatory pay check, rather than when an employer makes a discriminatory decision.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter took us backwards in time,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the bill’s chief sponsor. “It takes us farther away from our ideal of a fair and just workplace for all Americans. With this legislation, we can at least make up the ground that we have lost.”

The House passed nearly identical legislation last year by a 225-199 vote. The Bush administration has threatened to veto the bill.

Battle Continues over Columbia Trade Agreement

House Democrats voted last week to take the U.S. Columbia Free Trade Agreement out of “Fast Track” status, postponing a vote on the trade agreement indefinitely. 

The 224 to 195 vote was a blow to the Bush administration, who submitted the trade pact to Congress last week in an effort to hastily push the bill through within the standard 90 day limit.

Columbia’s woeful human rights record and its harsh treatment of workers and trade union leaders have brought the Bush administration’s flawed trade deal under extreme fire since its proposal. There have been approximately 2,550 trade unionists murdered in Columbia since 1986, including 17 this year.

House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), also harshly criticized the Bush administration for trying to force a vote on the Columbia Trade Agreement while economic conditions in the U.S are still deteriorating.

“This bill has been around for a while, and matters have only gotten worse in our economy,” said Pelosi. “When the cost of groceries, gasoline, health care, education, and other staples continue to go up, and the purchasing power of the income that people have is either stagnant or going down, they have concerns about their economic security.”

Gas, Food Prices Advance at Record Pace

With the nation already in the midst of a harsh economic downturn, working families have been battered with even more bad news recently, including record oil and gas prices and a spike in food prices.

Oil prices surged to a record-high $115 a barrel this week, while gas prices, currently averaging $3.37 a gallon, could spike to more than $3.65 within the next month, according to some forecasts. The Energy Department has said that gas prices could get as high as $4 a gallon in the coming months.

Food costs, meanwhile, are rising at their fastest rate in 17 years. U.S. food prices jumped four percent in 2007, according to the Department of Agriculture, which expects prices to rise as much as 4.5 percent this year.

Home foreclosures also continue to plague many working families. Foreclosure filings were reported on 234,685 properties nationwide during March, according to RealityTrac. That is a 5 percent increase from the previous month and a 57 percent increase from the same time last year.

The strain of rising costs on working families have been exasperated by continued job loss. The U.S. lost another 80,000 jobs in March, the largest decline in five years. March’s job numbers mark the third straight month of job loss and pushes job loss for the year over 200,000.

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