iMail for Thursday, April 27, 2006

Berkeley Honda Strike Ends, Giant Rat Wins

A giant 12-foot rat, a highly-visible symbol against corporate greed, came down at Berkley Honda in Berkley, California after striking auto technicians of IAM Local 1546 won a new contract and voted by a wide margin to approve it.

The new five-year deal guarantees some of the highest wages in the area, delivers the IAM National Pension Plan and the Machinists 401K, improves the Health and Welfare plan and includes return to work language that addresses all the striking workers.

“This victory is a prime example of what happens when determined workers, a community that cares about how businesses conduct themselves in their backyards, and experienced and dedicated IAM Business Representatives like Don Crosatto get together,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson.

“This is a good contract, and all parties have much to be proud of. They have raised the bar on community activity. We appreciate Mayor Tom Bates’ support, and everyone who supported this process.”

The strike began last June, after the dealership formally known as Jim Doten Honda was sold and new owners required employees to reapply for their jobs. While most were rehired, seven with the most seniority, including the shop steward at the dealership, were not. The new owners also sought to scrap the employees’ defined benefit pension plan.

Defined benefit pension plans are under attack across the country, with healthy and ailing companies seeking to abandon long standing pension commitments. The technicians at Berkley Honda will now have a secure, defined benefit pension under the fully-funded IAM National Pension Plan.


IAM Strengthens Ties With Swedish Union

The IAM and Sweden’s IF Metall are intensifying an already strong relationship. Meetings this week between IF Metall President Stefan Löfven and IP Tom Buffenbarger covered a wide range of topics, including efforts to cooperate even more closely with respect to organizing and collective bargaining.

Buffenbarger spoke highly of Löfven. “He represents the best of the international trade union movement. He brings a firm commitment to working families all over the world.”

Löfven has shown a strong interest in the IAM. He attended the 36 th Grand Lodge Convention in Cincinatti. And in 1999, Löfven even attended the Leadership I training class at the Winpisinger Center.

The union he heads, IF Metall, is the result of a merger this past January between the Swedish Industrial Workers’ and the Swedish Metalworkers’ Union. The 450,000 member organization wields enormous influence in a country of only 9.5 million people.


Gas Prices Fueling Voter Anger

As gas prices continue to rise and President Bush’s approval rating continues to fall, a new poll shows support for the President dropping to an all-time low. Only 32 percent of Americans now approve of his job performance.

The CNN poll released earlier this week shows a strong parallel between Bush’s dismal approval rating and a nationwide concern about gas prices and oil company profits, with 69 percent of respondents saying the recent increases in gas prices have caused them hardships.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline has jumped nearly twenty-five cents in the past two weeks to $2.91, according to a Lundberg Survey. Click here to view a map showing gas prices nationwide.

The nationwide outrage over gas prices is expected to spill into November’s midterm elections, sending many Republican leaders scrambling to save face. President Bush called for an inquiry into the climbing gas prices on Tuesday, but little is expected from an inquiry requested by an oil millionaire.


New Contract for Machinists at Invar

IAM members of Local 1788 in Batwa, Ontario, Canada won better wages, improved contract language and enhanced pension benefits in a new four-year agreement with Invar Manufacturing. The 370 members ratified the agreement by an 85 percent margin.

Highlights of the agreement include enhanced contract language and wage increases of three per cent in each of the first three years and 3.5 per cent in the fourth year. Contributions to the IAM joint union-management pension plan include an additional one-half per cent in the first year, raising the contribution to $1.19/hr per employee and one-half per cent in the third year, bringing the contribution to $1.27/hr per employee. Invar is the second largest contributor to the plan in terms of monetary value.

“These are significant gains for our members especially in the current climate of the automotive sector,” said GLR Bill Shipman. Invar, located north of Trenton, manufactures transmission and chassis parts for the North American auto industry.


Northwest Members Take Contract Fight to the Public

Northwest Airlines members from LL 1833 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and LL 1781 in San Francisco, California staged airport informational picketing to draw attention to the impending May 15 court date when the airline will ask a bankruptcy judge to terminate contracts with its IAM-represented Equipment Service Employees and Flight Simulator Technicians.

Northwest recently reported a staggering $1.2 billion fourth quarter net loss, bringing the full year loss for 2005 to $2.6 billion.

“The sacrifice being asked from all employees is enormous, but no airline was saved through employee concessions alone,” said District 143 President Bobby DePace.

“Northwest’s most important asset is its employees, and their ‘you’re lucky to have a job’ attitude must change or this airline has no future.”

Medicare Part D Enrollment Deadline Nears

With the May 15 deadline to enroll in the flawed Medicare Part D prescription drug plan less than three weeks away, another round of mass confusion is in store for seniors who need answers to the confusing plan.

The surge in enrollment is expected to overwhelm already busy phone lines, leaving many seniors without the information they need.

The New York Times reports that callers trying to reach Humana, one of the largest Medicare carriers, frequently had to wait 30 minutes to speak to a customer service representative.

To give seniors the time they need to make the right choice, send a letter to your congressional representative urging them to extend the May 15 enrollment deadline and take other steps to repair the fundamentally flawed Medicare Part D program. Also find out how your Congressman voted on Medicare Part D and “Whack a Hack” at


IAM Says ‘Bhan Gap Sumnida’ to New Members

With an award of union certification from the British Columbia Labour Board, the IAM says “Bhan Gap Sumnida,” or “welcome” to 74 new IAM members at Concord Concrete Pumps Ltd. who are predominantly of Korean heritage. The members, who assemble concrete pumping trucks for the North American construction industry market, will join Local 692 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“The major issues for these workers were wages well below the industry standard, the employer’s disregard of safety regulations and racial intolerance of the largely Korean-speaking work-force,” said IAM Local Lodge 692 Organizer Mark Benoit.

“They were afraid to complain about workplace safety violations for fear of losing their jobs and the employer exploited the fact that many of them couldn’t read or speak English.”

During the six week organizing campaign, the company held a number of captive audience meetings to try to defeat the union. Just prior to the vote, the IAM held an impromptu rally outside the plant and handbilled workers as they left work.

“Showing the IAM flag clearly worked,” explained Benoit, “the rally turned the tide in our favour.” Representatives from three IAM District 250 Local Lodges distributed translated organizing literature to the workers.

“Many employees were nervous about accepting our literature,” said IAM District 250 Directing Business Representative Stan Pickthall. “But the presence of half a dozen rank-and-file members had a significant impact on their decision to accept the material.”

Korean interpreter and translator Katharine Yun hired by Local 692 was a key factor in the campaign victory. “The ability to provide them with a bulletin in their own language went a long way towards engaging them and building their confidence,” said Benoit. “As a result of her efforts, the Korean employees remained united throughout the process.”

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