iMail for Thursday, August 3, 2006

Bush Picks Wal-Mart Attorney for Labor Board

Paul DeCamp, the former Wal-Mart attorney and current Labor Department policy advisor nominated by President Bush to head the Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour division, told a Senate panel this week that he believed many wage and hour violations resulted from an employer’s “good-faith misunderstanding” of the law.

DeCamp represented Wal-Mart in a massive discrimination lawsuit that charged the mega-retailer with systematically denying more than 1.5 million women the same pay and promotions as male employees.

Equally troubling for Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was DeCamp’s involvement in the DOL’s Gulf Coast activities and in articles published by DeCamp suggesting most claims for unpaid overtime are spurious.

“Mr. DeCamp has spent his entire legal career defending employers against workers in a wide range of employment matters, including Wal-Mart, in the largest gender discrimination class action in history,” said AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel, voicing the federation’s opposition to the nomination. “For all these reasons, we believe he is an entirely inappropriate choice for the position of Wage and Hour Administrator.”

A vote on DeCamp’s nomination is not expected until Senators return from their August recess.

IAM Files to Represent All Stock Clerks at US Airways

As the certified representative of the Stock Clerks at US Airways, the IAM has filed an application with the National Mediation Board (NMB) to represent all Stock Clerks at the carrier following its merger with America West Airlines. Stock Clerks from the former America West are currently represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Separately, the IAM is awaiting an NMB decision on whether an election will take place for the combined carrier’s Mechanic & Related employees. Former America West Mechanics are also currently represented by the Teamsters, and US Airways Mechanic & Related employees are represented by the IAM.

The NMB ruled on June 28, 2006 that Stock Clerks are ineligible to vote in a Mechanical & Related election. The IAM immediately asked the NMB to determine if the Teamsters have submitted enough valid authorization cards to warrant a separate Stock Clerk election, but the Teamsters objected, prompting the new application.

“It is our position that the NMB should have automatically certified the Machinists as the representative of the combined Stock Clerks so we could have quickly entered into negotiations to provide them with the benefits of the IAM National Pension Plan,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “The Teamsters, having already interfered and delayed the process for Mechanic & Related employees, are now stalling progress for Stock Clerks.”

The IAM is the certified representative for the combined Fleet Service group and their negotiations with US Airways have already begun.

GOP Tax Breaks Bog Down Wage Bill

Using minimum wage legislation as political cover, GOP leaders are urgently trying to push sham legislation through the Senate this week that would once again dole out massive tax breaks to the wealthy.

Rather than a straight up or down vote on increasing the minimum wage for working families, House Republicans last week pushed through legislation that links the minimum wage increase to a repeal of the estate tax.

Repealing the estate tax would benefit only the wealthiest Americans and cost the government more than $800 billion for the first 10 years alone. This hefty price tag of this massive giveaway to the wealthy would also devastate many lower income workers by forcing cuts in food and health care assistance for low-wage workers, as well as unemployment help.

The Senate is expected to take up the legislation this week, with Democrats vowing to beat back more giveaways for only the wealthiest Americans.

There has been no increase in the minimum wage since 1997 and the current rate of $5.15 per hour puts a full-time worker well below the poverty line even for a family of three.

ITF Delegates Debate Global Organizing

Canadian GVP Dave Ritchie and leaders from two key IAM departments, Transportation and Trade & Globalization, are meeting this week with their counterparts at the 41st Congress of International Trade Federation (ITF) Durban, South Africa. The week-long conference brings together more than 1,100 participants from 387 unions in 111 countries to set the agenda for the global labor organization.

The theme of the first ITF conference ever held in South Africa is Organizing Globally: Fighting for our Rights. Delegates will also elect the ITF’s President, Vice-Presidents, General Secretary and Executive Board.

“(The) Congress provides a direction for the efforts of countless transport worker activists working in a globalized economy that can’t exist without the transport links they provide,” said ITF General Secretary David Cockroft. “This gives us massive potential for change that can only be achieved when transport unions worldwide link together.”

Strike Mandate Secures Solid Agreement in Quebec

A ringing strike mandate from the membership of IAM Local 1660 in Lachine, Quebec, sent a clear message to company negotiators and produced a new collective agreement at Alstom Canada Incorporated in Hull, Quebec.

Local 1660 members, who manufacture, maintain and repair industrial boilers, rejected a company proposal that demanded concessions on group insurance and overtime. Armed with a strong strike mandate from the 36 members, the union bargaining team returned to negotiations where the company subsequently withdrew its concession demands. A new deal provides wage increases of 2.75 per cents in each of the first two years and 3 percent in each of the remaining three years. The accord also provides improved pension benefits and additional vacation time.

Energy Jobs Held Hostage in Connecticut

Representatives from organized labor, environmental groups and the renewable energy industry in Connecticut are calling for an end to delays that have stalled the CT Clean Energy Fund’s (CCEF) Project 100.

According to GrowJobsCT, Project 100, which could create hundreds of new jobs in Connecticut, has endured more than three years of hearings, legal briefs and studies. Last week, the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) gave Project 100 what should be a conclusive and final green light to bring 100 megawatts of clean renewable electric power to the Nutmeg State.

Unfortunately, the state’s Office of Consumer Council (OCC) is blocking implementation of key elements of the original legislation.  The OCC opposed the legislature’s decision to favor alternative energy technology manufactured in Connecticut.

“We have a choice – to continue to wallow in bureaucratic squabbling, or to move on projects that will produce jobs and electricity from clean, renewable, Connecticut-based sources,” said GrowJobsCT director John Harrity. “Let’s not allow the contrary few to derail public policy vetted and approved by the people, the legislature and the regulating authority.”

Massachusetts Defies GOP Gov on Minimum Wage

While Republicans in Congress continue to oppose a much needed increase in the federal minimum wage, Massachusetts recently joined nearly two-dozen sates where minimum wage advocates have won increases through legislation or via ballot initiatives this fall.

By a unanimous vote earlier this week, the Massachusetts Legislature unanimously overrode Republican Governor Mitt Romney’s veto of a minimum-wage increase. Starting January 1, the state’s minimum wage will jump from $6.75 an hour to $7.50 and to $8.00 an hour a year later. Some 315,000 workers will be helped by the increase.

The federal minimum wage has not been increased in almost 10 years. It remains at $5.15 an hour – that’s only $10,712 a year for a 40-hour week. That’s well below the roughly $20,000 needed to keep a family of four above the federal poverty level.

“For a decade now, Republicans in Congress have refused to increase the minimum wage for hardworking Americans, but have had no problem padding their own wallets with pay raises,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. “States across the country aren’t waiting for the Republican do-nothing Congress to finally do the right thing.”