iMail for Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hillary, Huckabee Win IAM Endorsements

IAM representatives at the National Staff Conference today endorsed New York Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton for President. The delegates also took the unusual step of endorsing a Republican candidate for the primaries, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

The decision to endorse a candidate for the Democratic and Republican primaries follows extensive polling of IAM members and a ‘Conversation with the Candidates’ event in Orlando, Florida, where candidates from both parties discussed their vision for the country and the role of the U.S. labor movement.

“Hillary Clinton earned the IAM’s endorsement by focusing on jobs, health care, education and trade – the bread and butter issues of the American middle class,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “She is the only candidate of either party to come forward with a comprehensive manufacturing policy and the only candidate to connect with millions of Americans who feel invisible to the current administration.”

Buffenbarger also praised the former Arkansas Republican Governor, who addressed the IAM National Staff Conference this week. “Mike Huckabee was the only Republican candidate with the guts to meet with our members and the only one willing to figure out where and how we might work together,” said Buffenbarger. “He is entitled to serious consideration from our members voting in the upcoming Republican primaries.” 

According to a recent survey of Machinists Union members, one-third votes Republican and two-thirds vote Democratic. “The dual endorsement is intended to involve all IAM members in the upcoming election,” said Buffenbarger.

“I am honored to receive the support of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers,” Clinton said. “It is time for America’s working families to again share in our nation’s prosperity. They will not be invisible to my administration.”

The endorsements will trigger a massive education campaign among IAM members and extensive publicity in union publications and websites nationwide.

Twenty-five states with over 450,000 active and retired IAM members will vote in the three weeks starting with the Iowa caucuses and ending with the polls closing in California on February 5th.

Watch a video covering Clinton and Huckabee’s Conversations (http://www.goiam.org/index.php/news/latest-videos/301-conversations-with-the-candidates-hillary-and-huckabee)

 

Hundreds Rally for Kennedy Space Center Strikers

Hundreds of IAM members attending the 2007 IAM National Staff Conference in Orlando, Fl traveled to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, today to support more than 500 members of Local 2061, who have been on strike since June 14 against United Space Alliance (USA).

“We are here with the inflatable rat, but the real rats are inside the Kennedy Space Center gates,” said Southern Territory General Vice President Bob Martinez who opened the rally. “We have called on every member of Congress to decide whether they stand with the workers who have built the space program or with the irresponsible NASA and the United Space Alliance management. And the question today is: where is Congressman Dave Weldon?”

“Also today I want to set the record straight with United Space Alliance: We are ready and willing at anytime to negotiate a fair and equitable contract and we won’t back down,” Martinez declared.

The members of Local 2061, who operate the massive cranes and crawlers that prep and transport space shuttle vehicles to the launch pad, rejected a substandard offer from the Space Alliance after NASA attempted to dictate the terms of the contract between USA and the members of Local 2061.

“I remember when John F. Kennedy called for America to land on the moon. American workers like you responded and made the space program number one in the world,” said International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Shame on NASA and United Space Alliance for turning their back on this proud tradition and forcing our members on strike.”

“We welcome our Brothers and Sisters and their outpouring of support here today,” said District 166 Directing Business Representative Johnny Walker. “Our members’ strength and endurance is something every IAM member can be proud of. And we will continue to fight for a fair contract.”

“Our members have persevered through hot sun, tropical storms and swarms of mosquitoes,” said Local 2061 President Lew Jamieson. “We will stay until we win a contract equal to others in the Aerospace industry. Our heartfelt thanks and welcome go to all of you who joined us here today.”

Organizing, Trade are Key Issues for Newest Congresswoman

Congresswoman-elect and IAM member Laura Richardson (D-CA) was welcomed with a rousing ovation Tuesday night at the 2007 IAM National Staff Conference in Orlando, FL. Richardson, who is set to be sworn into Congress next Tuesday, made it clear from the outset where she comes from and who she represents, taking off her suit coat to don a blue Machinists shirt.

“In politics, I’ve found if you’re not willing to stand up in the beginning you’ll never be willing to stand up at all, and I’m proud to be a Machinist and stand up for you,” said Richardson.

Richardson, who is a member of IAM District 947, Local 1930 in Long Beach, CA, recently won a special election to fill the 37th District seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald. She spoke at length about the importance of labor unions and the role they play in ensuring that middle-class families prosper.

“Unions are absolutely necessary and what we have to get back to and understand is that organizing is critical to our success,” said Richardson. “When I get sworn into office this coming Tuesday, the first thing I’m going to do is sign on as a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act.”

Failed trade was another area Richardson pledged to address after joining Congress. “Whether it’s tainted dog food or defective toys, flawed trade agreements are failing us. If we continue to send our jobs overseas, we will continue to lose the accountability and the quality products Americans build,” she said.

Richardson began her legislative career as a community activist in 2000, winning a seat on the Long Beach City Council, where she secured funding for housing, transportation and job training programs. In addition to her duties on the council, Richardson served as Southern California Director for Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante from 2001 to 2005.

 

Number of Americans Without Health Insurance Escalates

In a report just released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans without health insurance rose to 47 million in 2006, up from 44.9 million in 2005. Lack of access to private health insurance, including employer-provided coverage, is cited as the major cause for the rising rate of uninsured.

The report, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States:  2006”, said minorities, children ages 12 to 17 and children living in poverty continue to be the most uninsured of all. While low-income families were the hardest hit, the report also found that the number of working Americans ages 18 to 64 without health insurance had increased. Even government-sponsored health programs like Medicaid, Medicare and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) covered fewer Americans than before.

This information comes just as the Bush Administration is fighting to stop states from expanding SCHIP, which was created in 1997 to insure children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to purchase health insurance. The poverty level set by the federal government for a family of four is $20,650 in annual income. Because that figure is so low and unrealistic, many states had received federal approval to insure children with family incomes at least twice the poverty level.

Yet the White House only wants to make it harder for the working poor and middle class to get insurance coverage. The Administration outlined new, harsh standards in a letter slyly sent to the states while Congress is out of session. The new standards severely restrict the states’ ability to extend SCHIP to children whose families earn more than the federal poverty level. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will be working on legislation to expand SCHIP, which expires September 30, when they return from recess. Bush has already threatened veto.

 

IAM Members Take Part in First International Guide Ride

Leading into the National Staff Conference, union members from around the country met in Orlando, FL for the first International Guide Ride (IGR), a Hogs-for-Dogs motorcycle ride to benefit Guide Dogs of America.

Before dawn, IAM members moved out of the Orlando Harley-Davidson dealership, and headed toward Destination Daytona in Daytona Beach. After a short stop, the riders headed south and visited the picket lines at the Kennedy Space Center where Local Lodge 2061 has been on strike against United Space Alliance since June 14th.

“We wanted to let the strikers know how much we supported them in their struggle for a fair contract,” said IGR organizer and Automotive Coordinator Boysen Anderson. “They’ve stood together through the summer, and we’re very proud of them.”

The riders finished the run at the District 166 hall in Cape Canaveral, FL. “Between pledges and the poker run, we’ve already raised over $10,250 for Guide Dogs of America,” said James “Rody” Rodehorst, who helped organize it.