A lineup of seven Democratic presidential candidates took turns touting their union credentials before a boisterous crowd of more than 15,000 union members and their families this week at the AFL-CIO Presidential Forum in Chicago, IL.
Moderated by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, the forum included New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
The real stars of the event, however, were the union members themselves who challenged the candidates with tough questions on trade, jobs, health care and pensions.
There was Steve Sarka, a retired steelworker who asked the candidates what they would do for families like his who could no longer afford health insurance after his pension was wiped out in a bankruptcy proceeding. “What’s wrong with America and what will you do to change it?” asked an emotional Sarka.
Former IAM member and Army veteran Jim McGovern, who returned from a year in Iraq to find his job at Maytag had been shipped to Mexico, wanted to know what the candidates would do for veterans facing the same problem. “What will you do to keep manufacturing jobs like mine from leaving the country?” asked McGovern.
Additional questions came from workers seeking to organize a union and wanted to know if candidates would support the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). The entire debate can be viewed online at MSNBC.com. A full transcript is available here.
Hundreds of IAM members have already visited GOIAM.org to vote for the presidential candidate they would like to see win their party’s nomination. The online poll comes less than a month ahead of the IAM’s “Conversations with the Candidates,” in which both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates will appear before nearly 600 IAM leaders at the IAM National Staff Conference in Orlando, FL.
The candidate conversations, coupled with the new poll on GOIAM.org, will help guide the IAM leadership as they move forward in making an historic dual-endorsement in the primaries.
The IAM will make its customary recommendation for U.S. President and Vice President following input from elected delegates at the IAM Convention in September 2008.
To vote for a Democratic candidate click here and to vote for a Republican candidate click here.
District 166 Directing Business Representative Johnny Walker has been re-appointed to the Space Florida commission by Florida’s Republican Governor Charlie Crist. Space Florida is the public-private partnership responsible for promoting and developing Florida’s aerospace industry. Space Florida was created by the Florida legislature to sustain Florida’s position as the global space leader. As declared in its mission statement, Space Florida drives state economic development across the global aerospace enterprise.
“Congratulations to Brother Walker,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “Florida will be undergoing a transformation in the space business in the coming decades, and it’s important for the highly-skilled space workers in Florida to have a voice and opportunities in the changes occurring.”
“It is crucial that the IAM, the preeminent aerospace union in North America, has a seat at the table in preparing for the future of the space industry in Florida,” continued Martinez. “Brother Walker has the leadership and knowledge that is key to continuing our leadership in the space sector.”
Department of Defense (DoD) workers scored a huge victory when the House approved an amendment that would strip funding for key parts of the anti-worker National Security Personnel System (NSPS).
NSPS rules, which the Bush administration and Congress authorized in the aftermath of 9-11, drastically reduces federal worker protections, guts the current pay system and virtually eliminates collective bargaining and union rights for DoD employees.
After an appeals court in May overturned a district court decision that struck down the labor relations portion of the NSPS, the IAM joined a coalition of federal labor unions seeking a rehearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The House amendment, which was added to the 2008 defense appropriations bill, passed without objection by a voice vote. The Senate has yet to write its defense appropriations bill.
“This is a great win for federal employees,” said IAM Government Employees Director Frank Carelli. “Our members did a great job keeping the pressure on Congress to stop this unfair system. Now we have to keep up the pressure in the Senate.”
Click here to send a message to Congress to repeat the unfair NSPS system.
As the Bush administration presses Congress to approve a flurry of trade agreements it has recently negotiated, a new report from Global Trade Watch says passage of the deals would further threaten the safety of the U.S. food supply.
The report, Trade Deficit in Food Safety; Proposed NAFTA Expansions Replicate Limits on U.S. Food Safety Policy That Are Contributing to Unsafe Food Imports (http://www.citizen.org/documents/FoodSafetyReportFINAL.pdf) states: “Passage of the pending FTAs would elevate, not lessen, the threat to the safety of the U.S. food supply.”
Global Trade Watch points specifically to seafood imported from Peru, Panama and Columbia as a top concern. The countries are already three of the world’s top exporters of shrimp and the agreements the Bush administration has negotiated would likely further increase imports.
More than 80 percent of the seafood Americans eat is imported, and in 2006, the Food and Drug Administration inspected only 1.93 percent of those imports, according to the report.
“NAFTA failed, CAFTA failed, and Peru and Panama – as written – are just more of the same,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in a statement regarding the study. “With a string of contaminated products from China flooding our markets, ensuring food and product safety standards in trade agreements is not an option; it is an imperative. This report underscores the importance of a new direction for trade policy.”
Local 778 in Kansas City, MO, began a new tradition by hosting their First Annual Ride for the Guide, a charity motorcycle run to raise money for Guide Dogs of America (GDA).
“This is our first ride,” said Local 778 Organizer Howard Brown, who was the force behind the event – coordinating volunteers and sponsors. “They will be bigger and better in the years to come.”
For a first-time effort, however, the event was a great success. The ride started at the Blue Springs Harley-Davidson, continued on a scenic course to Lake Perry, and ended up at the Local 778 Union Hall where riders enjoyed food, entertainment and prizes.
“I would like to thank everyone who assisted to make our Guide Dogs of America run a real success,” said Local 778 Business Rep and event coordinator Mike Roepke. “It was a hot and muggy day for the ride and when we returned to the [union] hall, it made all of the riders so proud to see such a great setup and reception… a truly inspiring moment for us riders that will never be forgotten!”
After three previous organizing attempts, the 18 employees of L3 Vertex T-1A Maintenance at Naval Air Station in Pensacola, FL, voted on August 7, 2007 for IAM representation.
“The Vertex employees decided that it was time they started receiving benefits like the IAM members located in the hangar next to them,” said Southern Territory Organizer Carlos San Miguel. “IAM members of Local 2777 had better benefits, including medical coverage, retirement pensions, wages, work rules and company policies.” The new members will become part of District 75.