iMail for Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Human Toll of Chinese Imports

As Americans continue to express outrage over Chinese-made products being recalled due to toxic lead levels, a new report looks at the large number of Chinese workers who are losing their lives producing these products. The report was prepared by Salt Lake Tribune reporter Loretta Tofani, who spent fourteen months in China researching working conditions in Chinese factories.

The report: American Imports, China Death points to a 2005 Chinese Ministry of Health report that notes at least 200 million Chinese workers were routinely exposed to toxic chemicals and life-threatening diseases in factories. The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that nearly 400,000 Chinese workers died of occupational illnesses in 2005, the most recent year data is available. “I found that there were carcinogens being used by people, by the workers, in a really extravagant manner. People were spraying benzenes. There were people who had silicosis from making our metal goods,” Tofani told PBS Newshour. “And it would seem like it was in every industry. It was furniture. It was shoes, clothes, marble tiles, granite countertops. Virtually every industry went through this system, where workers were living and breathing in carcinogens or using machines that were unguarded and resulted in amputations.”

The report also reaffirms that Chinese workers lack basic health protections, including protective masks and proper ventilation systems. Basic labor protections are due in large part to the inability of workers to organize or establish their own free trade unions. Instead, China has only one central government-run trade union whose sole function is to enhance production and maintain labor discipline.

Air Canada to Create 4,000 Jobs… in El Salvador

The 1,200 delegates at the 28th Quebec Federation of Labour (QFL) convention in Montreal voted unanimously for an emergency resolution in support of Air Canada Technical Services (ACTS) employees who are fighting to keep thousands of their jobs from being exported to El Salvador.

The resolution, proposed by IAM delegates at the convention, followed an announcement this week by Air Canada detailing their intention to quadruple their aircraft maintenance operation in El Salvador with the creation of 4,000 new jobs.

The resolution also promotes and encourages training for young people in aerospace and aircraft maintenance in Quebec and in Canada. The resolution further urges government support for a law to prevent foreign investors from purchasing Canadian industries.

The IAM is affiliated with the QFL and represents over 12,000 members in Quebec and close to 50,000 members in Canada.

Marcel St-Jean, president of the Local 1751, representing ACTS maintenance employees in Montreal, expressed gratitude for the support at the QFL Convention. “With the strong support of the 550,000 members of the QFL, I’m returning to my lodge and my members,” said St-Jean.

‘Tis the Season to Shop Union

Looking for the perfect gift, but the thought of going to the mall stifles your holiday spirit? No problem. Here are two ways you can shop from the comfort of your own home.

First, if it’s high quality Machinists merchandise you’re looking for, visit the IAM Store. There you’ll find an exclusive line of IAM jewelry and apparel. Among the many items you’ll find are women’s and men’s stainless steel watches, golf shirts, denim jackets, and, just in time for the hunting season, a camouflage cap! All items are union-made in the U.S.A. specifically for IAM members.

The second option that’s just a click away is The Union Shop Online, the AFL-CIO’s retail store for union activists. A wide variety of holiday gift ideas is available, and all items are 100% guaranteed union-made. There’s music, movies, clothes, stocking stuffers, gifts for the kids – something for everyone on your list. You’ll also find a unique assortment of holiday cards, all available in perfect time to give to family, friends and co-workers. Can’t make up your mind? Then give a Union Shop Gift Certificate.

This holiday season, you can find great gifts and support fellow brothers and sisters at the same time by looking for the union label. Happy shopping!

Texas Simulator Techs Win IAM Representation

A solid majority of the 73 flight simulator technicians, instructors, engineers and computer technicians working for Flight Safety International at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX, voted this week to join the IAM. The win (for the C5 simulator workers) is the latest in a series of victories for simulator techs and support workers who voted for IAM representation.

“It’s easy for the workers in this field to see how important the IAM is for them,” said District 776 Directing Business Representative Tim Smith. “We already have contracts for the T-37 and T-38 simulator workers at Randolph AFB, and the Lackland workers want to enjoy the same strong contracts.”

“Welcome to our newest members at Lackland,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “We represent simulator technicians across the country , and our strong contracts are the reason we are growing so quickly in this sector .”

International Summit Targets Airline Outsourcing

The IAM hosted a meeting this week with leaders of the Japan Federation of Aviation Workers’ Union where both unions agreed to greater communication and coordination.

Participants at the two-day meeting, held at IAM Headquarters, represented many job classifications, including mechanics, ground workers, pilots and flight attendants. Much of the discussion focused on the increased use of outsourcing and anti-worker conduct by carriers. 

“We must find new ways to stop the never-ending attacks by carriers on aviation workers,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr., who led the IAM delegation.

The Chairman of the Japan Federation warned that Japan’s carriers were only too eager to follow the path of deregulation set by the U.S. Both groups agreed on a plan of future activities, including increased coordination and communication.

California Court Denies FedEx Appeal

California’s Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear a final appeal by FedEx Corp. challenging an earlier ruling that said the company’s drivers are employees, not independent contractors.

The California Court of Appeals in August also denied the appeal in the landmark case of Estrada vs. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. The Court of Appeals had determined that the FedEx Ground drivers were entitled to reimbursement for approximately $6 million in additional expenses, bringing the total damages to roughly $11 million for 200 drivers.

A federal judge in Indiana recently ruled in a similar case that multiple lawsuits by FedEx Ground drivers seeking to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors can be combined in a class-action suit.

A recent report from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and American Rights at Work documents how FedEx appears to “misclassify its FedEx Ground drivers as independent contractors to get around civil rights and labor laws.”

The report uses worker interviews and cases filed against FedEx to show how the company is “circumventing federal anti-discrimination laws, avoiding payment of millions of dollars in benefits to 15,000 FedEx Ground drivers and hindering workers’ rights to form unions.”

Machinists Organize Hotel Workers in Toronto

The IAM has successfully organized workers at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Dixon Road near Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada.
“Many of these workers have been with the hotel 25 years and they still have no pension plan,” said District 78 Organizer Scott Jackson. “They wanted respect from their employer and retirement security and they came to the conclusion the best way to reach these goals was with the IAM.”

The 110 new members of Local 2243 are the second group of hotel workers to join the Machinists this year. Workers employed at Marriot Courtyard Hotel in Brampton were organized in April. “I can’t say enough about the dedicated work of our apprentice organizer Roy Bhansingh,” said Jackson. “His guidance and encouragement to the workers was instrumental to the success of this campaign.”

The new members consist of restaurant staff, kitchen staff, laundry and house keeping workers, concierge and shuttle drivers. The new members will select a bargaining committee next week and then begin negotiations for their first collective agreement.