iMail for Thursday, December 1, 2005


Abramoff Scandal Snares More GOP Players

One political analyst quipped the Republican Party came to power in Washington, D.C. to start a revolution but they stayed to run a racket.

Witness the growing circle of scandal surrounding former GOP super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. A target of a criminal and Senate Indian Affairs Committee investigation, Abramoff alledgedly bilked Native American Indian tribes, clients he described as “monkeys,” “troglodytes,” and “idiots” out of more than $66 million. He and his business associate Michael Scanlon allegedly used the money to line their pockets and buy access into the highest levels of Congress and the Bush administration.

Scanlon, former aide to GOP strongman Rep. Tom DeLay, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges to use the tribes’ money to finance a lavish golf trip to Scotland, tickets to sporting events, meals at upscale restaurants and campaign contributions to Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) in return for favors for his tribal clients.

Ney’s case could be the just the tip of the iceberg. Scanlon is cooperating with prosecutors and the probe could widen to others in Congress, including DeLay, who went on a similar Abramoff-funded golf trip to Scotland.

Senate investigators also uncovered Abramoff’s efforts to funnel tribal money to the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA), a GOP environmental group founded in 1997 by current Interior Secretary Gale Norton and GOP stalwart Grover Norquist.

Headed by a close friend of Norton’s, Italia Federici, CREA has operated from a mail drop in Washington, D.C. since 2000 according to the Arizona Republic.

Abramoff directed almost $500,000 in tribal donations to CREA, more than half its budget. Senate investigators uncovered a trail of emails in which Abramoff repeatedly asked Federici to use her contacts with then Deputy Secretary Steven Griles on behalf of his clients. The Interior Department is the primry federal regulatory agency for Indian affairs

Grilled during Senate testimony by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Federici defended CREA’s work, even pointing to a project she had done with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). It turns out that the IBT joined forces with CREA in 2003 to form the Labor Environment Alliance aimed at “promoting economic development and new jobs while protecting the environment.”

Bush Goes Soft on China

The Bush administration has determined in their currency report to Congress that the Chinese government is not intentionally manipulating the yuan, once again taking an extremely soft stance on Communist China.

If the administration had branded China a currency manipulator in the report, it could have been a significant step towards the U.S. government imposing trade sanctions against Chinese goods.

By purposely undervaluing their currency by as much as 40 percent, China has made its exports cheaper in world markets. As a result, the U.S. trade deficit with China was a record $162 billion last year and is expected to hit $200 billion this year.

The Bush administration’s lack of action has led Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to quietly begin talks of renewing efforts to place steep tariffs on Chinese imports if the Chinese do not allow the yuan to rise in value.

“The Administration’s lack of action today hurts all Americans by refusing to acknowledge the obvious – that China manipulates its currency,” Schumer said.

 

Alabama Machinists Picket Boeing Award Ceremony

Distributing handbills to the sound of the University of Alabama’s “Million Dollar Band” practicing nearby, striking IAM members from Local 2766 in Huntsville, Alabama, protested the Alabama Quality Award (AQA) being presented to management representatives of the Boeing Company.

The AQA award honors organizations and companies for innovations that resulted in increased productivity and quality. Part of the AQA criteria includes employee retention, well being, satisfaction and motivation.

The Huntsville Machinists traveled to the award ceremony in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and charged that Boeing failed to meet the criteria for the award.

“Alabama has invested millions of tax dollars into the Boeing Company. Boeing’s repayment is to demand massive cuts in benefits for their Alabama employees,” the handbill read.

IAM members are on strike at Boeing facilities in Alabama, Florida and California over Boeing’s demand for benefit cutbacks and deep health care concessions despite record third quarter profits.

MNPL Launches Into Cyberspace

IAM members can now make voluntary contributions to the Machinists Non-Partisan Political League (MNPL) online. MNPL is one of the largest political action committees in the United States and supports political candidates who promote working family issues.

“This is a great opportunity for IAM members to become sponsoring members of MNPL, just ten dollars per year,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger.

“With this new online capability, it will be easy for IAM members to pool their resources for a stronger voice in legislative halls across the country.”

To access this new online tool, look for the MNPL bar at www.goiam.org.

IF Metall Pledges to Support Organizing Rights

“For some people around the world, the United States is a symbol of freedom, hope and opportunity. For others, the United States symbolizes oppression and exploitation. The reality for American workers is that both of these images are correct,” said IAM Trade and Globalization Representative Dennis Hitchcock in an address to more than 1,500 delegates at the founding convention of IF Metall, the National Trade Union in Sweden.

Hitchcock reviewed the challenges and political pressures confronting U.S. labor unions and the tendency for global corporations to collaborate with conservative politicians around the world. “I am afraid that here in Sweden you have the seeds, the beginnings, of the same problems that are now causing such devastation in the United States,” said Hitchcock who warned the delegates about the tendency of Swedish international corporations to adopt North American business practices. “I urge you not to be complacent.”

The IF Metall Congress issued a statement of support and solidarity for U.S. workers seeking to exercise their right to join a union and pledged to oppose multinational companies that use globalization to deny workers’ rights to join a union.

Sweden is currently among the most highly unionized countries in the world, with a strong social network and, unlike the U.S., has ratified all eight standards of the International Labor Organization (ILO), including the right to form unions and engage in collective bargaining. IF Metall joins the Swedish Industrial Workers’ and the Swedish Metalworkers’ Union and will represent close to 450,000 members at nearly 12,500 workplaces when their merger is completed in January 2006.

Give the Gift of Good Jobs – Buy Union

Holiday shoppers can support good jobs this year by supporting the AFL-CIO’s “Buy Union Week,” until December 4. Everyone who is in a union or supports a union are urged to make at least one purchase this holiday season from The Union Shop by visiting special Internet websites that specialize in selling union-made clothing and other items.

Communications Department Announces 2006 Class Schedule

The IAM Communications Department will be offering a comprehensive program of classes in 2006 at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center to enhance local and district lodge communications programs.

For local web stewards, there will be three Web Development classes:
Basic Web Development
March 26 – March 31, 2006

Intermediate Web Development
June 25 – June 30, 2006

Advanced Web Development
September 24 – September 29, 2006

For beginning newsletter editors:
Basic Editors
April 30 – May 5, 2006

For active editors, web stewards and Communicators who need advanced training in news writing:
Advanced Editors
October 29 – November 3, 2006

For beginning Communicators:
Communicators Class
February 19 – February 24, 2006
August 6- August 11, 2006

The official call will be mailed to Local and District Lodges four months in advance of each course. Course descriptions and copies of the current official calls for Basic Web Development and the first Communicators class are available on the Communications Department page of www.goiam.org.