iMail for Thursday, February 05, 2009

Moncure Strikers Deserve Respect

For nearly six months, the 109 members of Local W369 in Moncure, North Carolina, have walked picket lines in conditions that tested their resolve and their wallets, in addition to their ability to endure racial harassment and exposure to extreme temperatures.

With strong support from community allies, the veteran IAM members remain unified in their strike against Moncure Plywood. The strikers have faced numerous provocations, including harassment from local police, gunfire from passing cars and a noose hung inside the plant’s gates in plain view of the largely African-American workforce.
“The Machinists at Moncure are on the front line of a fight that goes back more than a hundred years,” said International President Tom Buffenbarger, who met with the strikers this week at their encampment outside the plant’s main gate. “This fight is about the basic right of any union member to be treated with respect and dignity on the job rather than abuse and insults in a plantation-like environment.”

The dispute at Moncure Plywood, which is owned by Greenwich, CT-based Atlas Holdings LCC, began when company representatives demanded huge givebacks during contract negotiations, including the gutting of seniority rights, increases of up to 400 percent in employee health insurance premiums and a 60-hour work week, a schedule that would allow the company to eliminate dozens of workers.

“The workers at Moncure deferred wage increases during previous contract negotiations so they could keep health insurance premiums affordable for their families,” said Local W369 President Lewis Cameron. “The company’s proposal would increase premiums for some members from approximately $50 a month to more than $250 a month.”

In addition to extreme contract proposals, the company’s union-busting assault included “assisting” vulnerable workers to resign their union membership and then imposing its own contract terms after unilaterally declaring an impasse.  The company also hired 76 replacement workers and refuses to negotiate for the return of long-term workers.

As part of a campaign to bring political and economic pressure on Moncure and Atlas Holding to settle the dispute, the IAM is asking union members to help. Click here to send a letter to Moncure’s customers and help your fellow IAM sisters and brothers.

Economists Warn GOP on Cutting Stimulus

Senate Republicans argue the now $900 billion stimulus package aimed at jumpstarting the U.S. economy needs to be trimmed down – however, a panel of economists say the bigger the better.

In a call organized by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Campaign for Jobs and Economic Recovery, three prominent economists argue that, given the current state of the economy, $900 billion is just a starting point. They say the amount, though badly needed, still won’t be enough to break the economic freefall.

“It’s as if we’re building a pile of mattresses onto which the economy will fall, because we’re going to fall,” says Allen Blinder, former member of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. “The stimulus is not going to prevent the economy from going downhill. But it hopefully deflects, in a positive direction, the rate of descent.”

According to the panel, the unemployment rate will probably reach 9 percent – with the stimulus as it currently stands. Without it, the rate could reach as high as 10 or 11 percent.

Senators reconvened today to debate the details of the proposed package. Republicans would like to see the amount cut by as much as $200 billion.

Lawrence Mishel, EPI president, says cutting it by that much is nothing short of “cruel and unusual punishment to the American people.”

The group says it’s likely the recession could get as bad as the economic turmoil experienced in the 1930s.

Dr. Lawrence Chimerine, chief economist of the Economic Strategy Institute, suggests President Barack Obama urge business executives, many of whom are purging their staffs in an effort to safeguard their bottom lines from the imminent plunge, pause before making anymore layoffs until a final piece of legislation is in place.

Congress has set a February 13th deadline for final passage.

IAM Backs Union Rights for Log Truckers

The IAM is supporting legislation introduced this week in the Oregon State Legislature to give thousands of log truck drivers the right to bargain collectively with the state’s largest forest land owners for wages, benefits and safety standards.

“This bill (SB 382) will give log truck drivers the same rights that millions of workers across the country have had for many years,” said Rod Kelty, Director of the IAM Woodworkers Department. “These huge logging corporations are padding their bottom line at the expense of hard working drivers and their families. These workers deserve a level playing field.”

Currently, most of the major timber corporations in the Northwest are contracting out log harvesting and hauling services to avoid providing health insurance, social security payments and minimum wages for former employees.

The IAM and the Northwest Log Truckers Association of Oregon designed the legislation to empower the Oregon State Forester to convene bargaining sessions between owner/operator log haulers and the state’s largest commercial landowners. In addition, the legislation would allow log truckers to coordinate their activities and negotiate in a concerted and effective fashion.

“Many drivers today don’t have health insurance, they don’t have pensions and many are driving more hours than the law allows simply trying to make ends meet,” said IAM Woodworkers District 1 Directing Business Representative Chuck Macrae. “These drivers deserve the right to have a voice in their hours, wages and working conditions. They should have a right to join a union and SB 382 can help give them those rights.”

Click here to urge lawmakers to support Oregon’s log truckers.

IMF Files Labor Complaint Against Mexico

The 25-million member International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF) is filing an unprecedented complaint with the International Labor Organization (ILO) alleging widespread suppression of independent labor unions by the Mexican Government.
The complaint calls on the ILO to condemn Mexican laws which prevent freedom of association and violate ILO Convention 87 which guarantees core labor standards to all workers.

Despite ratification of Convention 87 by Mexico, current law allows so-called “protection contracts” which force workers to join unions nominated by company management rather than one of their own choosing. In practice, the laws mean only unions that have the support of companies and government can operate in Mexico.

Mexican law also does not require democratic procedures, such as secret ballots in relation to “protection contracts” which can be created without employees’ knowledge.

Among the most recent examples of the practice occurred at a Black & Decker facility in Reynosa, Mexico. A majority of the employees filed papers to establish an independent union but were told a union already existed at the plant, although none of the employees was aware of it.  The workers later discovered the phantom union at the facility was headed by a company supervisor.

The IMF complaint is calling on the ILO to condemn Mexico’s systematic violation of labor rights and calls upon the government to change its laws to ensure all ILO Conventions are upheld.

Boeing Reassures its Workers… in India

As with any workforce currently staring down the barrel of potential job cuts, some jobs are safer than others. But if you work for Boeing – the U.S. aircraft manufacturer – the key, apparently, is to work in India.

The Times of India reports the plane maker has assured its workers there that they will not be among the 10,000 workers set to lose their jobs this year.

Boeing’s chief executive Jim McNerney announced last week the company plans to reduce its workforce by 6 percent. The cuts include 4,500 Seattle-area commercial plane workers who will receive layoff notices by the end of this month.

Boeing says it must lay off workers in order to stay competitive. There’s no word how many of the remaining 5,500 cuts will be in the U.S.

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