iMail for Thursday, February 1, 2007

Machinists Slam Harley ‘Betrayal’

More than 2,700 Machinists union members at Harley-Davidson in York, PA, were forced out of their workplace today after voting to reject a contract that union leaders called a betrayal to workers at the iconic company.

“Harley-Davidson has no business behaving like they’re on the brink of bankruptcy,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “When Harley was flat on its back in the 1980’s, it was union members who refused to let it die. Harley went on to become an international success story but they’ve obviously forgotten how they got this far.”

“They don’t respect workers as much as their stock options,” declared District 98 Directing Business Representative Tom Boger about company leaders who reported record revenue of more than $1.6 billion for the third quarter of last year.

Harley proposed pay increases that would go into effect in 2008 and 2009, but only if workers agreed to pay more for health care costs.

“These workers build pride into every motorcycle Harley sells and they deserve a fair contract that reflects the success they helped create,” said Buffenbarger. “Instead, this company’s management is risking a successful 26-year partnership for a few cents more in profits. It’s incredibly stupid and shortsighted.”

The contract with Harley-Davidson expires on February 2 at 12:01 am. Strike preparations are underway.

District 751 Member Wins ‘Trip of a Lifetime’

District 751-member Scott Karelsen recently won the trip of a lifetime, receiving an all-expense paid hunting trip to the tundra of Quebec. The trip was filmed as part of the Versus Network’s “Escape to the Wild” series and will be broadcast Feb.2 on channels that carry Versus programming.

Karelsen entered the contest last spring after seeing the ad in the IAM Journal. The IAM got involved in the project because of their affiliation with the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Project (TRCP), which partners with the Versus Network.

On the whirlwind trip, he traveled to Montreal, Kuujjuaq and the Nunavik region of Quebec before setting up shop in the Leaf River area of Quebec. In 3 ½ days, Karelsen got two caribou, caught numerous brook and lake trout and also hunted tundra grouse known as Ptarmigan.

“It was everything I hoped it would be, but at a frantic pace,” said Karelsen. “This place was so remote. It was a trip I couldn’t have made on my own.”

Between Feb. 2-7, the Escape to the Wild episode featuring Scott’s trip will be featured on Versus.

Bush Pitches Fast Track Renewal

President Bush took a break from mismanaging foreign policy this week to promote an equally disastrous domestic policy agenda, including an extension of fast-track trade authority, which allows him to submit trade pacts to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote. The current authorization expires June 30 unless Congress extends it.

“It’s hard to imagine anyone being unaware or indifferent to the damage and hardship that’s been done in the name of free trade since the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) took effect in 1994,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “Millions of jobs and thousands of companies that once provided a strong economic foundation for the U.S. middle class are gone forever.”

The newly-elected Democratic leaders in Congress are pledging to oppose a renewal of trade authorization authority until the agreement includes international worker rights and enforceable environmental standards.

In a hearing held this week by the House Education and Labor Committee, Chairman George Miller (D-CA) said that strengthening America’s middle class would be the top priority for his committee this year. “While the business pages across America report that profits and productivity are up for many corporations, we know that’s only half of the economic story,” said Rep. Miller. “The other half is the story of how middle class Americans are struggling to make ends meet.”

Colorado Set to Remove Organizing Barrier

The Colorado House of Representatives passed the Labor Peace Act this week, legislation that would remove an archaic provision of Colorado law that provides an unnecessary barrier to workers seeking collective bargaining rights.

Currently in Colorado, all union representation elections must be voted on by employees twice before they receive the benefits of a union contract. The second vote must pass by a simple majority of all those employees eligible to vote or by 75 percent of those who voted, whichever is greater. The Labor Peace Act removes this provision.

Colorado’s Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee has approved the legislation, sending it to the full Senate for a full vote later this week. Newly elected Gov. Bill Ritter (D), who leads a Democratic-controlled statehouse and Governor’s mansion for the first time in 40 years, is expected to sign the bill. 

Oil Giant Racks up Record Profits

For the second straight year, Exxon Mobil Corp. recorded the largest annual profit ever by a U.S. company. The oil giant’s profit for 2006 was $39.5 billion, up from last year’s record $36.13 billion.

Exxon’s record year came in a year when working families continued to be battered by skyrocketing gas prices that topped $3 a gallon at one point last year.

The burden of high gas prices on working families, coupled with record profits by oil companies, is causing Democratic lawmakers to take action. The newly Democrat-led House recently voted to cut $14 billion in federal oil and tax breaks doled out to corporate giants such as Exxon, instead investing the money in renewable-energy programs. The Senate has yet to take up the bill.