iMail for Thursday, February 12, 2009

Machinists Raise Safety Concerns at FAA Hearing

Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr., testified this week before the Aviation Sub-Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on the subject of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2009.

“The aviation industry is at a crossroads,” said Roach. “Thirty years of airline deregulation, reckless management decisions and more than a hundred bankruptcies have left it hobbled. Airline workers have shouldered more than their fair share to help revitalize their employers and their industry. The FAA reauthorization bill is an opportunity to change course.”

Roach urged the Committee to resolve jurisdictional conflicts between the National Mediation Board and the National Labor Relations Board, and address Flight Attendant issues such as fatigue and their lack of workplace health and safety regulations. Roach also called for enough FAA inspectors to ensure one level of aircraft safety and maintenance oversight regardless of where in the world the aircraft maintenance is performed.

“Industry conditions have imposed great burdens on workers as carriers compete to reduce costs,” said Roach. “Such an extraordinary focus on the bottom line demands greater, not less, government oversight, and proper FAA funding is a must.”

IAM Organizers Plan for Post-Bush Era

The IAM Organizing Department is preparing to take full advantage of a political landscape that is shifting decidedly in its favor.

“What a difference it makes having a little help at the top,” said International President Tom Buffenbarger at a planning summit of the IAM Organizing Department. “In addition to pro-labor executive orders and a pledge to sign the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), we’re looking forward to federal agencies that don’t use their power to aggressively block the basic right of workers to join a union.”

Unlike previous administrations that failed to protect the rights of workers seeking to organize, President Obama recently signed a remarkable series of pro-labor executive orders, including one that prohibits government contractors from using any federal funds to finance anti-union campaigns.

Buffenbarger urged the organizers to have campaigns ready to go. “Winning the EFCA fight won’t be easy, our adversaries are spending millions and are ready to spend millions more, but now is the time to develop plans for when we do win,” said Buffenbarger.

While the political landscape has shifted, the economic landscape is changing too, with mass layoffs, bankruptcies and factory closings sending shock waves through the economy and adding a new dimension to the job of union organizers.

“We have something workers desperately need and want in times of economic turmoil,” said Organizing Director George Myers. “And that’s the promise in writing that their rights will be protected, their pensions defended and their voice will be every bit as loud as shareholders, managers or investors.”

In addition to planning for upcoming campaigns, the organizers took time to salute Larry Washam, the much loved and recently retired former director of the IAM Organizing Department.  “Thousands of men and women all across the country are living better, richer lives because of the work this man has done over the years,” said Headquarters Vice President Rich Michalski, who hosted the event attended by more than 100 friends, family and co-workers. “Larry Washam has always been one of those people who makes you proud to belong to the Machinists union.”

Kourpias Urges Retirees to Fight for EFCA

The following essay about the importance of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is by former IAM International President George J. Kourpias, who currently serves as president of the 3-million member Alliance for Retired Americans.

“Unions built the middle class.  By standing together, we fought for and won better wages, health care and pensions, and safety and respect on the job. 

But much of what we achieved is crumbling in today’s troubled economy.  Many of us worry that our children and grandchildren will not live as well as we have.  More than ever, American workers need the good wages and benefits that they can best achieve through collective bargaining. 

As the former president of the Machinists union – and now as president of the Alliance for Retired Americans – there is no doubt in my mind that the fate of workers and retirees is undeniably linked. 

We cannot have a solid, stable retirement unless we have a solid, stable middle class.  For example, union workers are three times more likely to have a defined-benefit pension plan than non-union workers.  And union workers are five times more likely to have health insurance than non-union workers.

To me, it is no coincidence that as it becomes harder for workers to form and join unions, more and more Americans are struggling to take care of their families, see a doctor or get a prescription filled, or retire with any sense of comfort.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, in 2007 nearly 30,000 workers faced illegal employer retaliation for trying to join a union – that is five times as many as in 1967.
How do we change this?  Workers and retirees must fight together to pass the Employee Free Choice Act so we can finally crack down on companies that break the law and try to block a worker’s freedom to join a union. 

What can retirees do to help?

First, talk to your children and grandchildren.  Polls have shown that younger workers may not be as aware of the benefits of collective bargaining.  Tell them all about what our generation went through to create jobs that could support a family.  And how much it hurts to see it all slipping away.

Next, tell your Representatives and Senators in Washington.  Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202/224-3121.

Retirees have a lot at stake in this fight.  We know what collective bargaining did for us, and we want only the best for our children and grandchildren.  If we stand together – retirees, workers, and community leaders – we can pass the Employee Free Choice Act and restore economic security to people of all ages.”

Local 912 Member is IAM Sister of the Month

Lorraine “Rainey” Rohrmeier has been an IAM member for more than two decades. Employed as an electrician for General Electric, she currently serves as Trustee on the Executive Board for Local 912 in Cincinnati, OH.

Rohrmeier believes it is important to attend union meetings to get first hand information and to develop a relationship with fellow activists. As one of a few women in a predominately male local lodge, being respected by her union brothers made her job more enjoyable and cultivated a feeling of true solidarity.

Rohrmeier’s involvement with her union increased when a member of the Local 912 Executive Board retired and she was asked to fill out the remaining term. She did what she could to learn the ropes; always finding the members of her lodge willing to share their knowledge.

“I had to reevaluate the priorities in my life in order to have enough time to commit to fulfilling the responsibilities,” said Rohrmeier, who acknowledged that being involved was an ongoing commitment. “There’s lots to do and a strong union needs all of its members.”

In addition to her job and her duties as a member of the executive board, Rohrmeier has also participated in a number of training sessions at the Winpsinger Education Center. “It’s very rewarding to be involved and to give back,” says Rohrmeier. “Being a Trustee and active union member is a great fit.”

Lobbyist scandal may involve anti-worker Republican Senator

A scandal involving illegal dealings with lobbyists is hitting close to home for one of Washington, DC’s most powerful Senate Republicans.

New information in an investigation involving a former senior advisor to Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) raises questions about legislative favors provided to imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.  Abramoff pled guilty in 2006 to three criminal felony counts related to the defrauding of American Indian tribes and the corruption of public officials.

The Associated Press reports a series of emails allegedly show Ann Copland took tickets, meals and other gifts worth more than $25,000 from Abramoff’s firm while working for Cochran.  The favors, which included a luxury suite at the Orioles game and box suite at a Liza Minnelli concert, were allegedly in exchange for the passage or blockage of key legislation.

Sen. Cochran is one of a select group of Senators known for blocking legislation that would help working families.  Such bills as Employee Free Choice; the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay; The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development, and Employment or (TRADE), and The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Acts were all heavily opposed by corporate lobbyists and special interest groups.

Last Call to Enroll for 2009 Basic Newsletter Course

The application deadline for the 2009 Basic Newsletter Development course at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center in Placid Harbor, MD is Friday, February 13. The course will be held from May 10 through May 15, 2009 and is the only Basic Newsletter course for 2009. Local or district lodges who want to start a newsletter or train editors for existing newsletters are encouraged to apply. The course covers writing and editing, effective layout and design techniques and desktop publishing.

Click here for the course description and to download the official call and course application. For more information, call the Communications Dept. at 301-967-4520.