iMail for Thursday February 2, 2006

Bush Fails to Connect with Workers in Annual Address

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Bush vowed no retreat in Iraq, urged a halt to “oil addiction” and even spoke of an “American Competitiveness Initiative” to make sure math and science students can compete in the global market. But he failed to mention the hardships of those students’ parents, the millions of hardworking people around the country who have watched corporations ship their good jobs overseas, steal their pensions, lower their wages and charge them more for healthcare, all with the blessings of the Bush administration.

“President Bush’s State of the Union speech reflected his entire presidency, a carefully crafted show that appealed to his political base. He, like his shadowy cast of corporate cronies, seems oblivious to the pressures working families face,” said IP Buffenbarger.

UAL Exits Historic Bankruptcy

Senior management at United Airlines bid a fond farewell to the shelter of bankruptcy protection this week after using the courts for three years to squeeze billions from employees, shareholders, retirees and creditors. The carrier’s coming out party included a multi-million dollar package of perks for 400 top managers at United, including stock and options worth more than $40 million alone for CEO Glenn Tilton.

“The empty suits at UAL World Headquarters are dropping their bags of money only long enough to pat themselves on the back for a job well done,” said District 141 President Randy Canale. “The fact is that United survived in spite of its current leadership, not because of it. The true heroes of this bankruptcy ordeal are the IAM members and other front-line employees who work every day at reduced rates while delivering a first-rate product.”

A major obstacle the carrier must overcome is recruiting and retaining qualified employees. “United is under-staffed at many locations and its reputation as an employer who breaks promises, eliminates benefits, forces confrontations and destroys pensions does little to help recruitment,” said Canale.

Machinists Vote to End Boeing Strike

IAM members employed at Boeing space and defense facilities in Alabama, Florida and California voted this week to ratify new contracts with the company, ending a strike that began on November 2, 2005.

Workers from Local 2766 in Huntsville, AL and Local 44 in Decatur, AL voted separately on Wednesday to ratify their contracts. Members of Locals 2024 and Local 720J in California and Local 1163 in Florida, which operate on a joint contract, also ratified the accord.

Throughout the strike, Boeing complained about needing to become more productive, more competitive and more profitable. However, in Boeing’s latest financial report, fourth-quarter net income rose dramatically to $460 million, or 58 cents per share, up from $186 million, or 23 cents per share a year earlier.

Continental Flight Attendants Ratify New Accord

District 142 announced on Feb. 1 that an overwhelming majority of Continental Airlines flight attendants have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement reached with the Houston-based airline last month.

“In spite of pressure to conform to trends set by others in the most difficult bargaining environment imaginable, the Machinists union has produced the industry’s leading flight attendant agreement,” said William O’Driscoll, District 142 President. “Continental flight attendants are the highest compensated in the industry with the most secure defined benefit pension options anywhere.”

Retirees Set Strategies for Looming Elections

A dedicated band of IAM retirees pounced on a challenge laid down by IP Tom Buffenbarger, honed it to a keen edge and surgically dissected that much-ballyhooed State of the Union screed offered up by a president in deep political trouble.

“I want you angry this year, we’ve got to change this government,” Buffenbarger declared to some four dozen retiree activists gathered at the Winpisinger Education & Technology Center in Southern Maryland — and anger, laced with derision, marked their response to President Bush as he addressed the nation earlier this week.

“President Bush’s address wasn’t a speech, it was a fairy tale,” said Maria Cordone, IAM Retirees and Community Services Department, who coordinated the event.

The retiree group met to lay plans and develop strategies to bring out senior voters in record numbers for the crucial mid-term elections in November. Despite the rosy scenario laid out by the White House, participants pointed to the looming crisis in retirement security as a major issue. They focused on threats to privatize Social Security, the erosion of private pension plans and the total chaos sparked by the catastrophic Medicare prescription drug plan as fertile grounds for get-out-the-vote efforts.

The retirees pledged to recruit, educate and mobilize the IAM’s 350,000 retirees, as well as the nation’s growing roster of seniors, around these issues in preparation for the November elections.

Pit Crew Competition Highlights Student Skills

The World of Wheels Custom Car Show in Chicago, IL was once again the site for Local 701’s 6 th annual Chi-Town Tear Down Pit Crew Competition. The fast-moving competition pits high school and college teams against the clock to see who can tear down and reassemble an automobile engine in the fastest time with the fewest mistakes.

Nineteen high schools competed on January 28, and 6 colleges competed on January 29, 2006.  The winners in the high school division were students at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park, IL and the winners in the college division were from the Universal Technical Institute.

Ford Motor Company again took part as a major sponsor, donating 30 V-6 engines for the teardown competition.  Each school will keep the motor they worked on for their respective programs. Two vehicles were also donated by Ford.

Wear Red to Stop Heart Disease

Remember to wear something red on Friday, February 3 to show support for “National Wear Red Day,” a national campaign to raise awareness about heart disease in women. “Most people think heart disease strikes men more, but it’s actually the number one killer of women and men,” said IAM Women’s Department Director Cheryl Eastburn. “That’s why we urge everyone to wear something red on February 3 rd to call attention to this terrible disease and save lives.”

National Wear Red Day is part of the “Go Red for Women” movement in partnership with the American Heart Association in their fight against heart disease.

Steve Sleigh Marks Strategic Milestone

IAM Strategic Resources Director Steve Sleigh is a well known presence at bargaining tables and industry conferences across the country, where he regularly provides sage advice and succinct analysis on a wide range of complex economic issues.

“Steve Sleigh, who turned 50 this week, has dedicated so much of his adult life to the cause of economic justice for workers and their families, it seems as if he’s been around forever,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “I want to take this occasion to thank him for his many, many years of service, and to wish him even greater success in his next 50 years.”

Deadline Reminder for Basic Editor School

Applications for the IAM Communications Department’s Basic Editor Class must be in by March 1, 2006. This course teaches the fundamentals of publishing a local lodge newsletter. Students learn news writing and editing; selecting subjects for stories; writing headlines; how to interview; principles of design and get hands-on desktop publishing experience by creating their own newsletter. Applications and course descriptions for all IAM Communications Department courses are available at

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