iMail for Thursday, January 26, 2006

Join the Fight for Truckers’ and Loggers’ Rights

The IAM campaign to win better wages and working conditions for non-union log truck operators in Washington took a major step forward on Jan. 24 with the filing of HB 3227, legislation that would establish a system of collective bargaining for timber cutters and log haulers in Washington state.

The timber and logging industry in Washington is currently dominated by a handful of large corporations who set rates for truckers in a near monopolistic environment. The newly-introduced legislation would allow trucker cooperatives to join with the IAM to negotiate living wages and benefits for loggers and drivers, many who live in rural communities. Current law prohibits log-truck operators from banding together to negotiate hauling rates.

You can help loggers and log truck drivers win this most basic right by sending a message or contacting your representative directly and urging them to co-sign HB 3227.

If you live in Washington state, tell your legislator to support HB 3227.

White House Stonewalls Katrina Probe

The Bush administration is refusing to allow key officials to testify in the Senate investigation over the government’s response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Federal officials appearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee are claiming they were instructed by the White House not to answer questions about their hurricane-related communications with the administration, according to Democratic and Republican senators leading the probe.

Among the witnesses refusing to answer the committee’s questions is former Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Director Mike “Heck of a Job” Brown, who resigned in disgrace following the failure of storm levees and worldwide criticism over inaction by his agency.

“Mike Brown, the former FEMA director who resigned amid intense criticism of his agency’s response, has refused to answer even the simplest questions,” said Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), top Democrat on the committee investigating the disaster.

Yet Brown continues to draw his full $148,000 salary, “pulling all the documentation together” to aid in Katrina-related investigations, according to a FEMA spokesperson.

The Senate committee also released Department of Homeland Security documents showing that top federal officials warned the White House hours before Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast that the storm would likely cause breaches in the protective levees around New Orleans.

Unions in Court over DoD Personnel System

The United DoD Workers Coalition, a coalition including the IAM and 35 labor unions representing 750,000 Defense Department workers, argued against the Pentagon’s National Security Personnel System before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this week.

The case was argued before Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who will determine if department will be allowed to implement its controversial personnel system that will remove 750,000 civilian employees from the Civil Service. 

“We feel optimistic about our lawsuit,” said NFFE lawyer Susan Tsui-Grundmann. “The Department of Homeland Security rulings last year established case law that will apply in this case. We anticipate the court will block the implementation of illegal provisions in the new personnel system in much the same fashion as the DHS ruling.”

A final decision is expected by Judge Sullivan by March 1, 2006.

Local 66 Member Named Midwest Educator of the Year

The Midwest Territory presented the Local Lodge Educator of the Year Award to Patricia Elizondo, Educator for Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Local 66. Presented by Midwest Territory Educational Representative Ed Lewis, the award acknowledged Elizondo’s efforts in enhancing the membership’s understanding of the IAM and organized labor.

Elizondo helped establish a monthly Education Meeting which is open to the membership, and to non-IAM members and the general public. She also secures speakers who educate members on issues that affect their lives outside the workplace.

Winpisinger Center Welcomes New Instructor

Long-time IAM activist Greg Murray brings a lengthy educational resume and nearly two decades of union experience to his newest position as an instructor at the William W. Winpisinger Educational and Technology Center.

Murray joined IAM LL 879 in Nashville, Tennessee while working as a machine operator for Alcoa Wire Products. During his nine years with Alcoa, he was elected to various leadership positions including Shift Steward, Chief Steward, and District Delegate and served on two collective bargaining committees. Murray was also elected Local Lodge President and served in that capacity for three years.

Murray’s educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts Degree, Magna Cum Laude, in Management and Human Relations from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, and a Master of Science Degree in Labor Studies from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Murray has also completed numerous labor education programs including Leadership I, II, Advanced Leadership and Train-The-Trainer at the Winpisinger Education and Technology Center in Maryland, as well as other training programs offered through the AFL-CIO’s Southern Labor School.

Murray began working for the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor council in 1996 as a fulltime staff person. His most recent position was as Education and Communications Coordinator. He has been an IAM member since 1987.

GOP Leader Got Donations from Phone Sex Mogul

The race to replace disgraced GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay took some interesting turns this week. Acting Majority Leading Roy Blunt, with 91 pledged votes, is leading Reps. John Boehner, with 41 and John Shadegg with 10 in the run-up to a Feb. 2 election for House Majority Leader.

But Blunt’s candidacy may have hit a bump in the road. Roll Call newspaper revealed the largest contributors to Blunt’s political action committee were Jeffrey Prosser and his wife Dawn Prosser. The couple donated $5,000 each to Blunt’s “Rely on Your Beliefs” PAC in 2005. The Columbia Journalism Review identified Jeffrey Prosser as “a world-class phone-sex operator” and Roll Call reported he made a fortune off the business in the 1990s.

Blunt’s staff said he won’t be returning the money because the “funds were given in a 100 percent legal and ethical fashion.”

Tragedies Trigger Tougher Mine Safety Laws

In the wake of multiple mine fatalities, West Virginia Democratic Governor Joe Manchin sent new mine safety legislation to the state Senate on Monday morning. In less than eight hours, the legislature voted unanimously for the new rules, aimed at better tracking miners underground and providing faster emergency response after accidents occur.

The proposal comes after two miners were killed in an accident at the Aracoma mines in southern West Virginia and just three weeks after 12 miners were killed in an explosion at the Sago mines in the northern part of the state.

Manchin’s proposals will require mine operators to immediately report an accident or face a $100,000 fine. Other provisions require operators to supply breathing packs inside their mines and issue miners gear that would pinpoint their location underground and permit them to communicate with the surface during an emergency.

West Virginia’s congressional delegation and the United Mine Workers of America said that they, too, want a major overhaul of state and federal mine safety laws. In a statement Monday, UMW president Cecil Roberts said Congress and state legislatures must take steps to ensure existing regulations are strictly enforced as well as the creation of new regulations.

“We must also develop new initiatives that will give every miner a vastly improved chance to walk out of a mine after an accident, alive and well and safe in the arms of their loved ones,” said Roberts.

Enrollment for Federal Employee Program Extended

The deadline for enrollment in the March 19-24 class of the Federal Employee Training Program at the William W. Winpisinger has been extended to February 3, 2006.

If your lodge is interested in participating in this program, please go to the IAM’s Government Employee website and fill out the enrollment form. The form can be faxed to 301-373-2860 or sent electronically to the Government Employees Department at