iMail for Thursday July 13, 2006

Nurses Threatened by ‘ Kentucky River’ Rulings

Hundreds of nurses at the Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) in Bangor, ME who are working to win a voice at work with the Machinists union, could be barred from union membership by the upcoming “ Kentucky River” rulings from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The NLRB, comprised solely of Bush appointees, is poised to rule on a trio of cases known collectively as the “ Kentucky River” cases. The rulings could bar EMMC nurses and thousands of others around the country from joining unions by expanding the definition of “supervisors” to include almost anyone who provides instruction to another worker. Supervisors are traditionally denied the right to union representation and collective bargaining.

The NLRB is refusing to hear even oral arguments in the three cases that could have an enormous impact on collective bargaining rights for hundreds of thousands of workers.

Workers in 18 cities, including Bangor, will take to the streets during the week of July 10 to bring attention to the actions of the anti-worker actions of the NLRB. Click here to send a message to your member of Congress and urge them to tell Bush’s labor board to reverse its decision and allow oral arguments in the “ Kentucky River” cases.


House Weighs Voting Rights Act Renewal

This is a critical week in Congress for efforts to renew sections of the landmark Voting Rights Act, which ensures all Americans have the opportunity to vote. The House is set to vote on H.R. 9, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider its version of the bill, S. 2703.

The original Voting Rights Act (VRA) was passed in 1965 at the height of the Civil Rights movement. At the time, many states used racially discriminatory tactics such as poll taxes to exclude minority voters. The VRA ended many of these practices and ensured all Americans had an equal opportunity to vote. In 1964, there were approximately 300 African American elected officials nationwide. Forty years after the VRA, more than 9,100 African Americans serve in elected office.

While most of the Voting Rights Act’s provisions are permanent, several key parts expire in 2007 and must be renewed by Congress. Some extremist representatives in Congress are trying to derail renewal by stalling the legislation or adding crippling amendments. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) has a toll-free number (1-866-808-0065) to contact Congress about this important legislation. Call your representative today to urge that he or she fully support H.R. 9 and oppose any amendments. Then use the same toll-free number to call Speaker Hastert, Majority Leader Boehner, and Minority Leader Pelosi to urge them to use their leadership positions to ensure that H.R. 9 passes quickly without any amendments. For more information on the history and importance of the Voting Rights Act, visit


Airline Reps Plan Strategy in Buffalo

U.S. airline workers continue to bear a heavy burden, despite reports of steadily improving ticket sales, revenue and profits. “We’ve just gone through a spate of airline bankruptcies and our members have taken a terrible toll,” said IP Buffenbarger at the District 141 Chairman’s Conference in Buffalo, NY.

Interviewed in the Buffalo News, Buffenbarger described the sacrifices by employees at bankrupt airlines that included pay cuts, benefit reductions and reduced staffing. Despite improvements in the industry, rising fuel prices are poised to wipe out recent gains and trigger a new round of cost cutting pressure.

“Re-regulating the airline industry is overdue for serious consideration,” said Buffenbarger. “Giving airlines a free hand to set fares has led to cheap fares in some markets, but it eliminated air service entirely in others. The real cost of low fares has been lost jobs, lousy service and a work environment that frequently requires police to protect employees from angry passengers.”

More than 100 local and district lodge officials traveled to Buffalo, NY this week for the annual District 141 Conference, including for the first time, local representatives for former America West workers. “I am impressed with the IAM’s organizational structure, from local stewards to chairman right up to the International officers,” said Ron Roth, former TWU representative and current IAM Chairman in Phoenix, AZ. US Airways and America West merged last year, bringing 2,400 Fleet Service workers into District 141.


IAM Women’s Dept Honors Breunig, Martin

July’s IAM Sisters of the Month are Stacy Breunig and Libby Martin, President and Vice President respectively for Willamette Lodge Local 63 in Portland Oregon. Long-time union members, they’ve also the first women elected to office in their lodge’s 100-plus year history.

As soon as they took office more than 2 years ago, the pair worked to build bridges and promote a sense of union family solidarity. The effort paid dividends last October when their lodge went on strike against Boeing.

Stacy and Libby urge all IAM members to become active in their lodges. They say it is important to take advantage of every educational opportunity and to showcase your strengths and abilities. Both officers believe that respect and support comes from being honest, staying positive and conducting yourself with class.


Local 922 Ratifies New Agreements at ICP and Kraft

IAM members in two lodges in Canada won two new agreements. Members of IAM Local 922 in Sherbrooke, Quebec, ratified a new five-year collective agreement with International Comfort Products (ICP). The 156 members are employed in the manufacturing of gas and oil furnaces at ICP’s Dettson Division.

The new agreement provides for wage increases of 2.75 per cent in each of the first three years and 3 per cent in each of the remaining two years. In addition there are wage adjustments ranging from 60 cents to $2.10 per hour for some classifications.

Members of IAM Local Lodge 2727 In Montreal, Quebec ratified a new four-year collective agreement with Kraft Foods. The new agreement provides wage increases of 75 cents an hour in each year and RRSP contributions of five cents an hour in each year from the current $1.90 per hour to $2.10 per hour by 2009.


Medicare Part D: The Nightmare Continues

As seniors struggled to make sense out of a bewildering array of choices following the start of the flawed Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, insurers offering coverage through the plan provided inaccurate and incomplete information to beneficiaries seeking help over the phone.

A Government Accountability Office report released Monday said the overall accuracy and completeness rate for call centers set up to help seniors ranged from 20 percent to 60 percent. In preparing the report, investigators made 900 calls to 10 of the largest drug plan sponsors. Investigators received complete answers only a third of the time, inaccurate answers 22 percent of the time and incomplete answers 29 percent of the time.

“Relatively few customer service representatives were able to accurately identify the least costly plan and calculate its annual cost,” the report states.


Voter Photo Requirement Blocked in Georgia

A Superior Court Judge in Georgia blocked a GOP-sponsored effort to require Georgia voters to present a government-issued photo ID card before they would be allowed to vote. Although the Georgia legislature approved the ID provision, Judge Melvin K. Westmorland declared that the requirement violated the State Constitution by placing an undue burden on the fundamental right to vote.

The Republican-led effort to suppress voter rights in Georgia resembles similar moves in Florida and Missouri, where the GOP-dominated legislatures passed bills requiring voters to show photo ID cards. Election official estimated the new law could disenfranchise up to 190,000 voters, mainly seniors, people of color and people with disabilities.