iMail for Thursday, July 17, 2008

Machinists at Boeing Say “It’s Our Time, This Time!”

Thousands of Seattle-area IAM members packed the KeyArena for a strike sanction rally. Speakers at the rally included IAM President Tom Buffenbarger, Headquarters GVP Rich Michalski, Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson, IAM Aerospace Coordinator Mark Blondin and District 751 President Tom Wroblewski.

Boeing Machinists sent a powerful message of solidarity this week after IAM members employed at Boeing Aircraft Co. voted by an overwhelming 99 percent margin in favor of granting strike sanction authority to their Negotiating Committee.

“By casting their ballots in record numbers, they sent negotiators back to the bargaining table with the full support of the membership and a clear message, ‘it’s payback time,’” said IAM Aerospace Coordinator Mark Blondin. The 99 percent margin includes IAM members voting in Seattle, WA; Wichita, KS; Portland, OR and Edwards Air Force Base, CA, representing nearly 27,000 employees at Boeing who have made “It’s Our Time, This Time!” the theme of negotiations.

Contract talks between the IAM and Boeing began on May 9, 2008. Round-the-clock bargaining will commence on Aug. 20. The current contract expires at 12:01 a.m. on September 4, 2008.

GAO Blasts Labor Department Practices

The U.S. Government Accountability Office released two reports Tuesday sharply criticizing the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division for not adequately enforcing the nation’s wage and hour laws.

Presented during a hearing before the House Education and Labor Committee, the GAO reports say the Wage and Hour division mishandled thousands of cases over the past decade and delayed numerous cases for a year or more. As a result, many workers received reduced or no back pay at all.

“Although the Department of Labor has the necessary tools to fight wage theft, the GAO investigation suggests that the problem of wage theft is only getting worse because of weaker enforcement,” said Committee Chair George Miller (D-CA). “In too many cases, the Wage and Hour Division has simply dropped the ball in pursuing employers that cheat its workers out of their hard earned wages.”

The GAO also criticized the Wage and Hour Division for the noticeable drop off in enforcement actions, calculating actions initiated by the Department on wage and hour violations has dropped from roughly 47,000 in 1997 to fewer than 30,000 in 2007.  They also found fines punishing repeat or egregious offenders dropped by nearly 50 percent from 2001 to 2007.

Congress Overrides Bush Medicare Veto

Congress on Tuesday scored a major victory for the nation’s seniors, voting overwhelmingly to override President Bush’s veto of legislation that benefits low-income seniors receiving Medicare coverage.
The House voted by a 383-41 margin, and the Senate by a 70-26 margin, to override Bush’s veto of the ‘Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act’. The legislation, which halts a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare fees to physicians, was opposed by the Bush administration and many Republican lawmakers because it scales back subsidies to private Medicare Advantage providers.

“Today, Congress rightly overrode President Bush’s misguided veto and renewed the promise of Medicare,” said Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), whose presence helped the Senate secure a veto-proof majority. “It’s a great vote and a great day for America’s seniors.”

Working America Launches Bad Boss Contest

Working America has launched their third annual “My Bad Boss Contest,” giving workers the chance to share personal stories about bosses who treat their workers unjustly. Workers have through August 19th to share their stories. If your story is rated the worst bad boss experience, you could win one of two grand prizes.

Roughly 15 million workers report having a bad boss, according to a survey conducted for Working America. The survey also found 36 percent of working Americans report feeling pressure to stay with a bad boss because of the harsh economic conditions.

The Working America survey found numerous workers who have bosses that take credit for their work, do not provide them with recognition for success or hard work, and do not provide them with the guidance or opportunities necessary for advancement.

Click here to tell your story.

Working America is a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO with over two million members.

Secure Pension Means Secure Retirement

A defined benefit pension plan continues to be the best defense for current and future retirees who are being confronted with harsh economic realities. A recent study finds nearly three in five new middle-class retirees will outlive their current retirement savings if they maintain their pre-retirement standard of living.
The Ernst & Young study draws attention to the importance of a secure pension plan, finding “retirees are much better prepared to have a financially secure retirement if they have a guaranteed source of retirement income beyond Social Security, such as an annuity or defined benefit plan.”

The study found retirees would have to reduce their standard of living by roughly 24 percent to have enough for a secure retirement. For those retiring in seven years, that number jumps to 37 percent.

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