iMail for Thursday July 20

Bush Pledges to Sign Voting Rights Act

Appearing for the first time at the annual meeting of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) since taking office in 2000, President George Bush used the occasion to tout the 1965 Voting Rights Act and urged the Senate to quickly pass legislation renewing key parts of the bill.

“President Johnson called the right to vote the lifeblood of our democracy. That was true then and it remains true today,” said the president, who pledged to sign the bill that would extend the voting rights provisions for another 25 years. The legislation has been held up as right-wing GOP extremists sought to add amendments that would weaken oversight and enforcement provisions of the landmark civil rights legislation.

The President acknowledged the divide between the GOP and many civil rights advocates. “I understand that racism still lingers in America,” said Bush. “It’s a lot easier to change a law than to change a human heart. And I understand that many African-Americans distrust my political party.”

“We welcome the President’s support for the Voting Rights Act,” said Executive Assistant Diane Babineaux, a delegate at the NAACP National Convention. “The right to vote is the most basic civil right we have. It is the duty of America’s elected leaders to ensure every citizen has full access to that right.”

 

Ralph Reed Reaps the Whirlwind

The budding political career of GOP wunderkind Ralph Reed came to a humbling halt when voters in Georgia chose a little known state senator over Reed in the state’s Republican primary for Lt. Governor.

The baby faced Reed went from a huge early lead in the polls to losing in a landslide to Georgia State Senator Casey Cagle’s after Reed’s ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff were uncovered during the lobbyist’s bribery and money laundering trial.

While Reed was not charged with any crime, his conservative supporters apparently frowned on his role as a subcontractor for Abramoff, who was working for Indian tribes in an effort to protect their casino interests in Mississippi.

Before his defeat, Reed served as chair of Georgia’s Republican Party, where he orchestrated the smear campaign that brought down former Georgia Democratic Sen. Max Cleland. As national head of the Christian Coalition, Reed was credited with helping Republicans take over Congress in 1994.

Reed’s political future may be uncertain, but analysts expected his defeat would not prevent him from pursuing a lucrative career in Washington, D.C…. as a lobbyist.

 

Simulator Techs at NWA Reach Tentative Accord

District 143 announced a tentative agreement with Northwest Airlines covering Flight Simulator Technicians and Simulator Support Specialists (SIMTECHS).
Terms of the tentative agreement are being distributed to the membership. Ratification is expected to take place the week of July 24, 2006.
The SIMTECHS are the sole IAM-represented group without a ratified agreement with the bankrupt airline. IAM District 143 represents 12,200 Northwest Airlines employees in the Equipment Service, Office & Clerical, Passenger Service, Plant Protection and Flight Simulator Operator classifications. More information is available on the District 143 website, www.iam143.org.

 

North Carolina ATT Workers Vote IAM

Clerical workers at the Auto Truck Transport (ATT) terminal in Cleveland, NC voted 8-2 last week to join the IAM. Despite an anti-union campaign from ATT, the clerical workers voted overwhelmingly for the IAM.

“Every day, these workers saw the benefits ATT truck drivers enjoyed by being IAM members,” said Automotive Coordinator Boysen Anderson. “Congratulations and welcome to the IAM family at Auto Truck Transport.”

 

Maryland Lawmakers to Appeal Wal-Mart Ruling

Dealing a potential blow to working families throughout the country, a federal judge in Baltimore yesterday struck down a state law that would have required Wal-Mart Stores to increase health care spending on their employees in Maryland.

The Maryland Fair Share Health Care Law, which was approved in January when state lawmakers overrode the veto of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, requires large employers such as Wal-Mart to spend at least eight percent of their payroll on employee health care or make up the difference paying into a state fund.

Advocates of working families have pledged to continue to fight for affordable health care. Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. said he will appeal the ruling to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller promised that lawmakers will remedy the situation during next year’s legislative session, if necessary.

The Fair Share Health Care Campaign has been active in more than 30 states, but Maryland was the first to pass the law. It is imperative to encourage health coverage for workers at large corporations such as Wal-Mart and to prevent these firms from sticking taxpayers with the health care costs of their employees.

 

Eastern Territory Scores Big Win in Pennsylvania

IAM District Lodge 1 scored a historic organizing victory yesterday, bringing in 330 new members employed by Defense Support Services, LLC (DS2) in Tobyhanna, PA. The new IAM members maintain weapon systems for the Department of Defense.

“This is a fine example of teamwork and what dedicated people can do,” said District Lodge 1 Directing Business Representative Danny Chmelko.

“Congratulations to our new IAM members and I would like to personally thank those who brought this victory home: Organizer Gary Anthony, Grand Lodge Representative Stephen Miller, DBR Danny Chmelko, Assistant DBR Bill Wheeler, Mike Chmelko, Frank Hevener and Bill McIntosh,” said Eastern Territory GVP Lynn D. Tucker, Jr.

 

AK Steel Retirees Sue over Health Benefits

More than 4,000 AK Steel Corp. retirees facing the loss of promised health care benefits are fighting back with a lawsuit that seeks an injunction to prevent the steelmaker from charging up to $300 per month for health care coverage.

The lawsuit comes a month after AK Steel notified retirees that it was unilaterally cutting their benefits and five months after the company locked out 2,700 members of the Armco Employees Independent Federation (AEIF).

The locked-out workers will vote July 26-27 in a National Labor Relations Board election that could bring them into the Machinists union and give them an opportunity to participate in the IAM National Pension Fund.