iMail for Thursday, July 23, 2009

Machinists Vow to Continue Fight for F-22 Funding

On the heels of a 58-40 vote in the U.S. Senate to end F-22 Raptor production at the 187 jets currently on order, the IAM pledged to continue fighting for additional funding and warned of far-reaching consequences if the funding is not restored.

“This is a critical economic security issue as well as a national security issue,” declared IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “More than 95,000 jobs in 44 states are at risk from the shortsighted decision to terminate this program. Entire communities will suffer and a critical skill base could be lost forever if this decision is not reversed.”

IAM members build, assemble and maintain F-22 components in dozens of states, including Connecticut, Georgia, California and Texas.

In a soon-to-be-published editorial, Buffenbarger contrasts the current situation with the global political and economic environment during the summer of 1933, when the Great Depression was in full swing and lawmakers debated how to restore economic stability.

Despite serious and growing threats in Europe and Asia, many lawmakers at the time balked at pleas by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt to invest in modern air defenses, as a prudent precaution at the very least.

“To leaders like Roosevelt and Churchill, however, foresight was a critical, differentiating capacity. They managed to disengage from the mundane, explore the broadest range of possibilities, assess the longer term risks their nations faced, and act decisively. And they did so in the smoke and confusion of political battle.”

Buffenbarger cited long-term plans by China and Russia to develop fifth-generation fighters as potential threats that require strategic decision making.

“In this time of global economic and political turmoil, America could use equally farsighted leaders who prepare us for all eventualities. Unfortunately, they were in the minority this week,” said Buffenbarger of the Senate vote.

Pratt & Whitney Drops Connecticut Bombshell

Pratt & Whitney this week announced they are “exploring” the possibility of closing the Cheshire, CT, engine overhaul plant and a blade and vane repair facility in P&W’s East Hartford plant.  The Cheshire facility employs approximately 850 hourly and salary workers; the Connecticut Airfoil and Repair Operation (CARO) in East Hartford employs about 200 people.

“Pratt’s targeting of Cheshire and CARO is totally off-base,” said District 26 Assistant Directing Business Representative Jim Parent. “These are both money-making operations where workers have actively taken steps to increase revenues and get the product out the door more quickly.  The skills, experience and dedication of Connecticut’s overhaul and repair workers cannot be matched.  If Pratt has ‘excess capacity’ overall, it should look someplace else to tighten its belt.”

The IAM contract with Pratt & Whitney requires management to work with the union to keep work covered by the agreement in Connecticut. 

The company and the Machinists Union will now begin “meet and confer” discussions about management’s plan.  Pratt has stated they are genuinely interested in working with the IAM to find ways to address their issues and keep the work here. 

“We will use every means available to make sure Pratt lives up to the contract, and keeps this work here in Connecticut where it belongs,” said Parent. “We will be reaching out to our elected leaders at the local, state and federal level to get their assistance as well. In difficult economic times like these, companies and workers should be working together to weather the storm. Pratt management wants to abandon ship and take off with the lifeboats. We’re not going to let that happen.”

IAM: Tanker Decision is a Jobs Issue

In an editorial published this week in Oregon’s Statesman-Journal, IAM Headquarters GVP Rich Michalski makes a strong case for the Boeing refueling tanker over the unproven model being promoted by French aerospace giant EADS. The timely editorial, ‘Outsourcing Pentagon contract to Europe a bad idea,’ is printed below in its entirety:

“Stories of plant closings are all-too-frequent in today’s newspapers, even as the federal government rushes billions in stimulus money in an attempt to save jobs and turn around the economy.

Yet the government may end up sending 44,000 U.S. jobs overseas this year alone if French aerospace giant EADS convinces the Pentagon to outsource to France and Europe its $100 billion contract to build tanker refueling aircraft.

Strangely enough, EADS’s tanker aircraft doesn’t even meet the Air Force’s requirements, according to industry experts. It’s inefficient, consuming an unnecessary $40 billion in taxpayer funds because of excess fuel and other costs over its lifetime, can only land at half the bases compared to the competition, and is more vulnerable to enemy fire. Almost all aerospace and military experts have attested that the American tanker designed by Boeing is superior by nearly every measure.

The irony is that EADS’s tanker aircraft was developed using billions in illegal foreign subsidies which are the basis for the largest ever suit by the U.S. Trade Representative before the World Trade Organization. Does the Pentagon really believe that it is sound acquisition policy to outsource its entire industrial base, put 44,000 Americans out of their jobs and reward a company that violates international trade laws?”

Manufacturing Crisis Gets Front Page Attention

A well-written article on the front page of The New York Times entitled, “Obama’s Strategy to Reverse Manufacturing’s Fall,” poignantly addresses the dire need for new manufacturing policy in the U.S., with industrial production down 17.3 percent and nearly two million manufacturing jobs lost since the start of the recession.

“Manufacturing has long been viewed as an essential pillar of a powerful economy,” writes veteran reporter Louis Uchitelle. “No other sector contributes more to the nation’s overall productivity. So far, however, Mr. Obama’s administration has not come up with a formal plan to address the rapid decline.”

“We must make a serious commitment to manufacturing and exports,” General Electric Chairman and Chief Executive Jeffrey R. Immelt is quoted in saying. “This is a national imperative.”

Uchitelle also acknowledges the need for new trade policy, as well as the need for the U.S. to address the Chinese government’s manipulation of currency.

Click here to read the full story.

Canada Provides Proven Health Care Example

In an open letter to President Barack Obama, the Canadian Health Coalition, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to Canada’s public health system, argues a universal system like theirs can work in America.

“As the national voice for Canadians who want to protect and expand our national public health care system, the Canadian Health Coalition would like to encourage your efforts to make health care available and affordable for all Americans,” wrote National Coordinator Michael McBane. “We’re proud to say that Canada covers every Canadian citizen. Canadians live three years longer than Americans, and our infant mortality rate is 20 percent lower. Canada spends 10 percent of its GDP on health care, compared to 15.3 percent in the United States, yet we generally get more services. Economically, Canada’s public health system dramatically reduces costs for business, particularly the hard-hit manufacturing sectors, because of higher prices and administrative costs in the primarily private U.S. system.”

In the letter, McBane denounces a television ad currently running in the U.S. featuring the former president of the Canadian Medical Association criticizing Canada’s system.

“Canadians recognize our system can always be improved, but they overwhelmingly want public sector improvements, not for-profit private companies taking our scarce health care dollars. Our two countries need to stand together to strengthen public health care across the border and to protect the right to public health care from financially motivated doctors and insurance companies.” An estimated 46 million people currently live without health insurance in the United States. Right now, two committees in the Senate and three committees in the House are working on reform legislation. President Obama says, in order to receive his approval, the final product must reduce costs, guarantee that every American has the freedom to choose their own health plan and ensure that all Americans have quality and affordable coverage.