iMail for Thursday June 8, 2006

Charges Filed Against Mercedes in Alabama

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will investigate charges that supervisors at Mercedes Benz’s assembly plant in Vance, AL are unlawfully interfering with workers seeking a union election.

The complaint, filed by the IAM at the NLRB’s regional office in Birmingham, AL, alleges that representatives of Mercedes are “interfering with, restraining or coercing employees from exercising their rights,” and that the company is conducting a campaign of harassment against employees by singling out pro-union supporters and ordering them not to speak to co-workers.

“The company claimed they would remain neutral during the organizing campaign, but they have not done so,” said GLR Don Barker, who is coordinating the IAM organizing drive at Mercedes. “If they were neutral, why are they allowing anti-union people to talk about it on the job but not pro-union people?”

The IAM began its organizing campaign at Mercedes earlier this year after being contacted by employees at the facility. Workers expressed concerns over pensions, work rules and the fallout of cost-cutting moves at other automakers.

According to an NLRB official quoted in the Birmingham News, an official investigation could take between six to eight weeks to complete.

Union Petition Targets China Rights Violations 

The AFL-CIO filed a petition  today with the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) charging the Chinese government with violently suppressing workers’ basic rights as part of a systematic effort to maintain an unfair trade advantage in the global marketplace.

The 301 petition, named after the section of U.S. trade regulations, says China’s failure to protect workers’ rights amounts to an unfair trade practice that has cost more than a million U.S. jobs. The petition calls on President Bush to use his authority under U.S. law to impose sanctions against China and to implement a system to verify compliance with internationally recognized workers’ rights.

“China’s outrageously low wages and abysmal working conditions which are indicative of a country which refuses to honor basic human rights—like the right to form real unions and to engage in collective bargaining,” said IP Buffenbarger. “For the sake of U.S. jobs and basic human rights, the President must use his power to compel China to honor fundamental human rights, including internationally recognized labor standards.”

In March 2004, the AFL-CIO filed a similar petition, and while the USTR did not dispute the charges at that time, it rejected the petition, saying Bush was taking other actions to advance workers’ rights. Since then, the situation has worsened.

“Workers’ rights are a fundamental element in a system of human rights. The repression of these rights are unfair trade practices leading to job loss, lower wages and exploitation of U.S. workers, as well as our Chinese brothers and sisters,” AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka said at a press conference today in Washington, D.C.  “Exploitation of human beings through repression of fundamental rights for economic gain is both morally repugnant and economically dangerous. The fact is that China is violating international trade law, and our nation is doing nothing about it.”

Primary Elections Held in Eight States

Southern California’s Republicans barely managed to hold on to a seat vacated by convicted congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham in a district thought to be solidly in the GOP hands. The special election was among dozens of contests held in eight states, including primaries for governor in Alabama and California and a closely watched Senate race in Montana.

While Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ran unopposed for the GOP nomination in California, Democratic voters chose Treasurer Phil Angelides over Controller Steve Westly to face the former movie star in November.

In Alabama, former Judge Roy Moore failed to overtake GOP Gov. Bob Riley for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, while Democratic Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley prevailed over former Gov. Don Siegelman and will face Riley in the general election.

In Montana, GOP Sen. Conrad Burns won his party’s nomination for a fourth term despite ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Burns will run in the fall against state Senate President Jon Tester.
In Iowa, Secretary of State Chet Culver won a wide open race to replace retiring Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack. Culver will now face GOP Rep. Jim Nussle in the fall.

In November 2006, voters will choose governors in 36 states, including political mega states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois. The outcome of gubernatorial elections in 2006 is widely seen as a harbinger of the 2008 presidential election.

District 4 Organizes Aviation Unit

District 4 recently organized 24 aircraft technicians employed by D.T.S. Aviations Services, LLC of Forth Worth, TX. These new members will join Local Lodge 24.

“Please join me in welcoming these new members into the IAM family,” said Eastern Territory GVP Lynn D. Tucker, Jr. “On behalf of the Eastern Territory and its members, I extend our congratulations and appreciation to District Lodge 4 Business Representative Joseph “Rick” Compher, Directing Business Representative Tony Provost, and all of the team for a job well done.”


Gov Signs Minnesota Law to Allow IAM Pension

Thanks to efforts of District 77 BR Julie Anderson and the District 77 staff, all state, city, and municipal employees in Minnesota will now have the opportunity to negotiate contributions to the IAM National Pension Plan.

IAM public sector employees in Minnesota were previously restricted to a single state-run retirement plan. But on June 1, 2006, following research and lobbying efforts by Anderson and the District 77 staff, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the Omnibus Retirement Bill into law which included the language change needed to allow IAM bargaining unit members to participate in the IAM National Pension Fund.


Senate Blocks Wal-Mart Windfall Tax

In a 57-41 vote, U.S. Senators today blocked an effort by Republican lawmakers to permanently repeal the estate tax, a measure that would have benefited only the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans and cost nearly $1 trillion in the first 10 years alone.

The push to repeal the estate tax had been lead by Wal-Mart heirs the Walton Family and 17 other wealthy families who have spent nearly $200 million lobbying Congress, according to a report from Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy. In fact, repealing the estate tax would result in an immediate $32 billion tax break for the Walton family.

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