iMail for Thursday, May 07 2009

Your Tax Dollars at Work?

Question: If a troubled U.S. bank is kept afloat with $25 billion in taxpayer assistance under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), should that bank be allowed to promote the liquidation of a 120-year old U.S. company, eliminating nearly 4,000 U.S. jobs in the process?

That’s the question raised by Illinois Democratic Congressman Phil Hare in an editorial published today in the Chicago Tribune. “When I voted to provide the Treasury Department $350 billion in taxpayer assistance through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, it was with the understanding that the money would be used to help stabilize the financial markets, make credit more readily available to working families, and ultimately, save jobs,” writes Hare. “Unfortunately, this has not happened.”

Hare describe the troubling situation at Hartmarx Co., a Chicago-based maker of high quality men’s suits that filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2009.

“There are three companies bidding for the right to own Hartmarx,” explains Hare. “Two of them would keep the company together. They believe there is strong logic for continuing operations because of Hartmarx’s reputation. The third bidder prefers liquidation — an outcome that would result in the loss of thousands of jobs, many in Illinois.”

Hartmarx’s main creditor is Wells Fargo & Co., which is leaning toward the liquidation route. Wells Fargo also recently received $25 billion in taxpayer assistance through the taxpayer-funded TARP program. “In other words,” says Hare, “the workers Wells Fargo may throw out on the street have been subsidizing its operations during these tough economic times.”

Click here to read the full editorial in the Chicago Tribune.

“The loss of good-paying American manufacturing jobs is why I got involved in politics more than 30 years ago,” said Hare. “The closing of a factory is more than just the loss of jobs. It hurts local businesses, home values and tax revenues. It also takes an emotional toll on the workers and their families, changing everyday life as they know it.”

Labor Department Paints Grim Jobs Picture

New claims for unemployment benefits over the past few weeks indicate a possible tapering off of layoffs, but leaves little evidence new jobs are being created.

A weekly report from the U.S. Department of Labor shows the total number of people who filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week fell by 34,000 to 601,000.

This is the fourth decline in new unemployment benefit claims in five weeks, and the lowest level since late January.

Still, the total number of unemployed persons remains at a record high. New numbers to be released by the Labor Department Friday for the month of April are expected to keep in sync with the three previous monthly reports released so far this year – indicating the U.S. economy still has quite a way to go. Economists estimate another 600,000 or more people lost their jobs last month, which would push the unemployment rate to somewhere around 8.9 percent.

That’s up from 8.5 percent during the month of March, 8.1 percent in February, and 7.6 percent in January.

Guide Dogs Featured at Alabama River Festival

Guide Dogs of America (GDA) was a hit with folks at the 34th Festival on the Rivers in Geneva, AL. Thousands of people stopped by the GDA and Machinists union booth during the three-day festival. Visitors got information about the Guide Dogs program and could speak with GDA representatives. Coordinators even received applications from two festival attendees who were visually impaired.

“I was very excited that we had two people come by our booth that we were able to talk to and start the process of a life changing experience,” said Adam Beasley, the Guide Dog volunteer for Local 2003, Daleville, AL. “They told me they would have never dreamed of finding a booth at the festival about Guide Dogs. It just goes to show the importance of outreach and getting out into the community. You never know how many people’s lives you’ll change. That’s what Guide Dogs and the IAM are all about.”

Guide Dogs of America was founded by an IAM member more than 60 years ago. The independent charitable organization provides professionally trained dogs to blind and visually impaired individuals free of charge.

IAM Elected to Maritime Task Force

The IAM was recently elected a position on to The Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF). Founded in 1992 in Toledo, Ohio, the task force promotes waterborne commerce and related industries on the Great Lakes as well as preserving a strong U.S.-Flag Merchant Marine on the Great Lakes.

The GLMTF advocates full application and enforcement of the U.S. sabotage laws, including the Jones Act. The IAM has long argued that exemptions to these laws will create an unfair playing field, driving U.S.-Flag vessels from their own waters.

Eastern Territory GVP Lynn D. Tucker, Jr. appointed GLR Karl Heim to serve as the IAM Representative on the GLMTF. Earlier this month, GVP Tucker launched the Joint Seaway Task Force (JSTF), a joint organizing effort developed in partnership the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association (SMWIA). 

Union Sportsmen’s Journal Available Online

The second issue of the USA newspaper, The Union Sportsmen’s Journal, is now available online. The publication aims to add value to USA membership by providing useful information and special offers while reaching out to the larger community of union sportsmen and women. 

District 78 Organizes Transfreight in Ontario

A drastic pay cut for workers at Transfreight Logistics in Woodstock, ON created a keen appreciation for a collective bargaining agreement and helped drive a District 78 organizing effort to a rapid and successful conclusion.

“The employer used the recession as an excuse to cut the wages of each employee here by $1.50/hour,” explained District 78 Organizer Scott Jackson. “If the wages were cut once the workers feared the employer would do it again. Our Apprentice Organizer Derek Ferguson was instrumental in this organizing victory. He advised the workers that a collective agreement would protect their wages and prevent the employer from cutting wages just because they felt like it.”

The 55 members perform warehouse and stores related duties at the Woodstock facility which services the automotive industry in southern Ontario.