iMail for Thursday, May 18, 2006

It’s a Wrap for the 2006 Legislative Conference

After four days of meetings, visits to Capitol Hill and a raft of inspirational speeches, the 2006 Legislative Conference wrapped up with hundreds of newly energized IAM activists ready to shake things up and bring labor’s message back to their communities.

“Next to organizing, involvement in politics is the most important job for IAM members,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger.

“It’s no secret that the most finely crafted bargaining agreement can be undone with the stroke of a lawmaker’s pen.”

To that end, delegates were constantly reminded during the conference not to focus on the 2008 presidential election, but to make changes in this year’s midterm elections.
In his closing speech to the delegates, GVP Thayer reprised his opening message to the conference.

“You know and I know what this Congress and this administration has done to working people,” said Thayer. “The corruption, the theft of our pensions and the price gouging by Bush’s oil buddies. You’ve had enough, I’ve had enough. The question is what are we going to do about it?

And the answer is: “Work for our friends and against our foes.”


Frontline’s ‘Can you Afford to Retire’ Available Online

If you missed the PBS Frontline program ‘Can You Afford to Retire” aired last Tuesday, you can see it online starting today. Frontline’s webpage contains extended interviews not aired on the program and more information about the looming retirement crisis in America. The original show featured interviews with two former United Airlines employees, Flight Attendant Robin Gillenger and former IAM Local 1351 member Pat O’Neill in Seattle, WA.

O’Neill, a mechanic and instructor with United, retired in 2003 but has been forced back to work to make up for the increased medical costs and reduced pension benefits United forced on retirees during bankruptcy.

“There [are] people all across this land that are in the same boat I’m in — didn’t see it coming, and now their back[s] [are] against the wall, and … they got to go to work,” said O’Neill. “We’re a great nation. We still can be, but you can’t treat people the way people are being treated in their retirement years.” 

Judge Ready to Rule at Northwest

After two days of testimony at the 1113c bankruptcy trial in New York to determine the fate of labor contracts at Northwest Airlines, Judge Allan Gropper indicated he would issue his ruling on Friday, May 19 if a tentative agreement was not reached by then.

“To anyone in the courtroom, the sound of a hammer being cocked was unmistakable,” said District 143 President Bobby DePace in a bulletin to members describing how the judge told both sides he was giving them “one last chance” to reach an agreement before his ruling.

“It’s clear that an abrogation order would be lethal for NWA. While many members feel a crippling strike is just what NWA deserves, it is extremely doubtful the airline would ever emerge from bankruptcy after a strike.”

The District 143 Negotiating Committee planned to meet in Minneapolis, Minnesota in an all out effort to produce a tentative agreement that could be recommended for ratification.

“The IAM committee has already achieved improvements over the Company proposal rejected by the membership in March, but there are still some issues to address,” said DePace who added that the membership would vote on the improved terms if a tentative agreement is not possible. An additional strike vote would also take place.


Local 282 Steward Wins Prestigious Award

Union activism and dedication was recognized at the 27th Washington Women in Trades ceremony, where Chief Steward Cheri Stanford of Local 282 in Bremerton, Washington was awarded the prestigious “Union Activist of the Year” award.

The Activist of the Year award was among six that acknowledged the struggles and successes of women working in the trades. The awards recognize professional and personal accomplishments, outreach efforts to current and future tradeswomen and volunteer community activities.

Sanford was cited for her overall service as a steward and for her role in saving the careers of several federal employees who were dealing with security issues that followed rigid new requirements for federal employees. “Cheri has worked in every phase of union business the unit has been faced with,” said John Carter, Local 282 Chairman. “She has assisted with numerous committee assignments, aided injured workers as well as displaced workers with employment needs, special equipment as well as easement back into the workplace.”

Carter proudly pointed to Sanford’s work training military and civilian employees as well as her role as a mentor and volunteer outside the workplace. “She is not only an inspirational winner of this award but also a true representative of what the Machinists union family is all about.”


Congress Urged to Investigate Philly Shipyard

The Metal Trades Department (MTD) of the AFL-CIO, representing workers at Aker Shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is calling on the U.S. Coast Guard and members of Congress to investigate the yard’s “partnership” with South Korea’s Hyundai Mipo Dockyard to determine if Aker is complying with the requirements of the Jones Act.

MTD maintains that Aker’s relationship with Hyundai violates the terms of the Jones Act, passed by Congress to protect the United States shipbuilding industry and to ensure the U.S. has the facilities and the employees to produce vessels in times of emergency.

“Aker’s practices undermine the Jones Act by allowing important components of these vessels to be prefabricated or preassembled overseas rather than in the United States generally, or at the Philadelphia Shipyard in particular,” said MTD President Ron Ault.

Ault also charged that Aker is violating the terms of the partnership agreement that brought them into the Philadelphia Shipyard. Under the terms of the deal with the city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania the company agreed to rehire shipyard workers displaced with the shutdown of the Navy Shipyard and to set up apprenticeship programs to train local workers.


Vermont Leads on Health Care Reform

It is increasingly apparent that states are doing what the federal government is unable or unwilling to do: take direct action to reform a dysfunctional health care system. 

Fresh on the heels of the recent health reform breakthrough in Massachusetts is an historic victory in Vermont: Republican Governor Jim Douglas finally relented to public pressure and agreed to sign the Health Care Affordability Act. 

Among the highlights of the Vermont legislation is language ensuring all state residents will have access to affordable, comprehensive coverage, regardless of income; no deductibles or co-pays for treatment of chronic illnesses and premiums that will be the lowest in the country.

“This is the most far-reaching health care reform law enacted by any state in the last three decades,” said Mark Blum, Executive Director for America’s Agenda, the driving force behind the legislation. The IAM is a key participant and supporter of the health care coalition.

Vermont House Speaker Gaye Symington said “this bill makes sure every Vermonter has health care, not just health insurance.”  Republican Sen. Ken Mullin added:  “This isn’t just about getting coverage, this is about improving care.  We are leading the country.”


Guy Cook, 1943-2006

Former District 143 President Guy K. Cook passed away May 11, 2006 in Dunedin, Florida. A life-long union member and supporter, Cook worked at Northwest Airlines from 1966 until he retired in 1999.

Cook’s 12-year tenure as District 143 president included a 30-day strike at Northwest Orient in 1982 and the turbulent 1986 merger between Northwest Orient and Republic Airlines which featured a union represntation election which the IAM ultimately won and an ongoing contract battle with the airline.

A life celebration memorial will be held on May 25th from 5pm to 8pm with a service at 6pm. White Funeral Home; 14560 Pennock Ave., Apple Valley, Minnesota 

The family asks that charitable donations to the Guide Dogs of America can be made at in lieu of flowers.