iMail for Thursday, May 25, 2006

35th CBTU Conference Opens in Florida

IAM members and leaders were among thousands of delegates and guests filling the hall in Orlando, Florida for the opening session of the 35th annual International Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU).

The theme of this year’s week-long gathering; “Continuing the Fight for a New Economic Order,” resonated from the podium and was welcomed by delegates who cheered fiery speeches by CBTU President Bill Lucy and Rainbow Coalition founder Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Lucy repeatedly praised the founders of CBTU as pioneers in the development of an organization that provides a unique voice to African American workers and union members.

Saluting the accomplishments of delegates at the first CBTU convention in Chicago, Lucy urged the delegates in the room to “Look back, but bring someone forward.”

Delegates rose to their feet again and again as Rev. Jesse Jackson ripped into the Bush administration for the inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina and for the trio of tax cuts that delivered lopsided benefits for wealthy Americans.

Jackson spared neither political party in his remarks. “We are trapped by one party with two names in this country,” said Jackson, who called for a renewal of mass action as a legitimate response to the failure of leadership by both parties. “We need to change direction, not just leaders,” said Jackson.

Senate Acts on Mine Safety Legislation

Days after an Eastern Kentucky coal-mine explosion killed five miners, the Senate unanimously passed bipartisan mine safety legislation yesterday. The House will have to choose whether it wants the Senate measure or two other competing bills.

The Senate measure originally was introduced, and later updated, in response to the Sago Mine accident in West Virginia that killed 12 miners in January of this year.

“This legislation is a step in the right direction, and I urge the House to pass it as soon as possible and President Bush to sign it into law without delay,” said United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts in a statement issued yesterday.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said today that a new Senate bill will help keep miners around the country safer and prevent deadly accidents at mine sites.

The Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 (S. 2803) calls for improved safety emergency response plans for mines, sets guidelines for underground communications and tracking, enhances mine rescue and air supply, and authorizes more federal funding for research into mine safety.

“Mining is probably the most dangerous job in the country, and our miners deserve the best possible protections,” said Reid. “We have seen too many mining tragedies this year.”

The Bush administration has come under fire for their mishandling of mine safety and accidents through the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) an agency of the Department of Labor. Since 2001 the Bush administration has appointed coal company executives to head the MSHA.


Medco Workers Win New Contract

More than 500 pharmacy technicians and support staff returned to work after a 49-day illegal lockout by their employer, Medco Health Solutions, Inc.

The employees, members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 675 in Las Vegas, Nevada won a new three-year contract that restores key benefits that Medco was trying to eliminate and includes wage increases and lump sum payments. Medco is a major supplier of mail order pharmaceuticals for union-negotiated prescription drug plans. Pressure from labor groups was a major factor in the settlement.

Negotiations for USW-represented workers at Medco locations in Tampa, Florida and Columbus, Ohio are ongoing.

RTI TRADCO Employees say Union Yes

RTI TRADCO employees voted to be represented by the IAM during a NLRB election held in the plant on May 16, 2006. The 155 workers at the Washington, Missouri facility machine and fabricate metals mainly used in the production of aerospace products.

The election was prompted by concerns over in-plant safety, wages, healthcare, pension, and overall working conditions. Employees voting in favor of representation saw a natural fit with the IAM as it represents many of North America’s leading aerospace workers.

“The RTI membership took the first step to better working conditions and a better way of life today. I look forward to working with their committee as we move into the next phase of securing a fair contract that will meet the needs of the membership while making the company even more successful,” said District 837 President Rick Smith.

District 837 represents approximately 4,000 members employed by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems and GKN North American Aerospace in the St. Louis, Missouri area.


ILCA Launches Revamped Website

The International Labor Communications Association (ILCA) has done a complete makeover of its website, changing from a complex, text-driven site, to a cleaner, more graphic, and easier site to use.

”The new website signals a change in direction for the ILCA.,” Said ILCA President Steve Stallone. “As labor media becomes increasingly web-driven, we want to put more of our resources and our innovation on line. We want increased communication between the organization’s leaders and staff, and our members.”

The revamped site will continue to feature a “story swap” for ILCA members as well as downloads of graphics and photos again only for ILCA members. For information about joining the ILCA, please contact Rick Palmer.