iMail for Thursday, May 31, 2007

Northwest Airlines Emerges From Bankruptcy

Northwest Airlines (NWA) today begins operating outside of bankruptcy court protection for the first time in 20 months. While the process has been full of sacrifices and difficult decisions, IAM members fared far better than other employees at the troubled carrier. The IAM is the only union at Northwest to successfully negotiate a replacement defined benefit pension plan for our members. In accordance with IAM collective bargaining agreements, Northwest will begin contributing to the IAM National Pension Plan upon emergence from bankruptcy. Important information about the plan is available at www.iamnpf.org.

Many observers believed that bankruptcy marked the end of the line for the carrier’s obligation to repay employees for concessions granted in 1992. The IAM continued to vigorously press its case throughout the bankruptcy court process. While it was the IAM who ultimately won this case, the victory benefits all Series C stock holders, including former IAM members and flight attendants.

The IAM also represented retirees throughout the bankruptcy process, securing substantial reductions in the cost of medical insurance premiums. As a result, IAM retirees will pay only 2.5 percent of the cost of medical premiums. Retirees from other employee groups will pay from 5 percent to 25 percent of their insurance premiums for the same coverage.

Obama Pledges Support for Organizing Rights

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama retuned to his Chicago roots last week and paid tribute to the labor and civil rights activists who helped launch his political career. The candidate was a featured speaker at the 36th International Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) in Chicago, IL.

The former Illinois State Senator prefaced his remarks by singling out a core group of long-time allies, including IAM member and CTBU Executive Board member Eveleyna Washington, explaining, “Were it not for them, I would not be a U.S. Senator.”

More than 1,200 CBTU delegates responded with a series of standing ovations, particularly when the candidate pledged unconditional support for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow workers to form a union once a majority indicated a desire to do so. “We need a Free Choice Act so workers can organize without intimidation,” declared Obama. “We need an NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) that is friendly not just to managers,” and “we need a president who doesn’t choke saying the word Union.”

Obama noted the economic benefits of union membership for African-Americans, pointing to statistics that show that black workers in the U.S. who belong to a union earn 40 percent more than those who don’t.

Delegates from 70 cities in the U.S. and Canada attended the CBTU Convention. In addition to Sen. Barack Obama, speakers included Rev. Jesse Jackson, CBTU President Bill Lucy, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson and Alliance for Retired Americans Executive Director Ed Coyle.

Outsourcing a Factor in Walter Reed Scandal

The Bush Administration’s unrelenting effort to outsource federal jobs was a key factor in the shoddy treatment of wounded war veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. A Washington Post story revealed wounded vets living in rat-infes ted and mold-ridden quarters while recovering from wounds they received in Iraq.

Using information released by the House Committee on Government Reform, the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department reports IAP World Services, a company with more than $1 billion in revenue and headed by former Halliburton executives, was awarded a $120 million contract to take over management of the building and grounds at Walter Reed. IAP World Services has been accused of mishandling ice deliveries to Hurricane Katrina victims and has been questioned by Congress about overcharges for fuel deliveries in Iraq.

During the six-year changeover process to IAP World Services, more than 350 skilled federal workers retired or left Walter Reed and the Army was unable to find enough temporary replacements.

The Bush Administration has targe ted more than 450,000 federal jobs for outsourcing to private companies. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Senate committee in 2004 that he wan ted to outsource almost 320,000 nonmilitary support jobs. Adding to the chaos was the Base Realignment and Closure process (BRAC) that put Walter Reed on the shutdown list. Many federal workers bid out of Walter Reed to lock in more stable jobs elsewhere.

Clinton Outlines Manufacturing Policy

In an important policy speech delivered to students at the Manchester School for Technology in Manchester, NH, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton (D-NY) provided an in-depth look at the principles that would guide her administration if she succeeds in her bid to win the White House. Sen. Clinton also referenced auto mechanics, aerospace workers and specifically mentioned the Machinists Union in her speech.

Echoing populist themes previously discussed, but in far greater detail, the Democratic front runner acknowledged the lopsided evolution of globalization and how middle class workers in the U.S. are being penalized while CEO’s and foreign workers reap handsome dividends.

Clinton proposed what she described as a progressive plan to combat the assault on the middle class by global economic policies and wrongheaded economic policies. Her plan would cut back on corporate welfare and require oil companies to invest in alternative energy; eliminate incentives for American companies to ship jobs overseas; reform corporate governance rules that allow CEO’s to escape with golden parachutes while their companies abandon workers’ pension and restore financial responsibility to our own government. “It’s simply not fair that as corporate profits have skyrocketed, the percentage of taxes paid by corporations have fallen,” said Clinton.

Additional points included promoting alternatives to traditional education so jobs that require precision skills and training would not go unfilled.

“Unfortunately, for the past six years it’s as though we’ve gone back to the era of the robber barons,” said Clinton. “Year after year, this president has handed massive tax breaks to oil companies, no-bid contracts to Halliburton, tax incentives to corporations shipping jobs overseas, tax cut after tax cut to millionaires, while ignoring the needs and aspirations of tens of millions of working families.”

Good Advice for Teen Workers

With many teenagers looking for summer employment, the IAM has produced an informational pamphlet detailing their rights and risks as new employees.

Every year 100,000 young people are taken to the emergency room after being hurt on the job and an additional 70 lose their lives. Many of these young workers don’t realize they have basic employee rights, such as the right to refuse unsafe work assignments and the right to protective equipment.

If you or anyone you know of has children looking for a summer job, print out Rights At Work – A Guide for Teens (http://www.goiam.org/publications/pdfs/raw.pdf

), so they will know their rights and be knowledgeable enough to demand a safe workplace.