iMail for Thursday, November 1, 2007

Labor Board Bias Detailed in ILO Complaint

A new complaint filed by the AFL-CIO with the International Labor Organization (ILO)–en/index.htm charges that National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions have so severely reduced the freedom of workers to join unions that they constitute a violation of international labor standards. The AFL-CIO charges that NLRB rulings “have sharply increased the barriers workers face in achieving freedom of association and effective collective bargaining.”

Dominated by Bush appointees, the Board’s decisions have had the effect of “shrinking the [National Labor Relations Act]’s coverage, limiting the rights protected by the statute, strengthening management’s prerogative to discriminate against, harass, and intimidate workers, and steadfastly refusing to apply the few meaningful remedies available under the Act. Its decisions signal a retreat from the promises of the NLRA and a deepening crisis for American labor law and practice.”

Other efforts to restrict rights included expanding the definition of a supervisor to include millions of additional workers and denying them the right to organize, giving employers increased ability to deny reinstatement to striking workers which undermines the right to strike and refusing to reign in employers who harass workers trying to organize.

“The Bush appointees to the National Labor Relations Board have been a disaster for American workers,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “Their decisions have gone so far in the wrong direction that they have reached a new low, violating international conventions on the most basic human rights to organize and bargain collectively.”

McKinnon to Lead IAM Legislative and Political Dept.

The tradition of tapping an experienced political veteran to guide the IAM Legislative and Political Action Department continues with the appointment of Western Territory Grand Lodge Representative Matthew R. McKinnon to become the department’s new director.

“It is this union’s extraordinary good fortune to have so many leaders at the state and local level who are capable of stepping up and taking on national responsibilities,” said IP Buffenbarger. “Matt’s long history of service and experience make him perfectly qualified to take on this challenge at this most critical time in our union’s history.”

McKinnon follows current Legislative and Political Director Tom Trotter, who is stepping down on Nov. 2, 2007, to attend to important personal matters.

A long-time political activist and veteran of dozens of political and legislative campaigns, McKinnon drew national attention as California’s Deputy Secretary of Labor for Workforce and Economic Development under former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

McKinnon joined the IAM in 1979 and served the membership of Local 685 as a Committeeman, Steward, Executive Board member, Trustee and Civil Rights Committee member. In 1985, he was elected Business Representative for District 50, where he trained operatives to execute hundreds of campaigns over the next 18 years.

In 1998, McKinnon was named Political Director for Gov. Davis’s successful gubernatorial campaign and served on the Governing Board of California Air Resources Board and chaired the Board’s Environmental Justice Taskforce.

In 2004, McKinnon was appointed Grand Lodge Representative in the Western Territory, where he serviced, organized, conducted successful strike actions, negotiated contracts and coordinated political and legislative affairs.

Unions Mobilizing for Victory in Kentucky

Thousands of union members are fanning out across the Bluegrass state and calling on fellow members to turn out in force for Kentucky’s gubernatorial election on Nov. 6.

“This is our chance to rid this state of a governor who has been an absolute disaster for working people,” said GST Warren Mart, a Kentucky native. “In addition to cancelling the bargaining rights for thousands of state workers, Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) pushed for right-to-work (for less) legislation for the rest of the state. It’s no wonder he’s been called the most anti-worker governor in the state’s history.”

The statewide member-to-member outreach is making a big difference, according to Benny Adair, President of the Kentucky State Council of Machinists. “Nothing works better than a handshake and asking someone to vote,” said Adair. “Members saw Fletcher’s right-to-work attack and they felt threatened. I’ve seen a lot more people wanting to come out and help.”

With 350,000 union workers representing 26 percent of the state’s total electorate, union members have the potential to make a real difference in any election. “We’re motivated, we’re organized and we won’t rest until we have a Democratic governor in Kentucky,” declared Mart.

Canada Catches Flack for Outsourcing Troop Transport

The IAM and Canada’s National Democratic Party (NDP) have called on Canada’s federal government to cancel its order for 30 troop carrier buses and re-bid the contract in a competition between Canadian bus manufacturers.

“I find it absolutely disgusting that our tax dollars are going into the pockets of a foreign company to pay for a product that can be made right here in Canada,” said Canadian GVP Dave Ritchie at a news conference where he was joined by lawmakers calling for a national post card petition to put ‘Canada First’ in military procurement contracts.

Motor Coach Industries of Winnipeg lost the $14 million contract for 30 new motor coaches to Setra, a German-based subsidiary of Daimler Chrysler, which submitted a slightly lower bid. “The difference in the winning bid was less than one half of one percent or about $2,000 a unit,” said an irate Ritchie. “We have more than one thousand members in Winnipeg who could be affected by this.”

NDP Defence critic Dawn Black says military procurement contracts should provide the best product for the dollar. “In this case the lowest bid is not the best value for a number of good reasons,” she said.

“We’re losing 192 manufacturing jobs a day in this country,” said Ritchie. “If our own government won’t support Canadian manufacturers, who will?”

Civil Rights Group Finds Violations at FedEx

FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery are violating labor and civil rights of thousands of FedEx employees by improperly classifying them as “independent contractors,” according to a new report by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and American Rights at Work.

The report, Fed Up with FedEx: How FedEx Ground Tramples Workers’ Rights and Civil Rights uses worker interviews and cases filed against FedEx to show how the company is “circumventing federal anti-discrimination laws, avoiding payment of millions of dollars in benefits to 15,000 FedEx Ground drivers and hindering workers’ rights to form unions.”

To address the problem, the report makes a number of recommendations, including increased Congressional oversight of the National Labor Relations Board and passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Ontario Machinists Organizing at Toyota

If first impressions are any indication of things to come, the IAM has a solid foundation for success in their bid to organize nearly 4,000 workers at the Toyota assembly plant in Cambridge, Ontario.

“The response from the workers here has been overwhelming,” said District 140 Organizer Ian Morland. “We targeted five gates at the Cambridge plant and the workers took all the reading material we had to offer and then asked for more.” The Cambridge assembly plant employs 3,800 workers with a further 1,800 being hired for a second assembly plant in Woodstock, Ontario which opens in 2008.

“These people are telling us they want a union that will address their workplace issues,” said Morland. “They’re facing a wage reduction, mandatory overtime on weekends, promotion favoritism and vacation blackout periods.”

The IAM represents thousands of members in the Canadian automotive transportation sector at assembly and parts manufacturing facilities in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. For more information, visit the IAMToyota website at