iMail for Thursday, November 3, 2005

IAM Strikes Boeing Space and Defense Systems

Nearly 1500 Machinists are now on strike against the Space and Defense Systems unit of Boeing. Five of the locations are in California, with two located in Huntington Beach, and one each in Torrance, Edwards AFB and Vandenberg; the sixth location is Cape Canaveral in Florida.

In addition to those six locations, two more Boeing SDS units are striking. Local Lodge 44 in Decatur, Alabama and Local Lodge 2766 in Huntsville, Alabama voted heavily in favor of a strike last Saturday.

The main issues at each of the eight locations are out-of pocket medical costs, and the removal of retiree medical coverage for any future employees.

Dick Schneider, overall coordinator of all Boeing negotiations for the union, said:

“Our people are prepared to fight as long as they have to in order to get a fair contract. We will not sell out future workers; previous generations fought to give retiree medical to us, and we refuse to give it away and deny the people who come after us. Especially since Boeing just reported a net income of over one-billion dollars just last quarter.”

IAM Communications Conference Wraps Up

The 2005 IAM Communications Conference in Wichita, Kansas wrapped up yesterday as General Vice President Robert Thayer sent the nearly 70 delegates home with a clear message.

“It is time to wake the politicians up and reclaim America,” said Thayer. “Fighting Machinists are the ones who have the power to do that. We communicate, we educate, we mobilize and now we need to step up these efforts.”

On the final day of the conference, delegates also discussed unions and the media with Molly McMillen of the Wichita Eagle, Chris Frank of KAKE, TV and Richard Crowsen, editorial cartoonist for the Wichita Eagle. Kate Mattos, Communications Counsel for the National Education Association, also spoke to the delegates about values in America’s education system.

Communications Director Rick Sloan and GVP Thayer presented awards to the winners of the IAM Newsletter & Website Contest the previous evening. District 190 was first place in general excellence for both their newsletter, The Sparkplug, and their website. Meanwhile, Local Lodge 712 took home the award for general excellence from a local newsletter and Local Lodge 1781 received the award for general excellence from a local website.

In examining the role social class and religion plays in America’s political landscape, the 2005 IAM Communications Conference posed the question “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” and in his keynote speech, IP Tom Buffenbarger gave a clear answer.

“The problem lies not with the folks in Kansas. They’re good people. They are honest, God-fearing and hard working, red, white and blue blooded Americans,” said Buffenbarger. “The good people – America’s working families – have paid an awful price for what can only be described as deviant behavior by a bunch of political hacks.”

NWA Signals Retiree Health Benefit Threat

Northwest Airlines has filed a motion in bankruptcy court announcing its intention to seek modification of retiree medical benefits for existing and future retirees and asking for the United States Trustee to form a committee to represent retirees.

The committee is known as a Section 1114 Committee after the portion of the bankruptcy code that allows retiree benefit modifications. Northwest’s motion is limited to the formation of a Retiree Committee.

“The company has not yet filed a Section 1114 motion to change retiree medical benefits, but it is clearly their intention to negotiate modifications or seek court imposed changes,” said District 143 President Bobby DePace “What changes they may seek are not yet known.”

Labor unions are not required to represent their retirees in Section 1114 proceedings, but the IAM has elected to use its considerable resources to defend the interests of IAM retirees. The United States Trustee will appoint retirees to represent non-union retirees and members of unions that choose not to participate in Section 1114 proceedings.

“Retirees depend on their earned pension and benefits to survive,” said DePace. “They are the single most vulnerable employee group, and the least able to absorb increased costs.”

A hearing on Northwest’s motion is scheduled for November 16, 2005. Information about the Section 1114 process is available on the District 143 website,

Bush Tax Panel Hits Sour Note With Homeowners

President’s Bush’s Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform released their recommendations for a major overhaul of the federal tax system on Tuesday, including numerous suggestions that would strike a blow to middle-class working families.

“What is most troubling about the recommendations released by the President’s Advisory Panel today is that they would target middle-class taxpayers through the elimination of important deductions and credits, while seeking to eliminate or reduce taxation of dividends and capital gains, which would prominently benefit the wealthiest people in the nation,” said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

The panel proposed significantly reducing deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes, a move that could increase home payments and decrease property value for millions of middle-class homeowners.

The group also proposed reducing or eliminating tax credits for state and local taxes as well as employer-provided health care.

Treasury Secretary John Snow has said he will present his recommendations on the report to the president by January 1, 2006.

Labor Department Criticized for Wal-Mart Sweetheart Deal

The U.S. Department of Labor received harsh criticism earlier this week from their inspector general, who released a report concluding Wal-Mart Stores Inc. received “significant concessions” in a settlement with the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division following child labor violations at the store.

The report states the Labor Department violated their own handbook by giving Wal-Mart 15 days’ notice before labor inspectors can inspect stores for child labor violations. The inspector general also criticizes officials for allowing Wal-Mart’s lawyers to write substantial parts of the settlement, while DOL lawyers were left out of the settlement process.

“The Bush Labor Department chose to do an unprecedented favor for Wal-Mart, despite the fact it is well known for violating labor laws, including child labor laws,” Rep. George Miller of California said in a statement.

The settlement was reached in January after Wal-Mart agreed to pay a federal fine of $135,540 for child labor violations occurring between October 1998 and April 2002.

Bush Stumbles Anew with Supreme Court Pick

President Bush nominated conservative Appeals Court Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court on Monday, failing to use the nomination as a means to improve the lives of everyday Americans by bringing more diversity to the Supreme Court.

Faced with plunging approval ratings, Bush used the pick to cater to the far right wing of the Republican Party, whose sharp attacks led former Supreme Court nominee Harriet Meirs to withdraw her name.

Based on past decisions, Alito’s nomination threatens to rollback advances in worker’ rights for years to come.

“The Supreme Court must not be used as a tool by extremists to fulfill an ideological agenda and to undermine our individual rights,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

“The President’s nomination of Judge Alito reflects weakness – the President is unable or unwilling to withstand pressure by an extreme element in our country, rather than acting as a leader of all the people.”

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