iMail for Thursday, October 16, 2008

Freightliner Says ‘Adios’ to Portland

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has struck again, this time paving the way for Daimler Trucks NA to close the Portland, OR, plant where Freightliner trucks have been built for more than half a century. The decision to move truck production to Mexico is part of what the company is calling its “Global Excellence” strategy and will eliminate nearly 900 jobs held by members of Local 1005 in Portland.

“This is not the fault of the workers,” said District 24 Business Rep Joe Kear. “We have a proud workforce in Portland that has performed exceptionally and no one on the management side is saying the plant is not profitable.”

Analysts credit skyrocketing diesel prices, tighter credit and lower product demand for the decision to move truck production to Mexico, but no one denies that $2-$4 per hour wages in Mexico and the lack of a clear national manufacturing policy in the U.S. are equally responsible.

“Freightliner trucks have been an icon on the open road for more than two generations,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “The decision by the German company Daimler to uproot a legacy U.S. company and move it to Mexico shows just how toothless NAFTA has left this country. We desperately need a national trade policy that allows U.S. workers and U.S. communities to preserve their jobs, their industrial heritage and their basic economic infrastructure.”

Elected officials in Portland were quick to condemn the move, with Portland’s Mayor-elect Sam Adams calling the news “a punch to our economic gut.” The impact of the closure is not limited to the Freightliner workers. Three to four additional jobs in the Portland area are at risk for every high wage job that leaves the state.

Buffenbarger, Titans Join Strikers at Vought

International President Tom Buffenbarger and members of the undefeated Tennessee Titans football team are among the special guests who recently visited with members of Local 735 in Nashville, TN, who are in the third week of a strike against Vought Aircraft Industries.

Nearly 1,000 IAM members voted by 94 percent to strike after Vought negotiators proposed to freeze the defined benefit pension plan for workers with 16 years or less seniority, and replace it with a 401(k) plan.

“The giant rat parked in front of Vought is the perfect symbol for a company that would try to force workers change over to a 401(k) during this current economic crisis,” said Buffenbarger.

The Tennessee Titan’s group was led by NFL Players Association president, Kevin Mawae, who recalled the early support the Players Association received from former IAM International President William Winpisinger.

Trumka Speech Sets Records on YouTube

A passionate speech by AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Rich Trumka on the issue of race in the U.S. presidential election is catching fire on the Internet and triggering a national debate among union members about the choices and the challenges in the upcoming election.

Click here to view a seven-minute clip of Trumka’s speech. Speaking at the United Steelworker’s convention, Trumka urged union members to confront the rumors, lies and innuendos about Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who has recently been the object of increased vitriol on the campaign trail.

“I’m not one for quoting dead philosophers, but back in the 1700s, Edmund Burke said: ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing,’” said Trumka.“Well, there’s no evil that’s inflicted more pain and more suffering than racism — and it’s something we in the labor movement have a special responsibility to challenge.”

The video clip of Trumka’s speech on YouTube has received more 400,000 views and now is rated YouTube’s 79th all-time, top-rated videos in the news and politics category.

Election Outcome Critical for NWA-Delta Workers

Politics and organizing intersected when more than 70 Air Transportation members convened this week to develop the next stage of the IAM fight to protect workers in the Northwest Airlines/Delta Air Lines merger.

“The three members of the NMB are appointed by the President of the United States,” said GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “The next president will determine if the NMB continues its attacks on workers, or if it will shift to supporting workers’ rights. As we develop our strategies to take on Delta Air Lines, we must recognize that on November 4th we can change the environment in which a representation election takes place. We cannot afford a continuation of Bush policies at the NMB.”

The organizing summit took place at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center in Maryland. After presentations by Grand Lodge and District 143 staff, participants developed strategic plans to defend the IAM’s Northwest membership and extend that protection to Delta’s mostly non-union workers.

“Delta CEO Richard Anderson wants to make Delta the world’s largest airline,” said Robert Roach, Jr. “If he succeeds, the IAM will make Delta the world’s largest unionized airline.”

Wichita College Students Support Boeing Strikers

Students at Wichita State University in Wichita, KS, are taking a break from classes and books to support the labor movement. One of their tasks this fall has been to build support for striking Boeing workers.

On October 11, a group of students delivered a banner to the lodge’s monthly meeting signed by over two hundred students supporting members of Wichita Local 834. The students heard a presentation from retired GLR Pat Lehman on ‘Why Unions Matter’ and are also taking part in the Million Member Campaign for the Employee Free Choice Act. Additionally, the students marched to support Florida tomato pickers and are backing the right of Sedgwick County, KS, employees to have a voice at work.

TRCP’s Life in the Open Begins New Season

The popular outdoor series “Life in the Open” returns for a fourth season this month. The show airs every at 1 p.m. Eastern and every Thursday at 2 p.m. Eastern on VERSUS Country. Click here for schedule information. Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, TRCP’s Life in the Open explores today’s pressing fish and wildlife issues, while venturing to some of the best hunting and fishing destinations that are also accessible and affordable to hardworking American hunters and anglers. 

Each week, the show will transport viewers from their living room into the wild to pursue fast-flying birds, stealthy big game and aggressive fish in inspiring destinations across the United States and beyond. Viewers will discover how they could hunt wild, free-ranging bison on public lands in Montana or match muscle with world-class Alaskan fish on the cheap.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) is a union-supported program to preserve access to hunting and fishing areas and carry on Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy of wildlife conservation. For more information about TRCP and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.