iMail for Thursday, October 27, 2005


Strike Looms at Boeing Space & Defense Units

Nearly 1,500 IAM members at seven Boeing facilities in California, Alabama and Florida are poised to strike the company’s space and defense division following contract offers that slashed retiree benefits, raised health care premiums, and failed to include adequate pension increases.

The so-called “final offer” from Boeing is similar to proposals that led to a massive walkout by more than 18,000 IAM members at the company’s commercial aircraft assembly plants in Oregon, Kansas and Washington state. IAM members in California, Alabama and Florida are covered by separate agreements from those covering IAM members at Boeing’s commercial aircraft facilities.

Machinists at Boeing’s locations in Huntington Beach, California, Torrance, California, Vandenberg AFB, Edwards AFB and Cape Canaveral, Florida voted by an overwhelming 85 percent majority to strike if a better contract offer was not received from the aerospace giant.

Strike preparations are underway while negotiations continue in California, as well as in Decatur Alabama and Huntsville, Alabama, where a strike vote by IAM members is set to take place on October 29.

“The offer from Boeing seeks to pit active employees against retirees, single workers against workers with families and older workers against younger workers,” said Aerospace Coordinator Dick Schneider.

“Boeing executives should have learned from the strike they brought on themselves last month that Machinists will not be played against one another. But if they insist, we’re more than ready to teach them that lesson again.”

White House Reinstates Davis-Bacon Act

Bowing to pressure from working families and Democratic lawmakers, the Bush administration reinstated the Davis-Bacon Act yesterday. Following the devastation Hurricane Katrina brought to the Gulf Coast, Bush suspended the key wage protection, which ensures quality work standards and requires contractors to pay employees the prevailing local wage.

In response, working families and grassroots activists sent more than 350,000 messages to the White House and Congress demanding fair wages for workers in the Gulf Coast.

Even Congressional Republicans stepped up efforts to force the White House to reverse the suspension, which was leaving Gulf Coast residents out of the recovery effort.

“The President reversed decades of protections for working people when, by executive decree, he overruled fair wage standards in hurricane stricken areas. As thousands of workers who had lost so much returned to rebuild the Gulf Coast, the Bush Administration forced them to work for lower wages,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

“Facing a Congressional showdown, the President has had to rescind this unfair and unjustified action.

The Davis-Bacon Act is set to go back into effect November 8, two months after it was suspended.

IAM Members Take Action at Foster Farms

Nearly 1,500 Workers at Foster Farms, a chicken processing plant in Livingston, California, have begun an Unfair Labor Practice Action in response to employer tactics designed to stall negotiations on a new contract. A committee of the workers, who recently voted overwhelmingly to be represented by the IAM, showed up at the facility and set up informational pickets. The company responded by locking the doors of the facility and not letting the workers out to join the demonstration.

Since the IAM was chosen by the workers on September 11, by an NLRB certified and monitored vote, Foster Farms has refused to recognize the election, and has stalled the negotiations on a collective bargaining agreement. Several Unfair Labor Practice charges have been filed by the union, and nearly every one has been found to have merit by the Board. 

Today’s action is intended to bring attention to the plight of the workers at Foster Farms, and hopefully move the negotiations process forward. Ralph Meraz, spokesperson for the group, said “We hope that we can sit with Foster Farms and negotiate a fair contract soon. We want to be able to deliver an agreement that gives justice and dignity to these workers, and lets them concentrate on keeping Foster Farms as the leader in this industry.”

Rabid Right-Wing Attacks Doom Miers

After weeks of unrelenting pressure from the conservative wing of the Republican party, Harriet Meirs abruptly withdrew from consideration as President George Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

Miers told the president in her letter of withdrawal that she was “concerned that the confirmation process presents a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interests of the country.”

Bush accepted Meirs withdrawal “reluctantly” and said that he shared her concern about the “about the current state of the Supreme Court confirmation process.”

The party’s right-wing base had been hectoring Bush to appoint a nominee that would join justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas on a more partisan court and made their disappointment apparent when Miers was chosen.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who supported Miers, called the withdrawal a victory for “the radical right wing” of the Republican Party.

Transportation Sets Organizing Initiative

“The Air Transport and Railroad industries are ripe with attractive opportunities to organize tens of thousands of workers,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr.

“Based on the input from our Local Lodge Presidents, the Transportation Department has developed a new organizing structure, identified targets and is launching aggressive organizing campaigns for all air and rail workers who are not members of an AFL-CIO union.”

Former Assistant Transportation Coordinator Jay Cronk has been named to the new position of Transportation Coordinator and is responsible for all Transportation Department organizing activities.

Additionally, three Grand Lodge Representatives will serve as Territorial Organizing Leaders (TOLs). Each TOL is responsible for one of three geographical regions of the United States; East, Midwest or West.

Airlines and railroads in the United States must organize under the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The RLA requires all of a company’s employees in a classification to be organized nationwide at the same time.

“All three Air Transport District Lodges and Railroad District 19 each have at least one full-time organizer dedicated to the task of growing our union and showing workers the benefits of IAM representation,” said Roach.

“With the leads and assistance provided by our Local Lodges, we will be successful.”

A White House Cabal?

The Bush administration is scrambling in the face of multiple GOP leadership scandals in Congress, plummeting public approval ratings for the President and the prospect of senior White House officials facing criminal indictments for leaking a CIA operative’s identity.

The Bush White House may also have to deal with startling revelations from Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell from 2002 to 2005. Wilkerson described a secretive “White House cabal”, led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who made key decisions involving U.S. national security without the required advice and consent of other agencies.

In an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times, Wilkenson answers critics who ask why anyone should be surprised or even care about such an end run by senior officials with long established contempt for openness or accountability.

“I believe that there are two reasons we should care,” wrote Wilkenson. “First, such departures from the process have in the past led us into a host of disasters, including the last years of the Vietnam War, the national embarrassment of Watergate (and the first resignation of a president in our history), the Iran-Contra scandal and now the ruinous foreign policy of George W. Bush.”