iMail for Thursday, October 6, 2005

Growing a High-Performance Organizing Union

Nearly 1,000 Machinists from all over North America gathered in Chicago yesterday to kick off the IAM Organizing Summit.

International President Tom Buffenbarger, who called on each and every participant to organize and help grow the Union, announced effective November 1, 2005 the Grand Lodge will place a one year moratorium on per capita taxes for each new member organized.

“We know just as the founders of this Union did, we need something bigger than any one of us. We need a union, and we need one damn big union if we’re going to succeed for our families and the future generations of North Americans,” said Buffenbarger.

In order to produce unique and effective strategies for organizing, the participants took part in a historic e-brainstorming session in which over 120 interconnected computers allowed members to simultaneously exchange a free flow of ideas on how to better organize new members.

Conference delegates also heard from best-selling author Harry Beckwith and IAM members who have helped lead successful organizing drives.

“The IAM has definitely made a difference for not only me, but others who have also had to fight to get proper representation in their workplace,” said Renell Manns, who played a pivotal role in organizing P&B Transport in Florida.

Other sessions allowed the participants the chance to take part in educational workshops covering a variety of topics, including bargaining to organize, tools and techniques for organizing, strategic targeting and positive message development.

The conference, which wraps up Friday, is a critical step in making the IAM a high performance organizing union.

“Today we have the activists, the leadership, the movers and shakers all sitting in one room. Look around because we need help from each and every one of you to organize and help grow this Union again,” said Buffenbarger.

Miers Law Firm Is Anti-Union Business Advisor

The law firm that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers belonged to before joining the Bush administration in 2001 offers a comprehensive “union avoidance” strategy for businesses.

The Locke Liddell & Sapp website details services to prevent businesses from being organized:

” . . . we handle all matters that arise under the National Labor Relations Act, including NLRB elections, anti-union campaign materials, collective bargaining, arbitrations, strikes and picketing . . .For union-free companies, we provide union-avoidance advice and strategies in emerging situations.”

While it is not known whether Miers personally provided anti-union services, she was a co-managing partner of the firm and was elected its president in 1996. She began working at what is now Locke Liddell & Sapp in 1972.

Supremes to Rule on Worker Pay Issues

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week on whether the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandates that workers be paid to wait in line and walk between equipment stations in order to retrieve and return the safety and sanitary equipment that they are required to wear.

Workers at a meat processing facility in Washington and a poultry processing plant in Maine, both filed suit under the FLSA seeking compensation for time spent putting on and taking off required sanitary and safety equipment, as well as time spent waiting in line and walking between equipment stations to retrieve and return their gear.

The United States argued in support of the workers saying that the workers should prevail on the basis of deference to longstanding Department of Labor regulations.

This is the first case Chief Justice John Roberts heard following his recent confirmation.

Social Security is Life Insurance For Most Children

This year’s debate over Social Security has focused primarily on retiree benefits and has largely neglected the survivors and disability portions of the program. 

The fact that two-thirds of retirees receive at least half of their income from Social Security has become well-known. Yet many people seem unaware that about one in six Social Security beneficiaries receive survivor benefits as the spouses and dependents of deceased workers and another sixth receive disability benefits. 

In 2003, some 1.9 million children received survivor benefits at an average of $603 per month, totaling $14 billion a year. For many families, Social Security provides the only form of life insurance for their children. 

An Economic Policy Institute analysis of the Federal Reserve’s 2001 Survey of Consumer Finance shows that 31% of families with children under the age of 18 have not purchased life insurance in the private market. This translates into roughly 24.5 million children without life insurance other than Social Security.