iMail for Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Leaders Take Helm at AFL-CIO

A new leadership team took the helm of the AFL-CIO with the nomination and election of Richard Trumka as President, Liz Shuler as Secretary-Treasurer and Arlene Holt Baker as Executive Vice President.

Trumka succeeds John Sweeney who retired after serving for 14 years as president of the AFL-CIO. In a passing of the gavel at the 2009 AFL-CIO Convention  in Pittsburgh, PA, Sweeney praised his successor’s energy and dedication. Trumka thanked Sweeney for his mentoring and leadership, and pledged a new future for the middle class and organized labor. “Middle-class people who once hoped of living the American Dream are today living in chaos,” said Trumka. “We’re losing health care. We’re losing our pensions. We’re losing our jobs. And we are losing our patience!… Our message to America is that just as unions built the middle class once before, if you give us the chance, we can build it again!”

Trumka promises a labor movement that embraces a younger generation, yet holds true to the struggles and lessons of union members who came before. He’s called for the creation of a summit of young workers to discuss their struggles and craft an action agenda for 2010. “These men and women need a strong voice,” he says. “But when they look at unions, they don’t see themselves, only a grainy, faded picture from another time. That’s not the way it has to be. The labor movement can’t ask the next generation of workers to change how they earn their living to fit our model of trade unionism. No! We have to change our approach to organizing and representation to better meet their needs. And we will!”

In his first major act as president, Trumka welcomed back service and textile members of UNITE HERE. The 250,000-member organization left the federation in 2005.

In addition to the top three officers, convention delegates elected 51 vice presidents who will make up the AFL-CIO Executive Council. Each newly-elected officer will serve a term of four years.

IAM Exhibit Highlights Human Cost of Unemployment

For many people, unemployment numbers are abstract statistics. But for the people who are laid off, it’s a grim reality of no paycheck, no health care, skimpy unemployment benefits and a bleak job market. To put a human face behind the numbers, the IAM hosted a display of some of the 30,000 Machinists Union members from across the United States and Canada who have been laid off in the last year. The moving photos gave delegates a look at our brothers and sisters who have been thrown into the economic abyss of the recession.

“This display is a reminder of who this recession hurts most – workers who are trying to care for their families,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “These are the faces of the men and women who can’t wait two or three years, or even a few months, for the current stimulus plan to take effect. These are the men and women who need JOBS Now!”

Delegates at the AFL-CIO Convention approved resolutions that adopted key elements of the IAM’s JOBS Now! campaign to demand additional apprenticeship opportunities, investment in skills training and a second, targeted stimulus package aimed at the manufacturing, construction and transportation sectors.

Albuquerque Mayor Seeks Summit with GE Chief

The mayor of Albuquerque, NM, is calling for a meeting between General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and the New Mexico congressional delegation to make the case for preserving the company’s jet engine facility in Albuquerque, where more than a thousand local jobs hang in the balance.

GE has said it intends to close the facility in 2010 and has thus far been unwilling to seriously consider proposals from local lawmakers or union representatives seeking upgrades or alternatives for the facility, which currently produces jet engine parts for commercial applications.

“I am asking you to meet with our congressional delegation in the immediate future in Washington, D.C. to discuss the General Electric facility in Albuquerque, NM,” wrote Mayor Martin J. Chavez in his September 15 letter to Immelt. “The delegation intends to present compelling reasons to preserve the facility and its hundreds of manufacturing jobs in Albuquerque or present a new mission for General Electric here.”

Chavez urges Immelt to upgrade the existing plant or to consider alternative investment in the area, including a wind turbine or alternative energy plant in the Albuquerque area. “Our city is becoming a leader in alternative energy production and we would welcome General Electric’s participation in this endeavor,” wrote Chavez.

Plan Now for 2010 Retirees Conference

Mark your calendars now for the popular IAM Retirees Conference. The 2010 Conference will be held August 31 through September 2, 2010 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. “This is always a popular conference so we wanted to get the word out early about the date so everyone can plan ahead,” said IAM Retirees Department Director Maria Cordone. For more information, contact the IAM Community Services and Retirees Department at 301-967-3433.