iMail for Thursday September 28, 2006

Ohio, California Lead ‘Hell Yes’ Tally

Union members in two key states, California and Ohio, are running neck and neck for bragging rights over which state has the most members pledging to vote in the upcoming gubernatorial elections. Other states coming on strong in the unofficial competition are Illinois, Florida and Maryland.

The state-by-state tally can be found on the RallyAround.Us website, where union members are invited to add their names to a virtual wall designed to tell candidates for governor in 36 states what matters most to working families.

The RallyAround.Us website was launched following an IAM survey in August that found voters want to hear candidates talk about economic issues that directly affect their family budget, including: Jobs; Utility rates; Insurance premiums; Commuter woes and Educational equity.


Deadline Draws Near for Bombardier

Members of Local 639 who build Learjet aircraft at Bombardier Aerospace in Wichita, KS were joined by union members from across the state for a midtown march and rally as the clock ticks closer to an Oct. 1 contract deadline.

“I want to thank all the local unions in this district and the brothers and sisters from other unions around the city and state for their show of support here today,” said District 70 DBR Steve Rooney. “What this company is proposing here at Learjet would have a long-lasting effect on the entire labor movement in this city and state.”

Bombardier is currently enjoying a rebound in business and sales after several difficult years. While members of Local 639 endured personal economic hardship during that time to keep the Wichita facility open, the company’s negotiators continue to seek additional cuts.

Bombardier is proposing a sub-standard insurance package with increased out-of-pocket costs that will devastate families. “At a time when the aerospace industry is on the rebound, the members of Local 639 deserve a return from Bombardier Aerospace after taking concessions in 2003,” said Aerospace Coordinator Ron Eldridge.

Members will vote on the company’s so-called last and final offer on September 30. The contract expires on October 2, 2006 at 12:01 AM.


Federal Judge Sides with AK Steel Retirees

A U.S. District Court Judge in Ohio issued a preliminary injunction on Sept. 22 that blocks AK Steel Corp. from going through with its plans to reduce health benefits for nearly 4,500 retirees and their spouses.

AK Steel announced on June 1 that it was terminating its retiree health plan effective Oct. 1 and implementing a new retiree insurance program. The new program includes monthly premiums to be paid by the retirees and terminates the dental, vision, and Medicare-subsidy benefits.

The Sept. 22 ruling follows a class action lawsuit by a group of AK Steel retirees who claimed their negotiated health benefits cannot be unilaterally modified or terminated by AK Steel. The win follows a similar ruling in Arizona, where a District Court Judge ruled that IAM retirees formerly employed at Raytheon Corp could proceed with a lawsuit to block the aerospace company from making modifications to their health care benefits.

As evidence that the benefits for AK Steel retirees were beyond the reach of the company, the court noted that retirees’ health benefits were linked to their pension status. In addition, the court noted that until 1999, the summary plan description only gave AK Steel the right to modify the plan if such modification was necessary to comply with federal law.

Finally, the court soundly rejected AK Steel’s argument that an injunction would place AK Steel at a competitive disadvantage due to the fact that many of its competitors have no liability for past-negotiated retiree health benefits due to such obligations being eliminated through bankruptcy proceedings.

Bush Administration Strikes Out on NSPS

The Bush administration struck out swinging at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) on its attempt to implement sweeping new personnel rules in a blatant attempt to gut collective bargaining rights and strip civil service protections for hundreds of thousands of federal workers.

In separate court decisions in suits brought by a coalition of federal sector unions, federal judges have ruled sections of the new personnel rules at DHS and the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) at DoD violate collective bargaining rights and are illegal. That stopped the new rules for workers whose jobs are covered by union contracts, but allows them for non-union workers.

At DHS, the Bush administration has fought the court ruling but lost in a federal appeals court. DHS just announced it was abandoning a further appeal to the Supreme Court. “This is a great victory for federal workers,” said IAM Government Employees Director Frank Carelli. “The IAM and NFFE Federal District 1, including NFFE FD 1 President Rick Brown and General Counsel Susan Grundmann, were key players with the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) to stop these unfair personnel rules.”

A similar court ruling covering DoD union-represented workers has stopped NSPS, but the Bush administration has not yet given up its appeal. Federal sector unions succeeded in convincing Congress to block funding for portions of NSPS that the court found illegal. The measure was passed by both the Senate and House and survived a Defense Appropriations Conference Report, which is expected to win final approval by Congress before its next recess.


Foster Farms Members Say ‘Sí, Se Puede!’

Hundreds of chanting, waving, sign-carrying members of Local 2005 marched through the streets of Livingston, CA to a rally at the Foster Farms chicken processing plant to express solidarity in the face of management’s efforts to divide their union.

“Local 2005 members are committed to a fair and decent collective bargaining agreement,” said District 190 DBR Jim Beno. “And that includes a closed-shop provision.”

“(With an open shop) the company continues to drive a wedge between employees,” Local 2005 President Ralph Meraz told the Merced Sun-Star. “That’s what the employees don’t want.”

The workers at Foster Farms voted overwhelmingly for the IAM last September, but Foster Farms refused recognition. Unfair labor practice charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) who ruled repeatedly in the IAM’s favor.

“The cooperative spirit of this membership – a membership remarkable by its diversity yet oneness in purpose – will lead them to justice,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson who spoke at the rally along with speakers delivering remarks in Punjabi, Spanish and English. “Our members helped make Foster Farms the largest poultry corporation in the West,” said District 190 Assistant DBR Jesse Juarez. “They deserve to be treated better.”


NLRB Poised to Decide ‘ Kentucky River’ Cases

As early as this week, the Bush-appointed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) could rule on a trio of cases known as “ Kentucky River,” which center on the definition of supervisor. The board could declare that hundreds of thousands of nurses, building and construction trades workers, journalists and others are supervisors, and thus ineligible for union membership.

Nearly every profession could be affected by the NLRB decision says Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute. Eisenbrey cited a dockworker with more job experience who tells a less experienced worker how to load a truck. In doing so, the dockworker would be considered a supervisor.

“The fact that the NLRB has not held hearings shows that the board is not taking this case as seriously as it should. At the heart of the issue is the right of workers to organize, to bargain collectively and to share in decisions,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) “Given the stakes, the NLRB needs to be as thorough as possible in hearing testimony.”