iMail for Thursday, September 3, 2009

Until Further Notice: A Labor Day Message from IAM President Tom Buffenbarger

“Labor Day has changed dramatically. Massive marches in Detroit, Pittsburgh and New York City on this day once marked the power of organized labor. This year, union members will be marching in much smaller parades and enjoying slimmed-down picnics. Some parades and picnics have been cancelled altogether.

Those are signs of the times. Here are a few more.

Over 9.1 million Americans— and non-union alike—are categorized by the Department of Labor as involuntary part-time workers. They’re the lucky ones. They still have a job, but are working fewer hours each week. Their reduced paychecks reflect that fact. So do their shopping habits. By counting pennies, clipping coupons and juggling credit card payments, they get by—

For more than one million union members and over 14.2 million non-union Americans, cutting back on spending is no longer an option. It is an imperative. They lost their paycheck. In far too few instances, it was replaced by unemployment insurance checks. The government’s three or four hundred dollars a week hardly covers their mortgage. Paying for groceries, utilities, insurance, school supplies and clothes has become trickier than Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme.

Another 6.2 million Americans are only marginally attached to the workforce, according the Department of Labor. They went looking for a job in the last year but couldn’t find one. In the next few months, these jobless Americans will start dropping off the radar. Very few will find work. Most will accept the grim reality that there simply aren’t any jobs available to them.

If you add the 9.1 million involuntary part-time workers and the 15.2 million unemployed to the 6.2 million workers marginally attached to the workforce, the total number of Americans idled in this recession exceeds 30.5 million! That’s 19.7 percent of the workforce – or one out of five workers.

So here’s my suggestion: Let’s dramatically change the nature of Labor Day. A member of the Machinists union, Matthew McGuire, is credited with the idea of setting aside one day a year to celebrate work, and to give people a chance to enjoy a day off with their family and friends. But with 30.5 million of us idled to some degree, it seems to me that this is no time to celebrate the work we do. Instead, lets dedicate this Labor Day to those who are NOT working.

Forget about who belongs to a union and who doesn’t. Remember that we are all Americans. And let’s do more for the army of the jobless than pray, “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

Each of us should do some little thing for those who are suffering in this Grave Recession – cook a meal, drop off a six pack, fix a broken swing, cut a lawn, or just drop by for a visit. We need to show we give a damn about them and what they are going through.

And on every Labor Day until we reach full employment again, lets join in solidarity with our unemployed and underemployed brothers and sisters. And in those intervening 364 days, let’s use our collective strength to persuade our government that we need JOBS Now!

IAM Members Speak Out at Health Care Meeting

IAM members were part of the large crowd of almost 1,500 people who showed up for a nationally televised town hall meeting on health care reform sponsored by House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Hoyer’s 5th Congressional District covers much of Southern Maryland and includes the IAM’s Winpisinger Education and Technology Center.

Health care reform opponents have made a practice of disrupting town hall meetings nationwide and union members’ have turned out in increasing numbers to show that most Americans support health care reform.

Crowds lined up early at North Point High School near Waldorf, MD and packed the school’s gymnasium. Amid jeers by the vocal minority in the crowd who ignored meeting rules about interrupting speakers or shouting, Congressman Hoyer outlined the major provisions in the proposed health care legislation that will benefit American families and cleared up some of the distortions being circulated by opponents.

Among the supporters in the crowd were a large contingent of IAM members from the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center which included members who live in Hoyer’s district and also students attending classes at the harbor who got a first-hand civics lesson in the health care debate.

Click here for more information about health care reform.

Pressure Builds on Pratt & Whitney

The leadership of the Connecticut General Assembly will hold a press conference today to announce that an overwhelming majority of the state legislature is opposed to Pratt & Whitney’s plan to close two aerospace plants in Connecticut. The lawmakers are urging P&W to suspend their moving plans and resolve the issue in full contract negotiations with IAM representatives.

Individual state senators are also weighing in on the fight to save thousands of high-value Connecticut jobs. “I write with urgent concern about the very real possibility Pratt & Whitney will close its Cheshire Engine Center and terminate approximately 850 jobs in doing so, seriously threatening the already fragile local economy,” wrote Connecticut State Senator Tom Gaffey to Joan McDonald, the state’s Economic and Community Development Commissioner. “It is imperative our state government to do everything it possibly can to assist Pratt & Whitney and help convince its officers to remain in business in Connecticut.”

More than 1,000 hourly and salary workers would lose their jobs if Pratt moves forward with a plan to ship work to Georgia, Singapore, Japan and other locations. Many question the necessity of the outsourcing moves, citing Pratt’s record $110 million in June deliveries. Because of the economic “ripple effect,” as many as 4,000 Connecticut workers could lose their jobs.

Ivory Leathers Named to 5th Annual Labor Day List

Ivory Leather, Inc., of West Fargo, ND, has been recognized for respecting workers’ rights and for providing sustainable wages and family-friendly benefits to its employees. The garment maker was among 10 companies on American Rights at Work Education Fund’s fifth annual Labor Day List, which each year publicizes successful union and management partnerships.

Owner Ruth Schepp, agreed to let her workers join the IAM back in 2008 through the majority sign-up process. The union and company then negotiated a first contract in just three hours. A proud supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act, Schepp writes letters to newspapers throughout North Dakota, participates in numerous conference calls and joined a national coalition of business leaders that support the bill.

“I thought my employees deserved to have a pension, fair wages, safe working conditions and a good relationship with their boss,” says Schepp. “I also want to see other workers have that choice without fear of repercussions.”

Labor Day List employers like Ivory Leathers show that productive labor relations benefit workers, their families, and the company’s bottom line,” says Acting American Rights Executive Director Kimberly Freeman. “Without a doubt, economic success does not have to come at the expense of workers’ rights. That’s why we chose to showcase companies that have demonstrated their unyielding support for the Employee Free Choice Act, which is fundamental to rebuilding our economy and empowering workers to achieve the American Dream.”

To find out more about Ivory Leathers, visit their website at

For a complete list of featured companies, click here.

Escape to the Wild Plans Labor Day Marathon

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance joins VERSUS Country in celebrating the American worker and sportsman with the third annual Escape to the Wild Labor Day marathon, which will air on VERSUS on Sept. 7, from 8 a.m. to noon EDT.

Escape to the Wild is a groundbreaking TV series made possible by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, VERSUS, and sponsoring unions and contractor associations that honors hardworking members of AFL-CIO-affiliated unions with hunting or fishing trips of a lifetime.

Viewers can watch union sportsmen and sportswomen travel to the rugged Rocky Mountains, Canada’s arctic tundra, South Dakota’s snow-covered plains and other incredible destinations during the VERSUS marathon. As the surprises unfold, viewers get a glimpse into the lives of the winners and discover how they have been influenced by their union membership and the great outdoors. Click here for more information about Escape to the Wild programs.