iMail for Tuesday, April 14, 2009

IAM Leader Rips Florida Rep. for Anti-Labor Remarks

IAM president Tom Buffenbarger is calling for Florida Republican Rep. Connie Mack to be recalled by voters following his suggestion that President Obama should “fire” United Auto Workers (UAW) President Ron Gettelfinger for refusing to agree to draconian cuts in pay and benefits for UAW members.

“Rep. Mack’s outrageous suggestion that a democratically elected labor leader should be ‘fired’ by the President of the United States is an insult to any American who believes that union members in this country still have the right to elect their own leaders,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger.

In a recent press conference, Rep. Mack urged President Obama to seek the removal of Gettelfinger, just as he had orchestrated the removal of General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner.

“Rep. Mack’s comments display the kind of knee-jerk partisan demagoguery that we’ve come to expect from Fox News commentators or Rush Limbaugh,” said Buffenbarger. “The UAW deserves credit for standing up for its members, who have been unfairly scapegoated for years by people like Rep. Mack.”

Just this week, UAW members at Ford Motor Co. ratified additional cost saving changes to the UAW Ford 2007 labor agreement, as well funding changes to the independent trust for retiree health care.

“We are focused on doing everything possible to rebuild a great industry and keep manufacturing jobs in the United States,” said Gettelfinger. “As we have stated many times, in order to succeed, shared sacrifice will be required from all stakeholders, including executives, directors, shareholders, bondholders, dealers and suppliers.”

“We are facing an unprecedented loss of sales and revenue at Ford,” added UAW Vice President Bob King, who directs the union’s Ford Department. “Our bargaining committee made an extraordinary effort to negotiate changes in a responsible way that will help Ford be competitive, while still protecting our active and retired members.

“The voting results show that our members are prepared to make painful sacrifices in order to be part of the solution to the problems facing Ford and the U.S. auto industry.”

Connecticut Machinists Rally for F-22 Funding

Concerned members of District 26 in Connecticut took to the air this past week to rally support for the F-22, the Lockheed-built fighter aircraft powered by IAM-built engines at Pratt & Whitney in Connecticut.

At a press conference in Kensington, CT, IAM members and leaders were joined by Connecticut Democratic Rep. John Larson and Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, who pledged to fight for additional funding to continue the F-22 program. The F-22 was among several defense programs tagged for elimination by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates at a press conference last week.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 Connecticut jobs depend on F-22 projects, according to United Technologies Corp., which owns Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Sundstrand, both major F-22 suppliers. As many as to 95,000 jobs in 44 states are at risk if the F-22 program is shut down.

“A premature end to the F-22 program would be a serious blow to our industrial skill base,” declared District 26 ADBR Jim Parent, who noted the average age of IAM workers at Pratt & Whitney was 54. “If there is no opportunity to pass on our collective job knowledge, it will be permanently lost.”

Many industry experts agree that a looming wave of retirements in the aerospace industry represents a serious threat to future programs, such as the new F-35 program. For years, the unique skills involved in building such aircraft have been passed down at the workbench, the assembly line and on the drafting tables.

“We should all thank the workers who are standing up today and calling for sufficient funding and training to ensure the U.S. remains second to none when it comes to a strong national defense,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “Many of these workers who build the F-22 are second, third and even fourth-generation craftsmen and women with a long family history of building U.S. military aircraft. Their contributions and their dedication to excellence deserve our deepest respect.”

Labor Radio Program Moves to New Time

America’s only daily labor talk show, America’s Work Force (AWF), has moved to a new station and a new time slot. The program can now be heard in the Cincinnati, OH, area on WERE 1490 AM from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Additionally, the show’s Web site now features Podcasts and a blog written by the show’s host, Ed “Flash” Ferenc.

Among the regular guests on the program is IAM President Tom Buffenbarger, who addresses issues of local and national importance on the first Friday of each month between 4 and 5 pm.

AWF has been hailed as a success for delivering labor’s point of view in an unbiased, no-nonsense manner while exposing corporate greed, unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices. 

Ohio Toolmakers Vote to Strike

IAM members employed at SK Hand Tool Corp., in Defiance, OH set up picket lines after unanimously rejecting a contract offer from the company that would eviscerate their collective bargaining agreement. Members of Local 1356 in Definace, OH, voted unanimously to reject the offer and to authorize a strike against the company.

Since voting down the initial offer, the members have rejected three subsequent offers by the company, all of which would gut seniority rights, reduce vacation and holidays while eliminating dental, life, and disability insurance. The company’s offers also included extreme increases to employee health care costs.

“The company put the members’ backs against a wall,” said District 34 BR Joseph Chaszar. “Their solidarity and determination to win a fair contract is nothing short of amazing.”

Labor Secretary Focuses on Equality for Working Women

“Achieving Equity for Women” was the focus and title of a recent symposium featuring U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and hosted by the Wellesley Centers for Women and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, DC.

The conference was an opportunity for speakers, key policymakers, and researchers to share and discuss important insights on the pressing economic, social, and health inequalities women currently face. Rising costs of living, increases in health care costs, and single parenting are all taking a toll on the financial stability of females. Pay inequality makes it harder for women to get ahead and look forward to real retirement. In addition, women are living much longer than men and have less income and savings to prepare for it.

Presentations were made on how current and upcoming economic recovery efforts affect women and their families. Participants also discussed proposed efforts to rebuild the nation’s physical and human infrastructure to incorporate women and men on equal footing.

“We are faced with tremendous economic challenge, an economic crisis that is hitting hard for so many Americans and families, and in particular women and their children,” said Secretary Solis. “I see my role as not just helping to be the Secretary of Labor, but to fight the challenges to make sure women get adequate training, get respect in the workplace, are able to organize when they want to, and when they’re looking to move up and shatter that glass ceiling, that they appropriately have the skill set and tools to be able to draw on.”

Noting stark differences between male and female occupations, Solis also stressed the importance of educating young women in the fields of math and science in order to broaden their opportunities. She hopes to involve more females in “green jobs” and technologically advanced careers.