iMail for Tuesday, April 17, 2007

DOE Revives Attack on Pensions

In a stunning proposal that underscores the anti-worker animus of the current administration, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing guidelines that could eliminate defined benefit pension plans and retiree benefits for tens of thousands of DOE contract employees.

“We would be very disturbed to see the resurrection of this policy proposal, first floated a year ago, that would discontinue reimbursement of costs associated with defined benefit pension plans,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger in a letter to DOE Director Ingrid Kolb.

The IAM represents more than 5,500 employees of DOE contractors under seventeen contracts at nine locations nationwide, including nearly 800 employees at Honeywell in Kansas City, MO. Many IAM members at DOE locations are covered by a variety of retirement plans that are locally bargained and tailored to needs and concerns of the local workforces.

Under the DOE proposal, new hires would be deemed ineligible for defined benefit plans and certain retiree medical benefits. The proposal, if implemented, would constitute an unprecedented level of federal intrusion into locally bargained contracts and substantially reduce contractor’s ability to attract and retain the highly skilled workforce needed to fulfill DOE’s mission.

“We believe that the appropriate way to address issues of compensation is not through heavy-handed Federal policy, but rather, at the negotiating table,” said Buffenbarger. “It is only through arms-length bargaining, free from interference that employers and employees can resolve issues of mutual concern in a matter that balances all parties’ consideration.”


IAM Lauds ‘Groundbreaking’ Move by CBS

In a letter to CBS President Leslie Moonves, forty-one civil rights leaders, including IAM Executive Assistant Diane Babineaux, welcomed the decision by the network to terminate their contract with radio shock jock Don Imus in the wake of racist remarks about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.

“We applaud the groundbreaking decision made by MSNBC and CBS to terminate their contracts with Don Imus in the wake of his inexcusable, sexist and racist statement about the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights,” said the letter, which urged the same treatment for Bernard McGuirk, whose exchange with Imus on April 4 triggered the public outcry.

“It’s time for networks to pull the plug on any program that slanders individuals on the basis of their race, creed or color,” said Babineaux. “We need to encourage free speech in this country, not hate speech.”

Workers at Filtrona Join District 751

Persistence paid off for 128 workers at Filtrona Extrusion in Yakima, WA who voted by a wide margin for IAM representation. The Filtrona workers produce extrusion parts for the aerospace and other industries. The organizing campaign began in August 2006 and the winning vote was a re-run of a close election held in February 2007. In the first election, the IAM won by one vote and the company challenged two of the eligible voters. The IAM filed an “objectionable conduct” charge against the company for numerous unfair labor practices, resulting in a new election that the IAM won by a wide margin.

In the lead up to the second election, the Filtrona workers didn’t fall for the company’s scare tactics and wore IAM Fighting Machinists T-shirts and buttons, put stickers on their cars and tool boxes and let the company know that they would not be intimidated.

“More than 50 staff and Local Lodge leaders had a hand in this project. This was a true coordinated effort by the IAM,” said Jesse Cote, District 751 Head Organizer. “The lead came from the Western Territory office, and we received great support from the IAM Organizing Department. The leadership in Districts 24, 160, and 725 sent us talented house callers, and we could not have done this without their support and energy. This is truly a coordinated win for the entire territory. I want to especially thank Organizer Jon Holden for his tenacity with this project; but the real heroes of this win are the workers themselves, they never gave up.”

“Everyone involved did a great job,” said Western Territory GVP Pearson. “Congratulations on a great win for the IAM and for the entire Western Territory.”

ITF Backs IAM Day of Action

Just a month before the 2007 Transportation Day of Action, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) have launched a website to show global support for the IAM’s Transportation Day of Action. “Transport workers around the world are suffering the same indignities as the US workers,” said Ingo Marowsky, ITF Civil Aviation Secretary. “That’s why the ITF is urging civil aviation and other transport affiliates to back this worldwide campaign.” The ITF is asking unions to back the Day of Action in a number of ways. These include sending as many participants as possible to the Washington D.C. rally on May 17th, presenting government ministers with a charter of demands during the same week as the action and urging cabin crew on stopover to join ground staff at destination airports in organized actions. The ITF is an international trade union federation of 681 transport workers’ unions representing 4,500,000 transport workers in 148 countries. Check out the IAM’s Day of Action Website,, for the latest Day of Action information.

Farm Labor Organizer Killed in Mexico

The April 9 murder of union organizer Santiago Rafael Cruz in Monterrey, Mexico, continues to spark outrage among labor and political leaders, who are calling for the U.S. State Department to demand a thorough investigation.

As an organizer for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC), Cruz educated workers seeking employment under an agreement with the Mt. Olive Pickle Company and the North Carolina Growers Association. The agreement was established to bring workers to North Carolina under the H2A worker visa program.

The agreement, with its provisions for safe transit, was fiercely opposed by middlemen who previously charged exorbitant fees to transport workers from Mexico to North Carolina.

“We have put up with constant attacks in both the U.S. and Mexico-including having our staff harassed, our office burglarized and broken into several times and a number of other attempted break-ins,” said FLOC in a statement issued following Cruz’s death. “Now the attacks have come to this.”

AARP to Fund Corporate Health Care Initiatives

The AARP announced they will use revenues from collaborations with insurance giants United Healthcare and Aetna to fund lobbying efforts on behalf of their “Divided We Fail” campaign, an alliance with the SEIU and the Business Roundtable that could threaten genuine health care reform.

Congressional Quarterly reports the AARP will bring in $4.4 billion over the next seven years as a result of the agreements, which will cover AARP-branded Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D and Medicare Supplement plans.

AARP President Bill Novelli told reporters more than $400 million of the $628 million per year will be used to fund a huge lobbying effort aimed at expanding the “Divided We Fail” campaign, which Steve Pearlstein in the Washington Post said is designed to give President Bush political cover by offering repackaged versions of so-called reforms that have been largely supported by corporations and insurance companies.

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