iMail for Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Health Care Debate Heads for the Heartland

As members of Congress leave Washington for the August recess without completing health care reform, the health insurance industry is preparing to launch a deluge of ads to sell the idea that fixing our broken health care system is too expensive, too complicated and somehow un-American.

The insurance industry will spend millions in the effort, but much of the battle will be fought in the viral world of the Internet, where rumors, half-truths and outright lies will share the stage with outrageous claims about secret horrors hidden deep in the proposed legislation.

Among the urban myths already circulating is the claim that the government will force senior citizens to undergo counseling to encourage suicide as an alternative to expensive procedures. This bizarre notion is being aggressively promoted on talk radio, where much of the scare campaign will take place.

In addition false claims of government-sponsored euthanasia, the campaign will include dire warnings about health care rationing, higher taxes and a government “takeover” of the nation’s health care system. But there will be no mention of how the current system allows insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions or how millions of American families are regularly forced to choose between food and medicine.

Perhaps the most outrageous claim that will be made during the August recess is the idea that giant health insurance companies are not ruthless profiteers, but scrappy underdogs, valiantly struggling to deliver quality health care to a deserving and grateful nation.

In the days ahead, every IAM member should contact their lawmakers, by phone, by mail or in person and demand an end to the chokehold that health insurance companies have had on this nation for too long.

Solidarity Prevails in Washington D.C. Organizing Win

A determined group of nearly 120 employees who provide maintenance and security services on the streets of Washington, D.C., voted solidly for IAM representation recently after brushing aside a fierce anti-union campaign.

The new IAM members are employed by the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District and provide assistance to tourists in addition to maintaining streets and reporting suspicious activity to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

The campaign turned ugly when the company resorted to harassment tactics in the final weeks before the vote, including surveillance of employees who accepted IAM campaign literature. The workers refused to be intimidated and organizers were joined by volunteers from IAM headquarters, the William W. Winpisinger Center and IAM Local CE 1 in Washington, D.C. who helped get the word out in a final push before ballots were cast.

“I want to congratulate our new members for standing strong in the face of adversity and to thank all the volunteers who stepped up when this election was on the line,” said General Secretary-Treasurer Warren Mart. “Special thanks also go to District 98 Business Representative Roosevelt Littlejohn and IAM National Pension Fund Coordinator Jim Lauter, who coordinated this successful drive.”

New Mexico Machinists Rally to Save Aerospace Jobs

Dozens of active and retired members of Local 794 in Albuquerque, NM, took to the streets this week to oppose a decision by G.E. Aviation to close a jet engine facility that has been an economic anchor in the Albuquerque community for more than 30 years.

“There’s no reason this plant can’t be saved,” said Local 794 President Ernest Dow in an interview broadcast on New Mexico’s KRQE News 13. “The workers here are dedicated workers, they’re skilled workers. All General Electric has to do is keep this work in house.”

General Electric announced last week that it intends to close the Albuquerque plant in the fall of 2010. The move will put more than 400 G.E. employees out of work and cost up to 1,400 additional workers their jobs when the impact of the closure spreads to sub-contractors, retail establishments and municipal employees.
“The closure of this facility could result in the loss of $25 to $30 million in economic activity,” said Western Territory GVP Gary Allen, who hails from the Albuquerque plant. “The unemployment rate in New Mexico is already at the highest level in 10 years and any decision about this plant must include all stakeholders, including state and local officials, as well as workers and their representatives.”

Machinists Union Wins Print, Web & Video Awards

The Machinists union won several top honors in the annual International Labor Communications Association (ILCA) Media Awards contest, which honors the best in labor journalism.
The IAM won top honors in the Multimedia Campaign category for ‘America’s Edge: Our Skills, Our Kids.’ The ‘America’s Edge’ feature story in the IAM Journal also won first place in the Analysis category.

The IAM website,, won first place for Best Website Design among International unions while the IAM video team won a second place award for “Ticket to the American Dream.”
Several IAM District publications were also honored, including the District 751 Aero Mechanic, the District 141 Messenger and the District 141 website.
The ILCA is a professional organization that supports labor communicators in North America and is an allied organization of the AFL-CIO. The annual ILCA Journalism/Media contest is open to ILCA member publications from dozens of local and international unions.

Grundmann Nominated to Chair Key Federal Board

President Barack Obama has nominated NFFE-IAM General Counsel Susan Grundmann to serve as chair of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). The MSPB is an independent, quasi-judicial agency with responsibility for deciding federal employee appeals from personnel actions taken against them, protecting the integrity of the civil service and other federal merit systems, and conducting studies of the civil service and other merit systems in the executive branch.

On July 30, 2009, the White House issued the following statement about the nomination of Ms. Grundmann: “Since 2002, Susan Tsui Grundmann has served as General Counsel to the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), which represents 100,000 federal workers nationwide and is affiliated with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW).  At NFFE, she has successfully litigated cases in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.”

The White House also noted her service representing employees in the Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Passport Services, Veterans Administration, General Services Administration and some 25 additional federal agencies.  Since 2003, Grundmann has been a regular instructor on federal sector law at the William W. Winpisinger Education Center in Placid Harbor, MD.

Many States, Cities Hit by Double Digit Unemployment

The latest county-by-county map of the unemployment situation is yet another vivid representation of the vastness of today’s economic crisis.
More than 90 percent of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas saw their unemployment rates climb in June from the previous month says the U.S. Department of Labor. A total of 15 states and the District of Columbia had unemployment rates of at least 10 percent.

Michigan again reported the highest jobless rate, 15.2 percent. The last state to have an unemployment rate of 15 percent or higher was West Virginia in March 1984. The states with the next highest rates were Rhode Island, 12.4 percent; Oregon, 12.2 percent; South Carolina, 12.1 percent; Nevada, 12 percent; California, 11.6 percent; Ohio, 11.1 percent and North Carolina, 11 percent.
Image of county unemployment map:

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