iMail for Tuesday August 1, 2006

Talks Resume in Louisiana PPG Strike

After two months on strike, IAM negotiators and representatives of PPG Industries are returning to the bargaining table at the request of the federal mediator. Nearly 900 members of Local 470 have been on strike at the chemical company’s Lake Charles facility since May 26.

“Our negotiators have been ready and willing to negotiate since we hit the bricks,” Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez told the members at a rally Saturday in Lake Charles. “This strike is affecting not only the workers, but the entire community.”

Also present at Saturday’s rally was 11-year-old Genie Burton, daughter of Dan Burton, a member of the Local 470 negotiating committee. She wrote a letter to the editor that was read on the air on KPLC-TV in Lake Charles. GVP Martinez thanked the Burton family, saying, “Make no mistake, the next generation has a stake in this fight too. Let’s do what we can to provide a future for the workers here today and for the next generation.”

GOP Moves to Kill Minimum Wage Hike

House GOP leaders have once again ensured the defeat of a minimum wage increase for working families, pushing through sham legislation early Saturday morning that combines a minimum wage increase with a repeal of the estate tax.

Republican leaders were well aware adding the estate tax provision would kill a minimum wage increase as the bill heads to the Senate, where efforts to repeal the estate tax have consistently been defeated. Repealing the estate tax would benefit only the wealthiest Americans and cost the government more than $800 billion for the first 10 years alone.

“It’s a political ploy, it’s a joke, it’s a hoax, it’s a sham,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of the bill. “We are robbing America’s families who are struggling for a better future for their children in order to give a tax cut of $800 billion.”

There has been no increase in the minimum wage since 1997 and the current rate of $5.15 per hour puts a full-time worker well below the poverty line even for a family of three.

The Senate is expected to take the bill up Wednesday. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said Democrats will fight to pass the minimum wage and block the estate tax giveaway.

First Contract Saves Hundreds at California Ford Dealer

The recent organizing win at Bill Brandt Ford in Brentwood, CA has been capped off with a first contract that boosts wages and saves new members hundreds of dollars a month in health care costs.

Key issues in the negotiations were health care costs, wages, and respect in the workplace. “The workers in the parts department came to us and asked if we could help them the same way we helped the mechanics,” said IAM organizer Jesse Juarez. ”We told them that if they were strong and determined, we could get them a contract they could be proud of.” District 190 represents the mechanics at the dealership and negotiated a quality contract for them four years ago.

“Some of the employees in the parts department were paying as much $800 per month for their medical coverage,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson. “The IAM was able to negotiate a package where the employer now covers most of the cost. Business Representatives Mark Hollibush and Rick Rodgers did a great job and were even able to get $5 – $ 6 an hour improvements for our new members.”

Local 1000 Member Wins $71,000 in Back Pay

Robin Davis, a 21-year IAM member of Local 1000 in Bloomington, IL, is all smiles after receiving a check for more than $71,000 and getting her old job back. Davis, a City of Bloomington employee, received full back pay, full seniority and full benefits, thanks to an arbitrator’s decision.

Midwest Territory GLR Sue Wilson represented Davis since she was discharged in March 2005. “This was a complex arbitration,” said Wilson. “The Human Resources Director brought up everything she could in an attempt to justify the discharge, even going back to a supposed ‘Last Chance Letter’ from seven years ago.” Thanks to the IAM, the arbitrator saw things differently.

Midwest GVP Phil Gruber praised GLR Wilson for the important win, and thanked the District 9 and Local Lodge 1000 membership for their efforts and support in the case.

Oil Firms Drowning in Profits

While working families continue to be financially battered by gas prices topping $3 a gallon, oil companies across the board reported record profits last week.

Exxon Mobil announced they raked in a staggering $10.36 billion during the second quarter, a 36 percent jump from a year ago and the second largest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly traded U.S. company.

Royal Dutch Shell saw earnings jump 40 percent to $7.3 billion; BP saw earnings jump 30 percent to $7.3 billion; ConocoPhillips saw earnings jump 65 percent to $5.2 billion.

The oil industry’s profit increases mirror the increase in gas prices, which were averaging $2.14 a gallon at this time last year. A recent Gallup poll found more than half of Americans are experiencing financial hardships due to today’s gas prices. Many low-income families have cut back on basic necessities such as food, according to the poll.

Take the Ask a Working Women Survey

Worried about the rising cost of health care? Are you concerned that life will be tougher for the next generation of working women than it has been for us? Click the link below to make your voice heard with the AFL-CIO Ask a Working Woman survey:

This Labor Day, the tens of thousands of survey responses will be delivered to every member of Congress and to state and local officials around the country. As candidates campaign before the November elections, they need to hear what you have to say.

So far, more than 14,000 working women have taken the AFL-CIO’s 2006 Ask a Working Woman survey. The survey concludes August 7 and organizers hope to have at least 20,000 responses to take to elected officials. This election year, the stakes are high, and this survey identifying the concerns and recommendations of working women is more important than ever.

Raises en Route for UPS Mechanics

Machinist union members working under the IAM/UPS National Agreement are receiving a 12 cents per hour COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) increase and 90 cents per hour wage increase effective today, August 1, 2006, once again highlighting the benefits of an IAM contract.

“Having the COLA clause contained in the National Agreement shows that it does not cost – it pays to belong to the IAM,” said IAM Automotive Coordinator Boysen Anderson.