iMail for Tuesday, December 5, 2006

RJ Reynolds Agrees to Post Union Notices
The anti-union tobacco giant RJ Reynolds in Winston-Salem, NC, has agreed to post notices advising employees of their right to organize a union at all facilities involved in last year’s union election for nearly 2,000 production and maintenance workers.

The agreement by RJ Reynolds is in response to Unfair Labor Practice charges brought before the National Labor Relations Board by the IAM, who joined forces with Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International (BCTGM) to bring representation to the notoriously anti-union workplace. While the election fell short, it was the closest workers at RJ Reynolds came to winning a union in nearly 30 years.

“Workers at RJ Reynolds were made to fear for their jobs if they voted for union representation,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “It’s a violation of federal labor law to make such threats, but the process is slow and the remedy is rarely strong enough to reassure employees that their rights will be fully respected. We need labor laws in this country that are every bit as strong as the people who depend on them.”

During the organizing campaign, Reynolds conducted captive audience meetings with employees, threatened to close the facility if employees voted to join a union and hired a union avoidance law firm.

National Magazine Misleads Seniors on Part D
A recent ad in Parade Magazine and elsewhere regarding the Part D open enrollment season that ends December 31 is deceiving readers.  The ad, placed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, features a checklist where the second step incorrectly states, “If you are satisfied with your current cost, coverage and the customer service you receive, you don’t need to do anything.” The ad fails to explain that costs and coverage have changed for many of the prescription drug plans.

“CMS should explicitly mention that many plans have changed and while you may be happy with your current coverage, you need to make sure it will be there in 2007,” said Edward Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “The misleading nature of this ad follows the trend of CMS not revealing the entire truth about Part D to the public.”

Last year, while CMS and the Bush Administration were peddling the so-called benefits of Part D, CMS failed to mention that nearly 7 million beneficiaries would fall into what is now known as the “donut hole,” added Coyle. “Part D is still flawed, and deceitful ads such as the one by CMS won’t cover that fact.”

Solidarity on Display at Raytheon Picket Lines
Fueled by determination to win a fair contract and resolved to hold the line on health care costs, members of Local 933 in Tucson, AZ are moving in to their fifth week of a strike against profit-rich Raytheon Missile Systems.

Despite a recent 41 percent increase in earnings per share, Raytheon’s contract offer would increase employee health care costs by 87 percent over the life of the agreement, and block new and rehired employees from participating in the company’s over-funded pension plan. More than 90 percent of Local 933 members rejected Raytheon’s offer.

“We tried to get an agreement with Raytheon, but this company was insistent on reducing the standard of living for the families of these workers even as the announced tremendous profits from their defense contracts,” said Local 933 DBR Bobby Martinez when the strike began.

Last Call for Advanced Editor Course Applications
There’s still time to send in applications for the IAM Communications Department’s Advanced Editors class, to be held February 4-9, 2007, at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center in Placid Harbor, MD. The Advanced Editors course offers intensive training on news writing, research and other skills. Click here for a copy of the call and application form or call the Communications Dept. 301-967-4520. Applications must be in to the Communications Dept. by December 9, 2006.

Rising Imports Called ‘Slow Motion Bloodbath’
The same kind of import-driven losses that have pushed Ford and General Motors to the brink of bankruptcy are being replicated in dozens of other domestic industries, including high tech, value added sectors, according to research released by US Business and Industry Council (USBIC).

The grim outlook for the U.S. manufacturing sector was discussed in a recent segment of CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, where USBIC Research Fellow Alan Tonelson likened what’s happening in American manufacturing to a “slow motion bloodbath.”

Imports now account for 46 percent of the U.S. computer market, 56.5 percent of the telephone switching market and 78 percent of the critical machine tool industry, where imports have spiked from a 40 percent share in 1997 to a 62 percent share last year.

“Most people have thought of what’s going on here for the last number of years to people with low end factory jobs. It’s not. It’s very skilled workers in our manufacturing facilities,” said Bob Baugh of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council.

According to the USBIC research quoted on the Dobbs program, 110 U.S. manufacturing sectors lost market share to foreign imports over the past seven years, while only seven sectors gained.