iMail for Tuesday, January 27, 2009

IAM Defends ‘Buy America’ Provisions
The IAM is calling on Congressional leaders in Washington, D.C., to reject a campaign by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to strip “Buy America” provisions from the pending $825 billion economic stimulus package.

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis, with more than 11 million Americans out of work and millions more on the brink of being laid off,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “It is outrageous for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to assist foreign contractors hoping to gain access to funds clearly designed to stimulate local and state economies.”

In a recent letter to House and Senate leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and 13 high-powered lobbying organizations warned Congressional leaders against any use or expansion of “Buy America” provisions, which are designed to ensure U.S. companies and U.S. workers benefit from U.S. government spending.

“The extraordinary gall of these corporate lobbyists to align themselves with foreign corporations at this time is nothing short of economic treason,” declared Buffenbarger. “Every other country in the world puts its own industries and workers first. For the sake of our nation and our economic recovery, our elected officials should do the same.”

Hawaii Local 1998 Gains New Members
After a close vote in 2004 and a second effort in 2007 that was thwarted by company union-busters, 150 determined workers at BAE Systems in Hawaii finally won the union representation they’d been seeking.

The newest members of Local 1998 in Honolulu, HI, work for BAE Systems at Schofield Barracks, the largest Army post in Hawaii. The diverse and talented workforce includes mechanics, locksmiths, electronic technicians and related trades in the Maintenance Department.

Organized under the provisions of the Service Contract Act, the workers overcame challenges by the company on the composition and size of the bargaining unit, along with an aggressive anti-union campaign. The IAM held its ground during a grueling three-day National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing, winning a decision that the Maintenance Department was an appropriate unit.

“Special thanks to the in-plant committee members who were the driving force behind this campaign,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson. “Congratulations and thanks also to AA Gary Allen, GLRs Charles Toby, Joel Ochoa and Maria Santiago Lillis, whose tenacity continues to serve our members in Hawaii well, as well as to Local 1998 President Robert Lillis and the long list of officers and members who helped bring this to fruition.”

Alabama Newspaper Features GDA Success Story
The Enterprise Ledger in Enterprise, AL, recently featured the story of Stan Stafford, his dog ‘Sonshine,’ pictured at left, and the always inspiring work of Guide Dogs of America (GDA).

Also highlighted in the article is IAM Local 2003 member Adam Beasley, who serves as a representative and ambassador for the non-profit GDA program, which was founded 60 years ago to assist a blind IAM member who was unable to get help anywhere else.

Stafford’s dog, a poodle-retriever mix known as a “Golden Doodle,” was specially trained by GDA at their facility in Sylmar, CA. Intelligence and temperament are key factors in determining a guide dog candidate. Among the breeds frequently used are Labradors Retriever, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds.

Stafford tells how the addition of “Sonshine” has made a huge difference in his life, giving him a degree of independence he had not previously had. “It feels like a remote control when you’re walking with the dog,” said Stafford. “Like you’re guiding it, but really he’s guiding you.”

Click here to read the full article.

U.S. Capitol Gift Shop Bans China Trinkets
Until further notice, the words “Made in China” will no longer exist on merchandise sold in the main gift shop located on the House side of the U.S. Capitol.

The Politico newspaper reports Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA) has banned the Capitol Visitor Center from selling plastic Statues of Freedom and other souvenirs not made in the U.S.

“I feel very strongly that souvenirs sold in House gift shops should be produced by U.S. companies,” said Brady. “At a time when our economy is struggling and U.S. companies are being forced to lay off workers, I believe that every effort should be made to support U.S. industry. The idea that the Capitol’s main gift shop could be selling a model of our Statue of Freedom that is manufactured in China, does a disservice to the millions of American workers who are losing their jobs and their ability to support their families.”

Brady is the chairman of the House Administration panel, which oversees all House operations. The congressman says his committee is working with the visitor center to return the $104,000 worth of souvenirs already purchased and to recover their full cost.

State Unemployment Funds Running on Empty
New York State is serving as a harbinger of things to come for other states facing rapidly growing unemployment numbers. State labor officials in Albany recently announced the state’s unemployment fund had run out of money and would be forced to borrow about $90 million each week to pay jobless claims.

New York has one of the fastest growing unemployment populations in the nation, with more than 500,000 people collecting unemployment checks during the first week of the New Year, nearly three times as many as a year before. The situation is expected to worsen, with more than 180,000 jobs expected to be lost this year in New York City, bringing the unemployment rate to 7.6 percent by the 4th quarter of 2009.

Making matters worse, the Empire State pays lower unemployment monthly benefits than many other Northeastern states. Unemployed New Yorkers can receive a maximum weekly benefit of $405. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Connecticut all pay higher benefits.