iMail for Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Transportation Conference Delegates Set Course

Building on the success of the 2007 Transportation Day of Action, nearly 500 Transportation Department delegates and guests kicked of the IAM’s 2007 IAM Transportation Conference today in Las Vegas, NV.

International President Tom Buffenbarger spoke about the IAM’s historic endorsement of one Democrat and one Republican candidate in the upcoming presidential primaries. “We need to ensure or union’s endorsement is not taken for gran ted by candidates of either party,” said Buffenbarger. “We will ask the candidates what their plan for America is and how we, hard working Americans, fit into their vision of America.”

“Labor was ignored by candidates from both parties in the last presidential election,” said General Vice President Robert Roach, Jr. “Delegates this week will develop strategies to ensure our members are mobilized and our issues addressed by the candidates seeking our votes in 2008.”

The conference will also feature discussions with a panel of labor attorneys, airline and railroad industry reports, a presentation from the IAM National Pension Plan, and an overview of new organizing initiatives.

Pay Raise Today for Minimum Wage Earners

For the first time in ten years, minimum wage earners in the U.S. will get a long overdue raise. The 70-cent per hour raise ends the longest span without a federal minimum wage increase since it was enac ted in 1938. Raising the minimum wage was a top priority of the new Democratic-controlled Congress after the former GOP-controlled Congress repea tedly blocked any attempt to increase it.

Today’s 70-cent per hour boost raises the federal minimum hourly rate to $5.85 per hour and will be followed by successive 70-cent per hour increases in the summer of 2008 and 2009 until the federal minimum wage reaches $7.25 per hour. More than 60% of the estima ted 13 million workers to benefit both directly and indirectly from the increase are women and almost forty percent are people of color. More than half of the women who will benefit have children.

“It has been a long time,” said Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) who led the fight in the Senate for the increase. “We have heard those that say, well, with the increase in the minimum wages, this will cost jobs. It will bring hardship upon these people. That’s what they have said on every increase. This is the 11th increase in the minimum wage and they have been wrong every other time.”

Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Open for Membership

The AFL-CIO-endorsed Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), [ http://www.unionsportsmen.org ] a hunting and fishing club for union members and their families, formally opened its doors in early July.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) and its 21 AFL-CIO affilia ted trade union partners collabora ted to provide more than 3.2 million union workers across the U.S. and Canada who hunt, fish and recreate in the outdoors with their own dues-based, union dedica ted sportsman’s club. The USA is a program of the TRCP, and apart from providing union sportsmen with their own club, it strengthens TRCP’s efforts to guarantee everyone quality places to hunt and fish.

“Millions of union members love to hunt and fish, and they are some of the most active conservationists found anywhere in the country,” said TRCP President and CEO George Cooper. “But most of them are not affilia ted with hunting, fishing or conservation organizations. USA gives them a unique affiliation opportunity and will bring them into our fight to ensure policymakers are addressing the priorities of our nation’s sportsmen-conservationists.” 

The USA will help union members plan trips, learn tips, swap stories and save money on hunting and fishing gear for an annual membership fee of $25 or a charter membership fee of $40. Plus, their USA membership will support the TRCP’s efforts to protect and maintain access to quality places to hunt and fish in America.

State Rep. Defends Made in U.S. Flag Bill

The Minnesota legislature has passed a measure that will go into effect at year’s end requiring all American flags sold in the state to be produced in the U.S., the strongest effort thus far to curb imports of foreign-made flags.

Arizona and Tennessee have both passed measures aimed at increasing the number of domestically produced American flags, with similar bills moving forward in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Roughly $5.3 million worth of American flags were impor ted from China and other foreign countries last year, according to the U.S. Census bureau.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, which attacked the measure in an editorial, the bill’s author, Minnesota State Rep. Tom Rukavina, spoke of the importance of American made flags and the workers who produce them.

“Your editorial missed the whole point of my bill, which is to buy American,” Rukavina states. “If I had my way, American workers in American factories would manufacture many more of the products we use every day. I was taught by my parents to support the American worker. My father, a great union man, insis ted on buying everything made in the USA; and while that’s getting harder to do, I continue to try.

“I know you have a job to do protecting those fat cats on Wall Street. I’ve got a job to do, too, and that is to keep fighting to maintain as many jobs in the U.S. as possible,” said Rukavina.