iMail for Tuesday, July 3, 2007

House Committee Delivers for FedEx Workers

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee recently voted 51-18 to approve the “Express Carrier Employee Protection” amendment, a measure that would dramatically increase organizing opportunities for employees in the parcel delivery industry.

The amendment, which now becomes part of the FAA Reauthorization bill, would properly place tens of thousands of FedEx delivery workers under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA), rather than the Railway Labor Act (RLA).

The distinction is critical. Under the NLRA, employees can organize and bargain locally. However, under the RLA, workers must organize nationally, an enormous challenge in the environment workers find themselves in today.

Earlier legislation, passed in 1996 following an intense corporate lobbying campaign, placed FedEx ground workers under RLA jurisdiction and snuffed out several small but vigorous organizing efforts at individual FedEx locations. The 1996 change allowed an entire company’s workforce to fall under RLA jurisdiction regardless of the employee’s relationship to air or rail transportation.

“The amendment modifying the ‘express carrier’ language in the RLA is long overdue,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “Workers who are directly involved with the aircraft operation portion of those companies would continue to be under the jurisdiction of those RLA, while the remaining and likely larger portion of the workforce would then fall under the NLRA like their peers in the rest of the industry.”

“Today’s vote is the result of a 10-year effort to restore bargaining rights for thousands of workers, including those employees at FedEx who were specifically targeted by the legislation in 1996,” said IAM Legislative Director Tom Trotter following the vote on Jun. 28. “ The amendment also eliminates any unfair competitive advantage a company may enjoy by excluding their employees from the benefits of collective bargaining.”

The amendment now becomes part of the massive four-year FAA Reauthorization bill, which would authorize $50.2 billion for FAA operations, facilities and equipment and $15.8 billion to modernize the nation’s air traffic control system. The bill faces well-funded opposition in both the House and Senate in addition to a veto threat from President Bush.

Working America Invites You to ‘Ask a Lawyer’

Working America, the 1.6 million member community affiliate of the AFL-CIO is offering a free online service to help workers understand their legal rights on the job. “Ask a Lawyer ” is not a substitute for personal legal representation, but a forum where workers can submit questions on work-related topics and get answers from recognized legal experts.

Among the recent topics addressed in the Ask a Lawyer forum are: “Is there anything I can safely write about in a blog for which my employer cannot fire me?” and “Can my employer fire me for what I do on my own time outside of work?” For answers to these and other questions about work-related issues and to learn more about Working America, visit www.workingamerica.org

Brehmeyer and Folk Named Sisters of the Month

Cynthia Brehmeyer, a corrections officer and 17-year member of Local W-38 in Shelton, WA, and Valerie Folk, a 35-year retired member of Local 2711 in Penicton, British Columbia have been named the U.S. and Canadian Sisters of the month, respectively.

Brehmeyer serves as a trustee on the Executive Board for Local Lodge W-38, which is affiliated with IAM District Lodge W-1. Active in her local as a Shop Steward and member of the Negotiating Committee, Brehmeyer took on the e-board position when a vacancy occurred.

A corrections officer with the Mason County Sheriff’s Dept., Brehmeyer says one of her biggest challenges is getting members more involved. She encourages everyone to step up and volunteer as a way to become more active. Her own hard work and dedication has won her the respect of her sisters and brothers on the job, where they voted her Officer of the Year in 2000.

Valerie Folk has served on the Executive Board of Local 2711 for the past 30 years. The retired production worker from Moduline Industries clearly understands that “You can retire from your job, but not your union.” She is also very active on the Canadian National Women’s Committee.

Folk first became active by volunteering as a shop steward and later was elected Recording Secretary. Her motivation: she didn’t like the way employees were being treated by the company and felt compelled to act. “I never like to get beat on an issue,” explained Folk, who is very proud of her involvement with the National Women’s Committee Quilt and her work with the Executive Board of her district.

Do you know an IAM woman who serves on her district or local executive board and deserves to be recognized? If so, the IAM Women’s Department wants to hear from you. Simply complete the nomination form (add link) and return it to IAM Women’s Department, 9000 Machinists Pl. Upper Marlboro, MD 20772. 

President’s Fast Track Trade Authority Expires

President Bush’s fast-track trade authority expired this weekend, stripping the President of power that allowed him to push through faulty trade legislation that led to the continued loss of good U.S. jobs.

Fast-track trade authority gives the President the ability to submit trade pacts to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote, which has helped him get devastating trade deals such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement through Congress.

Now that Bush’s fast track authority has expired, it’s unlikely a Democrat controlled Congress will renew it.

“Our legislative priorities do not include the renewal of fast track authority.  Before that debate can even begin, we must expand the benefits of globalization to all Americans,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other top Democrats said in a statement.

Landmark Court Decision in Canada

In a stunning decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has stated that collective bargaining is a protected form of freedom of association under the Charter of Rights in the Canadian Constitution.

In its June 8, 2007 ruling on the “Health Services” case, Canada’s highest court by a 6-1 vote declared unconstitutional several parts of a 2002 British Columbia provincial law, which arbitrarily removed the right of public servants to collectively bargain over sweeping changes in the provincial hospital system. The Court explicitly reversed its long-held former position, which excluded collective bargaining from constitutional protection.

While this is a landmark decision, its impact on workers and the union movement across Canada will only become clear over time, as other legislation which limits collective bargaining is challenged in the courts.

Sex Discrimination Case Costs Wal-Mart Nearly $2 Million

A Massachusetts jury awarded nearly $2 million to a former female pharmacy manager at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., finding the retail giant intentionally underpaid and fired her because of her gender.

Cynthia Haddad, who worked at Wal-Mart for 11 years, said that she was consistently paid $1 to $2.50 per hour less than males in the same position and that she had been denied about $7,000 in bonuses paid to males in comparable managerial positions.

The Massachusetts court ruling is just the latest in a series of incidents highlighting Wal-Mart’s shoddy treatment of its employees. The corporate giant faces a separate massive discrimination lawsuit that alleges the company systematically denied more than 1.5 million women the same pay and promotions as male employees. In New York, Wal-Mart is also under scrutiny for possible violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Wal-Mart is also under increased fire for their union-busting techniques. A Human Rights Watch report released earlier this year said that when faced with unionization drives, they often eavesdropped on workers, used security cameras to spy on union sympathizers and planted supervisors alongside pro-union workers to monitor activities.