iMail for Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Machinists Renew Call for Second Stimulus

In a four-page letter to President Barack Obama, IAM President Tom Buffenbarger made a strong case for a second economic stimulus program that would generate millions of jobs in the critical manufacturing sector.

Citing the successful programs employed by Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression, Buffenbarger called for an updated and precisely targeted version of FDR’s Works Progress Administration.

“President Roosevelt’s basic strategy can be re-engineered for the modern manufacturing sector,” said Buffenbarger. “Today’s unemployed can be put to work renovating factories and installing new equipment; devising new financing, marketing and sales packages for local businesses; and reinventing our decaying skills-delivery system. We can jump-start depressed local economies by letting counties and communities hire the unemployed with federal dollars.”

The need for additional and expedited economic stimulus is gaining increasing support, with more than 30.2 million now unemployed or underemployed in the United States. The initial $787 billion economic stimulus package, which took nearly four months to craft and enact, remains largely unspent. “The wheels of government grind too slowly to reverse the momentum of such massive unemployment in the coming year — unless new and far more aggressive measures are taken,” said Buffenbarger, who noted that unemployment could increase by an average of 250,000 each month for the next nine months.

“America’s manufacturing jobs are worth fighting for,” said Buffenbarger. “These jobs are the key to a middle-class life for millions. A second, targeted stimulus package will give America’s manufacturing sector—and all those whose livelihoods are tied to it—the fighting chance it deserves. And it will ignite the long-term growth and sustained job creation that our nation so desperately needs.”

Recession Erases Nine Years of Job Growth

The latest report from the U.S. Department of Labor shows the U.S. has lost 6.5 million jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007. Economists now say the current recession has, in eighteen months, managed to wipe out nine years of job growth.

Just last month, employers cut 467,000 jobs. There are now 14.7 million people without jobs in the U.S. – 30.2 million if you include the involuntary part-time and those who want jobs but cannot find one. The unemployment rate increased from 9.4 to 9.5 percent.

“We have fewer jobs in this economy than we had in May 2000,” says economist Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute. “And it’s important to keep in mind that in that time the labor force has grown by nearly 13 million people… This is the only recession since the Great Depression to wipe out all the job growth from the previous business cycle.”

Transportation Conference to Include ‘Day of Action’ Rally

On August 19, 2009, the IAM will hold a massive “Day of Action” rally in New York City to support airline workers’ rights and to urge government investment in high speed rail projects. The Transportation Department’s sixth annual Day of Action march and rally will kick off at 12 noon in front of the Hilton New York at 1335 Avenue of the Americas and travel to Times Square at 42nd St. and 7th Avenue.

The 2009 Day of Action March and Rally will take place in conjunction with the IAM Transportation Conference, which will take place August 16-20, 2009, at the Hilton New York in New York City. Visit here for more information about the Transportation Conference and to download a registration form.

Service Contract Sparks Mississippi Organizing Win

One hundred and thirty workers who perform site maintenance and repair work for Computer Science Corporation at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS, have voted overwhelmingly for IAM representation. The workers recently saw their jobs transitioned from Civil Service to Service Contract, and many experienced a 15 percent to 25 percent pay cut as a result.

“The only way for the workers to increase their pay now is to have a collective bargaining agreement,” said Southern Territory Organizer Tommy Mayfield. “Everyone understood that.”

The workers were spread across the base, and a strong in-plant organizing team did the hard work of contacting everyone and keeping everyone informed. “I want to thank our In Plant Team Members Troy Rogers, Sal Blood, Bob Faulkner, Tyrone Mount, John Akins, John Sterritt and Jonathan Clifford,” said Mayfield who also praised the work of District 73 DBR Joe Harrington, BR Benji Sullivan, Local 2249 President Brian Burleson and VP Mickey Carr. “They all did a great job,” said Mayfield.

The group will now join District 73 in Biloxi. “Congratulations to the entire organizing team for all their hard work,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “They’ll now work toward a strong IAM contract that will work to restore much of what they lost in the transition. More than ever, workers in the Service Contract industry need the IAM in order to ensure fair and equitable pay, benefits and working conditions.”

Maryland Sen. Mikulski Congratulates IAM Leaders

In a generous letter of support, Maryland Democratic Sen. Senator Barbara Mikulski extended congratulations to IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger, the Executive Council and other newly installed leaders of the IAM.

“Friends, I am always grateful for your dedication and hard work on behalf of working men and women across the nation,” wrote Sen. Mikulski, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “You know I wear the union label proudly on my clothes, on my heart and on the floor of the U.S. Senate.”

Sen. Mikulski also pledged to continue the fight on Capitol Hill in support of such bills as the Employee Free Choice Act and quality health care.

Click here to read the full text of her letter.

Affordable Student Loans Available

Beginning July 1, 2009, new benefits to make student loan payments more affordable and manageable will go into place, making the prospect of receiving a higher education and a much-needed upgrade in skills that much more attainable for millions of Americans.

The benefits, put into place by the Democratic Majority and House Committee on Education & Labor, were signed into law in 2007 as part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. They include cheaper interest rates on need-based federal student loans, reasonable and affordable monthly payments, and higher Pell Grant scholarships that cover the average tuition at public universities.

These provisions are in addition to the Obama administration’s recent announcement of a relaxation in Pell Grant eligibility requirements for unemployed workers. That initiative is also slated to begin in July.