iMail for Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Machinists Fight Back in Wichita

In a well-timed and well-placed editorial, District 70 President Steve Rooney saluted generations of aerospace workers in Wichita, KS, who built everything from WW II bombers to the latest business jets.

Rooney’s editorial, titled ‘Don’t Sit Back and Let Aircraft Industry Leave,’ appeared in the July 4 edition of the Wichita Eagle, where he called on the community to resist a plan by Wichita-based Hawker Beechcraft to transfer increasingly large amounts of aircraft assembly work to a facility in Mexico, where workers would earn as little as $3 per hour.

“The aviation industry is the last great American industry in which we indisputably lead the world,” said Rooney. “The aircraft jobs in Wichita provide the ability to make a good living and raise a strong family. Aviation fuels a tax base that allows the city to be vibrant with good schools and services. In short, it makes Wichita a great city.”

The City of Wichita also deserves credit for its decades-long support of the aerospace industry, according to Rooney, including a research center at Wichita State University to the soon-to-be-built National Center for Aviation Training.

“There’s no good reason for these companies to leave,” said Rooney. “The skills that build these airplanes are American, and much of the technology on which these companies rely was developed with government funding.”

In closing, Rooney sounded a battle cry that is as relevant today as it was in 1776: “Some would say there’s nothing we can do. I disagree,” declared Rooney. “Americans are tired of the exodus of American industry, and we need to shake the rafters and demand that our legislators work to keep the aviation industry in America and in Wichita.”

IAM Jobs Saved at Quebec Turbine Plant

The 450 members of Local 1660 in Lachine, Quebec, are breathing easier following news this week that their plant, GE Hydro, has been purchased by Andritz Va Tech Hydro of Austria and Metso Incorporated of Finland.

“This is great news,” said, District 11 Business Representative Denis Longtin. “Things didn’t look good when GE Hydro announced last September that it would close this place. We never gave up hope and now these good-paying jobs have been saved.”

The facility had produced hydroelectric turbines for Hydro-Québec, China and California but GE felt it was no longer viable when Hydro-Québec decided to purchase its turbines in Brazil and Mexico. The facility located in suburban Montréal will now specialize in the manufacturing of crushers and crushing cylinders for the mining industry.

“We expect the new owners will give new energy to an old building,” added Longtin. “The new employers have told us that Metso will take care of the factory while Andritz will concentrate on research and development in the laboratory.”

Globalization Driving Wages Down Even In Mexico

More than 15 years after supporters of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) predicted a boatload of benefits for workers on both sides of the border, the hemispheric trade pact is fast becoming a global albatross for workers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

While workers in the U.S. and Canada are continually subjected to downward pressures from China, competition from China is actually widening the wage gap between the U.S. and Canada with Mexico.

“Global corporations who turned their backs on U.S. and Canadian workers are now using China to cut even Mexico’s ridiculously low wages,” said IAM Trade and Globalization Director Owen Herrnstadt. At an assembly plant where workers build Ford Fiestas on the outskirts of Mexico City, wages were cut from $4.50 per hour to as little as $1.50 per hour to prevent work from being moved to China, where wages at a foreign-owned factory are as low as $2 per hour.  

The squeeze on wages is reaching astounding levels. At a Volkswagen plant in the central city of Puebla, workers now face a seven-year progression to get to what used to be starting pay of $1.95 an hour.

“This is just one more example of why we need a new trade agenda—one that is based on fairness and that works for all of us,” said Herrnstadt.

Florida Local 2460 Member Named ‘Sister of the Month’

Debra Trotter has been an active member of Local 2460 in Pensacola, FL, for 31 years and has served on the Executive Board for the past ten years as Vice President and President. In addition, she’s held the office of Vice-President for the Florida State Council of Machinists.

A Maintenance Lubricator at Armstrong World Industries, Trotter is very proud of her lodge and her union sisters and brothers. Despite Florida’s “right-to-work” labor policies, their shop boasts a membership of 231 strong, with only 12 non-members in the plant.

Recently, they’ve felt the thrill of victory with a win on a major arbitration case.
Raised in a union family, Trotter displays her leadership style by trying to involve all the members and, “get them working together instead of against each other.”

To sisters thinking about getting involved, Sister Debra advises, “Stay strong. You will never please everyone, but the majority rules.” She adds that no one can do it alone. Her support has come from wonderful mentors, knowledgeable E-Board members and chairpersons, as well as an extremely supportive husband.

Congress Returns to Full Agenda

House and Senate lawmakers returned to work this week with a host of issues to address before Congress breaks in August for the national party conventions. Issues lawmakers will look to address include Medicare cuts, the mortgage crisis and soaring gas prices.

The Senate is expected to vote for a second time on the ‘Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act,’ which would prevent a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors who care for the elderly. Despite a veto threat from the Bush administration, the bill overwhelmingly passed the House, before falling just one vote short of the 60 needed to pass the Senate.

“The Medicare doctors fix passed the House by a stunning 355-59 vote,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “Yet Senate Republican leaders blocked the Medicare fix – and chose to protect health insurance companies at the expense of elderly patients and their doctors.”

The Senate is also expected to vote this week on housing legislation aimed at saving hundreds of thousands of homeowners from foreclosure. If the legislation passes the Senate, it would then have to be reconciled with the House version before going to the White House. Democrats and Republicans are also expected to battle over reducing gas prices and a second economic relief package in the coming weeks.

Portland Goes to the Dogs

Nearly seventy-five riders and passengers turned out for the Second Annual Guide Dog Dash sponsored by Local 63 in Portland, OR. The event, a poker-run style ride into the countryside outside of the city, raised over $3,200 for Guide Dogs of America.

Members of Local 63 and their families – unable to resist the sound of IAM-made Harleys – volunteered their time at the District 24 union hall, where the ride began and ended. Volunteers also manned the stations along the route: the Carver Hangar, Fearless Brew Pub and the Horseshoe Bar & Grill. 

A barbeque followed the run, along with a raffle, awards and visits with GDA volunteers and their guide dogs in training. Participants and volunteers also received a custom-designed event t-shirt. For more information on Guide Dogs of America, visit

Millions of Retirees Still Eligible for IRS Checks

More than 5 million retirees and disabled veterans may still be eligible to receive stimulus checks from the Internal Revenue Service.

In order to issue a stimulus check, the IRS must have an individual’s 2007 income tax return. However, roughly 20 million retirees and disabled veterans do not normally file tax returns because their benefits are not taxable.

While the IRS has successfully contacted 74 percent of this group, that still leaves 5.2 million individuals who could be eligible for a stimulus check. The IRS will send out information later this summer with information on stimulus payment eligibility and how to claim it.

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