iMail for Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Strategic Changes at IAM Headquarters

IP Tom Buffenbarger announced Assistant Director Neil Gladstein will become the next director of the IAM Strategic Resources following the departure in August of current Director Steve Sleigh.

“Neil Gladstein has a long record of union service and I’m sure he’ll continue to do a superb job for this union and its members,” declared Buffenbarger, who also announced Senior Research Economist Beth Almeida will become Assistant Director of the Strategic Resources. “We are extremely fortunate to have these two highly dedicated and highly regarded professionals to carry on the work of this critical department.”

As the IAM’s first Director of Strategic Resources, Sleigh is departing after 12 years at the helm to become a principal for The Yucaipa Companies, a leading private equity firm dedicated to creating economic value for pension funds, workers, and communities. Sleigh has been a member of Local 126 for nearly 32 years and was the recipient of an IAM Scholarship in 1984.

The Strategic Resources Department, formerly known as the IAM Research Department, has evolved from one of the earliest IAM departments into a highly sophisticated ally for district and local negotiating teams seeking financial data, cost analysis and membership surveys as part of a comprehensive approach to collective bargaining.

Kansas Governor Addresses Machinists

The Democratic governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, told a group of more than 600 IAM leaders in Denver, CO, that the next big opportunity for working families seeking change would come in 2006, when voters in 36 states will elect new governors.

“The next national election in this country is not in 2008, it’s 2006,” declared Sebelius, who called the upcoming gubernatorial elections “an opportunity to change the face of America.” Click here to hear the full speech by Governor Sebelius.

Citing the current administration in Washington, D.C., as adversaries instead of allies for working families, the governor said “a change in the White House is essential, but it really can’t happen without the infrastructure in place in states across the country.”

Speaking at the 2006 IAM National Staff Conference, Gov. Sebelius also discussed the deepening impact of health care cutbacks and the president’s prescription drug program. “This plan was given to insurance companies and drug companies to write and in my wildest imagination, I could not have constructed a worse idea,” said Sebelius, a former insurance commissioner. Sebelius called for a national health care policy, “not on the backs of Machinists or Autoworkers and others, but across America.”

The Kansas Governor pledged to support her state’s aircraft and aerospace companies that commit to keeping jobs in Kansas. “We’re willing to put some skin in the game, but it comes with responsibilities and accountability from management,” said Sebelius. “They can’t take our money and send our jobs overseas. That just doesn’t work anymore.”

Congress Passes Mine Safety Overhaul

Coal miners won two victories last week with the passage of the first mine safety overhaul legislation since 1977 and the collapse of support for yet another coal industry executive to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The mine safety bill requires more oxygen supplies for miners, better communication and tracking equipment and faster emergency crew response times.

In the Senate, President Bush’s nomination of coal industry executive Richard Stickler to lead the MSHA failed after GOP leaders could not muster 60 votes to stop Senator Robert Byrd’s (D-WV) hold on the nomination.

Stickler testified at his confirmation hearing that no new safety laws were necessary. The mines that Stickler managed from 1989 to 1996 had injury rates that were double the national average, according to a study of government records by the United Mine Workers of America.

“MSHA is full of former mining company executives, some of whom spent years opposing any regulatory efforts by the agency, who continue to be influenced by their friends in the industry,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney in a letter to U.S. Senators. “The next director of MSHA needs to be someone with a history of advocating for miners’ safety and health, not someone with a history of advocating for the interests of mine operators.”

Energy Department Suspends Benefit Cuts

Under pressure from Congress, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a one-year suspension of its new “Contractor Pension and Medical Benefits Policy” that would have ended DOE reimbursements to contractors for traditional defined pension plans for new hires and reimbursed new-hire medical costs at “market-based” rates. The one-year suspension takes effect June 19, 2006. In the interim, the DOE must “consult with stakeholders, including Congress, and continue to solicit their views on this issue.

Oil Execs Applaud High Gas Prices

With gas prices surging and oil companies raking in record profits, oil executives said Sunday that cutting gas prices for consumers isn’t a viable option.

Oil executives from ConocoPhillips, Chevron Corp., and Shell actually said on NBC’s Meet the Press that Americans have it “relatively cheap” when compared with global gas prices.

Americans are currently paying $2.91 for a gallon of gasoline. Meanwhile, the top five publicly traded oil companies pulled in $29 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2006 alone.