iMail for Tuesday, March 11, 2008

GAO to Investigate $40 Billion Tanker Contract

If the Air Force officials who awarded a $40 billion contract to Airbus and EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.) were betting the outrage over the deal would die out quickly, they gambled wrong. A formal protest filed today by the Boeing Co. will be considered by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to determine if the multi-billion contract was properly awarded.

From Seattle, WA and Wichita, KS to Washington, D.C., elected officials are going ballistic over the Air Force’s decision to outsource an entire fleet of U.S. military aircraft to a consortium that is heavily subsidized by European governments. “This is one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen,” said Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), who echoed the sentiments of many lawmakers in the House and Senate who were stunned by the decision to bypass Boeing, a U.S. company that has been supplying the Air Force with refueling tankers for nearly 50 years.

The controversy gained fresh legs when Air Force officials admitted the impact on American jobs was not one of their criteria for awarding the contract, which could eventually be worth as much as $100 billion. Boeing officials also claim the Air Force changed its criteria after the bidding was underway, further favoring Airbus.

Leading the charge to give Airbus a leg up on the historic contract was none other than presidential aspirant John McCain (R-AZ), who prodded the Pentagon in 2006 to develop bidding procedures that did not exclude Airbus.

“Awarding this contract to Boeing would support at least 44,000 U.S. jobs in 40 states,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Instead, billions in U.S. taxpayer dollars will be used to create jobs in Toulouse, France, and give European countries the potential to influence U.S. foreign policy to an unprecedented degree.”

Click here to view a letter sent by IP Buffenbarger to members of Congress and click here to send a message to your representatives, urging them to overturn this decision.

February Job Loss Worst in Five Years

The U.S. lost a total of 63,000 jobs last month, the largest decline in jobs in nearly five years. February’s job numbers, released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, continues to fuel recession fears and pushes job losses for the year over 80,000.

With 22,000 jobs lost in January, it also marks the first time since June 2003 that there have been consecutive months of job loss. While the job loss was widespread, manufacturing and construction continue to be hit the hardest, losing 59,000 and 39,000 jobs respectively.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, improved to 4.8 percent from 4.9 percent. However, it was a result of the large increase in the number of people that the government says have stopped working or looking for jobs for various reasons. If the 450,000 people who left the labor force in February had been counted among the unemployed, the unemployment rate would have actually been 5.1 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The dismal job numbers, combined with the large number of workers dropping out of the workforce, has led to increased calls to extend unemployment benefits.

“Today’s job losses—the worst in five years—emphasize the urgent need for more effective action,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “Extending and improving unemployment benefits is the best way to bring immediate help to the millions who are out of work and provide a much-needed jump-start to our economy.”

Labor Liberates Hastert Seat in Illinois Election

Congressman-elect Bill Foster (front row – blue sweater) with members of the IAM Midwest Territory Staff, District 8, District 111 and Local 126 members and staff. District 6 and Local 701 staff and members, not pictured, also played a pivotal roll in the win.

Efforts by a determined coalition that included IAM members from the Midwest Territory paid off with a victory in the special election to fill the seat of retiring Congressman and former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Labor-backed Democrat Bill Foster won by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent over GOP multimillionaire Jim Oberweis in the Illinois 14th Congressional District. The result came as a shock to many as this seat in “Reagan country” had been a GOP stronghold for more than two decades.

“It’s an honor to be part of this historic win,” said IAM Midwest Territory GVP Philip J. Gruber. “This shows people not only spoke about change from the status quo, but made the effort to actually achieve it.”

Communications Department Courses Rescheduled

The 2008 Intermediate Web Development and the 2008 Basic Newsletter Development classes at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center have been rescheduled. The Intermediate Web Development Class, originally scheduled for March 16-21, 2008, will not be offered in 2008 and will be part of the 2009 Communications Department class schedule.

The Basic Newsletter Development Class, originally scheduled for May 11-16, 2008, will be offered November 16-21, 2008. Applications already on file will be transferred to the rescheduled class. The deadline for new applications will be August 22, 2008.

Click here for a schedule of the 2008 Communications Departmental classes.

Machinists Help AK Steel to Record Profits

One year after the lockout ended at AK Steel, the company reports that stocks are at an all-time high and profits are soaring. Company officials at AK Steel were quick to credit the IAM’s role in the dramatic turnaround. “I think it is absolutely pivotal to acknowledge the role of the Machinists (union) in the smooth and quick transition following the end of the lockout,” said AK Steel spokesman Allan McCoy. “I think it shows that they are as interested as we are in Middletown Works being successful.”

The steelmaker locked out members of the former independent union Armco Employees Independent Federation (AEIF) in Middletown, OH in February 2006. After nearly five months of the lockout, the members voted to affiliate with the Machinists. IAM negotiators were able to reach an agreement that included the IAM Pension Plan and was overwhelmingly ratified by the members.

House Votes to Repeal Tax Breaks for Big Oil

With oil prices at record highs and gas prices moving well above $3 a gallon, the House voted to repeal $18 billion in tax breaks from the nation’s largest oil companies. The bill calls for the revenue to be used for tax incentives supporting wind and solar energy and energy efficiency.

Despite a fresh veto threat from the Bush administration and strong opposition from Republican lawmakers and Big Oil, the measure passed by a vote of 236 to 182. The House last year passed similar legislation twice, only to have it blocked by Senate Republicans.

“Already pinched at the pump, American families are now feeling the effects of higher energy prices throughout the economy,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “This legislation is another critical step in a series of concrete actions this Congress is taking to address soaring energy costs, grow our economy and create new jobs, strengthen national security, and begin to reduce global warming.”

The nation’s largest oil companies – Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Shell and BP – recorded more than $120 billion in profits last year. Gas prices, meanwhile, are currently averaging $3.23 a gallon, up 66 cents from the same time last year, according to the Energy Information Administration.

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