iMail for Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Machinists Union Blasts Tanker Decision

Machinists across the country are calling for congressional action following the decision by Air Force officials to award a $40 billion aerial refueling tanker contract to a team led by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS), parent company of Airbus.

“The Air Force’s decision is a serious blow to a key American industry,” said IAM GVP Rich Michalski. “President Bush and his administration have denied real economic stimulus to the American people and chosen instead to create jobs in Toulouse, France.”

The tanker competition was mandated in 2003, allowing a heavily subsidized European manufacturer, EADS, to bid against Boeing, a U.S. firm that received no subsidies.

“This decision means billions of taxpayer dollars will be used to create jobs in foreign countries, rather than here in the United States,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Giving this contract to EADS further hollows out America’s industrial base and rewards a company that has already used $100 million in European government subsidies to grab nearly 50 percent of the U.S. commercial aircraft market.”

The IAM represents nearly 35,000 Boeing employees in Washington state, Oregon, Kansas and locations across the country.

Obama Misled Ohioans on NAFTA

The IAM is urging members in Ohio to take a hard look at Senator Barack Obama’s pledge to renegotiate NAFTA, following a week of denials and contradictions over Obama’s public and private positions on the controversial trade pact.

“The bottom line is that Ohioans cannot trust Senator Obama to deliver on his pledge to opt out of NAFTA if it isn’t renegotiated,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger.

According to a new memo obtained by the Associated Press, Senator Obama’s senior economic advisor, Austan Goolsbee, reassured pro-NAFTA Canadian officials that Obama’s opposition to NAFTA “should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political posturing than a clear articulation of policy plans.”

During a nationally televised debate in Cleveland, OH, last week, Sen. Obama indicated he would opt out of the trade agreement if it were not revised to include greater labor and environmental protections.

The memo, written by an employee at the Canadian consulate who attended the meeting, confirms the meeting took place and that Obama’s campaign rhetoric on NAFTA was discussed. 

Machinists at All Locations Ratify Lockheed Contract

Nearly 6,000 IAM members working at eight Lockheed Martin locations voted overwhelmingly to ratify three separate agreements with the aerospace giant. The three-year contracts include the best pay package in the history of IAM-Lockheed negotiations, as well as historic improvements in pension benefits. 

“Our negotiating committees worked extremely hard to bring back collective bargaining agreements in the best interest of not only their respective sites, but for the Machinists Union as a whole,” said IAM Aerospace Coordinator John Crowdis, who led the negotiating teams from the eight IAM locations. “They, and our District and Local representatives, dedicated countless personal hours to these efforts and have sacrificed innumerable days away from their families to secure the best contract possible for our members.”

Highlights of the agreement include a $2,000 ratification bonus in addition to wage increases of four percent in the first year, and three percent in the second and third years. The agreements also increase the pension benefit by $11 to $77 a month, which would give IAM members the highest pension in the aerospace industry. Improvements in health care coverage, insurance benefits and other retiree benefits are also included.

The vote marks the first time in nearly 20 years that there has been a ratification of the three-major agreements on the first vote. The Marietta, GA contract, which also includes members working in Clarksburg, WV and Meridian, MS, was ratified with an 88 percent “yes” vote. The Palmdale contract, meanwhile, was approved by more than 78 percent of those who voted and the Sunnyvale, CA contract, which includes members working in Cape Canaveral, FL and Santa Cruz and Vandenberg AFB, CA, was approved by nearly 70 percent of those who voted.

Bill Clinton Welcomed at Ohio Labor Banquet

Former President Bill Clinton addressed nearly a thousand union members from more than a dozen unions at the Dayton Miami Valley AFL-CIO Southwest Ohio Awards Banquet. The annual event, which was held at the Dayton Convention Center, honored three longtime labor activists with Labor Leadership Awards and one Community Service Award.

The former president, campaigning on behalf of his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, was welcomed with cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd.

On Tuesday, Senator Clinton faces-off against Senator Barack Obama in the Ohio Democratic presidential primary. The senators are vying for Ohio’s 162 delegates at the Democratic National Convention.

Touting Senator Clinton’s qualifications for President, the former President talked about her plans for tackling unemployment, energy policy, health care and trade agreements, a key issue for union members in Ohio. Clinton was extremely critical of the Bush administration’s economic policy, saying it benefited the rich at the expense of the middle class.

“Under the Bush administration the rich got richer,” said Clinton. “The middle class people were saddled with rising costs for health care, gasoline, food and college. This is not rocket science, any time you’re running an economy that only benefits the wealthy and well-connected, you’re going to get bad results.”

IAM Retirees Director on Health Care Plans

In a recently-published letter to the editor at The Washington Post, IAM Community Services and Retirees Director Maria Cordone expresses her beliefs as to why so many senior citizens are supporting Senator Hillary Clinton and her health care plan.

“Senator Clinton is the only one I hear addressing the issues and concerns of our seniors and disabled community,” said Cordone. “Not only does she talk the talk, but by her already-proven legislative support, she’s demonstrated that she walks the walk.”

Cordone, a Super Delegate and Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee Seniors Coordinating Council, says Clinton has the credentials and the vision to continue to fight for the rights of our senior and disabled Americans.

“It was a bold move in the 1930s to implement the Social Security Insurance Act, and it was a bold move to implement the Medicare Act in the 1960s,” says Cordone in her letter. “It will take a bold and courageous president to implement a Health Care program that truly covers everyone.” Click here to read Cordone’s letter.

Wisconsin Workers at Ft. McCoy Choose IAM

By an overwhelming vote of 25 to 3, bus drivers, truck drivers, dispatchers and support personnel working for VT Griffin Services at Fort McCoy, WI, have joined the IAM. This is the second group of VT Griffin workers at Fort McCoy to go IAM. Last year, the public works employees fought for and won IAM representation. Fort McCoy is a military training center; VT Griffin provides base-operating and logistical support.

“The transportation group at Fort McCoy is a dedicated, hardworking bunch,” said Organizing Department Grand Lodge Representative Bob Anderson. “When they saw the IAM-represented workers getting wage increases, improved health & welfare benefits, improved pension benefits, they said, ‘We want the IAM!’

Now a part of District Lodge 66 in La Crosse, WI, these new members are looking forward to enjoying the benefits of their first contract.

“We welcome these new members and thank GLR Bob Anderson, Apprentice Organizers Brian Jarvensivu and Jan Desmidt, and District 66 Directing Business Representative Rick Mickschl for working hard to make this win happen,” said Headquarters GVP Rich Michalski. “Our Organizing Department has been on a mission at Fort McCoy, and we’d like to see more of the workers there gain the benefits of an IAM contract.”