iMail for Tuesday, May 26, 2009

CBTU Declares ‘Now is the Future’

Led by IAM Executive Assistant Diane Babineaux, dozens of IAM members joined with more than 1,200 delegates from around the country at the 38th convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) in Atlanta, GA, where speaker after speaker called for a fresh wave of political activism in the wake of the historic 2008 national elections.

“With the election of Barack Obama, you have rejected the outrageous policies of the last administration,” declared CBTU President Bill Lucy, who reminded the delegates that much work remains before election year promises can become political realities. “The last eight years was truly a period of the needy against the greedy, with the government taking sides against working people.”

Lucy issued a rousing call to action that was echoed throughout the conference by a lineup of distinguished speakers that included Georgia Democratic Congressman John Lewis; International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold Schaitberger; Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS); Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery; U.S Labor Secretary Hilda Solis; Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH) and many others.

In a special address to the conference, IAM Transportation General Vice President Robert Roach, Jr. reviewed the IAM’s organizing efforts at Delta Air Lines, where more than 16,000 unrepresented workers will soon have an opportunity to vote in an historic election.

Roach detailed a campaign of intimidation by Delta Air Lines executives, who are urging employees to throw away their voting instructions and refuse to speak with union organizers. “This is an attempt by a small group of people to deny economic power and political power. That’s what this is all about,” said Roach. “If they get away with it on Delta Air Lines, then the rest of the airlines will follow. We have to stand up now. We must draw the line in the sand now.”

Click here to see a webcast of GVP Roach’s remarks at the CBTU Conference.

IAM Commends Sotomayor Nomination

The IAM welcomed President Obama’s choice of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to become the next U.S. Supreme Court justice. President Obama nominated Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David Souter.

“Judge Sotomayor is a commendable choice for Supreme Court justice,” said IAM General Counsel Allison Beck. “As a woman of very humble beginnings, she understands the plight of the working class in achieving the American Dream, and will take extra care in considering the implications of the Court’s rulings on working families.”

Born to a Puerto Rican family, Judge Sotomayor grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx.  Driven by her mother’s belief in the power of education and her own tireless work ethic, Sotomayor excelled in school, graduating from Princeton University and later Yale Law School. She has served in nearly every aspect of the law throughout her 30-year career.

President Obama says Sotomayor’s personal story combined with her work experience makes her an “invaluable” choice for Supreme Court justice.

“What Sonia will bring to the court,” the President said, “is not only the knowledge and experience acquired over a course of a brilliant legal career, but the wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life’s journey… Walking in the door, she would bring more experience on the bench and more varied experience on the bench than anyone currently serving on the United States Supreme Court had when they were appointed.”

If confirmed, Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic to sit on the Supreme Court. She would also be the third woman to ever serve.

Buffenbarger Elected to IMF Leadership Position

The International Metalworkers Federation (IMF), which represents over 25 million workers in more than 100 countries, this week unanimously elected IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger to be the federation’s Vice President.

“The world’s workers are in a time of crisis not seen in generations,” said Buffenbarger. “Together, and only together, can we create a world that puts workers first. The IMF is well-positioned to face the challenges of globalization and the IAM is proud to serve as one of its most active affiliates.”

IMF delegates also unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act in the United States. The resolution states, “In the United States workers are routinely, fired, coerced, intimidated, and discriminated against for merely exerting their fundamental human rights to form their own labor unions and to engage in collective bargaining.”

The resolution further proclaims, “The IMF firmly stands with its U.S. affiliates in the fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.”

To learn more about the IMF, visit their Website at:

IAM Mourns Passing of Leon Blocker

The IAM is mourning the passing of Leon Blocker, President and Directing Business Representative for Woodworkers District W2 in Memphis, Tennessee. Blocker has served as President and DBR since 1997. Prior to the affiliation between the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) and the IAM in 1994, Blocker was a charter member of IWA Local Lodge W15 in DeQueen, AR; served on the W15 Executive Board from 1971-1979 and served as a Business Representative from 1989-1993. After the affiliation, Blocker was a Business Representative for Woodworkers District W2 from 1994-1997.

“Leon Blocker was a dedicated leader and fought for his members every day,” said International President Tom Buffenbarger. “This is a terrible loss for our union and for the Blocker family. Our hearts go out to them during this difficult time.”

Bank Executives Cash in on Employee Deaths

Just when you thought the banking industry couldn’t get any lower, it does. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, some banks are taking out life insurance policies on their employees with the banks as the beneficiary and then cashing in after their employees die.

And that’s not all – according to the Journal article, the money is used to pay executive bonuses, deferred pay and pensions. And, the kicker – it’s all tax free!

“The insurance policies essentially are informal pension funds for executives,” reads the article. “Companies deposit money into the contracts, which are like big, nondeductible IRAs, and allocate the cash among investments that grow tax-free. Over time, employers receive tax-free death benefits when employees, former employees and retirees die.”

While banks are not alone in this practice, the amount of insurance that banks, in particular, are taking out on their employees’ lives is increasing.

Bank of America reportedly has the most life insurance on its employees with $17.3 billion at the end of the first quarter. Wachovia Corp. has $12 billion, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. has $11.1 billion and Wells Fargo & Co. has $5.7 billion.

Other companies include American International Group, Inc. (AIG), Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Tyson Foods, Inc.

Employees must consent to being covered, according to the report. So, some companies offer their workers a small portion of the death benefit as an incentive. However, if they leave, their coverage end, but the benefits to the company remain.

Attempts to regulate the practice have so far been unsuccessful. The report says a 2006 law, which only allows companies to buy policies on just the top third of its earners, doesn’t apply to policies purchased prior to August 2006. And, an attempt by the Treasury last week to eliminate companies’ ability to deduct interest on loans related to such policies, don’t apply to banks because banks don’t borrow money to invest in life insurance.

Photo Contest Deadline June 1, 2009

The IAM Photography Contest deadline is June 1, 2009. The contest is open to IAM members in good standing and photo entries should be of IAM members at work. Winning entries will win a cash prize and be featured in the 2010 IAM Calendar.

Click here for contest rules, entry and release forms.  Please read all instructions carefully, Contact the Communications Department at 301-967-4520 for more information.

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