iMail for Tuesday, November 1, 2005

‘What’s the Matter With Kansas? ’

IP Tom Buffenbarger and author Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter With Kansas?, kicked off the 2005 IAM Communications Conference in Wichita, Kansas talking to nearly 70 delegates about social class, religion and the issues that lead voters in states like Kansas to consistently vote against their own economic interests.

“The hard working families of Kansas have had to lower their expectations and downsize their lives,” said Buffenbarger.

Frank detailed conservatives’ efforts to position themselves as the party of the working class.

“The cultural war is actually class war and the conservatives have made themselves the champions of the working class, despite the fact that it is liberals who have for years stood up for the working class,” said Frank.

“How in the world can conservatives claim to hate elites when they excuse a corporate world that continues to screw the working class over.”

Buffenbarger called on both Democratic and Republican lawmakers to pay attention to America’s working class.

“It is time for lawmakers to stop preaching and start legislating. Come down off your pedestal so we can show you what we want – a chance to work,” said Buffenbarger. “If you want to talk to us about values then talk to us about our work, our families, our community and our country.”

The Communications Conference is chaired by General Vice President Robert Thayer and features the presentation of awards to the winners of the IAM Newsletter & Website Contest.

District 9 Organizes St. Louis Post Dispatch Electricians

Maintenance electricians at the St. Louis Post Dispatch in St. Louis, Missouri voted 10 to 1 for representation by IAM District 9 in the Midwest Territory latest organizing victory. The workers at Missouri’s award winning newspaper sought IAM representation following a recent buy-out and the subsequent loss of benefits.

The organizing victory followed an initial contact with Local 41 Steward Mark Schlesing, who was aided by District 9 Organizers and Staff and Local 41 President Mike Diefenbach. District 9 currently represents maintenance mechanics at the paper.

“The electricians saw the benefit of our contract with its guaranteed wages, health care and pension and they know that they will benefit from the kind of representation that District 9 is known for,” said Roger Poole, District 9 Directing Business Representative.

Midwest Territory GVP James E. Brown praised DBR Roger Poole, Organizers Scott Stackle and Mike Musgrove, Business Representative Ellen Arbogast and everyone who helped on the victory.

“Through the hard work that everyone put into this campaign, these electricians sent a clear message to management,” said Brown.

Bush Board Issues Anti-Worker Decisions

The Republican majority on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is adding to its string of anti-worker decisions.

Newspaper Carriers Are Out of Luck

In a 2–1 decision, the NLRB ruled newspaper carriers are independent contractors and, therefore, not allowed to form unions. The NLRB decision also dismissed several unfair labor practice charges, including the firing of a carrier for trying to form a union. Newspaper carriers join graduate employees, workers with disabilities and contingency workers as groups whom the Bush board has denied federal collective bargaining rights.

Company May Withdraw Recognition

After 40 years of representation by Operating Engineers Local 49, a Minnesota company, withdrew recognition of the union and terminated its employees’ contract. The company claimed the union no longer represented a majority of the workers because it had purchased another company whose workers were not unionized. Although NLRB general counsel issued a complaint that the company committed an unfair labor practice, the Republican majority ruled in the company’s favor.

Malls May Restrict Picketing

Overruling an administrative law judge, the Republican majority of the NLRB ruled two California malls legally could prohibit picketers from carrying or wearing signs, restrict them to a “designated area” and ban picketing during peak business hours. Ensuring more anti-worker decisions in the coming year, President George W. Bush made a recess appointment of current NLRB member Peter Schaumber to another term, which will run until the end of the 109th Congress (December 2006). Schaumber consistently has voted against workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain collectively.

IAM Convenes Health Care Strategy Group

IAM members were fully represented at a meeting this week at the IAM Benefit Trust offices in Washington, DC, where representatives gathered to map out a plan for dealing with the health care crisis in the United States.

The team of representatives includes Charles Toby ( Western Territory); Jim Smith ( Eastern Territory); Jeff Smith (Southern Territory); Cristina Nedrow ( Midwest Territory); Monica Silbas (Transportation); and Rod Kelty (Headquarters).

“A key part of the IAM’s strategy for delivering affordable, quality healthcare is partnering with large, national health care delivery organizations that can use their power in the marketplace for the benefit of IAM members,” said Steve Sleigh, Director of Strategic Resources.

“These partnerships include CIGNA Healthcare for medical services, Caremark for prescription drugs, Delta Dental for dental care, and VSP for vision coverage.”

Recently revived and updated offerings from the IAM Benefit Trust should also help IAM representatives throughout the United States deal with a health care system whose cost is spiraling out of control and whose providers lack accountability to either patients or purchasers.

Republicans Look to Cut Social Programs

Congressional Republicans and the Bush Administration are once again using the post-Katrina relief efforts as a means to attack lower and middle-income families, looking to cut up to $50 billion dollars in vital social programs.

House Republicans voted yesterday to cut student loan subsidies, child support enforcement and relief to firms hurt by unfair trade practices. They are also eyeing cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and farm subsidies.

Despite looking to enact more than $70 billion in new tax cuts to the rich, the GOP claims the cuts are needed to help fund relief efforts in the Gulf Coast.

Democratic lawmakers uniformly opposed the Republican efforts to cut such vital social programs for the poor, claiming the cuts are nothing more than a means to establish more tax cuts for the wealthy.

“Let’s just be clear about how Congress and the Bush Administration turned a surplus into overwhelming seas of red ink: they did it in part by pushing trillion-dollar tax cuts, many of them for the wealthiest Americans. And they are about to make things even worse by adding another $70 billion in tax cuts, most of which will benefit the richest three percent of all Americans,” Rep. George Miller of California said in a statement.



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