iMail for Tuesday, November 15, 2005

GVP Martinez Stands with Alabama Machinists

The IAM strike against Boeing’s space, defense and rocket facilities in Alabama, Florida and California entered its third week with members standing firm in their demand for a contract that protects hard won health care benefits.

“Our members are on the front line of a battle taking place in workplaces all across the country,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez, Jr., who walked picket lines this week in Huntsville and Decatur, AL with members of Local 44 and Local 2766. “We won the fight to protect retiree health care with our strike at Boeing’s commercial aircraft facilities in Kansas, Washington and Oregon and we’re not about to let them revive their failed proposals here.”

In addition to eliminating retiree health care for future employees, Boeing wants to change existing eligibility requirements for current members. The change would force some employees to work up to five additional years or be denied health care altogether. “Boeing made more than $1 billion in net profits last quarter and they will not be permitted to shrink this important benefit or deny it to members who earned it,” said Martinez. “These men and women deserve the praise and support of union members everywhere for standing up, standing together and doing the right thing.”

New Contract Ends Copper Strike in Arizona

Thirty-six IAM members at Tucson-based Asarco LLC are among 1,500 copper mine workers from seven unions who are going back to work after approving new contracts that protect wages and pensions.

Representatives of the Mexican-owned conglomerate initially sought wage concessions of about $4 an hour from some workers and demanded pension cuts or freezes and more contributions for medical coverage. The tentative agreement preserves wages and benefits at pre-strike levels through December 31, 2006.

The strike began on July 2, after contracts expired at three of the company’s five facilities in Arizona and its refinery in Amarillo, Texas. In August, the Tucson-based subsidiary of the Mexican company Grupo Mexico SA filed for bankruptcy reorganization protection, primarily because of massive debt obligation for remediation of environmental pollution.

Canadian Machinists Ratify Bombardier Pact

A first-ever agreement between the IAM and Bombardier NFTC provides wage increases averaging 3 percent in the first year and 2.8 percent in the second year.

“Wage parity among the 125 members was the number one priority,” said IAM Canada Airline Coordinator Steve Vodi. “In a short period of time we were able to correct the very large wage inequities of people doing the same job for substantially different rates of pay and bring their respective wage scales into line.”

Other highlights of the 2-year accord include outsourcing protection, seniority protection, and work rules enhancing workplace security.

IAM members at Bombardier NFTC include aircraft, ground servicing equipment and servicing technicians as well as technical specialists who repair, service and maintain the Raytheon Harvard II turbo-prop advanced trainer and the BAE Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft. Fighter pilots from Canada, Denmark, England, Italy, Hungary, Singapore and Germany participate in comprehensive fighter pilot training programs in aircraft supplied by Bombardier.

Report Warns of China’s Economic Aims

A high-level commission created by Congress to investigate the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, issued its annual report to Congress yesterday.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission report noted the devastating impact China’s undervalued currency has had on jobs in the U.S. and criticized China’s refusal to recognize internationally recognized labor standards.

The Commission also concurred with IAM leaders who testified before the commission in January about the risks of offsets, concluding that “Chinese firms have used their leverage to extract offsets—agreements to transfer some of the aircraft production along with related expertise and technology –as part of the deals. …in practice, China aggressively requires offsets as a price of access to its market.”…Over the long term, these dynamics undermine U.S. global leadership in aircraft manufacturing.”

The Commission concluded that “ China nurtures its domestic aviation and aerospace industry by exploiting the international competition already present in the industry. By playing Airbus and Boeing off one another, China elicits agreements from each to shift new production and technology to China.”

“Congress must act on this report,” declared IP Tom Buffenbarger, who applauded the Commission for its work. “The conclusions that China’s aerospace industry is a direct threat to the U.S. aerospace industry is what we have been saying all along. It is up to Congress to make certain that the U.S. aerospace industry remains in the U.S. where it can thrive in large part due to highly skilled, dedicated, and loyal North American workforce.”

Seniors Wary of New Drug Benefit

With open enrollment set to begin November 15, more than 61 percent of seniors say they don’t understand Medicare’s new Part D drug benefit, according to a survey just released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health.

Overall, 43 percent of seniors do not know if they will enroll and 37 percent say they will not enroll. Only 20 percent say definitively that they plan to enroll in Part D.

When told that there would be at least 40 private Part D plans to choose from, 73 percent of those surveyed said that the number of plans “makes it confusing and difficult to choose the best plan.” 

Medicare recently unveiled its Part D prescription drug plan finder, which will comb through the hundreds of private Part D plans being offered. Available at Medicare’s website,, the drug plan finder allows people to enter their medications and compare costs among various private plans offered in their region.

Advocates for seniors are concerned that the website may prove too confusing for seniors and their families and note that seniors are less likely to use the Internet for research. One-on-one counseling is available by calling Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE or contacting your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program. You can locate your local SHIP office at