iMail for Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Showdown Looms on Bush SCHIP Veto

House lawmakers will vote October 18 on whether or not to override President Bush’s veto of legislation to increase funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by $35 billion over five years.

The highly popular program is currently being funded by a stop-gap bill in effect through mid-November and provides 6.6 million children of low and middle income families with health insurance. Additional funding passed by the House and Senate would provide an additional four million children with health care.

“The President said ‘no’ to bipartisan legislation that would have extended health care to 10 million American children for the next five years,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement. “The President said ‘no’ to giving assurances to America’s working families that if they work hard and play by the rules, then we are their partners in raising the next generation of Americans and investing in their future.”
While there’s a veto-proof majority in the Senate, House Democratic leaders have been working to secure the additional 20 votes needed to override Bush’s veto.

Contact your Congressional Representative and urge them to vote for the override of President Bush’s veto by dialing 1-866-544-7573.

IAM Women’s Conference, CLUW Convention Conclude

The IAM Women’s Conference and the Coalition of Labor Union Women’s (CLUW) 14th Biennial Convention were held back-to-back last week in Las Vegas, NV.

First up was the IAM Women’s Conference, where nearly 150 members gathered from across North America. Guided by the theme, “Machinists Women – Visions and Values in the Pursuit of Victories,” organizing and growing the IAM was at the heart of every speaker’s presentation or report, including a rousing keynote address by International President Tom Buffenbarger.

“Joining the union is key to empowering women and restoring the middle class,” said Women’s Department Director Cheryl Eastburn. “Too many working women and their families are living in poverty, but we can help change that.” GLR Heather Kelley, who heads up women’s activities for the IAM in Canada, added “We know the benefits of a union contract. It’s up to us to educate, motivate and organize.”

The IAM delegation then joined nearly 800 other activists from around the labor movement for the CLUW Convention. CLUW President Marsha Zakowski reminded delegates that women are the fastest growing part of the union. In mobilizing around the convention theme, “A New Direction for Women,” delegates discussed strategies for channeling their political strength to create change in the 2008 elections.

Local 1486 Stands Out at UPS Car Show

Auto shows are a natural audience for automotive and truck technicians and Local 1486 members in the metropolitan Washington, DC area made their annual appearance at the United Parcel Service Auto Show in Laurel, MD. The show attracts more than 2,000 car exhibitors and even more visitors. Each year, UPS turns over their sprawling facility to car enthusiasts to help raise money for United Way charities.

Local 1486 member Joe Brame was joined by fellow member Paul Kelly, who shows his IAM-customized Harley-Davidsons, District 4 Business Rep. Lonnie Vick and other Local 1486 members who manned an information booth stocked with IAM literature. Local 1486 represents metro-area UPS truck technicians who maintain the fleet of familiar ‘Big Brown’ trucks.

“We look forward each year to meeting many of the thousands of people who attend the auto show,” said Brame. “We can spread the word about IAM membership and get more shops in the area organized.”

Click here for photos from the auto show.

Pro-Business Bias Taints NLRB Rulings

In a ruling that emboldens anti-union employers and further narrows workers’ rights, the Republican-dominated National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) voted to permit a minority of employees to petition for a decertification election within 45 days of one being formed through a majority sign-up or “card check” process. Newly unionized workers previously had six months to negotiate a contract before a minority in the bargaining unit could challenge the representational status of the new union.

In a dissenting opinion, minority NLRB members Wilma Liebman and Dennis Walsh said the decision, “undercuts the process of voluntary recognition as a legitimate mechanism for implementing employee free choice and promoting the practice of collective bargaining.” 

With the terms of three of the five NLRB members set to expire soon, the decision was another in a series of hurried rulings along party lines that favor management rights over workers’ rights. The NLRB recently issued a ruling limiting the amount of back pay an employer owed to a fired worker and overturned an established precedent that permitted unions to challenge the permanent status of replacement workers.

Vermont Valve Workers Win New Deal

One hundred and twenty IAM members of Local 2704 at Velan Valve Corp. in Williston, VT, struck the company for three days last week over a company proposal that would have tripled members’ health insurance co-payment.

The walkout ended when members ratified a new company proposal, with lower health insurance co-pays and improved company contributions to the IAM Pension Plan for each year of the three-year contract.

“These workers know that we need to stand together, side by side, if we want to protect our health care benefits. And that is exactly what they did,” said Local 2704 President Mark Nadaeu, quoted in the Burlington Free Press. Nadeau also praised Velan Valve. “They understand to continue to make world-class quality valves in Vermont they need to meet the workers halfway,” said the union president. “That is what they did and that is why the contract was approved by the membership.”

Velan Valve Corp. makes industrial steel valves and has a dozen manufacturing plants throughout the world, including five in North America.

“The Local 2704 membership and the bargaining committee exhibited professionalism throughout the negotiations,” said District 65 Assistant Directing Business Representative David Lowell. “Their solidarity made all the difference.”

BIW to Build First Zumwalt DDG-1000 Destroyer

IAM members of Local S6, District 4 at Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Portland, ME welcomed news recently that their shipyard has been selected to build the Navy’s new Zumwalt-class of advanced destroyers. The flagship DDG-1000 is scheduled to begin fabrication sometime in 2008 with delivery expected in 2013.

“This is wonderful news for the skilled men and women of Bath Iron Works,” said Maine Sen. Susan Collins. It is a tribute to the dedication and skill of the BIW workers that the Navy has reversed its previous decision and is now providing the materials for the first DDG-1000 to BIW.”

The news comes just as BIW approaches the end of a shipbuilding era with construction of the Arleigh Burke destroyers winding down. Union members at BIW began work on the 62nd and final ship in that class earlier this year. Arleigh-Burke class destroyers have been the shipyard’s mainstay since the early 1990s.