iMail for Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Union Coalition Unites Metro-North Rail Workers

Anger and solidarity fueled a recent gathering of nearly 450 workers from eight different unions in New York City for the first joint meeting of the Metro-North Labor Coalition. More than 1,000 days have passed since their contracts reopened for negotiation and management continues to refuse to bargain in good faith.

The Labor Coalition includes the American Railway & Airway Supervisors Association, TCU/IAM Lodge 5041; IAM District Lodge 19; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers System Council 7 and Local 1573; International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 808; National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU, System Council 2; Sheet Metal Workers International Association; TCU/IAM System Board 86 and Districts 227, 1043 and 1402; and Transport Workers Union of America Locals 2001 and 2055.

“Our coalition is serious and united” said TCU International Vice President Joel Parker, who serves as spokesman for the coalition.

“And by being here at this meeting, every person regardless of craft or job classification is showing management that we will stand together and will not be split apart.”

Coalition members at the meeting also heard from Roger Toussaint, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, which represents 35,000 NYC transit workers. Toussaint pledged that he and his membership would work with the coalition to win fair contracts for all involved.

Large contingents from the IAM and TCU also rallied at the meeting. It was, reports Parker, a “very spirited, very successful” meeting. “Everyone is ready to stand together, and do whatever it takes.”

Bush Board Renews Attack on Amtrak

The Amtrak board, made up entirely of Bush administration appointees, is moving forward on a controversial plan to break up the passenger rail system and recently approved carving out the lucrative Northeast Corridor route for potential privatization.

“The Bush administration wants to hold a fire sale on Amtrak and dump its best asset, the Northeast Corridor,” said New Jersey Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg. “Selling the Northeast Corridor is the first step in President Bush’s plan to destroy Amtrak and intercity rail service in America.”

The plan, which was approved at a board meeting on September 22, but not released publicly, would create a new subsidiary to own and manage all track owned by Amtrak between Boston and Washington, D.C.

The plan still requires approval in Congress where lawmakers recently approved an appropriation of nearly $1.2 billion for the fiscal year that began on October 1. The Senate could take up the Amtrak appropriations bill as early as next week.

The Great Health Care Walk

IAM Local 1956 member Sue Eichstadt is fed up with the growing health care crisis in America. She’s planning to vent her frustration by walking the 154 miles from her home in Windom, Minnesota to the state capitol in St. Paul.

“I’m sick and tired of my parents getting prescriptions from the doctor only to have Medicare deny the prescriptions,” said Eichstadt. ”Every time we get a raise at work it’s eaten up by the increased cost of health insurance.”

Sue hopes to set up town hall meetings in each town she stops in along the way to carry on group discussions about Medicare, health care and insurance issues. “We want to hear everyone’s health care stories so we can take them to the capitol with us. In addition, we are asking people to sign a petition showing their support for universal health care in Minnesota.”

Eichstadt, who works as a Paint Lead Person at the Toro Company in Windom, MN, is using her vacation to complete the 6-day walk that will begin on October 29, 2005. Sue is training after work and is currently walking up to 14 miles per day. Her goal is to walk for 8 to 9 hours each day, hold town hall meetings and rest in a friend’s motor home during the evenings. “This started out to be a walk to draw support for Minnesota initiatives, but I am really hoping this sparks a national debate,” said Eichstadt.

Kentucky State Council Raises $14,000 for Guide Dogs

Not only are the members of the Kentucky State Council of Machinists working hard to get candidates elected who will help working men and women in Kentucky, but they also found time to reach deep into their pockets at the fall meeting for the Guide Dogs of America, raising a whopping $14,000 dollars.

“We have to give all the credit to our Kentucky State Secretary-Treasurer Benny Adair and DBR Bob Delaney as well the members in District 154,” said Kentucky State Council President Ken Koch.

“Not only did Benny Adair put together the golf scramble, but he started the first Annual Buffenbarger Skeet Shoot.”

The State Council hopes future events will build upon this success. “Guide Dogs was started by the Machinists and we want to keep it as well funded as possible,” said Adair.

“I’m proud of the Kentucky State Council of Machinists, and everyone who worked hard on it, for this noble effort on behalf of Guide Dogs of America and MNPL. I’m looking forward to this becoming an annual event,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez, Jr.

China Slow to Change Currency

In the face of empty promises from the Chinese government and inadequate action from the Bush administration, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka is calling on the U.S. government to take a stronger stand against China’s continued currency manipulation.

After undervaluing their currency by up to 40 percent over the last decade, the Chinese government strengthened their currency by a mere 2 percent and claimed they would let it float against a small basket of currencies.

“Since the revaluation, the Chinese currency has not in fact floated and the People’s Bank of China has made clear that it intends to keep it that way,” Trumka said on behalf of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council. “In the face of the Chinese government’s empty promises and inadequate actions, our own government has simply failed to act. As the months and years pass without a resolution, the bilateral U.S. deficit with China continues to hit new records, and we continue to hemorrhage family-supporting manufacturing jobs.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow, meanwhile, again failed to take a strong stance on China’s continued currency manipulation after visiting China to take part in the meetings of the U.S.-China Joint Economic Commission. Despite evidence to the contrary, Snow said he remains confident China will allow the yuan to strengthen even further.