iMail for Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Talks to Resume at Boeing

Talks between the IAM and Boeing are scheduled to resume. “After 45 days on the line, your solidarity brought Boeing back to the bargaining table. Since talks adjourned last Monday, we have kept the lines of communication open and have agreed to pursue additional talks through the federal mediator. At the direction of the federal mediator, new talks will be held in Washington, D.C., beginning Thursday, October 23rd,” IAM leaders announced in a bulletin to members.

The strike continues to draw support from area unions in the four states with IAM members on the picket lines. Airline pilots and Sheet Metal Workers joined picket lines in Washington this week, while members at Edwards Air Force Base in California reported strong local support at a picket line event there.

Also last week, the IAM amended its Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge to include charges related to attempts by Boeing to restrain and interfere with our members’ rights to act collectively. The IAM also charged that Boeing failed to bargain in good faith when it terminated bargaining early and refused to continue negotiating up until the expiration of the contract, something the parties had agreed to do.

Congress Passes Rail Safety and Amtrak Funding Bills

Both the House and Senate passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and its companion bill, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. The legislation tightens rail safety protection and authorizes $13.1 billion for Amtrak over five years. The Bush Administration did not support the legislation, but the President signed the bills into law after they passed both the House and Senate by veto-proof majorities.

The rail safety legislation has been termed the “most comprehensive rail safety bill in more than 30 years.” It includes measures that prohibit carriers from interfering with medical treatment of injured employees; mandates installation of positive train control; and offers railroads incentives to install electronically-controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes and switch position indicators.

For Amtrak, the legislation sets out a “blueprint” to protect Amtrak and expand intercity passenger service. It includes a five-year cumulative $13.1 billion federal funding of the carrier; seed money for development of additional high-speed rail corridors; and directs the Surface Transportation Board to fine host freight railroads that delay Amtrak trains.

The authors of the bill were Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) voted yes and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) voted no. The vote indicates how each of the candidates would treat transportation issues as president. “Obama will mean that when the Congress votes for funding we’ll have a partner in the White House. It means we won’t have to fight.” said Oberstar. With McCain we’ll start where the Bush administration left off…it means an uphill fight instead of going forward.”

Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama and vice presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) were cosponsors of the Amtrak and pledged to continue fighting for Amtrak.

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Aims to Derail

More than 100 union members in the Louisville, KY area protested outside a Kentucky Chamber of Commerce seminar providing tips about how to derail the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). The Chamber invited company CEOs, HR employees, management attorneys and others responsible for “developing and implementing positive employee relations and union avoidance strategies” to an in-depth seminar on EFCA, warning that “careful planning is needed to manage the risk of EFCA and new union organizing tactics.”

“It’s no wonder that the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want The Employee Free Choice Act. It strengthens workers’ right to organize, helps get a first contract faster and protects workers’ rights to a voice on the job,” said IAM Organizing Director Larry Washam who was at the protest.

The Employee Free Choice Act passed the House of Representatives in 2008 and had majority support in the Senate, but a group of GOP senators blocked the bill with a filibuster.

Business interests across the country are gearing up to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act, with front groups like the “Employee Freedom Action Committee” running anti-EFCA television ads in districts where Congressional candidates support EFCA.

Working families can help defeat such efforts by joining the AFL-CIO’s “Million Member Mobilization” to gather one million signatures in support of the Employee Free Choice Act. The signatures will be presented to the new Congress and President after the November election. Click here to add your name to support the Employee Free Choice Act.

Grace Under Pressure Saves Alabama Rail Worker

Joe Mixon is alive today thanks to quick thinking by co-workers Adam Moore, Benny Morris, Frank Rodriguez and Michael Williams, all members of TCU-IAM Local 6060 in Birmingham, AL. 

The life and death drama began on October 5 at Birmingham’s Norfolk Southern Rail Yard, where Mixon collapsed and fell shortly after the start of his shift. Mixon stopped breathing and began to turn blue, a life threatening condition requiring immediate first aid.

Fortunately, Mixon’s union brothers knew exactly what to do. Frank Rodriquez called 911. Adam Moore and Michael Williams began performing CPR while Benny Morris rushed to the main gate to lead rescue workers to the scene.

Within minutes, Mixon was breathing again and en route to the hospital for further treatment. Joe is now well on the road to recovery, according to his father Mike, who is also a member of Local 6060.

International President Bob Scardelletti expressed admiration when he learned of this event from Unit 200 Assistant International Representative Roger Cain. “I applaud Brothers Moore, Morris, Rodriguez and Williams. They were prepared, they knew what to do in an emergency and they worked together as a life-saving team. They give real meaning to the concepts of Union brotherhood, solidarity, and teamwork.”

Alliance for Retired Americans Endorses Obama

The nation’s premier organization for retired union members, the Alliance for Retired Americans, announced it is endorsing Illinois Senator Barack Obama for President.

“George Bush and John McCain must be the only two people left who think Wall Street is a good place for Social Security,” said Alliance President George Kourpias. “Barack Obama opposes Social Security privatization, because he knows we can’t gamble away our savings on Wall Street.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office, American’s retirement accounts have lost up to $2 trillion in the past 15 months. Kourpias said that retirees were deeply offended this summer when John McCain, who receives $23,000 a year in Social Security benefits, said it was “an absolute disgrace” for younger workers to pay for Social Security benefits.