Tuesday, April 2,  2002


Blue Ribbon Commission Schedule Posted
The IAM’s Blue Ribbon Commission is gearing up for the start of 40 townhall-type meetings where union members will get to shape the policies and direct the agenda of one of the largest industrial trade unions in North America. A special IAM website with dates, times and locations of the 2002 Blue Ribbon Commission meetings is located online at: http://www.iamaw.org/publications/brc/index.htm

“These meetings are designed to put IAM members in the driver’s seat,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “At similar meetings in 1995 and 1998, thousands of members showed up and made dozens of recommendations that resulted in better programs, better communication and better representation for every member of this union.

“The IAM is a better, stronger union today because members had the opportunity to speak out,” said Buffenbarger. “These meetings are our way of making sure this organization continues to be inspired by the men and women who are willing to stand up, speak out and make a difference."

Walkout Restarts Bombardier Negotiations
Canadian IAM members staged a one-day strike at three Bombardier plants to protest stalled contract talks after members voted 99.5 percent to reject the company’s latest offer and authorized a strike by 98.2 percent.

Production at the Montreal-area assembly plants came to a halt as nearly four thousand Local 712 members marched in a massive display of solidarity. Union leaders told Bombardier officials they would return to negotiations only if the company had new offers to place on the table.

Key issues included contract duration, pension improvements and tougher measures against contracting out. “We are serious about this bargaining agenda and we’re prepared to strike to win our point, said Administrative Assistant Vince Blais, who is heading the IAM bargaining team.

In a dramatic conclusion to the walkout, IAM leaders announced negotiations with the company would resume on April 2. “I think they’re going to take us seriously, now,” said Michel Lauzon, president of IAM Local 712. Lauzon warned, however, that another walkout could come at any time.

Survey Probes Member Concerns
Initial returns from a survey listed on the IAM’s website shows that members give their highest priority to “stopping the transfer of jobs and technology, protecting Social Security benefits, as well as protecting the health and safety of workers.” Closely following those concerns are “ending the current recession, prosecuting the war against terrorism and improving the quality of our schools.”

Again, these are preliminary tallies. To voice your opinion, visit the IAM website at www.goiam.org, click on the survey headline America’s Most Pressing Issues and make your voices heard.

Social Security, Medicare Funds in Fine Fettle
A new government report shows that Social Security and Medicare are healthier than ever, giving even more ammunition for the working families campaign against President George W. Bush’s plan to privatize the nation’s most effective family protection plan.

Social Security trustees issued their annual report showing that the system’s trust fund is solvent until the year 2041, three years longer than estimated last year.

“This is a far cry from the hocus-pocus, voodoo economics the White House is trying to palm off with its massive handout to Wall Street,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “Remember, it’s that same Wall Street-driven greed that bankrupted Enron and bled its retirees’ security plans.”

Bush and his congressional allies have tried to manufacture a “crisis” around Social Security and Medicare and frighten the public into believing the programs should be privatized. Earlier, Bush’s hand-picked Social Security privatization commission recommended three proposals that would turn the program’s lifetime guaranteed benefits into a Wall Street gamble, requiring benefit cuts, increases in the retirement age, or both—actions that do little to ensure the long-term health of the system.

At the same time, the report found that Medicare is solvent until 2016, one year longer than the trustees estimated last year.

NRA Snipers Target Campaign Finance Bill
The National Rifle Association (NRA) rolled out its heavy artillery and fired a barrage at a watered-down campaign finance bill aimed at curbing the excesses of Big Business and other narrowly focused advocacy groups. The NRA filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new law.

The measure bans unlimited so-called “soft money” donations to national political parties, typically huge contributions by corporations, wealthy individuals and a scattering of trade unions.

The IAM is largely untouched by the legislation. The bulk of the contributions made by the Machinists Non-Partisan Political League are “hard dollar” contributions. “Not a dime of dues money goes into political campaigns. Only our members’ voluntary contributions to MNPL are used to oppose or support candidates,” explained IP Tom Buffenbarger.