Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Machinists Strike PPG in Louisiana

Members of LL 470 employed at PPG Industries in Lake Charles, Louisiana went on strike Friday night over pensions, health care costs and a two-tier, hire-in wage rate. Under PPG demands, new hires would no longer have retiree medical benefits or a defined-benefit pension plan.

IAM members at PPG had overwhelmingly rejected an earlier contract proposal and voted to strike, but negotiators agreed to an extension to try to come to an agreement. However, no agreement was reached. The contract was full of takeaways, even though PPG has had twelve quarters of record profits.

"LL 470 is a very strong local, with a solid membership," said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. "They will have the support of my staff and the International to make sure this is a successful strike. Our members deserve a strong contract, and they're willing to fight for it."

The workers at PPG make chemicals for industry, including chlorine. IAM members offered an orderly shutdown of the plant, for the safety of those inside and the surrounding community. PPG Management declined.

IAM Raises $4000 for CBTU Scholarship Fund

Four days of selling hats, shirts, mugs and tickets to a first-ever Whist Tournament at the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) 35 th international convention in Orlando, FL, raised nearly $4000 for the CBTU Bell-Ball Scholarship fund.

The CBTU Scholarship Fund assists high school and college students and was established to honor the late Leonard Ball, the first executive director of CBTU and the late Jim Bell, president of the New York Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

“The generosity of the delegates and guests at the CBTU Convention was evident from the minute we started selling tickets and convention gear,” said IAM HQ Executive Assistant Diane Babineaux, who was re-elected along with IAM member Eveleyna Washington to serve on the CBTU Executive Council.

“We expect this year’s fundraising effort will be the start of a great tradition that will be carried on at the next CBTU convention in Chicago.”

IAM, Alaska Airlines Reach Tentative Accords

The IAM announced it reached two tentative agreements with Alaska Airlines last week on behalf of 3,056 IAM-represented employees.

“These tentative agreements are the result of our negotiating committee’s steadfast resolve,” said IAM District 143 President Bobby De Pace “I am confident that our members will find these terms acceptable, and the negotiating committee is unanimously recommending ratification of both tentative agreements.”

A ratification voting schedule will be posted along with the complete terms of the tentative agreements on the IAM District 143 website, www.iam143.org.

IAM District 143 represents 485 active Ramp and Stores (RSSA) employees and 2571 active Clerical, Office and Passenger Service (COPS) employees. The RSSA agreement became amendable on January 10, 2004 and the COPS agreement became amendable on October 30, 2002.


Immigration Reform v. Election Year PR

The President’s recent address to the nation on immigration may have pushed the Senate to do what it was already planning to do: make immigrants and immigration into an election year issue.

“Instead of forging an effective public policy that protects America’s borders, provides clear pathways to citizenship and prevents abusive and exploitative practices by employers,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger in a statement.

“The administration and its allies are using the immigration debate to blow hot air across the smoldering coals of racism and bigotry.”

After six years of administration-backed trade deals that encouraged U.S. companies to move jobs overseas, this latest PR campaign seeks nothing more than ad copy for this fall’s congressional campaigns.

The so-called immigration debate comes as the president’s popularity continues to plummet, even among his most ardent supporters. The latest CBS poll indicates that approval ratings on Bush's handling of the economy are 28 percent, a record low. President George W. Bush's overall approval ratings stand at around 31 percent.


IAM Welcomes 2,400 New America West Members

When the National Mediation Board certified the IAM as the representative for all US Airways Fleet Service workers, including those from the former America West Airlines, the IAM immediately became responsible for 2,400 new members.

Since then, representatives from District 141, the Grand Lodge and the IAM National Pension Plan have worked with IAM Local Lodge officials to provide information to the IAM’s newest members. On May 9, the TWU withdrew its bid to represent the combined US Airways-America West Fleet Service workforce.

“A surprising number of new members have already volunteered to be IAM shop stewards,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “Not only are they happy to be in the IAM, but many are prepared to take active roles in their new union.”

Initial meetings were held last week in Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada to introduce the new members to the IAM and provide information about the resources and services available. Meetings at other locations are being scheduled.

“The meeting was very friendly and informative,” said Gary Gould, a Las Vegas Fleet Service worker and former TWU Station Chair.

“We heard about IAM communication and education programs, the pension plan and the US Airways contract,” said Walt Norris, LAS Fleet Service. “I was impressed with the professionalism of everyone involved.”

District 141 General Chairs are working with former TWU local representatives to resolve outstanding grievances and transition negotiations are being scheduled.


LCLAA Chapter Chartered in Kansas

An important milestone in southern labor history took place last week when Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez swore in the officers of the newest chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) in Wichita, Kansas.

“Today you all are making history,” said GVP Martinez to the new LCLAA leaders, “Wichita has the potential to become one the largest LCLAA Chapters in the U.S. God bless all of you for doing what I consider the Lord’s work for justice. ”

LCLAA builds coalitions between unions and the Latino community to ensure both groups promote an inclusive working family agenda. LCLAA also helps educate Latino workers about their legal right to join the union movement.

“LCLAA is an important organization within the labor movement, and one close to my heart,” said GVP Martinez. “I am sure these LCLAA members will work hard to make a difference in the lives of working families in Kansas.”

Lay, Skilling Found Guilty in Enron Trial

Another chapter in one of the largest corporate ripoffs in American history closed when a federal jury found former Enron Chairman Ken Lay guilty of six counts of conspiracy and found Enron’s former chief executive, Jeffrey Skilling, guilty on 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy, making false statements and insider trading.

Minutes after the jury verdict, the judge ordered Lay to surrender his passport and post a $5 million bond before he could leave the courthouse.

The Enron collapse in 2001 wiped out 4,500 jobs, more than $1 billion in employee retirement funds and left a trail of corporate corruption and energy market manipulation, such as California’s energy crisis, that cost consumers billions of dollars in higher energy costs.

Lay, a longtime friend of President George W. Bush, was instrumental in Bush’s rise to Governor of Texas and then the White House. Lay steered millions of dollars in personal and corporate contributions to Bush, who frequently referred to Lay as “Kenny Boy.”

After the 2000 election, Lay became one of five members of Bush’s “Energy Transition Team” and was a key player in Vice President Cheney’s secret energy task force that set the nation’s energy agenda to favor deregulation and other corporate benefits.

Negotiations Underway at Bechtel Bettis

The IAM and Bechtel Bettis Inc., opened contract negotiations on May 24 for a first contract covering workers at the Naval Reactors Facility, located at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The workers, who are responsible for the control of nuclear fuel storage, recently voted to join the IAM.

“These workers came to us with their concerns, including their inability to plan time with their families due to fluctuating work schedules,” said Grand Lodge Rep Mike Wardle, who will lead the negotiations.

“We expect to have smooth negotiations, keeping Bechtel Bettis in the admirable position they currently hold, and allowing these talented workers to have the respect they’ve earned.”