Tuesday,  June 3,  2003


2003 Transportation Conference Opens
Nearly 500 delegates, speakers and guests gathered this week in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the start of the Millennium III North American IAM Transportation Conference.

This year’s conference brings local and district representatives together in the shadow of unprecedented events. “Massive layoffs, bankruptcies and financial restructurings made headlines on a daily basis since our last conference,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “Our immediate future is no less challenging.”

Delegates are assigned to one of 14 standing committees including: Organizing; Collective Bargaining; Legislative and Health & Safety. Each committee is tasked with producing specific recommendations that can be quickly implemented.

Among the numerous guest speakers slated to address this year’s conference are IP Tom Buffenbarger; Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), Clayola Brown, UNITE! International Vice President; Neil Abercrombie, (D-HI), Cameron Findlay, Deputy Secretary, Dept. of Labor and Rodney Slater, former U.S. Secretary of Labor.

House Bill Targets Overtime Pay
Working families already struggling to make ends meet in a stagnant economy face another attack from the GOP-controlled House. The so-called “Family Time Flexibility Act,” H.R.1119, allows employers to give workers compensatory time off rather than time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours worked.

The cynically misnamed legislation undermines the 40-hour workweek and promises pay cuts for working families, many of whom depend on overtime pay to meet their living expenses.

Congressional Republicans and Corporate America claim that substituting “comp” time in the future for overtime pay today gives workers more flexibility in their schedules. Employers, however, retain veto power over employees’ decisions about when to take their time off.

That “flexibility” remains totally in the hands of the employer, explained Ross Eisenbrey, a vice president and policy director of the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute. “It’s nothing more than a scheme to allow employers to avoid paying for overtime—a scheme that will result in longer hours, lower incomes and less predictable workweeks for working men and women,” he said.

A vote could come as early as June 5. To make your voice heard on this issue, visit www.unionvoice.org/campaign/otvotejune5.

Job Losses Tied to Flawed Trade Pacts
The words “free trade” may have a cheerful resonance, but flawed trade policies have devastated the nation’s manufacturing base and cost millions of jobs. Manufacturing jobs are crucial to the American economy, noted Augustine Tantillio of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition.

Government leaders and others believed for much of the 90s that the country was moving from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based one, he told delegates to a manufacturing summit in Asheville, NC.  “Then the tech bubble burst and we began to learn a very hard lesson. There’s only a few ways to create wealth,” he said. “You either have to farm something, mine something or manufacture something.”

The economy is changing to a “Wal-Mart-based economy” of low-paying jobs, Tantillo said. The U.S. manufacturing sector has been declining for the past three years and the number of manufacturing workers today is less than in 1962. Policy makers have bought into the idea that free trade lowers prices with few ill effects, he added.

Consumers may save a little at the cash register because of the availability of cheap imports, but we all pay in the long run because of lost jobs, lost wages, a shrinking tax base and serious damage to our communities.

State Workers Win ‘Supreme’ Victory
 The U.S. Supreme Court handed state workers a major victory when it refused to strip away their rights to take time off for family and medical emergencies. In a surprising 6-to-3 decision, the nation’s highest court preserved the right of state workers to sue their employers for money damages under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The FMLA, passed by Congress after a long campaign by union activists and their allies, was the first legislation President Bill Clinton signed into law after his 1992 election.

“Without the FMLA, we could all be just one accident or tragic illness away from losing our job,” said Judith Lichtman, president of the National Council for Women & Families, a national advocacy group that fought alongside union activists for passage of the law. “No one should have to choose between keeping their job and caring for their families.”

IAM Assists NTSB in Public Hearing
Members of the District 141-M Flight Safety Committee were asked by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to participate in the cross examination of witnesses at a recent public hearing on the Jan. 8 crash of Air Midwest Flight 5481 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Monitoring air safety in the public interest and participating in the investigation of catastrophic aircraft accidents are among the responsibilities of the District 141-M Flight Safety Committee.

Present at the NTSB hearing were Director of Flight Safety Mikle Peat, Deputy Director Jay Hiles, Air Safety Investigators John Hall, Rudy Quevedo, Mike Madia and Phil Simpson. The hearing marks the 19th major aircraft investigation the District 141-M Flight Safety Committee has participated in since 1970.

No Defense for Cyber Soldiers
The limits of technology and the potentially fatal consequences of outsourcing came together recently in a chilling tale of soldiers forced to rely on private contractors for battlefield intelligence.

In the June issue of Wired Magazine, correspondent Joshua Davis uncovered the extent to which the U.S. military is relying on internet-based chat rooms and commercial help desks to relay critical logistical support to front-line troops.

Davis describes visiting a military command center in Qatar where soldiers managed an array of servers and regularly contacted a Microsoft help desk to correct browser and connection problems.

Yet, Microsoft has been on a mission recently to offshore as much work as possible. If defense functions such as tech support are sent overseas, U.S. troops could be counting on help from low-bid overseas contractors. That creates a number of potential national security issues, to say the least. Visit http://www.cyberlodge.org to read the full article.

Trustee to Oversee Hawaiian Restructuring
With input from Hawaiian Airlines’ Committee of Unsecured Creditors, the United States Trustee's Office this week named John Monahan to oversee the bankrupt carrier’s restructuring efforts. Monahan recently guided department store Liberty House out of bankruptcy following a filing in March 2001.

“Having been through a major Chapter 11 case only a few years ago, I know the employees have been through trying times,” said Monahan. “They are one of the strengths of the airline and I will be communicating with them continuously throughout the restructuring process.”

Bankruptcy Judge Robert Faris last month approved a request by Boeing Capitol to authorize a trustee to oversee Hawaiian Airlines' bankruptcy restructuring.