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Tuesday,  June 10,  2003

IAM Opens GE Talks
IAM Vice President Bob Thayer led the negotiating  team that kicked off what promises to be an intensive bargaining session for a new contract at General Electric Corp. Job security, health care provisions and pension protections topped the list of issues provided by a comprehensive survey of the 2,800 IAM members at GE.

“We’re not here to negotiate a strike, we’re here to negotiate a contract,” Thayer said in his opening remarks kicking off the talks in Waukesha, WI.  “But if the company doesn’t pay close attention to our issues, that could all change,” he warned.

Union negotiators wore badges declaring that: My GE Job is Worth Fighting For. “That’s not an empty slogan,” Thayer said. “From talking with our members and judging by their responses to our surveys, they stand in solidarity on our issues.”

He urged IAM members at GE locations to show that solidarity by wearing those badges throughout the negotiating sessions. “Let them know you stand with us on our issues. Solidarity has always been a strength of the Fighting Machinists. Let them know how you feel.”

Medicare Reform Plan Has Flawed Drug Benefit
The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on June 12th on a Medicare reform bill that includes an inadequate prescription drug benefit and threatens the future of guaranteed medical coverage for seniors. A full vote by the Senate could occur as early as June 27th.

The bipartisan bill crafted by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is “a shameful betrayal of older Americans,” according to Alliance For Retired Americans President George Kourpias. “The Grassley-Baucus plan allows private insurers and HMOs to set premiums and determine who is covered and where coverage is available. It doesn’t help all seniors, does nothing to reduce skyrocketing prescription drug costs and does not stop private insurers from dropping coverage when seniors need it most.”

The Grassley-Baucus bill will also put pressure on employers to drop employer-provided prescription drug coverage for retirees. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that three million retires will lose their current prescription drug coverage. Call your senators at 202-224-3121 or click here to send a pre-written email message from the Action Alert section of www.goiam.org opposing the Grassley-Baucus bill

New IAM Department Offers Health Insurance
Out-of work IAM members and their families now have a less expensive alternative to COBRA, the costly and temporary insurance program for unemployed workers.

The IAM Employment Services Department and Employment Benefits Systems (EBS), a major provider of health insurance policies, is offering three health care plans for out-of-work IAM members and their families. The plans provide the same coverage as COBRA insurance, but at a much lower cost.

The temporary and permanent major medical plans are available in 40 states and have a range of benefits, deductibles and eligibility requirements. For more information about the program, contact Tony Chapman, director of the IAM Employment Services Department, or visit their new website at http://www.goiam.org/visit.asp?c=4421.

Unions Notch Overtime Win
A coalition of labor sensitive Democrats and Republicans took their cue from more than 200,000 letter writing union activists and forced the House Republican leadership to cancel a vote on the latest comp time bill, cynically named the “Family Time Flexibility Act.”

“After pushing the bill for months, the Republican leadership finally realized that not all of their members would blindly go along with unraveling the basic right to overtime pay, which could literally take billions out of the paychecks of working families,” said AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney.

The victory marks the second time in recent weeks that House Republicans were forced to pull the comp time bill just before a vote.

“We won an important battle, but the far right’s war on workers rights is far from over,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “Until there is a fundamental change in personnel and policy in Washington, we will continue to measure victory by what we prevent rather that by what we achieve.”

 EPI Study Slams Amtrak Privatization
A new study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) examined the 1994-1996 privatization of the British passenger rail system and found increased delays, serious accidents and higher ticket costs. The study’s authors also found numerous similarities between the failed British experiment and the current proposal by the Bush administration to privatize Amtrak.

The report, titled Amtrak Privatization: The Route to Failure questions assumptions by privatization advocates that Amtrak must be judged a ‘failure’ if it cannot independently sustain the full range of its costs and operating expenses. “The fact is that no transportation mode in the United States pays for itself,” says the EPI report. “The insistence on Amtrak showing a profit is an effort to impose a highly selective business model on what is really a public service.”

The report argues for more, not less support for Amtrak. “This is not the time to withdraw public investment in the nation’s passenger rail service. This is the time to begin formulating a forward looking national passenger rail policy, building on the strengths of Amtrak to improve the performance of the U.S. economy.”

The full EPI report is available online at www.epinet.org

Hooper Elected to Texas
Labor-Management Hall of Fame

The Texas Labor-Management Conference elected Southern Territory General Vice President George Hooper to the Texas Labor Management Hall of Fame. Hooper was part of the inaugural induction, along with AFL-CIO Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson and Texas State AFL-CIO President Joe Gunn.

In electing GVP Hooper to the Hall of Fame, delegates declared that “George Hooper has been a staunch advocate of Labor-Management cooperation whenever possible during his long career.”

“GVP Hooper has worked with many management groups in different industries and brought about several success stories,” said TXLM Chairman Bob Martinez.

“I’m very honored,” said GVP Hooper. “To be in the Hall of Fame standing beside Linda Chavez-Thompson and Joe Gunn, who have both done so much for working families in Texas, is deeply touching.”

More Service Contract Act Wins for District 75
District 75 won three elections in one week, bringing in new members in Pensacola, FL; Panama City, FL, and Moody AFB, GA. Ten workers in the Precision Measuring Equipment Laboratory for Yulista Management Services at Moody AFB voted unanimously on May 29 to join the IAM.

The same day, seven Aircraft Maintenance workers for DynCorp Technical Services in Panama City, FL voted for IAM representation. On June 3, fuel workers at Doss Aviation in Pensacola, FL voted 17-1 for the IAM.

“Our success is due to the strong contracts we already have. People who aren’t represented see the contracts the IAM has, and they want the same,” said District 75 Organizer Ray Moffatt.

“Congratulations to DBR B. R. Brownell, DL 75 Organizer Ray Moffatt, and the entire District 75 Staff,” said Southern Territory GVP George Hooper. “They’re doing a great job finding ways to grow our union during very tough times. I know they will keep it up.”

GOP Re-map Ploy Goes Awry
The roots of Republican efforts to re-draw Congressional districts in Texas, Colorado and elsewhere plunge deeply into the muck of sordid political partisanship. “We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals and turn them toward bitter nastiness,” boasted Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform and a one-time adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.  “Bipartisanship is another name for date rape,” Norquist claimed.

Republican re-districting efforts flopped in Texas, after 51 Democrats snuck out of town and left the state legislature without a forum. That ploy led Rep. Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who serves as House Majority leader, to unleash the hounds. His efforts to involve elements of the Homeland Security Administration in the search for the disappearing Democrats sparked a firestorm of media criticism. Congressional Democrats demanded a full investigation of the affair.

See who works for you, how the IAM is structured, and what services the IAM offers. Go to: IAM profiles for 2003.

The 108th Congressional Directory . . .
get your copy. Send $5 to the MNPL Education Fund, c/o IAMAW, 9000 Machinists Place, Upper Marlboro, MD, 20772.

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