iMail Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Border Patrol Agents Issues Outsourced Uniforms

Reminiscent of the 2001 debacle where Chinese-made black berets were supplied to U.S. soldiers, new uniforms issued to the U.S. Border Patrol, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, are made in the very country whose border the Agents are patrolling.

"Agents are amazed and embarrassed to find that their new shirts and trousers are manufactured in Mexico," said Rich Pierce, executive vice president of the 16,000-member National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents Border Patrol agents.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Department awarded a $30 million contract to VF Solutions of Nashville to supply uniforms for 30,000 border agents and customs inspectors.

Officials explained that the contract allowed the company to subcontract work outside the United States to plants in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The debate over the outsourcing of U.S. jobs to foreign countries is a hot topic in the presidential race and will likely intensify as November draws near.

Trade Deficit Soars Again

The U.S. Commerce Department reported Monday that the U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly widened to a record $48.3 billion in April.

The main factors behind the jump are the increasing shift of production overseas and skyrocketing oil prices. In fact, imports came in at a record $142.3 billion, while exports fell off slightly.

The threatening trade gap with China also saw an increase in April, jumping 15 percent to $12 billion.

It also appears that the overall U.S. trade gap will break last years record $496.5 billion deficit.

“It looks like our appetite for imports continues to outweigh our ability to export. At some point, we are expecting that the weaker dollar will help the trade deficit to narrow, but we haven’t seen that yet,” said chief economist at A.G. Edwards and Sons in St. Louis, Gary Thayer, in a Reuters article.

“Trade pundits are missing the point. American consumers aren’t demanding imported goods,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “Consumers don’t have a choice where the product is made because American corporations are moving production overseas as fast as they can.”

Weyerhaeuser Employees Ratify Four Year Agreement

Woodworkers District W1 members in two states narrowly ratified a new agreement with the Weyerhaeuser Company for a four-year contract.
A key item on the table was health insurance, an issue all too familiar with workers across America. The new agreement with Weyerhaeuser maintains the health and welfare plan while providing affordable coverage for retirees plus improvements in pensions, wages and vacations.
The agreements cover nearly 2,200 IAM members in Oregon and Washington State.

Silicon Wafer Giant Must Recognize 120 New Machinists

A 26-month battle to organize 120 maintenance employees at MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc. in St. Peters, Missouri was won in the 8 th Circuit Court of Appeals on June 9 th. Business Rep and Organizing Coordinator Mark Conner said it was the toughest campaign he has seen in his 7 years as an organizer.

The company, which produces silicon wafers for semiconductors, fought hard to block the organizing drive. Conner filed more than 25 unfair labor practice charges against the company and the IAM prevailed for the workers at MEMC.

DBR Roger Poole congratulated all the members and District 9’s officers and staff who helped in the fight for representation. “It’s now time to focus and concentrate on the first agreement,” Conner added.

IAM Welcomes new Montigo Del Ray Members

Fifty-five workers from Montigo Del Ray Corporation in Ferndale, WA have recently joined IAM. Montigo Del Ray, whose parent company is Canadian Heating Products, Inc. located in Surry, BC, manufactures gas fireplaces and accessories.

Members and Business Representative Clarence Harper of District 160 overcame cultural barriers—the majority of Montigo Del Ray workers are Spanish-speaking citizens—to succeed in signing the new members with a 91% win in only three days.

The IAM welcomes our new members as does Harper who said, “I have been extremely fortunate to work with a great group of people including GLR's Paula Ross and Joel Ochoa, the Business Representatives of District 160 and the employees at Montigo Del Ray. I would especially like to mention Dan Morgan who traveled from Olympia to Ferndale daily to help with the campaign and show solidarity and support.”