Sunday, July 30, 2006

Chocola's True Colors

Dembowski Endorsed by Retirees

News Release

The Executive Board of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) Chapter 30-18, had no difficulty recently in unanimously endorsing Nancy Dembowski, candidate for Indiana House District 17. This chapter of SOAR is composed of former employees of NIPSCO.

Mrs. Dembowski, the former Mayor of Knox, Indiana, and former State Senator, assured the organization that she would be responsive to the local needs of working families and retirees before downstate politics. Also, she said that doing the right thing by our children and grandchildren is more important to her than short-term political gain and quick cash.

She also said she would fight to relieve the burden of rising property taxes, and ensure that the Legislature actually consider the impact of how every law they debate effects working families and retirees.

The chapter was impressed with the fact that Nancy Dembowski’s late husband, Ed, was a former Steelworker and an active member of SOAR. Nancy has been an active member of SOAR for several years.

The chapter was pleased by the fact that Nancy found the time to speak to the retirees on their first request. Chapter President, Charlie Averill noted, “We’ve been trying to get our current State Representative to come to one of our meetings for two years now, but he’s just been unresponsive.”

Charlie went on to say, “Both our state representative, Steve Heim, and our U. S. Congressman, Chris Chocola, do not vote with the best interest of Indiana citizens at the forefront.”

“Even though the majority of people opposed the leasing of the Indiana Toll Road, Representative Heim voted against the wishes of his constituents, and voted the way Governor Daniels wanted him to vote. On the national level, Congressman Chocola has a miserable voting record with regards to issues which would help the average Indiana citizen, particularly on those issues affecting working families and retirees.”

“It is pretty sad and downright maddening how our government is not “of and for the people” anymore. We need to make a change and I think that supporting Nancy is the first step in regaining a fair and equal playing field for all Indiana citizens.”

Source: Elaine Averill, SOAR Chapter 30-18 Recording Secretary

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tentative Agreement At BFGoodrich

July 25, 2006

(Knoxville, Tenn.) -- The United Steelworkers (USW) announced this evening that a tentative agreement has been reached at BFGoodrich. The master agreement covers 4,000 members at three plants in Fort Wayne, In., Tuscaloosa, Ala. and Opelika Ala. BFGoodrich was designated last month as the target company in establishing an agreement in the tire industry. Master contracts are also being negotiated at Goodyear and Bridgestone/Firestone.

Details of the tentative agreement will not be released until membership at the three locals conduct informational meeting on the proposed contract. Ratification votes will then take place at the three locations. A "majority of the majority" will be required for contract ratification. This means that 50% plus one vote overall and two-of-the three locals must vote to accept the tentative agreement for it to become contract.

"We believe we achieved our industry goals when it comes to protecting retiree health care benefits and securing additional job protection measures for our active members," said USW executive vice president Ron Hoover.

Typically, informational meetings and ratification votes take place within two weeks of announced tentative agreement.

The USW represents some 70,000 members in the tire, rubber and plastics industry, and 850,000 overall in the U.S. and Canada.
Source: Steelworkers website

Friday, July 21, 2006

Bush's NLRB

Report Points to Unfair and Inconsistent Rulings in Favor of Employers

The Democratic staff led by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, have produced a 25-page report detailing how the rulings of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have either taken away or "severely restricted" the rights of millions of workers to organize into unions over the past five years.

"President Bush has filled the NLRB with anti-union members who have made it more difficult for workers to organize a labor union," Miller said in a statement releasing the report, Workers' Rights Under Attack by Bush Administration: President Bush's National Labor Relations Board Rolls Back Labor Protections. The NLRB has "used double standards, rationales, and unfair, inconsistent rulings to give employers more power over workers," he said.

The report lists several large groups of workers who have been excluded from the protection of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by ruling that they are not employees.

Examples of hypocrisy and unfairness are highlighted as the NLRB applies double standards to supervisors' anti-union and pro-union conduct. In one such case, when a supervisor campaigned against a union, the NLRB deemed it free speech. When a supervisor campaigned for a union, however, the Bush Board overturned the entire union election.

The Bush Administration continues to undermine an already weak federal labor law, as Democrats fight to "strengthen workers' protections" through the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 1696, S. 842). The legislation, which would require employers to recognize a union through a "card-check" process that does not include a formal election, has 216 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House and 43 in the Senate, but the Republican leadership has refused to give the bill a hearing or a vote.

The summary concludes that "millions of workers have lost their right to organize into unions, their basic rights have been trampled, and businesses have essentially been given free rein to make it as difficult as possible for their employees to organize."
Source: USW website

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Oman Free Trade Agreement

Our National Security is at Risk!

This week, lawmakers in the House of Representatives discovered alarming provisions
in the text of the Oman Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that could have major
implications for our national security interests.

• Under the agreement, companies such as Dubai Ports World – the same
operation that set off a political firestorm earlier this year when they tried to
purchase the right to operate our ports – could set up in Oman and then attempt
to acquire a U.S. port operation.

• Even if Congress opposes this, the Oman FTA would allow the company to drag
the U.S. in front of UN or World Bank tribunals to demand our country
compensate them for any lost profits!

• This could happen with our ports or other national security assets.

Is this really the time for Congress to consider an agreement that not only puts workers
at risk, but also our national security? How much more can we bow down to corporate

Supporters of the Oman FTA are working overtime to play down this news. Don’t let
that happen! The vote in the House is scheduled for TODAY.
Please make sure to call your Representative and pressure him or her to vote against the Oman Free Trade Agreement. As a reminder, the toll-free number for the Capitol Switchboard is 866-340-9279.

Source: USW Rapid Response

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Peabody Miners: Fed Up and Fired Up

Mine Workers (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts often says: “When you get fed up and fired up, you got to get ready to stand up.” Coal miners are standing up in the coalfields across the country, demanding to be treated with respect and to have a voice to make sure their jobs are well paid and safe.

In recent years, the UMWA has responded to the requests of hundreds of nonunion miners at Peabody Energy’s facilities across the country for assistance in getting a voice at work. In December 2005, workers at 19 Peabody mines in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia launched the Justice at Peabody campaign.

Says John Cox, a miner at Peabody’s Farmersburg (Ind.) mine:
I pay anywhere between $300 to $500 a month in prescription drug costs because of Peabody’s sub-par health benefit package. Only with a union contract will we have better pay and benefits because it’s obvious Peabody is not going to give it to us.

Peabody, the world’s largest private coal company, provides 10 percent of the nation’s electricity and 3 percent of the world’s power and employs some 8,300 miners at 33 mines in nine states. Peabody systematically closed its union mines and replaced production with nonunion mines over the past 15 years, says Bob Gaydos, UMWA’s_assistant organizing director.

Another Peabody miner, Greg Arnold of Indiana, took part in a December rally at Peabody headquarters in St. Louis, where he said his mine shift involves “eleven-hour shifts Monday through Friday, then another eight hours on Saturday—without a lunch break.” Despite this grueling 63-hours-a-week schedule, he receives no sick days. “I’d like a voice about my job—a seat at the table,” Arnold said.

A union contract also goes a long way toward improving safety conditions—with the danger of mines illustrated this year by the deaths of 33 miners, five in Harlan County, Ky., and 12 who were killed Jan. 2 in the Sago Mine explosion in West Virginia. More miners have died on the job this year than in any full year since 2001, when 42 were killed. More than 90 percent of the miners killed this year worked in nonunion mines.

Late last month, more than 1,500 miners and their supporters rallied in Wharton, W.Va., to call for the freedom of Peabody mine workers to join a union.

Roberts says the Peabody miners work in a climate of fear:
Workers have a basic human right to form a union where they work. And they have a right to do that without being subjected to intimidation from the company, without being fearful of losing their jobs, without having to go through a campaign of half-truths and outright lies from the company’s union-busting consultants.

The climate of fear that permeates non-union mines throughout America’s coalfields must end, and end now. Non-union miners are afraid that if they speak up about safety, they’ll get fired. They’re afraid that if they speak up about getting decent pensions and better health care for their families, they’ll get fired.

Cox recently took the fight for a union at Peabody to Dugger, Ind., where the town council was considering a resolution supporting the miners’ quest for a voice at work.
We work long hours and most weekends. When we retire, we have no pension and no health insurance.

After Cox spoke, the council unanimously adopted the resolution supporting the rights of the area’s Peabody miners to organize a union free from employer interference. The resolution, passed July 6, calls on Peabody to allow its employees to choose freely whether to join a union. The resolution requests Peabody remain neutral and not resort to the use of pressure tactics, such as threats to close the mine, if the workers choose a union.

Says June Rostan, lead community organizer for the Peabody campaign:
I think the miners should have the right to decide whether they want to be union. Peabody workers like Cox are using their community ties and political strength to garner strong support from residents and leaders in towns where the mines are located. The Peabody miners are asking elected leaders in every town in which they work and live to pass a resolution similar to the one in Dugger.

The people in these towns support unions because they know the effect a union can have on their communities. Lots of folks in these towns receive Mine Workers health care benefits when they retire [from union mines] and they know firsthand how a union can be good for the town.

Other local councils that have passed resolutions include Kentucky’s Union County Fiscal Court (the equivalent of the county council) and city councils in Morton’s Gap, Ky., Boonville, Ind., Danville Township, Ill., and Nortonville, Ky.

The AFL-CIO and the local religious community is backing the miners’ struggle, and last month, the United Methodist West Virginia Area Conference adopted a resolution urging Peabody “to be truly neutral with respect to employees’ rights to form or join a union and to voluntarily recognize a union when a majority of their employees sign authorizations.”

To level the playing field for workers trying to form unions, AFL-CIO unions, including the UMWA, are supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. The legislation, which has 259 co-sponsors in the House and Senate, would strengthen workers’ freedom to choose union representation through a majority sign-up process. It also would provide for binding arbitration of first-contract disputes and authorize stronger penalties for violations of labor law when workers seek to form a union.

by James Parks
Source: AFL-CIO Blog

Friday, July 14, 2006

Social Security Under Attack

The Bush Administration released its mid-session budget review on Tuesday, and it included a proposal to spend $721 billion over the next ten years to privatize Social Security - $9 billion more than originally proposed. In a speech on the budget, President Bush specifically alluded to the cuts to Social Security benefits which would be required as part of his plan, saying, "We need to cut entitlement spending." Americans United, a coalition that includes the Alliance and was crucial to beating back privatization efforts last year, is mounting a renewed campaign to call attention to individual politicians' positions on the issue. The group is drafting scripts for a national media campaign against candidates and incumbents, including Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL). Americans United plans to begin the advertising blitz no later than the first week in August, kicking off in as many as five of its nearly 20 targeted states.

Previously, on a June 20 party-line vote, the Senate Budget Committee approved in a bill, S. 3521, a separate assault on Social Security that uses the line-item veto to make major changes in Federal budget laws. While described as a measure to restore fiscal discipline, the legislation actually represents a sneak attack on Social Security and Medicare. If enacted, S. 3521 would establish two commissions, either of which could be used to privatize Social Security and make deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits. The “entitlements commission” would study Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and propose changes to these programs. The “sunset commission” is designed to evaluate Federal programs and then eliminate or modify them as the commission sees fit. The recommendations of both commissions would be considered under fast track procedures, allowing little public notice or debate, and few, if any, opportunities for senators to offer amendments. “The line item veto is often described as a tool to eliminate wasteful, ‘pork barrel spending,’ but this line item veto goes much further,” said Edward Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “This could be used to eliminate improvements to Medicare and Social Security.”

Source: Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert July 14, 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

CEO-Minimum Wage Ratio Soars

In 2005, an average Chief Executive Officer (CEO) was paid 821 times as much as a minimum wage earner, who earns just $5.15 per hour. An average CEO earns more before lunchtime on the very first day of work in the year than a minimum wage worker earns all year.

This extreme compensation ratio reflects both the extraordinary growth of CEO pay and also the diminishing value of the federal minimum wage that has not been raised since 1997: adjusting for inflation, the purchasing power of the minimum wage is now at its lowest since 1955.

The ratio wasn't always so extreme. As recently as 1978, CEOs were paid only 78 times as much as minimum wage earners.

Written by Economic Policy Institute (EPI) president Lawrence Mishel.