Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Union Steward

When are these of lowly pay

With haggard look and hair of gray?

They get no rest by day or night.

They’re always wrong. They’re never right

They do not have a law degree

But go to bat for you and me

Though seldom have they been to college

They must have the widest knowledge

Of labor grades and when to grieve

Vacation pay and sickness leave

Of overtime and who’s to do it

Of coffee breaks and who’s to brew it

The how and which and why and when

And the problems of women and men

If, with forepersons they agree

Then they’re rats who’ve got weak knees

If, to workers they try to cater,

They’re branded as agitators

Those who have to take this job

Are called STEWARDS of your shop.


Thank Your

Union Representative

For their hard work

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Please do this for your country - and me

Please copy and print the letter below, sign it and mail it to your congressman. Then let me know you did that by phoning me at 574-772-3332 or email me at charlieav@embarqmail.com. If I can get enough of them mailed, my SOAR Chapter will get a free banner and I'll be very appreciative.

Thanks.

Charlie Averill

Here's the letter:



U. S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative ________________________

I am writing to inform you of the callous disregard David Cote, CEO of Honeywell and a member of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has for working families and urge you to demand his resignation from this Presidential Commission.

On June 28, Honeywell locked out 230 union workers at its hexafluoride plant in Metropolis, Illinois, even though they offered to continue working under the terms of their expired labor agreement. Under Cote’s leadership, Honeywell had proposed eliminating retiree health care and increasing workers’ out-of-pocket health care maximums to $8,500 a year. The union declined to accept that proposal and offered to continue working as they attempted to reach an agreement. Honeywell refused and instead locked out the workers.

A profitable company’s demands that workers and retirees relinquish health benefits and its locking out workers who offered to continue talks demonstrate that its CEO, David Cote, is out of touch with mainstream America and has absolutely no compassion for his fellow man. Anyone who would force their workers onto the streets in these times of economic uncertainty cannot competently or justly serve on a Commission charged with issuing recommendations that may impact our nation’s citizens for decades.

What we find extremely troubling is how Cote is proposing to end health insurance for retirees who were for years exposed on their job to hazardous materials, including substances listed as carcinogens by the Department of Energy. These workers suffer high cancer rates. Cote’s proposal to terminate their health insurance is cruel and inhumane.

Mr. Cote’s cruel and calculated behavior toward workers clearly illustrates that he’s unqualified and inappropriate to help decide issues such as whether to reduce the federal deficit by cutting crucial programs like Social Security or by upgrading the faulty military contracting process, from which Honeywell benefits. David Cote’s complete disregard for working Americans, makes him unfit to serve on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. He must be removed immediately, before he can use that position to harm more working people.


Sincerely,

Name _______________________________________________


Mailing address _______________________________________________

No Tax Cuts for the Rich

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

iTunes

Do you have the program iTunes on your computer?
If not, you should get it.
Every computer should have iTunes.
It's free and you can get it here.

Once the program is downloaded. Open it.
Then go to the iTunes Store.
In the upper right hand corner, search for The Voice of SOAR.
Then, look for the SOAR logo and click on Subscribe.
The podcast will downloaded to iTunes.
You can then click on the words Get All and all of the episodes for that podcast will be downloaded to your computer.
Podcasts are free and there are podcasts for any interest you may have.
They can either be heard right on your computer or if you have an iPod you can plug it into your computer and have them transferred to your iPod so you can listen to them later.
Give it a try.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Premium Reductions


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:

September 21, 2010 Jim Centner (412) 562-2575

Medicare and Medicaid Announce Premium Reductions in Medicare Advantage Program

(Pittsburgh) --The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today that seniors in the Medicare Advantage program would see an average one percent reduction in annual premiums in 2011, while benefits will remain similar to what was offered in 2010.

"This flies in the face of some of the lies being spread," said USW SOAR Director Jim Centner. "Critics from the right have claimed that the healthcare overhaul law would lead to companies abandoning the Medicare Advantage program in significant numbers and seniors facing higher premiums and reduced benefits."

SOAR says that this is another example of how the Affordable Care Act benefits seniors because it provides the CMS with ability to negotiate health plans in competitive marketplace.

"This combined with the closing donut hole for prescription drug coverage provides quality health care to seniors most in need," said Centner.

# # #

Monday, September 20, 2010

Help Do Away With Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Tomorrow afternoon, September 21, the U.S. Senate is to take up the defense authorization bill which contains language to overturn the military policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell which discriminates against gay and lesbian soldiers.

As I understand it, this issue has been festering for at least 17 years.

Senator John McCain from Arizona said at one point that if the military brass agreed with doing away with the policy, then he would consider going along with that.

Well, the military brass now agrees that to do away with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is the right thing to do. However, tomorrow, Senator McCain is expected to lead the Republicans in a filibuster of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Isn’t it time that we do away with this discriminatory policy in our military? Why must Americans always find someone to feel superior to? We’ve done it because of skin color. We’ve done it to women in the workplace. We do it with people who want to form unions. We do it with those of a different religion. We do it with undocumented immigrants.

When I served in the military 50 years ago, gay people were a threat. Not any more. Please call your U.S. Senator tomorrow and insist that they not participate in the filibuster because of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A September 11th Memory

September 11th, 2001

A September 11th Memory - by Charlie Averill

In September, 2001, a legislative internship program was developed for members of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR). The program was put together by the United Steelworkers Legislative office in Washington, D.C.

I, along with about ten other retirees took advantage of the program and checked into our motel in Arlington Virginia. On September 10, 2001, we reported to the legislative office for our orientation. The program was to begin the following day.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, while enjoying our coffee and listening to our first instructor, one of the workers came into the room, turned on the television, and told us to watch. As we saw the two planes crash into the World Trade Center and soon collapse, we also heard sirens outside our building as fire trucks, emergency vehicles and police headed towards Arlington where another plane crashed into the Pentagon.

Our building was locked and we were told that if we were to leave, we would not be allowed back in. We were told that the subway system, (Metro) was not in service.

I remember checking my email and seeing a message from my son to my wife Elaine, asking, “is Dad ok?”

I must say that only once before had I experienced the same feelings as produced on that day. It was the day my ship was returning from the Vietnam area and receiving a message by flashing light saying simply that, “The President has been shot” (President Kennedy).

A couple hours later we heard that the Metro was back in service. We were also told to head for home as the internship was put on hold and that we would be called back at a later date. We tried to get transportation out of Washington with no success. Planes were grounded, buses were booked solid, trains were out of the question as well. On the following Friday, we were able to rent a car. One of us, Don Badie, headed home to Florida. Dave Trach from Minnesota and myself also rented a car. We drove to Indiana were Dave stayed the night at my house and headed for Minnesota the following morning.

USWA/SOAR Legislative Internship Program

After writing an article to explain this photograph, I decided to check past issues of a SOAR Chapter newsletter that our SOAR Chapter puts out every other month. Success…..I was surprised that the two articles were very similar, proving that I still have some of my memory left.

Because so many steel companies have filed for bankruptcy due to the illegal dumping of foreign steel into our country, about 600,000 Steelworker retirees are in jeopardy of losing their medical insurance, and in some cases, part of their pensions.

These benefit costs, which companies overseas don’t have to deal with, are referred to as “legacy” costs.

Our Steelworkers Union and SOAR decided that it would be a good idea to include SOAR members in their lobbying efforts. I was asked to participate in this new program and reported to the USWA Political and Legislative Office in Washington D.C., (located just a few blocks north of the White House), on Monday, September 10th along with seven other members of SOAR.

A photograph was taken and an accompanying article about the program appeared on the cover of the Sept/Oct issue of the Oldtimer magazine.

And now….. The rest of the story:

On the second day of the program, Tuesday, September 11th, terrorists attacked our country. The Pentagon was hit by one of the planes. We watched the unfolding tragedy on television as the World Trade Center buildings came crashing down and we listened to the sirens as the police cars, ambulances and fire trucks raced to and from the Pentagon.

The subway (Metro) was shut down and our building was locked.

I remember checking my email and seeing a message from my son to my wife Elaine, asking, “is Dad ok?”

I must say that only once before had I experience the same feelings as produced on that day. It was the day my ship was returning from the Vietnam area and receiving a message by flashing light saying simply that, “The President has been shot” (President Kennedy).

Bill Klinefelter, USWA Legislative Director, and Jim Centner, SOAR Director, thought it best that the program be postponed until the situation returned to normal and we were advised to head for home.

Three of us had flown to Washington and were unable to catch either a flight, train or bus. Washington took on the appearance of a combat zone with Hummer vehicles on practically every corner manned by soldiers directing traffic for the passing ambulances and fire trucks. We were unable to get close enough to the Pentagon to get a good view or photo. Finally, on the following Friday we rented cars and headed for home.

I rode back to Indiana with Dave Trach, SOAR Executive Board Member from District 11 who lives in Minnesota. Dave stayed over night at my house and after breakfast the following morning, he headed for home.

The Internship was rescheduled for October 22 – November 9. Four retirees were able to make it. Upon reporting for work on the first day, we found fire trucks and police cars in front of building and the street blocked off. Apparently, a below ground level transformer had blown up. We entered the building through the rear entrance but about an hour later, the electricity was cut off and we were forced to evacuate the building until the following day.

Our original mission had been to lobby the Senate for passage of HR 808, the Steel Revitalization Act. The program was later changed to work on the Unemployment Compensation part of the “stimulus package” and it was again changed to find out if Senators would support an amendment to the stimulus package dealing with the legacy costs.

Senator’s offices, because of the anthrax problems, were extremely difficult to find. Their offices were closed for cleaning and they had set up their temporary offices in any closet or cubbyhole they could find. They were accepting no mail or faxes so we had an almost impossible mission of delivering material to them. Some of us got the feeling that their staffs were enjoying the disruption.

The experience I had in Washington D.C. was a very good one nevertheless. Like other things in life, practice makes perfect and I think I’m better able to do a decent job lobbying my congressmen than I otherwise would have been.

I hope our USWA and SOAR will continue this program.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Employee Rights

Employee Rights

The National Labor Relations Act extends rights to many private-sector employees including the right to organize and bargain with their employer collectively. Employees covered by the Act are protected from certain types of employer and union misconduct and have the right to attempt to form a union where none currently exists.

Examples of Your Rights As An Employee Under the NLRA Are:

  • Forming, or attempting to form, a union among the employees of your employer.
  • Joining a union whether the union is recognized by your employer or not.
  • Assisting a union in organizing your fellow employees.
  • Engaging in protected concerted activities. Generally, "protected concerted activity" is group activity which seeks to modify wages or working conditions.
  • Refusing to do any or all of these things. However, the union and employer, in a State where such agreements are permitted, may enter into a lawful union-security clause requiring employees to pay union dues and fees.
The NLRA forbids employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes, or engaging in protected concerted activities, or refraining from any such activity. Similarly, labor organizations may not restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of these rights.

Click on National Labor Relations Act to access the full text of the law.

The Toll of War - Howard Zinn

The Toll of War

Democracy flies out the window as soon as war comes along. So when officials in Washington talk about democracy, either here or abroad, as they take this country to war, they don't mean it. They don't want democracy; they want to run things themselves. They want to decide whether we go to war. They want to decide the lives and deaths of people in this country, and they certainly want to decide the lives and deaths of people in Iraq and all over the Middle East.

Faced with this attitude, our job is just a simple one: to stop them.

I am not going to go into the Bush arguments, if that's what they are. No, don't make me do that.

Don't make me point out the U.S. violations of international law.

Don't make me point out that even if Saddam Hussein has not gone along with this resolution or that resolution of the U.N. Security Council, the United States is about to violate the fundamental charter of the United Nations, which declares that nations may not initiate wars.

No, don't make me do that.

Don't make me point out how this fear of weapons of mass destruction does not extend to the United States. Bush officials think if they use that phrase "weapons of mass destruction" again and again and again that people will cower, cower, cower. Never mind that this fifth-rate military power is not even the strongest in the region. Israel, with 200 nuclear weapons, has that distinction. Bush is not demanding that Ariel Sharon rid himself of his weapons of mass destruction or face "regime change."

The media are a pitiful lot. They don't give us any history, they don't give us any analysis, they don't tell us anything. They don't raise the most basic questions: Who has the most weapons of mass destruction in the world by far? Who has used weapons of mass destruction more than any other nation? Who has killed more people in this world with weapons of mass destruction than any other nation? The answer is simple: the United States.

Please, I don't want to hear anything more about Saddam Hussein's possibly making a nuclear bomb in two years, in five years, nobody knows. We have 20,000 nuclear weapons.

No, I don't want to talk about that. It's not worth talking about.

I'd like to make a few general points about war. I was a bombardier in the Air Force during World War II. I say this not to indicate that I am an expert on war--although, in fact, I am. People who've served in the military, they have a thousand different view points, so nobody can say, "Oh, I served in the military therefore you have to listen to me." However, in my case. . . . I served in the best of wars. The neatest of wars. The war that killed the most people, but for good purpose. The war that had wonderful motives, at least on the part of some people. But that war ended with Hiroshima and Nagasaki and was interspersed with other atrocities committed by the good guys against the bad guys. I, being one of the good guys, feel very proud that I was on the good side, and that if atrocities were to be committed, they were to be committed by good guys.

One point: War always has unintended consequences. You start a war, you never know how it ends.

Another point: By now we have reached a point in human history when the means of war have become so horrible that they exceed any possible good that come out of using those means.

Since World War II, war has taken its toll increasingly against civilians. In World War I, there was a ten-to-one ratio of military personnel killed versus civilians, whereas in World War II that ratio got closer to one-to-one. And after World War II, most of the people who have gotten killed in wars were civilians.

And by the way, I don't want to really make the distinction-and this is something to think about-between innocent civilians and soldiers who are not innocent. The Iraqi soldiers whom we crushed with bulldozers, toward the end of the Gulf War in 1991, in what way were they not innocent? The U.S. Army just buried them--buried them--hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them. What of the Iraqi soldiers the United States mowed down in the so-called Turkey Shoot as they were retreating, already defeated? Who were these soldiers on the other side? They weren't Saddam Hussein. They were just poor young men who had been conscripted.

In war you kill the people who are the victims of the tyrant you claim to be fighting against. That's what you do.

And wars are always wars against children. In every war, unforgivable numbers of children die.

This brings me to the last general point I want to make. We ought to really remind our neighbors, remind our friends, remind everybody we can that if we really believe that all people are created equal we cannot go to war.

If we really believe that the children of Iraq have as much a right to live as the children of the United States, then we cannot make war on Iraq.

And if we're going to have globalization, let's have a globalization of human rights. Let's insist that we consider the lives of people in China and Afghanistan and Iraq and Israel and Palestine--that we consider the lives of all these people--equal to one another, and therefore war cannot be tolerated.

-- Howard Zinn is the author of "A People's History of the United States." This article is adapted from a speech Zinn delivered in Madison, Wisconsin, on October 10.