The News From Our Side
March 25, 1999

1. "We have a deal", proclaimed Bill McGlashen, flight attendant union representative for the flight attendants of America West outside the National Mediation Board last weekend. The contract is the first negotiated contract between the AFA and America West since the flight attendants chose the union for representation in 1994. Mr. McGlashen said the contract provides for fair wages, per diem and work rules which will improve their quality of life. The agreement averted planned union activities to disrupt operations at the airline. Rank and file members will now vote to accept or refuse the contract. The contract covers all 1300 attendants and covers a 5 year span. Negotiations between American Airlines and the APA are also ongoing with problems continuing with the airline wanting to bump Reno pilots to full pay gradually. Lengthy contract negotiations have also caused heated words with flight attendants at US Air. Negotiations at US Air have been ongoing for 2 years, US Air is asking for major vacation and sick leave concessions while enjoying healthy profits that were achieved on past rank and file concessions.

2. In the current release of the AFL-CIO weekly labor update, "Work-in-Progress", they report 109,000 new members for 1999. Labor unions across the country last year promised to devote more time and money to recruit new members. While these numbers in the report continue to increase with additional organizing practices, they do not keep up with loss of union jobs at continuous plant closings across the country. High tech and service industry jobs continue to be an increasing focus area for organizing efforts. Manufacturing and chemical processing jobs continue to leave the country for less stringent labor and environmental laws in other countries.  International labor organizations have also stepped up their practices to combat foreign investors from dumping cheap wages and environmentally toxic practices on thier countries. The AFL-CLO continues to work with International labor organizations to bring standards up in their countries.  This practice of joint cooperation will benefit all American workers, union and non-union alike.

3. If you like space exploration and movies you might want to check out October Sky, which has recently been release by Universal Studios. The movie is the life story of Homer Hickam Jr., a member of the Professional and Technical Engineers Local 27 in Huntsville, Alabama. It is based on Mr. Hickams book, Rocket Boys, recounting his lifelong passion for rockets. It also provides an account of life in Appalachia in the 1950's. Mr. Hickam is a native of Coalwood, West Virginia which was a company town where housing, the local store and even the local pastor were provided by the coal company.  Both the book and the movie show the conflict between his father, the mine superintendant and the Mine Workers. They recount how the 1957 launch of Sputnik moved Mr. Hickam and his high school friends to experiment with rockets and eventually won the gold medal at the National Science Fair. So what does Mr. Hickam do for a living today? He works at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama training international crews for the space station.

4. Oil and gas unions have formed a new solidarity network in the western hemisphere.  Trade unions who represent hundreds of thousands of oil and gas workers in North & South America, Central America and the Caribbean met in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago to announce the new network. The meeting was coordinated by the 20 million strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers Union (ICEM) who will coordinate the network.  The unions represent workers in 12 countries: Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, the United States and Uruguay. They represent all trades in the industry from exploration, refining, distribution and marketing.  They elected a steering committee of six members. Errol McLeod, President of the Oilfield Workers Union of Trinidad & Tobago was elected chairman. 

The unions realized they face many common challenges including privatization and threats of this, violence of governments and employers against union leaders and activists, union busting, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, and the common practice of multi-national companies playing workers in different countries against each other. McLeod said "multinational companies have strengthened their stranglehold over natural resources and oil and gas markets worldwide, without regard to national borders. Oil and gas workers have no choice but to unite with each other on a regional and global basis for the common cause. Oil and gas workers are tired of being victims of globalization. The creation of this new network is the beginning of a new organized resistance."

5. The UNION BUSTER OF THE WEEK AWARD this week goes out to General Electric and their CEO, Jack Welch. General Electric has chosen to close four plants including one in Memphis, Tennessee and to transfer work at other plants. Company officials have refused to agree on any moratorium of future plant closings. CEO Welch made almost $97 million last year and prefers to put workers on the street with 30 years seniority.  Welch and other GE officials prefer to "let the good times roll". The Coordinated Bargaining Committee (CBC) of General Electric Unions has planned a "Save Our Jobs" rally for June 26 to protest these corporate excesses. Edward Fire, President of the Electronic Workers, chairs the CBC.

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