Thursday, September 24, 2009

Machinists File Lawsuit to Save Jobs

by Joelle Fishman

Reprinted from People's Weekly World Online 9/24/09

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Workers, elected officials and the entire labor movement are rallying to the aid of International Association of Machinists District 26 in their efforts, including a lawsuit, to save 1,050 jobs at two profitable Pratt & Whitney repair facilities in Connecticut. Parent company United Technologies (UTC) plans to outsource the jobs to Singapore and Japan where universal health care reduces labor costs.

"This is pure corporate greed. They just want to make more money," said one of the workers at the recent Connecticut AFL-CIO convention. Anger is high on the shop floor and workers are mobilized. Despite the millions of dollars the two operations have made for P&W and UTC, the company says it is moving for even higher profits.

After weeks of talks in which the union offered major concessions to keep the jobs in Connecticut, the company, which produces and maintains jet engines for commercial and military aircraft, announced it would not change its plans. The repair facility in Cheshire is slated to close by 2011 and a smaller repair unit in East Hartford is slated to close next year.

A "Workplace Guarantees Clause" in the union contract requires the company to meet with the union and make every reasonable effort to preserve work. The lawsuit has been filed on the basis that the company's decision was made prior to those talks.

In 1999 the IAM won a similar suit to save parts repair work in the East Hartford plant. In a dramatic result, trucks on their way to Texas had to turn around and replace the equipment in the East Hartford plant, where the work continues today. Union leaders say they expect to win this lawsuit as well.

State Treasurer Denise Nappier has called upon the top executives at UTC to reduce their compensation to save the 1,050 jobs at Pratt and the probable 5,000 additional jobs that would be lost in a ripple effect. She said the $20 million additional savings the corporation is seeking can be found in the $70 million compensation received by the company's top five executives in 2008.

During negotiations the union offered $80 million in wage cuts and other savings to the company and the State of Connecticut offered $100 million in assistance over five years.

On Sept. 22 union leaders were joined by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal at a press conference announcing the legal challenge to stop Pratt's plans to eliminate the Connecticut repair shop jobs. They emphasized that the company had apparently made its decision prior to the meet-and-confer process and never seriously considered any other alternatives.

At the biennial convention of the Connecticut AFL-CIO earlier this month, a resolution of solidarity was unanimously passed, calling for an investigation into the flight of capital. To revitalize manufacturing in this country, the resolution urged support for the TRADE Act introduced to Congress this year, which would set new rules for U.S. trade pacts including enforceable labor standards.

Speaking from the floor, IAM leader Bill Shortell said this latest attempt to take a third of the remaining workforce out of the state and country by a profitable company receiving government contracts is being opposed by the entire congressional delegation. "We need legislative tools," he said. "The multinationals have no nation. The Trade Act must be passed. Corporations must be controlled."

Ron Front, who works in the Middletown P&W plant, emphasized, "This affects every single one of us. We have to stop them now. Sending work overseas is unacceptable."

Sal Luciano, president of AFSCME Council 4, called for a strong message to the company. He said, "Pratt & Whitney is threatening to take the jobs to Japan and Singapore. Both have universal health care. It is happening to the rest of us, cutting down to the bottom."

The convention also unanimously passed a resolution in support of single-payer health care and held a rally demanding passage of health care reform with a public option.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Health Care for America Now Rally - Put People Before Profits!

At a rally in front of the insurance giant, Aetna, demonstrators demanded a public option to be part of the national health care legislation. The rally was one of 150 rallies throughout the United States that took place on September 22.

Photo Above: Part of the rally picket line in front of the Aetna home office in Hartford.

Big health insurance companies like Aetna are spending $641,000 a day to oppose reform because they profit by keeping the system as it denying claims, raising premiums, imposing co-pays and deductibles at will, making health care decisions instead of our doctors, and denying care because of pre-existing conditions.

Ron Williams, the Aetna CEO, made 24.3 million dollars last year and Aetna generated $31.6 billion dollars in revenue from 19 million customers. Enough!! It is time to put PEOPLE BEFORE PROFITS! At the conclusion of the rally an Aetna representative was presented with a list of demands that included:

* Insuring doctors rights to determine the health care of patients.
* Aetna stop denying coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions
* Stop giving incentives to employees for denying care and rejecting claims and
* Stop using consumers money to block health care reform

Other photos follow:

Photo above: Art Perry, center, represented a greedy CEO of the insurance industry who is making million while denying health care claims of million of consumers.

Photo above: 90 year ole Stella Keminski, in the wheelchair, demands a public option now!

Photo above: Amy Thompson, mother in center of photo with three children, has been denied medical care by her insurance company.

Photo above: Dorothy Strong, at the mic, and Diane Chapman from the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU speak out for health care reform. They provide daily living assistance to individuals who are developmentally disabled and need 24 hours assistance.

Photo above: Members of SEIU 32BJ who attended the rally demanding a public option now!

Photo above: Members of the new organization, "Connecticut Nurses 4 Health Care Reform," attended the rally with Dr. Stephen Smith.

Photo above: Ray Elling, who has difficulty walking, summarized the sentiment of the rally with the sign "HUMAN NEED not COOPERATE GREED. We DEMAND an authentic PUBLIC OPTION!"

By Tom Connolly

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Budget Victory!! The Millionaires Tax

After a long and hard fought fight over the state budget the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate, and a labor-community coalition, came away with an important victory. They passed a millionaires tax over Governor Rell's objection. Connecticut was one of only two states without a budget until it was recently passed.

Governor Rell, a Republican, adamantly refused to tax the wealth in Connecticut even though our state is one of the richest states in America. She chose to attack state services, children's services, people with disabilities, education and health care. Even after the state workers gave up almost 800 million dollars in concessions she still refused to tax the rich.

While Governor Rell's cuts will cause untold pain for working people and vulnerable groups in Connecticut, the millionaires tax is one very important victory. It establishes the precedent that the rich should pay their fair share of taxes and somewhat reduces the impact of Rell's cuts.

You can see examples of the peoples fight back in blog entry Aug. 25th and July 10th below.

By Tom Connolly

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Public Option for Health Care On the Move

Photo Above: Hundreds of people gathered to support national health care that includes a public option outside before Congressman Larson's hearing on health care in West Hartford, Connecticut. [Click on the photo for full screen]

The message was clear. Put people before profits and pass a national public option for health care. The supporters for the public option far outnumbered the opposition. There are about 46 million Americans without health insurance and millions more are one lay-off slip away from losing their health care.

Congressman Larson and Senator Dodd are two leaders in the fight for a public option. The entire Connecticut delegation with the exception of Senator Lieberman is in support of a public option.

Call your Congressional representative and Senator Dodd and thank them for leading the fight for the public option. Call Senator Lieberman and demand that he support a public option now!
Link to phone numbers:

Top Five Health Care Reform Lies—and How to Fight Back

See other photo's below.

Photo above: ..Hartford Community Activist Chorus rallies the crowd.

Photo above: John Olson, President of the Connecticut of the AFC-CIO speaks out for the public option.

Photo above: Nancy Burton, a nurse-midwife, spoke about how the current health care system negatively impacts clients and the need for a public option.

By Tom Connolly