A storm of solidarity

AFL-CIO unions are recruiting 1,000 rank-and-file members across the country to provide assistance in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. Volunteers can sign up at www.aflcio.org/hurricane.

Delegates to the Communications Workers convention voted to send up to $4 million in hurricane relief aid to help CWA families in the area.

The American Federation of Teachers, the Airline Pilots, Air Traffic Controllers, Fire Fighters, Machinists, Postal Workers, Federal Government Employees, TV and radio artists, and the Steelworkers have also established hurricane relief funds to aid their members’ recovery.

The United Steelworkers said that thousands of USW members live and work in the Gulf area affected by the hurricane, and most of the companies its members work for — oil refineries, steel mills, paper mills and a large variety of manufacturing facilities — are shut down due to water and wind damage and lack of electric power, leaving many workers without income.

Picketing Smokey Joe

ARLINGTON, Texas — The offices of GOP Rep. Joe Barton were picketed on Aug. 31 by a large group of unionists and supporters led by the United Auto Workers. Similar activities were going on across a 17-state region of the union.

Barton led the congressional effort to pass the recent energy bill, which helped big oil companies but nobody else. Barton is known in North Texas as “Smokey Joe” because a great deal of the noxious air pollution comes from companies in his district. He protects polluters, even while he heads the congressional committee that is supposed to regulate them. The protesters had to carry out their mission while the ozone alert was “Condition Red!”

Protesters also carried AFL-CIO signs against privatizing Social Security. A handful of peace activists with “No to Big Oil” signs joined in.

NWA safety defects

As the strike of Northwest Airlines mechanics entered its third week, the company contacted the Professional Flight Attendants Association with a proposal to outsource as many as 5,600 jobs, over half of that work force. The Air Line Pilots Association is also being asked to amend its contract to eliminate over 1,000 pilots and accept a 22 percent pay cut. Both unions have continued working during the mechanics strike. The airline is threatening to file for bankruptcy if its demands are not met.

Meanwhile, Federal Aviation Administration inspector reports are not being entered into the agency’s database, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. If they were, an alert and risk assessment of the airline would have been triggered. An FAA inspector charged that 58 percent to 90 percent of inspectors’ reports since the strike began cited defects. The pre-strike defect rate was 3 to 5 percent. A 9 percent defect rate would trigger an internal FAA alert. Since the strike began, the airline’s maintenance has been done by newly recruited nonunion mechanics.

Labor update is compiled by Roberta Wood. (rwood@pww.org). Jim Lane contributed.