Tuesday, August 12,  2003

Picket Lines Solid at Crown Cork and Seal
Nearly 200 members of IAM Local 10 have been on strike for almost two months at a Crown Cork and Seal facility in Winchester, VA. The picket lines went up when the company insisted on huge increases in healthcare coverage, according to Steve Spaid, Local 10 president.

“Those hikes would have wiped out the pensions for many of our retirees,” he said. In addition, he said members had only one small pay hike over the past six years and refused to see their healthcare and pensions go down the drain.

“I’ve never fought for anything like this ever before,” declared Linda Pennington, a tow motor driver who’s spent 29 years at the facility. “I’ve put my whole working life into this company. I’ve worked hard, given my best. They have no respect for me. That’s just not fair. I’ll be here till the bitter end.”

Truck horns blared as passing drivers signaled support for the strikers. Passenger vehicles, too, joined the chorus as motorists lifted clenched fists and flashed V-for-victory signs.

For a time, the picketers had the support of a giant inflatable rat. They draped a Crown Cork and Seal sign about its neck and parked it in a prominent position near the company’s facility. “ We got lots of comments about that rodent,” laughed Howard Schluter, a striking mechanic. “It’s as simple as can be. We want a fair contract and we want it now.”

Medicare Bills Draw Heavy Fire
As proposed Medicare legislation comes under fire from senior citizens, the nation’s news media is beginning to focus on the fine print. The Los Angeles Times said the Medicare reform bills will leave seniors feeling “angry and cheated” because they are “incomprehensible” and also because the plans would “create dozens of mind-boggling complex private plans under which even the best-educated consumers would be hard-pressed to make comparisons.”

“Seniors don’t like what they’re seeing, hearing and reading about the proposed Medicare reform legislation,” according to George J. Kourpias, president of the Alliance for Retired Americans. A recent Harris poll supports that assessment. The survey found that 52 percent of those polled think it would be better to oppose the plan and fight for a more generous benefit even if it is unlikely to pass any time soon.

“That’s good news for older Americans,” Kourpias said. “When the actual details finally see the light of day, there is no way retirees and their families will accept the dismantling of Medicare in exchange for a prescription drug benefit that, for millions, will leave them worse off than they are now.”

(from left) IAM member Nancylee Waters joins Community Services Chair Sharon Connors, LL 700 President Daniel R. Jones and Trustee Mel Tripp in unloading $1,000 worth of food at the Amazing Grace food pantry in Middletown, Connecticut.

Connecticut Machinists Deliver the Goods
When members of IAM Local 700 in Middletown, Connecticut, heard that nearby Amazing Grace Food Pantry was running on empty, they did what so many IAM locals do when hard times put the squeeze on local community service organizations. The 1,350-member local lodge mobilized to fill a truck with donated food supplies and restocked the shelves at the local food bank.

“It makes us feel good to do things like this and give back to the community,” said Sharon Conners, Local 700 Community Services Chairwoman, who helped organize the volunteer effort and recalled the support from local residents when members of her union walked picket lines during a December 2001 strike at Pratt & Whitney. “We had a lot of support (during the strike), and this is kind of a way of giving back – to say thank you.”

The timely donation came as a welcome surprise to food bank volunteers, who helped IAM members unload the cases of cereals, juices and canned goods. “This is incredible,” said Amazing Grace program coordinator Kathleen Kelly. “We were empty.”

IBM Pension Ploy Panned
In a major victory for working Americans, a federal judge ruled that IBM’s change to a cash-balance pension plan amounted to illegal age discrimination because they provide richer benefits to younger workers. The judge said the company discriminated against its older workers when it converted its pension plan because the changes leave them with smaller benefits at retirement than younger workers would have when they eventually retire.

Pension experts predict that, if upheld, the ruling would essentially make such cash-balance plans illegal. IBM is expected to appeal the decision.

Machinists Rejects US Airways Outsourcing
Recent reports of US Airways executives traveling the country and discussing the maintenance of its Airbus fleet prompted a letter from Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. to US Airways CEO David N. Siegel confirming the IAM position regarding subcontracting of heavy maintenance.

“Any attempt to subcontract this work, which falls under the jurisdiction of the IAM-US Airways Agreement, shall be considered a major dispute under the Railway Labor Act,” wrote Roach. “The IAM will take whatever measures are necessary to protect any and all work that should be performed by IAM mechanics at US Airways.”

Roach criticized US Airways management personnel for making comments related to farming out of work that clearly falls under the jurisdiction of the IAM. “Any attempt to usurp the boundaries of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, as envisioned by the negotiators, will be met with an opposite and equal legal reaction.”

District 97 Wins Jobs, Back Pay and Bargaining Order
In a legal victory reinforcing union organizing rights, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered Kelly Automotive Company in Mason, Michigan, to reinstate four discharged IAM members and issued an order requiring the company to commence bargaining in good faith.

The NLRB settlement specified $30,522.35 in back pay for the employees fired following a successful organizing drive at the Michigan auto dealership. Additionally, the board issued a new certification year for the IAM on top of the order compelling the company to bargain in good faith.

On behalf of the Eastern Territory office and its members, GVP Lynn Tucker extend congratulations to District Lodge 97 Directing Business Representative Pete Jazdzyk, Organizer Beau Jencks, Grand Lodge Representatives Dave Porter and Karl Heim, and to the courageous members for their united stand against this company.

Celebrate Union Label Week
Featuring the theme “Unions Build a Better America,” trade unionists across the nation celebrate Union Label Week 2003, Sept. 1-6. Because so many of the nearly 3 million jobs lost over the past two years were union jobs, “it is even more important to look for the union label,” when buying goods and services, says Charles Mercer, president of the AFL-CIO Union Label and Service Trades Department.

For more information or to download materials on Union Label Week 2003, visit www.unionlabel.org.

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he Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act (HR 1886) will require insurance companies to cover a minimum hospital stay of 48 hours for patients undergoing mastectomy breast surgery. You can help ensure this critical legistlation is passed by signing the online petition now.

The Summer 2003 IAM Journal is now online. Skyrocketing health care costs are causing Premium Shock for members and employers. The IAM Journal looks at what's causing the increases and what can be done to change America's health care system.

See who works for you, how the IAM is structured, and what services the IAM offers. Go to: IAM profiles for 2003.

The 108th Congressional Directory . . .
get your copy. Send $5 to the MNPL Education Fund, c/o IAMAW, 9000 Machinists Place, Upper Marlboro, MD, 20772.

The official site for the 36th Grand Lodge Convention to be held in 2004 in Cincinnati, Ohio is now online. Check it our for convention news, sponsorship offers, and convention gear.