HEROES Act Needs a Real Fix for Pensions – Fighting Back Against United Airlines – Help Us Save the Aluminum Industry

HELLO AND WELCOME TO MACHINISTS ON THE HILL,
a twice-monthly roundup of legislative advocacy on behalf of IAM members.

Produced by: IAM Legislative and Communications Departments

HEROES ACT WADES INTO DANGEROUS MULTI-EMPLOYER PENSION WATERS: While the current House version of the latest coronavirus relief bill, the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), addresses many needs of working people, including increased stimulus checks, stricter OSHA standards and extensions of unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits, it also includes a poison pill that would further exacerbate the multi-employer pension crisis.

Language from the GROW Act, legislation that would turn defined benefit pension plans into so-called composite plans, is included in the current House HEROES Act. The IAM strongly opposes this language and is working with House and Senate leadership to remove it from the HEROES Act.

“Unfortunately, included in the HEROES package, amongst a long list of progressive proposals, is a poison pill that works against the legislation’s intended goal of fostering economic security for America’s workers and retirees,” wrote IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. in a letter to members of the U.S. House. “The composite proposal known as the GROW Act has no place in this principled package and should be swiftly removed from the legislation.”  

The IAM and several other unions representing millions of workers and retirees had previously warned against including the GROW Act in coronavirus relief legislation.

The House is expected to vote on the HEROES Act this evening.

IAM’S CAMPAIGN BRUSHES BACK UNITED AIRLINES: The IAM’s campaign and the resulting public outrage against United Airlines has caused the carrier to back away from its illegal scheme to force 15,000 full-time IAM members into part-time positions.

After accepting $5 billion from taxpayers as part of the CARES Act, United made the unilateral decision to drastically reduce the wages, retirement benefits, and paid leave of IAM-represented Fleet Service and Passenger Service members. The IAM quickly responded with a lawsuit, alleging United had violated the intent of the CARES Act, as well as the Railway Labor Act and the IAM’s collective bargaining agreements with the carrier.

United has since changed course, instead offering IAM members the opportunity to voluntarily work fewer hours without losing their full-time status. The carrier, however, has left the door open to resuming its forced reduction to part-time program.

“While today it appears that, thanks to your hard work and solidarity, we have won an important battle, we have not yet won the war,” said IAM Transportation General Vice President Sito Pantoja. “We will monitor United’s action closely to see what further legal and congressional action may become necessary.”

United’s plan drew bipartisan scorn, including from U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO). More than 12,000 messages were sent to members of Congress from the IAM’s action alert asking lawmakers to intervene.

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) also urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to prevent any airline from cutting wages and benefits while accepting federal funds.

The IAM’s campaign made national headlines, including in the Chicago TribuneCNBCForbes and CBS 2 Chicago.

QUOTABLE: “With over 30 million Americans out of work, now is not the time for unscrupulous companies to undermine the clear intent of the federal relief effort aimed at worker retention. Is it too much to ask corporations like United to honor their commitment under the CARES Act?” wrote IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. in a letter to President Trump.

TURNING UP THE HEAT TO SAVE ALCOA ALUMINUM JOBS: The IAM continues to explore all avenues to prevent the closing of a strategically important aluminum smelting plant in Washington state and stop the loss of 600 IAM jobs.

Alcoa Intalco Works, one of only seven primary aluminum smelters remaining in the United States, announced on April 22 that it was shutting down its Ferndale, WA plant.

The IAM recently asked Gov. Jay Inslee for assistance saving the plant, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), along with U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen (D-WA), have all joined the fight to save the plant.

The IAM continues to ask President Trump to use all resources necessary, including the Defense Production Act, to save these jobs and the U.S. domestic aluminum industry.

PROTECT FEDERAL EMPLOYEES AND CONTRACTORS: The IAM and NFFE-IAM Federal District 1 were able to secure a letter from a bipartisan group of senators to urge the Trump Administration to better protect federal employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined 17 Democrats led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). The letter calls for 25 percent hazard pay where it exists under current law, expanded workforce flexibility, including telework and leave, and the generous issuing of PPE upon the order to return to workstations.

TRANSIT WORKERS NEED MORE RELIEF: The IAM and TCU-IAM signed onto a letter urging House and Senate leaders to consider an additional $32 billion of relief for transit agencies in the next CARES Act bill. It has become clear that this ongoing crisis is much more costly than previously anticipated, and that public transportation will need another significant infusion to remain operational for the foreseeable future.

WORKERS DESERVE ELECTRONIC UNION REPRESENTATION ELECTIONS: The IAM is joining a host of other unions in calling on House and Senate leadership to approve electronic union representation elections.

“During the COVID-19 crisis, it’s more important than ever that workers have the right to organize to form unions and have a strong voice on the job if they so choose,” the unions wrote. “Especially in these conditions, workers must have the right to have a meaningful say in their working conditions and
standards.”

MUST READS:

United backs off plan to cut 15,000 workers’ hours to part-time after union files lawsuit The Chicago Tribune

As Ferndale’s Intalco smelter nears curtailment, chances of saving it look bleak Bellingham Herald

Alcoa accused of not ‘putting up a fight’ to save Ferndale aluminum plant as plans to curtail operations move ahead The Seattle Times

CARES Act Provided $3 Billion For Airline Caterers And Airport Workers — Who Have Received Nothing So Far Forbes