Working People’s Champion Confirmed as U.S. Labor Secretary — The Machinists Union Saved the Airline Industry

Friday, March 26, 2021

IAM Officers, Staff and Members — This email newsletter is an effort to better communicate with our membership on how the IAM is fully engaged on important legislative matters that affect our day-to-day lives. Our goal is to get this information out to our membership on the shop floors. Please make it a top priority to consistently share this important new initiative with our membership.

In solidarity,
Robert Martinez Jr.
International President

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

MACHINISTS UNION CONGRATULATES  MARTY WALSH ON LABOR  SECRETARY CONFIRMATION, LOOKS FORWARD TO WORKER-FRIENDLY LABOR DEPARTMENT: IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr., released the following statement on the confirmation of Marty Walsh as U.S. Labor Secretary:

“I want to congratulate Marty Walsh on being confirmed as the new Secretary of Labor. Marty is a faithful ally to the Machinists Union and all working families. Marty stood by our union during his days in the Massachusetts State Legislature and as Mayor of Boston. As mayor, Walsh proved himself a fierce ally of the IAM by defending more than 400 IAM Local 264 bus mechanic jobs from privatization.

“Marty’s character will uplift the plight of working men and women throughout our nation and provide the necessary safety measures that allow them to return home at night. Marty understands working people, and his leadership will create the change workers so desperately need as we climb out of this pandemic.

“Our union looks forward to working with a worker-friendly Labor Department that will put workers first in the manufacturing, aerospace, transportation, automotive, defense, healthcare, and other industries. Secretary Walsh and Deputy Secretary Julie Su will be working peoples’ champions, and the Fighting Machinists will be right there by their side. We thank the members of the Senate who voted to confirm Mayor Walsh and for giving him the opportunity to continue his fight for working families on a national stage.”

MACHINISTS UNION LED THE WAY IN SAVING TENS OF THOUSANDS OF AIRLINE JOBS: The solidarity of IAM members and the entire labor movement helped pass critical relief for airline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes IAM General Secretary-Treasurer Dora Cervantes in a Houston Chronicle op-ed.

“The Machinists Union’s dedicated legislative team, working on behalf of members in Houston and across the nation, reached out to President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to highlight to merits of the program and what it would mean to Houston’s working families in the airline industry,” writes Cervantes, who started her career as a Southwest Airlines reservations agent in Houston.

The recent passage of the American Rescue Plan included $15 billion to extend the airline Payroll Support Program (PSP) through Sept. 30, 2021.

“We believe our local air transportation industry will come back even stronger,” writes Cervantes.

READ: Opinion: Union advocacy helped keep the Houston airline industry flying The Houston Chronicle

 In a letter to House leadership, IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. is urging members of the House to support the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, H.R. 1195.

This bipartisan legislation introduced by Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT) would create and maintain needed protections against workplace violence for healthcare and social service workers. 

“Health care and social service workers who are called on to help us and our families in times of need deserve a safe and secure work environment,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “This legislation would instruct the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to issue a workplace violence prevention standard requiring employers in the health care and social service sectors to develop and implement a plan to protect their employees from workplace violence.”

A 2016 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study concluded that rates of violence against healthcare workers are up to 12 times higher than rates of violence for the overall workforce.       


IAM STANDS WITH CONGRESSMAN GOLDEN AND MAINE SENATE PRESIDENT TROY JACKSON ON H-2A VISA REFORMThe Machinists Union supports U.S. Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) and Maine Senate President Troy Jackson’s (D-Allagash) efforts to reform the H-2A visa program and address loopholes that have enabled Canadian truckers in the logging industry to exploit and take jobs in the state of Maine unfairly. 

“What we’re seeing is companies misusing the H-2A program in an effort to circumvent federal law,” stated Golden and Jackson in a press statement. “Canadian truckers are abusing the H-2A program when they make daily commutes into northern Maine to participate in the American domestic logging market, competing directly with Mainers for jobs and depressing wages. H-2A visa cannot be used for the domestic transport of harvested timber. By enforcing federal law and holding companies accountable for misusing the H-2A program, the federal government can protect these jobs.”

Golden has consistently pushed the past White House administration and his colleagues in Congress to take action on this issue. In addition to proposing an amendment to the Department of Labor funding bill last year, Golden also called on all three relevant agencies to conduct an investigation into allegations of Canadian truckers operating illegally in Maine. Golden also proposed two amendments the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 to exclude logging activities from the definition of “agricultural labor or services” in the bill. Rep. Golden tried again in 2021 to amend the bill but again, was unsuccessful. 

Jackson has repeatedly sought action on both the state and federal level to end this unlawful practice and hold violators accountable. He even brought Gov. Paul LePage up to Fort Kent to hear directly from the affected truckers in 2017. In the Maine Legislature, Jackson has introduced several pieces of legislation to protect Maine trucking jobs and penalize offending companies for breaking the law. In addition, he has written to the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, and the Department of Labor. This past summer, he filed a complaint against the Department of Labor for failing to enforce federal cabotage laws.


IAM SUPPORTS FOR THE PEOPLE ACT: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Rules Committee Chairwoman U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced  S.1., the For the People Act—a sweeping package of comprehensive reforms that would end special-interest corruption of our politics and make government work for the people.

The landmark legislation—companion legislation to H.R. 1, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 3—aims to restore the promise of American democracy by guaranteeing every American citizen full access to the ballot by addressing voter intimidation and suppression, which are among the biggest examples of systemic racism in America; ending the corrupting power of dark money in our campaigns; and putting an end to gerrymandering. In addition, it strengthens ethics laws to ensure that public servants work for the public interest.

“As Senate Majority Leader, one of the first things that I did was designate the For The People Act as S.1, the first legislative bill from the Senate Democrats,” said Schumer. “In doing so, Senate Democrats made clear we are committed to standing up to the voter suppression efforts that are threatening the core tenets of our democracy, to ending dark money in politics, and to ensuring public officials work for those they represent and not the special interests. As this legislation moves through the Senate, every member of this body will have an opportunity to stand up and say if they support a government by the people and for the people.”

The For the People Act would:

  • Make it easier, not harder, to vote
  • End the dominance of big money in politics
  • End partisan gerrymandering
  • Ensure public officials work for the public interest

SOUTH FLORIDA MACHINISTS UNION MEMBERS WIN ELECTORAL RACES, VOW TO BRING WORKING PEOPLE’S VOICE TO LOCAL POLITICS: In early March, two Florida-based Machinist members won local elections in the Everglades area, a tight-knit agricultural region in the southern section of the state. Mayor Joe Kyles, a District 166 retiree, was reelected by voters in the City of South Bay and Joaquin Almazan, IAM Local 2152 member and legislative representative, was elected to the Belle Glade city commission. The wins also highlight the importance of IAM-offered political training classes that encourage union members to run for office and stress how legislation impacts members’ lives and communities.

Read the full story here.

BIDEN’S AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN DELIVERS FOR TCU/IAM MEMBERS: President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Thursday, March 11.

“For over a year the American people were told they were on their own,” said Biden. “This nation has suffered too much for much too long, and everything in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and to meet the most urgent needs of the nation.”

“On behalf of 35,000 TCU-IAM members, I want to thank you for enacting the American Rescue Plan, which will have an immediate material impact on the lives of our members,” said TCU/IAM National President Artie Maratea.

“Thanks to your leadership and Democrats in Congress, thousands of unemployed railroaders will have their unemployment insurance benefits extended through Labor Day,” continued Maratea. “And thanks to you, thousands of Amtrak and transit employees will be coming back to work and/or protected from furlough.”

The TCU/IAM Legislative Department played a significant role in securing many of the provisions in the bill.

TCU-IAM specific provisions:

  • Extends $600 Biweekly Supplemental Railroad Unemployment Benefits: Provides an extension of the $600 supplemental unemployment benefits that thousands of railroaders currently rely through September 6, 2021. In addition, the first $10,200 of unemployment compensation ($20,400 for married couples) will not be subject to federal income tax.
  • Public Transit: The package provides $30.4 billion of additional relief funding to transit agencies to prevent layoffs of transit workers and prevent severe cuts to transit services that essential workers and the general public rely on. This will help continue to employ TCU-IAM members on commuter railroads across the country. [Note: TCU-IAM’s Legislative Dept. worked hard to ensure funding flows down to contract transit operators as well, such as Keolis (MBTA Commuter) and TASI (Caltrain)]
  • Amtrak: This bill provides $1.7 billion to Amtrak to keep rail service running across the nation, to rehire 1,230 workers who have been involuntarily furloughed after Oct. 1, 2020 as a result of COVID, and to restore daily long-distance service to rural communities.
  • Railroad Retirement Board (RRB): The bill provides a combined $28 million to help the RRB improve services for railroaders. As many know, the pandemic has placed immense stress on the RRB, which was already short-staffed prior to COVID. This funding will help improve staffing levels for handling claims as well as improve their IT infrastructure to modernize the agency processes. [Note: This has been a priority of TCU-IAM’s Legislative Department for several years. We’re very pleased it got funded!]

Economic relief provisions:

  • $1,400 Direct Payments: Individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000 receive the full direct payments of $1,400 per person. Individuals will also receive an additional $1,400 payment for each dependent claimed on their tax returns.  No payment will be sent to single filers earning more than $80,000 or joint filers earning more than $160,000.
  • 100% COBRA Subsidy: The bill subsidizes 100 percent of COBRA premiums for six months for individuals who lost employment or had reduced hours. This allows laid-off workers to retain their employer-provided healthcare with NO premium share.
  • Expanded Child Tax Credit: This bill also includes a large expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to $3,000 per child age 6 to 17 and $3,600 per child under age 6. This will be a big help to American families dealing with increased childcare costs in the COVID era. Click HERE for a good explainer of the CTC.
  • Veterans: The bill provides funding to waive copays for veterans during the pandemic, and to provide health care services and support to veterans, including COVID-19 vaccine distribution, expanded mental health care, and enhanced telehealth capabilities. It also establishes a new program to provide retraining assistance for veterans who have lost their jobs due to COVID and includes funding for VA to mitigate the pandemic’s impacts on the benefits claims and appeals backlog.
  • And much much more!

The American Rescue Plan is the kind of bold relief that TCU-IAM members – and all Americans – have needed since the outset of COVID.

But remember: these laws don’t write themselves!

TCU-IAM needs OUR allies on Capitol Hill to continue to prioritize OUR issues, and that means helping them in the voting booth and with their campaigns! Help us help our friends by participating in the Machinists Non-partisan Political League (MNPL)! 

NFFE-IAM APPLAUDS THE REINTRODUCTION OF THE ‘VA EMPLOYEE FAIRNESS ACT’ TO HELP TITLE 38 MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS: The NFFE-IAM applauded the reintroduction of the VA Employee Fairness Act in Congress this week, making this the second Congress to introduce a NFFE-IAM supported bill aimed at improving the participation of VA health and medical professionals in care and workplace policies at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). 

“This bill is partly about the right to collective bargain over working conditions,” said NFFE-IAM President Randy Erwin, “but it also protects VA professionals when they report inefficiencies or potentially deadly policies or incidents up the chain or to oversight authorities.  Right now, these professionals do not have these protections and as a result, many have been disciplined or terminated because of retaliation.” 

The bill was introduced by House Veterans Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) with a companion bill in the Senate introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

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