iMail for Thursday, April 07 2009

Machinists Denounce F-22 Funding Cut

IAM leaders promptly denounced this week’s decision by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to end funding for the F-22, the next-generation fighter aircraft that would have assured U.S. air superiority for years to come.

“Not only is the decision to cut funding for the F-22 shortsighted militarily, but our economy can ill afford to disperse the thousands of aerospace jobs required to design, construct and maintain aircraft of this caliber,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “We simply cannot afford to cannibalize our national defense to repair damage caused by reckless financial institutions and greed-crazed corporate executives.”

More than 2,000 Lockheed Martin workers, many represented by the IAM, assemble the F-22 Raptor at the company’s facility in Cobb County, Georgia. In addition to jobs directly related to production and assembly, as many as 25,000 jobs nationwide are indirectly supported by the program.

“The need for long-term air superiority is no less important than the need for short-term economic stimulus,” declared IAM Vice President Rich Michalski, who oversees the union’s aerospace operations. “The benefits of the F-22 program extend far beyond the aircraft itself. It creates and supports thousands of good-paying jobs when we need them most, and nearly all technological advances in the commercial aviation sector have their genesis in taxpayer-supported military programs like the F-22.”


IAM Opens Talks with UAL for 16,000 Members

District 141 this week exchanged initial proposals with United Airlines for new contracts covering the carrier’s 16,000 Ramp & Stores, Public Contact, Food Service, Maintenance Instructor, Fleet Technical Instructor and Security Guard employees. The current IAM agreements become amendable on December 31, 2009.

“It has been nearly a decade since our members had an opportunity to propose changes to their collective bargaining agreements,” said IAM District 141 President Rich Delaney. “Since our last negotiations, United abused the bankruptcy laws to extract $4.6 billion from our members. The challenge we face in these negotiations is bridging a canyon of distrust.”

During United’s three-year bankruptcy, a 13 percent wage cut was imposed in 2003 and another 5.5 percent cut in 2005. Additionally, United terminated its pension plans in bankruptcy, although IAM members are the airline’s only employees to successfully negotiate a replacement defined benefit pension plan, the IAM National Pension Plan.

District 141 received more than 50,000 proposals and recommendations from members in addition to conducting a pre-bargaining membership survey. “The three main areas of focus during these negotiations will be job security, improved wages and improved benefits,” said Delaney.

District 141’s opening contract proposals and frequent negotiation updates will be available on the District 141 website, www.iam141.org.


Map Provides Graphic Display of Unemployment Pain

The bludgeoning of the American workforce continues unabated as shown in the latest unemployment numbers released by the U.S. Department of Labor. In some states, the unemployment picture is so bad – with darker shades signifying exceptionally high numbers – that entire states literally looking like a black eye. There can be little doubt residents in those areas are suffering.

The Labor Department is reporting an 8.5 percent unemployment rating for the month of March, compared to 8.1 percent in February. Researchers say employers laid off 663,000 more workers for a grand total of 13 million people now out of work.

The count would be even higher – 24.3 million people – if it included workers who have given up looking for a job and those forced to take part-time work just to make ends meet. Again, with each month the country breaks a new record. The latest numbers are the highest in a quarter-century.


IAM Backs Second Stimulus for Manufacturing Sector

On the heels of this week’s historic unemployment numbers, the IAM is calling for immediate aid to the nation’s gasping manufacturing sector.

“The latest unemployment numbers are egregious,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “More Americans are out of work than at the height of the 1981-1982 recession. Factory employment alone is down more than one million over the past six months. But the pain does not stop there.

“The government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics today reported there are 24.3 million unemployed, involuntary and discouraged workers in America today. That’s nearly 4 million more than in December 1982.

“We clearly need a second stimulus bill, one aimed at reviving our manufacturing sector,” said Buffenbarger. “The Obama administration and Congress needs to begin work on this critical priority right now.”


Supreme Court Ruling Limits Discrimination Recourse

In a recent decision with potentially far-reaching consequences, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that unionized employees can be barred from pursuing employment discrimination claims through the courts until they exhaust the grievance-arbitration procedure of their collective-bargaining agreement.

This decision dramatically changes previous law, which recognized the right of union workers to bring discrimination claims before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the courts without first resorting to the union grievance-arbitration process. 

While the decision in 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett specifically addresses claims of age discrimination under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), its reasoning is broad enough to include virtually all federal anti-discrimination statutes, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which covers race, national origin, and sex discrimination claims.

It is expected that employers will try to take advantage of this decision by seeking new contract language during negotiations to limit employees with discrimination claims to the grievance-arbitration procedure and require them forego their right to pursue their claim in court as previously allowed. 

Such language, if included in a contract, could give rise to a host of problems, including increased potential for unresolved conflicts in the workplace and increasing the expense and delay of the arbitration process.

IAM negotiators should immediately contact the IAM Legal Department if they encounter any employer demands for contract language changes that would waive members’ right to statutory discrimination claims.


Legislation Introduced for Workforce Training

A trio of U.S. Senators recently announced legislation to support the development of specialized workforce training programs in order to grow America’s industries and workforce.

The Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS) Act supports “sector” or “industry partnerships,” which allow businesses, unions, educators, and the public workforce system to develop and implement plans that help workers train for and advance in high demand and emerging industries.

The bill introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Patty Murray (D-WA), and developed in collaboration with The Workforce Alliance (TWA) and other experts, addresses the current skills demand for jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. Thousands of positions in the manufacturing, technology, and health care sectors go unfilled each year because workers lack the basic training, certification or credentials needed to be successful. Providing more training opportunities in such fields, as well as in emerging industries like renewable energy, will ensure a qualified pool of applicants – thus, improving the American economy. A significant portion of these jobs will also be created as part of the recently passed federal recovery legislation.

Congressmen Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and Todd Platts (R-PA) introduced a companion bill in the House.