iMail for Thursday, April 09 2009

Machinists Host Flight Attendant Coalition

Twenty representatives from a coalition of U.S. and foreign flight attendant unions came together this week at the IAM’s William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center. The coalition meets quarterly to develop common strategies to address flight attendants’ legislative, health and safety and collective bargaining issues.

“Flight attendants operate in a unique and demanding work environment,” said General Vice President Robert Roach, Jr.  “The IAM continues working with the leadership of other unions to ensure all flight attendants have the legislative and collective bargaining protections they deserve.”

Specific meeting topics included discussions on pension trends, an analysis of the current state of the airline industry, and healthcare issues facilitated by Peter Greenberg, an IAM research economist and Continental Airlines Flight Attendant; a discussion of recent Family Medical Leave Act and Department of Labor changes led by IAM Associate General Counsel Carla Siegel; and a legislative review by IAM Assistant Legislative Director Hasan Solomon.

Leaders from IAM District 142, the United Steelworkers of America, the Association of Flight Attendants/Communications Workers of America, Association of Professional Flight Attendants, Transport Workers Union and the International Transport Workers Federation attended the IAM’s two-day program.

A First-Rate Letter to the Editor

Despite the technological advances that are reshaping the news industry, the traditional Letter to the Editor section remains one of the most widely read features of any daily newspaper’s web or print publication. For union activists, a Letter to the Editor offers a cost-effective opportunity to reach far beyond the local membership and into the community, where union news and union views are frequently misrepresented.

IAM Apprentice Organizer Shelia Merrow of Freeport, Maine, provides an excellent example of how to take advantage of this opportunity with a letter about the importance of the Employee Free Choice Act.  Her letter, which was published April 3 in the Times Record, one of Maine’s largest newspapers, reached nearly 10,000 readers.

Describing how she was compelled to write by a chance remark from her 6-year old grandson, Merrow immediately connects with readers as a parent, a grandparent and a concerned citizen worried about the future of her family and her country.

“Wages are dropping, health-care costs are rising and the middle class has all but vanished,” wrote Merrow, who worked as a Production Planner at Bath Iron Works before becoming a full-time organizer. “An entire generation is unable to retire because of the rising cost of healthcare and the elimination of traditional pensions.”

Rather than complain or rant, as some letter writers wont to do, Merrow points to the Employee Free Choice Act as a historic opportunity to balance the playing field and create an economy that works for everyone.

“I firmly believe that without the Employee Free Choice Act, my children and theirs don’t stand a chance,” said Merrow. “We need to create an economy that works for everyone, and that means good jobs with decent wages and benefits along with affordable, quality healthcare. The ability to unionize is the key to unlocking the door to this American Dream for millions of working Americans.” Click here to read the full letter.

Diverse Group Assembles for Spanish Leadership I

With the arrival this week of 22 members from around the world, the Spanish Leadership I program at Placid Harbor marked the beginning of its third year of reaching out to Latino union members. 

Members traveled to the Winpisinger Center from as far away as Puerto Rico for an intense week of instruction taught by Spanish-speaking IAM representatives. The program covers the same subjects included in the regular Leadership I Program but with all classroom instruction and materials in Spanish. During the week, the program also welcomed a member of USTAC, an ITF affiliate union in Guatemala.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Local Lodges to reach out to their Latino members,” said Winpisinger Center Director Chris Wagoner. “We are pleased to be able to offer classes that allow Local Lodges to build for a future that includes all members.”

The Winpisinger Center currently offers Leadership I and Leadership II in Spanish, and is in the process of developing materials for a Spanish Advanced Leadership program that will be launched in 2010.

Any member who has taken Leadership I, in either Spanish or English, is eligible to take Spanish Leadership II.  Spaces are still available for the Spanish Leadership II class scheduled for June 21 – 26, 2009. 

Enrollments in both the Spanish Leadership I and Leadership II programs do not count against a lodge’s regular leadership program allotment.  Click here for the enrollment forms or contact Pam Kinney at 301-373-8820.

Grupo Diverso se Une en la Clase de LiderazgoI

Con el arribo esta semana de 22 miembros representando países de varias partes del mundo, la clase de Liderazgo I celebra el tercer aniversario de acercamiento con nuestros miembros Latinos.

Varios miembros viajaron desde lugares distantes como Puerto Rico, para participar en una semana intensa de clases enseñada por representantes bilingües de la IAM. Este programa cubre las mismas áreas del programa que se enseña en Ingles, con la diferencia que tanto materiales y las clases son en Español. Durante la semana, el programa dio la bienvenida a sindicalistas Guatemaltecos de la Central USTAC, afiliada con la ITF.

“Esta es una increíble oportunidad para que las Logias Locales establezcan comunicación con sus miembros,” dijo el Director del Centro Winpisinger Chris Wagoner. “Nos complace poder ofrecer estas clases que les permite a las Logias Locales construir un futuro que incluye a todos los miembros.”

Actualmente el Centro Winpisinger ofrece Liderazgo I y Liderazgo II en Español, y se encuentra en el proceso de desarrollar los materiales para Liderazgo Avanzado en Español que se impartirá en el año 2010.  

Cualquier miembro que haya tomado Liderazgo I en Ingles o en español, es elegible para tomar Liderazgo II en Español. Todavía hay lugares disponibles para la clase de Liderazgo II que se impartirá del 21 al 26 de Junio.

El número de participantes en las clases de Liderazgo en Español I y Liderazgo II en Español, no cuentan en contra de los espacios que se asignan a los locales para el programa regular de liderazgo. Oprima aquí para obtener las formas de inscripción, o llame a Pam Kinney al 301–373-8820.

Flood Victims Need Your Help

The recent storms and flooding in North Dakota, northeast South Dakota and extreme western Minnesota devastated many IAM members who lost homes, cars and belongings. Some escaped with only the clothes on their back.

It is hard to portray the physical suffering of catastrophe, but even harder to describe the emotional impact of such losses. In simple terms, our Sisters and Brothers need our help, and they need it fast.

Traditionally, in times of tragedies, the IAM extends an appeal to locals and district for donations to assist members who are suffering. Invariably, IAM members have responded with warm-hearted generosity.

We are asking anyone who is able to make a donation to the “IAM Disaster Relief Fund” in care of the Community Services Department, 9000 Machinists Place, Upper Marlboro, Maryland, 20772.

As quickly as these funds are received, they will be distributed directly to IAM families on the basis of need. Fellow members of our Union need our help.  They need it now.   We are confident that you will join us in responding to that need.

If you have any questions, please contact Maria Cordone, Director of the Community Services/ Retirees Department at (301) 967-3433 or e-mail:

Halifax Machinists Locked Out by Servisair

Members of Local 2797 in Enfield, Nova Scotia, are walking an information picket line this week outside the Halifax International Airport after being locked out by their employer Servisair on April 1, 2009.

The 80 members provide passenger service operations, ramp support, baggage handling, de-icing and mechanical upkeep of equipment. Servisair provides these services to West Jet, Canjet, Air Transat, Sunwing, Skyservice, Purolator, Porter Airlines, Finair, Jetex, Thomas Cook, ABX Cargo and various other International airline arrivals. Servisair has replaced the locked-out workers with managers from other Servisair facilities across Canada.

The members were locked out following rejection of a company demand for a two-year wage freeze. “To ask an employee making from nine to a maximum of $12.77 an hour to accept a two year wage freeze when anyone else in the industry is making substantially more, is just criminal,” explained District 140 General Chairperson Ken Russell. “As an added insult, they’re offering no contract language and no pension.”

Click here for more information about the lockout.

National Solutions Needed for Healthcare Crisis

The time to revamp America’s defunct healthcare system is now said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger during a live online discussion with high profile business, labor, healthcare and government leaders in Madison, Wisconsin.

The forum was part of the third “Summit Conversations on American Healthcare for the 21st Century.” Buffenbarger was part of a roundtable discussion on the high costs of U.S. healthcare and the effects it has on workers’ wages, their standards of living, the economy, and businesses. 

Other participants included former Congressman Dick Gephardt (D-MO); Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI); Ann Converso, president of United American Nurses; John B. Torinus Jr., CEO of Serigraph Inc.; David Norton of Johnson & Johnson and John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority.  Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and Republican presidential candidate Tommy G. Thompson hosted the event along with the University of Wisconsin School of Law.

Buffenbarger provided for the group a look at America’s healthcare crisis from a labor perspective. “We’ve asked our members what they want,” he said. “And we’ve talked about two key words: cost and quality.

“Right now in the United States, as compared to our trading partners in the G-20, we’re asked at every bargaining table, whether it’s a small employer, a medium employer, or very large employer, to solve a national crisis – at a local bargaining table. We can’t do that. So, we begin, in the field of labor relations as it relates to healthcare, at a confrontational table from the beginning,” said Buffenbarger.

U.S. healthcare spending now accounts for 16 percent of GDP and is expected to rise to 25 percent by 2025. There are currently 46 million Americans without health insurance, and four out of five of those individuals are in working families.