iMail for Thursday, August 07, 2008

International President Joins Wichita Strikers 

Striking members of Local 733 in Wichita, KS, warmly welcomed IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger to their picket lines where members are holding strong on day three of the strike against Hawker Beechcraft.

“You gave a signal with your overwhelming vote that you’ve had a bellyful, and you want a good wage, dignity and respect,” said Buffenbarger, who also spoke with members and their families at strike headquarters. “When a company doesn’t want to be a partner and give you an agreement, we’ve got to stand our ground.”

The strike at Hawker Beechcraft comes just as negotiations for 26,000 IAM members employed by the Boeing Co., in Wichita, Seattle and Portland are becoming increasingly contentious. “It would not bode well for the company to take a threatening stance in these negotiations,” warned IAM Aerospace Coordinator Mark Blondin, who noted the aerospace industry is seeing some of the best profits and backlogs in years.

Key issues at Hawker Beechcraft, which is also swimming in profits and airplane orders, include job security, health care, earned time off for new hires, overtime schedules and pensions. No new talks are currently scheduled.

“We’ve told the entire union to mobilize,” declared Buffenbarger. “Wichita’s our focus. Hawker Beechcraft is the cause. You’ve got the attention of all Machinists across North America”

AFT and IAM Applaud AFL-CIO Skills Resolution

The AFL-CIO Executive Council unanimously approved a statement spearheaded by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) calling for a national education policy that includes training, funding and support for high skill careers.

“This resolution lays out a public policy blueprint for training the next generation of skilled workers in the United States,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger, whose union co-sponsored the statement with the American Federation of Teachers. “Across the nation, blue- and white-collar families are searching for alternative pathways to the middle class for their children. We have taken the first step. Now we must convince America’s political leaders to join us in this endeavor.” To view the statement, go to

Strike Ends at California Auto Dealership

The nearly two month-old strike at Allison BMW in Mountain View, California ended July 22 after a marathon session with negotiators. IAM Local 1101 members walked off the job June 1, after the company proposed drastic changes in wage structures and deep cuts to insurance benefits, sick leave and holidays, despite record profits.

The new three-year accord provides for Journeyman Technician wages of $29-$34.50 per hour with increases of $.50 to $1.00/hour in each year of the agreement. Foreman wages will rise to $35-$38 per hour and Smog Technicians will also receive an additional $1.50 per hour.

Negotiators also obtained solid guarantees and grievance language specific to the flat rate structure and Advisors pay plan, along with wage protection language and transition guarantees.

“This was a hard-won agreement for these talented members,” said District 190 Area Director Jim Schwantz, who led the negotiations. ”Their solidarity against Auto Nation, which owns the dealership, was remarkable.”

Deadline Near for Women’s Specialized Training Class

The enrollment deadline for the Women’s Basic Specialized Training scheduled for November 16-22, 2008 at the Winpisinger Education and Technology Center is September 5, 2008. The course is part of the Women’s and Human Rights Department’s training program that give sisters in the IAM the opportunity to network and build the necessary skills for more active involvement in the union.

“These classes have trained a new generation of leaders in the IAM and the result is a better union for all of us,” said Women’s and Human Right Department Director Cheryl Eastburn. “Today there are more women participating in organizing drives, political campaigns and leadership roles in the IAM. The training at the Winpisinger Center is a big part of that success.”

Click here for the official call and enrollment form. For more information, contact the Women’s and Human Rights Department at 301-967-4747.

Iowa Members Thankful for Disaster Relief

Members of Local 1728 in Cedar Falls, IA, would like to thank all those who contributed to the IAM Disaster Relief Fund. Many IAM members are still not back in their homes following the extensive flooding and said the funds could not have come at a better time.

District 6 Directing Business Representative Bob Connett and Business Representative Wayne Laufenberg also extended heartfelt thanks to those who assisted their fellow members in their time of need.

House Looks to Block Secret Labor Department Rule

House Democrats introduced legislation last week aimed at blocking a Labor Department rule that could increase workers’ exposure to dangerous chemicals and toxins and make it more difficult for the next administration to enact new safety rules.

It was revealed recently that the Bush administration was working on a last-minute change to the regulatory process that could inhibit the implementation of critical health and safety regulations.

“Congress will not stand for any backdoor effort by the political appointees to further cripple our nation’s ability to respond to vital health and safety concerns,” said House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller. “This entire effort is the product of a flawed, politicized process that has failed to properly consider the views of experts or the consequences for workplace health.”

Worker Pensions Funding Executive Benefits

Without much notice, many companies are quietly financing their executives’ retirement benefits and pay by tapping the pension plans of their workers.

An article published Monday in The Wall Street Journal says there are a number of companies in recent years who have moved hundreds of millions of dollars of obligations for executive benefits into the pension plans of their rank-and-file workers, allowing them to capture tax breaks meant for pensions of regular workers.

The practice can adversely impact rank-and-file workers by draining assets, making the pension plans more likely to fail.