iMail for Thursday, August 21, 2008

Round-the-Clock Bargaining Begins at Boeing 

IAM negotiators entered the Doubletree Hotel in SeaTac, WA, today for the start of traditional round-the-clock bargaining with representatives of the Boeing Company. At stake is a new contract covering nearly 27,000 Machinists in Washington state, Oregon, Kansas and California. All bargaining subcommittees and Main Table negotiators expect to meet throughout the day and into the evening.

The talks are taking place in the shadow of a powerful message sent to the company in July, when members voted by an overwhelming 99 percent margin to grant strike sanction authority to their Negotiating Committee.

“Boeing needs to understand that nobody gets left behind in the Machinists union,” said IAM Aerospace Coordinator Mark Blondin, who is leading the IAM Bargaining Committee. “We won’t sell out the new hires and we won’t allow Boeing to carve out any location under this agreement.” 

Boeing is once again proposing to separate Wichita from the national agreement, in addition to eliminating traditional pension plans and retiree medical benefits for new workers, issues that led to a strike in 2005.  Job security is also a key issue for IAM negotiators.

Carrying signs that declared, “It’s Our Time This Time,” thousands of IAM members marched last week through the Everett, WA, factory, starting at the 787 production line making their way past the 777 and 747 assembly lines and exiting the factory near the 767 line. Similar demonstrations have occurred at all locations, sending a loud and clear message to Boeing that IAM members are determined to achieve an equitable agreement.

IAM members in the Puget Sound area, Portland, OR, Wichita, KS and Edwards Air Force Base, CA will vote Sept. 3 on the company’s so-called “last and best” offer.

Visit http://www.iam751.org/contract08.htm for more information about IAM-Boeing negotiations.


IAM Seeks Meeting with Florida Governor

Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez is seeking a meeting with Florida Governor Charlie Crist over the state’s plan to purchase the holdings of U.S. Sugar as part of a laudable Florida Everglades restoration plan. The recently announced plan has the potential to severely impact the economy in and around Clewiston, FL, where the IAM represents more than 1,000 sugar workers.

“While we applaud your concern for the environment generally and for the ecological importance of the Everglades specifically, we have always believed that environmental concerns are fully compatible with jobs and a vibrant economy,” said GVP Martinez in a letter to Gov. Crist.  “We hope that the people’s governor is ready to help reconcile these two worthy goals – but always putting people first.”

The IAM’s concern starts with the 400 members who work at U.S. Sugar, and the 625 members at Florida Crystal, but also the other workers in and around Clewiston, FL.

“Clewiston is without argument an irreplaceable part of Florida’s economic and cultural fabric. Like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, it’s a town of 6,500 working families supported mostly by the sugar industry,” said Martinez.

The IAM and GVP Martinez are hoping to work with the Governor to find ways to simultaneously save jobs and protect South Florida’s unique environment.


Talks to Resume with Hawker Beechcraft

IAM members in Wichita and across the country will be watching closely when negotiators for Local 733 and Local 2328 sit down with representatives for Hawker Beechcraft for the first time since members there voted to strike nearly three weeks ago.

Both sides agreed to meet at the request of a federal mediator, to explore “options concerning the strike and negotiations. “The IAM is ready and willing to meet with the federal mediator at any time,” said Aerospace Coordinator Ron Eldridge, who leads the IAM Negotiating Committee on behalf of nearly 5,000 members at locations in Wichita and Salina, KS.

The IAM strike at Hawker Beechcraft is the first since 1984 and followed an offer by the company that was rejected by more than 90 percent of members. Key issues included rising health insurance costs, pensions and takeaways in contract language.

The aerospace company, which produces single and multi-engine business jets, is currently experiencing record profits and has a deep backlog of aircraft orders.

Also in Wichita today, IAM members will take part in funeral services for IAM member Jeffrey Hart, who died in a tragic accident Monday while crossing the street near strike headquarters in Wichita.


Raytheon to Appeal Retiree Health Care Ruling

In a move that should surprise no one familiar with Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ, company officials announced this week they would appeal the recent ruling requiring Raytheon to resume health care coverage for retirees.

The ruling followed a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of nearly 1,000 retired members of Local 933, who argued that Raytheon’s unilateral termination of company-paid health care benefits in 2003 was a violation of existing contract language.  In finding for the IAM, U.S. District Judge David Bury said that the contract “unambiguously provide vested medical benefits for retirees until age 65 at no cost.”

Raytheon claims it eliminated coverage to create greater “parity” between retirees who pay for medical coverage and those who do not.

“To say we are disappointed would be one of the hugest understatements I could make,” declared Clare L’Armee, one of the retirees that filed the lawsuit.  “I never would have imagined when I retired that the company I had worked so hard for, for so many years, would suddenly renege on its promises and charge exorbitant amounts to those of us least able to afford it.”

“Raytheon is a multi-billion dollar corporation that receives vast amounts of government monies for defense programs,” said Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva. “To treat its retirees so poorly, who have worked so hard to build items for our national security and defense is reprehensible.”


Jacksonville Hosts APRI Education Conference

The Machinists Union was well-represented at this year’s A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) National Education Conference in Jacksonville, FL, by a delegation that included Executive Assistant Diane Babineaux and more than a dozen active and retired IAM members.

Jacksonville was chosen as the site of this year’s conference to celebrate the legacy of Asa Philip Randolph, who was born in nearby Crescent City, FL, but grew up in Jacksonville. Randolph is revered as an early leader in the non-violent civil rights movement and as a founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

More than 600 delegates from 150 local chapters in 36 states took part in this year’s conference, which provided training, speakers and seminars that focused on increasing voter turnout in the upcoming election. “This conference is particularly important as it is a tremendous opportunity to encourage thousands more to participate in our electoral process in this critical election year,” said APRI President Clayola Brown.

Among the speakers at this year’s conference was Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., Florida State Sen. Tony Hill, Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, XM Radio host Joe Madison and National Labor College professor Dr. Yvonne Leftwich Scruggs. Workshops during the week-long event included Voter Mobilization, Disenfranchisement of the Vote, Healthcare Issues, Mental Health and a session on the transition to digital television.