iMail for Thursday, December 14, 2006

Machinists Gear Up for GE Negotiations

IAM leaders meeting in Chicago, IL announced this week they would resume their partnership with the Coordinated Bargaining Committee (CBC), a coalition of 14 unions representing workers at General Electric (GE), as part of IAM preparations for upcoming contract negotiations with the global conglomerate.

The IAM negotiated its current 4-year agreement with GE outside the CBC structure in order to address unique concerns of its members, including the establishment of a common contract expiration date for all IAM locations. The IAM represents nearly 2,500 employees at 18 GE facilities in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In a recent bargaining survey, IAM members at GE identified key issues they want addressed in the upcoming negotiations, including job security. Wages, retirement and the cost of health care. “With $12 billion in cash reserves, GE is well positioned financially to meet the needs of its U.S.-based workers,” said IAM GVP Rich Michalski, who will oversee IAM-GE negotiations. “We’re determined to reach an agreement that respects the contributions of the current workforce and ensures there will be good jobs for the next generation of GE workers.”

The current contract covering all IAM members at GE expires on June 17, 2007. Negotiations for a new agreement will commence on May 21, 2007 in New York.

Rumors Fuel Airline Merger Talk

With a possible pairing of Continental and United Airlines sparking talk of an industry-wide consolidation, the IAM issued a statement declaring there had been no official confirmation from either carrier and advised members that any airline merger faces a daunting series of obstacles before becoming a reality.

“The IAM is fully prepared to defend the wages, contracts and defined benefit pension plans earned by our 25,000 members at United and Continental,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “The IAM’s Transportation Merger Team is also prepared to respond to any airline merger scenario.”

The IAM represents 16,000 members at United Airlines more than 9,000 Flight Attendants at Continental Airlines, currently the highest paid Flight Attendants in the industry. The IAM also has active organizing campaigns underway among Continental’s Fleet Service, Passenger Service and Reservation employees.

Legislators holding key roles in the next Congress have already said they are skeptical of mergers that could reduce the number of major airlines. Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), incoming chairman of the House Committee on Commerce and Transportation, expressed his concerns bluntly on Wednesday. “I don’t think there’s any benefit from mergers except for the benefit of stockholders and airline officials,” said Oberstar. “There is no benefit to the traveling public.”

Any airline merger would have to clear three regulatory hurdles: the Transportation Department must determine that a merger is financially viable, the Federal Aviation Administration must approve a certificate of safety, and the Justice Department must determine that there are no antitrust issues.

Among the potential benefits of a United-Continental marriage would be the possibility that United’s Flight Attendants could gain the defined benefit pension plan currently enjoyed by our United Airlines members and being ratified by our Continental Flight Attendants.

OhioLocal 912 Honors Longtime Members

International President Tom Buffenbarger joined members and retirees in Cincinnati, OH for Lodge 912’s Annual Awards Dinner. Local 912, Buffenbarger’s home lodge, holds the dinner each year to say thanks and recognize longstanding IAM members. It was an especially moving moment when President Buffenbarger had the honor of awarding his Dad, Bob Buffenbarger, a 50-year IAM membership award and pin.

“My Dad means the world to me. It’s been my honor to follow in his footsteps. Words can’t adequately express how thankful I am to my Dad, or how wonderful it is to be the one to give him this award,” said Buffenbarger.

Canadian Members Secure Contract Gains

Machinists from IAM Local Lodge 2113 in Markham, ON have signed a three-year agreement with Autoliv Canada Inc., providing wage increases of 2.75 percent in each of the first two years and three percent in the third year.

The 262-member unit also received improvements to their defined benefit pension plan, improved vacation allowances and improved orthodontics benefits. Machinists at Autoliv manufacture airbag module safety restraints for the automotive industry.

Twelve Machinists from IAM Local Lodge 235 in Mississauga, ON recently ratified a three-year closure agreement with National Grocers Limited. The forklift mechanics and electricians, whose jobs are being contracted out, will receive a $1,000 signing bonus and a $1,000 Christmas bonus for each year of the agreement. They will also receive a severance of three weeks salary for every year of service to a maximum of $75,000.

Also in Mississauga, ON, members of Local Lodge 2243 have agreed to roll their current pension plan and their cost of living allowance into the IAM pension plan as part of a new four-year agreement with Volvo/Mack Truck. The twelve members will see a two percent pension increase in the first year, a two percent lump sum wage increase in the second year, a two percent pension increase in the third year and a 2 per cent wage bonus in the fourth year.

Labor Ally to Chair House Workforce Committee

Photo caption: California Rep. George Miller, left, with IP Tom Buffenbarger at a Local Lodge 1781 event in Burlingame, CA. Miller, a strong advocate for America’s workers, will be the new chairman of the House Workforce Committee.

Strong signals for a new direction for the 110th Congress are being sent with the announcement that a good friend of labor and the IAM, Representative George Miller of California, will be taking over the powerful House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

“Starting in January, the mission of this committee will be simple: Strengthening America’s middle class,” said Miller. He pledged action on issues important to working families, such as quality public education, affordable colleges, keeping a competitive workforce, fairness in the workplace and retirement security.

“This is a good example of the how voting can make a positive difference,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “Under the former leadership, the House committee in charge of America’s workforce sat by and let middle-class jobs and pensions slip away. That will change with people like George Miller setting the legislative agenda.”

Ortis Named Florida Mayor of the Year

Retired IAM member Frank C. Ortis has been named mayor of the year by the Florida League of Cities. Ortis’ city, Pembroke Pines, also won the City of Excellence Award and the City Spirit Award for its programs for senior citizens.

Ortis has been very active in both the labor movement and politics over the years. He has served as the President of the Florida State Council of Machinists, President of the Broward County AFL-CIO and Vice President on the Executive Board of the Florida AFL-CIO.

Since settling in Pembroke Pines nearly 30 years ago, Ortis has served as a member of the Pembroke Pines City Commission, the Pembroke Pines Democratic Club and as Vice Mayor of the Pembroke Pines City Commission.