iMail for Thursday, December 7, 2006

Kansas Governor Named to Lead DGA

Union members and working families nationwide will have a key ally in an important position when Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius takes over as leader of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA). Sebelius succeeds outgoing 2-term DGA chairman, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who joins a crowded field considering a run for the White House in 2008.

Sebelius, who easily won re-election last month, gained a reputation among IAM members for her early support of “GrowKansas,” an IAM effort to bring labor, business and lawmakers together to protect high value aerospace and manufacturing jobs. Sebelius joined forces with the IAM to protect hundreds of jobs when the Eaton Corp. plant in Hutchenson, KS considered moving the facility to Mexico. Sibelius was also closely involved in the transition negotiations between Boeing and Toronto-based Onyx Corp.

As chairwoman of the DGA, Sebelius hopes to drive a national agenda among fellow governors on issues such as jobs, education and health care. She will also try to build on recent successes of the last election, where Democrats picked up six governorships and now hold a majority of State Houses for the first time in more than a decade. “The 2006 election proved that Democratic governors can be competitive and win in every region of the country — regardless of labels — because we share the values of working Americans and they support our innovative leadership,” said Sebelius.

 President Bush Orders Rail PEB

President George W. Bush established a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) this week to investigate and report on the four-year contract dispute between Metro-North Railroad and 3,500 employees represented by a coalition of unions, including the Machinists Union, Transportation Communications Union (TCU) and Transport Workers Union.

For 120 days from the creation of the PEB, Metro-North is prohibited from imposing unilateral changes to the contract and union members are prevented from striking. The Board shall issue its report to the President within 30 days of its creation.

“With the full knowledge that the White House would intervene in the process, Metro-North management did not negotiate seriously,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “Collective bargaining only works when both sides are committed to reaching an agreement.”

IAM members are seeking wage increases and improved pension benefits. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the parent of Metro-North, is demanding burdensome employee healthcare contributions and other concessions.

IAM District 19 President/Directing General Chairman Joe Duncan and General Chairman John Lacey are representing the 270 Machinists members affected by the PEB. Metro-North is a commuter rail service that carries 250,000 passengers per day in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

 Hasan Solomon Named to MD Governor’s Team

IAM Legislative Representative Hasan Solomon will co-chair the Labor, Licensing & Regulation workgroup tasked with providing recommendations for Maryland Governor-elect Martin O’Malley.

Backed by strong support from labor unions throughout Maryland, O’Malley defeated one-term Republican Governor Robert Erlich in the recent gubernatorial election.

“The transition from one administration to another is a huge undertaking but it’s also a great opportunity to make a positive difference right from the start,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “I’m confident Hasan will bring a strong union presence and an equally strong IAM perspective to the O’Malley transition team.”

Airline Unions Preserve Foreign Ownership Ban

After months of intense pressure from the Machinists Union and others, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has withdrawn its proposal to allow foreign interests to control U.S. airlines.

“The Bush administration’s ill-advised proposal faced opposition from airline employees and Congress,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “The IAM lobbied hard on Capitol Hill to oppose the DOT’s plan, making it our primary legislative goal for the airline industry. The proposal’s only support came from airlines that care more about profits than promoting sound aviation policy.”

Key Congressional opponents include Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Reps. James Oberstar (D-MN), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Steve LaTourette (R-OH), Ted Poe (R-TX) and John Olver (D-MA).

Foreign ownership of U.S. airlines is currently capped at 25 percent. Several members of the House Transportation Committee said that more foreign control of U.S. airlines was a threat to national security and they were glad to see the idea dropped for now. The issue of allowing foreign control of U.S. airlines, however, may not be completely dead.

“The department needs to do more to inform the public, labor groups and Congress about the benefits of allowing more international investment,” said Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters. “The Machinists Union stands ready to work with the Bush administration to promote the U.S. aviation industry, but we will not allow foreign interests to control the destiny of U.S. aviation workers,” added GVP Roach.

 Mississippi Conference Highlights SCA Organizing

Southern Territory Organizers and Directing Business Representatives are concluding a weeklong conference in Tunica, MS focused on Service Contract Act (SCA) organizing and servicing. The conference featured tactics and strategies developed in concert with the Strategic Resources, Organizing and Legal departments, as well as the Winpinsinger Center.

“We’ve broken new ground this week,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “This interactive conference gave everyone a chance to contribute to our efforts in the Service Contract arena. We are the premier union in this unique field and we’re determined to find even better ways to service our members under the Service Contract Act.”

The attendees were also presented with the final class taught by Winpinsinger Center Director Jim Leslie, who will retire at the end of this year. Brother Leslie teamed up with Chris Wagoner, the man who will take his place, to roll out a ‘Lessons Learned’ program. “We are extremely proud of Brother Leslie and everything he has accomplished,” said GVP Martinez. “We wish him the very best in his retirement.”

 Cleveland Members Support UAW Strike at Alcoa

IAM Members of Die Sinkers Local 10 in Cleveland, OH are giving up wages and holiday pay this year, but not their pride, as they honor picket lines established by striking United Auto Workers (UAW) at the workplace they both share.

Nearly 900 UAW members have been on strike for a month at the Alcoa plant in Cleveland, OH, where the IAM represents 38 members under a separate agreement – an agreement that protects members who honor another union’s picket line.

The IAM has been providing strike assistance pay to all members of Local 10 who honor the UAW picket line, according to District 54 Business Rep Lawrence Karpowicz.

The strike assistance pay for IAM members was made possible with the help of Eastern Territory GVP Lynn Tucker, Jr. and District 54 President Dean Wright.

Negotiations between the UAW and Alcoa have been taking place with assistance from a Federal Mediator, but little progress has been made. The Cleveland plant manufactures forged aluminum wheels and aircraft components.

 U.S. Sister of the Month: Debra Belancik

Union whirlwind Debra Belancik joined the IAM on April 18, 1978, the day she was hired at Pratt Whitney in Connecticut. Currently the Communicator for Local 1746, she’s been a union activist in numerous capacities for the past 17 years.

Now serving as an Environmental, Health and Safety Coordinator, Debra became a driving force in a research project to determine the source of a rare form of brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multimorme, found in Pratt & Whitney workers. When the health study is concluded, it will be one of the largest ever conducted. She admits that at times it was a daunting task, but the persistent, aggressive determination by the team of dedicated members and widows make the impossible a reality.

As the primary caregiver for her own aging parents, Debra encourages more women to become active and outspoken. “We need women leaders with experience to lead the debate on issues that matter to women and families.”

She is active in her community as well, serving as a Commissioner for People with Disabilities and the Meriden Transit District. She’s also an advocate for seniors and has a soft spot for animals, volunteering at the local animal shelter and visiting nursing homes with therapeutic animals.

The Canadian sister is selected quarterly and Kim Marshall of Local Lodge 1927 in Stratford, ON remains the selected sister for December.

The IAM “ Sister of the Month” is an effort to motivate women to become more involved in their union by recognizing their hard work and dedication. If you’d like to nominate someone, download the nomination form, and submit it to the IAM Women’s Department.

 Ontario Local 2374 on Strike for Seniority Rights

More than 120 members of Local 2374 in Strathroy, ON are on strike against Glendale Recreational Vehicles in a battle over the most fundamental benefit of working in a unionized workplace.

“The employer wants to pick and choose which employees he can lay off when times get tough and that’s a violation of the seniority rights provisions of our collective agreement,” said GLR Jim Nugent. “Seniority is one of the fundamental cornerstones of the Canadian Labour Movement and these members will fight to maintain those rights.”

The employer had offered a two-year agreement with a 1 percent wage increase in each year but the membership rejected the offer outright over the demands for concessions on seniority provisions.

Local 2374 members manufacture fifth-wheel trailers for Glendale Recreational Vehicles, which is owned by Glendale International, the largest Canadian manufacturer of RVs. It owns other RV divisions, Travelaire Canada, Firan Technology Group Corp. and Fernau Avionics.

 San Diego District 725 Honors Pearl Harbor Vets

As the nation remembers the events of December 7, 1941, when the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, HI, we should also pause to salute one IAM District Lodge in California that raised enough money to fly more than 60 San Diego veterans back to Hawaii for a 65 th Annual Reunion of Pearl Harbor Survivors.

District 725 in San Diego worked closely with veterans, their families and the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association to make sure every veteran in the San Diego area who was well enough to make the trip had an opportunity to rejoin their comrades and friends for the anniversary of the infamous attack. The San Diego delegation is believed to be the largest single delegation of survivors attending the event.

Local lodges in District 725 raised nearly $17,000 during a 45-day period, with Local 1125 leading the way in donations. Companies in the area with IAM-represented employees also contributed to the effort.

 Support Canadian Women’s Rights

Canadian women are mobilizing to demonstrate the widespread dissatisfaction regarding the government’s decisions to undermine women’s access to justice. The Canadian Labour Congress’ Women’s Committee has asked organizations and individuals to sign onto a declaration opposing the decisions to make cuts to the Status of Women Canada, the federal agency which promotes gender equality and the full participation of women in the economic, social, cultural and political life of the country.

The statement will be released to the media at a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 10, International Human Rights Day. To read the statement and to sign on, go To read the statement and to sign on, go here. Your name must be submitted before 5:00 p.m. Friday, December 8, to be included.