iMail for Thursday, January 25, 2007

Machinists Address Pensions, Airline Management at Senate Merger Hearing

General Vice President Robert Roach, Jr., was the sole labor representative at an important Senate hearing on airline mergers and industry consolidation.

“Proposed mergers must be scrutinized to ensure that employees’ hard earned pensions are preserved,” said Roach before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “At a time when airline-sponsored pension plans have either been terminated or underfunded, preserving existing pension plans, and extending benefits to employees without pensions, is a priority for the IAM.”

The IAM has been successful in negotiating replacement defined benefit pensions for members whose company-sponsored plans were destroyed, but many other airline workers have no guaranteed pensions. Machinists at US Airways, United Airlines, Aloha Airlines, British Airways, and Air Micronesia still have a defined benefit pension plan with the multi-employer IAM National Pension Plan. IAM members at Northwest Airlines will participate in the same pension plan when that carrier emerges from bankruptcy and IAM-represented Continental Airlines Flight Attendants are currently voting to join the secure IAM National Pension Plan.

“When considering the merger of two airlines, a key element to consider is how their management handled past mergers,” said Roach. “US Airways has not yet negotiated a transition agreement with the Machinists Union that would merge our represented employee groups following its 2005 merger with America West Airlines. In the midst of this still incomplete merger, US Airways has now made a $10 billion bid for Delta Airlines. The financial sacrifices of US Airways’ employees are what put the airline in the financial position to make such a proposal. Their issues deserve to be addressed at the bargaining table before US Airways is allowed to merge with any other airlines.”

Board Issues Report at Metro-North Railroad

Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) 240, which was convened to investigate and make recommendations to resolve the contract dispute between the Metro-North Labor Coalition and Metro-North Railroad, issued its non-binding report  to President Bush on January 22, 2007. Members of the Labor Coalition include IAM Railroad District Lodge 19 and several districts and lodges of the Transportation Communications Union, an IAM affiliate. Metro-North is a commuter carrier operating in New York and Connecticut.

Because Metro North is a commuter rail carrier, if no agreement is reached by early April, the carrier or one of the involved governors can request the appointment of a second PEB. The labor coalition continues to pursue negotiations for a fair and equitable contract. 

“After nearly four years of bargaining, we are finally in the home stretch,” said the coalition.  “It is our fervent hope that Metro-North will now negotiate a fair final settlement.”

Senate Republicans Refuse to Give Low-Wage Workers a Raise

Millions of minimum wage workers will now have to wait for a raise, after Senate Republicans refused to increase the minimum wage without tacking on more lucrative tax breaks for businesses.

The Senate voted 54-43 for a “clean” increase in the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over the next two years. But the mostly Republican opponents of a clean minimum wage increase filibustered the measure, and it takes 60 votes to end debate on a filibustered bill.

The Senate is now expected to take up and pass a minimum wage bill that includes tax breaks and other giveaways for businesses. House Democratic leaders have pledged to fight for a “clean” wage hike during the House/Senate conference that will be required to work out the differences in the two bills.

As part of their 100-hour agenda to pass legislation beneficial to working families, the Democrat-led House passed a “clean” minimum wage increase by a vote of 315-116. Almost 90 percent of Americans support an increase in the minimum wage, which is at its lowest real value in 51 years. Studies have shown increasing the minimum wage would improve the lives of 13 million Americans.

IAM to Honor Retiring Aerospace Coordinator

The IAM will be honoring retiring Aerospace Coordinator Dick Schneider at a dinner on the evening of March 30. The dinner will take place during the 2007 IAM Aerospace Conference, which is scheduled for March 27 – 31 at the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower in Portland, Oregon. Anyone planning to attend has until February 19 to contact the Portland Hilton Hotel for a special room rate of $135.00 per night.

If you plan to attend the conference, please complete the pre-registration form you received with your call letter and return it to the IAM Aerospace Department, 9000 Machinists Place, Room 308 Upper Marlboro, Maryland 20772.

For more information on attending Dick Schneider’s retirement dinner, contact Karen Peek of the IAM Aerospace Department at 301-967-4097.

The theme of this year’s Aerospace conference, to be chaired by General Vice President Rich Michalski, is “Targeting Our Future – Growth, Dominance and Retirement.” The conference will focus its agenda on exploring new approaches for serving our members, expanding our membership and securing aerospace-industry jobs in North America.

Communications Conference Reminder

Don’t forget the 2007 IAM Communications Conference is scheduled for May 14–18 at the Sheraton Baltimore City Center (formerly the Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor) in Baltimore, MD. The cutoff date for the special room rate of $172 for a single or double is April 13.

If you plan to attend, please complete the registration form included in the official call letter and return it to the IAM Communications Department, 9000 Machinists Place, Upper Marlboro, Maryland 20772. Click here for the French version of the official call.

This year’s conference will combine internationally recognized speakers with hands-on workshops to enhance your communication skills. Delegates will also participate in the 2007 “Day of Action” march in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, May 17.