The Transportation Communications International Union (TCU) held its 33rd Quadrennial Convention this week in Las Vegas, NV. In a stirring address to convention delegates, TCU International President Bob Scardelletti inspired the room with his view of the current state of TCU and its future. “In 1991, our union was on the brink of a financial collapse,” said Scardelletti. “Today, I can say that our union has never been financially stronger. Our union has never been politically stronger. Our union has never been stronger at the bargaining table. And, in the deepest recession of our lifetime, we are stable with huge growth opportunities ahead.”
IAM President Tom Buffenbarger congratulated TCU on its successes and spoke of how honored the IAM is to have TCU as part of the Machinists family. “The history our two organizations is bounded in solidarity,” said Buffenbarger. “That’s what makes our unions the greatest in North America.”
The convention agenda included the election of officers for TCU’s Carmen Division, the election of International Officers and a series of petitions, resolutions and proposed amendments to the Constitution, many related to TCU’s affiliation with the IAM in 2005 and upcoming full merger in 2012. Speakers included IAM General Secretary-Treasurer Warren Mart, Winpisinger Center Director Chris Wagoner, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer and Candidate for AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo, and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman.
The IAM is calling on General Electric to suspend plans to close its aircraft engine assembly plant in Albuquerque, NM, pending a full review of all options.
“A decision to close a high-end manufacturing facility that employs a skilled workforce of more than 400 employees deserves to be thoroughly reviewed by state and local officials, as well as workers’ representatives,” said Gary Allen, IAM Western Territory General Vice President. “There may very well be alternatives to closing the facility that GE has not considered.”
A spokesperson for General Electric blamed the planned closure on a decline in demand for parts made at the facility, which has weathered economic ups and downs in the same location since it opened its doors nearly 40 years ago.
“General Electric and Albuquerque have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship for decades and this city deserves better than to be abandoned with hardly an adios,” said Allen. “We look forward to meeting with all stakeholders, including New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Albuquerque Mayor Martin J. Chávez to explore ways to keep this facility open and this relationship going.”
IAM members at United Parcel Service (UPS) voted by an 82 percent margin to approve a new contract that covers approximately 3,200 maintenance workers at 33 locations across the United States.
The new five-year agreement includes annual wage increases, improved pension contributions, eligibility for the IAM 401(k) plan and improved tool allowances. Members’ health care benefits under the new agreement will remain intact.
“This agreement is a credit to the solidarity of our members and the hard work of our negotiating committee and UPS to find a way to increase wages and benefits during these tough economic times,” said IAM Automotive Department Director Boysen Anderson.
IAM and IAM-TCU representatives recently attended a Capitol Hill meeting hosted by the Chair of the House Rail Subcommittee to discuss U.S. investment in high-speed rail projects. Participants at the meeting included Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL), Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), other members of Congress, rail union officials and industry representatives. John Porcari, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Karen Rae, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration also attended.
“When it comes to passenger rail, the United Stateslags far behind the rest of the industrialized world,” said IAM Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “The U.S. has spent just over $10 billion on passenger rail since 1993. France and Germany each spent more than that in 2003 alone.”
The only high-speed rail service currently available in the United States is Amtrak’s Acela, which travels between Washington, D.C. and Boston. In theory, the Acela is capable of achieving speeds of 150 mph, but Amtrak averages only 83 mph between Washington and New York, and 66 mph between New York and Boston due to congestion and inadequate infrastructure. There is $8 billion currently available for rail development, with President Barack Obama’s budget requesting another $5 billion over the next five years.
The Machinists Union opposes any exceptions to the Buy America provisions of the American Recovery and Investment Act, which states that “ all of the iron, steel and manufactured goods used in the project are produced in the United States.”
“ U.S. workers should build the parts, assemble the trains and maintain all elements of a new high-speed rail system,” said Roach. “We have all the skills and resources necessary to build a world-class passenger rail system. Since American taxpayers are funding the project, their investment should be spent putting Americans to work.”
The IAM and its Transportation Communications Union (TCU) affiliate represent more than 60,000 U.S. railroad workers.