iMail for Thursday, March 29, 2007

Aerospace Conference Focused on Growth

The Democratic Governor of Oregon, Ted Kulongoski, received a standing ovation from more than 200 delegates, staff and guests on the opening day of the 2007 IAM Aerospace Conference in Portland, OR. The applause grew louder during his remarks as the former truck driver displayed a solid understanding of the issues that matter to working families and a sincere appreciation for the contributions made by union members.

“Every time this nation has asked for a sacrifice, it was you and your children who stepped up – whether it was the economy or wars – it was you,” said Kulongoski, who pledged to continue the fight for good jobs and unions’ right to bargain. “You are what this country is all about and you should take great pride in that.”

Local and district leaders gathered in Portland for the three-day working conference also heard from IP Tom Buffenbarger, who thanked the delegates for their accomplishments in the last election, calling it a victory, but not a complete victory. “You delivered big time, but we still need to recover the White House so that legislation on health care, pensions and organizing rights can get signed and become the law of the land.”

GST Warren Mart reviewed financial programs and initiatives designed to give the union every chance to thrive despite rampant outsourcing, political pressures and increased costs. “From the Centralized Accounting System, to the steadily growing Organizing Fund, our programs are working,” said Mart. “But we cannot expect to have real financial stability until our organizing efforts start paying dividends in the form of new members.”

The theme of this year’s conference, “Focus on Growth” was apparent in every presentation. “The entire aerospace industry is going through changes, but there are opportunities amid the turmoil,” said Headquarters GVP Rich Michalski, who chaired the conference. “From organizing workers under the Service Contract Act to negotiating new contracts that feature the IAM National Pension Plan, there are ways to grow this union. And we need to remember, there has never been a shortage of workers who want to join the Machinists Union. We need to find ways to give them that opportunity.”

The IAM Aerospace Conference is held every 18 months and is being hosted this year by District 24 and Willamette Local 63, the oldest IAM local west of the Mississippi River.

Machinists Herald Global Union

The IAM announced this week the formation of a Global Union Alliance to better represent and organize workers at Boeing’s many locations around the world.

Union representatives from the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Sweden established the alliance during the first ever Boeing Workers World Conference, held this week in Portland, Oregon. The meeting was hosted by the IAM and organized by the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Metalworkers Federation.

“Just as Boeing is a global company, the unions representing its workers must act like a global union,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “No longer can Boeing workers in one nation afford to bargain or organize in isolation. Our goal is fair treatment for Boeing’s global workforce, without regard to language, borders or nationality.”

Representatives at the summit agreed to coordinate their efforts to organize Boeing’s workers worldwide, including workers at Boeing suppliers. Participants also agreed to increased communication and coordination with respect to collective bargaining.

The participants also called on Boeing and its suppliers to recognize and enforce internationally recognized labor standards in its operations throughout the world. “As one of the most successful corporations in the world, it is incumbent on Boeing to set the highest standards when it comes to fundamental human rights, which include the right to form labor unions and to engage in collective bargaining,” said Buffenbarger.

Freightliner to Close Portland Assembly Line

The last commercial Freightliner truck will roll off the assembly line in Portland, OR, this week, adding another casualty to the list of iconic American-made products that will no longer be manufactured in the U.S. More than 630 members of Local 1005 will be laid off thanks to Freightliner’s decision to shut down the Portland assembly line and transfer production to a facility near Mexico City.

For 60 years, Freightliner trucks with their innovative Cab-Over-Engine models were popular with drivers and freight haulers, in large part due to innovations and expertise offered by its union workers.

The U.S. Labor Department has twice certified that previous Freightliner production has gone to Mexico as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). More than 3,000 union employees worked at Freightliner in Portland in 1999. After the latest round of layoffs, the number will be reduced to 900. The remaining workers will continue building the prestigious Western Star brand trucks as well as vehicles for the military. The top-of-the-line Freightliner Coronado model, previously only made in Portland, will now only be made in Mexico.

“This is a sad occasion,” said District 24 Business Rep. Joe Kear. “Some Freightliner employees are 2nd and 3rd generation, and many spent their working lives assembling Freightliner trucks. It is a testament to their involvement in the workplace, that many employees express their feelings as if they are losing a member of the family.”

To assist the furloughed workers, the IAM petitioned the U.S. Labor Department and received certification for extended benefits and training. Additional services and assistance, including a job fair and information on training are also being provided.

IAM Claim at NWA Moves Forward

A bankruptcy judge in New York said the court would hold a hearing on a pre-bankruptcy ruling that IAM members are entitled to repayment for sacrifices made before Northwest Airlines entered bankruptcy.

The IAM and NWA will jointly file a motion on an expedited basis to allow the $212 million Series C judgment before a scheduled May 16, 2007 hearing to confirm Northwest’s plan of reorganization.

While Northwest stated in court that it supported allowing the Series C judgment claims, some creditors who were not a party to the 1993 agreement are trying to increase their stake in Northwest at the expense of Series C claim holders.

“We have waited years for Northwest to pay this debt, and the IAM will strongly fight any objections,” said District 143 President Steve Gordon. “Furthermore, if our Series C claim is not allowed, the IAM will vigorously object to Northwest’s Plan of Reorganization, which would place the Company’s expected May emergence from bankruptcy in jeopardy.”

Senate Begins Hearings on Employee Free Choice Act

The U.S. Senate began hearings on the Employee Free Choice Act this week, with a wide range of witnesses testifying before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about the importance of fair union elections.

“By reducing the opportunity for employers to intimidate and discourage workers from unionizing after they have reached a collective decision to do so, the Employee Free Choice Act can help spread the benefits that unions bring to workers and the economy,” said Larry Mishel, President of the Economic Policy Institute.

The Employee Free Choice Act, which the House passed earlier this month by a vote of 241-185, would enable workers to bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions by strengthening their rights to form unions.

“It’s time to return to a world where workers obtain their fair share of the nation’s economic growth,” said committee chairman Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA). “The best way to do this is to give them a stronger voice in the workplace. Unions mean the difference between an economy that is fair and an economy where working people are left behind.”

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