iMail for Thursday, May 8, 2008

Airline CEO Promises Scorned at Senate Hearing 

Chief executives from Northwest Airlines and Delta Airlines got a frosty reception this week at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing to examine the state of the airline industry and the potential impact of a merger between Delta and Northwest Airlines.

As he did at a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Delta CEO Richard Anderson pledged that no “front line” employees would lose their jobs as a result of the proposed NWA-Delta merger that would create the world’s largest carrier. Anderson specifically said that there would be no cuts among Northwest’s pilots, flight attendants, cargo or ground workers.

The jobs “pledge” drew hoots of derision and even laughter from the hearing room, which was packed with airline employees who have heard such promises from airline executives before.

As if on cue, Anderson’s pledge was followed by a carefully worded warning from Northwest CEO Doug Steenland, who said that unseen market pressures and the rising price of oil could influence any commitments regarding jobs. “The only thing we know is the world we see today,” said Steenland. “In terms of making commitments, we have to recognize there are variables outside our control.”

The hearing room came alive as Senators on the committee rolled their eyes and workers in the audience appeared to choke on the wiggle words they had just heard.

“I’ve been in this industry for 33 years and I’ve heard a lot of promises,” declared IAM Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “The promises that are made here today will mean nothing tomorrow. It’s time we fix the industry’s problem instead of short-term fixes that just provide millions of dollars for the people at the top of these airlines.”

Roach urged committee members to resist appeals to sanction additional airline consolidation, calling instead for measured re-regulation of fares and capacity as the only way to ensure safe and reliable air transportation in the United States.

“This industry is simply unable to turn away from pricing its product below the cost of providing it, further perpetuating the chaotic spiral that brings us here today,” said Roach.

The IAM’s complete testimony is available at

Contract Approved for 4,000 Long Beach Workers

Hard work and a fresh approach to bargaining paid off for City of Long Beach employees with a new five-year agreement that includes a 12 percent pay raise and provisions to ensure city workers maintain pay and working conditions that are equal to or better than similar job classifications in comparable cities.

Preparation for the negotiations on behalf of nearly 4,000 city employees began with training on the process of collective bargaining for IAM and city negotiators, followed by extensive fact-finding on how Long Beach working conditions and compensation compares to other cities. 

Ninety-three percent of the classifications surveyed were found to be below the market median, with 67 percent significantly below the market median. The findings helped explain difficulty the city has had attracting and maintaining talented employees.

The ultimate goal for IAM negotiators is to bring all job classifications in line with other cities’ pay and benefits by the time the contract expires in September 2012. Included in the contract is a provision to re-open the accord in 2011 to assure wages do not become sub-standard again.

“Congratulations to GLR Ray Rivera, District 947 Business Representative Janet Schabow and the 20-member negotiating team for doing an outstanding job representing their units in these negotiations,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson. “They’ve made a significant contribution to the welfare of our entire Long Beach membership and their families.”

Local 1930 in Long Beach, CA, represents over 4,000 city workers in five units:  Professional; Office and Technical; Protection; Refuse and Skilled and General. These members perform critical functions including trash collection, library services, water and gas utilities, public health services, data processing, law enforcement and many more.

Chicago Area Bus Mechanics Go IAM

Local 701 in Countryside, IL brought more bus mechanics into the IAM by organizing the seven technicians at First Student, Inc. located in Villa Park, IL. Local 701 has other contracts with First Student and Laidlaw bus companies.

“Our new members heard of the solid contracts Local 701 is known for and wanted the same guarantees in the workplace and wages for themselves,” said lead organizer and Business Representative Armando Arreola. “I’m very proud of this group. They are determined to get the union contract they deserve.”

“We sincerely appreciate the continuous hard work, dedication and organizing efforts by Local 701 Directing Business Representative Denny Jawor and BR Armando Arreola,” said Midwest Territory GVP Phil Gruber. “We welcome our new members at First Student into the IAM family.”

Government Job Stats Paint Grim Picture

The U.S. lost another 20,000 jobs in April, marking the fourth straight month of job loss and pushing job loss for the year to 260,000. The latest job figures, released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, come as workers continue to struggle with record gas and food prices.

Manufacturing and construction continue to be the hardest hit sectors, losing 46,000 and 61,000 jobs respectively.

The Labor Department’s report also found that wages increased by only 3.4 percent over the past year, the slowest rate in over a year.

“A big question from today’s report is whether the less-than-expected losses are the harbinger of a new, positive trend or simply a monthly pause in the larger losses from earlier this year,” said Jared Bernstein in the Economic Policy Institute’s Jobs Picture.  “Given the anemic rate at which the economy is expanding, chances are that April was simply a pause in the midst of a more negative trend.”

Ontario Machinists Sign Two-year Deal with PHCP

Sixty members of Local 235 in Toronto, Ontario have a new collective agreement with Professional Hair Care Products in Mississauga, ON. The IAM members manufacture professional hair care products for hair styling and beauty salons across Canada.

The new two-year agreement provides wage increases of three per cent in the first year and 3.5 per cent in the second year. Other agreement highlights include a 15-cent-per-hour premium for Quality Control Inspectors, company-paid fees for prescription drugs and an additional day for bereavement leave.

Help Letter Carriers ‘Stamp Out Hunger’ May 10

Letter carriers and other postal employees and volunteers will stage a blitz on Saturday, May 10, to combat hunger in America by collecting non-perishable food items in more than 10,000 cities and towns across the U.S. to restock community food banks, pantries and shelters.

In its 16th year, “Stamp Out Hunger” is the largest one-day food drive in the nation, having delivered over 70 million pounds of food in each of the past four years.

“The need is very great, with many, many food pantries reporting record numbers of men, women and children seeking assistance,” said National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) President William Young. “And it will only get worse if our economy continues to decline.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 35 million Americans, including 12.6 million children, are hungry or living on the brink of hunger.

To participate in the drive, leave a bag of non-perishable food items by your mailbox this Saturday, May 10. For more information, click here

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