iMail for Thursday, November 20, 2008

Guide Dogs Rescued as California Wildfire Advanced

Fueled by 70 mile-per-hour winds, wildfires roared through the hills around Los Angeles last week, forcing an emergency evacuation of the Guide Dogs of America (GDA) breeding and training facility in Sylmar, CA.

“At some points, burning tree limbs were flying past staff members as we loaded the dogs,” said Chuck Jordan, Director of Programs for GDA. “I can’t believe how fast the puppy raisers mobilized and came to our aid. We are all safe and appreciate the help from everyone.”

A half-dozen GDA staff members began the evacuation at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, braving smoke and ash as they loaded the 69 dogs and puppies into six vans – using crates, tie-downs and even the front seats. The hasty effort took only an hour and the dogs were on their way to the Rose Bowl, where they were temporarily placed with puppy raisers and area volunteers. Click here to view an extraordinary video about the evacuation.

While U.S. Forest Service workers battled the inferno on the ground, IAM pilots from Local 946 employed by Dyncorp flew non-stop, dropping tons of fire retardant material from tankers and helicopters for Cal Fire. Supported by mechanics and staff at McClellan Field, their combined efforts were no doubt instrumental in saving the GDA facility, which suffered ash accumulation but no serious damage.

“I am so thankful for the efforts of the volunteers and staff associated with Guide Dogs of America,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson. “I’m also grateful for the work of our members at Cal Fire, who have had an incredibly long and arduous fire season.”

Take Action to Support U.S. Autoworkers

Senior executives from Ford, General Motors and Chrysler testified this week before Congress about the need for emergency financial aid to prevent the collapse of the U.S. auto industry, an outcome that would lead the loss of millions of jobs and cripple state and local economies nationwide.

What was most remarkable about the prospect of an essential American industry facing ruin was the response of some legislators who suggested the global credit crisis was an opportunity for auto makers to declare bankruptcy and break the unions.

“It is not only disturbing, it is thoroughly repellant that some lawmakers are so deaf and blind to the problems facing ordinary working people that they would fan the flames of this unprecedented financial crisis to satisfy a personal anti-union bias,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “We need to address this crisis quickly or the consequences will be more severe and more far reaching than we can imagine.”

Due to the global credit crisis, car and truck sales have fallen to the lowest level in 25 years, forcing auto companies to burn through their cash reserves, with some reports predicting General Motors could run out of money and be forced to shut down by the end of the year.

Click here to tell your lawmakers to support the auto industry loan package.

District 9 Delivers for Missouri Members

From left, Greg Bock, Shop Chairman, Jason Horner, Grievant, Business Representative, Ross Miller, Michael Knutelski, Grievant, and Don Eperson, Shop Steward.

District 9, Local 822 in Quincy, IL, came through in a big way for Jason D. Homer and Michael R. Knutelski of Palmyra, MO, recently when the union prevailed in an unjust termination grievance that resulted in reinstatement and full back pay for both members.

Horner and Knutelski were charged with violating company safety rules. Following an investigation, the union was able to show that the safety rules were not being followed uniformely at BE&K, the plant where the members work.

As part of the grievance settlement, the two members were reinstated and received a total of $8,829 in back pay and a total of $493.60 in safety and attendance bonuses.

At a recent union meeting, both men expressed gratitude. “We would not have our jobs today if it wasn’t for the Machinists union,” said Horner, who was active in the drive to organize the facility in 2007. “Joining the union has paid off 10 times over. This is one reason we wanted an IAM contract.”

District 9 organized the maintenance BE&K maintenance group at BASF in Palmyra, MO, on June 21, 2007. Their first contract was ratified on August 29, 2008. BE&K employs thousands of people in the U.S. and this is their first Union Shop.

District 98 Wins at Consolidated Container in PA

York, PA-based District 98 recently added new members from Consolidated Container in Oil City, PA to their already diverse membership with their latest organizing victory.
“The members at Consolidated Container manufacture rigid plastic packaging containers that include everything from milk jugs to oil containers,” said District 98 Organizer Melissa Lyons. “Whether it’s dairy, water, juice or personal care products, chances are they’re made at Consolidated Container.”

“This is a great win for District 98,” said District 98 Directing Business Rep. (DBR) Tom Boger. “Congratulations to Organizer Melissa Lyons, Assistant DBR Tim Buck, retired Asst. DBR Pete Mathieu and the new members at Consolidated Container.”

Sacramento Auto Show Raises $16,000 for GDA

Warm temperatures, good food and classic cars made for a great day recently at Hagan Park in Rancho Cordova, CA, site of the IAM’s 9th Annual Sacramento Classic Auto Show.  The show, which drew over 100 entries and hundreds of car admirers, netted an estimated $16,000 for Guide Dogs of America (GDA).

The event was sponsored by Local 946’s New Horizon Retiree Club, led by President Robert Gregory, and was staffed by volunteers including GLR Mike Wardle and Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson.  Cars were judged in 16 separate categories, along with awards for People’s Choice and Best of Show.

The cost to raise and train a guide dog is $40,000.  The charity, which turns 60 this year, was founded by an IAM member and is funded entirely by charitable contributions. To learn more about this great organization and how you can help, visit

Georgia Workers Prevail in Long Campaign

It didn’t happen quickly, but dogged determination paid off for 51 workers at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, who recently won an election for IAM representation.

The workers at the base, who overhaul and repair calibration equipment for Kay and Associates, Inc., first contacted the IAM to form a union in 2007. District 131 Organizer Robert Barnwell, with the assistance from Southern Territory Organizer Joe Greaser, helped coordinate the effort.

After a tough campaign in which the company fired one worker and disciplined others, a vote in May failed by two votes. Following Unfair Labor Practice charges filed by the IAM, the company brought the worker back to work with back pay and agreed to another vote. Southern Territory NLRB Representative Jeff Smith worked closely with the IAM Legal Department to assure the workers’ rights were upheld. The new vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the union.

“I feel that we’ve taken a step in the right direction,” said new IAM member Dave Roberts. “This is not about struggling with the contracted company but it’s about our careers and professions. There is no doubt that this affects everyone in many ways but, I’m certain that all will benefit.”

Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez congratulated the new members. “I’m proud of these workers who stood together during a tough campaign, and did what it took to be victorious in the end. The reward is an IAM contract, and it’s worth the fight. Congratulations to all for a job well done!”

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