iMail for Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bush Steps in Amtrak’s Mess

President George W. Bush this week waded into the eight-year old dispute between Amtrak and its union workers by appointing a five-member Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to “investigate” the dispute and make recommendations for settlement. The interference by the President suspends a 30-day countdown that was scheduled to expire on December 1, and sets the stage for prolonged hearings and possible Congressional intervention.

“We expected a PEB and are prepared to present our case to the board,” said District 19 President Joe Duncan. “Amtrak dragged its feet for eight years while our members worked without general wage increases. It’s about time the process started moving forward.”

Once empanelled, a PEB has 30 days to investigate the dispute and issue non-binding recommendations for settlement. After the PEB reports to the President, the parties to the dispute have a 30-day cooling-off period to consider its recommendations. If no agreement is reached, the parties will be free to engage in self-help at the end of the second cooling-off period. The company can then lockout workers or impose employment terms and the union is free to strike.

The IAM opened bargaining with Amtrak in December 1999 as part of a 15,000 member-strong labor coalition that includes the Transportation Communications Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Transport Workers Union. The coalition partners will make a unified presentation to the PEB.

Retroactive wage increases, work rule changes and employee contributions to health care premiums are among the contentious issues. The IAM represents 500 workers at a number of east and west coast Amtrak facilities.

District 143 Reps Sharpen Skills at WWW Center

More than 100 IAM representatives from 20 locals attended the District 143 Grievance Committee Conference held this week at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center in Hollywood, MD. District 143 represents more than 15,000 Ramp, Customer Service, Mechanics, Reservations and other employee classifications at Air Wisconsin, Alaska Airlines, Big Sky Airlines, Great Lakes Aviation and Northwest Airlines.

The representatives received training in grievance handling, organizing, human rights, the Family Medical Leave Act and membership communications. Airline-specific meetings were also held so the local officials could receive updates from the District 143 staff.

Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. led a group discussion on issues ranging from political activism to union dues. “Stewards and grievance representatives are on the front-lines in the battle against corporate greed,” said Roach. “We must ensure our representatives have all the training, resources and support necessary to do their essential work.”

“We are done subsidizing bad management,” said District 143 President Steve Gordon in his in-depth report to the conference. “Whether a group has five members or 5,000, we will marshal all our resources to defend the membership.”

Alabama Local on Display at National Peanut Festival

Local 2003 in Daleville, AL, recently used the 64th National Peanut Festival as a vehicle to introduce the IAM to the more than 200,000 visitors from around the world.

Thousands stopped by Local 2003’s booth during the ten-day event and learned about the benefits of belonging to the IAM. Staffed each day by Local 2003 volunteers, festival-goers were greeted and treated to various IAM promotional items and watched IAM videos on display in the booth.
The area around Dothan is known as the Peanut Capital of the World, producing more than 50 percent of the peanuts grown in the United States. The festival is held each fall to honor peanut growers and to celebrate the harvest season.

“We also raised more than $1,500 for Guide Dogs during the festival,” said Local 2003 newsletter editor Adam Beasley, who volunteered to set up and man the booth for the second year in a row. “Many visitors were surprised to discover that the IAM helped found Guide Dogs of America and that unions are involved in community service. It was a real eye-opener for a lot of people.”

“Local 2003 does an outstanding job reaching out to the community,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez, Jr. “The Peanut Festival is a huge event each year and it’s an excellent organizing opportunity.

Congratulations to the Local 2003 members, officers and staff for their hard work in putting this together.”

U.S. Families Coming Apart at the Middle

The ability of U.S. families to gain a toehold in the middle class is quickly disappearing, according to a new report examining the economic strength of the middle class. By a Thread: The New Experience of America’s Middle Class, prepared by the nonpartisan Demos and Brandeis University, found just 31 percent of families who are considered middle class by their income level are financially secure, and one in four middle-class families are at high risk of falling out of the middle class.

“The cost of a standard middle-class life—a home, healthcare, a college education—has soared in recent years, outpacing growth in incomes. As a result of these changes, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Americans to enter and remain in the middle class,” the report states.

By a Thread also found almost 80 percent of families earning a middle-class income don’t have enough assets to survive for just three months if their income were to drop off or disappear. More than half of middle-class families have no net financial assets, and roughly one in four middle-class families have a member without health insurance.

In order to strengthen the middle class, the report recommends simultaneously building assets and reducing debt, making post-secondary education more accessible and affordable and addressing skyrocketing health care costs. By a Thread used five core economic factors to measure the financial strength of middle-class families: assets, education, housing costs, budget and health care. 

District 141 EAP Program Wins Top Award

Airline District 141 and United Airlines recently received the highest award given each year by Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) for their joint labor-management Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

“Kudos to our EAP and District 141,” said Community Services Director Maria Cordone. “This isn’t the first time they’ve won this award, and for good reason. We’re very proud of the work they do day in and day out in helping our members.”

EAPs are worksite-based programs designed to assist in identifying and resolving personal concerns, including health, marital, family, financial, alcohol, drug, legal, emotional, stress, or other personal issues that may affect job performance.

“A lot of our members have been helped through the EAP, and it’s our EAP coordinators, chairpersons and directors making it happen,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr.

The EAPA is the world’s largest membership organization for employee assistance professionals, with nearly 5,000 members in over 30 countries. It is the most relied upon source of information and support for and about the employee assistance profession.

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