iMail for Thursday October 13, 2005

Northwest Seeks to Reject Labor Contracts

Lawyers for bankrupt Northwest Airlines filed a widely expected motion in a New York Bankruptcy Court this week asking a judge to abrogate its collective bargaining agreements with the carrier’s unions.

District 143 of the IAM represents 14,200 employees in the Equipment Service, Office & Clerical, Passenger Service, Plant Protection and Flight Simulator Operator classifications.

The court filing initiates a timeline during which the parties must either reach a mutual agreement on modified contract terms or face the decision of a judge.

If the judge is forced to rule on Northwest’s motion, he is limited by law to only two options. He must either rule that the IAM’s collective bargaining agreements should remain intact without any modifications, or he can rule that the contracts should be terminated in their entirety. The judge does not have the authority to order a compromise.

“The Machinists Union, our attorneys and financial professionals are prepared for an 1113(c) trial on the company’s motion to abrogate, but direct negotiations with Northwest will continue,” said District 143 President Bobby DePace.

“Although we are prepared to defend our members’ agreements in court, we hope Northwest is as committed, as we are, to reach a fair and equitable agreement that can be presented to the membership for ratification.”



Local 1010 Ratifies Contract at Iowa Ammo Plant

The two hundred IAM members working at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant near Burlington, Iowa ended their nine-day strike after ratifying a new four-year labor agreement. Local 1010 members at the plant make munitions for the military at the facility operated by American Ordinance.

Key issues causing the strike were wages, increases in the employee portion of health insurance premiums and pension benefits. The contract deadline was originally extended until September 10, 2005 at which time members rejected the company’s offer.

“Our members’ solidarity and professionalism on the picket line allowed the bargaining committee to negotiate a successful end to the strike,” said IAM District 6 Business Representative Ed Miller.

The new agreement includes wages and pension increases over the life of the agreement. The employee portion of insurance rates will remain frozen until December 31, 2006, followed by modest increases.

“We appreciate their hard work and dedication seeking the wages, benefits and working conditions our members at Local 1010 deserve,” said Midwest Territory GVP James E. Brown, who praised BR Ed Miller and the Local 1010 bargaining committee. “We congratulate our members on their new contract and wish them continued success in the future.”

Workplace Cancer Study Lags at Pratt & Whitney

Despite an infusion of $12 million from Pratt & Whitney to fund a study searching for links between chemical exposure in the workplace and a rare form of brain cancer, researchers are concerned that not enough workers will participate in the study to produce a valid study.

Only 16 percent of workers contacted agreed to take part in a “case control” study involving release of medical records and tissue samples. “We need 70 percent participating to have a statistically valid study,” said Gary Marsh in the Hartford Courant. Marsh is a biostatistician from the University of Pittsburgh who is leading the study.

Demand for the study followed the death of about 36 workers since the 1960’s from an aggressive form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme. Families of the victims who demanded the study now say there have been at least 87 cases of the rare disease.

The study is being overseen by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, which is seeking to find out if a cancer cluster exists at Pratt & Whitney.

Bush Approval Hits All Time Low

President George W. Bush’s approval rating has reached an all-time low of just 39 percent, according to the latest NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday.

In a clear indication that both liberals and conservatives alike have become increasingly frustrated with Bush’s performance, only 28 percent or respondents now believe the country is heading in the right direction.

Heading into the 2006 Congressional elections, the poll also found 48 percent of those polled would like to see a Democratic-controlled Congress, compared with only 39 percent who wish to see Republican leadership.

Michigan Machinists Raise Funds for MNPL

The Michigan State Council met in East Tawas, Michigan recently, where 51 delegates and guests focused on the importance of political involvement. Also attending were Grand Lodge Representatives James Smith, Karl Heim and Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer.

The Michigan State Council once again demonstrated their commitment in the legislative and political arena, raising over $2,140 for the Machinists Non-Partisan Political League.

“On behalf of the Eastern Territory, we extend our thanks to Council President Dick Cummings and all the Council Delegates for a job well done,” said Eastern Territory GVP Lynn D. Tucker, Jr.

Heating Costs Set to Soar

With gas prices continuing to hover around $3 a gallon, Americans can expect even greater financial hardships this winter as a government forecast released yesterday indicates gas and oil heating costs are set to soar.

Households using natural gas can expect a 48 percent, or $350, increase in costs this winter, according to the Energy Information Administration. Homes using heating oil can expect a 32 percent jump in costs, which translates into an additional $378.

Congress has been under pressure to fund a program that would provide financial assistance to low-income people expected to struggle with increasing heating costs this winter.