Congress Turns Up Heat on United Space Alliance
Members of the United States Congress are turning up the heat on NASA and the United Space Alliance (USA) to stop their push to gut the economic security of America’s space program workforce. Last June, USA forced IAM members of Local 2061 at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center out on strike by demanding cuts in pension and other key benefits. NASA and USA are now making similar demands in other negotiations at the Houston Space Center.
Congress, who has oversight and budget powers over NASA, is taking notice. This week, Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, spoke out from the floor of the House of Representatives. Kaptur called IAM members “among the most talented and trained workers in our Nation,” and questioned NASA and the United Space Alliance’s attempts to take away pensions from their workers, while USA’s CEO, Richard Covey, qualifies for at least three pensions himself. “I would ask Mr. Covey and the folks at USA Space Alliance to pay close attention because Congress is paying close attention,” said Kaptur.
“We built a great Nation when America had a system where workers could be confident that their wages would increase with increasing productivity and that their retirement years would be secure,” said Kaptur. “I would just say that the Nation is taking very close notice of an agency that gets a $16 billion budget whose top executives all get their pensions and now who hire subcontractors who are telling the very people who have their hands on the equipment down at the Kennedy Space Center that, sorry, you don’t get the same type of consideration by the Government of the United States.”
Kaptur’s remarks coincided with a letter by IAM President Tom Buffenbarger to all Senators and Members of Congress urging them to stop NASA and USA’s unfair attacks on America’s space program workers. In addition, more than twenty House members co-signed a letter in September to United Space Alliance that it is “important that the workforce obtain a fair and equitable settlement in these negotiations.”
“It’s clear everyone is getting the message about NASA and United Space Alliance’s unjust attempts to strip workers of pensions and other rightful benefits,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “It’s time for NASA and USA to listen and settle this dispute in a fair and equitable manner.”
Lockheed Negotiations Approaching Quickly
The 2008 IAM Lockheed Martin Coordinated Bargaining Committee met at District Lodge 776 in Fort Worth, TX this week to focus in on the issues that will impact upcoming contract negations covering nearly 7,000 IAM members at multiple Lockheed Martin locations.
Core issues the committee will address heading into negotiations include pensions, health care, wages and job security. With the current contracts set to expire March 1, 2008, local issue negotiations are set to begin in January and coordinated bargaining beginning in mid-February.
“Our coordinated committee is once again focusing on the core issues that were submitted by our membership in a recent survey,” said IAM Aerospace Coordinator John Crowdis. “We are committed to ensuring our proposals are taken seriously at the bargaining table so we can provide members with the best contract possible.”
Coordinated committee members represent Machinists at Lockheed Martin facilities in: Palmdale, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz and Vandenberg AFB California; Cape Canaveral, Florida; Marietta, Georgia; Meridian, Mississippi; Clarksburg, West Virginia; and Fort Worth, Texas (IAM representatives for the nearly 4,000 Machinists at the Forth Worth facility whose contract expires in April 2009 are participating in the Coordinated Bargaining Committee and attending negotiations in March).
The Committee is led by Crowdis and also includes Grand Lodge Representatives from the Southern and Western Territories. The IAM’s Strategic Resources Department is also assisting the Committee in preparation for negotiations.
Committee members also had the opportunity to tour the Fort Worth Lockheed Martin Aeronautics facility, which currently produces, or assists in the production of, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II Fighter Aircraft.
Staff Changes in IAM Strategic Resources Department
David White has been named Assistant Director in the IAM Strategic Resources Department, succeeding Beth Almeida. White, formerly a Senior Economist, brings much to his new post, having both a Master’s Degree in Labor Relations from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and invaluable hands-on experience in negotiations and negotiation preparation in his nearly seven years with the Strategic Resources Department.
In another move, Peter Greenberg of Local 2339-N has come on board as a Research Economist, succeeding Joe Thayer. Greenberg has served the IAM in a variety of capacities during his eight years at Local 2339-N, including Trustee, Educator and Legislative Chair and has conducted member education programs for District Lodge 142. He holds a Masters degree from George Washington University and speaks five languages.
“David and Peter have proven they have what it takes,” said Strategic Resources Director Neil Gladstein. “We look forward to their continued good work – here in the office and out in the field – to support our members in getting the best contracts possible.”
Machinists in Canada Win Court Ruling
In a huge victory for Canadian Machinists at IAM Local Lodge 99 in Edmonton, the Alberta Court of Appeal restored common employer status and successor rights for 160 members of Local 99 who lost their jobs at the Finning Rebuild plant in 2005 when their employer transferred their work to a new facility operated by O.E.M. Remanufacturing Inc.
Even though Finning Rebuild financed the new plant and remained the beneficial owner, IAM members were denied the opportunity to transfer with their work and simply laid off. To avoid bargaining with the IAM, O.E.M. voluntarily recognized the Christian Labour Association of Canada as the union at the new plant.
The IAM immediately went to the Alberta Labour Relations Board who ruled O.E.M. and Finning were common employers and the IAM was the representative. That ruling was later overturned. The IAM then went to the Alberta Court of Appeal who upheld the original ruling that OE.M. and Finning were common employers and the IAM was the rightful representative.
“It’s been a long hard struggle to get this decision and justice for our members,” said IAM Directing Business Representative Bob MacKinnon. “This confirms the protections provided by the Labour Relations Code where an employer transfers a part of its unionized business.”
While the Court of Appeal upheld the IAM’s right to represent workers the new facility, the Court also ruled in its “Remedy” decision that there should be a separate bargaining unit and collective agreement at OEM. The IAM has applied to the Court to overturn that “Remedy” part of the ruling.
“The IAM believes that the Finning employees at O.E.M. should be in the same bargaining unit, protected by the same collective agreement, as the other unionized Finning employees,” said John Carpenter, legal counsel for IAM Local Lodge 99.