Braving cold temperatures and driving winds, the IAM wrapped up a four-day, 900 mile barnstorm tour with a final event in Pittsburgh, PA. The tour featured a truck with a 40-foot banner proclaiming “Wall Street Got the Gold Mine, We Got the Shaft!” and made stops in Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Each stop drew enthusiastic crowds of union members, politicians and community leaders who demanded that Main Street America get as much relief as Wall Street.
“When things go to hell in a hand basket, and they sure have, who can you rely on? Who puts your family first? Who cares about you? Your friends do. Your foes don’t. And that’s what we need to remember on November 4th,” declared IAM President Tom Buffenbarger, who made every stop on the tour. Buffenbarger reminded audiences that working family issues such as health care, job security and skills training will be determined by who gets elected in November.
The tour crossed the entire state of Kentucky, where Bruce Lunsford, the son of an IAM member, is running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Mitch McConnell (R-KY). As Senate Minority Leader, McConnell led efforts to block unemployment insurance extensions and passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Lunsford, who appeared at the rally in Louisville, promised to help working families and support EFCA.
After events in Calvert City, Henderson and Louisville, Kentucky, the tour rolled into Ohio, one of the key states in the presidential election contest. U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) lent her support at a rally in Toledo (pictured right). Other stops in Ohio included Cincinnati, Middletown and Cleveland.
After Ohio, the tour moved on to another battleground state, Pennsylvania. After a rally in Erie, the tour wrapped up with an event in Pittsburgh.
“Thanks to all of the hard work and help by our members, local officials and political allies at every stop, we got our message out about how important this election will be,” said Buffenbarger. “Our country faces some big challenges. Who we elect will determine if Wall Street continues to get away with its unbridled greed, or if America’s working families get the help they need.”
Senior executives at Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines are celebrating today following a ruling yesterday by the U.S. Department of Justice that cleared the way for completion of the $2.8 billion acquisition of Northwest by Delta.
The Justice Department decision was the final regulatory hurdle for the merger, which many observers feel will limit passenger choices and cost jobs despite repeated but nuanced assurances to the contrary from executives of both carriers.
In response to the Justice Department ruling, IAM Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. warned that the combined carrier faced enormous financial challenges. “Delta and Northwest management have separately bankrupted their individual airlines,” said Roach. “Together, they will have more than $28.8 billion in combined debt and $15.6 billion in unfunded pension liabilities that could be forced onto the American taxpayer if the airline defaults.”
While passengers can expect higher fares and fewer choices, the impact on employees at both carriers remains uncertain. It is clear, however, that 12,500 IAM members at Northwest Airlines can expect the merged carrier to challenge their contracts, their pensions and their representation rights.
In the months ahead, the National Mediation Board (NMB), which oversees labor relations in the airline industry, will likely issue “single carrier” rulings, a move that could set the stage for multiple representational elections among work groups at the combined carrier. In the interim, all IAM contracts at Northwest will remain in full force and effect.
IAM District 143 currently represents seven classifications at Northwest Airlines, including Ramp Service, Customer Service, Reservations, Stockroom, Office & Clerical, Flight Simulator Technicians and Plant Protection employees. Delta’s work groups, with the exception of its pilots, are unrepresented.
“The Machinists Union will fight to ensure that workers at the combined airline will be protected by the guarantees that can only be found in a union contract,” said Roach. “Delta is creating the world’s largest airline. The Machinists Union will help Northwest and Delta employees make it the world’s largest unionized airline.” More information about the NWA-Delta merger is available at www.goiam.org/mergers.
Members of IAM locals on strike at Boeing facilities in Kansas, Oregon and Washington will vote Nov. 1 on a tentative agreement which, if approved, will end the strike that began on Sept. 6, 2008.
The proposed contract would cover nearly 27,000 IAM members at Boeing and provide general wage increases of 15 percent over the life of the agreement, a pension multiplier of $83 by the end of the contract and lump sum payments of 10 percent of the previous year’s earnings or $5,000, whichever is greater. Additionally, the IAM Negotiating Committee secured language to protect thousands of jobs at risk in the material handling classification.
A simple majority of those casting ballots is required to approve the four-year agreement, which was reached on Oct. 27 after five days of intense bargaining in Washington, DC. Results of the ratification vote count should be available late on Saturday, Nov. 1 and will be posted at www.goiam.org and www.iam751.org.
The IAM announced this week that federal mediators scheduled negotiations between the union and Vought Aircraft Industries for Nov. 12, 13 and 14 in Nashville, TN.
“IAM negotiators have been ready and willing to meet with Vought representatives since members rejected a company proposal to replace the established pension plan for many employees with a risky 401(k) plan,” said IAM Aerospace Coordinator Ron Eldridge. “The events of the last few weeks confirm beyond any doubt how unreliable a 401(k)-based retirement plan can be.”
The strike has been marked by extraordinary unity among members and the community, despite Tennessee’s status as a so-called right-to-work (for less) state. The struggle at Vought has also inspired letters from international union federations, expressing global solidarity from as far away as Sweden, Great Britain and Denmark.
Members of Local 735 at Vought have been on strike since their contract expired on Sept. 27, 2008. “We will go to the table with the hope of resolving this strike,” said Eldridge. “Our members are determined that there must be a fair and equitable resolution to this dispute.”
In a revealing interview this week with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, Arizona Republican John McCain declared he would veto the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) in “a New York minute” if he were elected president.
The legislation, which drew widespread bipartisan support in the 110th Congress, only to stall after a filibuster by Senate Republicans, is a top legislative priority for unions and union members in the next Congress. According to recent research, as many as 60 million Americans would join a union if they could.
McCain said he would do “everything in his power” to block the legislation. If passed, EFCA would level the playing field for workers and allow them to form unions in their workplace when a majority signed cards expressing a wish to do so. The current system, as administered by the pro-business appointees on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), allows employers ample time to organize and conduct union avoidance campaigns.
In the CNBC interview, McCain echoed the talking points of anti-labor business lobbyists, calling EFCA a threat to labor-management relations and going so far as calling it a threat to democracy. “It’s dangerous for America, it’s dangerous to small business,” said McCain, who added, “and I think it’s a threat to one of the fundamentals of democracy.”