iMail for Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wichita Machinists in Tentative Agreement with Cessna

Members of Local 774 at Cessna Aircraft Co. in Wichita, KS, woke up to good news after holding a rally that drew over 2,500 workers and shut down the city’s historic “Old Town” district. Early today, IAM negotiators announced a tentative agreement with Cessna that that contained significant improvements over all previous offers and met workers’ key demands.

“The value of collective bargaining, membership solidarity and professional representation are clearly evident in the terms of this tentative agreement,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “The benefits of union membership could hardly be more compelling.”

The proposed three-year accord includes a $3,000 lump sum bonus in addition to wage increases of five percent in the first year, and four percent each in the second and third years. The contract would also increase workers’ pension from 49 to 55 dollars while insurance premiums would remain the same.

“This contract belongs to the members. They made their voices heard on the shop floor and at our rally,” said Aerospace Coordinator Ron Eldridge. “They rocked downtown Wichita.”
A key issue for IAM members at Cessna was preserving existing health care coverage and not being forced into a high-deductible plan being proposed by the company. The new tentative agreement preserves existing plans while giving employees the opportunity to enroll in additional choices at the same cost.

“This is a strong Machinists contract,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “The Negotiating Committee worked very hard this past year to lay the groundwork, both with the company and the membership, to reach a tentative agreement that’s good for everyone.”
Members will vote on the new contract Saturday. The Local 774 Negotiating Committee is unanimously recommending acceptance of the offer.


District 154 Welcomes Kentucky Gubernatorial Candidate

At a Labor Day rally in Paducah, KY, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Beshear promised more than just lip service in exchange for union support in his campaign to replace Kentucky’s Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher. In a Beshear administration, “The Secretary of Labor will be a card-carrying union member,” declared the former lieutenant governor.
Beshear also spoke recently at the District 154 union hall in Calvert City, KY, where GST Warrant Mart urged members to get involved and do everything possible to restore a labor-friendly governor to the Bluegrass State.

“Steve Beshear supports worker training programs, apprenticeships, collective bargaining and prevailing wages,” said Mart, a Kentucky native. “We have a chance to replace one of the most anti-union governors in the state’s history with one who is not afraid to stand up for working people.”

In 2006, Fletcher backed a “right-to-work” bill for Kentucky and called for a repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law for public construction projects. Union members fought back and the state legislature refused to back either proposal.

“It’s not enough to just defeat bone-headed legislation like “right-to-work” for less, said Mart. “We need legislators like Steve Beshear, in every state, people we can partner with to protect jobs, communities and the rights of unions to organize new members. It’s critical to our survival and the survival of the American middle class.”


A Pension Victory in Pennsylvania

The members of Local 52 in Pittsburgh, PA, didn’t have much to look forward to back in 2000. Their employer was in financial trouble, their pension had been frozen and efforts to find investors were not encouraging. The company, Genesis II and its employees were facing the grim prospect of bankruptcy, liquidation and the hardships that follow.

Today, thanks to an enlightened partnership between labor, management and an investor who saw a future in specialized manufacturing, Genesis II is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high-quality metal coil processing equipment with a thriving international export business. The 35 IAM members at the Genesis II location in Conway, PA and the 66 members of the United Steel Workers (USW) in Callery, PA are now covered by new contracts that include the IAM National Pension Plan.

“Our members truly appreciate the decision in 2001 by KPS Capital Partners (KPS) and its equity partner to keep high-skilled manufacturing in Pennsylvania,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger about the decision by KPS to invest in Genesis II. “This shows that a troubled company can become competitive again by working with its employees. In additional to creating job stability by growing the company together, our members and other employees also have a more secure retirement since Genesis II contributes to the IAM National Pension Fund.”

The Chairman of Genesis Board of Directors, Michael Psaros, acknowledged the help from union members in accomplishing the turnaround. “We thank the United Steelworkers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers for their very critical role in making the company a success,” said Psaros.

The Local 52 Negotiating Committee also deserves recognition for their efforts to craft a new agreement for members at Genesis II, according to District 98 Business Representative Todd Fichera. “Not only did they deliver a solid contract and the National Pension Plan for IAM members there, but they extended the pension plan to USW members at the Callery, PA plant, whose pension was also frozen.”


Canada Members Advance with New Contracts

More than 100 IAM members in Canada recently ratified new contracts that provide significant improvements over the life of the agreements.

Fifty members of IAM Local Lodge 1927 employed by Cedarcroft Nursing Home in Stratford, ON have approved a new three-year agreement with ELM Management, providing them with wage increases of three percent each year and a signing bonus of $500 and $250 for full-time and part-time employees respectively.

The group, who provide a variety of private care services to the elderly, will also see increased sick day premiums for full-time employees and for the first time, three paid sick days for part-time employees.

In Stratford, ON, eighty members of IAM Local Lodge 1550 have ratified a new four-year agreement with Crane Canada Inc. The members, who manufacture plumbing fixtures for the Canadian home improvement and construction industries, will see a wage freeze in the first year with a $400 signing bonus and two percent wage increases in each of the remaining three years. The group will also see a pension increase of $1/hour in the fourth year, life insurance benefits increased to $45,000 and vision care benefits increased to $160 every two years.
“Crane closed its facility in Dallas, Texas and that set the tone for a very tough round of bargaining,” said IAM Grand Lodge Representative Jim Nugent. “Under the circumstances we’re pleased we have a deal.”


Senate Votes to Block Mexican Trucks

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted to strip funding for a Bush administration program that allows Mexican trucks to haul cargo directly from Mexico to any point in the United States. The House of Representatives has already passed a similar measure. As part of the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), trucking firms from Mexico were supposed to get access years ago, but the Clinton administration limited their access to a small zone at large border crossings where shipments were transferred to U.S. trucks. The restrictions were in place largely because of concerns over an adequate safety inspection program to certify all trucks coming across the border meet U.S. safety standards.

By a 74-24 vote, the Senate approved an amendment introduced by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) to a broad transportation spending bill that cut off funding for the pilot program, which the Bush administration gave final authorization to just last week. “This vote is a victory for safety,” Dorgan said in a statement. “It also represents a turning of the tide on the senseless, headlong rush this country has been engaged in for some time, to dismantle safety standards and a quality of life it took generations to achieve.” The Bush administration, which has threatened to veto the transportation spending bill, hopes to expand the trucking program to accommodate 100 Mexican trucking companies, or roughly 540 large trucks, and that number could grow.

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