iMail for Tuesday, April 21 2009

The Danger of Cutting U.S. Defense Jobs 

The Buffalo News in Buffalo, NY, this week published an editorial by IAM President Tom Buffenbarger, left, who addressed the proposed overhaul of the Pentagon budget – a shakeup that could result in the elimination of up to 250,000 U.S. defense and defense-related jobs.

Two key issues are raised in the editorial: can the U.S. afford to eliminate so many manufacturing jobs when the economy is clearly in critical condition? And, could such cuts compromise strategic advantages the U.S. has enjoyed for decades?

Among the programs targeted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates are the F-22 Raptor, the C-17 cargo plane and the Future Combat System. Tens of thousands of IAM members are employed directly or indirectly in these programs.

“There are 24 million unemployed, involuntary part-time and discouraged workers in America,” writes Buffenbarger. “Does it make any sense for the government to kill more than 250,000 manufacturing jobs?”

In addition to economic and strategic concerns, Buffenbarger points to the highly developed skill sets required to manufacture such systems – and the danger of dispersing the workers who possess such skills.

“The weapons system programs on the chopping block employ some of the most skilled and experienced workers in the country,” said Buffenbarger. “Working on a weapons system requires job skills that take years to develop and cannot be easily replaced. These systems demand the cutting-edge plants and equipment to manufacture the composite materials needed for radar avoidance. Such advanced manufacturing is America’s last competitive edge.”  

Click here to read the full editorial.

Contract Ratified for 3,200 at Lockheed

Nearly 3,000 members of District 776 filled the century-old Cowtown Coliseum in Ft. Worth, TX, this week to ratify a new three-year contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. that includes the largest pension increase in the unit’s history, from $68 to $79 per month.

In addition to negotiating significant pension increases for current members, District 776 negotiators also rejected a company proposal that would have eliminated pension plan coverage for new hires.

“The IAM Negotiating Committee negotiated a strong contract in tough economic times,” said Aerospace Coordinator John Crowdis. “What they achieved in pensions alone is a compelling testament to the value of union representation.”

The new contract also includes pay raises of 4 percent the first year and 3 percent in the second and third year of the contract, along with a $2,000 ratification bonus. The contract was ratified by a two-thirds margin.

“Our members under this contract provide for our nation’s defense, with their work on the F-16, F-22 and F-35,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “Not only do these highly-skilled workers deserve a strong contract, it’s important for the community in these tough times to have those well-paying jobs and workers who spend their wages locally.” 

Machinists in Canada Press for Pension Insurance

The IAM is renewing its call for the federal government in Canada to enact a national pension insurance plan similar to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) in the United States.

“Canada needs a national pension insurance program to protect workers from the effects of corporate pension irresponsibility,” said IAM Canada Research Director Louis Erlichman at a recent hearing held by the Department of Finance Consultation.

The IAM proposal calls for the federal government in Canada to set up a national insurance fund, as is available in Ontario, the U.S. and many other countries, that would top up pension funds when the plan sponsor fails. “The government should to amend pension legislation to make solvent employers in the federal jurisdiction responsible to top up terminated, but underfunded pension plans,” said Erlichman. “This is required in almost all other Canadian jurisdictions.”

The changes proposed by the IAM would help protect pension benefits that workers negotiated and earned, including those at Air Canada, which received a special authorization to defer its required pension contributions while under creditor protection in 2004. As soon as it exited creditor protection, Air Canada management moved to dismantle the airline, selling off assets, and removing over $2 billion for distribution to investors and management. All the while, they continued to underfund the pension plan.

The IAM also called for a number of other legislative changes to increase pension security, including restrictions on employers’ use of surplus for contribution holidays. 

CBS 60 Minutes Report Examines 401(k) Fallout

Have you looked at your 401(k) lately? For millions of Americans, it is the only source of retirement income, and the situation is not good. Balances, compared to where they once were, are in the basement. And sadly, folks in or approaching retirement years are being hit the hardest.

Older workers are being forced to defer their dreams of no longer having to work. They are, instead, pushing resumes, bagging groceries, and serving up lattes just to make ends meet. When asked if they think they’ll ever be able to retire, the answer is all too often, “I don’t know.”

CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft’s “The 401(k) Fallout” provides a sobering look at the issues surrounding the investment plans. Kroft reports on how 401(k)’s were never meant to be retirement savings plans in the first place, and how Big Business swears by them because they appear much cheaper to fund than pensions.

Micallef Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Charlie Micallef, a highly respected instructor at the WWW Center since 1988, was recently presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the United Association for Labor Education (UALE) at their annual conference.

The award acknowledges Micallef’s work during than 20 years as an instructor, and his efforts to merge the Workers’ Education Local 189 and the University and College Labor Education Association, to create the United Labor Education Association. The UALE brings together educators from a variety of backgrounds, universities, unions and communities. More information about the UALE can be found at

Last Call for Newsletter and Website Contest Entries

The May 1, 2009 deadline is fast approaching for the popular IAM Newsletter and Website Contest. The contest is open to all local and district lodges in good standing that have publications that are regularly distributed to members and/or websites that are regularly updated. This year’s winners will be honored at the 2009 Communications Conference in Vancouver, BC. Click here for complete contest rules and application forms. 

Click here for a copy of the 2009 application.