iMail for Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Major Victory for Raytheon Retirees

In a precedent-setting decision that could be worth as much as $12 million for Local 933 retirees, a U.S. District Court Judge in Arizona ordered Raytheon Missile Systems to restore health care benefits for retirees and dependants whose benefits were unilaterally terminated by the company. U.S. District Court Judge David Bury also ordered Raytheon to resume coverage for eligible employees and to compensate hundreds of retirees for health care premiums they paid after their coverage was terminated.
“This is a great victory for our retirees,” said Local 933 DBR James Watson. “They deserve the benefits they fought for during their years with the company and a dignified retirement without the worry of skyrocketing medical premiums on a fixed income.”
The ruling follows a class action lawsuit filed by Local 933 members Mark Argraves, Ronald Geuder, Clare L’Armee and David Lillie on behalf of all IAM retirees who worked at Raytheon Missile Systems under IAM contracts going back to 1990.
In granting summary judgment for the IAM retirees, Judge Bury said the collective bargaining agreements between 1990 and 1999 “unambiguously provide vested medical benefits for retirees until age 65 at no cost.”

The case will undoubtedly be examined as a potential legal precedent which could impact similar cases across the country. In a statement, Raytheon’s parent company said they were “assessing the decision.”

“Not only does this represent a major victory for IAM Local 933 retirees,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson, “but it establishes legal precedence which could extend far beyond the borders of Arizona.  The other western states – and the companies within them – now have a loud and clear message that when our members retire under a collective bargaining agreement promising company-paid benefits, we will fight any efforts to break those promises.”

Machinists Win Alaska Outsourcing Decision

Air Transport District 143 won a major victory by securing an arbitrator’s decision stating that Alaska Airlines violated the IAM collective bargaining agreement when it improperly furloughed 500 Seattle ramp workers in May 2005.

“This ruling is a huge victory for the IAM and all the hard working airline employees we represent,” said District 143 president Stephen Gordon. “The decision comes more than three years after Alaska Airlines subcontracted its entire Seattle ground handling operation to Menzies Aviation.  IAM-represented ramp employees who showed up to work on May 13, 2005 had their security badges deactivated by Alaska and were callously told they no longer had jobs.”

Since outsourcing the work to Menzies, Alaska Airlines has endured negative press reports involving lost and mishandled bags, flight delays, aircraft damage and increased customer complaints.

IAM District 143 represents 3,560 Alaska Airlines employees. More information about the arbitration decision and the IAM’s more than three-year fight are available on the District 143 website,

IAM Urges Full Investigation in Paper Mill Blast

The IAM is urging the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) to conduct a full investigation of the Wisconsin paper mill explosion that killed two IAM members and injured a third. A production superintendent was also killed when an 817,000 gallon tank used to store paper pulp exploded.

“The IAM requests that the CSB conduct a full investigation of this explosion not only to determine the root cause but also to prevent similar accidents at the scores of other U.S. paper mills that have similar processes and storage at their facilities,” wrote headquarters GVP Rich Michalski to John S. Bresland, Chairman and CEO of the CSB. “In addition, we believe the full involvement of the CSB would greatly enhance the OSHA, the Company and Union’s (ability) to fully investigate this accident.”

The IAM represents nearly 100 maintenance workers, millwrights and welders at the Tomahawk, WI, paper mill where the explosion occurred. The United Steelworkers of America (USW) represents approximately 300 production workers. IAM and USW representatives are currently working alongside OSHA officials, company representatives and local fire and police departments to determine the cause of the explosion.

Two members of Local 1713, District W-3, 34-year member Steve Voermans and 31-year member Randy Hoegger, 56, died while performing maintenance on top of the tank when the explosion occurred. A third IAM member, Alex Loka, was treated for injuries at a local hospital and released.

Pentagon Statements Reignite Tanker Concerns

Alarm bells are going off over recent Pentagon statements that it will give “extra credit” to the refueling tanker that carries more fuel. Such an emphasis in the new round of bidding would be a shift from the original criteria and would heavily favor the Airbus 330-200 aircraft over the Boeing KC-767.

The Air Force initially awarded the $35 billion tanker deal to the EADS-Airbus tanker on Feb. 29, citing the Airbus’s greater fuel capacity. The Air Force previously assured Boeing that no extra credit would be given for exceeding original specifications regarding size and capacity. Boeing protested the decision to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and in a rare move, the GAO rebuked the Air Force decision and recommended a new round of bidding.

The contract for 179 tankers is the first of three deals that could be worth up to $100 billion over the next 30 years. In addition to national security concerns over outsourcing such a large military contract, legislators and union leaders campaigned aggressively for a U.S.-built tanker that could support as many as U.S. 44,000 jobs.

“We’re determined that this new round of bidding should not be a warmed-over rerun of the initial competition,” said Headquarters GVP Rich Michalski. “Every level of this union was mobilized to support a fair bidding process and we’re not going to stand by and let this new competition be hijacked by lobbyists, bureaucrats or anyone else. This is a taxpayer-funded contract and it should produce the best decision for our armed forces as well for as the working men and women in this country who provide the funding.”

Vickie Stephens Joins HPWO Staff

Long-time IAM activist Vickie Stephens has joined the IAM’s High Performance Work Organization (HPWO) staff as a Special Representative, effective August 1. Prior to joining the HPWO staff, Stephens served as a Project Coordinator with IAM CREST.

“Vickie will be an extremely valuable asset for the HPWO Department,” said HPWO Director Don Kennedy. “Having been with the Machinists for more than 20 years, she brings with her a wealth of education and training experience.”

Stephens has been an IAM member since 1977, serving on numerous committees, including the Finance Committee, By-Laws Committee, Women’s Committee, Organizing Committee, and Strike Committee. She has also been a Kansas City AFL-CIO Delegate, as well as delegate to the Missouri State Council of Machinists.

After becoming an Associate Instructor for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) and site Coordinator for Honeywell FM & T facility in Kansas City, she completed her Tool and Diemaker Apprenticeship program and worked as a toolmaker until becoming a full time safety and health instructor for IAM CREST.

Air Canada Forced to Suspend Layoffs

Under pressure from the IAM and other unions, Canadian Labour Minister Jean Pierre Blackburn denied Air Canada’s request for a waiver that would have allowed Air Canada to lay off more than two thousand of its employees November 1, 2008 without implementing a joint union-company committee prior to the layoff. This committee will now have an opportunity to study how to alleviate the impact of the cost cutting measures.

The IAM wrote to the labour board in mid-July objecting to the application by Air Canada and gave reasons why it should be denied. The IAM’s main interest in this issue is the labour adjustment program offered by the federal government which is covered in part three of the labour program and not included in the Air Canada collective agreements.

The Minister agreed with the IAM’s position and stated that there are not enough grounds to grant the airline a waiver. He also ordered the department’s officials to monitor the events to ensure that all Air Canada employees to be laid off as part of these cost-cutting measures receive benefits provided under the Canada Labour Code.