iMail for Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wichita Striker Killed in Auto Accident

Public services and private remembrances are taking place in Wichita this week for Jeff Hart, a 45-year old father of two who died shortly after being struck by a vehicle early on Monday morning. A member of Local 733, Hart was on his way to join fellow Hawker Beechcraft workers for a rally in support of IAM-represented workers at Boeing, who are engaged in negotiations for a new contract.

Hart was crossing the street in front of IAM Strike Headquarters when the accident occurred. Several IAM members, including Mark Huckabee, Joe Cook and his wife Brenda, a registered nurse, provided first aid and performed CPR until police arrived. Unfortunately, Jeff was pronounced dead a short while later.

“Every IAM member is touched and sorrowed by news of this tragedy,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “Jeff was up before dawn, volunteering his time for his fellow Machinists when he died. I can think of no better way to remember him.”

The planned rally and other strike-related activities were cancelled as IAM members in Wichita, who are entering their third week of a strike against Hawker Beechcraft, held prayer vigils and quietly remembered their fallen brother. “The IAM really is a family and at times like this we grieve just as a family would,” said Aerospace Coordinator Ron Eldridge, who is coordinating the strike at Hawker Beechcraft. “We are shocked by the sudden and tragic loss of this good man and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Hart, who recently returned to work after open heart surgery, is survived by two children, Rebecca Westerfield and Jared Hart. A memorial fund will be established to provide educational assistance for both children.

“We will mourn, but we will also carry on with the work that Jeff so clearly believed in,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “Our resolve to win a fair contract that respects our members and the work they do is stronger than ever.”

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Defined Benefit Pensions: More Effective, Cost Less

Defined-benefit pension plans not only provide the same level of retirement income as more risky defined-contribution plans, they do it at a much lower cost. A report released last week by the National Institute on Retirement Security ( shows that defined-benefit pension plans provide the same level of retirement income at a 46 percent lower cost.

The study, “A Better Bang for the Buck: The Economic Efficiencies of Defined-Benefit Pension Plans,” shows defined-benefit plans have certain built-in features that make them the most fiscally efficient way to provide retirement income.

“The analysis is somewhat of a myth buster when it comes to conventional wisdom on the cost of retirement plans,” said Beth Almeida, report author and Executive Director of the National Institute on Retirement Security. “The analysis clearly indicates that the qualities inherent in DB plans – particularly, the pooling of risks and assets – fuel their fiscal efficiency. Importantly, the report provides a new lens for policymakers, employers and employees, who are struggling to ensure adequate retirement income with the fewest dollars possible.”  

California Jet Techs Win First Contract

Nearly seven months after voting to join the IAM, employees of L-3 Communications Vertex at the Naval Air Station in Lemoore, CA, won their first contract – but not without a fight.

The mechanics, who perform depot-level repairs on F/A-18 Hornets, joined the union to resolve issues of pay equity and a lack of fair treatment on the job. L-3 Vertex continued its tactics, resulting in an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike action, a rare move in Service Contract agreements. IAM charges against the company included failure to bargain in good faith and retaliatory treatment of employees. Informational pickets went up as negotiators continued to pursue a first contract. One week later, the membership ratified a two-year agreement with a 100 percent “yes” vote.

Terms of the new accord, which expires July 1, 2010, include wage increases, an improved medical plan at a reduced rate, 401(K) contributions, seniority rights and a grievance and arbitration procedure.

“Congratulations to these Fighting Machinists for their solidarity and willingness to stand up for a fair contract,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson. “District 725 DBR Gary Holt, Organizers Calixto Tapia and Joe Young, BR John Fox, and GLR Steve Cooper really went the extra mile, making a tremendous difference in these negotiations.”

Aerospace Coordinator Frank Santos, who assisted with the negotiations, and committee members Jon Gratton and Thomas Anderson credit the informational picketing at the base entrance as a key to getting a fair agreement.

Survey Finds Canada Facing Skills Shortage

A recent survey of local lodges in Canada revealed that only a handful of companies are actively preparing for the wave of retirements in the next five years that will add significantly to the deficit of trained, skilled workers.

Just as alarming is the trend toward outsourcing skilled trades work rather than training new workers in the skills needed for these jobs. Only nine units were found to have an apprenticeship committee that reviews the training requirements and training standards.

“This confirms what I have seen and heard in the field: that employers can’t get the skilled people they want and that there isn’t a coherent plan to deal with the short-term or longer term problem,” said Canada Education Representative Gord Falconer, who conducted the survey. “We need IAM members to initiate discussions with their employers to develop a plan to meet future requirements of trades.”

Phoenix First Student Group Goes IAM

Nearly 120 full and part-time bus drivers and monitors employed at First Student, Inc., joined the ranks of the IAM on August 15 in a “slam dunk” victory in Phoenix, Arizona.  IAM Local Lodge 933 in Tucson already represents the mechanics at the site.

Guaranteed hours of work, seniority provisions, pensions, health and welfare improvements and a lack of a grievance and arbitration procedure initially led the new members to the IAM, but the over-arching issue was a desire for fairness and respect on the job.

“This was an outstanding effort by GLR Bud Michel, Local 933 DBR Jimbo Watson, Local 519 President Gary Bunten and the rest of the Arizona organizing team,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson.  “If any union can help these new members gain dignity and respect on the job, it’s the IAM, and I know Local Lodge 933 will work diligently to get them a first agreement they can be proud of.

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