iMail for Tuesday, December 09, 2008

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IAM Leaders Meet with Obama Transition Team

General Vice President Robert Roach, Jr., and staff from the IAM Transportation, Legal, Legislative and Strategic Resources Departments met this week with members of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team at the headquarters of the National Mediation Board (NMB) in Washington, DC.

GVP Roach shared his concerns about recent NMB rulings that eliminated union representation for workers without their consent. Roach also detailed examples of excessive carrier interference in union organizing campaigns and prolonged contract negotiations in air and rail industries.

“After eight years of anti-worker decisions, IAM members have high expectations for the mediation board under President Obama,” said Roach, who also addressed staffing at the board. “Beginning in 2009, we will have several major negotiations underway. The NMB must be properly staffed to ensure negotiations are not delayed due to a lack of mediators.”

An open seat on the three-member NMB is currently being filled by a temporary appointee named by President Bush. GVP Roach emphasized the importance of appointing someone who is fair toward employees and giving the board sufficient resources to protect workers. President-elect Obama’s Team indicated it could take more than six months after he takes office before the open seat is filled.

Mass Layoffs Underscore Recession’s Impact

You don’t have to be an economist to see the U.S. is gearing up for a significant number of layoffs, many of which are already underway. Companies everywhere – General Motors, Dow Chemical, and DuPont just to name a few – are downsizing and restructuring in the deepening recession.

While the November numbers have not yet been released, the latest from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows 232,468 workers lost their jobs due to mass layoffs during the month of October – the highest figure for October since 2001. In the manufacturing sector alone, 87,403 people were laid off.

A mass layoff is defined as when 50 or more people file for unemployment insurance benefits against a single employer during a five-week period, regardless of duration. This does not include workers who lost their jobs due to a plant closing.

Under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), employees do have rights. WARN protects workers, their families and communities by requiring employers provide 60 days notice before a mass layoff or plant closing. Collective bargaining agreements often provide additional protections in addition to WARN Act requirements.

Machinists File Suit Against Delta Air Lines

The IAM and District 143 filed a lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court to prevent Delta Air Lines from illegally moving forward with seniority integration plans until after there is a lawful representation election among the employees of Northwest and Delta.
The IAM lawsuit charges Delta with attempting to bypass the Railway Labor Act, which governs collective bargaining in the railway and airline industries, as part of Delta’s campaign to eliminate union representation at the new combined carrier.

Before the parties can lawfully enter into negotiations over seniority integration, federal law requires certain procedures take place which include the National Mediation Board making a lawful determination as to what the proper crafts and classes are that will be integrated; finding that the two carriers are a single carrier for the affected crafts and classes and ordering representational elections.  Only after this federally mandated procedure is complete and the IAM is certified to represent the combined crafts and classes can negotiations over seniority integration lawfully take place.

Specifically, the lawsuit charges Delta with interfering with employees’ free choice of representatives; interfering with the IAM as the certified representative of Northwest employees; and undermining the IAM’s campaign to represent the employees of both Northwest and Delta. The suit also charges Delta with attempting to establish an illegal company-dominated union for purposes of the seniority integration process.
This lawsuit is part of the IAM’s ongoing effort to protect Northwest and Delta employees from Delta management’s interference with employees choosing union protection at the combined carrier.  The IAM currently represents more than 12,500 employees at Northwest Airlines. Additional information is posted at

The High Price of Doing Nothing

Over three million jobs could disappear if Congress and the White House fail to act and U.S. automakers are forced into bankruptcy. That’s according to a recent report released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

The study lists possible job losses in each state, with the home of America’s auto industry poised to be hit the hardest. Michigan is projected to lose more than 400,000 jobs alone.

According to the EPI, when the wages from the auto sector dry up, an additional 576,700 to 2.1 million jobs supported by the spending of auto and related workers will also be lost.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. The U.S. Labor Department announced Friday employers slashed 533,000 jobs during the month of November – the highest in 34 years. The record number of jobs lost boosted the official unemployment rate to 6.7 percent.

“These numbers are shocking and paint a dismal picture for working families,” says IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger, who sent letters to every member of the House and Senate, urging them to act without delay. “The time to act is now. We cannot allow the country’s three biggest automakers to fall and take the jobs and lives of workers, their families and the millions of others down with them.”

Click here to send a message to your Senators and Congressperson or use the toll-free number 877-331-1223 and urge them to pass legislation to save America’s auto industry and economy.

Winpisinger Biography Available

William W. Winpisinger, who was IAM International President from 1977 to 1988, is regarded as one of the most important figures in modern labor history. In addition to his stewardship of the IAM, “Wimpy” also sued OPEC for price fixing, helped establish the NFL Players Association, was one of the first civilians to ever use the internet, exposed big media’s bias against the labor movement and was instrumental in convincing Ted Kennedy to challenge Jimmy Carter for the Presidency.

A new biography of Winpisinger by Patrick S. Halley gives an in-depth look at the legendary labor leader known worldwide by his nickname, “Wimpy.” Critics have called it: “Well researched, elegantly written;” and “…a must read for anyone curious about both the life and times of an American original and the promise of a better life for all Americans;” and “A great history of the Machinists Union and the Labor Movement.” To order a copy of “Wimpy” (Booksurge Publishing, 2008), go to, or visit