Kentucky’s Democratic Governor-elect Steve Beshear named IAM member J.R. Gray as the state’s new Commissioner of Labor. Gray is a retired Directing Business Representative (DBR) of District Lodge 154 in Calvert City, KY and has served 26 years in the Kentucky House of Representatives, much of that time as Chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee.
Always a strong advocate for working families, Gray said he “looks forward to working with Governor Beshear to meet the many challenges of assuring Kentucky workers that safety and health, prevailing wage and other laws designed to protect workers are vigorously and fairly enforced and I will work for greater labor-management relations.”
Gray’s appointment is part of Governor Beshear’s pledge to make Kentucky’s government more responsive to the needs of working families. “This is a great appointment for the working men and women of Kentucky,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “J.R. Gray has a deep commitment to better the lives of working families and it has shown through in everything he has done in his outstanding career.”
Gray first joined the IAM in 1964 as a member of Local 1294 in Calvert City, KY. He was elected District Lodge 154 DBR in 1967. He was first elected to the Kentucky House in 1975 and served 26 of the next 32 years in public office. “J.R. Gray dedicated himself to looking out for working men and women,” said IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Bob Martinez. “In the Kentucky House he fought for legislation that benefited workers, but just as important, he was a crucial ally to block bad legislation anti-labor interests were always trying to push through. Working families will have a true friend at Kentucky’s Labor Department.”
Both sides in the long-running rail labor dispute filled the main hall of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., today for the opening session of the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB). Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr., TCU International President Robert Scardelletti and District 19 President Joe Duncan were among labor leaders representing nearly 15,000 Amtrak workers who have been without a new contract or a general wage increase for more than eight years.
The five-member PEB was announced by President Bush on November 28, 2007, suspending a 30-day countdown and triggering today’s hearings. Both sides have a day and a half to present their case to the board, which has 30-days to investigate and make recommendations to the President. After the board reports to the President, both sides have an additional 30-day cooling-off period to consider its recommendations. If no agreement is reached, the parties will be free to engage in self-help at the end of the second cooling-off period. The company can then lockout workers or impose employment terms and the union is free to strike.
“A key issue for all members is the length of time it takes to reach any agreement under the Railway Labor Act,” said GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “Eight years without a general wage increase is outrageous. We are looking forward to presenting our case to the board.”
The IAM opened bargaining with Amtrak in December 1999 as part of a 15,000 member-strong labor coalition that includes the Transportation Communications Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Transport Workers Union. The coalition partners will make a unified presentation to the PEB.
Retroactive wage increases, work rule changes and employee contributions to health care premiums are among the contentious issues. The IAM represents 500 workers at a number of Amtrak facilities.
Machinists working for Auto Truck Transport (ATT) have ratified a new three-year agreement, greatly heightening job security by securing language that stops outsourcing. The contract also provides an unprecedented three cents per mile increase, maintains the IAM pension plan, maintains current non-copay health care coverage and includes a right-to-strike clause if the company violates the contract.
“The IAM leadership and negotiating committee were determined to win a contract that protects our members’ health care, jobs and their families’ future by securing strong subcontracting language,” said Automotive Coordinator Boysen Anderson. “And we did.”
The contract covers IAM members working for ATT in Cleveland, NC; Mt. Holly, NC; Macungie, PA; Garland, TX; Laredo, TX; Springfield, OH; Portland, OR and Dublin, VA. The IAM represents nearly 1,700 employees at ATT.
Roughly 300 members at Greyhound also recently ratified a three-year contract, securing wage increases anywhere from 75 cents/hour and $1.50/hour, a $20,000 increase in tool insurance, guaranteed training for journeyman as well as maintaining the current IAM Pension Plan, New Annuity Plan and their current non-copay health care coverage. The contract will also bring in 100 new members next year by bringing back work that had previously been outsourced.
The National Labor College in Silver Spring, MD, was the site of the first ever global union summit on organizing and collective bargaining around the world. IAM President Tom Buffenbarger joined more than 200 union leaders from 63 countries at the NLC to discuss the challenges facing unions in the ever expanding global economy.
“Now more than ever, the global labor movement needs to come together to fight violations of human rights, including the fundamental right to organize and to engage in collective bargaining,” said IP Buffenbarger. “In almost every area, we are more effective when we coordinate our efforts.”
A recent example of combining political action with organizing is the successful campaign by Australian unions to change the nation’s leadership from a very anti-worker government to one that supports workers’ rights.
The opening day of the two-day summit took place on International Human Rights Day, December 10, and will be capped off with a forum on Capitol Hill titled, “Restoring Workers’ Rights to Organize: Global Perspectives, Global Action.”
A new report concludes the Bush administration abused its regulatory authority as part of a sweeping effort to tarnish the reputation of the U.S. labor movement, while adding costly and confusing reporting requirements for local and international unions.
In ‘Beyond Justice,’ author Scott Lilly, says the Bush administration has funneled a significant amount of federal tax dollars into the department’s Office of Labor-Management Services to allow partisan political operatives to mislead the public and mischaracterize the published data regarding labor unions.
The report concludes: “There is ample evidence that in recent years the laws protecting the public against air and water pollution, workers against health and safety risks and consumers against unsafe foods, drugs, and commercial products have all been laxly enforced to the significant financial benefit of certain businesses and at the expense of those whose health and safety those laws were designed to protect.”