iMail for Tuesday, February 27, 2007

IAM Sues US Airways over Bankruptcy Ploy

The IAM filed a federal lawsuit this week over US Airways’ attempt to avoid a scheduled grievance arbitration by seeking to have the matter resolved in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, despite having exited bankruptcy more than a year ago.

“US Airways is attempting to use the bankruptcy court to shield itself from its contractual obligations 17 months after exiting bankruptcy,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “If companies can get bankruptcy court protection without filing for bankruptcy, no business contract, labor or otherwise, is enforceable. Lessors, vendors, bondholders, stockholders and other creditors are also at risk.”

All IAM-US Airways collective bargaining agreements provide for automatic wage adjustments upon a change in control of the airline. IAM Districts 141 and 142 each filed grievances to enforce the change of control provisions in October 2005, following the US Airways-America West merger.

“US Airways is obligated to resolve collective bargaining disputes through the process set forth in our contracts and the Railway Labor Act,” said Roach. “Companies cannot hide in bankruptcy court forever.”

The arbitrator postponed the scheduled arbitration hearing as a result of US Airways’ refusal to attend. The IAM’s complaint, filed in Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, asks the court to order the arbitration to go forward. The IAM represents 15,000 Fleet Service, Mechanic & Related and Maintenance Training Specialists employees at US Airways.

Swissport Canada Members Win First Agreement

IAM members of Local 16 in Richmond, British Columbia who are employed by Swissport Canada Handling, Inc., have ratified their first ever collective bargaining agreement. The 150 members who joined the IAM last year provide ramp and cabin services for Westjet and Northwest Airlines at Vancouver International Airport. The three-year agreement provides for wage increases of seven percent in each year.

“Not only was the wage package outstanding but we also obtained benefits coverage for part-time workers, something they’ve never had in the past,” said Mike Clegg, General Chairperson of District 140.

Agreement highlights include full dental and eye care for both full and part-time workers and improvements in medical coverage, shift bids and overtime pay.

“Our record of service to our members is what convinced these workers to join the Machinists last May and this first agreement is proof they made the right choice,” said Clegg.

Mexican Truckers Ready to Roll over US

The Bush administration is drawing harsh criticism for a plan that would allow 100 Mexican trucking companies to haul cargo deeper within the United States.

“The Bush Administration’s announcement that the Department of Transportation (DOT) is forging ahead with a pilot program that would open our U.S. highways to Mexican trucking companies is deeply troubling,” said Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who cited a 2005 DOT Inspector General report that confirmed the Administration had failed to meet strict congressional guidelines aimed at protecting the American driving public.

The plan, announced last week by the Department of Transportation (DOT), broadens the North American Free Trade Agreement’s list of potential victims to include the U.S. driving public. Mexican trucks were to be given full access to U.S. roads under NAFTA, but the trucking provisions were suspended due to safety concerns.

Mexican trucks are currently only allowed to make limited deliveries beyond the 20-25 mile commercial zones currently in place along the Southwest border.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, announced a March 8 hearing to determine whether the Bush administration’s plan meets U.S. safety requirements. 

House Set to Vote on Employee Free Choice Act

The Employee Free Choice Act is set for a full vote in the House on March 1, offering lawmakers the opportunity to pass long overdue legislation that would restore the right to form unions in the U.S. without undue employer interference.

Despite bi-partisan Congressional support and overwhelming public support, the Bush administration has threatened to veto the bill if it makes it to Bush’s desk. The bill currently has 233 co-sponsors and passed the House Education and Labor Committee by a party line vote of 26-19.

Visit the Pick a Fight section of GOIAM to voice your support of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Gulf Coast Shipbuilders Weigh Contract Offer

More than 11,000 union shipbuilders in Mississippi and Louisiana will vote this week on a four-year contract offer that would raise their pay over the life of the agreement but add to the monthly health care premium paid by employees.

Workers at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems (NGSS) in Pascagoula, MS and Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans, LA, are individually represented by more than a dozen unions that bargain together under the auspices of the Pascagoula Metal Trades Council and the New Orleans Metal Trades Council. IAM Local 1133 in Pascagoula, MS, represents 330 members who are part of the Pascagoula bargaining unit and 104 who are part of the New Orleans unit.

The current contracts expire on March 4 and voting is planned for March 1-2. In the 2003 negotiations, bargaining that lasted right up to the expiration date led federal mediators to extend the agreement by two weeks. 

Log Trucker Bill Introduced in Washington

A new bill in the Washington State Legislature will ensure the economic health of rural communities in Washington by giving log truck drivers the right to collectively bargain with the state’s large forest products companies. The bill, HB 2247, is similar to one introduced in Oregon that the IAM is supporting.

“The current rates offered by most large commercial forest land owners hasn’t changed since 1986,” said IAM Woodworkers Department Director Rod Kelty. “Without a way to negotiate for higher wages, log truck drivers cannot feed their families or make the necessary investments in new equipment to ensure public safety. IAM members in Oregon and Washington should tell their representatives to support this important legislation.” Go to www.goiam.org/woodworkers to send an email message to either the Washington or Oregon state legislature.