iMail for Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Vought Threatens Tennessee Strikers

With less than a week before federally supervised negotiations are set to resume, Vought Aircraft Industries in Nashville, TN, took a page from the union-busters handbook and threatened to permanently replace any union member who refused to cross picket lines. The strike by nearly 1,000 members of IAM Local 735 was triggered when Vought proposed to eliminate the existing pension plan for employees with less than 16 years seniority and replace it with an inferior 401k savings plan.

The attempt by Vought to intimidate workers who have held the line for nearly 14 weeks was met with an immediate response by Local 735 Negotiating Committee, who reminded members that the company’s announcement did nothing to change their obligation to meet and bargain in good faith. “We are prepared to remain at the bargaining table for as long as it takes to secure a contract that can be presented for a ratification vote by the members,” said the committee in a letter commending the members for their support and urging continued solidarity. “We went out together and we must stay strong ‘till we can all go back together.”

During the negotiations that preceded the strike, IAM representatives proposed a multiemployer pension plan that would have eliminated the risk of the company’s single-employer plan and saved Vought a minimum of $116,000 per year. Vought refused to consider the proposal, insisting on the 401k savings plan even after the stock market meltdown gathered momentum, stripping billions from 401k retirement funds.

In subsequent bargaining sessions, Vought introduced additional takeaways, including extensive subcontracting while refusing to address the issue that triggered the strike.

“A defined benefit pension is a solemn and long-term promise, one than cannot be broken or revoked except in the most extreme circumstances,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “Extreme greed is not one of those circumstances and I commend the members of Local 735 for refusing to bend to this unnecessary and unconscionable demand by Vought.”


Help Redesign IAM Website

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It’s a new year and time for an upgrade to the successful IAM website, www.GOiam.org. IAM members can participate in redesigning the new site by voicing their ideas and opinions by filling out the GOiam Visitor Survey.

Since the last re-design in 2005, GoIAM.org has grown to more than 10,000 pages of content, more than doubled the number of visitors to the site and tripled the number of videos viewed.

“Technology is ever changing on the internet and we want to make sure the IAM stays on the cutting edge,” said IAM Communications Director Rick Sloan. “IAM members can help us create a better site by filling out the survey that will let us know how members use the internet what features they use most.”


One Railroad, Four Organizing Victories

The IAM Transportation Department closed out 2008 by adding 40 new members through successful organizing campaigns for Maintenance of Way, Shop Mechanic, Office & Clerical and Operating Employees (engineers and conductors) at the South Central Florida Express railroad.

“These victories were the result of coordinated efforts between organizers from the Transportation Department’s District 19, the IAM Southern Territory and a dedicated in-house organizing team,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “This railroad is growing, and these victories ensure good-paying IAM jobs will grow with it.”

U.S. Sugar operates the South Central Florida Express, the largest private agricultural railroad in the country. U.S. Sugar is the only sugar company in the continental U.S. that transports all its cane by railroad to its mills.

Organizing employees under the Railway Labor Act requires separate elections for each class and craft. The IAM won all four elections in late December. The new IAM members at South Central Florida Express are part of the Transportation Department’s Railroad District 19.  More information is available at www.iamdl19.org.


St. Louis Machinists Authorize Strike at GKN

More than 99.2 percent of the Machinists employed at GKN in Hazelwood, MO, voted to give their Bargaining Committee the authority to strike if a fair and equitable contract could not be reached by January 11, 2009.

“We have a long way to go if we are to avoid a strike in January,” said District 837 President and Chief Negotiator Gordon King at a meeting with members. “The company admits there are problems in the plant and wants to work with us to avoid a work stoppage, but they have not addressed all your needs yet. Their position on healthcare costs needs to be improved, their position on pension benefits needs to improve, their position on wages needs to improve, and their position on how we can move forward together needs to improve.”

The membership indicated their displeasure at the company’s proposal on a non-standard work week. At stake are the working hours of the men and women fabricating, machining, and assembling thousands of high technology components that are used in our nation’s military aircraft. The 936 members of the Machinist Union made it clear they will not accept a change in working hours that would destroy their personal lives.

The next step in the process will come on January 11, 2009 when the membership meets to review the company’s final offer and vote to accept or reject that offer.


Union Members Featured on Sportsmen Series

It’s no secret that hunting and fishing are popular among North America’s union members. Now you can join in the fun with the new season of “Escape to the Wild” television show that takes union members on the hunting or fishing trip of a lifetime. Entering its third season, Escape to the Wild airs on Sundays at 9:30 am EST on the VERSUS Country network.

This year’s “Escape to the Wild” series will feature ten winners who will venture to some of the world’s hottest hunting and fishing spots, including a trip to Argentina to hunt majestic red stag, joining professional bass angler Byron Velvick for world-class Texas bass fishing, trekking to Canada’s expansive tundra to hunt caribou and hunting upland bird at a top-notch lodge. 

The popular series honors union members with expenses-paid trips to world-class hunting and fishing destinations and raises awareness about the need to conserve hunting and fishing areas. It is sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), many of North America’s leading trade unions, contractor associations and VERSUS Country network. Go to www.versuscountry.com for schedule information and show times.