The annual AFL-CIO event commemorating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took place this year in Memphis, TN, where the Nobel Prize-winning civil rights leader was slain while supporting striking sanitation workers in 1968. The observance drew more than 2,000 delegates and guests, double the number expected, making this the largest observance since the event began in 1985.
Machinists from across the country joined members from dozens of unions to take part in a series of community service projects, which included building wheelchair ramps, voter registration efforts, park clean-up and painting over gang graffiti. The nation’s 17th largest city, Memphis is home to more than just the blues and Beale St., with gang violence rampant in many urban neighborhoods.
“We came to Memphis this year not just to honor Dr. King, but to carry on his work,” said Executive Assistant Diane Babineaux, who led the IAM delegation. “As we heard from speaker after speaker this week, this holiday was never meant to be just a day off, but rather a day on. It was good to see our members out in the community, doing what Machinists do, making a positive difference.”
Among the speakers at this year’s observance was Rainbow/PUSH President Jesse Jackson, Sr., a close advisor to Dr. King who was with him when he was assassinated at the Lorraine Hotel, now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum. “We are challenged today to address the unfinished business of civil rights – which is civil equality,” said Jackson in a speech that drew ovation after ovation. “Our goal was never just freedom. Freedom was the necessary prerequisite to get to equality.”
Jackson was among dozens of speakers during the five day event, including civil rights activist and former presidential candidate Rev. Al Sharpton, who spoke at the Mason Temple in Memphis, where Dr. King made his final public appearance.
A union coalition comprised of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), Transportation Communications Union (TCU), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) last week tentatively agreed on new contract terms with Amtrak covering nearly 3,500 workers, including 500 IAM members.
“District 19 President Joe Duncan and General Chairman Mike Hill did journeymen’s jobs working with the coalition members to obtain this agreement,” said IAM Transportation General Vice President Robert Roach, Jr. “The IAM thanks all our friends in Congress who supported us during this most difficult time in labor’s history at Amtrak.”
The tentative agreement’s terms closely follow recommendations of a Presidential Emergency Board created by President George W. Bush to investigate the more than eight year long contract dispute. Provisions include wage increases that average 35.2 percent over the life of the January 1, 2000 – December 31, 2009 agreement, or 3.1 percent compounded per year. Retroactive pay varies, but averages $12,800 which will be paid in two installments.
“Amtrak wanted a regressive agreement that gutted our work language and dramatically eroded job security,” said District 19 President Joe Duncan. “We retained all the work rules that Amtrak demanded be changed and secured retroactive wage increases for our members. All coalition unions recommend ratification of the agreement.”
The tentative agreement is subject to membership ratification. Each union will hold separate and independent membership ratification votes.
District Lodge 837 President and Directing Business Representative Rick Smith of O’Fallon, MO passed away last week at the age of 60.
Smith, a machinist by trade and 41-year IAM member, served his fellow brothers and sisters in various capacities over the years, including Shop Steward, Plant Chairman, and Local 837-B Recording Secretary. In 1994, he became a Business Representative for District 837, and since 1998, led the District as President and Directing Business Representative, heading up negotiations with Boeing, RTI Tradco and GKN Aerospace.
Rick also served on the St. Louis Labor Council, Missouri State Council of Machinists, Board of Guide Dogs of America; IAM/Boeing HPWO Steering Committee and IAM/Boeing Diversity Team.
“This is a great loss,” said IAM Midwest GVP Phil Gruber. “Rick Smith exemplified the very essence of service. Throughout his career in the IAM and the labor movement, it was his integrity and dedication to making life better for others – no matter how difficult the circumstances – that encouraged and inspired all who were privileged to know him.”
Rick is survived by his wife, Nancy; children, Richard, Eric and Stacie and their families. As Rick donated many hours to raising funds for Guide Dogs of America’s St. Louis Chapter, Nancy has asked that any memorial contributions be made in his honor to Guide Dogs of America-St. Louis, c/o Jim Marshall, 212 Utz Lane, Hazelwood, MO 63042.
Years of hard work and perseverance by the IAM/NFFE Forest Service Council (FSC) have come to successful fruition for its members. When the FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill was signed into law last month, it stopped competitive sourcing (outsourcing) in the Forest Service in its tracks. The bill also arranged for firefighters to receive 50% reimbursement for personal liability insurance.
The FSC’s Legislative Committee has been lobbying long and hard for its members on these two issues, at home and in Washington, DC. In fact, the Council was responsible for writing most of the bill’s language. The new law, which prohibits the Forest Service from spending any money on competitive sourcing or related activities, at least for 2008, states, “None of the funds made available by this or any other Act may be used in fiscal year 2008 for competitive sourcing studies and any related activities involving Forest Service personnel.”
The other long-fought victory was extending the scope of coverage for the 50% reimbursement for personal liability insurance to include firefighters. For years, law enforcement officers and agency supervisors were the only ones eligible for that benefit.
“These are huge wins for our Forest Service members,” said IAM Government Employees Director Frank Carelli. “The passage of this legislation would not have happened without the concerted efforts of our members and the dedication of the FSC Legislative Committee chaired by Mark Davis.”
This spring, you just might get to hit the water in a brand new Triton 18 Explorer bass boat powered by a Mercury engine manufactured by IAM Local 1947 (http://www.iam1947.org) members in Fond du Lac, WI. The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA) has teamed up with Triton Boats to deliver a water-ready boat and matching trailer package, valued at approximately $25,000, to one lucky member of the USA. Click here (http://www.unionsportsmen.org/promotions/Triton_1_Details.php) to join the USA and enter the drawing.
Triton’s Founder and President Earl Bentz donated the exceptional package in support of the USA as a special thank-you to the union customers who have helped Triton become one of America’s leading fiberglass fishing-boat manufacturers.
“Our company’s success is due in part to our many loyal union customers,” said Bentz. “We are honored to partner with the USA to equip a hardworking union member with one of our highest quality fishing boats.”
The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is a joint venture between 21 unions and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (http://www.unionsportsmen.org/index.php/about/about_pages/theodore_roosevelt_conservation_partnership)(TRCP).
One of the main goals of the two groups is to support the TRCP’s long-standing dedication to guaranteeing access for hunters and anglers, conserving fish and wildlife habitat and increasing funding for conservation.
For more information on the USA, and for your chance to win this incredible Triton 18 Explorer bass boat and trailer package, visit www.UnionSportsmen.org (http://www.unionsportsmen.org/).