iMail for Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Flight Attendants Vote on Pension Plan

More than 9,000 Continental Flight Attendants are receiving ballots in the mail this week for a special vote to transition from Continental’s company-sponsored pension plan into the IAM National Pension Plan (NPP).

An under-funded company plan and the prospect of a merger between Continental and United Airlines, whose Flight Attendants have no pension, has many Continental Flight Attendants are casting ballots for the NPP. Unlike their present plan, the NPP is a diversified multiemployer plan with more than 1,700 contributing employers that cannot be terminated by a single employer. Additionally, the NPP is a defined benefit plan that has enough assets to pay vested benefits for all participants and beneficiaries. Pilots at Continental have already frozen their company-sponsored plan, but now only participate in a defined contribution retirement savings plan.

Flight attendants can calculate their pension benefit in the NPP and compare it with the company-sponsored plan by visiting one of the IAM tables set up in crew rooms in Newark, NJ, Houston, TX and Cleveland, OH. IAM representatives are available daily in crew rooms throughout the voting period to explain the plan and its benefits.

A YES vote on the mail-in ballot will allow Continental Flight Attendants to preserve their benefits under the company plan, including the lump sum benefit and receive two pension checks when they retire, one from the company plan and one from NPP.

“Flight Attendants at Continental Micronesia already participate in the NPP,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “IAM members at United Airlines, US Airways, Northwest Airlines and Aloha Airlines have also ratified the NPP. It is the only defined benefit pension plan to survive bankruptcy and reorganization at those carriers.”

Voting will continue until February 13, 2007. More information and a schedule of informational meetings to explain the NPP is available at WWW.IAMDL142.ORG/FA.

Americans Dissatisfied With the “State of the Union”

As President Bush prepares to deliver his State of the Union address tonight, an overwhelming majority of Americans feel the country is on the wrong track and are dissatisfied with the performance of the President.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found 71 percent of Americans feel the country is seriously off track, compared with just 26 percent who feel the country is heading in the right direction.

Just 33 percent of those polled approve of Bush’s performance as president, matching the lowest point of his presidency. In fact, 57 percent of Americans prefer that congressional Democrats, rather than the president, take the lead in setting the direction for the country. Only 25 percent of respondents felt the country should go the direction Bush wants to take it. On issues across the board, including the economy and the federal budget, those polled overwhelmingly put more trust in congressional Democrats. 

While Bush continues to receive abysmal approval ratings, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fared much better. Fifty-four percent of those polled approve of her job performance as Speaker, compared with just 25 percent who disapprove.

Senate Committee to Examine Airline Mergers

Facing a wave of possible airline mergers including the $10 billion bid by US Airways for Delta Airlines, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Jan. 24 to examine the impact of additional consolidation in the fragile industry.

The Committee, chaired by Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), will hear from Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr, in addition to the CEO’s of Delta and US Airways. The IAM, representing nearly 100,000 airline employees in almost every classification, will be the sole labor representative to testify at the hearing.

“Any proposed merger must be examined for the impact it would have on employee pensions,” said Roach. “Company-sponsored pension plans are particularly vulnerable during mergers, consolidations and restructuring.”

While airline CEO’s and industry analysts eagerly tout mergers as an opportunity for investors and shareholders, they are less than forthcoming about how past consolidations have fared. US Airways, which recently merged with America West, has yet to conclude a transition agreement that would merge the maintenance and fleet service operations of the two carriers. American Airlines, which acquired TWA in 2001, failed miserably to honor the commitments made to TWA employees.

Illinois Local 822 Welcomes Congressman Hare

Congressman Phil Hare of the Illinois 17th District visited Machinists Local 822 in Quincy, IL, on January 20, 2007, to discuss the accomplishments of the new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I campaigned on an agenda to improve America’s economic and national security, while addressing the concerns of ordinary families in the 17th District. I am proud to say that promises made were promises kept,” said Hare.

In the first two weeks, the new Democrat majority in Congress passed ethics legislation, a minimum wage increase, implemented the 9/11 Commission recommendations, expanded stem cell research, passed a bill requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prescription drug prices and cut interest rates on student loans.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Congressman Hare, whose father was a Machinist, to our union hall,” said Local 822 President Larry Adams. “These campaign promises kept are proof that supporting those who champion the issues of working families can and will make a difference.”

Local Lodge 26 Back in Action

After negotiating a first contract with Laidlaw Transit Limited in November, IAM Local Lodge 26 has moved from Toronto to Midland, Ontario. LL 26 was briefly shut down after SlotAll, a manufacturer of steel shelving, closed their doors early last year.

The 116 new members of LL 26 consist of seniors and single mothers who drive school bus routes in the communities of Midland, Penetanguishene and Elmvale. In addition to their school routes, the members are also required to drive bus charters throughout Canada.

This past week the lodge’s newly elected officers received training in Midland. GLR Pat Murphy, National Education Representative Gord Falconer and GLA Ed Delaporte reviewed officer’s duties, the constitution, meeting procedures, the movement of funds, the audit procedure and lodge operations.

“This new Executive of Local Lodge 26 has stepped up and is proving that our newest members in Ontario will be well taken care of,” said GLA Delaporte.

IAM Mourns Local 1529 President Eugene Campagna

The flag outside Local 1529’s union hall in upstate New York will fly at half mast in remembrance of Local President Eugene Campagna, 52, who died last week in a car accident.

Campagna, a longtime IAM activist, represented IAM members employed at Amphenol Corp. in Sydney, N.Y., where flooding last year nearly wiped the manufacturing facility off the map. Campagna, known as “Geno” to his many friends, was extremely proud of the effort by members of Local 1529 and District 15 that helped bring the facility back to full production.

“Gene was not fond of ceremony, therefore, flowers and memorial gifts are not necessary,” said Eastern Territory GVP Lynn Tucker, Jr. “A gift of fairness, tolerance, patience, and loyalty given freely to others would be the most fitting remembrance of Gene.  He died much too soon.”