iMail for Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Northwest Log Truckers Vote to Pursue IAM Affiliation

By an overwhelming majority, members of the 500-strong Northwest Log Truckers Cooperative voted Jan. 21 to authorize their board of directors to develop a proposal that could lead to an historic affiliation with the IAM.

The effort by non-union log truck operators to join forces the Machinists follows sharp increases in fuel costs and a desire by operators to win better wages, heath care coverage and retirement benefits. The log hauling business in the Northwest is currently dominated by a handful of large corporate landowners, who fiercely opposed earlier organizing efforts.

“In some places one corporation controls the entire labor market for hauling logs,” said Chuck Macrae, President of Machinists District Lodge W-1. “This is destroying our communities, our local economies and our future. We expect many local businesses to support this effort.”

In addition to preparing for a formal affiliation vote, the IAM and the truckers’ cooperative are preparing to lobby for legislation to allow collective bargaining between truck owners and landowners. Current anti-trust law prevents log-truck owner-operators from joining together to negotiate hauling rates.

“By uniting with the log truck drivers, the IAM will be able to re-establish its historic presence in this industry from ‘stump to dump’,” said IAM Woodworkers Director Rod Kelty. “This struggle will not be quick, it will not be easy, but in the end, we will prevail.”

Conservatives Fail to Win Majority in Canada

Steven Harper is Canada’s new Prime Minister and his Conservative party will lead the next government. Canada now has a minority parliament with Conservatives winning 124 seats, Liberals 103, Bloc Quebecois 51, New Democratic Party (NDP) 29 and one independent.

It was evident during the 55-day election campaign that the Canadian electorate was seeking a change from Paul Martin and 12 years of Liberal Party government, however, it appears they weren’t willing to grant Harper a majority.

One of the major reasons Conservatives failed to win a majority is the improvement of the New Democrats under Jack Layton, who urged Canadians during the election campaign, “if you’re tired of the Liberals, lend the NDP your vote this time.”

The appeal worked in Toronto where Layton retained his seat and the NDP took two others from prominent Liberals. The strategy also produced significant results in British Columbia where the NDP won ten seats, twice the number it elected in 2004.

Layton said that while Canadians voted for Harper to form a minority government, “they asked New Democrats to balance that government.” Keeping the next parliament in check was one of the main reasons the IAM urged its members to support local NDP candidates.

“In the last parliament, the NDP produced new legislation beneficial to all working Canadians,” said Canadian General Vice President Dave Ritchie.

“I would have liked to see more New Democrats elected but overall I’m pleased with the 10 additional NDP seats in the next parliament and this will ensure that this government will reflect Canadian values.”

Machinists at NWA to Vote on Bankruptcy Pact

IAM members at Northwest Airlines are preparing to vote on a settlement proposal that rejects a two-tier wage schedule, preserves thousands of jobs and provides a defined benefit pension plan in place of the 401(k) replacement plan sought by the airline

The proposed 4-year contract also preserves cargo jobs in 10 locations, protects sick leave and dramatically scales back company proposals to cut holidays, vacation time and health care coverage. The IAM represents 14,500 employees at Northwest Airlines.

Under the agreement, the 19 percent wage cut imposed by the bankruptcy court will be replaced by an 11.5 percent pay cut and allow for expanded use of part-time workers.

If approved, the agreement will also suspend the IAM’s involvement in the 1113c trial currently underway in a New York City bankruptcy court. Northwest filed a motion to dissolve any contract not replaced by ratified cost saving contracts.

In a letter to members at NWA, the District 143 Negotiating Committee acknowledged the dire financial condition of NWA and the high stakes for the ratification vote. “After a review of the company’s books by our financial advisors, it has been determined that Northwest Airlines is in an extremely desperate financial situation.”

The committee indicated it was a “near certainty” the judge would abrogate IAM contracts if the membership rejected the proposal. Voting is expected to take several weeks following informational meetings to explain contract terms and answer members’ questions.

Winchester Down, Not Out

The news last week that U.S. Repeating Arms Company plans to close its Winchester firearm factory in New Haven, Connecticut left members of IAM Local 609 hopeful that investors could be found to rescue the legendary, but financially ailing company.

The closure announcement also ricocheted around the country as a sober reminder of how cherished symbols of American pride and ingenuity are not immune to the pressures of globalization and changing market forces.

Since the plant opened in 1886, tens of millions of Winchester rifles were produced by generations of machinists, engravers and woodworkers there. More than 19,000 people worked at the plant during World War II, however, fewer than 200 employees are employed there today.

If no buyer comes forward before the plant is scheduled to close on March 31, it would spell the end of all commercially produced Winchesters in the U.S.

Judge Approves UAL Bankruptcy Exit

United Airlines is expected to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on February 1, 2006, after wallowing in bankruptcy for more than three long years.

Bankruptcy Judge Eugene Wedoff, who has overseen the carrier’s operations for the past three years, approved the carrier’s plan of reorganization last week, including a controversial compensation package for UAL CEO Glenn Tilton and top executives at the airline. Tilton and 400 top executives at the airline will divvy up 8 percent of the 125 million in new UAL shares the airline expects to issue.

The amount of stock originally planned for UAL executives was 18,750,000 shares, or 15 percent of the restructured company. After objections were raised by the IAM and other unions, the amount was cut by nearly 45 percent to 10,000,000 shares, or 8 percent of the restructured company.

“The change is significant,” said District 141 President Randy Canale. “Rather than going to United’s managers and directors, 8,750,000 shares will now go to employees and unsecured creditors.”

Ford to Cut 30,000 Jobs, Shut Down Plants

Ford Motor Co. said on Monday it will cut from 25,000 up to 30,000 jobs in North America while shutting down various manufacturing facilities. Calling the restructuring plan the “Way Forward,” Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Ford announced his second restructuring plan in four years.

Among the plants that are scheduled for shut down include locations in St. Louis, Atlanta and the Wixom assembly plants and Batavia Transmission in Ohio. Windsor Casting in Ontario will also be idled, with another two assembly plants to be determined later this year. A total of 14 facilities, including seven assembly plants, will cease production by 2012. The cuts will affect 20 to 25 percent of Ford’s North American work force.

The United Auto Workers called the restructuring plan “extremely disappointing and devastating news for the many thousands of hard working men and women who have devoted their working lives to Ford.”


For those delegates attending the 2006 MNPL National Planning Committee, the cutoff date for sleeping room reservations is February 8, 2006.