iMail for Tuesday, June 17, 2008

IAM Slams Tanker Accounting Errors 

The IAM renewed its call for the controversial tanker refueling contract to be reversed following news that the U.S. Air Force awarded the $35 billion contract based on errors that favored the Airbus tanker over a version of Boeing’s 767.

“This process has been deeply flawed from the beginning,” said Headquarters GVP Rich Michalski. “First, the Air Force admitted they never took into account the employment consequences of awarding a multi-billion contract to a company based in France. Now we learn they used grossly inaccurate numbers to compare operating costs of the two aircraft. It’s clear that Boeing won this competition and they should be awarded the right to build these planes.”

The Air Force recently admitted it miscalculated the life-cycle costs of operating Boeing’s refueling tanker by at least $36 million per aircraft and that it awarded the contract to the more expensive proposal for an Airbus tanker. The recent increase in fuel prices makes the cost difference between operating the two aircraft even larger.
Additionally, the Air Force said earlier this year that it was not required to consider the employment impact of outsourcing such a large defense contract.

“We need to decide as a nation if billions in taxpayer dollars should be used to support job creation programs overseas while this country slips deeper into recession,” said Michalski.

The IAM has led a sustained grassroots effort to overturn the tanker award, with members in all 50 states contacting lawmakers and urging an investigation of the process that resulted in the Airbus design being chosen over one based on Boeing’s 767, a model with more than 10 million hours of commercial flying time.


WWW Center Hosts First ITF Summer School

The International Federation of Transport Workers (ITF), the global federation representing 4.5 million union members in 148 countries, is holding its first-ever Women’s Summer School this week at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center in Southern Maryland.

Forty-two women from 26 countries, including Mongolia, Kenya and India have gathered at the WWW Center this week to strengthen their leadership skills and develop strategies to increase women’s participation in unions. Among the goals of the week-long school is to share experiences about the transnational companies that regularly pit workers against each other in their quest for the lowest wages and loosest environmental standards. 

“Millions of women work in the transport industry and have first hand knowledge of the negative impact of deregulation, privatization and globalization,” said Transportation GLR Carla Winkler, who chairs the Civil Aviation Committee Sector. “This school is also an opportunity for these 42 women to share their extraordinary experiences in organizing, bargaining and problem solving under pressure.”

A major function of the ITF is informing and advising unions about developments in the transport industry around the world. They organize international solidarity when transport unions in one country and need assistance from unions in other countries.


Airline Merger Plans Rocked by Fuel Prices

Most airlines have temporarily suspended their merger ambitions in response to soaring fuel prices, however, Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines appear bent on pursuing a merger that would create an unmanageable behemoth with $15 billion in long-term debt.

In response to aggressive lobbying in Washington, D.C. by airlines, the IAM has been meeting with key lawmakers on behalf of workers at Northwest Airlines and Delta Airlines.

IAM representatives met with the Director of Labor and Policy for Congressman George Miller (D-CA). Miller is the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, the committee with jurisdiction over all health, employment, labor and pension issues. The IAM is urging this committee to examine the negative impact the merger would have on workers’ jobs, seniority, pension and health care benefits.

On June 13, the IAM met with Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers, urging him to put pressure on the Department of Justice to consider the impact on employees when it evaluates this merger.

The IAM’s message is straightforward: this merger will cost workers their jobs and pensions; reduce choices for consumers; and burden federal, state and local governments by forcing impacted airline employees and retirees to turn to the nation’s Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment insurance systems for aid.

“There are 12,500 active IAM members at Northwest who will lose in this merger, as well as thousands of retirees whose benefits are also at risk,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “A merger between Delta and Northwest will put the combined airline at a tremendous risk for failure, endangering the jobs of all Delta and Northwest workers.”


Georgia State Archives Available for Local Treasures

As the IAM prepares to celebrate 120 years of union history at the 37th Grand Lodge Convention in Orlando, FL, many local lodges are finding they too have significant quantities of documents, photographs and records from decades gone by.
The Southern Labor Archives at Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta, GA, may be the answer for local officials confronting the question of how to properly store accumulating boxes of historical union material.

The Southern Labor Archives at GSU contains one of the largest collections of labor records in the United States and has been the official archive for the IAM since 1988. Included in the collection is every issue of the Machinists’ Monthly Journal, from the first issue in 1889 all the way through its last year of publication in1956. The collection, which is available online, also includes the Machinist newspaper published from 1946 to 1994, when the IAM Journal began publication.

To find out if your local lodge historical records can be stored at the Southern Labor Archives, contact Traci Drummond at tdrummond@gsu.edu or at 404-413-2886.


California Auto Techs Strike Allison BMW

Seventy-one automotive technicians and service writers voted to strike after Allison BMW auto dealership in Mountain View, CA proposed a laundry list of concessions during the latest round of contract talks. The auto techs are members of Local 1101 in San Jose, CA.

Allison BMW demanded major changes in pay structures, deep cuts to insurance benefits, increased out-of-pocket expenses, deletion of disability insurance and elimination of sick leave benefits and holidays.

“Our members weren’t asking for the moon, just to maintain their current standard of living. They enjoy the work they do and the service they provide the customers,” said IAM negotiator Jim Schwantz. “The IAM has always worked with reasonable employers who need help during troubled times, but this company is asking for much more than it needs.”

The seventy-one automotive technicians at Allison BMW perform vehicle repair and other service department functions. Allison BMW is owned by AutoNation, America’s largest automotive retailer, with 321 new vehicle franchises in 15 states. Despite lower vehicle sales, AutoNation posted $4.0 billion in revenues in the first quarter of 2008.


New Legislation Targets ‘Independent Contractor’ Scam

House Democrats have introduced legislation that would crack down on employers who improperly misclassify their workers as “independent contractors” rather than employees.

By labeling workers as “independent contractors”, employers strip workers of important rights, including the right to collectively bargain, minimum wage and overtime protections and workers’ compensation coverage.

The Employee Misclassification Protection Act of 2008, introduced by Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), would impose stronger penalties for misclassifying workers and require employers to inform workers of their classification and their right to challenge it.

“Employers who misclassify their employees as independent contractors rob workers of needed pay and benefits and cost government at all levels substantial uncollected revenues,” said Woolsey, chair of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.