iMail for Tuesday, June 26, 2007

IAM Wins Election for 1,800 in Long Beach, CA

In a major organizing win, Office and Technical Workers from the City of Long Beach, CA, voted by a more than two-to-one margin to join the IAM. The 1,800 new members join four other groups in the city: Professional; Protection; Refuse and Skilled and General units to bring the total number of IAM-represented city workers in Local 1930 to nearly 4,000.

Key to the victory was the example set by previous IAM drives among the Long Beach workers, especially the Professional group’s win last year. “When we showed the Office and Technical group that others, such as the Professional group,

saw immediate improvements in their wages, work standards, training opportunities and fairness on the job, they understood right away the value of joining the IAM,” said Western Territory GLR Joel Ochoa, who led the organizing drive.

Getting the word out to 1,800 workers spread out across the city was a daunting job that required an army of volunteers and staff. “We reached out to the Office and Technical unit, the Long Beach units, District Lodges 947, 725 and 190 and the Western Territory office,” said GLR and Western Territory Organizing Leader Steve Cooper. “We trained the volunteers on the approach for the campaign, gave them talking points and the locations of the Office and Technical employees who work all over the city in groups ranging from just a few to more than one hundred.”

The vote came just as the other Long Beach City workers are about to begin negotiations. The win gives all five groups a tremendous boost in bargaining power. “This was a total team effort,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson. “The Office and Technical Workers saw that the IAM is the union of choice for working families. Now we will start negotiations for all five units and we are 4,000 strong. We will deliver a good contract.”

GOP Senators Filibuster Employee Free Choice Act

A majority of Senators voted in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) today, but the vote was nine votes short of the 60-vote requirement to break a filibuster of the bill by a handful of obstructionist Senators. In a normal vote, the 51-48 margin would pass the bill. But under Senate rules, 60 Senators must vote for “cloture” to end debate if a few Senators elect to “filibuster,” or keep debate open on the bill.

EFCA has gotten farther than ever under the Democratic majority in Congress. The House passed its version and there were enough votes in the Senate for passage if there were no filibuster.

The Employee Free Choice Act (S.1041) would have leveled the playing field in the workplace by allowing workers to decide to join a union without employer interference and require arbitration if a timely agreement is not reached on a first contract.

The AFL-CIO and its affiliates mounted an intense grassroots campaign that generated nationwide rallies, 50,000 telephone calls, 156,000 faxes and 220,000 postcards to the Senate in support of EFCA.

“In (the) 2006 (election), the middle class spoke up. They understand they have not shared in the wealth that’s been produced,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

“It’s clear the majority of the American people want this legislation. A majority of the House wants it. A majority of the Senate wants it. And we will keep coming back year after year.”

Appeals Court Rules for IAM in U-Haul Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled late last week in favor of the IAM in the long-running legal battle to force U-Haul Co. of Nevada to recognize the results of a 2003 representational election and to begin bargaining a contract for U-Haul vehicle repair workers. The workers at U-Haul voted nearly 2-1 for IAM representation in May 2003.

In a strongly worded decision, the appeals court upheld an earlier National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that ordered U-Haul to recognize and bargain with Local 845 on behalf of repair workers at the company’s facility in Las Vegas. The court also rejected claims by U-Haul that a union observer engaged in improper electioneering by smiling at voters as they arrived to cast ballots in the election.

“The poorly enforced NLRB procedures that allow a company like U-Haul to thwart the outcome of a legal election for years is a prime example of how this politically rigged system favors employers and fails workers,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “If it takes a clean sweep of the political appointees at federal agencies like the NLRB to give workers the rights they’re entitled to, then we should demand nothing less. The labor movement in the country has been held hostage long enough.”

800 Army Workers in PA Win First IAM Contract

IAM Members employed by Defense Support Services, LLC (DS 2) at the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Tobyhanna, PA voted overwhelmingly this week to ratify their first collective bargaining agreement.

The nearly 800 members are employed under the Service Contract Act (link to SCA page), which provides significant opportunities for union members employed by Federal contractors who furnish services to Federal agencies.

“This is a very good first contract with gains in several areas,” said District 1 DBR Danny Chmelko. “None of the accomplishments would have been possible without Organizer Gary Anthony. The organizing and negotiating committees helped lead this process from the beginning of the organizing drive through the successful conclusion of the negotiations. They did a great job.”

The negotiating committee cut the employee contribution portion for the health care plan in half. The accord also contains wage increases of 4 percent, 3.5 percent and 3.5 percent respectively over the three-year agreement.

“These new members recognized the IAM’s experience representing Service Contract employees,” said Eastern Territory GVP Lynn D. Tucker, Jr. “The proof is in the results. Cutting the cost of health care contributions in half at a time when the national trend is on the rise is no small accomplishment.”

IAM Legal Dept. Issues Security Clearance Guidelines

The increased attention to security since September 11, 2001 impacts nearly every aspect of our daily lives, from long lines at airport checkpoints to personal phone calls and library records being subject to surveillance. Government employees and contractors, however, face added scrutiny if they are required to obtain security clearances as a condition of their employment.

An extremely thorough background check of an individual’s financial and personal affairs can sometimes cause a long forgotten error in judgment or youthful indiscretion to resurface, with potentially serious consequences. The number of government employees facing security clearance-related problems, including discharge from a long-held position, has increased dramatically since 9/11.

The IAM Legal Department has assembled guidelines for government and government contract employees who are required to obtain and maintain security clearances from the U.S. Department of Defense. Available to authorized IAM representatives on VLodge, the guidelines detail how an employee can protect their security clearance and how representatives can best assist members with security-related problems.

While procedures and requirements may vary from one government agency to another, the key points for employees to remember are (1) be completely honest and forthright on their application and at any interviews; (2) identify any potential problems as early in the process as possible and take immediate steps to “mitigate” any problems identified; and (3) follow all appeal procedures and comply with all deadlines.

The guidelines start with a brief discussion of types of security problems that most frequently arise, followed by a discussion of the procedure, with a particular focus on those parts of the process where an employee is most likely to improve his or her chances of obtaining and protecting his or her security clearance.

In addition to making the guidelines available to IAM representatives, the IAM will also be developing a special course on the subject of security clearances to be taught at the WWW Center at Placid Harbor.

Pension Ruling at DOE a Victory for Workers

In a major victory that highlights the value of a politically involved labor movement and a Congress that is sensitive to workers’ issues, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced it is suspending an effort promoted by the Bush administration that would jeopardize pension plans and medical benefits for thousands of government workers.

Under the proposed policy change, DOE would have no longer reimbursed contractors for costs associated with providing traditional defined benefit pensions to new employees. The suspended DOE policy would also have required contractors to replace traditional pension plans for new workers with 401(k)-style plans, making workers responsible for investing contributions and providing no guaranteed benefit in retirement. Medical benefits also would have been switched to a so-called “market-based” program.

“This shows what we as union members can accomplish if we work together. Our efforts reinforced the initiatives of the IAM staff, district representatives and our brothers and sisters in other unions across the country to push back DOE’s attack on workers benefits,” said E.W. Seals, President of Local 480 in Oak Ridge, TN. “I’d like to personally thank our members for contacting their congressional delegation in an effort to stop this attack on our members’ benefits and the benefits of workers across the country.”