iMAIL for Tuesday, June 30, 2009

IAM Files for Representation Election at AirTran

The IAM this week announced it filed an application with the National Mediation Board (NMB) to hold a representation election for more than 2,000 fleet service, passenger service and reservation employees of Orlando-based AirTran Airways.

“The two main issues driving this campaign are respect and wages,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “AirTran does not value their fleet and passenger service employees despite the entire company relying on their professionalism. The Machinists Union will ensure these AirTran employees are properly compensated and treated with the dignity every worker deserves.”

Under NMB rules, a union seeking an election must submit signed election authorization cards from a minimum of 35 percent of the group to be organized. The NMB will review the Machinists union’s submission before setting an election date. Employees typically cast votes electronically through an Internet website or by telephone.

“Most other AirTran employees already have the protection of union contracts,” said District 141 President Rich Delaney. “It is time for AirTran’s fleet service, passenger service and reservation employees to have a voice in their future and benefit from the security an IAM agreement provides.”

FedEx Drives Eight States to Investigate

FedEx Ground is quickly becoming a standout among rogue corporations that believe state laws, withholding taxes and workers’ rights are for companies who can’t figure out how to duck, dodge and abuse them.

Attorneys general from eight states recently took the unusual step of sending a joint letter to the Memphis, TN-based corporation, expressing serious concern that FedEx Ground may be improperly classifying its drivers as “independent contractors” rather than regular employees.

The classification scam leaves FedEx Ground drivers without basic protections, including workers compensation insurance, unemployment insurance, wage and hour protections, civil rights and minimum wage protections. Additionally, FedEx Ground gains an unfair cost advantage over competitors by underpaying its employees.

“Misclassifying employees is a way for a company to shirk its obligations to its employees and the protections to which they are entitled,” said Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch.  “Such a misclassification would also allow a company to skirt paying the taxes it owes and gain an unfair advantage over its competitors.  By joining with my colleagues in other states, we’ve signaled our willingness to work with FedEx Ground to make sure workers are protected under state laws and that the company—not taxpayers—are providing the benefits these workers deserve.”

A total of thirty states are now investigating FedEx Ground’s practice of misclassifying drivers. More than 45 class action lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court against the company’s misclassification practices.

Machinists Earn College Degrees

Sixteen IAM members were among more than 100 union members who earned degrees from the AFL-CIO’s National Labor College (NLC) in Silver Spring, MD, and were honored at the College’s graduation ceremony. The NLC coordinates their degree program with the IAM’s William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center, which allows IAM students to use the Winpisinger Center for part of their course work. Many of the Winpisinger Center programs are now accredited and can be used for college-degree programs. “Earning a college degree is a great achievement and we’re proud that the hard work and dedication shows in this year’s IAM graduates,” said Winpisinger Center Director Chris Wagoner. For information about earning a college degree through the National Labor College, contact Charlie Micallef at 301-373-3300.

Bob Herbert: ‘No Recovery in Sight’

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert recently wrote a compelling article that provides a sober counterpoint to the Wall Street wags and Washington pundits who are claiming the worst recession in 70 years is running out of steam.

“Some months ago, the Obama administration and various mainstream economists forecast a peak unemployment rate of roughly 8 percent this year. It has already reached 9.4 percent, and most analysts now expect it to hit 10 percent or higher,” wrote Herbert in No Recovery in Sight. “Economists are currently spreading the word that the recession may end sometime this year, but the unemployment rate will continue to climb. That’s not a recovery. That’s mumbo jumbo.”

Herbert refuses to accept the crackpot notion of a jobless recovery, citing the dramatic rise in underemployed and underutilized workers, with nearly 30 million working-age individuals languishing in the category as of May 2009. The overall labor underutilization rate in May 2009 rose to 18.2 percent, its highest value in 26 years.

“If it were true that the recession is approaching its end and that these startlingly high numbers were about to begin a steady and substantial decline, there would be much less reason for alarm,” writes Herbert. “But while there is evidence the recession is easing, hardly anyone believes a big-time employment turnaround is in the offing.”

Spanish Leadership II Class Lobbies Congress

Last week at the Winpisinger Center, the participants in the Spanish Leadership II program traveled to Washington, D.C. to lobby their Congressional representatives on a variety of critical issues for working families, including the Employee Free Choice Act and health care reform. Later in the day, the group also participated in a Health Care Equality Rally at Freedom Plaza as part of a delegation of LCLAA (Labor Council for Latin American Advancement) activists.

“After discussing in class the important pieces of legislation being debated in Congress, our members got the chance to have their voices heard. There is no better way to learn about how our democracy works than lobbying on Capitol Hill,” said Winpisinger Center Director Chris Wagoner.

During the week, the Winpisinger Center also hosted two members of USTAC, an ITF (International Transportation Workers’ Federation) affiliate union in Guatemala. The Center currently offers Leadership I and Leadership II in Spanish and is in the process of developing the Advanced Leadership program in Spanish, which will be piloted in 2010. The programs cover the same subjects included in the regular Leadership programs, but all classroom instruction and materials are in Spanish.

Clase de Liderazgo II Cabildea a Favor del Employee Free Choice Act

La semana pasada los participantes de la clase de Liderazgo II en Español, en el Centro Winpisinger, viajaron a Washington, D.C. para entrevistarse con sus representantes congresionales para discutir toda una variedad de asuntos importantes para los trabajadores y sus familias, incluyendo Employee Free Choice Act (Acta de Elecciones Libres) y la reforma al programa de salud. Durante la tarde del mismo día, el grupo participo en un evento, Cuidado Medico de Calidad, en la Plaza de la Libertad, que fue auspiciado por el Concilio Laboral Para el Avance Hispano (LCLAA por sus ciclas en Ingles).

“Después de discutir en clase las diferentes iniciativas que se debaten en el Congreso, nuestros miembros tuvieron la oportunidad de hacer oír sus voces. No ha mejor manera de aprender como funciona nuestra democracia que ir a cabildear al Capitolio,” dijo el director del Centro Winpisinger Chris Wagoner.

También durante la semana, el Centro Winpisinger alojo a dos miembros de USTAC, una unión afiliada al ITF (Internacional Transportation Workers’ Federation) provenientes de Guatemala. El Centro ofrece actualmente clases de Liderazgo I y II y se encuentra en el proceso de desarrollar el programa de Liderazgo Avanzado también en Español, el cual será presentado a prueba en el 2010. El programa cubre los mismos temas que se incluyen el programa regular de Liderazgo, pero todo, incluyendo clases y materiales, es en español.

Western Territory Scores Service Contract Win in Utah

Thirty-three workers at Bionetics, Inc., who provide calibration and measurement services for the U.S. Air Force at Hill AFB in Layton, UT, voted overwhelmingly for IAM representation, citing the Machinists’ great track record in service contract agreements.

“This is a great win for the IAM,” said Western Territory GVP Lee Pearson. “Our representatives in the field worked hard to develop a good reputation for quality service. It feels good to know that the skills of our staff are recognized by workers who need security and justice on the job. Great job by everyone involved.”  

The organizing campaign was led by GLR Mike Wardle, with assistance by Local 568 President Mike Dalpiaz. GLR Charles Toby, assigned to handle National Labor Relations Board work for the Western Territory, helped to move the process along very quickly. The election for the workers was held only four weeks after the petition was filed.  

IAM Mourns District 27 DBR Pat Maloney

The IAM is mourning the loss of District 27 Directing Business Representative Pat Maloney, 71, of Louisville, KY, who passed away last week after an illness.

Pat was first elected as a Business Representative in 1982, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Frank Fromang, an early labor organizer and his mother who also served as a union steward.

In addition to his career as an IAM representative, Pat was a counselor with the Kentucky Special Olympics, a past director for the Jefferson County Council of Retarded Citizens and volunteered with Louisville Diversified Services, Louisville Heritage Weekends, and as a past Labor Chairman of Metro United Way.

“This is a great loss for the IAM,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “Pat gave a lot of himself for the IAM for many years, and we will miss his experience and leadership. He was a great friend to all of us. Our prayers are with his family over their loss.”

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