iMail for Tuesday, March 03, 2009

IAM Leaders Discuss Priorities with U.S. Transportation Secretary

Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr., and leaders of other transportation unions met this week with new U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to discuss the priorities of the nation’s transportation workers. The discussion took place at the annual winter meeting of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department.

GVP Roach and Secretary LaHood discussed the IAM’s unique partnership with New York City’s Aviation High School and the potential advantage of creating similar programs nationwide. “President Obama has embraced the need for increased vocational skills training to prepare the next generation of workers,” said Roach. “The Machinists Union is prepared to work with Secretary LaHood to ensure students interested in a transportation career have access to the training that will provide the skills they need to succeed.”

Other topics discussed with Secretary LaHood included OSHA protections for flight attendants, increased inspection and standards for foreign repair stations that service U.S. aircraft and reforming flight attendant duty time to address dangerous fatigue. The IAM also stressed the importance of clarifying that FedEx mechanics and truck drivers are not aviation workers despite the company’s lobbying battle to preserve the intentional misclassification.

Secretary LaHood ensured the IAM will have the access to his office that his immediate predecessor did not provide. A follow-up meeting between the IAM and Secretary LaHood is being scheduled.

In discussion with Congressman Oberstar, GVP Roach stressed the need for President Obama to quickly appoint fair-minded individuals to the National Mediation Board (NMB). “Under the previous administration, the NMB had become a tool corporations used to silence workers,” said Roach. “With the transportation industry rapidly changing, immediate change is also needed at the NMB.”

Battle Lines Take Shape in EFCA Campaign

The nation’s most conservative business organizations are joining forces with former House Republican leader Newt Gingrich in a multi-million dollar campaign to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

Passage of EFCA would allow workers to choose from two ways to form a union in their workplace: a secret ballot election or a card-check authorization procedure. Under current law, employers routinely dominate the frequently long and drawn out election procedure.

The smear campaign by Gingrich & Co., includes radio and TV ads and heavy promotion of the Secret Ballot Protection Act, recently introduced Senate legislation that purports to “protect” workers from EFCA and defend their right to a secret ballot election.

The right to a secret ballot election is fully preserved and protected under EFCA.

“This legislation deserves to be called what it really is; a cynically-titled Orwellian lie designed by lobbyist thugs to frighten workers that their rights are somehow being threatened,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “The lawmakers and lobbyists sponsoring this bill have no more interest in workers’ rights today than they ever did.”

Among the legislation’s co-sponsors (all Republicans) are: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).

In stark contrast to the far-right ideologues who are promoting a new crusade against U.S. labor unions, 39 of the nation’s top economists, including two Nobel Prize winners, issued a statement this week that linked the seven-year decline in household income to the erosion of workers ability to form unions and bargain collectively.

“A rising tide lifts all boats only when labor and management bargain on relatively equal terms,” said the economists’ statement. “In recent decades, most bargaining power has resided with management. The current recession will further weaken the ability of workers to bargain individually. More than ever, workers will need to act together.”

IAM Applauds Kansas Gov. Sebelius as HHS Choice

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius addresses the 2006 IAM National Staff Conference in Denver, CO.

The IAM is welcoming the choice of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services.

A former insurance commissioner, Gov. Sebelius has been a longtime ally of working families, especially in the area of health care reform. As governor of Kansas, Sebelius took a lead role in reeling in the skyrocketing cost of health insurance by creating a Cost Containment Commission that brought together business leaders, health care providers, private insurers and patient advocates.  She consolidated the state’s health care purchasing into a single division, allowing Kansas to bargain effectively for high-quality health care at competitive prices. She also succeeded in extending health care coverage to tens of thousands of Kansas children from low-income families.

In addition to reforming health care, Gov. Sebelius also has a remarkable record in labor reform. As a featured speaker at the 2006 IAM National Staff Conference in Denver, CO, Sebelius was warmly welcomed by delegates for her strong defense of IAM aerospace jobs in Kansas and for her work to bring new jobs and new industries to Kansas. Her help was critical in preserving hundreds of jobs at Eaton Corp. in Hutchinson, KS, when the hydraulics manufacturer was considering closing its aging facility and relocating.

“Gov. Sebelius is an outstanding leader, both, in health care and issues important to working families,” says IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “We look forward to working with her in creating a health care system that works for every American.”

Catch ‘A Powerful Noise’ on March 5

March 8 is International Women’s Day and to commemorate the event, 450 theatres nationwide will screen ‘A Powerful Noise,’ the acclaimed documentary that follows the inspiring lives and work of three women in Mali, Bosnia and Vietnam. Many screenings will be followed by a live town hall simulcast from New York City, featuring actress Natalie Portman, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Pulitzer prize winning journalist Nicholas Kristoff and others.

To learn more about “a Powerful Noise,” visit To find a participating theatre near you and to purchase tickets, go to

Bill Would Restore Rights for VA Health Care Professionals

The National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE-IAM) is supporting legislation that would restore meaningful collective bargaining rights for thousands of Title 38 Veterans Affairs medical professionals.

Introduced in the House by Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), and later in the Senate by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), this legislation would clarify VA medical professionals’ right to negotiate, file grievances and arbitrate disputes over working conditions.

Initially adopted in 1991 as an amendment granting collective bargaining rights to Title 38 employees, the current law has since been broadly interpreted to effectively eliminate them.

“It is positively shameful that a law intended to empower VA health care workers has been misconstrued to effectively disenfranchise them,” said NFFE-IAM Federal District 1 President Richard N. Brown. “This bill will ensure that the women and men who care for our veterans every day get the respect and consideration they deserve in the workplace.”

The VA is at a distinct disadvantage in recruiting compared to private sector medical facilities and even other federal facilities such as the Walter Reed Army Medical Center because of the narrow scope of bargaining imposed on VA health care workers.

 “This bill is significant not just for nurses and doctors at the VA, but also for our injured men and women in uniform,” said Brown. “In order to provide our veterans with the highest-quality care, we must do everything in our power to attract the most talented medical professionals this nation has to offer. Anything less would be a disgrace.”

Click here to send a letter to your representative in support of restoring VA workers rights.

District 15 Scores String of Organizing Wins

District 15 kicked off 2009 the same as the previous year with a string of organizing wins that included two First Student locations in Freeport and Hicksville, NY. The new members at First Student are auto, diesel mechanics and fuelers.

Employees at Vantage Management Services in New York City also recently voted to join the IAM. Those new members provide building services and are largely Spanish speaking. Retired GLR Sam Rodriguez was instrumental in bridging the language barrier and providing the information the workers needed to sign IAM Authorization Cards for representation.

“Our retirees are not only able, but willing to help and assist wherever needed,” said Eastern Territory GVP Lynn D. Tucker, Jr. “Retirees are an untapped resource waiting to be utilized for the good and welfare of the union.  Congratulations to DBR Jim Conigliaro and his staff for their hard work and efforts on behalf of the IAM.”