iMail for Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Employee Free Choice Act Introduced in Congress

The Employee Free Choice Act took a big step toward becoming the law of the land today as Representative George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the legislation in the House and Senate.

“American workers need help now and the Employee Free Choice Act is an important step to rebuild America’s middle class and make an economy that works for everyone,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “We must ensure that Congress listens to working families and passes the Employee Free Choice Act.”

Recent polling by the AFL-CIO shows 73 percent of the public supports the Employee Free Choice Act, despite an intense corporate campaign of distortions and falsehoods. The Employee Free Choice Act makes it easier for workers to join unions and bargain for better wages, benefits and a secure retirement, strengthens penalties for employers who harass, intimidate or fire workers who try to form a union, and provides for arbitration if an employer does not bargain in good faith for a first contract.

The Employee Free Choice Act has enough support for a simple majority passage in the House and Senate, but faces a filibuster in the Senate. A filibuster takes 60 votes to end and corporations are pouring millions of dollars to pressure key legislators not to support the bill.

“President Obama has pledged to sign the Employee Free Choice Act if it reaches his desk,” said Buffenbarger. “It’s time to call, write and email Congress and let them know it’s time for American working families to be listened to.”

Click here send a message to Congress to support the Employee Free Choice Act.

COBRA Subsidy Available for Laid-off Workers

Laid-off workers can now get help paying for their health care coverage that is offered through COBRA. COBRA is a federal law that allows most laid-off workers to continue their health plan coverage at group rates. Until now, workers have had to pay the entire premium. For many newly jobless families, the cost has been too high.

President Obama’s economic stimulus bill includes a 65 percent premium subsidy to help eligible workers keep their health care coverage under COBRA. Workers who have been laid off since September 1, 2008, are eligible for the 65 percent subsidy. Premiums would be discounted by this amount and the worker would be required to pay the remaining 35 percent to maintain their health care coverage.

The subsidy is available for a maximum period of nine months, and is only applicable to premiums paid after February 17, 2009. The subsidy is not retroactive to previously paid COBRA premiums. Workers who have other group health coverage options, such as through a spouse, or Medicare, are not eligible for the subsidy. COBRA benefits are unavailable if the employer shut down or no longer offers a group health plan.

The new law also gives qualified individuals a “second chance” to elect COBRA coverage if they turned it down previously. The plan is required to notify laid-off workers of a second COBRA enrollment period by April 18. Additionally, laid-off workers can change to a plan that costs less than their original plan, if it is offered to active employees. 
For more information, visit the special Department of Labor website at

Machinists Host Aviation High School Students

The IAM’s William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center welcomed twenty-eight seniors from New York City’s Aviation High School for a four-day program designed to introduce students to the role labor unions have in the aviation industry. This is the seventh year of the unique IAM-Aviation High School partnership.

“Aviation High School is a public school that challenges students to develop the skills necessary to succeed,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “The government needs to invest in creating similar programs across the country. If we provide our students with the tools required to find good paying jobs, the whole country benefits.”

Aviation High School allows students to graduate with the federal licenses required for a career in aircraft maintenance. Many of the students in this year’s program plan on continuing their education by pursuing engineering degrees.

Participants in this week’s program received an overview of a major airline’s maintenance program, attended a class on labor history and participated in discussions on the economy and politics. Students learned about the current congressional debate over the FAA reauthorization bill and received a presentation by an IAM aircraft accident investigator. The program also included a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

“This is a vital program,” said Aviation High School teacher and former student Mike Ramirez. “It gives students exposure to things they could not see at home.”

IAM Legal Warning Gets Air Canada’s Attention

“Any way you slice it, somebody at Air Canada Enterprises (ACE) is having sober second thoughts,” said Canada GVP Dave Ritchie, following the announcement by ACE that it was halting a plan to dissolve the division and distribute the assets to shareholders.

“We made in very clear in mid February that the members of the ACE and Air Canada Board of Directors will be liable if ACE goes ahead with its plans to wind up ACE Aviation and distribute the proceeds to its shareholders,” explained Ritchie. “I think our threat of litigation has caught their attention.”

The IAM is largest union at Air Canada, representing more than nine thousand mechanics, baggage handlers, cargo agents, stores, finance and clerical personnel.

ACE Aviation has progressively sold off assets that had previously belonged to Air Canada. The proceeds from those assets sales, some $2 billion CDN, have already been distributed to the shareholders.

“The state of the economy is creating very significant challenges for Air Canada and the funds held by ACE would be best used to support the airline and its pension plans,” said Ritchie. “Air Canada workers and retirees have already made sacrifices that helped Air Canada survive the last economic downturn. The shareholders of ACE have done well for themselves. Now is the time for ACE to meaningfully recognize those sacrifices by using its assets to support Air Canada and Air Canada’s employees and pension plan beneficiaries.”

“This is far from over,” warned Ritchie. “They have only postponed the shareholders meeting and we intend to continue to apply pressure until the ACE Board of Directors fulfills its obligations it owes to employees and retirees.”

Specialized Training Offered in Puerto Rico

The Southern Territory recently completed a special Spanish Steward and Officer training that was held between February 27 and March 2, for members of Local Lodge 2725 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A total of fifteen members covered by six different bargaining agreements attended a unique training designed to equip Local Lodge officers and stewards with the latest tools needed to service and inform their membership. The three-day intensive training included subjects such as Role of the Steward, Workplace Communication, Local Lodge Administration and Grievance Writing.
With classroom materials based on the Spanish Leadership programs at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center, District 166 Organizer Javier Almazan, GLR Ramon Garcia, GLR Carlos San Miguel, and Education Representative Anne Wiberg worked together to develop and give the training.  In addition, Business Representative Jose Rodriguez Baez and AFL-CIO Organizer-Coordinator John Vigueras assisted in the instruction of several classes, providing a level of knowledge and expertise that were instrumental in making the training a success.

“It’s great to see the IAM providing this training for our Spanish-speaking Stewards and Officers,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “The Winpisinger Center continues to break new ground every day, addressing the needs of our membership, wherever it takes them.”

Solidaridad en San Juan, Puerto Rico

El Territorio del Sur está feliz de anunciar el cumplimiento exitoso de un entrenamiento especial en Español para los representantes de área y funcionarios de la Logia Local 2725 en San Juan, Puerto Rico que se llevó a cabo del 27 de febrero al 2 de marzo.

Un total de quince miembros representando a seis diferentes contratos colectivos asistieron al entrenamiento especial.  Con el esfuerzo de equipar a los representantes de área y funcionarios con las herramientas más avanzadas para servir e informar a la membresía, el Vice Presidente del Territorio del Sur Robert Martinez respondió y ofreció el entrenamiento intensivo de tres días que incluyó clases como “El rol del representante de área,” “Comunicación en el trabajo,” “Administración de la logia local,” y “El manejo de agravios.”

Con materiales basados en los programas de Liderazgo en Español del Centro de Educación y Tecnología William W. Winpsinger, el Organizador Javier Almazan del Distrito 166, GLR Ramon Garcia, GLR Carlos San Miguel, y Representante de Educación Anne Wiberg trabajaron juntos para desarrollar y realizar el entrenamiento.  Además, el Representante de Negocios Jose Rodriguez Baez y el Organizador-Coordinador del AFL-CIO John Vigueras asistieron en la instrucción de varias clases; sus conocimientos y experiencia fueron clave en el éxito del entrenamiento.
“Es excepcional ver cómo la IAM trabaja tanto para proveer este entrenamiento para nuestros representantes de área y funcionarios que hablan Español,” dijo GVP Martinez. “El Centro Winpisinger continua proporcionando servicios nuevos cada día para satisfacer las necesidades de la membresía, donde quiera que se necesite. El Centro Winpisinger y la IAM continúan tomando la delantera en educar a nuestros líderes.”

District 141 Reaches Tentative Pact with Hawaiian Airlines

IAM District 141 announced a tentative agreement with Hawaiian Airlines covering the carrier’s 1,500 customer service, reservation, ramp and clerical employees.

The proposed two-year contract provides wage increases ranging from three to ten percent, freezes current employee healthcare contributions, provides an incentive compensation program and enables performance and profit bonuses. Additional contract adjustments recognize the challenges facing the industry.

“This tentative agreement puts more money into our members’ pockets during extremely difficult economic times,” said IAM District 141 President Rich Delaney. “Our negotiating committee unanimously recommends ratification of the agreement.”

The tentative accord, the first since the airline emerged from bankruptcy in 2005, is subject to a membership ratification vote. Ratification results will be available after March 25, 2009. Complete terms of the tentative agreement are available on the District 141 website,

Separate negotiations between Hawaiian Airlines and IAM District 142, which represents the airline’s 560 mechanic & related employees, are continuing.

Win the Hunting, Fishing Trip of a Lifetime

The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance is announcing a casting call for the fourth season of Escape to the Wild, the union-dedicated TV show that selects hardworking union members to take part in the hunting or fishing trip of a lifetime.

IAM members interested in nominating themselves or a fellow member should log-on to and click on the Escape to the Wild button to download an application.  But act now – the deadline for trips in March and April is fast approaching.

Among the upcoming trips planned are hunting in Africa, South Dakota and Colorado, fishing for sailfish off the coast of Guatamala and a caribou hunt in Canada.

Escape to the Wild is a TV program of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, VERSUS Network and several of America’s leading trade unions and contractor associations that honors hardworking union members with world-class hunting and fishing adventures.