Dissatisfaction over a proposed contract and deep-seated resentment over economic and psychological stresses brought on by Hurricane Katrina have triggered a strike by 6,300 union shipbuilders at Northrop Grumman’s Pascagoula, MS, shipyard.
The Gulf Coast facility, also known as the Ingalls Yard, was shut down on March 8 following an overwhelming vote by members of the Pascagoula Metal Trades Council (PMTC). The council includes members of Machinists, Plumbers, Sheet Metal Workers, Electrical Workers and seven other unions. Four independent bargaining units at the yard, including a separate group of Machinists, also rejected the contract offer from Northrop Grumman and are fully participating in the strike.
“What we are seeing here is something like post-traumatic stress in combat troops,” said Ron Ault, National President of the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department. “They are fed up with what they see as abandonment and neglect of this region. Our members are the world’s best shipbuilders, living in one of the nation’s most devastated areas. Something has got to give.”
Workers cited neglect by federal agencies, the loss of storm damaged infrastructure and sharply increased housing, fuel and insurance costs among daily challenges faced by residents 18 months after Hurricane Katrina swept ashore.
“The workers at Ingalls got this shipyard up and running in record time after the hurricane hit,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “Since then, they’ve faced stress and hardship that are akin to living in a war zone. It’s high time their contribution and sacrifice was acknowledged and rewarded.”
On March 14, officials with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) will oversee the counting of more than 1,700 ballots mailed in from members of AEIF-IAM Local 1943 in Middletown, OH. The count will begin at 10 a.m. and is expected to take several hours. If approved, the new contract would go into effect immediately and end the lockout at AK Steel that began more than a year ago on March 1, 2006. Results will be posted on www.goiam.org as soon as they become available.
The U.S. Senate voted last week to give more than 40,000 airport screeners at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) collective bargaining rights.
In a mostly party-line 51-46 vote, Senate Democrats defeated an amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) to remove a provision granting TSA screeners collective bargaining rights from a broad anti-terrorism bill to implement recommendations of the 9/11 commission. The House passed similar legislation in January.
However, Senate lawmakers then responded to a Bush veto threat by adopting an amendment that would scale back slightly the collective bargaining rights of airport screeners. The measure, which would allow the Department of Homeland Security to waive the right of the 43,000 passenger and baggage screeners to negotiate their working conditions in times of national emergency, passed 51-48.
Despite the provision, President Bush is still expected to turn his back on worker’s rights and veto the bill, thus denying airport screeners at the TSA bargaining rights, appeal rights and whistle-blower protections.
National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) / IAM Federal District 1 has moved to a new location at 805 Fifteenth Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, DC 20005. The new main phone number is 202-216-4420.
“We are happy to have finally completed this move,” said FD1 President Rick Brown. “This was a major piece of our long-term plan and now it is done. I believe the NFFE membership is really going to benefit from this move.”
The new building is just a few blocks from their old location, retaining the advantages of good access to public transportation and close proximity to many government offices.
The new facilities include two conference rooms that will allow the District to conduct training classes and executive board meetings on the premises. The new office also has wireless internet access and workspace for staff in town on business.
February marked the second straight month of declining job growth as employers added only 97,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced last week. The sluggish pace of job growth early in 2007, combined with much slower job growth in 2006 than in 2005, signals a job market could pose serious problems for working Americans in the coming year.
Last month’s lackluster job numbers were due in large part to continued declines in manufacturing and construction employment. The manufacturing sector dropped another 14,000 jobs, marking the eighth straight month of employment declines. Over the past 12 months, there has been a loss of 97,000 manufacturing jobs. Construction employment dropped a stunning 62,000 jobs.
The latest job numbers also show the employed share of the population dropped for the second straight month to only 63 percent. In fact, the number of people who were neither employed nor looking for a job jumped by 374,000 in February.
Newly organized members employed at RTI Tradco in Washington, MO, traveled to Local 837B’s monthly meeting in Hazelwood, MO, to be formally initiated as new IAM members following the ratification of their first ever contract earlier this year. Local 837B President DeWitt Darity administered the oath and the membership stood as Tony Strehlau, Jeremy Busse, Holly Strube, Cindy Mills, Diane Bailey, Belinda Mays, Carl Robinson, Edward Usery, and Heather McGlenn raised their right hand and swore to uphold the IAM Constitution and to honor the goals and traditions of the 118-year old labor union.
“I am very proud to see these members here today,” said District 837 Organizer Homer Clawson, who helped coordinate the successful organizing drive at Tradco. “These are just a few of the people who dedicated their time and effort in helping us inside the plant. They remained strong and committed during the entire process.”