iMail for Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Moncure Machinists Return with New Agreement

Striking members of Local W369 in Moncure, North Carolina, will return to work at Moncure Plywood with their contract and their dignity intact after ratifying a new three-year contract that preserves seniority rights and sharply restricts the amount of forced overtime employees can be required to work.

“The new contract is a dramatic improvement over the original terms proposed by the company and rejected by the members,” said Local W369 President Lewis Cameron. “Seniority is respected, scheduling issues will be resolved more equitably and most importantly, the workers’ contract is preserved.” The Local W369 Bargaining Committee unanimously recommended a ‘yes’ vote on the new contract.

Among the proposed changes that triggered the strike, which began on July 20, 2008, were mandatory seven-day work weeks, elimination of long-standing seniority protections and significant language changes to the workers decades-old agreement.

“The Machinists at Moncure have prevailed,” declared Leon Blocker, Machinists W-2 Directing Business Representative. “The IAM routinely negotiates more than 5,000 contracts across North America and very few involve any kind of work stoppage. The issues in this dispute, however, forced the workers at Moncure to take a stand.”

In addition to protection of seniority rights and limits on forced overtime, the new contract provides for limits on the use of temporary employees at the facility, phased-in health care increases, profit sharing if the plant becomes profitable and a buyout/severance option for all strikers. 

FedEx CEO Delivers Blackmail Threat to Congress

FedEx President and CEO Frederick Smith is threatening to cancel a multi-billion dollar deal to purchase planes from Boeing if Congress takes away FedEx’s status under the Railway Labor Act.

Smith says he will cancel an order to buy 15 Boeing 777 planes, as well as an option to purchase 15 more, if Congress approves the legislation. The entire deal is worth about $7.5 billion.

The pending legislation would reclassify FedEx Express workers under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), instead of the Railway Labor Act (RLA). FedEx has used its unique status under the RLA to block local union organizing drives, which would be permitted under the NLRA.

FedEx’s threat could cost the country thousands of jobs at Boeing, General Electric, and hundreds of subcontracting companies.

“Are investors willing to lose millions of dollars, so Smith can blackmail our nation’s policymakers?” asks IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “I don’t think so. The company is already facing severe economic news – the loss of a million packages each day is taking a bite out of profits. So tossing away millions is inane.”

Ft. Worth District 776 Sets the Record Straight

IAM District Lodge 776 in Fort Worth, TX, delivered an aggressive response to an article entitled “Slacker time on the taxpayers’ dime” by Fort Worth Star-Telegram guest columnist E.R. Bills. Bills accused workers at Lockheed Martin of “sleeping in fuselages; taking repeated, extended coffee breaks; discussing the sports page; playing dominoes; and watching the clock.”

District Lodge 776 President and Directing Business Representative Tim Smith (pictured left) fired back with a column of his own, sharing how IAM members and Lockheed Martin employees are among the most highly skilled, productive work forces in the aerospace industry today.

“The Machinists Union workers in Fort Worth have a long and proud record of outstanding productivity and quality that flies in the face of everything Bills said,” wrote Smith. “These are highly skilled jobs that take years of training and experience to perform. This union is proud to say that workers who build the greatest aircraft in the world deserve to earn good wages, healthcare and pensions… Our skills, craftsmanship, creativity and productivity are unmatched.”

Smith also offered something Bills’ original article lacked – facts.
“We’ve delivered 900 zero-defect F-16s,” wrote Smith. “We also build the midfuselage of the F-22, the largest, most complex part of the aircraft. To date, Lockheed Martin has delivered 22 completed F-22s to the U.S. Air Force with zero defects. Both the Machinists and Lockheed Martin are very proud of our quality.”

A number of workers also fired back through online comments and letters to the editors. Lockheed Martin issued a response, as well, attesting to its employees’ exceptional performance.

Reservation Deadline April 2 for Legislative Conference

The cut-off date for reduced room rates for the IAM 2009 Legislative Conference is April 2, 2009. The Conference will be held May 11-14 at the Hyatt Regency in Washington, D.C. Call the hotel at 202-737-1234 to make your room reservations.

Delegate registration will be on Monday, May 11 from 9:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. and again on Tuesday May 12 from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. The conference will kick off on Monday, May 11 at 1:30 p.m. with opening remarks by Headquarters GVP Rich Michalski, who will serve as permanent chairperson. IAM President Tom Buffenbarger will deliver the keynote address.

The general session will be held from 9:00 a.m. until 12 noon on Tuesday, May 12 and Wednesday, May 13. There will be no afternoon sessions scheduled those days so that delegates may lobby on Capitol Hill.

For a copy of the official call letter, click here.

IAM Urges Credit for GM Dealerships

The IAM is urging Department of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to stop General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) from imposing unreasonable restrictions on General Motors (GM) car dealerships.

GMAC has recently instituted a new policy that limits access to credit for dealerships. The automotive company is requiring dealers reduce principal balances on much of their inventory by up to 10 percent per month.

Several dealerships with mechanics represented by the IAM have expressed concerns about absorbing additional costs given their diminished profits and reductions in sales during 2008. The ultimate result, should GMAC be allowed to move forward with this new policy, will be more layoffs and a reduced tax base for a number of communities.

In a letter to Geithner, IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger wrote, “As you know, GMAC received federal funds under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). To that end, we want to ensure that GMAC is using taxpayer money properly and effectively to make credit available for small businesses in the automotive industry… We urge you to take measures that will stop GMAC from unreasonably imposed restrictions on access to capital that ultimately drives car dealerships out of business.”

Click here to read Buffenbarger’s full letter.

LCLAA Chapters Honor Cesar Chavez

IAM members in Labor Council For Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) chapters around the country joined with labor, civil rights and human rights activists to celebrate March 31, the birthday of Caesar Chavez, the inspirational leader of the United Farm Workers.

A state holiday in eight U.S. states, the day marks what would have been Chavez’s 82nd birthday. In words and deeds, Chavez became an inspiration for millions of Americans. With hunger strikes, nonviolent confrontations and the iconic grape boycott, he won better wages and working conditions for farm workers. He also brought the broader Latino rights movement into the American mainstream.

“Caesar Chavez will continue to be an inspiration for a new generation of labor activists but it is up to us to educate them about how he struggled and what he accomplished,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez, who serves as a LCLAA National Vice President. “We firmly believe his birthday deserves to be a national holiday to properly honor his life, his work and his dedication to the universal cause of labor rights and human rights.”