Machinists Union International President Tom Buffenbarger told a group of fellow union leaders and top presidential campaign staffers that blue collar workers in the U.S. cannot afford to wait for election-year platitudes and campaign promises to rebuild the nation’s devastated manufacturing base.
“America’s industrial resurgence cannot wait for ’08,” declared Buffenbarger at an event held during the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council meeting in Las Vegas, NV. “In addition to over 3 million manufacturing jobs lost since January 2002, we’ve lost a total of 43,000 manufacturing plants since 1999. It’s political and economic suicide to ignore this trend one day longer.”
Buffenbarger called for a U.S. industrial policy that includes legislation to stimulate the U.S. manufacturing sector – old and new – and cuts the massive U.S. trade deficit in half in four years. The U.S. trade deficit hit a record high $764 billion in 2007, up 6.5 percent from 2005. The merchandise trade deficit was even higher, ballooning from $783 billion in 2005 to $836 billion in 2006.
“Without a determined effort to rebuild and protect U.S. manufacturing capability, this nation’s economy will become a permanent hostage to foreign nations and a global economy that cares little for our history, our heritage or our values,” said Buffenbarger.
In addition to an industrial policy that creates jobs and provides tax incentives for businesses to renovate existing plants, Buffenbarger called for the establishment of a nationwide system of high tech institutes to train current and future workers in skills needed to develop and sustain U.S. manufacturing prowess.
Damage estimates continue to rise in the wake of more than a dozen tornados and violent thunderstorms that swept over Alabama and Georgia last week. At least nineteen IAM members of District 75 in Daleville, AL, are among scores of area residents whose homes were completely destroyed, with 20 more seriously damaged by the same tornado that killed eight students in nearby Enterprise, AL.
Members of District 75 and Local 2003 also assisted in the rescue and recovery effort after the Category 3 tornado lashed the area with winds exceeding 150 mph. Working in severe weather and under the threat of additional tornados, IAM members at Ft. Rucker helped launch a convoy of MEDEVAC helicopters that ferried injured students from Enterprise High School to local hospitals and trauma centers.
“It’s an extraordinary thing these members did, helping others in need, even as the storm was bearing down on their own homes,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “I don’t think there’s a finer example of community service than what these men and women did to help their neighbors in the face of extreme danger.”
Local IAM representatives and members continue to work alongside state, local and federal officials to help members and residents recover from the worst natural disaster to hit the Gulf Coast area since Hurricane Katrina. “We just had 100 IAM members and as many from the Army Fleet Support management team at Ft. Rucker take part in mass clean up in the hardest hit areas,” said District 75 BR Tony Blevins. “This community won’t soon forget the sight of those IAM members, all wearing red shirts, showing up to help when help was needed the most.”
Preparations for the upcoming negotiations between General Electric Co. and the union coalition representing over 30,000 workers nationwide took an important step last week when 17 members of the unions’ Coordinated Bargaining Committee (CBC) met to finalize economic and non-economic proposals.
Bargaining priorities for IAM members at GE were determined by membership surveys conducted last year and from input provided by local IAM representatives at meetings in Chicago last December. The IAM represents nearly 2,450 employees at 18 GE facilities in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Among the issues that will shape the negotiations, set to begin on May 21 in New York, are job security, health insurance costs, wages, pensions and other retirement benefits.
“GE is a highly profitable corporation with more than sufficient resources to meet the needs of its U.S.-based workforce,” said IAM Collective Bargaining Director Tom O’Heron. “Despite its profits and market dominance, however, GE routinely claims competition from third-world countries puts it at a competitive disadvantage. We should be prepared for negotiations that will require the utmost in membership solidarity and resolve to secure the terms we deserve.”
In an important legal victory for workers covered by the Railway Labor Act, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently upheld a lower court ruling that said when vacation use is a subject of collective bargaining agreements, employers cannot unilaterally force employees to use vacation time in conjunction with the Family Medical Leave Act.
The ruling follows a lawsuit by a coalition of rail unions, including the IAM and the TCU, who opposed rail carriers requiring workers to use paid vacation time as part of leave that would otherwise be mandated by FMLA guidelines.
“Unions have fought to secure workers’ vacation rights for decades,” said IAM General Vice President Robert Roach, Jr. “This decision rightly puts the choice of how to use vacation time in the hands of the workers who earned it.”
“The vacation agreements are the subject of apparently hard bargaining,” the court said in its ruling. “The right to time one’s vacation…is a hard–won right of railroad workers. It would seem quite odd indeed to say that this…can be wiped out by unilateral action on the part of the carriers.” The court’s ruling is available here.
GVP Rich Michalski announced the addition of Ray Moffatt to the team of IAM Aerospace Coordinators, effective March 1, 2007.
“As Aerospace Coordinator, Ray brings wisdom and experience in organizing, negotiating and networking in the fast-growing Service Contract Act (SCA) arena,” said GVP Michalski. “His expertise in the Service Contract environment is an invaluable asset.”
Moffatt became a member of the IAM in 1992 after affiliation from the SCA Association of Flight Training Professionals. He has served as negotiating committee member, Treasurer, and President of Local 2902 in Pensacola, FL and Delegate to District 75 in Daleville, AL.
Moffatt was selected to enter the Grand Lodge Apprentice Organizer Program in 1999, and subsequently was put on as an Organizer for District 75. In 2003, Moffatt was appointed a Special Representative in the Southern Territory, and in 2004, became a Grand Lodge Representative in the IAM Organizing Department.
As a former U.S. Marine Corps Officer/Pilot and Service Contract employee himself, Moffatt says it’s easy for him to understand the demands of working under a Service Contract, as well as the benefits of organizing and collective bargaining.
The U.S. House of Representatives enacted the most sweeping labor law reform in 70 years after passing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) by a vote of 241-185 last week, putting workers’ freedom to form unions without unjust management interference a step closer to reality. Thirteen Republicans joined 228 Democrats in voting for the bill. Two Democrats and 183 Republicans voted against it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the EFCA was “the most important labor law reform legislation of this generation.” And added that the EFCA is “more than labor law; it is about basic labor rights, about the rule of the majority free from intimidation and about protecting jobs.”
The bill is headed for a tough fight in the Senate. Republicans are already vowing to filibuster any bill which would force supporters to rally at least 60 senators to vote to end the filibuster and pass the bill.
The White House has also said that Bush will veto the legislation if it reaches his desk. The battle would then be to garner enough support to override a veto. A two-thirds vote or greater is needed in both the House and the Senate to override a presidential veto.
Tell the Senate to follow the House’s lead. Contact your Senators and tell them that a vote for the Employee Free Choice Act is a vote to sustain middle-class America, and we middle-class Americans expect their support. Click here for a quick link to contact your Senators.