Hundreds of activists from every level of the IAM are gathered in Washington, D.C. this week for the 2009 Legislative Conference; four days of legislative planning and grassroots lobbying on Capitol Hill to build on the successes of the 2008 election.
“What a difference a year makes,” declared IAM President Tom Buffenbarger in a keynote address to open the busy agenda. “When we gathered last year, George Bush was president. Your dedication and faith along with the work of our IAM brothers and sisters throughout this union turned things around. We now have Barack Obama as president, a cabinet who believes their job is to improve the lives of the American people and a Congress that is trying to address our concerns.”
Buffenbarger outlined the challenges ahead in the face of the worst economic crisis in decades and challenged delegates to carry a strong message to those we elected to office. “We want you send a message loud and clear to Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill to bring back jobs and to bring back dignity and respect for those who work for a living,” said Buffenbarger.
Delegates to the Legislative Conference will spend the afternoons on two days of the Conference lobbying their elected representatives in Congress. Buffenbarger gave delegates an overview of the how the IAM is weathering the economic storm and the need for action by government on issues ranging from trade reform, universal health care, solving the manufacturing crisis, protecting the aerospace industry, more skills training and education improvement, “express carrier” reform to close a legal loophole that allows FedEx to block organizing to winning passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. “The best way to counteract the serious challenges we face in today’s economy is to organize,” said Buffenbarger. “We have a president who will sign the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s up to us to make sure Congress passes it and puts it on his desk.”
“All of you worked hard in the last election. When you visit your representatives this week, remember that we’re not asking for their support. We’ve earned the right to demand it,” said Buffenbarger. “As Machinists union members I know you’ll get the job done.
“You are our strongest voice on these issues,” said General Vice President Rich Michalski. “These are your legislators and we must stay strong on all the issues that affect IAM members across North America.”
At the request of a diverse group of Mechanic and Related employees at United Airlines, the IAM this week announced a campaign to help United’s 9,000 Mechanic & Related employees return to Machinists Union representation. The IAM represented the Mechanic & Related employees at United until 2003, when they voted to be represented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA). AMFA was subsequently replaced by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, their current union, in April 2008.
The IAM currently represents United Airlines’ 17,000 Ramp & Stores, Public Contact, Food Service, Maintenance Instructor, Fleet Technical Instructor and Security Guard employees. IAM members are the airline’s only employees who have a defined benefit pension plan, the IAM National Pension Plan.
“The lack of a secure pension option and the system-wide lack of servicing caused their UAL members to seek a union with a strong focus on local representation,” said Roach. “UAL’s Mechanic and Related employees have been without a pension since 2005, but IAM members at United are earning benefits in the secure IAM National Pension Plan.”
“The Teamsters relegated UAL employees to pre-existing locals where we comprise a minority,” said Malik Miah, a San Francisco-based UAL mechanic. “In San Francisco, the Teamsters arbitrarily split the membership among multiple locals to suppress our voice and reduce our voting power.”
“The Machinists Union will provide UAL Mechanic & Related employees the ability to develop their own district and locals to ensure their right to self-determination,” said Roach.
Machinists in Wichita, KS, are rightfully confident that former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius will do an exceptional job in her new position as Health & Human Services secretary. She’s already proven to be a worthy ally in the fight to protect jobs and livelihoods in Wichita’s always-turbulent aviation sector where thousands of IAM members are currently enduring the deepest recession in decades.
“Kathleen Sebelius knows the light aircraft industry like the back of her hand. She cares about Machinists,” said International President Tom Buffenbarger in an editorial published today in the Detroit News. “Frankly, I would have preferred to see her stay in Kansas. But in my heart, I always knew the nation needed her leadership at Health and Human Services even more.”
Buffenbarger was critical of the long delay before Sebelius’ nomination was approved by the Senate, and had harsh words for the politicians and journalists who fanned public outrage over auto executives using U.S.-built business jets.
“Those executive jets — manufactured in the heart of America — were also one of the few big ticket items that held our ballooning trade deficits down,” wrote Buffenbarger. “Unlike the trillions of debt instruments marked ‘Made in the USA’ and now considered toxic by bank regulators across the globe, those jets offered real value to the purchaser. So getting those production lines up and running again offers us a chance to claw our way back into this very competitive international market.”
To read the full editorial, go to: http://www.detnews.com/article/20090512/OPINION01/905120312/1008/OPINION01/Gotcha-politics-helps-kill-plane-making-jobs
The IAM welcomed the education and re-training proposals outlined this week by President Barack Obama in the wake of news that the U.S. economy lost another 539,000 jobs in April.
“Not only does the president’s proposal bring hope to more than 25 million unemployed and underemployed Americans, it also re-establishes career education and skills training as the national resources they deserve to be,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “The value and importance of supporting a new generation of skilled workers in this country cannot be understated.”
President Obama set a goal of re-establishing America as the nation with the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. The focus extends to training provided by community colleges and apprenticeship programs in addition to traditional four-year colleges.
“In the weeks to come, I will lay out a fundamental rethinking of our job training, vocational education and community college programs,” said Obama. “It’s time to move beyond the idea that we need several different programs to address several different problems – we need one comprehensive policy that addresses our comprehensive challenges.”
The president also named community college professor Dr. Jill Biden to oversee a national effort to raises awareness about the value of the nation’s community college system.
The U.S. economy has lost a net total of 5.7 million jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007.
New numbers from the U.S. Labor Department show a new unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, the highest since 1983.
The department says 539,000 people lost their jobs last month – slightly fewer compared to previous months. However, many employers continue to refrain from hiring given the still ever-present climate of economic uncertainty.
“Until our leaders make a targeted investment in creating new jobs, America’s pool of unemployed workers will continue to swell,” says IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “The middle class needs jobs – now. That’s why the IAM continues its call for a stimulus package geared toward the manufacturing and transportation sectors. Such an investment guarantees sustained economic growth for our country, while at the same time, and most importantly, puts Americans back to work.”
The IAM congratulates St. John’s School of Law student James M. Conigliaro, Jr., son of James Conigliaro, Directing Business Representative for IAM District 15.
James M. Conigliaro has been awarded the prestigious Peggy Browning Fellowship Award. This award provides law students with unique, diverse and challenging work experiences fighting for social and economic justice in the workplace. It is granted to students who have, both, excelled in law school, as well as demonstrated a commitment to workers’ rights through previous educational, volunteer, personal and work experiences.
Guided by his family’s passion for the labor movement, Conigliaro worked at the IAM and AFL-CIO, where he assisted in union organizing, training development, and strategic planning. He is now in his second year of law school at St. John’s. Conigilaro’s fellowship will be completed at the Communications Workers of America in New York, NY. He hopes to pursue a career in Labor Law after graduation.
The Peggy Browning Fund is a non-profit organization established in memory of Margaret A. Browning, a prominent union-side attorney and member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).