iMail for Tuesday, May 16, 2006

IAM Legislative Conference asks ‘Had Enough Yet?’

The 2006 IAM Legislative Conference kicked off in Washington, D.C, this week with opening speeches by IP Tom Buffenbarger, GVP Bob Thayer, and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney who expressed dissatisfaction with the current crop of national lawmakers and openly questioned their expertise and dedication. Each of the speakers echoed the conference theme, “Have you had enough yet?”

Thayer succinctly outlined the reasons voters are fed up: “Pension theft, congressional corruption and the price of gas should be enough for people to get out and vote for change.”

Buffenbarger unloaded on both political parties: “Politicians will say this is ‘our year,’ but what good is it to elect Democrats who will do the same things as Republicans do? We need to make a change.”

Citing the loss of critical machining capacity and the worker expertise needed to develop weaponry, Buffenbarger called Republicans and Democrats “clueless” about the defense of the country. “They gave away the ability of this country to defend itself.”

Buffenbarger was skeptical about using troops to patrol the border and blamed the immigration problem on bad U.S. trade policies like NAFTA. “The immigrants are just trying to feed their families. Don’t blame them for a situation we caused.”

In a poignant moment, Buffenbarger recounted a speech President John Kennedy had delivered to the Legislative Conference in May 1963 in which the young president had challenged IAM members to get involved.

“Things haven’t changed so much since then,” said Buffenbarger.

Sweeney urged the members to get involved in this year’s elections. “We must begin to regain political power for working people,” said Sweeney.

“We’ve got to stop big business and government from cutting and running away from the needs of working people.”


IAM Store Open For Business

Starting today, IAM members will be able to purchase union gear online at the IAM Store. Members will be able to buy a variety of IAM related products such as t-shirts, jackets, jewelry and caps — all emblazoned with the IAM logo.

The launch marks the first time has offered members the option to buy products to support their union. All items are union made in the U.S.A. specifically for IAM members.

To make an online purchase from the IAM Store, click IAM Store at the top of any page on the IAM website. Click Create an Account from the sign-In menu on the left side of the page. The New User page opens. Fill in your information in the fields provided (including your book number). And click Update. You are now ready to start shopping.

When you find something you like simply click on it. If you want to purchase the item, click Order. The My Order page opens. You can change the quantity of your order and make sure the item is what you want. Once you are certain, click Checkout. Shipping rates for the item will appear and you will be prompted to enter credit card information and your purchase will be complete.

For assistance with the IAM Store, please email questions or concerns to K&R Industries.

Members who don’t wish to purchase online can use the printable order form to mail in a purchase.


Frontline Examines Retirement Crisis

Public Broadcasting’s hard-hitting documentary series Frontline takes an in-depth look at America’s brewing retirement crisis tonight at 9 PM (click here to check local listings).

Can You Afford to Retire? examines the reasons behind the economic train wreck awaiting America’s retirees.

“Unless you’re fortunate to be in the upper-income quartiles, you’re probably going to be in for a very rough ride,” explained Professor Jack VanDerhei of Temple University and the Employee Benefit Research Institute. “You’re not going to have sufficient monies to pay the predictable expenses — your housing, your utilities, your food — plus the potential catastrophic medical care costs.”

Frontline uses the $10 billion pension termination at United Airlines as an example of corporations shifting retirement costs to employees.

“Bankruptcy is a way to take legal promises and burn them,” says Professor Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard specialist in bankruptcy law. “Chapter 11 has become an effective tool for reorganizing a business…. [But] it’s like a knife on the surgeon’s table. Bankruptcy is the official, federal, formal way to take legal promises [and] just slice them off.”

The result? Between 1978 and today, the corporate share of funding retirement dropped from 89 percent to 49 percent and the employee share rose from 11 percent to 51 percent. And without the security of defined benefit plans, workers must rely on their savings to cover expected longer life spans.

“I think 10 or 15 years from now, people who approach their early sixties are simply not going to have enough money to retire on,” said Professor Alicia Munnell, director of the Boston College Center for Retirement Research.

The IAM Journal recently featured a cover story “Mugged” that spotlights the abandonment of America’s retirees and there is a special “Mugged” section of the IAM website for continued coverage of the retirement crisis.


UAW Members at Delphi Authorize Strike

In one of the nation’s most closely watched labor disputes, members at twenty-one United Auto Workers (UAW)-represented Delphi facilities voted overwhelmingly to authorize the International Union to call a strike should Delphi use its bankruptcy court proceedings to unilaterally impose changes to the UAW-Delphi collective bargaining agreements. Over 95 percent of the votes cast authorized the UAW to call a strike.

Meanwhile, hearings on Delphi’s Section 1113-1114 motions to reject its labor agreements and modify retiree benefits are scheduled to resume Wednesday, May 24. The court has set aside May 26 as a trial date as well.


Stanley Workers Approve Contract

IAM Members at New Britain, Connecticut based Stanley Works voted to approve a four-year contract Saturday, averting a strike, which had idled operations in the previous negotiations. The previous three-year contract expired Friday at midnight.

The new four-year accord features wage increases each year until expiration in 2010. Other key issues in the talks were pensions and healthcare. Stanley had proposed to raise workers’ health insurance contribution substantially.

“We managed to make the bite significantly smaller than what the company would have liked,” said Everett Corey, District 26 DBR and lead IAM negotiator. “We maintained as low an increase in weekly contributions as possible.”

Negotiators also achieved significant pension increases in both the Stanley and IAM Pensions, in addition to life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance coverage.

 DBR Corey credited the solidarity of the membership in easing the tension in this round of talks. “Our people were stronger behind us than they’ve ever been,” said Corey.”


Alaska Airlines Accord Not Yet Finalized

Alaska Airlines announced this week that it reached “agreements in principle” with District 143 for the RSSA and COPS membership, however, the announcement by the company was premature 

“The IAM and Alaska Airlines have been closing in on a settlement for weeks, but a tentative agreement has not been finalized,” said District 143 President Bobby DePace. “Although we are close, there is no way to know when, or if the remaining issues can be resolved.”

If IAM negotiators do reach tentative agreements with Alaska Airlines, members will be immediately informed by District 143 on the district’s website at


Bombardier Machinists Ratify 3-Year Pact

Machinists from IAM Local Lodge 712 in Montreal voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new three-year contract with Bombardier Aerospace, garnering them raises of more than six percent over the next two years.

The agreement, which was approved by 83 percent of the 5,500 person bargaining unit, also improved job security and gave employees the option of working longer hours in exchange for more days off.

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