iMail for Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Does Labor Want?

“Whenever people ask me: ‘What does labor want?’ I give them a four letter answer… JOBS!” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger in recent address to the National Labor College in Silver Spring, MD.

“Unemployed Americans are desperate,” said Buffenbarger, who noted that 28.5 million Americans were unemployed or underemployed. “Their savings have vanished. Their 401(k)’s are now 101(k)’s. They’ve cut their living expenses to the bone. Their extended unemployment is running out.

“Meanwhile, their government spends trillions to boost the confidence of bankers, brokers and investors. And the greedy con artists who created this national nightmare are still living large, way too large.”

Buffenbarger called for a far reaching ‘JOBS NOW’ initiative with a Works Progress Administration-style jobs program to rebuild our manufacturing sector; provide investment tax credits for renovating existing factories and create bankable tax credits for when businesses return to profitability.

The ‘JOBS NOW’ program should also include a tuition free, two-year commitment to post high school skills training that will provide the next generation and unemployed workers with the skills needed to take their place in a global manufacturing market.

Click to read full text of President Buffenbarger’s remarks.

Defense Department Orders NSPS Review

The office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense recently released new details concerning the highly controversial National Security Personnel System (NSPS).

In a formal announcement, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn called on the Defense Business Board to assemble a task force to review the troubled system.

The announcement drew an immediate response from IAM-NFFE Federal District 1 President Richard N. Brown, who praised Director Berry and Deputy Secretary Lynn for taking swift action to assess the NSPS. “Once it is exposed for the anti-union, anti-worker personnel system that it is, they will come to agree with us that nothing short of a complete repeal is the only way to move forward,” said Brown.

In his instruction to the Defense Business Board, Deputy Secretary Lynn called for recommendations aimed at helping the Department determine (1) if the underlying design principles and methodology for implementation are reflected in the program objectives; (2) whether the program objectives are being met; and (3) whether NSPS is operating in a fair, transparent, and effective manner.

The review board will be chaired by Rudy deLeon, the senior vice president of National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. The other members of the group will be Michael Bayer, chairman of the Defense Business Board, and Robert Tobias, a professor at American University and director for the Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation.

Recovery Act Extends UI Benefits for Fail Workers

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), signed into law on February 17, 2009, contains a number of important provisions that affect railroad retirement annuitants and railroad workers. Among other provisions, the Act provides up to 13 weeks of special extended unemployment benefits for certain rail workers who exhaust their right to benefits normally provided under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA).

Among those eligible to receive additional unemployment benefits are rail workers who did not have 10 years of railroad service (120 cumulative service months). Additionally, railroad workers who were previously eligible for extended benefits of up to 65 days may now be eligible for extended benefits of up to 130 days.

The Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) will mail notices to eligible employees who previously exhausted their rights to normal or extended unemployment benefits. Rail workers who do not receive notification by mail can contact their local RRB office toll-free at 1-877-772-5772 or visit the RRB website at

The special extended unemployment benefits are funded from the appropriation of $20 million provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Payment of special unemployment benefits will stop at the end of a person’s extended unemployment benefit period or when the $20 million has been spent – whichever comes first.

Kentucky Governor Names Adair to Labor Board

It’s exciting to see more and more government officials formally recognizing the importance of a skilled workforce to an ailing economy – a cause the IAM has been firmly advocating for years.

In the wake of the president’s proposal for new education and retraining policies, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear announced the new Kentucky Workforce Investment Board (KWIB), a group dedicated to educating and retooling the state’s workforce in order to keep and attract more jobs to the state.

IAM Directing Business Representative Benny Adair, District 154, is one of two labor representatives appointed to the board by the governor.

“A thoroughly prepared, well-trained workforce is the most important incentive we can offer businesses interested in locating or expanding in the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Beshear. “The new Kentucky Workforce Investment Board I have assembled will focus more intently on integrating its work with local workforce investment boards and economic development activities in order to better equip Kentucky’s workforce and serve Kentucky’s employers.”

The KWIB will advise the governor on workforce training issues and the infrastructure needed to ensure Kentucky workers have the skills to meet the challenges of the 21 st century.

“It’s truly an honor to represent the Machinists and all of labor,” said Adair. “I’m also honored that the governor asked me personally to serve. The goal is to try to bring more jobs to the state, and educate people currently out of work through apprenticeship programs, welding classes, and various kinds of technical training. I look forward to working on behalf of all of Kentucky’s working families.”

Kentucky Labor Secretary and former Machinist J.R. Gray is also part of the board. Secretary Gray will serve on the KWIB coordinating committee. Gray worked as an IAM Directing Business Representative for 20 years.

Toronto Machinists Sign Extension with SKF Bearings

Members of Local 901 in Toronto, Ontario, who provide warehousing services at the company’s facility in east-end Toronto, signed a one-year extension to their collective bargaining agreement with SKF Bearings Canada.

“In these economic times, a one-year extension was something the membership could live with,” said District 78 Business Representative Paul Mitchell, who noted the one-year extension provides members with a $750 signing bonus. The agreement was ratified by a 100 percent margin.

Also in Ontario, members of Local 235 in Toronto have ratified a new three-year agreement with ACME Lock and Access Control. The agreement provides for a wage increase of two per cent in each year for the locksmiths who maintain and install lock and entry systems throughout the Greater Toronto Area.