iMail for Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Retro Pay Highlights Accord for 5,300 IAM Members

Members of District 142 will vote on a tentative agreement reached this week with Southwest Airlines that covers the carrier’s 5,300 customer service and reservation agents and features retroactive pay going back to the contract’s amendable date of October 31, 2008. Negotiations for the new contract began on August 28, 2008.

In addition to the retroactive pay, the four-year agreement expands existing job security protections and provides for increased employer 401(k) contributions. The contract won the unanimous recommendation of the District 142 negotiating committee and members are being urged to ratify the accord.

“This tentative agreement recognizes the vital role IAM members play in Southwest’s success by providing wage increases today and enhanced retirement benefits tomorrow,” said IAM District 142 President Tom Higginbotham. “The tentative agreement provides retroactive wage increases, increased employer 401(k) contributions and expands job security provisions.”

Complete terms will be released to the membership in the coming days and will be available at the District 142 website,

Machinists Union Celebrates May 5th Anniversary

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers celebrates its 121st anniversary today. On the evening of May 5, 1888, railroad machinist Tom Talbot held a secret meeting with eighteen fellow machinists in a locomotive pit in Atlanta, Georgia. That meeting was the beginning of the IAM.

Tom Talbot went on to become the union’s first president and with the help of traveling Machinists organizers known as “Boomers,” the union’s membership grew to 4,000 in just two years.

Recessions back then were known as “panics” but one thing that never changed was how workers suffered most during bad economic times. Unemployment was high in the 1880s and people were still hurting from the ravages of a severe panic in the 1870s. Work days were longer, conditions unsafe and journeymen machinists were earning about half as much as they did twenty years earlier. The need for workers to unite and organize was never greater.

“The IAM started in tough times, has endured through some of North America’s darkest days of wars, recessions and the Great Depression, and it will continue to prevail,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “As we endure some of the toughest economic times in our lifetimes, our members have the same type of bravery and resolve that inspired those original 19 railroad men to fight for justice on the job and a better future for their fellow members and families.”

Census to Determine Key Legislative Boundaries

The 2010 Census is underway and the IAM is urging members to support the once a decade effort to compile a complete and accurate count of the U.S. population.

“The data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau is used to allocate more than $300 billion in state and federal funding in areas that affect every citizen in this country,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “The information collected will be used to make decisions on health care, transportation, education, social services and other vital services.

Additionally, the Census data will be used to determine how many seats a state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives and is used to draw boundary lines for federal, state and local legislative districts.”

In the previous census, one in six households received a long questionnaire seeking detailed socioeconomic data. In the current census, every household will receive a short questionnaire that is simple and fast to complete and return. More information about the 2010 Census is available at

Senate Confirms Szabo for Federal Railroad Administration

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Joe Szabo, the Illinois state legislative director for the United Transportation Union, as the 13th administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Szabo is a fifth-generation railroader and the first FRA administrator to come out of the ranks of rail labor. President Obama nominated Szabo for the post in February.

The FRA is a key federal agency that enforces rail safety regulations; administers railroad assistance programs; supports improved railroad safety and national rail transportation policy; provides for the rehabilitation of Northeast Corridor rail passenger service; and consolidates government support of rail transportation activities.

Szabo started with the Illinois Central (now part of Canadian National) in 1976 where he worked as a yard switchman, road trainman and commuter passenger conductor. Szabo has been UTU’s Illinois state legislative director since 1996, and has also served on the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee.

Canadian Health Care Professionals Join Machinists

Technicians employed by LifeLabs Laboratories in Toronto, ON, are the latest in a growing number of Health Care professionals to join the ranks of the IAM.

The 30 new members of Local 1295 in Toronto perform blood and E.C.G. tests at laboratories in Oshawa, Whitby and Ajax and Markham, ON. Since the beginning of this year, the IAM has organized 270 non-emergency ambulatory patient transfer workers in Toronto and Hamilton. The IAM also represents Patient Transfer workers at Medi-Van in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“The goal of wage parity with Health Care Professionals in the public sector was the catalyst in bringing these workers to the Machinists,” explained IAMAW District 78 Organizer Scott Jackson. “Privatization of health care in Ontario has driven down wages in the private sector and there’s a desire here to gain a decent wage.”

Letter Carriers’ Food Drive Set for May 9

The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) will hold the nation’s largest one-day food drive this year on Saturday, May 9, 2009. On that day, letter carriers will collect non-perishable donations from homes as they deliver mail along their postal routes.

In 2008, mail carriers collected a record 73.1 million pounds of food that was distributed to food banks, pantries and shelters. The drive is held annually on the second Saturday in May in over 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

“Millions and millions of families are suffering – struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table,” said NALC President William H. Young. “More than ever, food banks, pantries and shelters need our help this year. As families count on them for support, they’re counting on us and we must not back off on our commitment.”

In New York City and Chicago, where transportation limitations preclude mailbox pickup, citizens are being asked to take donations to their local post offices between May 4 and 9.

Persons who have any questions about the drive should ask their letter carrier or contact their local post office. For more information about the nationwide food drive, visit