iMail for Tuesday November 4, 2008

Get Out and Vote Today

A nationwide effort by union members to man phone banks, participate in labor walks, leaflet plant sites and talk to fellow members culminates today in one of the largest voter get-out-the-vote efforts in labor history.

“After eight years of the disaster that was the Bush Administration, Americans today will speak with a loud voice for change,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “Our members have answered the call to get informed on the issues and support candidates with the best record for working families. Now it’s time to for one last task – show up and vote.”

Machinists Prevail at Boeing

After 57 days on the picket line, Machinists at the Boeing Company voted by 74 percent to ratify a new contract that far exceeded the company’s “last and final” offer and assured all 27,000 members at Boeing a place of honor in the history of hard won union victories.

“This contract gives the workers at Boeing an opportunity to share in the extraordinary success this Company has achieved over the past several years,” said Aerospace Coordinator Mark Blondin, who served as lead negotiator. “It also recognizes the need to act with foresight to protect the next generation of aerospace jobs.”

Among the issues that led to the strike was Boeing’s attempt to eliminate thousands of IAM-represented positions by securing contract terms that would expand the use of outside vendors in the workplace. In its initial proposal, Boeing also proposed to close the traditional pension plan to new hires and sharply cut health care benefits for retirees.

In addition to a 15 percent increase in wages, pension improvements and significant lump sum payments, IAM members’ share of medical costs will remain unchanged. Among the many job security gains in the new accord, the IAM won scope of work jurisdiction over previously unprotected bargaining unit work. More than 5,000 jobs at risk under the company’s initial proposal are protected under the current accord.

“This Union has delivered what few Americans have – economic certainty and quality benefits for the next four years,” said District 751 President Tom Wroblewski. “After 57 days of striking, we gained important and substantial improvements over the Company’s offer that was rejected on September 3.”

The new four-year agreement covers IAM members at Boeing facilities in Washington, Oregon, Kansas and California, and ends a strike that began on September 6, 2008.

A Decision in Black and White

Political pundits have predicted that traditional blue-collar voters in battleground states will not vote for Barack Obama. But in this letter published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from a woman who grew up in Western Pennsylvania, voters may defy the conventional wisdom this election day.

Northwest/Delta: What’s Next?

Now that the Department of Justice has approved the merger of Northwest and Delta Air Lines, workers at both carriers are asking: “Now what?”

While superficial changes, including new employee numbers, new signage and management changes have already begun, Northwest’s IAM members’ collective bargaining agreements will remain unchanged and in full force and effect. Employment terms and conditions for Delta workers will continue to be determined by Delta management.

While there is no specific timeline for union representation issues to be resolved, the process is well established and could take several months or longer to complete.

Under federal labor law, elections to determine union representation can take place only after the National Mediation Board (NMB) issues a “single carrier” ruling – a formal determination that the combined carriers constitute a single transportation system.

A union must also provide a “showing of interest” from at least 35 percent of each combined classification before the NMB will schedule an election. Separate elections are held for each classification, and they are not required to take place at the same time. The 35 percent threshold can be met by adding signed authorization cards from Delta employees to current IAM membership numbers in each classification at Northwest.

For an election to be valid, 50 percent plus one of the combined classification must vote. Under NMB rules, if fewer than 50 percent plus one participate in the election, all employees in the combined classification would become unrepresented, and Delta would be free to rewrite wages, work rules and benefits. Seniority integration would not be resolved until after union representation is determined.

IAM policy states that seniority will be integrated by an employee’s date of hire into the classification, regardless of which airline they worked for pre-merger. In the absence of a collective bargaining agreement, Delta would be free to integrate seniority in several ways, including methods that eliminate decades of earned seniority.

Preparations for the merger began many months ago, but it is now moving into its final stages. Visit the District 143 website, www.iam143.org, for the latest news on the merger.

Labor Department’s Double Standards

A recent report from the Center for American Progress highlights the anti-union ideology that has permeated a key department of the federal government under the Bush administration.

Beyond Justice,” documents how the Labor Department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) used its authority under the Landrum-Griffin Act to harass, discredit and weaken the U.S. labor movement, while ignoring illegal union avoidance practices by large U.S. corporations.

In addition to dramatic and aggressive enforcement practices against labor unions, OLMS has become a hotbed of regulatory activism in an administration otherwise known for loosening regulations in areas ranging from food safety to environmental protection and sound banking practices.

As part of its overt anti-union crusade, OLMS drafted new regulations to greatly increase the reporting requirements on officers, employees, and in many instances ordinary union members. In order to comply with OLMS requirements, one union saw the size of its annual reports jump from 125 pages to more than 800.

OLMS is a case study in how the management of even the more obscure niches of government under the Bush administration has fallen into the hands of people who have little regard for the programs they are charged with administering or the laws they are expected to enforce.

Bush Judicial Appointee Allows Foreign Ship Components

A judge appointed by the Bush Administration ruled against the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department’s challenge of the use by a U.S. shipyard of large sections of tankers manufactured in South Korea and still claim the ships qualify under the Jones Act as “wholly built” in the U.S.

The Jones Act is designed to ensure the U.S maintains a domestic shipbuilding capability. The Metal Trades Department (MTD) has been in a long dispute with the U.S. Coast Guard over its practice of importing major sections of ships and claiming the ships are still U.S. built.

“It’s disgraceful that a U.S. flag is flying over ships that are essentially manufactured in South Korea,” said MTD President Ron Ault.
Judge Gene Pratter was nominated to the U.S District Court by President Bush. Pratter ruled that vessels can be tagged as “built in the U.S.” as long as “major components” of the hull or superstructure are fabricated domestically. Other components can be built elsewhere, but must be installed in U.S. shipyards. Pratter left it up to the Coast Guard to determine what constitutes major components.

In an analysis of Judicial appointments by President Bush, the non-profit group Alliance for Justice has noted the Bush administration has “pursued a widely acknowledge and largely successful campaign of packing the courts with conservative judges” and that Pratter’s record in employment law decisions “illustrate a “bias against employees seeking redress for workplace grievances.”