iMail for Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Let the Amtrak Countdown Begin

After nearly eight years of frustrating and fruitless negotiations, the National Mediation Board (NMB) last week proffered arbitration to nine rail unions, including the IAM, in a move to resolve contracts between Amtrak and nearly 7,000 union rail workers.

Key issues in the long running dispute include retroactive wage increases, work rule changes and employee contributions to health care premiums. “Amtrak has refused to bargain for nearly eight years,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “This move is long overdue.”

The IAM immediately notified the NMB it was not willing to arbitrate and relinquish its collective bargaining options, setting in motion the prospect of a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB). A PEB would have 30 days to investigate the dispute and issue its non-binding recommendations for settlement. After the emergency board reports to the President, the parties have a second 30-day cooling-off period to consider the PEB’s recommendations. If no agreement is reached, the parties will be free to engage in self-help at the end of the second cooling-off period.

“We expect and are fully prepared for a Presidential Emergency Board,” said Roach. “Our attorneys and economists are primed to defend the positions our negotiators have taken at the bargaining table.”

In addition to the IAM, TCU/IAM Carmen, ARASA Maintenance of Equipment and ARASA Maintenance of Way also received the proffer of arbitration from the NMB and likewise rejected the offer. Additional unions rejecting the proffer include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, the American Train Dispatchers Association, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, and the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers.


Minnesota Members Share $200K Powerball Pot

The “Lakeville 15,” which includes members of Local 459 employed at Stampings of Minnesota in Lakeville, MN, struck it rich recently by winning $200,000 in the Powerball lottery.

Twenty-one year Local 459 member and Shop Steward Leroy Swarts said he didn’t believe he really won at first. “We weren’t able to verify we were winners until we all got to work on Monday,” said Swarts, who works as a die setter at Stampings of Minnesota in Lakeville, MN. “We got pretty excited then and started thinking about what to do with the money.”

Hanging onto the money will be a priority for Swarts, who plans to do some remodeling and save for his children’s college education. “We’ve been buying lottery tickets for seven years now and you wonder if you are ever going to win,” said Swarts. “This just proves that winning is possible.”

His co-worker Robert Lee was just as enthusiastic. “You know, you can get excited and wonder if things are really real, but when they put that check in your hand, reality comes screaming in on you!” Another Local 459 member, Ross Fischer who broke his foot recently and will be off work for some time, said, “This comes at a good time for me.”

Members of the “Lakeville 15” are: Terry Lumppio, Richard Thomson, Sandra Helleson, Bruce Bonneson, Robert Clairmont, James Koland, Gail Christianson, Ross Fischer, John Nelson, Leroy Swarts III, Robert Lee, Ervin Deyo, Duc Nguyen, William Anderson and Susan Jacobson.


IAM Radio Ad Targets Space Center Proposals

The showdown between Local 2061 and Kennedy Space Center vendor United Space Alliance (USA) hits the airwaves this week with a radio ad that gives an individual IAM member the opportunity to tell what’s at stake for her and why she walks a picket line.

“I personally have worked for NASA for 27 years, and I have put my heart and soul into my job,” says IAM member Chris Raub. “Now I have to worry from here on out as to how I’m going to live when I thought I would be able to retire.”

In addition to proposals at the bargaining table to dramatically raise employees’ health care costs, Robb and others at the Space Center are deeply concerned by recent USA moves, including last year’s cancellation of the pension plans for all salaried employees.

Click here to hear the radio ad.


Last Stop for Flawed NSPS

The battle to stop the flawed National Security Personnel System (NSPS) is in its final stages. The Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization Bill is now in a Conference Committee to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions. Both the House and Senate passed language that reforms NSPS, but the final authorization bill must be hammered out in the Conference Committee.

Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Tom Allen (D-ME) are circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter to get support “to include language repealing the most damaging aspects of the National Security Personnel System” in the final version of the Defense Authorization Bill. Call your member of Congress today (202-224-3121) and tell them to support the Van Hollen/Inslee/Allen “Dear Colleague” letter to the House/Senate Conference Committee for the FY2008 Defense Authorization Bill.

“Federal employees have worked very hard and overcome many obstacles to reform NSPS. Now we’re on the home stretch,” said IAM Government Employees Director Frank Carelli. “We’ve got to keep the pressure on to make sure strong language for NSPS reform gets adopted in the final Defense Appropriations Bill.”


Congress Vows to Move Forward with SCHIP Bill

After falling just 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override President Bush’s veto of increased funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), House lawmakers are pledging to move forward with a new version of the bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the new bill will contain only minor changes and will ensure that it provides at least 10 million children with health insurance.

“There is no industrialized country in the world that any one respects that does not provide health insurance for its children,” Pelosi said in a statement. “We are the exception.”

The bill Bush vetoed would have increased funding for SCHIP by $35 billion over five years. The program currently provides 6.6 million children with health insurance. The additional funding passed by the House and Senate would have provided an additional four million children with health care.

With 9 million children in this country currently without health care, polls have found between 75 to 80 percent of the country support the vetoed bill.

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