iMail for Tuesday, October 3, 2006

NLRB Rules in Kentucky River Cases

Overturning nearly sixty years of established precedent, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today issued rulings in the “Kentucky River” cases, setting the stage for the re-classification of tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of workers as “supervisors,” thereby depriving them of the right to union membership.

In the key decision, Oakwood Healthcare, Inc., the NLRB ruled those workers who use “independent judgment” while “assigning” or “directing” tasks to co-workers are statutory “supervisors.” In so doing, the NLRB has essentially re-written the existing law which, since 1947, had consistently recognized that employees having the authority to assign particular tasks are not supervisors, absent additional managerial powers, such as the power to hire, fire, or discipline.

As a result of the Oakwood decision, many nurses and other professional employees, as well as skilled craft employees and lead workers in industry, are now in danger of being re-classified as statutory “supervisors” and therefore stripped of their rights under federal labor law. The NLRB has also given the green light for employers to argue that practically any worker who has the authority to assign or direct another is a “supervisor” and therefore ineligible for union membership and the protection of a union contract – even if their jobs have been covered by a union contract for decades.

“Today’s decision threatens to create a new class of workers under Federal labor law: workers who have neither the genuine prerogatives of management, not the statutory rights of ordinary employees,” said NLRB members Liebman and Walsh in their dissent regarding the Oakwood case.

The full impact of the NLRB’s decision won’t be clear for some time, as employers attempt to strip employees of their union protections on a case-by-case basis. It is certain to have a major impact in the healthcare field, but is also likely to be raised by employers in virtually every industry. The IAM vigorously opposes this sweeping and blatantly anti-labor ruling, and it will support an appeal by the United Auto Workers (the union directly involved in the Oakwood case) seeking to overturn the NLRB’s ruling and restore full union protections to all nurses and other lead workers.

Jet Builders Strike Bombardier in Wichita

IAM Members of Local 639 in Wichita, KS who assemble Learjets for Bombardier Aerospace voted to authorize a strike after rejecting a new 3-year contract from the Montreal-based plane maker. The strike, which is the first by Machinists at the Wichita facility, was endorsed by 80 percent of the voting members.

The nearly 1,100 IAM members at Bombardier accepted a pay freeze three years ago, when the industry was in a slump and the company claimed it needed to cut costs and threatened to close one or two plants.  The picket lines are up and the picketers are showing strong resolve.  No new talks are scheduled.

Airline Workers in Canada Join IAM

On the heels of a determined three-month organizing campaign, the IAM won a certification vote held by the Canada Industrial Relations Board for 66 employees of BBH Services at Toronto International Airport.

“This company tried everything to prevent their employees from joining the Machinists,” said District 140 Organizer Ian Morland. “Management held meetings with employees late last week offering some of them large increases in wages and other benefits if they voted against joining the union. When that didn’t work, they sent letters with employee pay stubs claiming their jobs would be gone in January 2007 because the company lost a contract with the airport authority.”

Hard work by Local 2323 Organizer Joe Veltri and several determined BBH employees overcame the company’s tactics. “The company really underestimated the mood of its employees and the need for a union in this workplace was more powerful than anything they could offer,” added Morland.

The newest members of Local 2323 provide handling services for oversized baggage and connecting flights baggage for all airlines at Toronto International Airport.

In addition to the win in Toronto, thirty-three employees of Trans-Sol Aviation Service Lteé in Quebec also voted recently to join the IAM.

The new members from Trans-Sol Aviation Service Lteé work as Station and Customer Service Attendants and provide services for Air Inuit, Air Labrador and Air Canada Jazz and are now members of Local 2309.

Amtrak Charged with Stalling Contract Talks

Fed up with foot dragging by Amtrak management over a new contract for 450 IAM members who maintain Amtrak passenger trains, the IAM filed a request with the National Mediation Board (NMB) for a proffer of arbitration in an effort to move the negotiations closer to a resolution.

“Notwithstanding the best efforts of the IAM, including the able input and assistance of the Mediators, not a single issue has been resolved,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr, in a letter to NMB Chairman Edward Fitzmaurice. “It is abundantly clear that additional bargaining with Amtrak, with or without the NMB’s assistance, will not result in an amicable settlement of this dispute.”

The IAM opened negotiations with Amtrak in December of 1999 and presented numerous proposals during more than 78 months of bargaining. Each time, Amtrak rejected the proposals and demanded work rule concessions. Under the Railway Labor Act, the federal law that governs rail negotiations, talks can continue and workers are bound by the old contract until the NMB determines a stalemate exists and offers binding arbitration which the parties are not bound to accept to resolve the dispute.

Plan Now to Attend November 18 Guide Dogs Banquet

The cutoff date for discounted hotel room reservations at the Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel is fast approaching for the 26th Annual William W. Winpisinger Charity Banquet to benefit Guide Dogs of America (GDA).Nightly room rates are: $89 for Nov. 11-16; $129 for Nov.17-18; and $89 for Nov. 19-23. These prices are available only until October 13, 2006. Room reservations made after October 13 will be significantly higher. Call Bally’s directly at 1-800-634-3434 to make your reservations. Be sure to identify yourself as attending the Guide Dogs Banquet to get the special rate. The GDA code is SBDOG6.The Banquet will take place Saturday, November 18, 2006, and will honor Jim Maloney, United Parcel Service; Ken Lohre, Delta Dental of California; and James Beno, IAM District 190, for their above-and-beyond support over the years.

Since its founding through donations by the IAM in 1948, Guide Dogs of America has provided guide dogs and instruction in their use to blind and visually impaired men and women from the United States and Canada so that they may continue to pursue their goals with increased mobility and independence. GDA services are free of charge to the blind community and rely solely on voluntary donations, bequests, fundraising events, clubs and organizations to support the program.

To breed, raise and train a fully-qualified guide dog and provide instruction in the use of these special dogs costs approximately $38,000. Because of the continued support, GDA has succeeded in providing all its services – guide dogs, specially designed harnesses, individualized in-residence training and lifetime follow-up – to more than 2,500 blind recipients at no cost.

Foley Scandal Latest in GOP Ethical Lapses

The brewing scandal over Florida Congressman Mark Foley’s explicit messages to a 16-year-old congressional page is the latest in a long line of ethical lapses under the current GOP leadership. Informed almost a year ago of Foley’s contact with the youth, top aides and key House Republicans dismissed Foley’s behavior as just “over-friendly.” Foley even kept his job as co-chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus.

Foley quickly resigned last Friday, one day after ABC News released text of his explicit emails. GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) initially claimed he knew nothing of the matter until last week. His memory got better after Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-NY) told the press that he had informed Hastert months ago about Foley’s conduct. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) told the Washington Post that he too told Hastert about Foley last Spring, but Boehner called the Post later and said he wasn’t sure he had spoken to Hastert. In an interview on CNN, White House spokesperson Tony Snow attempted to dismiss Foley’s predatory behavior as “simply naughty emails.”

Outrageous behavior is nothing new to this House Leadership. When scandals got too close to Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, they changed House rules to allow DeLay to retain his leadership post even while under indictment for fundraising violations.

House GOP leaders also declined to investigate bribery allegations into Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) and Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who resigned from office in another bribery scandal.