iMail for Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tennessee Machinists on Strike at Vought 

Nearly 1,000 Machinists are on strike at Vought Aircraft Industries in Nashville, TN, after voting to reject a company offer that would replace the existing pension plan for many employees with a risky 401(k) plan.

“It is beyond irresponsible for a successful company like Vought to insist on a 401(k) plan in lieu of a secure defined benefit pension plan,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger. “It is this kind of arrogance and blind faith in Wall Street that is costing millions of employees their retirement security at this very moment.”

Members of Local 735 in Nashville, TN, assemble wing and tail structures for commercial and military aircraft customers, including Airbus, Gulfstream, Cessna and Lockheed Martin.

“The contract offer is riddled with takeaways,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “Besides the pension, the offer erodes seniority rights, has substandard pay increases, and increases out-of-pocket expenses for health care. The workers are right to reject it and the IAM stands with them.”

Not unlike Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita, KS, where Machinists recently concluded a successful strike, Vought is a highly profitable aerospace company, with numerous contracts and additional work on the way.

Despite Tennessee’s status as a right-to-work (for less) state, the bargaining unit at Vought is keenly aware of the value of full membership, with more than 90 percent taking full advantage of their collective bargaining rights.

“This Local is very strong, with great leadership from their Negotiating Committee,” said Aerospace Coordinator Ron Eldridge. “They understand they’re fighting for their future.”

Additional information about the strike is available at

Time to Deregulate Health Insurance Industry?

Of the many issues in U.S. presidential race, the candidate’s health care proposals could impact IAM members more than any issue in this election.

According to an analysis by the AFL-CIO, John McCain’s health care plan would eliminate the current tax exemption for employer-based benefits, forcing employees to pay taxes on the value of their coverage. The change would, on average, add about $15,000 of income per year per family for tax purposes.

McCain explained his philosophy in an article in Contingencies magazine, saying the model for deregulating banks would be good for the health insurance industry: “Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done in the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.”

By contrast, Obama’s plan would strengthen existing coverage, lower costs, increase coverage options and create a national insurance plan to cover those unable to get private coverage.

Obama’s plan would also require private insurers to stop denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and require most employers to contribute to their employees’ health care plan or the new national plan if they don’t offer comparable coverage (there are exemptions for small businesses).

Overall, Obama’s plan would enable more workers to keep the coverage they have if they are satisfied. The “Shared Responsibility” approach pools risks and costs that expands coverage and lowers overall medical costs for everyone. McCain’s plan to end the tax exemption for benefits would force more workers away from their current plans and into an “On Your Own” system.

IAM Honors Oldest Canadian Member

Hubert Medhurst, center, is joined by (l to R) IAM Local 771 President Herman Pruys, Hubert’s spouse Clara, and GLR Brian Short.

At 100 years old, Hubert Medhurst is not only the oldest IAM member in Canada, he’s also the oldest IAM retiree in Canada.

Born on April 25, 1908, Medhurst began work at the local paper mill in 1929 when it was owned by The Ontario/Minnesota Pulp & Paper Company (now Abitibi-Bowater). He started off as a general laborer at the mill and eventually became a Machinist by trade. He also spent several years as the Financial Officer of Local 771 before retiring in 1970.

A charter member of Local 771 since its inception on March 27, 1947, Medhurst was recently honored at the local’s September meeting, where he was presented with a Machinists jacket and hat by Grand Lodge Representative Brian Short.

Still active and very independent, Hubert declined the offer of a ride to the meeting, as he just had his drivers license renewed for another two years.

Harley-Davidson Hosts Annual Open House

District 98 and Local 175 members were highly visible at Harley-Davidson’s 24th Open House in York, PA, where gloomy weather was not enough to prevent thousands of riders and enthusiasts from turning out for the annual event.

Nearly 2,500 members of Local 175 are employed at Harley’s York, PA, manufacturing facility, where skilled craftsmen and women build, assemble and ship the company’s legendary motorcycles to dealerships around the world.

Local 175 members greeted the public at the factory entrance while District 98 representatives raffled chances for a one-of-a-kind 2009 FXCWC Rocker C motorcycle. A special kid’s tent provided IAM balloons and a motorcycle for photos.

“This is a great event,” said District 98 DBR Tom Boger.  “In one weekend we’re able to reach out and let the public know that the Great American Motorcycle is made with union pride, by union members.”

The centerpiece of the weekend is the “Bike Night” parade where nearly a thousand motorcycles rumbled through historic York while spectators lined both sides of the street.

Tickets for the Rocker C as well as the IAM Harley t-shirts can be purchased through District 98’s website or by calling 1-800-434-6720.

Judge to Rule in Manitoba Mining Explosion

Unions representing workers at Hudson Bay Minerals in Flin Flon, Manitoba are anxiously awaiting the results of an inquest into the August 2000 explosion that killed one worker, Steve Ewing, and injured 13 others.

The United Steelworkers (USW), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have jointly represented the men injured in the blast.

“This inquest has been plagued with delays,” said IAM Canadian General Vice President Dave Ritchie. “The Ewing family and the families of all the other victims deserve closure on this terrible event. And workers who are still at work in the smelter need to know that their workplace will not kill or maim them.”

The formal inquest into the Hudson Bay explosion began in January 2004, but was delayed for four years by the company’s court appeals. 

“Having now heard all the evidence – from workers and management – the matter is now in the judge’s hands.” says USW Representative Andrew King. “The judge must now move forward to identify what went wrong and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.”

Andrews AFB Techs Ratify New Agreement

More than 300 IAM members who perform aircraft maintenance at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, have ratified a new contract with DTS Aviation Services that provides wage increases of 14.5 percent over the life of the four-year agreement.

In addition to the wage increases, six additional classifications will receive a three percent equity adjustment while adding eight new classifications with increases up to 20 percent above what those classifications were previously earning.

The new accord, negotiated under Service Contract Act guidelines, also includes the IAM National Pension Plan and maintains the current 401(k) plan. Other improvements were made in vacation, sick leave, shift differential, shoe allowance, life insurance and working conditions.

Retiree Roadrunner Vans On the Move

Taking to the road to get the word out about retiree issues, the Alliance for Retired Americans’ eight-passenger Retiree Roadrunner vans are traveling across the nation.
The Roadrunner will be visiting retiree town hall meetings, pancake breakfasts, and other outreach events across America so that retirees get the facts about the economy and this election.

Each van is filled with educational materials including state voter guides, candidate side-by-side comparisons, and information on everything from Social Security and Medicare to voter rights and the stimulus rebate. They made their first appearance in Ohio and are scheduled to make stops in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, and Pennsylvania.

“The Roadrunner vans will be bringing educational material to seniors in key states from now through the election,” said Edward Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Information on the economic security issues of seniors, as well as voter protection, will continue to be our focus.”

Click here for profiles of several Retiree Roadrunners, follow the vans’ paths, and go on a virtual van ride.