Taking on the Coronavirus — Stabilizing the Air and Rail Industries — Protecting Aerospace and Manufacturing Workers

HELLO AND WELCOME TO MACHINISTS ON THE HILL, a twice-monthly roundup of legislative advocacy on behalf of IAM members.

Produced by: IAM Legislative and Communications Departments

TAKING ON THE CORONAVIRUS: Thanks to your calls and messages and the around-the-clock advocacy of the IAM’s Legislative Department, the IAM and our allies were able to vastly improve the COVID-19 relief bill from the original bill proposed by Senate GOP leadership.

The CARES Act, which was signed into law Friday, March 27, includes the following critical provisions for our membership:

“The IAM will continue to ensure that working people are financially protected while insisting that appropriate safety and health provisions are followed,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. in a March 26 message to members about the CARES Act. “We will also fight to make sure companies are honoring existing and newly instituted worker protections. We are working with companies to maintain our members’ wages, health insurance, fringe benefits and all provisions in IAM-negotiated collective bargaining agreements.”

STABILIZING THE AIR AND RAIL INDUSTRIES: The IAM won $114 billion in relief specifically for the transportation industry, which for the airlines mandates that grant funds be used exclusively for the continuation of payment of wages, salaries and benefits for workers. Members in the airline industry who work for carriers that accept federal funds are protected from involuntary furloughs and pay or benefit reductions until Sept. 30, 2020.

For TCU-IAM and IAM members in the rail industry, the CARES Act includes $25 billion for rail agencies and $1.018 billion for Amtrak. Railroad Unemployment Insurance (RUI) has been increased by $1,200 per 2-week period. This is in addition to the current biweekly maximum of $733.98 received by most claimants. RUI benefits have also been extended by an additional 13 weeks (65 payable days) on top of normal benefit terms.

PROTECTIONS FOR AEROSPACE WORKERS: Significant relief and protections for members in the aerospace and manufacturing industries who work for companies with national security interests.

Companies that accept federal funds are prohibited from reducing their workforce by more than 10 percent. Corporations that have between 500 and 10,000 employees are also prohibited from outsourcing and offshoring our jobs and must remain neutral in union organizing campaigns.

The IAM fought hard for these conditions to apply to all aerospace and manufacturing employers receiving federal dollars, but Mitch McConnell, GOP leadership and their corporate allies torpedoed our efforts.​

QUOTABLE: “Our union is showing the world what it means to be a Fighting Machinist—brave, resilient and strong in the face of adversity. That doesn’t mean that this time of uncertainty is any less painful for us as we deal with layoffs and the challenge of getting ourselves, our families and our IAM Sisters and Brothers through this pandemic.”

– IAM President Robert Martinez Jr., in a March 31 message to members.

STOP THE ATTACKS ON FEDERAL WORKERS: The IAM sent a letter urging members of the U.S. Senate to support the Protecting Collective Bargaining and Official Time for Federal Workers Act, S. 3583. This legislation revokes the three Executive Orders and one memorandum that have dangerously weakened laws designed to protect federal employees and their rights on the job.

We need these federal workers now more than ever, and what we do not need are obstacles like the Executive Orders or memorandums hindering the work for Americans,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr.

ADVOCATING FOR VETERAN CARE: NFFE-IAM Federal District 1 and their coalition partners representing more than 350,000 staff and practitioners at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) sent a joint letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie calling on management to engage workers and veterans during the increasingly dangerous Coronavirus outbreak.  

The coalition sent a similar letter to Congress urging their assistance to encourage VA management to reopen former lines of communications, allowing for the two-way sharing of critical information. Both letters come after an appeal to the VA to actively engage employee representatives such as health and safety officers at the national, VISN (Veterans Integrated Service Networks) and facility levels. The request fortified the need for “joint protocols, increased workforce training and communication, enhanced PPE, surge plans and new investigation requirements following exposure.”

WE MUST PROTECT HEALTH CARE WORKERS: Healthcare workers across the nation, including our members in the healthcare industry, report they are not receiving the personal protective equipment (PPE), proper staffing, isolation rooms and education and communication they need to deliver safe care for COVID-19 patients.
 
The IAM, along with other union allies, is advocating for the Health Care Worker Protection Act (H.R. 6139/S. 3475), which would mandate an emergency temporary OSHA standard so that front line health care workers treating COVID-19 patients have the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to prevent them from contracting the virus themselves.

CALLING FOR AN END TO OUTSOURCING: The IAM has sent letters to Senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives urging them to support the End Outsourcing Act (H.R. 6121, S. 3425). 

This important legislation, introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would utilize the tax code as well as the federal grant, loan and contracting process to stop the rampant outsourcing of U.S. jobs to foreign nations and help bring these jobs back on to U.S. soil. Protecting U.S. jobs is an increasingly important issue as the nation weathers the economic impacts of the COVID-19, a pandemic that has already resulted in many job losses. 

In addition to changing the tax code to make outsourcing less attractive, the legislation would punish outsourcing employers when they seek federal contracts, grants and loans by establishing a negative preference of at least 10% for employers who have outsourced in the previous three years.

MANY PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES POSTPONED: Fifteen states have now postponed their primaries due to the coronavirus. Check to see if the primary in your state has moved and view your voter registration status, polling place, absentee ballot information and more at vote.org.

IAM members in early March chosen Joe Biden (D) for the union’s endorsement for U.S. president. The endorsement of the former vice president is the result of utilizing an unprecedented democratic process that included a general membership vote open to all U.S. members in good standing. The union’s endorsement is the majority will of the IAM’s membership and its state councils, who voted online through an independent third party in early March. 

CONFERENCES CANCELLED: The annual IAM legislative conference and MNPL conference for the week of May 4 have been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. The legislative conference, which was scheduled to be held May 4-6, 2020, as well as the MNPL Conference, scheduled to be held May 7-9, 2020 at the Hyatt Regency Washington Hotel, will hopefully be rescheduled for a later date.

 

MUST READS:

F.A.Q. on stimulus checks, unemployment and the coronavirus plan New York Times

Nancy Pelosi is already talking about the next stimulus bill for coronavirus relief New York Times

Coronavirus hits defense contractor jobs The Hill

Senate aid package quietly carves out billions intended for Boeing, officials say Washington Post

How labor unions won historic pay protection for aviation workers Forbes

Nearly 2,000 VA patients, 500 staff have tested positive for coronavirus Stars and Stripes