Speakers kicked off the 2014 IAM Legislative Conference in Washington, DC on Monday by calling for an end to sequestration, trade agreements that benefit people instead of corporations and a renewed respect for federal workers.
With midterm elections coming in November, IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger told attendees that now is the time to hold Congress accountable. Democrats hold a slim eight-seat majority in the Senate and trail Republicans by 33 seats in the House.
“The people of America are ready for economic equality,” said Buffenbarger. “We need to convince people that what we’re fighting for isn’t just a lofty discussion on Capitol Hill, this is about building a culture of jobs and preserving the American dream.”
Transportation Department delegates’ agenda includes telling lawmakers to oppose cutting the earned pension benefits of current retirees, to reject the unfair practices associated with “Flags of Convenience,” to strengthen Federal Aviation Adminisration (FAA) oversight of foreign aircraft repair facilities, to require the National Mediation Board (NMB) to issue stiffer penalties to airlines and railroads that violate a workers’ right to freely form a union and to hold United Airlines CEO Jeffrey Smisek accountable for misleading Congress regarding the affects of the United, Continental and Continental Micronesia merger on frontline employment.
Speakers at the conference so far have included Acting Deputy Transportation Secretary Victor Mendez, AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton, Sen. Mark Heinrich (D-NM) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who is retiring after almost 40 years in Congress and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
“I thank the delegates from the Transportation Department for representing their sisters and brothers so forcefully on Capitol Hill,” said General Vice President Sito Pantoja. “Without rank-n-file advocacy, lawmakers would place less importance on our issues. But when Transportation Machinists show up at their offices and demand action, they start listening.”
“It’s been a productive week so far on the Hill,” said Local Lodge 1726 Legislative Director Jamie Wells from Boston. “We’ve been meeting with our state delegations and letting them know the critical issues that affect Transportation workers. Specifically, we are seeking Senate support to hold United CEO Smisek accountable for his misleading statements to push the United-Continental merger through.”