Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Machinists Call for Long-Term Pension Reform

IAM General Vice President Robert Roach, Jr., was joined by leaders from the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA) and the Association of Flight Attendants – CWA, AFL-CIO, at a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. to examine the collapse of traditional pension plans at United Airlines.

“Today, every airline with a government-insured defined benefit pension plan is looking to shed their commitments onto the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and, ultimately the American taxpayer,” said Roach in his testimony. “If one of our members walked away from their financial commitments like the airlines are doing, they would be held accountable. In contrast, airline executives who abandon billion-dollar pension obligations and induce personal bankruptcies receive accolades from Wall Street.”

Citing the recent pension meltdowns at United Airlines and US Airways in addition to the 2001 pension default at TWA, the IAM warned that current pension funding laws contain loopholes that compound the problem. “The rules create a countercyclical funding burden,” said Roach. “Companies aren’t required to put money into pension plans even when they are not 100 percent funded and, in most cases, when they can afford it. Consequently, a day of reckoning comes when corporations must put in enormous sums to catch up. This loophole should be closed.”

The IAM testimony included support for a moratorium on PBGC-initiated terminations and urged Congressional action to protect multi-employer plans as viable replacement options for participants in failed single employer plans.

Illinois Local 822 Welcomes Rep. Lane Evans

Citing the hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs already lost to free trade agreements, Rep. Lane Evans (D-IL) was cheered by union members as he ripped into the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and vowed to continue fighting the hemispheric trade legislation.

“This trade deal is another raw deal for workers, farmers and small businesses,” said Rep. Evans, who spoke to members of Local 822 at their union hall in Quincy, IL. “Just like NAFTA, it would wreck havoc on our economy, forcing us to compete with countries whose wages, worker safety and pollution standards are much worse than our own.”

Evans said the main purpose of CAFTA is to expand outsourcing of jobs and investments to other countries. He is a member of the bipartisan House CAFTA Action Caucus, which is working to scuttle the trade deal that should come up for a vote in the House of Representatives this summer.

“Look at what happened under NAFTA,” said Evans. “That agreement has cost U.S. workers nearly 900,000 jobs. In Illinois, we have lost 44,000 jobs to Mexico. These are good jobs that support our middle class. Those are jobs that protect and sustain our small businesses.”

Evans said CAFTA would further undermine the hard-hit textile sector and expose U.S. workers to low-wage competition from Chinese textiles, which would be transshipped through Central America to the United States.

Tragedy at National Airport

In a horrific accident this morning at Washington D.C.’s National Airport, a US Airways Fleet Service employee tragically lost her life. US Airways says the woman was believed to be driving a belt loader up to a US Airway Express plane bound for Chicago when she became pinned between the belt loader and the plane.

IAM Ground Safety Investigators and General Chairs are assisting the National Transportation Safety Board in determining the cause of the accident.

“No worker should fear losing their lives simply by performing their jobs,” said General Vice President Robert Roach, Jr. “Our thoughts and prayers are with her family as we continue our investigation to ensure such a catastrophe never happens again.”

Defense Department Moves Closer to Final NSPS Rules

The controversial National Security Personnel System (NSPS) is one step closer to implementation. NSPS will eliminate important civil service protections, reduce pay and end collective bargaining rights for more than 700,000 civilian Defense workers.

Last week, the Pentagon and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) stopped discussions with the unions that represent Department of Defense employees and ended the meet and confer process.

“The writing was on the wall,” said Frank Carelli, IAM Government Employees Director. “They haven’t been negotiating with us, they were not actively looking at any of the questions or proposals that the United DoD Workers Coalition brought forth.” The IAM joined three other federal unions to pull out of the meet and confer process in May to protest management’s lack of good-faith negotiations.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and the OPM director will make the final decisions regarding the personnel system. However, Congress can still play a part to protect the pay, benefits, and rights of the government workers. Contact your Congressional representative and tell them to stop the unfair NSPS system for federal workers.

Online Pension Hearing Sparks Big Response

More than 2,000 United Airlines employees and retirees submitted testimony in the first Congressional Online Hearing: “Broken Promises: The United Airlines Pension Crisis.” Each employee story depicts the personal toll that United’s callous attempt to shed its retirement plans is inflicting on thousands of families.

“We know all too well that the wholesale dumping of all the employee plans at United not only results in real pain for the families of United employees and retirees,” said the hearing’s sponsor, Representative George Miller (D-CA). “It also provides a dangerous incentive for other companies in the airline industry and beyond to follow suit. It’s time for Congress to act.”

Miller and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) have introduced H.R. 2327, a bill that puts a six-month moratorium on pension terminations. More than 80 House members have signed on as co-sponsors of H.R. 2327. In the Senate, Senator Ted Kennedy introduced similar legislation, the Stop Terminating Our Pensions Act.

Call your Representative and Senators at 202-224-3121 or send an email message to “Support the Pension Fairness Bill.

IAM Protests Unfair Layoffs at Northeast Cummins

New York Machinists joined other AFL-CIO labor groups to protest Northeast Cummins elimination of more than a dozen IAM jobs.

In February, Northeast Cummins laid off IAM mechanics at an Albany area shop citing poor economic performance and customer dissatisfaction. However, company brochures tout the efficiency of the machine shop being in the 97 th percentile.

The IAM won the first arbitration filed against Cummins and are awaiting a decision on a second. “The company is playing a waiting game,” said Grand Lodge Representative Tom Holl. “The workers are on unemployment and the weeks are getting short. Other workers have had to take jobs at nonunion facilities.”

The work IAM members did on the Cummins engines for school buses and military humvees is being sub-contracted to nonunion repair shops that do not have the proper tools for the job. “At one shop they had to go back to Cummins to borrow a tool they needed,” Holl explained. “The workers who used to work for Cummins are now working for subcontractors doing the same work as before, just for less money, less benefits, and no voice or power at work.”

Strong community support is keeping the Machinists motivated and united. Another rally is scheduled in July.

Deadline Near for Advanced Web and Editor’s Classes

The application deadline for the IAM Communications Department’s Advanced Web Design and Advanced Editor’s Schools is July 31. Both classes will be held at the IAM’s William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center in Placid Harbor, MD.

The Advanced Web Design School, from Sept. 18-23, 2005, is open to local and district lodge web stewards who have attended the Basic Web Design class and have active web sites.

The Advanced Editor’s School, from October 2-7, 2005 is designed for newsletter editors who have completed Basic Editors and/or have published a newsletter for two years. This year, Advanced Editors will also be open to web stewards who have completed the Advanced Web course and to lodge Communicators who have been Communicators for at least three years.

Contact the Communications Department at 301-967-4520 for more information and an application form.