Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Tentative Agreement Reached for Rail Workers

After five and a half years of negotiations and thousands of IAM member emails, cards and visits to Congress, IAM District 19 announced a tentative agreement for 7,800 members employed by the Class 1 railroads of the National Carriers’ Conference Committee.

“These negotiations were extremely difficult and unprecedented in length,” said IAM Railroad District 19 President Joe Duncan. “Through it all, the IAM never lost focus of our goal of delivering a fair agreement to our members. The Negotiating Committee recommends ratification of this tentative agreement.”

Terms of the tentative pact include a retroactive general wage increase of 4 percent effective July 1, 2002, 2.5 percent effective July 1, 2003, 3 percent effective July 1, 2004 and 2.5 percent effective July 1, 2005 with no retroactive contributions to medical insurance.

Full terms of the agreement are being printed and distributed to IAM members through their Local Lodges.

“After more than 67 months of negotiations, the IAM has overcome the obstacles of an anti-worker administration and an uncooperative National Mediation Board,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr.

“This agreement is the result of the solidarity of the IAM’s rail membership who remained strong and supported their negotiators.”

IAM members at Trane qualify for TAA

Laid off IAM members formerly employed at Trane Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin will receive Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) thanks to efforts by IAM Local 21 and District 66.

TAA is a federal program that provides up to $12,000 in educational benefits per person for up to 24 months of job training. The retraining is in addition to unemployment benefits that can be extended for an additional 52 weeks if the person is receiving approved training and up to 26 additional weeks if the person is not receiving training. There are approximately 100 IAM members currently on lay off.

Local Lodge 21 President Doug Kurtz and IAM District Lodge 66 DBR Rick Mickschl originated the grant proposal. The assistance follows certification that jobs at Trane Co. were lost due to so-called free trade agreements.

Private Account Plans Will Explode Deficit

GOP lawmakers are planning a push for privatizing Social Security when they return from their summer recess in September. There are several competing privatization schemes, including the President’s proposal and several plans offered by GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate.

“All of the major proposals to replace a portion of Social Security with private accounts would require large increases in federal borrowing for many decades,” according to a new analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The proposals will not only add to record U.S. budget deficits, but “by themselves would not do anything to restore solvency” of the Social Security system.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, whose committee controls Social Security legislation in the Senate, predicted Congress would take up Social Security privatization during an extended Congressional session this fall.

Western Territory Organizing Wins

Congratulations are in order for District 160 DBR Don Hursey and his very busy staff, who led all Districts and unafilliated locals in the Western Territory with their organizing of new members last year.  The most recent victory was the organizing of 203 new workers in Silverdale, Washington. 

District 160 has again exceeded the established goal of organizing at least 250 new workers per District. Special recognition goes to District 160 organizer Christine Tangonan, who assisted Business Representatives Mike Goddard and Sam Stuart in getting well over half the workers to sign membership petitions prior to the election.

"This was an outstanding effort by all" stated GVP Pearson who extended thanks and congratulations go to the entire team for their efforts.

In Southern California, Directing Business Representative Jim Beno announced that Pedro Mendez secured another organizing win; this time at Lithia Dodge - Jeep, in Burlingame, CA.  "It was not easy," said Mendez .

"They (Lithia Dodge) tried to use LM2's and the strike of Serramonte Dodge and Lithia in Concord against us, but these workers were determined to have a say in their future." 

Corporations Dump Market Risk on Retirees

A new study by the Economic Policy Institute shows corporations have shifted much of the risk for retirement plans onto their employees by replacing traditional defined benefit pension plans with defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s.

Traditional defined benefit plans promise a fixed monthly income based on years of service. Employers must contribute more to the plans when the stock market is low and less when the market is high to provide the promised benefits. In defined contribution plans, employees contribute money to individual tax-deferred savings plans.

Any employer match is up to the employer, regardless of what the market is doing. Employees bear the risk of investment decisions and market downturns.

The share of workers between 56 and 64 covered by a traditional defined benefit plan declined from 70 percent in 1983 to just 47 percent in 2001, according to the study. The number of workers with just a defined contribution plan went from one percent to 31 percent.

Overall, corporations have slashed payments into pension plans from a high of 4.2 percent of total compensation to just 2.4 percent by 1990, the lowest level since 1966.

Mississippi Workers Stand Tall, Vote IAM

After a lightning fast organizing campaign at the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi, the clerical and secretarial workers of Symtech Corporation voted on July 28 to join the ranks of the Machinists Union.

“The new members saw through the company’s hard line campaign that included two days of scare tactics by an ex-union anti-union consultant,” said District Lodge 166 Organizer Tommy Mayfield. “The employees stood firm and rejected the company’s strategy, voting 16-9 for IAM representation.”

“The in-plant organizing team lead by Janice Byrd combined with strong leadership help from Local 18 officer Lawrence Riddle kept these men and women's spirits up while constantly reassuring them of their rights under the law,” said Mayfield.

“Workers are seeing through the scare tactics of anti-union campaigns and boldly sticking together for the rewards of a strong IAM contract,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez. “Congratulations to brother Mayfield and the entire organizing team for a job well done.”