Five Union Presidents Oppose TPP Treaty

by Paul Garver

TPP

Presidents of the IBT [Teamsters], USW [Steelworkers], UFCW [Food & Commercial Workers], IAM [Machinists] and CWA [Communication Workers] all issued statements today urging continued opposition to the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] treaty. Full statements follow.
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Booming Business at Alabama Shipyard Fuels New Union Campaign

by  Bruce Vail

Vail_Alabama_Shipyard_Union_250_251

The Austal shipyard in Mobile, Alabama specializes in building littoral combat ships like the USS Independence. (Austal)

Rapid business growth may be the key to finally unionizing shipbuilding workers in Mobile, Ala., where an Australia-based defense contractor has successfully fought union organizing for more than a decade.

That’s the estimation of Ron Ault, President of the AFL-CIO’S Metal Trades Department (MTD), an umbrella group for unions representing boilermakers, machinists, pipefitters, and other skilled shipbuilding workers from around the country. “There is a boom in Gulf Coast shipyards now,” Ault says, and high demand for skilled workers may give unions a foothold. Gulf shipyards are recruiting workers from all parts of the country, including heavily unionized areas, and the presence of this whole new generation of workers is a real opportunity for labor organizing, according to Ault. Continue reading

Outrage at Boeing Spurs Reformers’ Bid for Top Spots in Machinists Union

by Jon Flanders

When Machinists President Thomas Buffenbarger intervened to foist concessions on the union's largest district, at Boeing, he added fuel to his opposition's fire. A rank and file vote for top officers will be held this spring. Photo: Don Grinde. - See more at: http://labornotes.org/2014/02/outrage-boeing-spurs-reformers-bid-top-spots-machinists-union#sthash.UB0LZnkd.dpuf

When Machinists President Thomas Buffenbarger intervened to foist concessions on the union’s largest district, at Boeing, he added fuel to his opposition’s fire. A rank and file vote for top officers will be held this spring. Photo: Don Grinde.

For the first time in more than 50 years, the Machinists union (IAM) will hold a contested election for top officers. The vote was ordered by the Department of Labor after member Karen Asuncion protested violations in the union’s 2013 uncontested election.

An opposition slate, IAM Reform, is headed by former Transportation Coordinator Jay Cronk. Cronk is a former officer because he was fired, after more than 20 years at the International, eight days after he announced his candidacy.

IAM Reform’s platform focuses primarily on internal functioning: nepotism, wasteful spending (a Lear Jet for international officers), high salaries ($304,000 in total compensation for President Thomas Buffenbarger), and excessive numbers of international officers, some of whom were appointed without ever having been an IAM member.

But since the initial appearance of the reform slate, under the pressure of events—principally the big showdown over concessions at Boeing—its nature has begun to morph into a broader opposition to concessionary contracts.

The membership vote will be held some time before June. Continue reading

A District 751 Leader Looks at the Jan 3 Boeing Contract

by Jason Redrup

A group of Boeing workers  to vote down a surprise mid-contract concessionary agreement. Photo: Jim Levitt.

A group of Boeing workers to vote down a surprise mid-contract concessionary agreement. Photo: Jim Levitt.

Earlier this year, members at District 751 endured a devastating loss to our solidarity and the benefits we had fought decades to secure because of the actions of our International leadership. If what happened at 751 goes unchallenged, it will set a dangerous pattern for other contracts across the country. My goal is to ensure what happened in Seattle, doesn’t happen to another group of Machinists.

Even though we had a contract in place through 2016 and our District strongly objected, our International ordered a vote on a concessionary offer be held on Jan. 3rd knowing thousands of union members would be on vacation and unable to vote. This vote was ordered after many members had already begun their holidays, and the International refused to move the vote just one business day. With nearly 8,000 members not voting, we are now forced to live under a contract that eliminated pensions for all, more than doubles health care costs, slows wage growth by 75 percent and keeps us from returning to the bargaining table until 2024. This came not when Boeing was hurting, but enjoying record profits and backlogs. Continue reading

Challenging Extortion: Some Points on the Boeing Situation

by Joe Burns

Joe Burns

Joe Burns

Much has already been written about Boeing’s successful extortion against its unionized workforce in Seattle to make them choose between losing jobs or sacrificing pensions and taking other concessions. On January 3, Boeing workers narrowly approved a set of concessions in a controversial revote ordered by the international union over the objections of the local leadership. Certainly the fact that the Boeing corporation, a highly profitable corporation extorted workers was reprehensible as many commentators have pointed out.

What I would like to discuss here is not the decision of Boeing workers to accept concessions but the system of labor laws which allowed Boeing to place unionized workers in that situation. Looking at the question this way requires digging into the underlying set of legal rules that allow employers to either blackmail unionized workers or, more commonly, simply move to avoid unionization. It involves questions including the outlawing of solidarity or ‘secondary’ tactics, union influence over decisions of capital mobility, and the degree to which we as a labor movement can work within a legal framework designed to ensure our failure. Continue reading

Boeing Workers Take a Stand & Take the Heat

by Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Carl Finamore

Local IAM District 751 union leaders in the state of Washington are feeling the fallout of Boeing’s extremely well-orchestrated counteroffensive begun immediately after Nov. 13 when 67% of union members rejected the company’s concessionary contract extension through 2024 of an existing agreement that does not actually expire until 2016.

Everyone expected Boeing would turn up the heat by threatening economic catastrophe for the Puget Sound area and thousands of lost jobs but these unionists were blindsided from a most unexpected source.

The IAM international, overruling local leadership, abruptly announced a Jan. 3 vote of another extension agreement eerily similar to the one that had just been rejected.

District 751’s website reported “International President R. Thomas Buffenbarger ordered the vote over objections of 751’s elected officials… and announced the Jan. 3rd vote to the Seattle Times on Saturday, Dec. 21.” Continue reading

Machinists Defeat Boeing Proposal, Boo Union Brass Who Pushed It

A group of Boeing workers marched to the union hall yesterday to vote down a surprise mid-contract concessionary agreement. Photo: Jim Levitt.

A group of Boeing workers marched to the union hall yesterday to vote down a surprise mid-contract concessionary agreement. Photo: Jim Levitt.

A group of Boeing workers marched to the union hall yesterday to vote down a surprise mid-contract concessionary agreement. Photo: Jim Levitt.

Machinists at Boeing resoundingly voted down mid-contract concessions yesterday and then booed the union leaders who had pushed the proposal on a shocked membership.

Their contract doesn’t expire until 2016, but the company is threatening to move production of the huge new 777X aircraft out of Washington state to avoid the union.

Boeing even promised $10,000 apiece upon approval, but the workers didn’t take the bait, opposing the scheme by 67 percent.

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Boeing Blackmails Washington Workforce on 777X Production

In 2008 Boeing Machinists struck against outsourcing and concessions. It was the last time the union bargained a pact that wasn’t a mid-contract extension made under threat of shipping away jobs. Photo: Jim Levitt.

Thirty-one thousand Machinists in Washington state were stunned to learn last week that their union had been talking with Boeing for at least two months about opening their contract for concessions to ensure that the next generation 777X plane would be built in Washington.

The contract doesn’t expire until 2016, but the company is threatening to move production of the huge new 777X out of Washington to avoid the union.
The company’s proposal was not made public until last Wednesday. Union members were then told they would vote on Wednesday, November 13.

A website sprang up urging members to “vote no to corporate blackmail” and questioning how the proposed contract would guarantee that the work stayed in Washington. Sponsors planned a rally today. Continue reading

Machinists Union Launches Ambitious New Campaign

By Bruce Vail

Downtown Klamath Falls, Ore., where the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers is organizing employees of the local Jeld-Wen factory as part of a farther-reaching campaign.   (Llywrch / Wikimedia Commons)

One of the most ambitious new union drives in the country is gathering momentum from its starting point in the Pacific Northwest. The International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM) has launched a campaign to organize thousands of industrial workers employed by a leading multinational manufacturer of doors, windows and wood millwork.

IAM is embarking a long-term effort to unionize some 5,600 workers at 23 North American plants run by Jeld-Wen, an international company with additional factories in Europe and Asia. The union’s interest was raised after being approached by pro-union workers anxious to establish higher wages and safer working conditions, particularly at plants in Chiloquin and Klamath Falls, Ore., says Bill Street of IAM.

The campaign kicked off in February when union organizers began leafleting at five widely separated plants in Oregon, Washington and California. Organizing outposts were established at about the same time in 13 other states and two Canadian provinces, says Street.

The effort is unusual in its size and scope. Organizing new members at IAM typically involves much smaller bargaining units on a single site, or small number of sites.  It’s an ambitous undertaking for the 720,000-member union, which is risking significant resources in a environment where many organizing drives fail. Continue reading

Machinists Rapidly Unionizing Ikea Warehouses: 3 Down, 2 to Go

by Bruce Vail

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Your hyper-modern apartment now comes with two-fifths the guilt, thanks to IAM’s ongoing organizing of Ikea warehouses. (Nick Keppol / Flickr / Creative Commons)

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) gained international attention in 2011 with its startling win in an election to represent about 300 production workers at an Ikea-owned plant in Danville, Va. It was the first-ever organizing success at Ikea for a labor union in the United States.

Inspired by that victory, IAM has moved swiftly to organize Ikea’s U.S. warehouses and distribution centers, says IAM organizer Joe Flanders. Since the Danville victory, the IAM has won three other union elections—in Perryville, Md., Savannah, Ga., and, most recently, in Westhampton, N.J.—and has campaigns underway at Ikea’s other two U.S. distribution centers.

Ikea fought the unionization efforts, but not as hard as it might have, say organizers. Globally, the Swedish furniture giant has a mixed record on labor, espousing union-friendly policies while sometimes engaging in union suppression.

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