IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. recently led a Machinists Union delegation to a meeting of the world’s most powerful aerospace unions in Singapore.
Martinez chairs the aerospace sector of the IndustriALL Global Union, which represents 50 million working people in 140 countries. The aerospace industry, worth $800 billion and employing millions of workers globally, has been increasing corporate profits by lowering labor costs.
“The global aerospace industry finds itself at a crossroads,” said Martinez. “One direction takes it down a path that ignores the simple fact that workers are the most valuable factors in the company’s success. The industry must choose a path that recognizes that a proud union workforce is the engine that drives a company’s success.”
The IAM has encountered brazen anti-union campaigns from Boeing, Airbus and Rolls-Royce. Companies are exporting anti-worker practices to all corners of the globe.
“As aerospace becomes even more global, anti-union campaigns have become the No. 1 threat to aerospace workers around the world,” said Martinez. “We must hold all of these companies accountable for violating fundamental human rights.”
Together with aerospace unions from across the world, the IAM committed to cooperate to ensure decent working conditions and pay for aerospace workers everywhere, and to stop workers from being pitted against each other due to global competition.
The IAM’s delegation included Martinez, Aerospace General Vice President Mark Blondin, District 751 President and Directing Business Representative Jon Holden, Chief of Staff and Director of Trade and Globalization Owen Herrnstadt, and Canadian Special Representative Neil Giroux.
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More than 1 million federal contract workers went without pay during the 35-day government shutdown in early 2019, including thousands of furloughed IAM members. The IAM is fighting for the inclusion of language in the Senate’s fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill to ensure back pay to compensate federal contract workers for wages lost during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
The IAM urged members of Congress to support the letter from Reps. Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, Ayanna Pressley and Eleanor Holmes Norton to Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer advocating for the inclusion of language in the Senate’s FY2020 appropriations bill.
“These men and women work side-by-side with federal workers performing jobs that are absolutely vital to the government and to the people of the United States,” said Machinists Union International President Robert Martinez Jr. “For too many of these federal contract workers and their families, the impact of this pointless shutdown has been crippling. Through no fault of their own, many of these families are facing the reality of missing payments on their mortgages, student loans, school tuition, car loans, health care premiums, daycare, interest fees, and so many other expenses.
“I want to personally thank Reps. Pocan, Jayapal, Pressley, Norcross and Norton for fighting to ensure that these federal contract workers are made whole. Contract workers and their families should not suffer the consequences of a shutdown they had no hand in creating.”
Members of the IAM will urge members of Congress to include back pay legislation in the appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2020 on behalf of impacted government contract workers.
The Machinists Union proudly represents approximately 35,000 federal contract workers who provide critical services federal agencies ranging from NASA to the FAA to HUD. With nearly 600,000 active and retired members, the IAM is one of the largest and most diverse labor unions in North America. From Boeing and Lockheed Martin to United Airlines and Harley-Davidson, you will find IAM members across all walks of life.
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Deep in the forest of northern Maine sit two rusting locomotives, seemingly frozen in time. They offer a glimpse of a booming lumber industry that used to employ thousands of Mainers, and was lucrative enough to build a railroad system in what many would refer to as “the middle of nowhere.”
Time seems to have forgotten these two rusting dinosaurs. In a way, the same can be said for the hundreds of people who forest the very same land today.
The North Maine Woods consists of 3.5 million acres of commercial forest where landowners — private, state and corporate — work together to process the timber in a sustainable manner. It provides Maine with a $8.5 billion forest products industry.
Landowners hire contractors to harvest, process and haul the timber to sawmills located throughout the state. These contractors and the people who work for them are the heart of the workforce for the Maine logging industry, and are some of the hardest working men — and a few women — you’ll ever meet. They brave the elements and the vastness of the North Maine Woods to make a living for their families.
For 10 months out of the year they cut, process and haul timber to supply the country’s wood, paper and pulp industry. The only break is the mud season in early spring, when trucks are unable to use the logging roads. To ensure good roads for the next cutting season, the ground must be completely thawed before they can be graded.
Bordered by Canada to the north and west, the vastness of this area is hard to wrap your head around. There are no towns, restaurants, gas stations, rest stops or cell service. The blue-collar men and women who work up there use
radios and satellite phones to communicate.
It’s not a nine-to-five job. The few employed by contractors operating equipment that runs around the clock work 12-hour shifts. For most who are contractors themselves, they put in 16 to 20 hour days. That doesn’t include the hour or more drive back to the logging camp where they spend nights throughout the week — away from their families.
Most work in the woods Monday through Thursday, then spend Friday doing maintenance on their equipment, preparing it for the week ahead.
You won’t hear any complaints about the hours or difficulty of the labor from anyone up here. As a matter of fact, no one seems to think there is anything special about it. When in reality, the work ethic of the loggers in the North Maine Woods is anything but ordinary.
With the long hours and treacherous work, one could easily assume they are well compensated. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
Stacey Kelly, 55, went to work in the woods right out of high school. He drives for a contractor hauling timber with a tractor-trailer.
“I don’t know anybody who has ever worked in the woods that would tell you that it hasn’t always been a struggle,” said Kelly. “The first guy to put an axe into a tree up here got screwed, and it’s really never stopped.”
Kelly has left the industry a few times during his career, but has always returned because he didn’t like traveling out of state for work. He now considers himself semi-retired, although most weeks he still puts in nearly 60 hours.
Things were so bad in 1998, Kelly, along with now Maine State Senate President Troy Jackson, Hilton Hafford and dozens of others, blocked the road to the Quebec border. They were tired of low pay and Canadian loggers making 50 percent more due to the exchange rate.
After a weeklong blockade and the threat of arrest, the groups dispersed and went back to work. Some logger received increased rates, but not those who started the trouble. Landowners have always found a way to divide the group for their own benefit.
Logger Jim Desjardins has worked in just about every capacity in the industry. He started back in the days of chainsaws and cable skidders. Desjardins currently works with his father and brother harvesting private lots.
The business model the Desjardins use differs a little from those who contract cut for the landowners. They buy the rights to harvest the land and the wood on it. They then sell that wood to the mills directly.
“It has its ups and downs. Last summer it was rough,” said Desjardins.
The corporate landowners have the power to drive down the price of wood in the area. If they aren’t paying the contractors a good rate on their wood, it affects the price the mills are willing to pay the Desjardins for their harvest.
Desjardins shares the sentiment of many others — the industry is at a tipping point.
“Even without bad luck and breakdowns, at the end of the month the payments on equipment are getting bigger, and the pile of wood is getting smaller,” said Desjardins.
“The wood is getting harder and harder to get out on company land.”
Dana Gardner has been driving a log truck since 1995. He’s seen the fluctuations in the industry and believes these are the worst of times. When the 2016 season started, rates were cut by at least 50-70 percent. Landowners cited a dip in the market, especially hardwood pulp.
“At first everybody was up in arms,” said Gardner. “But once the dust settled, they all just accepted it and kept on working.”
Gardner, a diabetic, had to have an operation to remove his pinky toe and part of his foot.
“I had to park my truck at a crucial time in February,” said Gardner. “There wasn’t enough money in the rates to hire a
driver. They were trying to get all the lumber out of the woods because spring was coming, but I had to give it up because of my foot. They were going to take half my leg.”
The Gardners leveraged the equity in their personal vehicles to make truck and trailer payments.
Gardner took the much-needed time off to address his foot problem. That spring he went back to the trucking supervisor and let him know he was ready to haul again.
He was told the corporate landowner he contracted with, J.D. Irving, wasn’t hiring anyone back who didn’t finish the run. The excuse: they wanted workers on which they could count.
Gardner pleaded. The words that came next will never leave Gardner’s mind:
“Well, you haven’t suffered enough, yet.”
Gardner was forced to contract with different landowners to make a living.
Dana’s foot didn’t heal as doctors had hoped, and he now makes the 8-hour round-trip drive to Bangor twice a week for wound care. With Gardner unable to put in the necessary hours hauling lumber, and not enough money in the rates to hire a driver, the family lost their business along with their vehicles.
“You work so hard to get in a position where you’re doing well,” said Gardner. “Then the bank comes and takes your truck and parks it right downtown, crossways in its front lawn for everybody to see. Right next to your wife’s Tahoe and your pickup. It’s pretty hard to swallow.”
SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE
Maine Senate President Troy Jackson is a fifth-generation logger. During his time in the industry, he’s done everything within the limits of the law to make life better for the men and women who work in the North Maine Woods. He realized the law had to change.
Maine loggers are classified as independent contractors, barred from any attempts to coordinate with one another about their contracts. The state considers it price-fixing under federal anti-trust laws. It has kept loggers from unionizing and collectively bargaining rates and working conditions.
“I kept watching how the Machinists were helping the lobstermen and what they were doing,” said Jackson. “I thought there might be some way for them to help.”
Jackson and some other loggers reached out.
In October 2018, a group of loggers attended a class at the IAM’s William W. Winpisinger Center to discuss how to improve life for this group of workers. It was during this time they realized they needed to get the loggers added as an exemption to the anti-trust law.
Jackson and others jumped into action, writing LD 1459, an act that would expand the exemption to the “harvesters and haulers of forest products.”
It was going to be a tough lift to get them to come down to Augusta, the state capital, to testify before the hearing. Not only would they be missing a day or two of work, they would also be exposing themselves to the landowners who
sign their paychecks.
In the end, dozens of loggers attended the hearing to support changing the law.
The loggers were successful in their efforts to pass LD 1459 — adding their profession to the list of Maine industries that are exempt from the anti-trust law. The exemption took effect September 19, 2019.
“Now everyone can get together and say ‘Hey, I’m not making it,’ and now they can discuss ways to change it,” said Kelly, who attended and spoke at the hearing.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
Just as the Maine Lobstermen did before them, the loggers are quickly learning how uniting together can help a group of independent workers. Many have filed paperwork to start the New
England Logger’s Cooperative and have elected Jackson as its first president.
“We’ve changed the law, we have people who aren’t afraid to push back against these guys. And [with the Machinists] we have people in the room that have experience dealing with big corporations and know what they’re doing,” said Jackson.
The loggers are exploring the many ways the New England Logger’s Cooperative can improve the lives of those who make their living from harvesting the forest products of northern Maine. They are looking for ways to
use group purchasing to lower costs for everyone. There are many areas where this could help; from parts and lubrication for their equipment and trucks to operating insurance for their businesses.
By joining together and getting LD 1459 passed, the group has already proven that through solidarity they are capable of changing the industry.
There has never been more money in the Maine logging industry than there is today, and never has less of that money gone to the people doing the work. Now, those working people have an opportunity to change that.
The final 2019 Spanish program concluded last week at the William W. Winpisinger Center, as the school welcomed participants from the U.S., Canada and the Territory of Puerto Rico for Spanish Leadership I. The week started and ended with excitement all around. The program was the second highest turnout for Spanish Leadership classes, with 25 members enrolled, eight hailing from the newly affiliated IAM/Carpenters LL 2252C.
The program also marked the third in a series of training this year for the Carpenters Union (UCPR) from Puerto Rico LL 2252C.
“What I enjoyed the most was sharing my experiences with other union members from so many different places and industries, so much knowledge and experience; it was truly eye-opening to see we belong to such a large and diverse organization,” said Local 2252C steward Rafael Rodriguez Pagan.
Spanish-language programs are coordinated, developed, and delivered by a mix of Winpisinger Center staff and the Spanish Language Working Group (SLWG). Subjects range from Labor History to Parliamentary Procedure in Lodge Administration, Role of the Steward to Human Rights, Why Organizing Matters to Government and Politics.
“I was amazed at the simplicity of how hands-on simulations can teach the proper ways to run a meeting efficiently and effectively. I’ll definitely be using what I learned in real life scenarios,” said Local 2252C President Miguel “Mickey” Alvarez.
“We can never forget how so many of us are fighting against injustices, so many stories of battles yet to be won. Each person taking the time to make a difference,” said New Jersey Local 2329 member Katherine Ramos Fernandes, regarding the Labor History class. Her statement is a true reflection of the passion and dedication that the Spanish instructors.
The next two years promise to be a challenge for the labor movement. Organizing workers in the Spanish-speaking sector will be significant in the struggle for all workers’ rights. Now is the time to stand strong and send the message of diversity and inclusion to our nation’s leaders, communities and within our own union. The key to that message is education.
“To have the opportunity to learn and share experiences and knowledge is priceless. I feel privileged to be here,” said District Lodge 947 member Jennifer Esquivel from in Long Beach, CA.
Spanish-language programs at the W3 Center include Leadership I, Leadership II, Advanced Leadership and Train-the-Trainer. There are several other Spanish programs that target the various levels of union leadership education as well as Staff classes including Collective Bargaining and Organizing I, both offered in Spanish. Please contact your Local Lodge Officers, Business Representative or General Chairperson for information on how to enroll.
The Spanish classes for 2020 are as follows:
March 15-20 SPANISH LEADERSHIP I
May 17-22 ORGANIZING I PROGRAM – SPANISH
July 12-17 SPANISH LEADERSHIP II
June 14-19 SPANISH ADVANCED LEADERSHIP
August 16-21 SPANISH LEADERSHIP I
August 23-28 SPANISH TRAIN-THE-TRAINER
November 15-20 COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
Please note that enrollments in any of the Spanish Leadership programs do not count against your Lodge’s regular Leadership school allotments.
If you have any questions about the Spanish Leadership programs or need any additional information, please contact Edmundo Osorio at (301) 373-8814 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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