Machinists Union Leading the Fight for Pension Plan Relief

The Machinists Union is fighting to save troubled multiemployer pension plans while fully protecting the earned and vested benefits of current and future retirees. While the majority of multiemployer pension plans are financially sound, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) estimates that more than 100 multiemployer pension plans, covering more than a million participants, are in “critical and declining status” and will become insolvent without the ability to pay the earned benefits of current and future retirees.

In a letter to the Ways and Means Committee, IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. is imploring members of the Committee to support the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021 and include it in the COVID-19 relief package currently being considered by Congress. This legislation will work to lift troubled multiemployer plans out of their financial hole, while maintaining the financial integrity of the PBGC. Most importantly, this Act will provide a pathway to accomplishing these goals without stealing the earned benefits of retirees, workers and their families.

“This legislation will appropriately and adequately address the multiemployer pension crisis by providing a lifeline to plans in critical financial status while maintaining the integrity of healthy multiemployer plans and the PBGC without cutting the earned benefit promises made to our nation’s retirees and working families,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “Not only will this legislation provide a lifeline to critical status plans, but it contains provisions to protect healthy plans from sliding into insolvency due to the current, unprecedented economic situation.”

TAKE ACTION: Tell Your U.S. Senators and Representative to support the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021.

Call your Representative at 202-224-3121 to urge them to pass the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021, and protect more than 100 multiemployer pension plans.

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Machinists Union Fighting to Save IAM Members’ Jobs

With the push from the Biden Administration to pass a comprehensive COVID relief package, the Machinists Union is fighting to make sure that aid for IAM members working in troubled industries is included in the relief package. As reported by Reuters , International President Robert Martinez Jr. and the IAM Legislative Department have been pushing Congress to include provisions that help save and secure jobs in the air transport, aerospace manufacturing and rail transit sectors. The IAM is also pushing for direct relief checks that benefit working people and subsidized COBRA healthcare benefits for those who have lost healthcare coverage.

“Since the onset of the COVID pandemic, transportation and aerospace workers have been forced to work through difficult times, unsure about their health and futures,” said Martinez. “Thousands of jobs have already been lost, and without these provisions, those numbers are likely to increase. The IAM is doing everything possible to get relief for aerospace, airline, transportation and all workers during this unprecedented time.”

The IAM continues to lead the fight on Capitol Hill for an extension of the airline Payroll Support Program (PSP) to keep tens of thousands of IAM members employed. In a letter to Senate and House leadership , the IAM, along with a coalition of aviation unions, urged members of the House and Senate to include this vitally important, bipartisan legislation in any COVID-19 pandemic relief package to be considered by Congress.

Call your Representative at 202-224-3121 and urge them to pass an extension of the airline Payroll Support Program, and save thousands of frontline aviation jobs.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Your U.S. Senators and Representative to extend the Airline Payroll Support Program Through September 2021  

The Machinists Union is also calling for inclusion of the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Act of 2021 in the COVID relief package. This legislation would help employers bring aerospace manufacturing workers back onto their payrolls and avoid additional furloughs.

In a letter to Senate  and House  leadership, IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. urged members of the House and Senate to include this vitally important, bipartisan legislation in any COVID-19 pandemic relief package to be considered by Congress.

IAM members must act now and call your Representative at 202-224-3121 to urge them to include the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Act of 2021, and save thousands of crucial aerospace jobs. This sorely needed relief will protect aerospace workers and help this critical workforce and supply chain weather the storm of this historic pandemic.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Your U.S. Senators and Representative to support the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Act of 2021.

The IAM and TCU/IAM have led the charge in calling for enough Amtrak funding to recall furloughed workers and resume daily service on long-distance trains. The group is also urging Congress to include in their COVID package much-needed relief for transit agencies, as well as funding for the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) to better process claims for the thousands of currently unemployed railroaders.

Thanks to this strong advocacy, all of these provisions have been included in the House Democrats’ proposed bill. The draft transportation section of the COVID relief bill will be taken up in committee this week. The legislation includes $30 billion for transit, $1.5 billion for Amtrak (and return furloughed workers and long distance service), as well as extending RUI benefits and more money to help the RRB process RUI claims on time.

The IAM and TCU/IAM call on Congress to pass this bill quickly so members can get back to work.

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Johnsen Appointed Special Assistant to International President

IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. has appointed Richard Johnsen to serve as a Special Assistant to the International President, effective February 9, 2021. Johnsen previously served as a Transportation Department Grand Lodge Representative and has been an IAM member for more than 31 years.

“Rich has always worked tirelessly on behalf of IAM members in every position he has served,” said Martinez. “He brings with him a drive and work ethic that’s made him a successful union representative all these years. His experience and commitment to improving the lives of working people makes him a great addition to our staff.”

Johnsen initiated in Local 1781 as a Mechanic Assistant for United Airlines in 1988 and was promoted to Mechanic in 1990. He served in many positions at the local and district level and was appointed as Assistant General Chairperson for District 141M in 2000, then as a Grand Lodge Special Representative in 2001.

Johnsen also served as the IAM Representatives Association (IAMRA) President from 2017 to 2021.

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IAM Local 2191 Members Vote to Ratify Contract at Chart Energy and Chemical

240 IAM Local 2191 members, who make brazed aluminum heat exchangers at Chart Energy and Chemical, last week overwhelmingly voted to ratify a five-year collective bargaining agreement at the La Crosse, WI plant.

The contract provides many improvements including much-needed relief for forced overtime, retaining and increasing the IAM pension, and maintaining retirement benefits.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our members for standing strong for what is right,” said District 66 Directing Business Representative Neil Kamrowski. “Thanks to the assistance from the Midwest Territory and the departments at IAM Headquarters, our committee was able to get our members a contract that they can be proud of. It was truly a group effort all the way.”

Membership voted to enter negotiations early. While some gains were made in the initial sessions, the company pushed a last/best, final offer. Membership voted down their proposal and to go on strike, giving the negotiating committee the necessary time and power to renegotiate.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, negotiating team members from IAM Local 2191 completed a field negotiating prep program at District 66 headquarters prior to entering contract talks with Chart Energy and Chemical. The week-long class included training in constructing contract language, giving proposals, analyzing the company’s strength and weaknesses and identifying a broad array of potential tactics.

“The gains in this contract could not have been achieved without the solidarity exhibited from the members of Local 2191,” said Midwest Territory General Vice President Steve Galloway. “Your togetherness and patience during these unprecedented times allowed the negotiating committee time to go back to the table and achieve a great contract. I congratulate our members, the IAM Local 2191 Negotiating Committee, IAM District 66 Directing Business Representative Neil Kamrowski, and all the support staff from the Winpisinger Center, Legal, Strategic Resources and Communications Departments for their collective effort in bringing forth a successful negotiation.”

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Black History Month: The IAM Fight for Civil Rights in the 1960s

Human rights for African Americans were officially recognized in the U.S. with the historic passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the implementation of the Voting Rights Act a year later. Despite those historic legislative accomplishments, the IAM understood that centuries of racial discrimination had caused devastating social and economic damage in black communities. In response the union implemented an aggressive agenda in the 1960s aimed at uplifting minority workers.

The decade began with a public show of racial solidarity in late 1962 when then IAM President Al Hayes was publicly photographed warmly meeting with Martin Luther King Jr. at a banquet in New York City. Hayes, along with 1,500 labor leaders, welcomed the civil rights icon at a gala celebrating the 25th anniversary of the National Maritime Union. 

Machinists viewed King Jr. as transformational leader and the face of the civil rights movement. But the union knew racial equality wouldn’t become successful without minority participation in labor’s grassroots ranks. IAM Shop Steward training played a critical role. A prime example occurred in January of 1963 when Lodge 1781 in San Mateo, CA announced that a multiracial group of members successfully passed the Stewards Training Course. The six-session class would certify at least a hundred.

By 1964 the Machinists Union continued to make organizing gains in cities with large African American populations. That winter then President Hayes presented a charter to new Lodge 814 in Washington, D.C., which would become a union hub to at least 600 taxi cab drivers. Many of whom were black including William Thompson who served as the local’s Vice President.

As membership grew, the IAM Executive Council saw a need to boost recruitment and groom a new generation of high-level leaders. In early 1965, Machinists offered 15 schools across the country where members could learn about organizational leadership. The training would be especially important as locals with large African American membership began to flourish such as Local 2013 in Richmond, VA.

But in August of that year, the IAM would be tested as racial rage and anger spilled into the streets of Watts, CA where six days of rioting occurred after an African American man was brutally beaten by police. 14,000 National Guardsmen were called in after civil unrest caused $40 million in damage, 34 deaths and destroyed countless businesses. In response Machinists would help rebuild the broken community with the IAM-sponsored Watts Labor Community Action Committee. Under the leadership of a respected, up-and-coming, African American Grand Lodge Representative named Herb Ward, the organization was able to tap into hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds that were used to provide jobs, training and skills for 1,600 at-risk youth in Watts.

Tragedy would again strike in April of 1968 with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. But the Machinists Union mission of racial equality moved forward as the union consistently secured good contracts that benefited African Americans. As was the case at General Dynamics in Fort Worth, TX where a multiracial group of 14,000 production workers from District 776 built military jets like the F-111 bomber. Machinists would also continue fighting for rights of wrongfully terminated black workers like Noland Bailey of Louisiana. Local 228 successfully reinstated his employment at an ammunition plant and won him $1,432.60 in back pay, a strong statement of racial equality in the 1960s deep South.

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