Seneca Foods Seasonal Workers Vote to Join the IAM

Recently, more than 193 seasonal employees at Seneca Foods vegetable processing facility in Leicester, NY voted to join the IAM. This organizing campaign accomplished something relatively unheard of, filing for an election with just 30 percent of the workforce signing representation cards and then overwhelmingly winning the election.

“On behalf of the Eastern Territory, I would like to congratulate and welcome the women and men from Seneca into the IAM family,” said Eastern Territory General Vice President Jimmy Conigliaro Sr. “This was a great team effort. Thank you to Chief of Staff Juan Negron, Grand Lodge Representative Chuck Herod, Directing Business Representative Ron Warner and IAM District 65 for your dedication and relentless work in bringing this organizing campaign to fruition.”

The seasonal processing schedule typically runs from July 1 through the end of November. Many of these seasonal employees are from Puerto Rico and have traveled back and forth to Seneca Foods for years. Working conditions were not favorable and employees were required to work twelve-hour days, seven days a week.

“These employees have seen the disparity of how they are treated compared with how fulltime workers in the facility are treated and compensated under a Collective Bargaining Agreement,” said District 65 Directing Business Representative Ron Warner. “They know we can make a difference and that is why they voted for the IAM. Since the majority of the workers spoke only Spanish, I’d also like to give special thanks to Chief of Staff Juan Negron and Chief Steward Luis Diaz who were integral in communicating with our new sisters and brothers.”

IAM Local Lodge 1580 currently represents 40 fulltime employees at the Seneca Foods facility. In September, seasonal employees, who handle all the processing including canning of the vegetables, contacted Local Lodge 1580 Chief Steward Luis Diaz expressing a strong desire to join the IAM.  

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Gearing Up for the Future

Gearing Up for the Future

Union members want good contracts and good service for those contracts, in order to improve quality of life, through higher wages, better benefits and safe working conditions. The IAM’s Southern Territory has changed its culture by reorganizing districts so members receive the service they expect, while making organizing a top priority.

The newly chartered districts are in Kentucky and Tennessee, with consolidated locals in Virginia and North Carolina.

“We started looking at districts that only had one representative and how we could support them better, give them more resources to help with their servicing needs and to help with organizing,” said IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Rickey Wallace.

District 74 in Virginia, District 110 in North Carolina and unaffiliated Local 10 in Richmond, VA were consolidated into the new District 2020 in February. Newly-chartered District 1888 was formed when Districts 27 in Louisville, KY, 154 in Calvert City, KY and District 711 in Murfreesboro, TN were consolidated into District Lodge 1888 in September.

“We chose that number for a reason,” said District 1888 President and Directing Business Representative Jerry Benson. “That’s the year the union started and we’re looking at this district as a rebirth in this area of our union. This union started in the South and we’re going to grow it in the South.”

Russell Wade, President and Directing Business Representative of District 2020, says the reorganization will help in a number of ways.

“It gives us a chance to collaborate between local business representatives much more easily because we talk to each other regularly since we did this combination, so to me it’s like the sum of the parts makes a greater whole than the parts individually,” said Wade.

Servicing Members

The Machinists Union provides workers with a collective voice to communicate with company managers. Whether it’s a shop steward or a business representative, the union helps to resolve problems that may arise.

“Some of our representatives were servicing up to 45 collective bargaining agreements, which is a huge workload on somebody,” said Wallace. “It’s a juggling act for a representative, constantly with balls in the air all the time, trying to negotiate these contracts. Multiple contracts coming up at the same time. What we had done in the past is our Grand Lodge staff would go in and support these districts and helped them out when they needed it.”

Although Grand Lodge Representatives are good at multitasking, Wallace saw a need and an opportunity to get members better services, by having the Grand Lodge Representatives focus on organizing, while business representatives at the district level could concentrate on servicing.

Joe Greaser has been a Grand Lodge Representative since 2007.

“To the general member, seeing their business agent more often, they kind of have the tendency to think the union cares more about them,” said Greaser, adding that the “whole aspect of servicing should improve” under this new system and representatives can get out onto the shop floors to get to know members better.

Members often contact their shop stewards in-person and their business representatives through email, text and phone calls.

“I think they’ll see a better response from business agents, due to the realignment the Southern Territory did with the Grand Lodge Representatives,” said Wade. “It frees the business representatives up to better service the members and be much more responsive to the members.”

The goal is to make sure members hear back from their representatives as quickly as possible.

“We believe in servicing our membership. That’s one thing I think the Machinists Union does better than any other union out there,” said Benson. “By having the reps located in different areas, different regions of the district, they’ll be able to visit their shops and visit their members. So, hopefully, the ones that are out of the [formerly] one-rep district maybe they will see their rep more often than what they were used to. Hopefully, they’ll see that their rep has more resources to use for them when have an issue.”

Organizing

Another one for the history books. New Charters for IAM Districts 1888 and 2020.

President Robert Martinez Jr. made it his top priority when he took office in 2016 and has taken steps to boost it since then.

“We weren’t using our Grand Lodge staff really to organize at all. If we got a lead, they would pick it up and run with it,” said Wallace.

But the added responsibility of organizing on top of servicing was burdensome. The reorganization of the districts in the territory will facilitate the organizing goal and streamline the process. Wallace said the territory is always working on strategic targets.

“Organizing is important to keep the balance of the union and keep the strength of the union,” said Greaser. “The biggest impediment when you’re organizing is not being able to dedicate the time necessary to have a successful campaign. As a pure organizer, when you don’t have those impediments of having to be at meetings, having to be at negotiations, having to deal with internal disputes, you can set your game plan for your organizing effort a lot more efficiently.”

A winning game plan involves a tireless fight to organize workers who need help improving working conditions. The union’s job is to show them how organizing is power.

“Working people need our help more than ever,” said Benson. “We’re in an environment now that is not worker friendly. This new district will have Memphis, Nashville, Louisville, Lexington, Chattanooga, Knoxville, a lot of cities spread out across this new district where there’s organizing opportunities. Hopefully, this district grows and with it this union grows.”

Culture Change

Change can be a difficult, yet necessary transition in any industry. “It’s a change for us in culture,” said Greaser, “but at the end of the day we’ll do it in fine Machinists fashion.”

Greaser’s life as a Grand Lodge Representative has involved a lot of travel. He spends a lot of time in his car, traveling from city to city throughout the territory. Business representatives are also busy, making shop visits and putting out fires.

“No one likes change, including me,” said Wade. “But if you don’t change, you go the way of the dinosaur. You’ve got to adapt and change with the times and I think these changes were in the best interest of the membership, otherwise I would have put up a fight, so I think it’s a change in the right direction.”

The Machinists Union wants to keep moving forward together on the local, district and territory levels, with each entity supporting the other for the greater good.

The district reorganization will take time, according to Wallace. He says it won’t happen overnight, “but we think we have a structure in place now that will better service our members and focus on organizing at the same time. This is change for us. And change comes difficult sometimes, but we think this is needed in the territory. The whole purpose is to grow these districts, expand our footprint, increase our union density in these districts, so we can negotiate better contracts for our members.”

District numbers may change, but the people behind the districts, who represent the union members in them, remain the same, as well as the fighting effort that makes us the “Fighting Machinists.”

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Machinists Union Integral in 737 Max Recertification, Safety Improvements

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has lifted the grounding of the 737 Max, clearing the way for airlines to begin scheduling flights in the upcoming months. The move comes after more than a year of the IAM partnering with the FAA and Congress to ensure the aircraft is safe to carry passengers again after its worldwide grounding in March 2019.

The FAA order only covers domestic flights, which will affect American, United and Southwest Airlines, who all have the 737 Max in their fleets. International flight safety agencies are still

IAM District 751 members have worked extensively to maintain these aircraft in long-term storage and members look forward to bringing the 737 Max back into service and increasing production rates as necessary to meet the needs of the customers going forward.

“This is great news for our Brothers and Sisters in Puget Sound who build these planes,” said IAM Western Territory General Vice President Gary R. Allen. “District Lodge 751’s leadership has done an excellent job in keeping the pressure on Congress, the FAA and Boeing to ensure the best aircraft builders on the planet and their job security are considered and respected.”    

“I’m proud of the work our members have done throughout these difficult times,” said IAM Aerospace General Vice President Mark Blondin. “The quality of their work has really stood out during the storage of the planes, the thorough review process and now getting the 737 Max back into service and eventually ramping up production.”

“The FAA’s decision to unground the 737 Max is good news for us in the Pacific Northwest,” said Aviation Subcommittee Chair Rick Larsen (D-WA). “The decision provides some certainty to the aerospace jobs in Northwest Washington, despite the downturn in aviation travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With critical changes in place to ensure the 737 Max’s safe return to service, it is my hope Boeing employees can get back to work, drive economic recovery and ensure U.S. aviation remains globally competitive.”

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure issued a final report on the Boeing 737 Max. Based on the report, the House passed a bipartisan bill, the “Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act.”

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IP Martinez Talks Election, Unity on LCLAA Podcast

IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. recently joined the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) podcast “El Desvio, Many Roads, one Destination .”

Martinez discusses the recent presidential election, COVID-19, and how organizations like the IAM and LCLAA play a critical role in bringing our divided nation back together.

“I am so proud of all of our members and every American for going to the polls in record numbers,” said Martinez. “Despite a pandemic and deliberate attempts to suppress our vote, more Americans voted in this election than any in American history. That is a testament to the labor movement and organizations like LCLAA who have mobilized to turn out the vote, and now count every vote.”

Listen to the entire episode here.

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A Strike, a Love story and a Movie

What better way to show workers how important organizing is than to put it on the big screen? That’s exactly what Composer, Writer and Producer Danny Schur and Director Rob Adetuyi did with the movie musical STAND!  and they explained how on a special edition of Activate L!VE .

Schur wrote a love story against the backdrop of non-union workers organizing the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919. “With the background of all the tumult going on in the world: general strikes in Seattle, in Winnipeg, all the other racial stuff that’s going on in 1919,” said Schur, “it is a love story set against a tumultuous social background.”

Movie-goers will see and feel the fear of retaliation, but also the joy of overcoming that fear. Adetuyi said it was also important to make sure the film represented true diversity. “It just opens up the movie,” he said. “It really shows you the complexity of our culture and our society and that the struggle was among all of us. We were all in it together. It wasn’t just Ukrainians or British, it was Black, Indigenous, women, all together.”

Two of the characters in the movie are a Black immigrant named Emma who left racist violence in Oklahoma and headed north to Winnipeg, and an Indigenous World War I soldier named Gabriel, who is looking for work when he returns home. 

STAND! premieres December 1  in the United States. You can also watch the replay of Activate L!VE on Facebook  and Twitter .​

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Alabama Aerospace Members Make Big Gains with New Contract

Nearly 120 members of IAM Local 2766 overwhelmingly ratified a new contract with Tyonek Services Group. The aerospace workers who maintain helicopters at Redstone Arsenal in Alabama have seen significant improvements in compensation since joining the IAM in 2017 .

The new four-year deal includes the following improvements:

  • Three percent wage increase in each year of the contract
  • Significant reduction in cost of medical insurance coverage
  • Immediate wage equity adjustments for Electronic Techs and Machinists
  • Bonus for all employees with A&P licenses
  • Accelerated vacation schedule allowing employees to earn vacation sooner
  • Increased holidays
  • Improved Temporary Duty Travel (TDY) language.

“Congrats to Local 2766 and all involved for an outstanding collective bargaining agreement,” said IAM Aerospace General Vice President Mark Blondin. “The IAM continues to be the leader in the aerospace industry, especially when it comes to work under the Service Contract Act. This contract is just one of many that the IAM has negotiated under the SCA, and we continue to secure superior wages and benefits for our members and their families.”

“These negotiations were special for me because I helped organize this group along with retired District 75 organizer Mike Cooke,” said IAM Aerospace Coordinator Tony Wirth. “I was also there with them when we negotiated their first contract, so to be able to be there for this one has given me an opportunity to be a part of their success from the beginning. Congratulations to BR Matt Griggs and the committee for a great contract.”

“With the commitment and dedication of Business Representative Matt Griggs, the Negotiation Committee was well prepared and ready to negotiate a great contract,” said District 75 President/Directing Business Representative Stephen P. Jordan. “A big thank you goes out to Aerospace Coordinator Tony Wirth for helping to achieve this great contract, this was a team effort for sure.”   

The group negotiated their first contract with Tyonek, who won the maintenance contract previously held by Y-Tech. The negotiating committee consisting of Local 2766 President Tom Lewis, Committeeman Dan Gross, Committeeman Ryan Petosky, IAM Aerospace Coordinator Tony Wirth, District 75 Business Representative Matt Griggs worked extensively preparing for the negotiations with the new company.

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