Negotiating committee members from IAM Local 933 recently completed a Negotiation Prep training at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center in Hollywood, MD, to prepare for upcoming contract negotiations with Raytheon.
IAM members at Raytheon in Tucson, AZ, build missiles and other sophisticated arms that are key to the U.S. military around the world to ensure America’s defense and leadership.
“We are proud to be representing and guiding our coworkers through the negotiation process,” said IAM Local 933 Directing Business Representative Rick Vargas. “This is an opportunity to develop a comprehensive strategy to guarantee that Raytheon’s workers obtain a fair and the best possible contract they deserve.”
The William W. Winpisinger Center Program provides bargaining committees with the tools to develop and refine collective bargaining proposals and strategies while examining the company’s financial performance and IAM members’ needs.
“As negotiations with Raytheon are set to begin soon, IAM Local 933 members will be well prepared because of the skills and insights learned during this strategy session at the Winpisinger Center,” said IAM Western Territory General Vice President Gary R. Allen. “They have the full support of the IAM so they can obtain a more equitable contract for the membership.”
Raytheon workers will also receive valuable support from the IAM Aerospace Department to ensure they receive a contract that will compensate them fairly.
“These IAM members continue to serve our country by providing the essential labor, elite skills, and proven talent to advance the aerospace industry and protect this nation,” said IAM Grand Lodge Representative Paul Shepherd. “Raytheon has enjoyed Billions in profits recently and is forecasting even more this year, shareholders are enjoying an all-time high stock price, and Local 933 members – who produced these results – have earned their fair share.”
IAM Local 933 represents over 1,300 workers at Raytheon Missile Systems and is southern Arizona’s largest private employer.
Somehow “We tried to warn you,” just doesn’t quite cut it.
For the past several years, rail labor unions – ourselves included – have been ringing the alarm bells about the dangers of the cost-cutting business model, so-called “Precision Scheduled Railroading.” Or, PSR for short.
We’ve testified before Congress and the Surface Transportation Board (STB). We’ve filed comment after comment, and pleaded face-to-face with safety regulators to do something, anything to ensure this death-by-a-thousand-cuts business model doesn’t result in a catastrophic disaster like the one that just occurred in East Palestine, OH.
That’s why we applaud U.S. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg’s announcement to take immediate action to begin to repair our broken freight rail system. Secretary Buttigieg’s announcement is a major step in the right direction. We’re particularly pleased with the Department of Transportation’s encouragement of the industry to install inspection technologies without forgoing human inspections. This mirrors the repeated calls our union has made for many years.
And while our union welcomes the announcement, there is still much to do if we are to roll back years of destructive and unsafe business practices that have plagued our once-prized freight rail network.
PSR is Designed to Avoid Inspections
The PSR model is exploiting loopholes for federal inspection requirements. Federal regulations require inspections by a qualified mechanical inspector (aka Carmen) at each location where train cars are added to a train. This requirement is often ignored or is substituted by allowing operating crews, not Qualified Mechanical Inspectors (aka “Carmen”), to perform pre-departure inspections and/or brake tests. Railroads are also relying increasingly on automated wayside detectors to replace – rather than complement – human inspections. The railroads have sought waiver after waiver to allow in-person inspections to be substituted for automated temperature detectors that simply indicate if an assembly is hot or cold.
The regulations requiring rail cars to be inspected by qualified Carmen don’t exist to cover the railroad in red tape. They exist because it is inherently dangerous to allow uninspected rail cars to traverse our nation’s rail network. They exist to ensure those inspections are being carried out by experts: Carmen. These Carmen have spent on average two years qualifying as a journeyman by learning to properly inspect and maintain rail cars and all of their associated safety components (see 49 U.S.C. § 215). These cars have 90+ inspection points per car, per side, including the wheel bearings like those that failed causing the derailment in East Palestine.
And while we may never know for certain whether a Carman would have identified the car in a mechanical inspection, we do know that Carmen are the only craft that would likely identify a blown/leaking seal on the wheel bearing. Because that’s the job of a Carman. That’s what they were trained to do.
To be clear: nothing should substitute the physical inspection of a qualified mechanical inspector.
We remain very supportive of the efforts made by Secretary Buttigieg and FRA Administrator Bose; unfortunately, we’ve had little help from the FRA’s Office of Rail Safety – an office that has never seen a safety waiver they didn’t like.
And thanks to years of rubber-stamping, expanding and extending safety waivers by the FRA’s Office of Rail Safety, it is safe to say that there exist hundreds if not thousands of rail cars traversing our rail network with FRA safety defects.
The railroads know it. Our Carmen know it. But to date, the Office of Rail Safety seems more intent on finding excuses for the railroads and their waivers, rather than being the tough, skeptical safety regulator that the American public expects and deserves.
No Time for Inspections
Another peril of PSR is the dramatic reduction in time that Carmen are allowed to perform inspections and maintenance (if they’re even exist at the property). The industry standard used to provide for 3-4 minutes per car. Today, our Carmen are forced to conduct these inspections in 60 seconds or less, which is physically impossible.
But that’s how the railroads want it. They don’t want our shop crafts inspecting things because inspections find defects, and defects means a train might be delayed while it’s fixed. In the railroads’ minds, it’s better to send the cars out the door rather than take the time to fix them.
The PSR model relies on speed at all costs, but the necessary maintenance of rolling stock and infrastructure is impossible due to the significant elimination or reduction of the workforce. Moreover, our infrastructure was not designed to support the train lengths we are commonly seeing today. Because many trains under PSR are too long to fit into the yard they are allowed to remain staged on the mainline, where they block crossings for first responders, and motorists while endangering communities across the country.
We have much to do to return our nation’s freight rail network to greatness, but first and foremost our regulators should begin by listening to front line employees, and perhaps take a more skeptical view of rail industry lobbyists and proposals every time they submit an excuse not to comply with safety regulations.
The big freight railroads have cut 30% of their workforce in the last 8 years. There has not been any great technological advancement during this time. Just a gradual move to forcing more work onto fewer people; avoiding safety measures and infrastructure investments, and providing worse service for customers. All to send $200 billion in stock buybacks and dividends to Wall Street over the past decade.
Again, we are grateful that Secretary Buttigieg has announced so many measures to begin holding the railroads accountable for their actions, and we will continue to work with the appropriate government agencies to ensure that a full and proper investigation can be completed in East Palestine. However, without any significant intervention to slow the PSR model there is no question that these unfortunate incidents will continue. East Palestine is the most recent proof that America’s railroad infrastructure is simply not designed to support PSR.
Artie Maratea serves as National President of the Transportation Communications Union (TCU/IAM)
Don Grissom serves as TCU/IAM Vice President & General President of the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen Division (BRC)
Here are a few of the recent safety comments/issues with which our union has raised concerns:
The IAM was part of a recent delegation of labor leaders to meet with the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States.
Monica Lee Silbas, IAM Chief of Staff to the International President, represented the IAM at the meeting, which took place at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, DC.
As the largest aerospace and defense labor union in North America, IAM members produce and maintain much of the ammunition, air defense systems, missiles, rockets and more that the Ukrainian armed forces are using to defend against the Russian invasion.
“The work of IAM members helps the fight for peace and democracy throughout the world,” said Silbas. “Supporting Ukraine and its people is the right thing to do.”
Ambassador Oksana Markarova was thankful for the IAM and other unions, led by the Union Veterans Council, who are supporting Ukraine and its people.
Photo caption: National Public Housing Museum staff members Mark Jaeschke and Liú Méi-Zhì Chen present the staff’s letter to management, along with IAM Midwest Territory Grand Lodge Representative Chris Tucker and IAM Associate Organizer Brian Ilic. (Photo: Alex Orfirer Maher)
CHICAGO, Feb. 22, 2023 – A majority of staff at the National Public Housing Museum (NPHM) in Chicago have announced their intent to form the National Public Housing Workers United union, with assistance from the 600,000-member International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), and are seeking voluntary recognition of their union from museum management.
“Though we have the votes to easily win a union election, we would rather expedite the process towards recognition and not distract from the important work that we are all doing at the National Public Housing Museum,” museum employees wrote in a letter to the museum’s executive director.
Museum staff are seeking to achieve a stable and sustainable work environment and a collective bargaining agreement that ensures accountability, communication and transparency.
“We have each chosen to work at NPHM in large part because we share the values of this institution—values of solidarity, radical care, community power, and the galvanizing potential of arts and culture,” reads the letter. “We believe that in order to uphold and enact these values, we all need to be accountable to each other: to push each other, to support each other, and to invest in each other.”
“Just as we are deeply excited by this inclusive future for the museum and its workers, we are equally excited to be represented by IAMAW,” the letter continues. “As we’ve collaborated with IAMAW, we’ve been impressed and inspired by their commitment to transparency and democratic processes as demonstrated by their fiscal transparency, inclusionary and accessible voting systems, and encouraged member participation at all levels.”
The National Public Housing Museum is the only cultural institution devoted to telling the story of public housing in the United States. Its mission is to preserve, promote, and propel the right of all people to a place where they can live and prosper, a place to call home, according to the museum’s website.
“We are eager to come to the bargaining table and work collectively with you to build a stronger, more equitable, more sustainable, and more united NPHM,” the museum workers conclude in the letter to management.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is one of North America’s largest and most diverse industrial trade unions, representing approximately 600,000 active and retired members in the aerospace, defense, airlines, railroad, transit, healthcare, automotive, and other industries.
The IAM Midwest Territory is welcoming longtime IAM leader Rick Mickschl as its Chief of Staff, and bidding farewell to LaToya Egwuekwe-Smith, who has served admirably in the role since July 2020. Both moves are effective March 1, 2023.
Mickschl, the most senior Grand Lodge Representative on the Midwest Territory’s staff, brings a wealth of negotiations, servicing and organizing knowledge to his new role as Chief of Staff.
Before joining the Midwest Territory staff in 2012, Mickschl had served as Directing Business Representative of IAM District 66 in La Crosse, WI since 2005.
His union experience also includes serving as a Local Lodge Steward, Job Rating Committee Chairman, Local Lodge President and District Delegate.
Mickschl, a second-generation member of IAM Local 21, initiated into the IAM in 1980 as a machinist and millwright. He has also served over 15 years as a labor representative on the Workforce Connections Board of Directors of Western Wisconsin and as a board member of the Great Rivers United Way. In 2021, Mickschl graduated from the State University of New York – Empire State College with a bachelor of science degree in labor studies.
“Rick has the lived experience that prepares him to handle any situation on behalf of our members in the Midwest Territory,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Steve Galloway. “Rick is ready for this increased role and I know that our staff, officers and members will benefit from his leadership.”
Egwuekwe-Smith leaves the IAM after nearly 15 years of exemplary service to the IAM in a variety of high-level roles.
Since 2016, Egwuekwe-Smith has served as Communications Representative and then Chief of Staff in the Midwest Territory. Before that, she had served at IAM Headquarters as a Communications Representative since 2008.
During her time at the IAM, Egwuekwe-Smith became known as a thoughtful, passionate and skilled leader. She developed and implemented cutting edge programs for contract negotiations, organizing and political communications.
Her work, including an animated map that showed the progression of U.S. unemployment during the Great Recession, was featured in major news outlets, including CNN, ABC, CBS, MSNBC and Huff Post.
Egwuekwe-Smith is a former Vice President of the International Labor Communications Association (ILCA) Executive Council and was a Fellow of the Washington, DC chapter of the New Leaders Council.
“LaToya’s contributions to the Midwest Territory and the IAM are immeasurable and will carry on for years to come,” said Galloway. “She has been a vital partner to myself and the entire Midwest Territory in some of our union’s most critical times. We wish LaToya and her family all the best in their next chapter.”
IAM District 19 and the IAM Rail Division have reached an agreement with CSX that provides paid sick leave for the approximately 700 IAM District 19 Mechanical Employees at the freight rail carrier.
The agreement provides for four paid sick days annually and the ability to convert up to an additional three personal days into sick days, for a total of seven potential paid sick days. Unused paid sick time will be contributed to the employees’ 401(k) account, or can be paid out at the end of each calendar year.
“Our freight rail members have stood strong for so long in order to achieve this victory,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “We’re going to continue to wage this battle across the industry to win this critical benefit for all freight rail workers.”
IAM District 19 continues to pursue paid sick leave for all freight rail workers.
“Our strength and solidarity have made the case to the carriers, policymakers, and the general public that we deserve paid sick leave,” said Josh Hartford, IAM Special Assistant to the International President for the IAM Rail Division. “We are now seeing the results of years of advocacy by our union and many others on this critical issue.”
“This is going to make a huge difference in the lives of IAM District 19 Mechanical Employees at CSX,” said IAM District 19 Assistant Directing General Chair Andrew Sandberg. “Our members will be able to rest easier at night knowing their union has won this for themselves and their families.”