Member Activists: The Key to Unionizing Workers

Member Activists: The Key to Unionizing Workers

Member Activists: The Key to Unionizing Workers

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Americans want unions. According to a recent Gallup study, an estimated 65% of American workers have a favorable view of unions and would support unionization efforts at their workplaces. However, only 10% of workers are fortunate enough to actually be union members themselves.

 

Here are some stories of how workers were able to win union membership and create a more just and democratic workplace. 

Many thanks to Machinists and Aerospace journalists at GOIAM.org, who originally published this article. 

MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM

Liala Amin is sitting in her art studio at Var West Gallery in Walker’s Point, a neighborhood south of downtown Milwaukee, where she drives to safely escape COVID-19. It’s full of sunlight, next to a patio and serves as her safe haven during a time of uncertainty. Wearing a sweater due to the 29-degree outside temperature, Amin surrounds herself with art hanging on the walls, symbolic of her colorful life. She wears as much color as possible, whether it be her favorite turban or fun earrings, celebrating her life as a multidisciplinary artist.

Furloughed from the Milwaukee Art Museum, Amin can access her studio every day, but longs to return to the place that gave her hope after 141 employees voted to join the Machinists Union last November.

“I really do miss it,” said Amin. “I’m hoping this voice that employees now have will be taken into consideration moving forward.”

Amin had worked in the museum’s education department for nearly five years and knew security guards there had a Machinists Union contract.

“The security guards have a union and receive incredible benefits from it,” said Amin.

Fellow employee Ryan Jann approached one of the guards, Adam Dudenhoefer, who served as the shop chair.

“It was after a crappy day at work and being broke for however many weeks in a row and I just had enough and said ‘we need to do something here,’” Jann said. “He got me in touch with the organizer for our local lodge.”

Warren Enstrom, an Audio/Visual tech, didn’t know that Jann had spoken with Dudenhoefer, when he answered an online message from the guard. Enstrom said that it would be great to have a union and Dudenhoefer said there was another group of employees already thinking the same thing.

“Having the guards on-site allowed us the opportunity to point to a department and say ‘they’re unionized, they receive pay raises every year, they had a voice in how the layoffs were conducted,’” said Enstrom. “By and large, the workers in that department are very supportive of our union and what it does in terms of the contract, the benefits… they really love it and that was really helpful in convincing people to vote yes.”

Brittany Walker, a Visitor Services Associate, agrees.

Brittany Walker is a Visitor Services Associate.

“Adam has an incredible reputation and a wealth of union experience and with his knowledge and support, I was confident from the beginning,” said Walker.

Communication was key, along with an awareness of current events.

“A lot of us were paying close attention to the wave of unionization that was happening in the museum world, so that was our inspiration,” said Jann. “We saw that it’s possible and we pursued it.” The museum assumes that working in a prestigious, world-class institution is enough to make up for a lack of compensation, but Jann and his coworkers disagree.

 “We have this beautiful building we get to go to work in every day and even though I’m just a front desk person… I was only making $10.71 for three years before I got the promotion to reception,” he said. Jann says his activism started with the pay.

One of their slogans during the campaign was “Courage is Contagious.” Jann and his colleagues took that courage to a new level and it paid off.

“The thing that makes it contagious is when we’re at a nonunionized workplace, everyone kind of has this veneer of professionalism, and kind of distance, but with unionism, you have to talk to each other and not only are you talking together, you’re strategizing together, acting together, ” said Jann.

Walker returned to work in early March, hoping the rest would follow.

“My hopes for this very essential relationship with the IAM are a more noticeably just workplace,” said Walker.

 

LISLE CORPORATION

It takes Michael Graham about 30 minutes to drive home after his day shift. He’s been a hydraulic press operator for nearly 10 years at Lisle Corporation, the Clarinda, Iowa company that manufactures specialty mechanic tools. A colleague, who later became a good friend, approached him and mentioned the Machinists Union.

“I’m not sure,” Graham said, at first. “I’ve got to think about it.”

Graham wasn’t sure how dues worked, but wanted to learn more. That’s a common scenario in “right-to-work” states, where unions exist, but growing membership is a challenge. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

After an incident at work, where the union investigated and found that proper procedure wasn’t followed, Graham learned the value of unions, first-hand. “This is why we have a union,” said Graham.

Michael Graham is a hydraulic press operator.

“A lot of people have a misunderstanding, I believe, on what our union is,” he said. “They just run off conspiracies or misconceptions. As a result, a lot of people are skeptical about the union, what it’s about, why it is in place and what it can actually do if set in place properly. If we are strong, we can benefit even more from what it is.”

Graham was so enthused that he joined the organizing drive committee, passing out fliers, going to meetings and encouraging others to do the same, in order to increase the number of dues-paying members. “We’re trying to create a stronger union.”

One-by-one, members are talking to each other, spreading the word about the benefits of the Machinists Union and it’s working.

“If the union is strong,” said Graham, “it keeps the benefits in place.”

 

CLOW FOUNDRY

You don’t want to produce scrap. Stacey Craig knows that better than anyone, as a Journeyman Patternmaker at CLOW Foundry for 33 years. He’s been working in the trade for 35 years, building patterns for blueprints, prototype tooling and troubleshooting to reduce scrap and make jobs run better.

He says the problem started with management turnover.

“It was odd,” said Craig. “We couldn’t figure out why a lot of salary people were leaving.”

During the last five years, the company hired a new vice resident. The new VP’s attitude is what Craig noticed the most.

“He didn’t really give us the impression of caring for the employees much. He rubbed you the wrong way.”

More and more people quit, including the plant manager and assistant plant manager. Some wages were frozen and little things started adding up. When Craig and his coworkers found out they’d have to start paying for health insurance with little warning, they had had enough. An increase in health benefit costs equates to a pay cut, without a corresponding increase in wages.

Stacey Craig has been a Journeyman Patternmaker at CLOW Foundry for 33 years.

Some employees worked at Clow Foundry because of the free health insurance.

“The vice president said, ‘Here are four plans you get to choose from’ and basically, they gave us like eight days to choose something,” said Craig. “They didn’t give us any kind of opportunity to do any research.”

Several more workers quit.

“Our sister facility across town is a machine shop. They’ve been union all this time,” Craig said about nearby Clow Valve plant members who have enjoyed the benefits of being IAM for decades. “One of the gentlemen behind the scenes reached out to our machine shop union president over there. We were kind of scared. We didn’t  know what to do.”

Things moved quickly. Local 1498 President Dean Schultz spoke with a few workers and put them in touch with Chris Tucker, a Special Representative with the Machinists Union’s Midwest Territory, who held a meeting with all those interested.

Just a month had gone by between that first meeting in December 2020 and the vote to join the Machinists Union this past January.

“They put a lot of thought into it,” said Tucker. “They wanted this.”

The workers have chosen their stewards and negotiating committee members. Training began in mid-March.

“It feels good. We have a voice and support, so this won’t happen again,” said Craig.

His advice for anyone trying to unionize their workplace?

“Listen to your fellow workers,” said Craig. “It’s just not about you, it’s about everybody… it’s never gonna hurt to talk to a union rep.”

Craig’s commute is only about five minutes. He said half the workers live about 20 miles away. His close-knit group at Clow Foundry knows that they have their  IAM brothers and sisters at the machine shop on the other side of town. Together, they’re ready to fight for workers’ rights and protections all workers deserve.

“Congratulations and welcome to all of our newly-organized IAM members,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Steve Galloway. “The recognition goes to our organizers, their teams and the IAM activists who helped get each of these campaigns started.

“The purpose of unionizing is not just to help workers in need of union representation,” said Galloway. “It’s also about tapping into workers’ sense of activism – recognizing what drives them – and providing them the tools needed to create real change within their workplace and within their communities.”

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100% YES VOTE AT FLAGSHIP!

100% YES VOTE AT FLAGSHIP!

100% YES VOTE AT FLAGSHIP!

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On June 16, IAMAW members at Flagship Facility Services voted to ratify a three-year agreement that will deliver the highest pay and benefits package for this workgroup in the company’s history.

Flagship workers maintain the San Francisco International Airport facility that houses United Airlines Mechanics, Stores, and Maintenance and Emergency Procedures Instructors. The group includes janitors, forklift operators, and maintenance workers.

Every voter elected to approve the contract. 

The agreement provides substantial wage increases, higher pension contributions, and improvements to overtime, sick leave, and vacations. Importantly, Flagship workers were able to keep everything won in their previous contract, despite the damaging effects of the pandemic on airports and the aviation industry. 

“Please join me in congratulating everyone involved in negotiating the new Flagship contract,” said Mike Klemm, District 141 President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. “Troy and his team hammered out an agreement that won 100% of the membership votes cast this week, and for good reason. This agreement helps set a new standard for the important work of janitorial staff and maintenance workers that supports many industries.” 

By the end of the three-year contract, the top wage for janitors will be just over $20 an hour. Leads and forklift operators will make $24 per hour. These increases range from 12% to 26% over current pay rates.  

“This contract helps ensure that San Francisco’s union members will benefit from the recovery in commercial aviation,” said lead negotiator Troy Rivera. “These essential workers at the SFO Maintenance Facility deserve their fair share, and I’m proud of the agreement that our negotiating team was able to get for them,” he said.  

The three-person team of Machinists and Aerospace Union negotiators includes Kurt Rothenbuescher, a United Airlines employee and board member of Local 1781, and Sandra Gonzales, a Local Lodge Committee member, and a janitor at Flagship. Machinists and Aerospace Union District 141 Assistant General Chair Troy Rivera led the negotiations. The agreement will cover about 40 union members at the company.

Rivera is engaging in talks with Flagship management to begin the swift implementation of the contract, which includes a $300 signing bonus and pay increases that will take effect immediately after the formal signing ceremony, scheduled to take place in the next few days.

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///The PRO Act will make it easier for working people to bargain together and win good contracts because it will: Empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain. Repeal “right to work” laws. Ensure that workers can reach a first contract quickly after a union is recognized.

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Machinists Agenda: Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program

Machinists Agenda: Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program

Machinists Agenda: Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program

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The IAM is encouraging aviation manufacturers to apply for the U.S. Transportation Department’s recently launched Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection program.

Many thanks to the Machinists & Aerospace journalists at GOIAM.org who wrote and originally published this story. 

This much-needed program, fought for and won by the IAM’s advocacy, provides $3 billion in payroll support funding to aviation manufacturing employers, allowing them to keep aerospace manufacturing workers on their payrolls, avoid additional furloughs, and re-hire workers previously furloughed during the pandemic.

READ: U.S. opens $3 billion aviation manufacturing wage subsidy program Reuters  

“Machinists Union members and the jobs they hold throughout the aerospace industry have always been crucial to the economy and protection of this nation, especially now as the country continues to heal from the pandemic,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “To overcome the effects of COVID-19, we must take care of the highly-skilled aerospace industry workers who are the key to reinvigorating the global economy and making sure the financial foundation of this country remains strong and intact. I hope any eligible company uses this opportunity to secure its workforce for the future and protect one of our last great manufacturing industries.”

The Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection program results from a strong push by the IAM in support of bipartisan legislation, which establishes a temporary relief plan for aerospace supply chains affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The program provides up to 50 percent of both pay and benefits for the thousands of workers furloughed due to the pandemic. In addition, companies receiving these funds must commit not to conduct any layoffs or furloughs during the six-months in which the funds are in use.

Machinists Union members were among many workers in the aerospace industry who experienced layoffs and furloughs because of COVID-19. While air travel dropped significantly during 2020, so did the need for parts, repairs, modifications, and other services, hurting aerospace supply chain companies.

Nearly 100,000 aerospace jobs have been lost since the pandemic, and many more may be at risk. But, thanks to the efforts of the IAM and our allies in Congress, this program will go a long way to stop the bleeding and bring our members back to work.

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///The PRO Act will make it easier for working people to bargain together and win good contracts because it will: Empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain. Repeal “right to work” laws. Ensure that workers can reach a first contract quickly after a union is recognized.

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Have a Joyous Juneteenth!

Have a Joyous Juneteenth!

Have a Joyous Juneteenth!

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A Proclamation on Juneteenth Day of Observance, 2021

On June 19, 1865 — nearly nine decades after our Nation’s founding, and more than 2 years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation — enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas, finally received word that they were free from bondage.  As those who were formerly enslaved were recognized for the first time as citizens, Black Americans came to commemorate Juneteenth with celebrations across the country, building new lives and a new tradition that we honor today.  In its celebration of freedom, Juneteenth is a day that should be recognized by all Americans. And that is why I am proud to have consecrated Juneteenth as our newest national holiday.

Juneteenth is a day of profound weight and power.

A day in which we remember the moral stain and terrible toll of slavery on our country –- what I’ve long called America’s original sin.  A long legacy of systemic racism, inequality, and inhumanity.

But it is a day that also reminds us of our incredible capacity to heal, hope, and emerge from our darkest moments with purpose and resolve.

As I said on the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, great nations don’t ignore the most painful chapters of their past. Great nations confront them.  We come to terms with them.

On Juneteenth, we recommit ourselves to the work of equity, equality, and justice.  And, we celebrate the centuries of struggle, courage, and hope that have brought us to this time of progress and possibility.  That work has been led throughout our history by abolitionists and educators, civil rights advocates and lawyers, courageous activists and trade unionists, public officials, and everyday Americans who have helped make real the ideals of our founding documents for all.

There is still more work to do.  As we emerge from the long, dark winter of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, racial equity remains at the heart of our efforts to vaccinate the Nation and beat the virus.  We must recognize that Black Americans, among other people of color, have shouldered a disproportionate burden of loss — while also carrying us through disproportionately as essential workers and health care providers on the front lines of the crisis.

Psalm 30 proclaims that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”  Juneteenth marks both the long, hard night of slavery and discrimination, and the promise of a brighter morning to come.  My Administration is committed to building an economy — and a Nation — that brings everyone along, and finally delivers our Nation’s founding promise to Black Americans.  Together, we will lay the roots of real and lasting justice, so that we can become the extraordinary country that was promised to all Americans.

Juneteenth not only commemorates the past.  It calls us to action today.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 19, 2021, as Juneteenth Day of Observance.  I call upon the people of the United States to acknowledge and celebrate the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of Black Americans, and commit together to eradicate systemic racism that still undermines our founding ideals and collective prosperity.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighteenth day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.

                             JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

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Tell Your Senators to Support the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) Now! 

///The PRO Act will make it easier for working people to bargain together and win good contracts because it will: Empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain. Repeal “right to work” laws. Ensure that workers can reach a first contract quickly after a union is recognized.

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Hawaiian Airlines Negotiations Update

Hawaiian Airlines Negotiations Update

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Hawaiian Airlines Negotiations Update

Aloha Sisters and Brothers of Hawaiian Airlines,

In April, we informed you that we would begin meeting with Hawaiian Airlines to continue limited issue, expedited negotiations. We have made good on that promise, and are working on a contract that will recognize and honor the work you do, and the value that you deliver to this company. 

Your committees have already made encouraging progress on many priority items. However, there are still a few issues that require more work. These issues include economics, benefits, job security, and scope.

To resolve these remaining issues, we are planning a high-level executive meeting between the IAMAW and Hawaiian Airlines in Las Vegas, scheduled for the week of July 19, 2021. We are hopeful that we can come to an agreement on the remaining items and deliver a final Tentative Agreement to you.

In closing, thank you for your support and solidarity. Together, we can secure a great contract on your behalf and avoid the need to enter into Section Six negotiations.

In Solidarity,

MICHAEL KLEMM,

President & Directing General Chair,
District 141,
International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers

David Supplee,

President & Directing General Chair,
District 142,
International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers

Recording Secretaries: Please print and post on all IAMAW bulletin boards.

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Here’s How JetBlue Ground Ops Can Get Pay, Benefits, Positions Back

Here’s How JetBlue Ground Ops Can Get Pay, Benefits, Positions Back

Here’s How JetBlue Ground Ops Can Get Pay, Benefits, Positions Back

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There’s no substitute for full union rights and collective bargaining when company executives try to cut pay, jobs, and positions.

But, that doesn’t mean non-union workers are completely helpless. They can still organize. And, when workers organize, companies take them seriously.

This spring, JetBlue announced plans to enact pay and benefit freezes that will hit more than half of the 2,500 workers targeted by the airline. The carrier also announced that it would eliminate hundreds of lead and training positions just after Christmas. However, JetBlue Ground Ops Crewmembers can use classic union negotiating tactics to get them back. Even though they are non-union right now.

The changes come during an unprecedented surge in demand for air travel and while most airlines, including JetBlue, are aggressively working to attract new hires.

The exact level of cuts is unclear since JetBlue is not making public exactly how much money it hopes to take from employees. But, according to Frank Giannola, District Director of Membership Services at the IAMAW, the losses will be painful and come as many front-line workers are already struggling.

“These cutbacks will take millions of dollars worth of wages and advancement opportunities away from JetBlue Crewmembers,” Giannola said. “These guys are breaking their backs right now, dealing with passenger loads that are every bit as high as they were in 2019,” he said.

“They’ve already lost parental leave – during a pandemic,” Giannola said. “Now they’re going to lose all the future income that they would have made as leads. Promised raises did not come in, and I can’t imagine the company will want to restore the pay that was lost while raises have been frozen.” 

JetBlue also announced that “non-union” employees would be “safe” from furloughs until September 2021. 

However, laying off non-union, non-contracted workers is unnecessary since JetBlue can simply fire these employees whenever they want. In addition, merely firing extra employees allows the company to bring in fresh new hires later, at lower wages and without back pay or administrative and retraining costs.  So, it’s no surprise that JetBlue won’t spend the extra time and money on non-union layoffs when non-union terminations are so much cheaper and easier. 

While the chances of restoring these losses may look bleak for non-union employees, Giannola says not to count Crewmembers out too early. “I’ve known JetBlue Crewmembers for years,” Giannola says. “These guys have a lot more fight in them.” 

Giannola says there are options for Ground Operations Crewmembers who want to get their pay, parental leave, and lead and training positions restored. “They can absolutely get these things back,” Giannola said. 

Step one is allowing the company to see that there’s a renewed interest in authorizing a union vote over these pay and position cuts, Giannola said. “As union members, it would be impossible to cut pay, positions, and benefits in the first place,” he said. And reversing the losses would be sure to be a significant focus during union negotiations. 

Electing a union, getting a contract negotiated, and having it ratified might be the perfect long-term solution, but Giannola stressed that near-term victories are possible. The very act of talking about cuts in the context of union organizing should be taken as a negotiating tactic in and of itself.  

“These executives are desperate to avoid having more union employees,” he said. “If they have to choose between parental leave and a few dollars an hour in pay, I know exactly what they’d choose,” he said. “If they see Crewmembers authorizing a union vote over these issues, they might just make these issues go away.”

Giannola explained that a classic union-busting move is to willingly increase pay and benefits in an attempt to take the heat out of union organizing efforts. Thus, JetBlue could very well reverse the cuts if they think that doing so might slow down a union drive.

“We can do this the easy way, or we can do it the hard way,” he said. 

JetBlue Ground Operations Crewmembers can have a union authorization card mailed to them by texting their name and mailing address to (954) 298-9138 or by visiting IAMJetBlue.com

 

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TAKE ACTION: Scholarships Available Now!

/// The Adolph Stutz Memorial Scholarship Essay Contest is Now Accepting Applications

Tell Your Senators to Support the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act) Now! 

///The PRO Act will make it easier for working people to bargain together and win good contracts because it will: Empower workers to exercise our freedom to organize and bargain. Repeal “right to work” laws. Ensure that workers can reach a first contract quickly after a union is recognized.

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