This is why Elizabeth Warren is our Senator.

Early Friday evening Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to the Senate floor and gave a plain-spoken, barn-burning speech that could make history and put her into serious contention to be the next President of the Read more

NLRB boosts unions' organizing leverage

VIA In the most significant policy change ever undertaken by the Obama administration to strengthen the power of labor unions, a divided National Labor Relations Board issued a long-awaited final rule speeding up the Read more

Machinists Slam Congress Over Sneak Attack on U.S. Pension Law

Via & In a stunning betrayal of America’s highly vulnerable retiree population, lawmakers are preparing legislation for the lame duck session of Congress that would overturn a key tenant of the Employee Retirement Read more

This is why Elizabeth Warren is our Senator.

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Elizabeth Warren, Maxine Waters

Early Friday evening Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to the Senate floor and gave a plain-spoken, barn-burning speech that could make history and put her into serious contention to be the next President of the United States.

There are only a handful of political speeches that have such historic impact. Barack Obama’s keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention comes readily to mind. It’s what catapulted an obscure Illinois state Senator into the national limelight and put him on the path to becoming President.

Warren’s Senate speech was different, but just as electrifying.

Obama’s rhetoric was lofty, high-minded, and general, with a feel-good unifying message that there’s no blue America or red America but only the United States of America.

Warren’s rhetoric is more down to earth, substantive, and frankly, angrier, unafraid of calling out by name the institutions–the big banks and Citigroup in particular–which tanked the economy, cost millions of Americans their jobs and homes, were bailed out with half a trillion dollars of taxpayer money, and then used their fortunes to buy Congress and make it more likely they’ll be bailed out again. Moreover, she was unafraid to take on the President of her own party, and the numerous members of his administration drawn from Citigroup and other big banks through the endless revolving door between Washington and Wall Street.

Please take 10 minutes and watch.




NLRB boosts unions’ organizing leverage

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In the most significant policy change ever undertaken by the Obama administration to strengthen the power of labor unions, a divided National Labor Relations Board issued a long-awaited final rule speeding up the union election process.

The rule will require businesses to postpone virtually all litigation over eligibility issues until after workers vote on whether to join the union, thereby depriving management of a stall tactic that unions widely claim benefits the employer. In effect, regional NLRB directors will be given broad discretion to rule such litigation unnecessary until an election takes place.

The regulatory shift represents a clear victory for a labor movement that has often felt taken for granted by the Obama administration. In 2009, labor leaders felt frustrated when the White House declined to press for the Employee Free Choice Act, the so-called card check bill, which would have streamlined union elections in different ways. More recently they’ve opposed the president’s push to fast-track the Trans Pacific Partnership without certain labor protections.

The initial response to the new rule from labor was somewhat muted. In a written statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said it comprised “modest but important reforms to the representation election process” that will “help reduce delay in the process and make it easier for workers to vote on forming a union in a timely manner.”

But business’s initial reaction was heated. “It’s clear the Administration has an aggressive agenda to uproot longstanding and effective labor policy,” said Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, in a written statement. “Shortening the time frame before an election robs employees of the ability to gather the facts they need to make an important and informed decision like whether or not to join a union and denies employers adequate time to prepare.”

A legal challenge from business groups is all but certain, and Timmons and National Retail Federation Vice President David French both said their respective groups were weighing that option.

The regulation will eliminate a previously-required 25-day period between the time an election is ordered and the election itself, and it will require employers to furnish union organizers with all available personal email addresses and phone numbers of workers eligible to vote in a union election. An NLRB decision handed down yesterday essentially prohibited employers from denying union organizers access to company email. The rule will also, for the first time, allow for the electronic filing and transmission of union election petitions.

The board adopted the rule by a 3-2 vote, with the Democratic-appointed members all voting in favor and the Republican-appointed members all voting against.

“I am heartened that the board has chosen to enact amendments that will modernize the representation case process,” NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said in a statement. “Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties. With these changes, the board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all.”

The rule was long in the making. The board proposed a similar change in 2011 but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck it down, ruling that the board lacked a quorum to issue the rule. The five-member NLRB re-proposed the rule in February.

The final rule is virtually guaranteed to prompt an outcry from Republican members of Congress, who have routinely opposed President Barack Obama’s nominations to the board. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who will chair the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the next Congress, introduced a bill in September to expand the NLRB by one member so that Democrats and Republicans are represented in equal number — a change all but certain to paralyze the board with partisan deadlock.

The NLRB said the rule would bring union elections up to date with modern technology and eliminate “unnecessary litigation and delay.”

“With these amendments, the board will be better able to fulfill its duty to protect employees’ rights by fairly, efficiently and expeditiously resolving questions of representation,” the NLRB said in a statement.

The notice of petition that employers must give workers voting in union elections will be more detailed, and employers will have to post the notice and transmit it by email if they have a work email system.

The rule will also consolidate appeals related to elections into a single process. Parties appealing a pre-election decision by an NLRB regional director will have to wait until after the election takes place before they file a request for review. Post-election reviews of issues by the board will now be discretionary rather than mandatory.

The board received and considered more than 75,000 public comments before Friday’s announcement, according to its spokesperson Anthony Wagner.

Read more:

Machinists Slam Congress Over Sneak Attack on U.S. Pension Law

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Rep. George Miller (D-California), along with Rep. John Kline (R-Minnesota), may have reached an agreement on major pension reform to be passed within the next two weeks.

Via &

In a stunning betrayal of America’s highly vulnerable retiree population, lawmakers are preparing legislation for the lame duck session of Congress that would overturn a key tenant of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and allow drastic cuts to the pensions of current retirees.

The proposed reforms would grant sweeping new authority to the trustees of some “deeply troubled” multi-employer pension plans to slash benefits promised to current retirees—something that’s illegal under existing law. A cornerstone of some collective bargaining agreements, multi-employer plans cover more than 10 million workers, mostly in construction but also in the transportation, manufacturing, retail and service sectors.

Reps. John Kline (R-Minnesota) and George Miller (D-California), the highest-ranking members on the House Education and Workforce Committee, have brokered a last-minute deal to reform multi-employer pensions, In These Times has learned. They’re now urging party leaders to include the plan as part of an omnibus spending bill, just before the 113th Congress is set to leave Washington for good on December 11.

The full extent of the Kline-Miller proposal remains unclear. In addition to providing trustees with new benefit-gutting powers, it may include other less high-profile elements from the “Solutions Not Bailouts” report, a proposal authored last year by the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans (NCCMP), a labor-management coalition.

Over the last year, proponents of the NCCMP plan have tried—and failed—to get a vote on a stand-alone bill. Seeking bipartisan support, they were stymied by the resignation of a key ally in Rep. Rob Andrews (D-New Jersey), the former ranking member on the pension subcommittee, and by mounting outcry from organized labor. After In These Times first reported on the plan last October, the Teamsters and Boilermakers joined the Machinists in opposition. (Meanwhile, Andrews, who faced a House ethics investigation when he stepped down in February, has since lobbied Congress on behalf of the NCCMP.)

Some unions welcome the reforms as a tough but necessary move to shore up the long-term solvency of the multi-employer pension system. The AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) has lobbied most aggressively in support of the NCCMP plan, according to opponents of the proposal. A spokesperson for the BCTD did not respond to request for comment.

Multi-employer pension plans, all of which are partially insured by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), do face a budget squeeze. All in all, the plans carry an $8.3 billion deficit that is projected to hit nearly $49.6 billion by 2023—the result of the economic crisis, a shortage of workers paying into the plans, and in some cases, mismanagement. If a multi-employer plan is unable to meet its obligations, the PBGC steps in and covers a small amount of what retirees are owed, but it’s a fraction of the the promised benefit.

Under the Kline-Miller plan, cuts would be restricted to 110 percent of benefits that the PBGC would otherwise pay. Congress must act now, the logic goes, or it’s going to hurt even more later.

The proposal includes another provision to soften the blow: Benefit cuts would need to be approved by retiree vote, unless the plan poses a “systemic risk” to the PBGC, in which case trustees can proceed without a vote.

But that sounds more comforting than it is. By far, the plan most at risk to the PBGC is the 410,000 member Teamsters’ Central States Fund. It’s highly unlikely the plan’s retirees would get a chance to vote on any benefit cuts.

Critics charge that it is unfair to place the burden of stabilizing the plans on the backs of retirees. After all, pension benefits are essentially deferred wages that have already been earned. They want trustees and Congress to consider other steps—plan mergers or bailouts, for instance—before messing with long-established “anti-cutback” rules. They’re also frustrated by the lack of transparency.

“For the NCCMP or any member of Congress to try to sneak this onto an end-year bill is outrageous,” says Karen Friedman, policy director at the Pension Rights Center, which strongly opposes the plan. “It’s nefarious, because they’re basically trying to sneak through provisions that would have a huge impact on millions of retirees, potentially set a dangerous precedent and torpedo a fundamental part of private pension law. And they’re trying to do all this in the last few weeks as Congress is getting ready to leave before the new Congress starts? That’s ridiculous. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

Rep. George Miller’s blessing is pivotal. After 39 years in Congress, the liberal stalwart is retiring at the end of the session.

“The Republicans could have moved this a year ago,” says Bruce Olsson, assistant director of legislative and political action for the Machinists. “They had the votes, but they didn’t want to jump off that bridge without holding hands with the Dems. You can already see the ads—‘[Rep] so and so voted to cut the pensions of the elderly.’”

Miller’s support may swing Democrats who would normally be uneasy backing such major reforms.

“Miller is like this liberal lion. He’s done a lot of good stuff in his career over the years,” Olsson continues. “[He] gives cover to a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the issue” to support the proposal.

Union backers of the NCCMP proposal like the Building Trades have calculated that it is better to get a deal done now rather than later. They fear the next Congress will be even more heavy-handed in its approach, according to a lobbyist close to the issue. Republican majorities in the House and Senate, for instance, could move to strip union influence over multi-employer plans altogether.

But Kelley Stillwell, 57, a retired construction worker from Henderson, Nevada, and longtime member of Laborers Local 872, isn’t buying it. He is furious at his union’s leadership which, he says, ignores the plight of retirees.

“I joined the union movement 38 years ago and I retired with a pension guaranteed for the rest of my life,” says Stillwell. “I feel like this is a total sellout of the principles of the entire union movement.”

“This is nothing less than a declaration of war by Congress on American retirees,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Allowing cuts to existing retirees’ pensions is simply the wrong way to address the problems of a few troubled pension plans. Does anyone doubt that trustees of such plans will not jump at the opportunity to improve a shaky bottom line at the expense of their retired workers? The long-standing promise of a secure pension system must not be overturned by unaccountable lawmakers in a lame duck session of Congress.”

Since its inception in 1974, ERISA has expressly forbidden any cuts to the earned pension benefits of workers who have already retired. Amending the anti-cutback rule will set a dangerous, potentially lethal precedent for all other pension plans, including single-employer plans, public sector plans, and even Social Security.

Unions and retirees deserve an open discussion of the terms of the law, and possible protective amendments to it, before Congress rushes it through. Contact your Congressperson and Senators. Tell them making a sneaky deal is no way to respect their constituents. Retirees and hard working union members deserve better.

The IAM is one the largest and most politically active industrial trade unions in North America, representing members in transportation, aerospace, manufacturing, shipbuilding and defense-related industries. Visit for more information.

Also go here:

Why the AARP opposes this bill

Why TDU opposes this bill

Why the Pension Rights Center opposes this bill

Nominees for the Union Elections December 18

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The Election for Local 264 officers and other union positions will be held on Thursday December 18, 2014. Polls are open from 9am till the close of the regular monthly meeting.

There will be an election for President, Vice President, Secretary Treasurer/Organizer, Recording Secretary, Conductor Sentinel, 5 Executive Board Members, 3 Trustees, 5 Delegates to the Norfolk Central Labor Council, 6 Delegates to the Greater Boston Labor Council, and 8 Delegates to IAM District 15.

Please make sure you vote, either in person or through absentee ballot. This is our union and we all make it stronger by being involved and making our voice heard.  See you all at the polls and the meeting December 18.


Here is the list of Nominees.

PRESIDENT- James Mastandrea





TRUSTEES- William Irving Jr., Sean Tempesta

EXECUTIVE BOARD- Jim Bain, Will Foley, Mike Haywood, Erik Nevers, Pete O’Melia, Jeb Mastandrea, Patrick (PJ) Meehan, Ben Sherman, Robert Walker Jr.

GREATER BOSTON LABOR COUNCIL- Jim Connors, Jim Howard, Jeb Mastandrea, Patrick (PJ) Meehan, Kenmore Spencer, Mike Vartabedian, Robert Walker Jr.

NORFOLK CENTRAL LABOR COUNCIL- Jim Connors, Brian Cummings, Dave Fetherston, Will Foley, Jim Howard, Patrick (PJ) Meehan, Pete O’Melia, Ben Sherman

DISTRICT 15 DELEGATE- John Burke, Chris Gagne, James Mastandrea, Pete O’Melia, Ben Sherman, Matt Simonelli, Sean Tempesta, Robert Walker Jr.


IAM Local 447 on strike at country nissan

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Local 264 members traveled to Hadley MA to show support for the newly organized workers on strike.

Local 264 members traveled to Hadley MA to show support for the newly organized workers on strike.

The International Association of Machinists Local Lodge 447 has organized seven technicians and three car detailers at Country Nissan in Hadley. To frustrate their efforts for a first contract, the company has committed unfair labor practices, including a sharp reduction in hours as well as unnecessary disciplinary actions. On Saturday November 15th over a hundred union brothers and sisters from IAM Locals 264, 447, 743, 1420, 1871, and retirees.  Also members from IBEW Local 103, SEIU, UFWC, MA Nurses Association, MA Teachers, Jobs with Justice, students from UMass and MA AFL-CIO President Steve Tolaman all came out to show their support for these workers on the picket line. The great turnout on Saturday is just proof that when one union member is being taken advantage of it is crucial that all union members stand with them and fight injustice in the workplace.


A Textbook Example of a Campaign to Destroy a Union

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In a major victory for workers, a judge has ruled that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center engaged in illegal anti-union behavior. (Mark Haller / Flickr)


If you’d like a sense of what a boss’s campaign to try to destroy a union looks like in the 21st century, take a look at a recent NLRB decision against the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

On Friday, a judge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that the UPMC has engaged in a series of discriminatory practices against workers who have been trying to organize a union since 2012.

In the wide-ranging 123-page decision, one can see how a sophisticated anti-union campaign is run. The decision outlines in detail how the multi-billion dollar Pittsburgh hospital chain repeatedly violated the law in order to sow fear of organizing. Employees were surveilled and photographed, interrogated and threatened with discipline and arrest. Four were fired.  The decision also found that UPMC helped create and support a “company union”— an employer-dominated labor organization—in violation of federal law.

With more than 20 hospitals, 400 outpatient sites, more than 62,000 employees, and a health insurance division that had $10 billion in operating revenue in 2013, UPMC is the largest private sector employer in Pennsylvania.

In 2012, the nonclinical support staff at two of UPMC’s hospitals began an organizing campaign through the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which would include approximately 3,500 workers. The employer began violating workers’ rights almost immediately, launching an anti-union campaign that often straddled the line between legal and illegal.

In addition to the captive audience meetings that have become a standard (and legal) anti-union practice—in which the employer explains in no uncertain terms that it is against the employees organizing—UPMC sought to create an environment of fear and intimidation. The hospital chain posted a document on its internal website called “UPMC Cares,” which contained sections such as “Why Unions Aren’t Necessary.”

When the organizing drive began, UPMC placed screensavers on employees’ computers throughout the hospital which scrolled through anti-union messages such as “You can say NO to the SEIU. It’s your right”; as one walked around the hospital, idle computers displayed in all caps, “NO” and “SEIU.”

Though these practices are technically legal, employees cannot miss the overwhelming message that their employer does not agree with their right to unionize. The judge found that while the behavior was legal, it was proof of the employer’s open opposition to the union, which provided context for the other illegal activity that the company engaged in like firings as a result of union activity.

The company also created what it called the Environmental Support Services Employee Council (ESS), which the NLRB judge found to be an illegal company union. Though the company tried to argue that the ESS was an employee-run organization, the judge found that the company was pulling the strings. UPMC made the decision to create the group, helped write the group’s bylaws, solicited volunteers to participate, determined the date and time for meetings, provided the facilities, and offered information and assistance.

The judge also found that the group constituted a union, because it dealt with terms and conditions of employment—which is reserved for labor organizations. The ESS continued a long tradition of company unions that were prevalent in the late-19th to mid-20th centuries, where companies would establish these employer-friendly labor organizations to temper workers’ demands.

While supporting the company union, UPMC made it clear that workers could not engage in any real union activity. UPMC engaged in surveillance of the employees’ private conversations, told them that they could not talk to union organizers even on their own time and threatened to arrest employees who were engaging in lawful union activities. For example, when employees were meeting union organizers for lunch at the hospital cafeteria, hospital security demanded to see everyone’s identification and then called 911 to have the police escort them off the premises. The cafeteria is open to the general public, which means that anyone could meet there for any reason—except to discuss labor organizing, which is a clear form of discrimination.

On a day-to-day basis, UPMC engaged in threatening behavior to any employee who had the nerve to lawfully support the union. The judge also found that UPMC interrogated employees about their union activities and threatened to fire them if they refused to answer. Managers approached employees who were lawfully wearing union insignia and reminded them that their evaluations were coming up while staring pointedly at their union buttons and lanyards. This practice had the desired effect of warning employees that their evaluations would suffer as a result of their support for the union.

These threats were not idle. During the course of the organizing campaign, UPMC fired four workers for supporting the union. One of these workers was actually fired twice: He was reinstated after a settlement between UPMC and SEIU, only to be fired again a short time later for still supporting the union. The judge found all of these terminations to be illegal, and ordered that the workers be reinstated and receive back pay.

Having found that UPMC “engaged in such egregious and widespread misconduct so as to demonstrate a general disregard for employees’ statutory rights,” the judge issued a broad order requiring UPMC to cease its illegal activity. The judge mandated that his order be read to UPMC’s nonclinical staff who have been trying to organize and that it be posted for 60 days.

This case represents a major win for the workers trying to organize at UPMC. However, the Board should go one step further and seek a 10(j) injunction in federal court.

These injunctions, designed to stop bosses’ egregious or repetitive illegal behavior, are enforced in federal court rather than the slower and less powerful administrative process, which means that the workers could receive immediate relief if UPMC follows its pattern of disregarding the workers’ rights.

The NLRB General Counsel has repeatedly issued memos affirming that 10(j) injunctions are appropriate in cases that involve discharges during an organizing campaign. “The touchstone is always whether there is a threat of remedial failure,” noted a memo from the counsel this year.

The details of the judge’s decision illustrate a textbook pattern of this “remedial failure,” with UPMC continuing to engage in discriminatory conduct even when a settlement was in place with the union. If the General Counsel chooses to take this judge’s decision and then seek a 10(j) injunction, it would let employers know that the law has teeth and they cannot openly disregard workers’ rights. More importantly, it would provide the workers at UPMC, who have repeatedly suffered discrimination in the workplace, a major tool to push back.

Update: In response to the NLRB judgment, UPMC sent a special, brief single-story edition of UPMC Extra!, its in-house newsletter, by email to all UPMC employees. “We are disappointed by the administrative law judge’s decision, and disagree with his findings,” the hospital stated. “We believe the record fully supported our actions with regard to under-­performing employees and failed SEIU organizing efforts in which our employees have shown little to no interest, despite their three­-year public and legal campaign against our hospital.”

The statement then quoted conservative federal judge Arthur Schwab, stating that the “NLRB has become “the litigation arm of the union, and a co­participant in the ongoing organization effort.” UPMC said it “will explore all of our legal options to fight this unfair decision.”

IAM Honors Veterans, Introduces New Veterans Services Program

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11_10_2014_iamveteranslogoThis Veterans Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in Canada, Tuesday, November 11, 2014, the IAM honors our members in the armed forces who are serving and have served our nations.

“Thousands of IAM members have proudly served their country. And many fight on two battlefields – the ongoing fight here at home for fairness and respect on the job and the many fights abroad to ensure peace and freedom for people around the world,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “They are our heroes for many reasons. And we thank them for their courage, dedication and willingness to be on the frontlines for our countries and our members.”

In recognition of the honorary holiday, the IAM Retirees, Community and Membership Services Department has announced the IAM Veterans Services Program, which features an online information portal dedicated solely to IAM military veterans in the U.S. and Canada.

“As a union, the IAM recognizes the unique situation and needs of our members who have dedicated their lives to their country,” said 20-year Army veteran and IAM Retirees, Community and Membership Services Director Carlos San Miguel. “We believe it is our duty to help and be of service to those members in any way we can. There is an abundance of public and private programs and services open to military veterans; the problem is very few veterans know what’s available and where to go. The IAM Veterans Services Program seeks to bridge the informational gap between our members and the programs and services they fought for.”

The webpage provides information from various public and private military assistance agencies and organizations such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Veterans Affairs Canada. Members can find information on many topics, including government programs, benefits, health information and assistance with filing claims.

The information is open to IAM members from all branches of the U.S. and Canadian militaries, including the National Guard and Reserves.

Part of the IAM Veterans Services Program will also include a weeklong planning session at the William W. Winpisinger Center from March 29 – April 3, 2015, where representatives from each IAM Territory and all branches of service will convene to begin crafting coursework and various IAM programs to help meet members’ needs.

“As the nation prepares for a day of remembrance and celebration of the men and women who risk their lives in service to our country, the IAM stands committed to continuing to explore more ways to serve those among us who have sacrificed so others may live freely,” said IAM General Vice President Diane Babineaux.

IAM military veterans are encouraged to sign up to receive more information about the union’s veteran program. Please note that the sign-up form is voluntary.

Join the ‘Stop Fast Track’ Week of Action Nov. 8-14

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The IAM will be joining labor and other trade and advocacy organizations in a week-long push to stop Congress from passing “Fast Track Trade Authority” for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement – a secret deal negotiated behind closed doors by government bureaucrats and more than 600 corporate lobbyists.

The #StopFastTrack Week of Action will take place November 8-14, 2014.

Contacting Congress is the critical first step. Start now by telling Congress to vote NO on Fast Track for the TPP.

During the week of action, IAM members are also encouraged to attend rallies and community forums in their areas, write Letters to the Editor and send sample Tweets with the #StopFastTrack hashtag.

The legislation, known as the “Camp-Baucus Fast Track” bill, would limit the ability of Congress to meaningfully debate and amend trade agreements like the TPP – effectively pushing the bill through with just an up or down vote.

The week of action comes as President Obama and other heads of state head to Asia in an attempt to push the TPP agreement forward. It also comes as the Lame Duck session of Congress gets underway, with various Congressional leaders already calling for Fast Track legislation to be considered.

“It is a time of year when a lot of people take a break after the elections, and start getting ready for the holidays, such that political accountability is very low,” says Arthur Stamoulis, Executive Director of the Citizens Trade Campaign. “We need your help remaining vigilant so that Fast Track does not sneak through then or in early 2015.”

TPP threatens everything working families care about: democracy, jobs, the environment and the internet.

Just like NAFTA, it has the potential to destroy hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs, erode workers’ rights, undermine Buy American laws and ignore environmental protections. Worse, TPP negotiations are being conducted in total secrecy.

“It’s time our nation’s leaders support trade rules that work for America’s working families,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “We need trade policies that create jobs here at home, not overseas; trade policies that improve working conditions and strengthen workers’ rights; uphold and strengthen ‘Buy American’ laws; protect the rights of sovereign governments to make policies in the public interest and transparency throughout the entire negotiation process.”

“The IAM encourages all our members to take part in this important week of action,” said Buffenbarger.

For more on the #StopFastTrack Week of Action, visit the website at

For now, take action – Tell Congress to vote NO on Fast Track for the TPP today.

Election Results ‘Will Not Weaken Our Resolve’

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Tuesday’s elections brought disappointing results for union members and working families, but voters went out of their way to support minimum wage initiatives in numerous states.

While the GOP took control of the U.S. Senate and widened its majority in the House, voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota overwhelmingly passed minimum wage increases. Four ballot initiatives supporting paid sick days also passed.

“The results of this election will not weaken our resolve,” said IAMAW International President Buffenbarger. “We will continue to fight for our members and their families in Congress and in statehouses around the country.”


Robert W. Alley, Sr., a member of the newly-formed IAM Maine Lobstering Union, was one of many union members to be elected Tuesday.

“Given our early successes at the statehouse acting collectively as a newly-formed union, I had a new found faith in the idea of government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” said Alley, who will represent Maine’s 138th House District, a collection of seaside communities on the state’s northeastern coast. “I then decided to take it to the next level – we were going to have our own lawmaker at the statehouse working hard not only for Lobstermen, but for all working families in Maine. More union members need to run for public office. We can win and I’m living proof.”

“The labor movement is finding out that many of our so-called friends in government have forgotten that friendship is a two-way street,” said IAM Eastern Territory General Vice President Lynn Tucker, Jr. “This is how we change that, this is how you change your government – you take their jobs.”

Job Growth, but NO raises

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The employment report for October, released on Friday, reflects a steady-as-she-goes economy. And that is a problem, because for most Americans, more of the same is not good enough. Since the recovery began in mid-2009, inflation-adjusted figures show that the economy has grown by 12 percent; corporate profits, by 46 percent; and the broad stock market, by 92 percent. Median household income has contracted by 3 percent.

Against that backdrop, the economic challenge is to reshape the economy in ways that allow a fair share of economic growth to flow into worker pay. The October report offers scant evidence that this challenge is being met. Worse, the legislative agenda of the new Republican congressional majority, including corporate tax cuts and more deficit reduction, would reinforce rather than reverse the lopsided status quo.

The economy added 214,000 jobs last month, in line with its performance over the past year. Consistent growth is certainly better than backsliding, but growth is still too slow: At the current pace, it will take until March 2018 for employment to return to its pre-recession level of health.

Even then, more jobs would not necessarily mean higher pay. Updated figures by the National Employment Law Project, a labor-advocacy group, show that about 40 percent of the private-sector jobs created in the last five years have paid hourly wages of $9.50 to $13, and 25 percent have paid between $13 and $20. Those findings are underscored by the new jobs report, which shows that nearly all of the private-sector job gains were in restaurants, retail stores, temporary work, health care and other low-to-moderate-paying fields.

Wages have barely kept up with inflation for several years running, and there are no economic or political forces to push them up. Working people can make more when employers bump up hours, which in October averaged a post-recession high of 34.6 hours a week. Workers also will see their paychecks go further as gas prices fall. But they are not getting ahead in any real sense.

None of this was inevitable. When the private sector is unable or unwilling to create good jobs at good pay, government is supposed to use stimulus to spur employment. It is also the job of government to enact and enforce polices like robust minimum wages and legal protections for union organizing. But the 2009 stimulus, too small to begin with, was offset by federal spending cuts beginning in 2011, while job-enhancing policies have gone nowhere, in large part because of Republican opposition.

Other forces that undermine broad prosperity bear examination. Trade with nations that manipulate their currency, exploit workers and damage the environment to gain unfair advantages costs Americans jobs. An outsized financial sector feeds bubbles and busts that devastate employment. Republican leaders have identified new trade deals and less financial regulation as priorities, but a heedless push on those fronts ignores the negative job-related consequences.

The economy is not working for those who rely on paychecks to make a living, which is to say, almost everyone. Steady gains in the October jobs report, while welcome, do not change that basic fact. Nor will policies currently on the horizon.