Machinists Create Law to Organize Library Employees — Machinists Help Pro-Worker U.S. House Candidate Win — Unions Endorse INVEST in America Act

Baltimore County Public Library (BCPL) employees achieved a significant victory this month as legislation passed authorizing nearly 600 employees to collectively bargain and join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). 

For almost two years, Baltimore County library staff has been trying to organize with the IAM. But since libraries are created by Maryland state law, state legislation had to be drafted and passed for this group of both full and part-time workers to be able to form a union. The IAM has worked side by side with Baltimore County Public Library employees and Maryland elected officials to help that become a reality.

State Sen. Shelly Hettleman and Del. Cathi Forbes sponsored the state legislation. The legislation goes into effect on July 1, 2021.

Employees cite healthcare benefits, transparency and communication from management as their top issues for unionizing.

“An IAM contract will give library staff a voice at work and the ability to negotiate fair wages and working conditions,” said Bridget Fitzgerald, IAM Grand Lodge Representative and lead organizer on the campaign. “A union contract will protect the best aspects of their jobs and provide a process to have input in improvements.”

Since the organizing effort began, an environment of supposed neutrality, and even claims of support by the Library system for the employee’s right to collectively bargain for a contract, gave way to the library Board of Trustees voting in February to hire lobbyists to advocate language that would have undermined the organizing process.

“The IAM is proud to be an instrumental part in helping these dedicated employees gain the right to organize and collectively bargain a union contract,” said IAM General Secretary-Treasurer Dora Cervantes. “Through an IAM contract, hardworking Baltimore County Public Library employees will gain critical workplace protections.”

The next step in the campaign will be to hold a union representation election in September 2021 once the majority of workers sign cards to show support for the IAM.

CONGRESSMAN HIGGINS, IAM FIGHT FOR FIRST CONTRACT AT CASCADES: One day after a successful rally for workers outside Cascades Containerboard Packaging in Niagara Falls, N.Y., U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) wrote to the President of the company, urging him to “negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement expeditiously.”

In April 2019, more than 100 employees voted to join the Machinists Union. The National Labor Relations Board certified the results the next month. Yet, more than two years later, Cascades Containerboard has failed to negotiate more than a few minutes each day, violating the intent of the National Labor Relations Act.

It is highly unusual for companies to delay bargaining this long after NLRA-governed organizing campaigns.

“In the time between then and now, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the importance of workplace safety and worker empowerment into sharp focus,” Higgins wrote. He noted how Cascades Containerboard employees continued working throughout the pandemic, producing packaging materials that many depended upon through quarantine, physical distancing, and other restrictions.

“Through the most challenging of circumstances, they have demonstrated they are hardworking, dedicated, and deserving of a fair contract,” the letter continued.

“The IAM Executive Council is monitoring this situation closely and providing the necessary resources to achieve a first contract,” said IAM Eastern Territory General Vice President Jimmy Conigliaro Sr. “We will stand by these workers’ side every day, every night, for as long as it takes to get a contract. Our union will join together and fight as we did for the last two years. The only way we’re going to get through this is together.”

“Cascades employees deserve a contract,” said District 65 Directing Business Representative Ron Warner. “Rep. Higgins has been a champion for workers, and lending support to our efforts is a huge boost for workers at Cascades. It’s been two years now. The members are not intimidated by these antics. They stood up to a very aggressive anti-union campaign put on by the company and won their election. The workers continue to stand strong and stay committed to obtaining a first contract.”

The workers are trying to gain respect and dignity on the job after years of internal non-negotiation, mismanagement, and outright disrespect.

MACHINISTS, COALITON OF UNIONS AND MANUFACTURERS URGE CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS TO PROTECT ROLLING STOCK PRODUCTION: The IAM was a signatory to a June 2, 2021 letter from a coalition of unions and manufacturers to key Senate and House leaders citing our continued support for the Transportation Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act (TIVSA). TIVSA was enacted into law in 2019 as a direct response to alarming national security and economic concerns with China’s state-owned and state-supported rolling stock manufacturers, and to oppose any attempts to undermine the TIVSA law.

“TIVSA prohibits federal dollars from being used to purchase rolling stock, such as rail cars and buses, from Chinese government-owned or controlled companies,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “We should not be using American tax dollars to buy trains made in China. We proudly represent workers at Alstom in Hornell, NY, who produce the best rolling stock in America and are ready and willing to meet our transit and passenger service needs. Congress must ensure that these products, which are critical to our infrastructure, are not compromised in any way. They must be manufactured by entities that make the interests of this nation and its skilled workforce a priority.”

“I encourage the continued support for the TIVSA,” said Richard Johnsen, Chief of Staff to the International President. “Our members produce high-quality U.S. rail cars and buses. American taxpayer dollars should be invested to create good unions jobs here while also increasing the American manufacturing footprint.” 

“We urge that you reject any attempts to weaken the TIVSA law,” wrote the coalition. “Instead, Congress should focus on closing TIVSA loopholes, including: 1) eliminating any further delay in TIVSA’s effective date; 2) correcting FTA’s flawed implementation that gives four U.S. cities a permanent exemption; 3) cracking down on circumvention; and 4) validating Buy America compliance…”

The complete letter can be read here.

Other signatories to the letter included the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU); United Steelworkers (USW); Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM); American Foundry Society (AFS); American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI); Rail Security Alliance (RSA); Railway Supply Institute (RSI); Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE); and the Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA).

NFFE-IAM APPLAUDS BIDEN-HARRIS BUDGET FOR FEDS: The Biden-Harris FY 2022 budget proposal included a 2.7% increase for federal employees and a mandate to raise the Wage Grade minimum wage to $15 an hour.  While NFFE-IAM supports the FAIR Act which proposes a 3.2% salary increase to help close the pay gap now at 28%, NFFE-IAM looks forward to continuing discussions in the coming months on pay and other priorities.  The budget proposal signified heavy support for collective bargaining, preserving integrity within the apolitical functions of government, and regenerating the good name of public service as a viable career option.  “This budget proposal demonstrates genuine support for the federal workforce,” stated NFFE-IAM National President Randy Erwin.  “It is a relief to have the backing of the White House especially after a long period of uncertainty caused by overcharged politics and a national pandemic.”

MACHINISTS HELP PRO-WORKER U.S. HOUSE CANDIDATE MELANIE STANSBURY WIN IN NEW MEXICO: Machinists Union members in New Mexico played a major role in bringing home a landslide victory for U.S. Rep.-elect Melanie Stansbury, who won by nearly 25 points in a special election to fill the former seat of U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

“While the labor movement will never have the big money so often used to sway political elections, we have something even stronger and that’s solidarity. The Machinists Union will always answer the call to support candidates who put the needs of America’s working families first,” said IAM Western Territory General Vice President Gary R. Allen. “I am so proud of the work that was done by IAM members Ernest Dow, Ashley Long, John Dyrz and others in New Mexico who helped to bring home a win for U.S. Rep.-elect Melanie Stansbury. Their dedication to making sure the leaders of New Mexico are good for the hardworking men and women of this state is what sets our union apart and paves the way for the future.”

The New Mexico State Council of Machinists, led by IAM’s Ernest “Red” Dow, a 41-year member of the Machinist Union, who played a big part in getting the word out on Stansbury’s record. Running on a platform of creating an economy that works for New Mexico’s working families, the IAM lent support by knocking on doors and phone banking on behalf of Stansbury.

“Union members will listen to other union members,” said Dow. “They may not agree or have the same political affiliation, but they will listen. We use that opportunity to educate them on candidates, like Stansbury, who are in tune with the values of working people and their families.”

“When Machinists don’t show up to door knock or make calls or pound the pavement for the candidates who stand with labor, the labor movement loses a lot,” said Machinists Union member Ashley Long who is the secretary-treasurer of the New Mexico State Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. “We have to support worker-friendly candidates like Stansbury who will always vote to help working families. Our livelihoods depend on it.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) congratulated Stansbury on her strong win, saying this election was a top priority.

“Melanie Stansbury’s resounding victory tonight is a testament to her strong ties to her community and Democrats’ momentum to continue taking bold actions For The People,” said Pelosi. “A proud daughter of New Mexico, the Congresswoman-elect ran a disciplined campaign focused on improving the health care, education, and economic well-being of families across the state.”

IAM, LABOR UNION COALITION, RAIL UNIONS VOICE SUPPORT FOR INVEST IN AMERICA ACT: The IAM and a coalition of labor unions sent a letter voicing their support for the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684).

Rail labor organizations, including the IAM also wrote a letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives expressing strong support for the INVEST in America Act.

U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ) introduced the five-year surface transportation bill that directs federal investments in roads, bridges, transit, and rail. This legislation will improve safety, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and secure a future with a vibrant freight and passenger rail industry.

The letter echoed support for the expansion of Buy America to include construction materials for highway projects and a strong commitment to American manufacturing and American workers.  

“American workers, both union and non-union, want to provide the necessary domestic materials for infrastructure and construction while allowing reasonable waiver flexibility to ensure that we maximize domestic supply chains and build back better,” wrote the union coalition. “Sectors such as steel, concrete, asphalt, aggregates, and others throughout the transportation supply chain are highly unionized and support highly unionized and support high road, family-sustaining jobs. We urge you to continue your support for Buy America.”

“This legislation will bolster our infrastructure and provide needed investment in our passenger and freight rail,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “Thanks to the leadership of Chairs DeFazio, Norton, and Payne for moving this vital legislation out of committee. This bill will allow our nation’s transit, freight, and passenger rail sectors to expand to meet the increasing demand. We look forward to working to gain the support of other members of Congress to make this legislation a reality.”  

“The Committee’s passing of this Act is a great step towards protecting and securing the livelihoods of our rail members,” said Richard Johnsen, Chief of Staff to the International President. “We must keep pressuring Congress to pass this much-needed legislation which will help ensure the future viability of the rail industry.” 

“The benefits of transformative investments in our infrastructure are far-ranging: we can create and sustain good-paying jobs, many of which don’t require a college degree, restore our global competitiveness, tackle climate change head-on, and improve the lives of all Americans through modern infrastructure that emphasizes mobility and access, and spurs our country’s long-term economic growth,” said Chair DeFazio. 

“As chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, I believe the country today requires a new and more comprehensive approach well beyond our prior bills,” said Chair Norton. 

“The INVEST in America Act will bring America’s aging rail infrastructure into the 21st century,” said Chairman Payne. 

The bill includes investments of $109 billion in transit and $95 billion in passenger and freight rail, including historic funding levels for Amtrak and its operational and capital needs. It supports the growth of new rail operations, including high-speed rail.

Read both letters of support: letter and letter.

U.S. SECRETARIES WALSH AND RAIMONONDO VISIT IAM MEMBERS AT GENERAL DYNAMICS ELECTRIC BOAT: U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo recently visited Machinists Union members at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, CT. The cabinet officials witnessed firsthand how federal registered apprenticeship programs have strengthened eastern Connecticut’s manufacturing workforce.

The U.S. Secretaries, who were part of a group led by U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), went on a tour of the busy shipyard and discussed how Electric Boat has utilized federal registered apprenticeship programs like the Eastern Connecticut Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative (MPI) to help train and grow their workforce.

“I want to thank Congressman Courtney for facilitating the visit of U.S. Secretaries Walsh and Raimondo to meet our members at Electric Boat,” said IAM Eastern Territory General Vice President Jimmy Conigliaro Sr. “The IAM is grateful for their continued support of legislation like the MPI that will help provide jobs for future generations of Machinists.”

“We are very fortunate to have a congressional delegation here in Connecticut and also the Secretaries of Labor and Commerce that see the value in supporting programs like apprenticeships,” said IAM District 26 Directing Business Representative Mike Stone. “These programs further our members’ education and, in turn, make for a smarter, stronger workforce to perform the work our companies do such as the growing submarine construction programs at Electric Boat, currently and into the future.”

The National Apprenticeship Act of 2021 would expand access to Registered Apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs. It would also yield a projected $10.6 billion in net benefits to U.S. taxpayers in the form of increased tax revenue and decreased spending on public-assistance programs and unemployment insurance.

TCU/IAM AND OTHER RAIL UNIONS ENDORSE THE INVEST IN AMERICA ACT: TCU/IAM joined with other Rail Labor Unions to express strong support for H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act. This legislation would have a transformative impact across the rail industry and the nation, benefiting rail workers, consumers, travelers, and the broader economy.

Click here to view the letter.

MACHINISTS APPLAUD TEXAS LAWMAKERS PUSHING BACK ON HARMFUL VOTER SUPPRESSION LEGISLATION: Texas state lawmakers staged a mass walkout over Memorial Day weekend to protest voter suppression legislation introduced by radical-right lawmakers. The legislation, designed to strip individuals of their voting rights, has been labeled as one of the most restrictive anti-voter bills in the nation.

More than 60 progressive politicians poured out of the state capitol building on Sunday evening, a move that delayed the passage of what many call “Jim Crow 2.0-styled” voter suppression.

“This attempt to pass draconian voter-suppression legislation is a slap in the face to democracy,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “The right to vote is sacred, and any attempt to derail that is un-American.”

Senate Bill 7, voter suppression legislation, would make it easier for judges to overturn elections and end drive-thru and 24-hour voting. It would also add stringent ID requirements and end Sunday morning voting, a timeslot often used by African-American churches who encourage members to vote during that time of day.

By walking out, lawmakers opposing the legislation defeated the bill. Their absence left the House without a quorum, which requires two-thirds of the 150 House members to be present, needed to take a vote. The fight is not over as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signaled that he intends to call for a special session to allow lawmakers to approve the legislation.

“We applaud the Texas lawmakers for defeating this harmful legislation, but we know that the radical elected officials will not stop until they pass voter suppression legislation in the state of Texas,” said Martinez.

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Updated: June 17, 2021 — 9:33 am