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Friday, December 28, 2012

Gearing back up

Well that time went by in a blink. Currently we are working on logistics with the NMB for the upcoming negotiations in Chicago beginning on the 7th. Next week we'll continue the process to make sure all parties are ready to begin bargaining in earnest.

As a group we face several headwinds and need to be prepared to react to them as the process unfolds. The first hurdle will be the overall economic position of mechanics in the industry. This is no secret as the American bankruptcy eroded mechanics pay and benefits at one of our largest competitors.  The rest of the trunk carrier industry is in a similar economic position to American as far as pay and benefits are concerned. The economies in the Pacific Rim countries as well as Europe will also need to be monitored during negotiations. The effect of going over the fiscal cliff may also play a role unless a deal can be reached.

Reading the news this morning I came across an article about the new Prime Minister of Japan forcing change at the Bank of Japan. Since the economy of Japan has been floundering for some time the new PM is suggesting a stimulus program and an effort to re-inflate consumer prices. A peice of the article caught my eye  "The central bank is now on track to pump 120 trillion yen ($1.4 trillion) into the economy - equivalent to the value of six Googles - even though skeptics argue that this tide of money cannot break Japan's real economic logjam: falling wages." (emphasis added) Reading this reminded me of what just transpired in Michigan with the new right to work law and where it seems we as a country are headed. The Japanese by a wide margin just rejected conservative policies that have let them stagnate for some time. The full article can be read here.

Obviously there are also significant factors in our favor such as the need by the company to combine the three maintenance programs and the fact that the company is currently doing well. Another factor in our favor is that oil seems to have stabilized. And of course the pilots have just ratified a new agreement and it appears other labor groups are well on their way towards achieving amalgamated agreements. It appears the domestic economy is picking up with manufacturing beginning to rebound and home sales are also increasing. A better domestic market should drive more ticket sales.

In any event it's going to be a very busy new year. A new amalgamated agreement the members can be proud of is certainly attainable as a result of all the hard work by members and experts as well as  the solidarity of the membership. My hope and belief is that 2013 will be a very prosperous one as all this preparation unfolds during negotiations.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winding down

The preparation for the United mechanics negotiations continues but is mostly complete. Many information requests from the company have been met, proposals are close to finalization and the Seniority Integration Committee is almost ready to make it's recommendations to the Negotiating Committee. All of this preparation will lead to a great agreement in my opinion. Many thanks to all of those who've put in many hours and spent time away from families to get ready for these negotiations. 

I look forward to January and the beginning of talks that will put all three agreements together.

The Chief Steward calls will resume in January because the remaining Mondays are Christmas Eve followed by New Years Eve. This call has become a great communications tool that has led to resolution of several systemwide problems. It seems going in to the new year that the inspection department on the sUA side will continue to be a big issue. Dan Stunda from IAH and Mike Pecorraro from ORD are taking the lead on this. The staffing of bid area 301 will become an issue at the table if it is not resolved quickly. The advise I would give to those that see issues with 301 are to file grievances. Grievances are an excellent way to track and document problems. This documentation is often needed when trying to resolve systemwide problems as issues that are reduced to writing show patterns that help to resolve contractual violations at the lower levels of the process. Ultimately if these issues are elevated to arbitration that documentation helps the arbitrator to understand our position. This leads to another point and something I learned early on "treat every grievance like it will go to arbitration". Well thought out grievances are the ones that prevail.  

For me, I'm working on reports today to finish up the year. After I finish either today or early tomorrow I plan to spend some much needed time with my family. They tend to get neglected with this schedule as I'm sure you can imagine.

I know that this greeting is a couple of days early but as I'm winding down for the holidays I wanted to express my desire that you and your families have a Merry Christmas and a Happy and prosperous New Year. It is my hope that you will be able to enjoy this time with friends and family.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Death of Big Labor?

While watching Fox News after the passage of the Michigan right to work legislation to get the conservative perspective, I noticed a banner at the bottom of the screen which stated “The Death of Big Labor”.

As I thought about this it occurred to me that an axiom that we learn in school is “those that fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it”. 

Different stories have been running on MSNBC now declaring the death of the Republican Party. Certainly the Republican Party has shifted to its extreme right in pursuit of conservative purity. Recently Steven Colbert accurately pointed out that you have an equal chance of finding Bigfoot as you do finding a moderate Republican. For those that think the party won’t moderate back to center they obviously don’t study history. Parties move, albeit slowly, to current realities in order to win elections. One thing the pundits are discussing and which I agree with, is the damage the Republicans have done to their own brand will most likely cause a generational electoral shift. This will more than likely occur in the same manner as it did with the Roosevelt Democrats and the Reagan Republicans.  

What does that have to do with the death of big labor? Well, leading up to the Great Depression during the 1920’s the nation saw more and more restrictive and regressive labor laws enacted. Labor was on a slow decline, being declared dead, and unable to turn the tide legislatively. Ultimately the Depression took away comforts which caused a determination built from desperation in the labor force. This led to huge advances for Labor during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. This period saw bloody and vicious battles with corporate America but led to the enactment of a host of labor laws that changed the landscape for working people in America. This period led to further the expansion of the middle class. The expansion of the middle class led to a period of great prosperity which also created the strongest country on the planet. At the height Unions represented about 35% of the workforce.

The current situation is certainly dismal for unions and the middle class in this country. For the first time in generations, the next generation is not forecast to do better than the previous one and Unions now represent only about 11% of the workforce. But as I see it there is hope for the middle class. A recent poll found that 58% of the workforce was open to the prospect of joining a union. In addition the recent Occupy Wallstreet movement gained more support than expected. Workers at Wal-Mart have started to push back and fast food workers in New York went on a one day strike. While these events have been largely dismissed by the conservative media (Fox News) I see it as the beginning of an awakening process. 

I don’t condone violence, but let’s be clear, if history tells us anything, it will escalate. People get violent when threatened. Fox has been airing video of a union supporter striking a correspondent to show that union members are nothing but thugs. Take away a person’s ability to provide for their family or themselves and you will see the same response. Yet even knowing this, Fox continues advocating these extreme policies. A t-shirt slogan I saw at Dulles on my arrival summed it up better than I ever could “Talk shit - Get hit”.

My fervent hope is that we can learn from history and change course now to secure the middle class before we enter a period of violence.  

For an interesting history on the birth of right to work legislation please read this;

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

This week

This week the seniority integration committee is meeting in Chicago. Look for the update in the Dispatch.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Michigan right to work legislation

Unions have outlived their usefulness. The only things unions do are keep people working that should be fired and spend dues money on bosses and Democratic candidates. Right to work legislation will ensure that you don't have to participate in the electoral process against your wishes.

For the more delicate readers of the blog please skip this next sentence. The above statements are total bullshit and used to put you into what corporations believe is your rightful place living at or near poverty wages! This is one of the largest scams perpetrated on the working men and women of this country I have ever seen. How and why can I say this?

I have been a union "boss" and run a Local, been in negotiations and sat in discipline hearings for a combined 13 years in two different organizations. The people pushing right to work know something you may not; a majority of your dues money goes into servicing and negotiating contracts and running the business of the union. Anyone who's considered becoming an objector knows this as well. Percentages vary but in my experience more than 90% of dues money goes for this purpose. So what does right to work really do then?

Let's look at the current negotiations at United for the mechanics only. There are about 35 participants from the union, 14 rank and file that make up the negotiating committee, 14 Local Business Agents sitting in to assist the rank and file, and 5 International Representatives (Including one full time attorney) to also assist the rank and file committee. There are also two economists, a team of actuaries and several health care experts. Some of this last group are from the IBT and some are outside consultants. None of these people come cheap. I'm guessing we will spend several hundred thousand dollars negotiating this amalgamated agreement. Should the union spend this kind of money on negotiations? I don't have to answer that, you know negotiating with a multi billion dollar corporation costs money and if you don't come big you get steamrolled.

Now what if the union didn't have that revenue coming in to pay for these services? Well the answer is we'd most assuredly get steamrolled. We would still get representation but as anyone who's ever made a deal, including buying a car or a house knows, money talks. Take that money away and you have less opposition at the bargaining table. This is the crux of the issue. Cripple the union + cripple the worker = padding the pockets of the CEO's and other corporate officers as well as higher returns for investors. So all this melodrama about dues money going to the election process is nothing more than sleight of hand to get you to believe the union is the enemy while they brazenly reach in to your wallet and steal money you should be earning.

Because of the Railway Labor Act right to work would need to become national legislation to change airline contracts. But don't kid yourself when these thieving bastards get the right mix in congress it will hit us as well. If you're in Michigan and you get an opportunity to stand with the protesters I would suggest you do. This attack on them hurts us all!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

This week

This week I'm in Chicago working on information requests in advance on next weeks seniority integration meeting.

As a reminder please replace your paper A&P certificate as it will no longer be valid after March of 2013. Look for more information in the coming Mechanics Dispatches.

On Monday's Chief Steward call there were a couple issues that have a system wide impact. Both of these affect the system but are primarily sUA items. The first is the movement to bid area 301 for inspection. This process is taking a long time to implement and is causing problems for the members. Please ensure you are in compliance if you upgrade. The second issue has to do with Corvelle denying access to personal physicians. A third step settlement from IAD may help resolve this issue.

Just to reiterate please follow the paperwork. There is no sense dealing with the FAA if you can prevent it.