Washington Congressional Delegation Urges Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to Negotiate in Good Faith to Restore Intalco Aluminum Plant

SEATTLE, May 26, 2022 – The entire Washington state Congressional Delegation, led by U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., sent a bipartisan letter to the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), asking them to negotiate in good faith with Blue Wolf Capital and labor groups to reopen the Intalco green aluminum smelter in Ferndale, Wash. And decrease U.S. dependence on foreign aluminum. 

This letter comes on the heels of IAM Local 2379 (District 160) members at Intalco Works ratifying a five-year collective bargaining agreement with Blue Wolf Capital Partners, one of the last steps toward reopening and modernizing the facility and restoring hundreds of jobs in Whatcom County. The agreement builds upon the previous collective bargaining agreement with improvements to wages and benefits, quarterly bonuses, and job protections.

“As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and work to forge more resilient supply chains, reopening Intalco is an incredible opportunity to bring back over 700 family-wage union jobs and restore the only source of domestically produced aluminum west of the Mississippi River,” reads the letter from the Washington Congressional Delegation. “Prior to its curtailment, the Intalco plant was one of the largest employers in Whatcom County, supporting thousands of indirect jobs and economic activity throughout our region in addition to the workers at the facility itself. Restarting Intalco would allow Washingtonians to return to these high-paying jobs, reinvigorate our economy, and secure our domestic production capacity to make aluminum in America for years to come.”

“Our members at IAM Local 2379 appreciate the Washington Congressional Delegation for their efforts in helping secure an agreement with the Bonneville Power Authority,” said IAM Western Territory General Vice President Gary R. Allen. “Their voices represent the entire state and help accelerate the much-needed relief for hundreds of working families in Whatcom County. Our union has worked tirelessly with many allies and stakeholders to reopen this shuddered facility for nearly two years now. We need to restore the jobs and get our members back to work.”

“On behalf of the IAM, I want to thank the Washington Congressional Delegation for standing with our members and their families on their quest to restart their careers and build back some of what was lost when the plant closed,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “Restarting this facility is critical for these workers and the local economy. As our union has been advocating for generations, it is vitally important to our economic and national security that we increase strategic domestic manufacturing and bolster our domestic supply chains. Reopening this facility would be a huge step in this direction with a shovel-ready project that could be up and running within months.”

The IAM will continue working with the Washington Congressional Delegation, the State of Washington, former members of management, and Blue Wolf Capital Partners to reopen and modernize the Intalco Works.

READ: Machinists Union Ratifies New Labor Deal at Washington State Aluminum Plant as Urgency Increases on Bonneville Power Administration to Help Restart Facility, Save Hundreds of Jobs

READ: IAM Asks Washington State for Funding to Restore Aluminum Smelter Jobs

READ: IAM, Allies Secure Help for Laid-Off Members at Alcoa Intalco Works

READ: As Layoffs Begin at Alcoa Intalco, Machinists Continue Fight to Save Aluminum Jobs

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Leadership II Classes Back On Capitol Hill

Leadership II Classes Back On Capitol Hill

More than 25 Machinists Union members from the IAM Leadership II program at the William W. Wipinsinger Center lobbied their members of Congress, bringing the voice of working people to the halls of the U.S. Capitol.

It was the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic the class was able to lobby in person, making sure the issues of Machinists Union members and their families reached both houses of Congress.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Rep. Rodney Davis (D-IL), and staff members from Sens. Patty Murray’s (D-WA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), took time to meet with IAM leaders and hear about the issues affecting our members.

The day before the class headed to the Hill, IAM Local Lodge 751A and Local 1351 members lobbied via Zoom from the W3 Center with staff members of Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), creating a unique opportunity for the class to observe and prepare for in-person meetings the following day.

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Machinists Union Urges American Worker-focused Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) with Binding and Enforceable Labor and Environmental Standards

The IAM urges the Biden administration to shape an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, also known as IPEF, that prioritizes benefits for the American worker. This includes transparency in the negotiation process as well as enforceable labor standards.

On Monday, President Joe Biden announced the launch of the IPEF, a multi-nation trade strategy intended to solidify U.S. ties in the region. The IAM has been involved in recent discussions with the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Department of Commerce, the two agencies tasked with sculpting the IPEF. 

“I thank the Biden administration for seeking input from labor unions such as the IAM as they shape the IPEF. As I told U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo during a meeting earlier this month, the IAM is not against trade, but we are against unfair trade policy,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr.  “We’ve seen the hardships on workers due to bad trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA. That said, we strongly encourage the IPEF to include binding and enforceable labor and environmental standards. It is not fair for our nation’s workers to be forced to go up against a competing nation that does not recognize human rights like collective bargaining or even environmental protections that could result in a company’s production facility poisoning workers and their families. We encourage IPEF to be a trade strategy that requires involved nations to match U.S. labor and environmental laws.”

Martinez has also said that trade policy should be led by USTR and the U.S. Congress, which has the expertise of lawmakers and support staff who know labor, environment, supply chain and other factors involved in fair trade policy. The proposed IPEF does not require congressional ratification.

The proposed IPEF is made up of 13 nations, including countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, which the IAM has historically raised human rights concerns with during the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the Obama administration. The TPP deal was eventually withdrawn.

“As we’ve said in past, the TPP placed corporate interests over basic human rights. The failed TPP would have promoted wage declines and outsourcing of hundreds of thousands of domestic jobs to countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, which historically fail at recognizing fundamental human rights, like the right to join a union, engage in collective bargaining and be free from discrimination, child labor and forced labor,” Martinez said.

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A Tale of Two Administrations: A Stark Contrast for Working People and Unions at the NLRB and Beyond

Regardless of your personal political beliefs, the facts illustrate how the Trump Administration’s actions weakened union members’ rights, while the Biden Administration has taken steps to empower unions.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is a critical independent government agency that is charged with enforcing U.S. labor law. NLRB members and its general counsel are appointed by the president, and make many decisions that affect the lives of working people.

The Trump NLRB made a slew of rulings that weakened our rights, including:

  • Stripped flight line workers who voted for IAM representation of a union
  • Prevented union organizers from accessing cafeterias/public areas
  • Made it harder for unions to prove they have majority support
  • Gave employers more time to urge employees to not join a union without following standard procedure
  • And much more

The Trump Administration also took away workers’ rights to retain their jobs when a new service contractor was brought in, affecting thousands of IAM Service Contract Act workers who work on military bases.

The Trump Administration removed union access for federal sector employees and made bargaining in the federal workforce more difficult.

The Biden administration, on the other hand, showed its pro-union stance when the first step Biden took as president was to fire former NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, who had pushed anti-worker cases and decisions at the agency. The Biden Administration has also created a first-of-its-kind Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment that expands union access for both federal workers and private sector workers who work on military bases and other federal property 

The Biden NLRB has taken a historically pro-union, pro-worker stance and invited briefs on:

  • Allowing unions to organize appropriate bargaining units, instead of only “wall-to-wall”
  • Expanding traditional make-whole remedies for unfair labor practice to include consequential damages
  • More rights for workers to engage in concerted activity
  • Expanding the definition of independent contractors to bring greater protections to workers
  • And much more

Click here to access the IAM Fact Sheet on the “Presidential Impact on Labor

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Machinists and Allied Organization Continue to Fight Surprise Medical Billing

The IAM and over 65 diverse organizations recently sent a letter to the tri-agencies (Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor), marking 100 days of enactment of the No Surprises Act (NSA). In the wake of attacks against the act, the letter urges the tri-agencies to stand firm and enforce its provisions, which protect patients from surprise medical bills that arise when insured consumers inadvertently receive care from out-of-network hospitals, doctors, or other providers they did not choose.

We strongly encourage you to defend and implement the No Surprises Act in a way that protects patients from exploitation, reduces health care costs, and adheres to the intent of the law as it was written,” reads the letter. “The principles and overall approach taken by the Departments throughout the two interim final rules should continue to guide the rulemaking process toward a prudent solution that addresses the underlying market failure and prioritizes consumers over private equity. To that end, the QPA remains the central part of the law and should remain a central part of the IDR regulations and guidance.” 

The new law took effect for health plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2022, and it applies to nearly all private health plans offered by employers (including grandfathered group health plans and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program), as well as non-group health insurance policies offered through and outside of the marketplace. The law also contains other related provisions, including a requirement for health plans to keep network provider directories up-to-date.

“The proper administration and implementation of the No Surprises Act will reduce healthcare costs and protect patients from exploitation from providers,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “These are tough financial times, and patients need to be protected from unwarranted bills.”

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