Fighting to Save Union Jobs at Boston Ship Repair – Maryland Library Workers Testify – Fighting for a Federal Pay Raise

Feb 25, 2023 | Machinists On The Hill

IAM Secures Congressional Letter of Support in its Fight to Save Union Jobs at Boston Ship Repair: The IAM is fighting to save union jobs at the Boston Ship Repair and has secured a Congressional letter of support addressed to the Secretary of the Navy led by U. S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) to help the fight. The IAM-represented union shipyard employs more than 80 workers who provide maintenance, overhaul, and repair work on various U.S. Navy vessels, but have been laid off since mid-October due to the lack of work.

Unfortunately, some of these workers are beginning to seek employment in other industries and locations. If this group disassembles, it would be very hard to pull this workforce back together and get this yard back up and running.

Boston Ship Repair has submitted bids for a number of active U.S. Navy solicitations. Without an award of one of these vessels, the union workforce would likely be laid off for at least an additional six months.

“We strongly urge the U. S. Navy to effectively manage your ship repair needs and promptly send appropriate projects to Boston Ship Repair to secure the future of this critically important shipyard,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “This is for the sake of national security, Navy readiness, the future capacity of the domestic ship repair industry, and this highly skilled union workforce. To ensure long-term strength in this critically essential industry, we encourage all involved to work proactively to develop solutions to boost ship repair industry health and work to allocate work to our nation’s ship repair yards efficiently.”

The Massachusetts Port Authority has approved plans for a major investment of both public and private funds to rebuild the South Jetty Pier. This investment would drive major capability, capacity, and employment increases for Boston Ship Yard. However, to move forward and accomplish these goals, the shipyard requires consistent Navy work to be directed to the yard.

IAM Maryland Library Workers Continue Push for Statewide Organizing Legislation: Last week, the Maryland Senate Finance and Education, Energy and Environment committees held a joint hearing with testimony on Senate Bill 352 from Harford County Public Library worker Morgan Michael and Anita Bass, IAM Local Lodge president for the Baltimore County Public Library system. The Senate legislation seeks to give all county public library workers the right to organize throughout the state of Maryland.  
Recently, the IAM and library workers also testified on House Bill 65, the companion legislation in the Maryland State House of Delegates. Maryland library workers are getting full support from the Machinists Union’s Legal, Legislative and Communications Departments.

The House version (HB65) on Feb. 24 was passed by the House Appropriations Committee, advancing the bill for full House floor consideration.

IAM Associate General Counsel Laura Ewan testified to the House and Senate committees, while the IAM Legislative Department walked the halls of the state capitol to urge legislatures to support the bills. The Machinists Union will continue to use every legislative tool at its disposal to pass this pro-library worker legislation.
House Bill 65 was introduced by State Del. Steve Johnsen and Senate Bill 352 was introduced by State Sen. Nancy King. The Machinists Union thanks these two state representatives for their continued support on library workers’ rights legislation.

Fighting for a Federal Pay Raise: On Tuesday, NFFE-IAM members joined pro-labor politicians in Washington, D.C. to call for an 8.7% wage increase for federal workers. If approved by Congress and the president, the FAIR Act legislative bill will increase government salaries for thousands, counter a recent rise in inflation and sustain middle class families of hardworking government workers.

The East Palestine Derailment & Overall Rail Industry Safety: Somehow “We tried to warn you,” just doesn’t quite cut it.

For the past several years, rail labor unions – ourselves included – have been ringing the alarm bells about the dangers of the cost-cutting business model, so-called “Precision Scheduled Railroading.” Or, PSR for short.

We’ve testified before Congress and the Surface Transportation Board (STB). We’ve filed comment after comment[i], and pleaded face-to-face with safety regulators to do something, anything to ensure this death-by-a-thousand-cuts business model doesn’t result in a catastrophic disaster like the one that just occurred in East Palestine, OH.

That’s why we applaud U.S. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg’s announcement to take immediate action to begin to repair our broken freight rail system. Secretary Buttigieg’s announcement is a major step in the right direction. We’re particularly pleased with the Department of Transportation’s encouragement of the industry to install inspection technologies without forgoing human inspections. This mirrors the repeated calls our union has made for many years.

And while our union welcomes the announcement, there is still much to do if we are to roll back years of destructive and unsafe business practices that have plagued our once-prized freight rail network.

PSR is Designed to Avoid Inspections

The PSR model is exploiting loopholes for federal inspection requirements. Federal regulations require inspections by a qualified mechanical inspector (aka Carmen) at each location where train cars are added to a train. This requirement is often ignored or is substituted by allowing operating crews, not Qualified Mechanical Inspectors (aka “Carmen”), to perform pre-departure inspections and/or brake tests. Railroads are also relying increasingly on automated wayside detectors to replace – rather than complement – human inspections. The railroads have sought waiver after waiver to allow in-person inspections to be substituted for automated temperature detectors that simply indicate if an assembly is hot or cold.

The regulations requiring rail cars to be inspected by qualified Carmen don’t exist to cover the railroad in red tape. They exist because it is inherently dangerous to allow uninspected rail cars to traverse our nation’s rail network. They exist to ensure those inspections are being carried out by experts: Carmen. These Carmen have spent on average two years qualifying as a journeyman by learning to properly inspect and maintain rail cars and all of their associated safety components (see 49 U.S.C. § 215). These cars have 90+ inspection points per car, per side, including the wheel bearings like those that failed causing the derailment in East Palestine.

And while we may never know for certain whether a Carman would have identified the car in a mechanical inspection, we do know that Carmen are the only craft that would likely identify a blown/leaking seal on the wheel bearing. Because that’s the job of a Carman. That’s what they were trained to do.

To be clear: nothing should substitute the physical inspection of a qualified mechanical inspector.

We remain very supportive of the efforts made by Secretary Buttigieg and FRA Administrator Bose; unfortunately, we’ve had little help from the FRA’s Office of Rail Safety – an office that has never seen a safety waiver they didn’t like.

And thanks to years of rubber-stamping, expanding and extending safety waivers by the FRA’s Office of Rail Safety, it is safe to say that there exist hundreds if not thousands of rail cars traversing our rail network with FRA safety defects.

The railroads know it. Our Carmen know it. But to date, the Office of Rail Safety seems more intent on finding excuses for the railroads and their waivers, rather than being the tough, skeptical safety regulator that the American public expects and deserves.

No Time for Inspections

Another peril of PSR is the dramatic reduction in time that Carmen are allowed to perform inspections and maintenance (if they’re even exist at the property). The industry standard used to provide for 3-4 minutes per car. Today, our Carmen are forced to conduct these inspections in 60 seconds or less, which is physically impossible.

But that’s how the railroads want it. They don’t want our shop crafts inspecting things because inspections find defects, and defects means a train might be delayed while it’s fixed. In the railroads’ minds, it’s better to send the cars out the door rather than take the time to fix them.

The PSR model relies on speed at all costs, but the necessary maintenance of rolling stock and infrastructure is impossible due to the significant elimination or reduction of the workforce.  Moreover, our infrastructure was not designed to support the train lengths we are commonly seeing today. Because many trains under PSR are too long to fit into the yard they are allowed to remain staged on the mainline, where they block crossings for first responders, and motorists while endangering communities across the country.

We have much to do to return our nation’s freight rail network to greatness, but first and foremost our regulators should begin by listening to front line employees, and perhaps take a more skeptical view of rail industry lobbyists and proposals every time they submit an excuse not to comply with safety regulations.

The big freight railroads have cut 30% of their workforce in the last 8 years. There has not been any great technological advancement during this time. Just a gradual move to forcing more work onto fewer people; avoiding safety measures and infrastructure investments, and providing worse service for customers. All to send $200 billion in stock buybacks and dividends to Wall Street over the past decade.

Again, we are grateful that Secretary Buttigieg has announced so many measures to begin holding the railroads accountable for their actions, and we will continue to work with the appropriate government agencies to ensure that a full and proper investigation can be completed in East Palestine.  However, without any significant intervention to slow the PSR model there is no question that these unfortunate incidents will continue.  East Palestine is the most recent proof that America’s railroad infrastructure is simply not designed to support PSR. 


IAM Member Charlie Flemming Celebrated by Georgia State Lawmakers: Charlie Flemming, a 44-year IAM member, and Georgia AFL-CIO President Emeritus, who recently announced his retirement from the Georgia AFL-CIO, was celebrated by Georgia lawmakers during the Georgia General Session in Atlanta with House Resolution (H.R.) 45.

Georgia H.R. 45 was sponsored by State Representatives El-Mahdi Holly (D-116)Dewey McClain (D-109)Lydia Glaize (D-67)Brian Prince (D-132), and Sheila Jones (D-60).

H.R. 45 recognized Flemming’s vital role in leadership and his deep personal commitment to the welfare of the citizens of Georgia.

Charlie was elected Georgia AFL-CIO President in 2011 after serving as the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council president. He spent over 30 years working in the airline industry with Southern Airways, Republic Airlines, and Northwest Airlines. In his last 17 years, he worked as an aircraft mechanic in the Metal Finishing Department.

While working at Republic Airlines, he joined the IAM, where he served Local Lodge 2664 in various leadership positions, including three terms as President of the Local.  

Charlie recently led the Georgia labor movement’s efforts in the historic election for U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and helped contribute to the rise of former Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. 

He has always stood up and been the voice for workers throughout the state of Georgia and established connections to the Atlanta community. Charlie helped launch Georgia Stand-UP, a non-profit organization that promotes smart growth strategies and economic justice.

“I can always count on Charlie for anything we needed in Georgia, including his leadership during the 2013 IAM National Staff Conference and most recently with our organizing drive at Delta Airlines,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “He created a blueprint for IAM members to get involved with their local AFL-CIO central labor councils and state federations. Charlie helped increase the union membership in Georgia, especially in the transportation, construction, and film industries. I wish my friend a happy and prosperous retirement.”

Georgia AFL-CIO President and former Georgia AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Yvonne Brooks will continue Charlie’s legacy of standing up for working people throughout Georgia.

IAM Members in Georgia and Minnesota Strategize for a Pro-Worker Political Future: IAM members recently gathered at state councils in Georgia and Minnesota. Lawmakers in Georgia pledged their support for strong pro-worker legislation in Congress, such as the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, as well as support for the IAM’s Delta Air Lines organizing campaign.

In Minnesota, delegates heard from U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, who thanked the Machinists for supporting her campaign and vowed to continue fighting for Minnesota working families in Congress.

IAM National Legislative and Political Director Hasan Solomon stressed the importance of supporting the Machinists Non-Partisan Political League (MNPL) to the delegates at both councils, saying: “We support candidates that support us and our pro-union agenda.”

IAM Endorses Congressman Chuy Garcia for Mayor of Chicago: IAM locals, districts, and TCU/IAM recently endorsed U.S. Rep. Chuy Garcia (DIL) for the Mayor of Chicago. IAM Locals 126, Automobile Mechanics Local 701, IAM Districts 8 and 19, along with TCU/IAM members, proudly endorsed Rep. Garcia for Mayor due to his history of addressing workforce needs, public safety, and restoring a unified Chicago resonates loudly with our membership.

READ: Chicago mayoral candidate Chuy García wants to make history — and unite a city divided over crime NBC News

As a progressive community leader and public servant for almost 40 years, Garcia has been recognized for his extensive work fighting for immigration rights, universal health care, criminal justice reform, and workers’ rights.

Congressman Garcia accepted the endorsement at IAM Local Lodge 126’s union hall.

DC Autonomy Senate Sign-On Letter: MARYLAND/DC STATE COUNCIL CALLS ON U.S. SENATE TO PROTECT RIGHTS OF DC CITIZENS: The Maryland/District of Columbia State Council of Machinists is standing up for the rights of tax-paying DC residents.

The State Council recently joined allied organizations to call on U.S. Senators to respect the rights of DC citizens, who despite paying federal taxes do not have voting representation in Congress, to make and implement their own local laws.

The Republican-controlled U.S. House recently voted to overturn the two local laws, passed by DC Council, that would update the District’s century-old criminal code and allow non-citizen DC residents to vote in local DC elections.

“These two measures unjustly undermine critical local decisions made by the people of the District of Columbia and their elected leadership,” reads the DC Votes letter signed onto by the Maryland/DC State Council of Machinists. “The people of the District, like the people of the States, maintain the ability to both choose their local leadership and hold them accountable through local elections.”

The State Council, DC Votes and the allied organizations are now calling on the U.S. Senate to reject the U.S. House-passed resolutions and “preserve the self-governance of the 700,000 people of Washington, DC.”

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