Machinists Union Ratifies New Labor Deal at Washington State Aluminum Plant- Tale of Two Administrations- NFFE-IAM Calls on Biden Administration to Increase Firefighter Pay Nationwide

Jun 9, 2022 | Machinists On The Hill, Politics & Legislative News

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: IAM Local 2379 (District 160) members at Intalco Works, a Washington State aluminum manufacturing plant, have overwhelmingly ratified 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 final remaining hurdle for IAM Local 2379 members in Ferndale, WA,  is the absence of a power agreement with the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). The BPA previously provided electricity for Intalco Works for 50 years. A reopened and modernized aluminum manufacturing plant would be one of only two green aluminum smelters in the United States. The reopening of this plant would also reduce aluminum imports from Russia, China, and the Middle East.

The agreement builds upon the previous collective bargaining agreement with improvements to wages and benefits, quarterly bonuses, and job protections.

“Our members at IAM Local 2379 have endured so many ups and downs over restarting the aluminum plant and securing an agreement with the Bonneville Power Authority,” said IAM Western Territory General Vice President Gary R. Allen. “Our members need elected officials in the state of Washington and Washington, DC to help bring relief for hundreds of working families in Whatcom County. The members earned this contract that will serve a model in the aluminum manufacturing industry.”

Highlights of the agreements include:

  • Improvements in wages, performance bonus plan, paid sick leave, paid vacation, overtime distribution, and new employee starting wages.
  • Quarterly retention bonuses
  • Seniority will be honored for previous employees, meaning they don’t have to start over with wages, vacation, etc.
  • Guaranteed equity in the new company; if there is a sale in the future, employees and retirees will get a payout.
  • Generous 401(k) contribution and match

“The IAM has committed our full resources to help restore the hundreds of strategic manufacturing jobs at Intalco Works,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “We need our allies to do everything possible to reopen the facility. Restarting the operations at Intalco Works is an opportunity to reverse bad policy decisions and secure a victory under the policies implemented by the Biden-Harris Administration. Our union is urging the U.S. Department of Energy and the Bonneville Power Administration to restore the power agreement to help make our nation less reliant on aluminum imports from foreign enemies.” 

The Ferndale, WA City Council recently passed a resolution calling on BPA to restore power to the Intalco Works aluminum manufacturing plant. A 2019 economic report developed by Western Washington University highlighted the economic multiplier of creating manufacturing jobs in the region.

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

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

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

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

Federal Wildland Firefighters’ Union (NFFE) Calls on Biden Administration to Increase Firefighter Pay Nationwide, and Fast, or Face Disaster: Today, the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) National President Randy Erwin is calling on the Biden Administration to use its authority granted under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 to increase federal wildland firefighter pay across the board nationwide and to do so immediately. The union warns that federal agencies are currently experiencing critical staffing shortages nationwide and further delay of the pay increase, or geographically limiting its implementation, would significantly jeopardize our nation’s ability to fight wildfires and protect communities.

“I do not think folks are aware of just how serious the wildland firefighter staffing issue is in this country,” said President Erwin, “Federal firefighters are so woefully underpaid that agencies are unable to hire and retain the staff they need to operate. All indications are that the United States is going to face a very difficult fire season, and right now, fire agencies are simply not going to have the personnel they need to contend with it. Frontline workers will be forced to use skeleton crews filled with highly inexperienced firefighters. This is a recipe for disaster, both for our brave wildland firefighters and the communities that will not be sufficiently protected.”

The Biden Administration is at a critical juncture right now because federal wildland firefighters who overwhelmingly live paycheck to paycheck have been holding out hope that this long-overdue pay increase authorized by Congress last year would finally come through. Just this week, wildland firefighters are starting to get a glimpse of what might be forthcoming on pay, and many are infuriated by proposals that will exclude certain locations. The infrastructure legislation called on agencies to “increase the base salary of a Federal wildland firefighter by the lesser of an amount that is commensurate with an increase of $20,000 per year or an amount equal to 50 percent of base salary, if… the Federal wildland firefighter is located within a specified geographic area in which it is difficult to recruit or retain a Federal wildland firefighter.” Even though recruitment and retention are clearly nationwide problems, it appears that the Biden Administration is not currently committed to that interpretation as it relates to this pay increase.

“It is absolutely imperative that the Biden Administration get this right – that means implementing the wildland firefighter pay increase right away and nationwide,” continued Erwin. “Everyone knows that recruiting and retaining wildland firefighters is extremely difficult right now everywhere across the country. If this Administration chooses a path that involves significant raises for some wildland firefighters, but not others, it will be met with outrage from those – the loyal few who did not seek employment elsewhere – drawing the short end of the stick. Recruitment and retention will go from difficult to impossible. That means more wildland firefighters being put in harm’s way and more communities burning because of a lack of adequate fire personnel to stop it. The Biden Administration needs to get this done right and get it done fast.”

 Machinists Union: New Flyer International Carrying Out Plan to Betray U.S. Workers, Close Motor Coach Industries Plant in Pembina, N.D.: The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), which represents approximately 174 workers at the Motor Coach Industries (MCI) bus plant in Pembina, N.D., will use every resource available to protect its membership and stop MCI’s parent company, Canada-based New Flyer International, from closing the facility.

The announcement to close the Pembina facility comes a year after the IAM raised concerns that MCI was secretly taking steps towards closing the plant. The company, at the time, disputed those claims.

On May 19, 2022, MCI management informed its workforce that the plant, which has operated in Pembina since 1963, would close by the end of 2022.

IAM members at the facility proudly build motor coaches for inner-city transit and commuter buses, as well as specialized tour buses and prison buses. The company says that work done in Pembina will be transferred to MCI facilities in Canada and Minnesota.

“Unfortunately, our suspicions were correct when we sounded alarm bells about impending plans to close the MCI plant in Pembina and devastate this community,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Steve Galloway. “At a time when transit systems and the government are making massive investments in bus transit, it makes no sense to close this facility and lay off hundreds of skilled workers. We are in constant communication with our North Dakota District leadership and will continue to provide our members with any assistance necessary. The IAM is reaching out to all stakeholders to launch a full-court press to save this plant and this community.”

The closing announcement comes despite the company telling the IAM that the Pembina facility was one of two of its facilities that had made goals and were profitable during the first quarter of 2022.

In 2019, MCI moved the bulk of its CRT electric bus production from Pembina to its Crookston, Minn. facility. MCI expanded its Minnesota facility to accommodate the production, even though Pembina already had the capacity to run the product on an assembly line no longer used for production.

IAM offers to help further attract skilled workers to the Pembina plant have not been taken up by the company.

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 trading 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.

COMPETES ACT: IAM International President Robert Martinez, Jr., recently submitted a letter to all members of Congress, urging conferees to meet on the Bipartisan Innovation Act (USICA and COMPETES Act) to reach an agreement that will benefit the American worker. Both chambers of Congress are hashing out a reconciliation of the two massive trade bills. The IAM has been a supporter of the trade title in the COMPETES Act, which was drafted with several worker-friendly provisions, including robust funding for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. Martinez’s correspondence to the lawmakers urges them to retain all provisions in the trade title of the House-passed COMPETES Act. Read the complete letter.

IAM Members Should Service Historic Route from Washington to Cape Town: This week International President Robert Martinez, Jr. sent a letter to United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to support United Airlines’ application for international flights to Cape Town, South Africa, from Dulles International near Washington D.C.

“United’s proposal for consistent and reliable flights between the two destinations will greatly benefit the Washington, DC metro region and beyond,” stated Martinez. “In addition, this approval would strengthen the work our members do at Dulles and elsewhere.”

Read the full letter.

The proposed tri-weekly 14.5-hour flights will provide the vital union jobs the Biden administration has promised to protect. In addition, many hard-working IAM members will service this route which aims to tie government, business, and cultural ties that current competing airlines cannot match.

“Being United Airlines’ longest direct flight destination is historic,” said Air Transport Territory General Vice President Richard Johnsen. “The IAM will continue to advocate for this approval from the Department of Transportation, which supports solid union jobs for our members.”

Learn More: Why Must a U.S. Airline require approval from the DOT for International Flights?

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 recently 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.

IAM Local 709 Member Honored by Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff: Chandra Williams, Georgia State Council of Machinists executive vice president and member of the IAM Local 709 legislative committee, was recently honored by U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) for her outstanding work in the labor movement and community.

Sen. Ossoff presented Williams with a certificate during a community roundtable held in Cobb County, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Williams is well known in the Atlanta area for her community advocacy and a strong voice on behalf of working men and women at Local 709 and in the Atlanta metro area. Williams also serves on the AFL-CIO Atlanta Central Labor Council as an executive board member.

“I am humbled to receive this certificate of achievement from Senator Ossoff,” said Williams. “I appreciate his connection to what is happening to working families all over Georgia. Our state has many issues that we need to address, including workers’ rights, student loan interest rates, and voters’ rights. I look forward to ensuring the voices of Georgia Machinists and others in my community are heard in the state capitol and the halls of Congress.”  

Chandra remains dedicated to helping the community stay engaged on the issues that matter most in their lives.

“We are proud of Chandra’s work on behalf of our members at IAM Local 709,” said IAM Local 709 Directing Business Representative Jason Schroeder. “Chandra continues to be an integral part in moving our interests forward and developing solutions to our issues. IAM Local 709 members are grateful for how she keeps us updated on labor issues and connects us with political allies that support the labor movement.”

“Sister Williams has always been an important voice in the Southern Territory, so this achievement does not surprise us,” said IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Rickey Wallace. “This shows why we must keep strong ties in our communities throughout the Territory. Chandra fights every day to protect workers’ rights and their families in the state of Georgia. Our union is thankful for her advocacy.”

“Chandra Williams has been an absolute delight to have our board,” said Atlanta Labor Council Executive Director Sandra Williams. “She has been engaged in every facet, including the Atlanta labor council on the political side and community. Especially during the pandemic, where I couldn’t be more thrilled about her recognition from Sen. Ossoff. Chandra Williams is a pillar in the labor community.

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