Date: Wed, 17 Sep 2003
From The WarZone
International Association of Machinists Attacks Its Members in Chicago IL!!
IN ONE OF THE MOST bizarre examples of international union dictatorship, the
International Association of Machinists [IAM] has taken its largest Midwest
local into trusteeship. After violating the IAM constitution and the
National Labor Relations Act, Thomas Buffenbarger, IAM International
President, has moved to destroy what little democracy remains in the IAM.
IAM Local 701 in Chicago IL has for years been a well run local that has
operated democratically and been the recipient of contracts most rank and
file IAM members would be grateful for. Local 701 has more than 8000
members representing workers at UPS who maintain the fleet of trucks, at
local car dealerships and workers at trucking lines who service trucks. 701
has been progressive in organizing by IAM standards and most certainly has
been a union where members have had a decisive role in the decision making.
For the first time, the international union took over negotiations at the
national level for its locals that represented workers around the country at
UPS. The locals still negotiated local issues and maintained the right to
vote on the contract. When local 701 members rejected the contract by a
wide margin, the IAM reneged, denying local 701 the autonomy to negotiate.
Business Representative Jon Baker was told to "fix It" by Buffenbarger,
according to sources in local 701. It is unclear how you fix a democratic
vote by the membership when the IAM constitution clearly calls for a
membership vote on contracts. Apparently, Buffenbarger applies a different
set of guidelines. Local 701 was then placed in trusteeship and the duly
elected executive board was suspended.
The IAM then fired the Recording Secretary, Bob Feehan. The IAM brought
local officers and business representatives up on charges that many in the
local believe are phony and designed to intimidate local members and
officers. Jon Baker and Herb Elam, Directing Business Manager have both
been suspended and brought up on charges.
Local 701 members have formed the Committee to Defend Local 701 and are
holding membership meetings to build support for suspended leaders and
defend 701 against the trusteeship. When trustee Roger Nauyalis held a
membership meeting, the committee to Defend Local 701 organized a picket of
their own hall.
The Committee to Defend Local 701 has filed charges against the IAM under
the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act [LMRDA] to defend their
right to vote on contracts and a federal lawsuit has been filed to lift the
trusteeship and reinstate the suspended business representatives.
An IAM trial committee has recommended dismissal of ten of the fourteen
charges filed by the international union. It would not be in the interest
of the IAM to square off with the Department of Labor or a federal court
with charges that are obviously bogus. Clearly, if the IAM had as much
interest in battling the employers as they did their own members, the IAM
would not be struggling to maintain membership. It took the international
union under the leadership [and that's stretch of the imagination], of
Thomas Buffenbarger to bring chaos and reproach to this local.
Chaos is nothing new in the IAM or any other AFL-CIO affiliate these days
since the "business union model" has replaced democracy and rank and file
participation. The IAM has suffered huge losses in membership due mostly to
the top down style of current leaders. At United Airlines, the IAM suffered
a staggering decertification vote and lost more than 13,000 members to AMFA,
Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. AMFA, an independent union not
affiliated with the AFL-CIO, now has more than 20,000 active members in the
airline industry, most of them former IAM and Transportation Workers Union
members. The recent United Airlines loss by the IAM is a clear signal to
Buffenbarger and the IAM International Executive Board; rank and file
members have had enough. I seriously doubt they get the message and there
is absolutely no doubt they not will change their lust for top down control.
It is the nature of the Business Union Beast and it is that beast that is
wreaking havoc on union democracy, membership involvement, and union
organizing. No employer could cause the damage to the IAM that its own
leadership has inflicted. As it turns out, nearly everything the employer
associations say when they rail about "union bosses" is true. Working
members of most unions not only have to face hostile employers every day of
their working lives, but hostile leadership in their unions as well. Most
union leaders today rule by fear, intimidation, phony charges, threats of
loss of work, and trusteeships. They simply lack fundamental union values,
democracy, a sense of fairness, and respect for the sacrifices of those who
forged our precious union.
Local 701 leadership and the members are solid on their desire to remain in
the IAM and fight this battle from the inside. While AMFA has had
successes, 701 remains dedicated to the IAM and have shown that dedication
by their willingness to battle the injustice inflicted on them by
international leaders who seem to have lost focus on real union values.
If you want to help Local 701 in this important struggle for justice, here's
what you can do. Send a contribution to the legal assistance fund to the
Committee to Defend Local 701. Write a letter expressing your outrage to
Thomas Buffenbarger, President, IAMAW 9000 Machinist Place, Upper Marlboro,
MD 20772-2687 and send a copy to The Committee Local 701 PO Box 1218 Oak
Park IL 60304. Call the IAM International offices at: 301-967-4502. Contact
the committee at their website firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order copies
of their newsletter and handbill IAM organized facilities in your area. The
more IAM members know about what their international is doing, the less
likely they are to get away with it. If we can force the IAM to make this
right, it will give other locals hope of achieving democracy.