Why is the Membership Bill of Rights so Important?
This historic amendment to our IAM Constitution was meant to address the process used to divide and conquer District 751's membership during the 2014 contract.
Previous International President (IP) Buffenbarger approached the company to ask what their intentions were with the 777X airplane. He asked them what it would take to keep the airplane in Washington. The company apparently demanded removal of progression to max pay after 6 years, huge cost shifts in healthcare premiums, decrease in benefit levels, and freezing of the pension forever. Secret negotiations began after that in May of 2013.
Our contract was effectively opened without our knowledge where discussions seemed to only revolve around what concessions our membership would be required to make.
Our Business Reps were only made aware of this one week before the entire membership was notified of this debacle in the press on November 5th.
Internally we voted overwhelmingly to not bring this destructive contract to the floor for a vote. Arguments were made by the International and those from 751 siding with the international, that our members would be angry if they were not allowed to vote on this.
We (the Members' Choice candidates) pushed to not bring this to the floor. Arguments were made by the previous IP in letters mailed to our members homes that a small group of BR's didn't trust in the membership and should not stand in the way of a vote.
Our responsibility as elected representatives is to place our members in a position of strength not weakness. That vote in the middle of a contract left us defenseless. The company was free to propose anything without worry that the membership could strike. We were scheduled to begin normal negotiations in early 2016 leading up to the expiration of the contract.
Our responsibility is to make sure that when our members vote on their future they are not doing that under threats of job loss, intimidation and coercion. This situation was purposely choreographed to take away the only power that our members have; the right to strike.
Even though the internal BR/staff vote was overwhelmingly in favor of not bringing this destructive, divisive contract to a vote, a vote was forced on November 13th. Our members stood strong against threats, intimidation and against all odds voted the contract down by 67%. You might have thought this nightmare was over. But it wasn't.
You could see the media, politicians, and the international working to get us back to the table. That led to the company making a second offer. It was stated by the previous IP in another letter to our members homes that it was an improved offer by $744 million dollars.
However, it was still all concessions. This time though the company told us that it was only an offer if we would "agree to recommend it and sell it on the shop floor". We immediately told the company that we would not do that. The offer was then pulled and no longer on the table; or so we thought. In less than 30 minutes, before we could convene with our District 751 communications department, Michalski was already quoted in the Seattle Times that there would be a vote. How could this be? The offer was rescinded.
Just before the Christmas break (on Saturday) in December of 2013 the company put out in the media that they would abide by a vote of our members on their rescinded offer. Previous IP Buffenbarger then ordered a vote on January 3rd knowing that we had thousands of members on vacation after January 1st.
After a barrage of threats to our jobs, our families, and our community the contract narrowly passed (with more than 8,000 members not voting), and we lost more in this vote than we ever faced losing in all of our previous strikes combined.
This new tactic used by the company had to be addressed. We could not allow others to purposely place us in a weakened bargaining position. We had to make changes to the IAM Constitution in order to keep one person from having the power to cut deals behind our backs. So Members' Choice candidates set to work on a year-long effort that culminated with the passage of the Membership Bill of Rights on Sept. 6, 2016. Now that is has passed, it will ensure the following:
Membership Bill of Rights
Sec. 2 – This Constitution expressly preserves the following membership rights, which shall be honored unless a District or Local Lodge successfully obtains dispensation for good cause shown:
1) Subject to legal requirements concerning impasse, no NLRA contract may be implemented without honoring the outcome of a vote of the members it covers.
2) Whenever practicable, contract negotiating committees must contain at least one member from the bargaining unit.
3) Subject to NLRA requirements, no NLRA contract shall be opened at other than normal expiration of duration without a majority vote of the bargaining unit members.
4) Once the union leadership at any level receives a request to bargain from an NLRA employer, the bargaining unit membership must be notified.
5) The date, time and location of contract vote shall be determined by District or Local leadership, taking into account the convenience and availability of the membership to participate in the voting process.
This amendment was created by Member's Choice candidates from all locals. These candidates worked tirelessly to communicate this proposal all over the country. They were elected on the platform that they would push for these rights to make our union stronger and return power to the membership on the shop floor.
We, the Members' Choice candidates, are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with members that have poured their hearts into uniting District 751 and restoring us to a position of strength. These candidates never stood on the sidelines, Never laid low, never left the future of our collective good up to chance. Members' Choice candidates stood up for what they believed in and did not cower out of fear. The future of our membership and the direction we go together as a district is in the hands of the members as it should be. We will not be healed until the members have their say.