The 2017 IAM Legislative conference was held May 8th through the 11th. Local 743 sent 3 members of the Legislative committee; President Dianna Koch and Recording Secretary Karen Blanchard, who both represented Connecticut and Chief Union Safety Representative Glen Garfield who represented Massachusetts. We were joined by John Harrity, President of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists and delegates from Pratt & Whitney East Hartford Local 1746, Middletown Pratt & Whitney Local 700 and Electric Boat Local 1871 and Cheshire Local 62A. We were joined by delegates from across the United States.
The conference consisted of daily general sessions with guest speakers, followed by lobbying sessions with our elected representatives in Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday.
On day one, the keynote address was delivered by IAM International President Bob Martinez. President Martinez remarked on the Trump agenda. There are areas that the IAM agrees on, such as, pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal and re-negotiating the NAFTA trade agreement. Martinez said “Trump will have to deliver on his campaign promises to bring work back to the United States.” President Martinez stated we will “call balls and strikes on Trump. If he does good things, we will praise him.” Martinez also cautioned how the IAM will be watching any moves toward reducing benefits crucial to working people, such as, Healthcare, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Any rollbacks to worker’s rights will also be met with the wrath of the “Fighting Machinists.”
On the days spent lobbying our Connecticut and Massachusetts representatives, the IAM Legislative Department prepared a synopsis of current issues for the delegates. The delegation headed out, armed with information on these issues that are pertinent to our workforce. We visited all the offices of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts Senators and members of the House of Representatives.
There was a long list of important topics discussed at each office visit. The list included opposition to the American Health Care Act, in its current form, which would result in millions losing healthcare coverage and the rest of us losing important protections gained with the Affordable Health Care Act, better known as Obamacare. These cuts were proposed in exchange for tax cuts to the wealthy. We also discussed cut backs to retirement benefits for “deeply troubled” multiemployer retirement plans. This would allow benefits to be slashed for persons currently retired and receiving a set amount every month. One retired worker spoke about his monthly benefit being cut by 60%. This should be criminal. How can politicians expect a retiree in their 70’s and in failing health, to make up this income? Other issues included; support for paid parental leave, and opposition to “Right to Work” laws, which are attacks on unions. We also supported filling the positions on the board of the Export-Import Bank which is crucial to companies needing financing for the export of U.S. made products which, in turn, provide U.S. jobs. Another issue which is especially important to our industry, is the strengthening of FAA oversight of foreign aircraft repair stations who provide maintenance on U.S. carrier’s aircraft. The current oversight of these foreign repair stations is very weak. This puts the safety of the flying public in jeopardy and also is a threat to our overhaul and repair work in the U.S. In addition, we implored our representatives to fully fund NASA, and support the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as well as the F-22 Raptor, and the Aerial Refueling and Strategic Airlift Tanker programs. We also asked for support of the U.S. ship building industry and to make investments in our U.S. infrastructure.
As you can see, we had a busy few days in our nation’s capital. In the words of our International President Bob Martinez, “History is being written as we speak. History won’t say the Fighting Machinists sat on the sidelines. We have unity and solidarity. We stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder as we fight for dignity and justice.”
Submitted by Sister Karen Blanchard (Legislative Co-Chair)