Boeing strikers in Ala. free speech victory

The 1,500 Machinist union members on strike against Boeing started their second week on the picket line with an important legal victory. On Nov. 7, a federal judge ruled against restrictions that had been placed on the rights of picketers. The Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority had barred picketers from the entrances to Boeing’s main facility there. The picketers were confined to a 20-foot square area the workers took to calling the “penalty box.”

The judge’s permanent injunction is “a big victory for union rights and free speech and assembly in Alabama,” said IAM spokesperson Bob Wood. This is the first time on strike for this group of workers, said Wood in a phone interview from the picket line. “We’re very proud and determined,” he reported.

The strikers are assembly line workers at seven Boeing space and defense division facilities in California, Alabama and Florida. They voted by an 85 percent majority to reject Boeing’s “final offer.” The company proposal would deny health care to future retirees. It would also reduce benefits and health care costs for current workers.

Space and defense division workers are covered by separate agreements from the 18,000 commercial aircraft assembly workers. The commerical aircraft workers defeated similar take- back proposals in a 28-day strike last month.

Boeing’s final offer tries to “pit active employees against retirees, single workers against workers with families and older workers against younger workers,” said Dick Schneider, the union’s aerospace coordinator. Boeing executives should have learned from last month’s strike that the union members will not be played against each other, Schneider said. “But if they insist, we’re more than ready to teach them that lesson again.”

Unions form Delphi coalition

Six unions representing 33,650 Delphi workers announced the formation of the Mobilizing@Delphi coalition Nov. 3. The new coalition will “do everything possible” to protect those workers’ rights and interests in the face of the auto parts manufacturer’s use of the bankruptcy process to “dictate the radical destruction of the living standards of America’s industrial workers.”

A joint statement by the six unions blasted Delphi CEO Steve Miller’s “slash-and-burn restructuring strategy.” They also challenged his promise to reward 500 “key employees” with cash bonuses totaling $87.9 million and up to 10 percent of the company’s stock once Delphi emerges from bankruptcy. The statement added, “While this is a fight for fairness for our members at Delphi, it is also a fight with a broader impact on the very concepts of fairness and opportunity in American society.”

The six unions are the Autoworkers, IUE-CWA, Steelworkers, IBEW, Machinists and Operating Engineers. They pledged “the full support and solidarity of the more than 5.5 million active and retired members of our unions” to the Delphi workers.

America’s ‘Roads scholars’

Forty-four percent of U.S. college professors are adjunct professors who roam in their cars from school to school. They stitch together two, three or even four part-time teaching jobs to make a living. They have no tenure, no benefits, crazy schedules and no security.

Teachers’ unions banded together last week to dramatize the professors’ plight.

In Vermont, where all community college teachers are adjuncts, the American Federation of Teachers took out a help wanted ad in every daily newspaper.

“WANTED,” AFT’s ad read: “Professor. Appointments are parttime, but substantial opportunities exist to teach 900 percent fulltime schedules at 40 percent or less of fulltime pay. No health care, subsidized pension or other benefits. If hired, it will be necessary to reapply at least twice a year.”

The problem affects all adjuncts nationwide, including those at four-year schools. For example, at New York University, 80 percent of the faculty are either adjuncts, teaching assistants or research assistants, AFT said.

In some campus parking lots, adjunct professors posted signs reading “part-time faculty office” on their cars full of textbooks, papers and classroom materials.

The National Education Association and the American Association of University Professors joined the nationwide protests.

Derailment averted

The fight for America’s passenger railroad is not yet over, but a recent Senate vote is a significant victory in the battle for Amtrak funding, the IBEW Washington Digest reported. The Senate voted 93-6 to reauthorize Amtrak through 2011. They voted to give the railroad $12 billion over that period.

President Bush has proposed to eliminate funding for Amtrak. He threatened to veto the Transportation-Treasury-Housing bill if it contained Amtrak funding. The reauthorization was added to the budget package to avoid the veto threat, supporters said.

‘Everyone stuck together’

Workers for waste hauler BFI in Mobile, Ala., won a small but important victory last week when they showed management they could stick together. As reported in Teamster magazine, the workers voted last December to unionize, but the company has yet to agree on a first contract.

Lately, the workers have been busy hauling extra loads of hurricane debris. But when BFI tried to pile on more cleanup work on a Friday evening, before paying the workers, the truckers said “No.”

“Managers told returning residential drivers they had to go back out. Anyone who refused would be fired,” the magazine reported. But everyone stuck together, reported roll-off driver Steven Burroughs. “They said ‘Give me my paycheck. I ran my route and I’m not going back out.’ And they did — they couldn’t fire everybody.”

This Week in Labor is compiled by Roberta Wood ( PAI contributed.