• Chicago IAM Local 701 Training Center Presents Apprenticeship Blueprint at FMCS Conference

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    IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Philip J. Gruber, right to left, IAM Local 701 Directing Business Representative Sam Cicinelli, IAM Safety and Health and Apprenticeship Program Director Jim Reid, IAM Local 701 Education and Training Center Director/Lead Instructor Louie Longhi, and apprentice Symon Krolak, host an FMCS panel on how FMCS funding was used to help create Local 701’s state-of-the-art Education and Training Center.

    IAM Automobile Mechanics’ Local 701 has found the formula to combating our nation’s skills gap problem, rebuilding America’s middle class, and realizing the “American Dream,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Philip J. Gruber during the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service’s (FMCS) recent Future at Work Conference in Chicago.

    And it is the IAM Local 701’s Education and Training Center.

    The fruit of a unique partnership between FMCS, the IAM and employers, the Local 701 Training Center was the main focus of a panel on how FMCS funding was used to help create the state-of-the-art automotive apprenticeship training program, located in Carol Stream, IL. FMCS is an independent agency whose mission is to preserve and promote labor-management peace and cooperation.

    Gruber was joined on the panel by IAM Local 701 Directing Business Representative Sam Cicinelli, IAM Safety and Health and Apprenticeship Program Director Jim Reid, IAM Local 701 Education and Training Center Director/Lead Instructor Louie Longhi, and apprentice Symon Krolak.

    Watch the full panel here.

    “The truth is: the middle class is shrinking,” said Gruber. “I think it’s safe to say that everyone in this room knows that. The idea of the ‘American Dream’ is increasingly becoming just that — a dream.”

    “Part of the problem is a lack of good-paying jobs,” continued Gruber. “Yes, we live in an era where employers would much rather pay a worker $2 an hour to make their product in Mexico or China, than to support workers here in their home country.

    “But the other part of the problem is — skills. Or, a lack thereof. For years, we’ve been telling our children that to make it in life you have to finish high school and get a four-year degree. In hindsight, what we have learned is, that was a huge mistake to our future workforce and to our country. The truth is jobs that require a four-year degree today make up less than half of the job market.”

    Seeing the problem early on in the automotive field, Cicinelli said he started pushing for an IAM-owned automotive training center. One that could train apprentices of today — and tomorrow.

    “The greatest challenge in creating the school was the funding mechanism,” said Cicinelli, who after years of negotiations was able to secure a “nickel fund” in which participating employers donated 5 cents for every hour worked. “That’s when Gruber put us in contact with Reid, who assisted us in securing an $80k grant from FMCS. That catapulted us into opening up the program one year sooner.”

    The school has experienced great success — participating employers have tripled, nearly 400 courses have been taught, and the program is still in its growing stages with plans for expansion.

    “When we wrote the grant in 2011, there were 60 employers donating to the fund out of over 500,” said Reid, who gave tips on how to write a successful FMCS grant application. “When we just did a recent grant application, there were 310. So within five years, it’s grown by 500 percent of the number of employers participating.”

    Community colleges and for-profit trade schools are just not enough, said Longhi.

    And plus, there are some key differences when comparing those programs to Local 701.

    “A lot of the other schools’ programs are for about 13 months — their students are usually rushed,” said Longhi. “I actually have graduates coming from those schools asking and applying to come our school. And I ask them why? They found out they didn’t learn enough.”

    “At the IAM Local 701 Education and Training Center,” continued Longhi, “we have smaller class sizes and our program lasts for about three years for automotive and four years for auto and diesel. Also, our students do not pay tuition and we put our apprentices to work after their first class.”

    “It’s a great opportunity,” said Krolak, who is currently a third-year apprentice at Chicago Northside Toyota. “There’s two other automotive schools here in Chicago. They’re $45k. I have a mortgage. There’s no way I could afford to put my family in $45k worth of debt. At Local 701, I’ve gotten a lifetime’s worth of experience for basically promising that I will be an IAM member. And I will — for the rest of my life.”

    International studies suggest that for every dollar spent on apprenticeships, employers get an average of $1.47 back in increased productivity, reduced waste and greater front-line innovation.

    FMCS grants are available to labor-management partnerships aimed at defining and confronting workplace problems and developing long-term solutions. Stay tuned for 2017 application information here.

    Watch the full panel here.

    See photos of the training center here.

  • Minnesota Local 623 Prepares for Polar Tank Trailer Negotiations

    The IAM Local 623 Negotiating Committee for Polar Tank Trailer spent a week at the William W. Winpisinger Center preparing for upcoming contract talks. Front row, from left: Committee members Karl Malikowski, Loren Mrosla and Nathan Christen. Back row, from left: Steward and committee member Robin Yorek, Directing Business Representative Colleen Murphy-Cooney, and Secretary-Treasurer and committee member James Storlie.

    The Negotiating Committee for IAM Local 623, along with Directing Business Representative Coleen Murphy-Cooney, participated in the Negotiation Preparation for Bargaining Committees program at the William W. Winpisinger Center in Hollywood, MD.

    The Local represents employees at Polar Tank Trailer in Opole, MN, which builds tank trailers such as dry bulkers, gassers, sulphur trailers, and milk and oil tank trailers. The current contract expires November 30, 2016.

    Recognizing that this promises to be a difficult round of negotiations, the Committee strategized to change bargaining history, map a new direction for relations with the company, put better language in the contract and build solidarity in the bargaining unit. Together with the bargaining unit, the committee plans to prevail with the strategy that has been put in to place.

    “The committee from Polar Tank Trailer is made up of four new negotiating members who will be participating in the negotiating process for the first time. We have one returning member who has served on negotiating committees in the past,” said Murphy-Cooney. “The experience the committee has taken from the Center will help build a strong negotiating committee at the table for the members.”

  • IAM Mourns Death of TCU-IAM Stalwart Larry Jones

    Lawrence “Larry” J. Jones

    The Machinists Union regrets to report the death of Lawrence “Larry” J. Jones, a lifetime Amtrak railroader and a pillar of strong representation at TCU-IAM. Jones passed away on August 17, 2016.

    “Larry was a dedicated and caring union representative, constantly striving to make the lives of the members he represented better,” said TCU-IAM President Bob Scardelletti. “He never wavered in his tasks and he will be greatly missed by everyone at TCU. I want to extend thoughts and prayers from everyone here at TCU to his wife Jocelyn, daughters Hannah and Savannah and his entire family.”

    Jones began his career at Amtrak in 1992 and was elected as a member of the Board of Trustees of TCU Lodge 491 in 1997. From 1997 until 2007, he served Local 491 as District Chairman, Vice President and Local Chairman. In 2007, Jones was appointed Unit 86 Assistant National Representative and later that year was made the unit’s National Representative, a post he held until his death.

  • IAM Members at Tinker AFB Standing Strong

    Now into the fourth week of a strike at Tinker Air Force Base, IAM Local 850 civil engineering workers are sending a strong message in a fight to maintain the pension that’s been in their contract for the past 16 years.

    More than 240 members are walking the picket line in solidarity against Alutiiq Commercial Enterprises, a new contractor at the Oklahoma City base. Alutiiq took over the service contract on August 1 and promptly announced they would not contribute to the well-established pension plan. They are also planning changes to health care and overtime benefits.

    “These are huge issues, some of these people have been paying into the pension for 16 years,” said Local 850 President Ben Moody during a local television interview. “And to have a new company come in and try to take it away with the stroke of a pen is just unfair.”

    “This strike is about the retirement security of our members and their families,” said Southern Territory General Vice President Mark Blondin. “Our members throughout the Southern Territory are proud of their courage to take on this employer and stand up for their pension. We call on Alutiiq to bargain to end this strike by including the pension in the offer, just like many contractors have done at this site for the past 15 years. Our members want an acceptable offer and to return to their mission.”

    Since the strike began, the company has been unwilling to negotiate with the union, but announced they will come back to the bargaining table on August 30. Picketers began receiving their first strike benefit checks on Monday.