SEATTLE Jan 25 North American members of the
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers on
Saturday nominated challengers seeking to replace top union
leaders, a move that could lead to a tougher negotiating stance
toward major companies.
At stake is control of about 339,000 dues-paying members at
companies ranging from aerospace and defense giants Boeing Co
and Lockheed Martin Corp to United Airlines
, heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc, a
factory owned by furnishing retailer Ikea AB, and even
On Saturday, members at several of roughly 800 local lodges
nominated candidates to challenge current IAM President R.
Thomas Buffenbarger, General Secretary-Treasurer Robert Roach
and eight general vice-presidents, members and union officials
Results of the nomination are expected next week after the
lodges submit results to national leaders.
The nominations could spark a runoff Feb 8 to decide which
nominees the lodges will endorse. If the challengers win support
from at least 25 local lodges, an election would be held in
April, the first contested IAM ballot in more than 50 years. If
fewer than 25 lodges support the challengers, the incumbent
leaders would automatically be elected.
Jay Cronk, a Metro-North Railway mechanic in New Haven,
Connecticut, who is challenging Buffenbarger for IAM president,
said he's opposed to what he and other members see as high
spending by the current leaders. With membership declining, top
leaders' salaries should not keep rising and they should not
have a private jet for travel,
"We have developed a culture of privilege at the top," said
Cronk, who also served as staff member of the national union
organization for 14 years.
According to Department of Labor records, Buffenbarger was
paid $304,000 in total compensation in 2012, the latest figure
available, up from $293,000 in 2011. Roach's total compensation
was $271,000 in 2012 and $258,000 in 2011.
Membership has declined to 577,000 active and retired
members in 2012 from about 731,000 in 2000, according to the
Department of Labor.
The incumbent leaders say the challengers lack experience
and skills to run a union with a $1 billion strike fund, a $9
billion health and pension fund and annual spending of more than
It was unclear whether the challengers could obtain the 25
lodge endorsements needed to trigger an election, said Richard
Sloan, a spokesman for the IAM's current leaders.
"We have not had a contested election since 1961," Sloan
said. "That means no candidate except the incumbents have ever
exceeded the requirement of 25 locals nominating. Much of the
reason for that is the candidates that run are fools and flakes
and fops and didn't come up to the level of seriousness required
Of the Learjet, Sloan noted IAM members make plane at
Bombardier Inc and it costs less than commercial
flights for the 250 days a year Buffenbarger travels.
While the issues in the contest initially revolved around
spending and management of the union, a leadership change also
could affect the direction the union will take on pensions and
other key contract elements.
The IAM recently made headlines when it negotiated an
eight-year extension to the IAM labor contract with Boeing that
would ensure the company's newest jetliner, the 777X, would be
built in Washington state, where IAM has about 31,000 members.
In exchange, workers agreed to replace their pension with a
defined-contribution retirement plan. They also accepted lower
raises and higher health care costs.
The contract was widely rejected by Seattle-area members in
November. In January, international leaders held a second vote
on a revised contract, despite objections from local union
leaders in the Seattle area, who said the new offer was too
similar to the first one that had been rejected.
The contract was approved by 51 percent of members who
voted. The decision roiled the membership, exposing deep divides
on pensions versus job security, and has prompted members to
file unfair labor practice charges against the union and Boeing.
Jason Redrup, an elected business representative of the local
751 in Seattle, who is running for one of the eight general vice
president positions, said he would have tried to persuade
members not to vote away their pensions.
"As a leader I would not advocate that members give up so
much," he said. "If they decided to do it, that's their right."
The IAM nominations are being rerun after a complaint filed
last year prompted the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate.
It found that there was insufficient notice of the nominations,
and ordered the union to hold them again.