Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Open Letter to IAM Local 735: Want Sympathy? Answer the F@%&ING Phone!

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 3:00 PM

click to enlarge Vought_20aircraft_20strike-thumb-200x298.jpg
I wrote a story out today on the troubles of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which ratified a give-back contract last Thursday after a 4-month strike at Vought Aircraft, fearful that they would lose their jobs in this disintegrating economy.

I spent some time out on the picket line, and was present for the vote to ratify. The workers, of course, were fantastic, often gregarious and for the most part open and friendly. And what pluck to stay out on the cold picket line for a $150-a week strike check.

The leadership, however, was a different story. While chatting with the picketers I heard complaint after complaint about the media only reporting the drivel hand-fed to them by Vought management. I chalked it up to lazy reporting on yet another strike that wasn't quite sexy enough for harried broadcast news reporters. Then I tried to reach union leadership myself, and it all became quite clear...

The phone at the union hall is rarely answered. And don't bother leaving a message, 'cause you can't. The mailbox is perpetually full. Then I tried contacting the union officers through the numbers listed on the site, most of which are pagers. I paged local president Mike Worrell several times to no avail. I even went as far as calling him at home, but "the number was no longer in service." I tried other officers. Some numbers were incorrect, others were pagers whose owners never bothered returning a page.

Then I tried the international office in Maryland. I called every number in the directory, from International President Tom Buffenbarger down to an administrative assistant, multiple times. But there was no option to leave a voice message. I called the cell phones and office numbers of IAM spokesmen Bob Wood and Frank Larkin. As I write this post I've heard from none of them.

So here's where my sympathy for IAM stops. It would seem the labor unions can be their own worst enemies. In this strike, there was story after story where the sole quote came from Vought, followed by a vague, recycled quote about the aircraft company being motivated solely by greed.

So I end my open letter to IAM leadership this way: If you want to be heard, if you want someone to write something that might bring your plight to the public, return a phone call. Because judging by the coverage this strike received, you've failed the hardworking, dues-paying backbone of Local 735.

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