North American machinists union slate challenges top leaders

Sat Jan 25, 2014 9:49pm EST
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By Alwyn Scott

SEATTLE Jan 25 (Reuters) - 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 Maine lobstermen.

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 said.

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.   Continued...