SAN FRANCISCO — In response to UTU International President Mike Futhey announcing the flawed merger attempt with the Sheet Metal Workers International Association “dead,” some 800 UTU members at a western regional meeting here July 8 responded with thunderous applause, foot-stomping, cheering and whistling.

“There will not be a merger today. There will not be a merger tomorrow. There will never be a merger with the Sheet Metal Workers,” Futhey told the loudly supportive International vice presidents, general chairpersons, state legislative directors, delegates, local officers and leaders in training while delivering his state of the union message.

Futhey described 18 painful months of frustrating talks with the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA) leadership, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs incurred as a result of the flawed merger that was initiated by a previous administration.

Implementation of the merger was halted by a federal district court in December 2007, prior to Futhey taking office.

In issuing, first, a temporary restraining order against the merger, and then a preliminary injunction, the federal court ruled that the UTU membership had not been permitted an informed vote when the merger question first was put out for ratification in mid-2007.

If the merger were to be restarted, said Federal Judge John Adams, a constitution for the merged organizations would have to be written and then submitted to the UTU membership for ratification — a process that was ignored when the initial merger ballot was sent to the membership in 2007 by a previous administration.

Among crucial facts withheld from the membership was that UTU’s cherished craft autonomy would be eliminated upon implementation of the merger.

In an attempt to lawfully restart the merger process — as suggested by the federal court — Futhey sought to engage the SMWIA to write the constitution that would govern a merged SMWIA and UTU.

“I have gone to the SMWIA time and time again to put a constitution together and protect the interests of UTU members,” Futhey said. “I met a stone wall each time.” He said the UTU’s insistence that craft autonomy be preserved in any merger was met by a SMWIA response that craft autonomy “can’t be accepted.”

Futhey said that when he took the UTU Board of Directors to a meeting with the SMWIA leadership in Washington — asking, “What will it take to put the constitution together” — the UTU was again rebuffed. The UTU board “overwhelmingly” said, “let’s walk away,” Futhey reported.

The federal court injunction against the merger is currently on appeal before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, with no time limit on when a decision might be reported out.


Futhey, in his state of the union message, said that in the 18 months since his administration has taken office, the finances, organizing efforts and image of the UTU have improved markedly.

The balance of the UTU general fund has almost doubled over the past 18 months, Futhey said, while the UTU Insurance Association surplus has climbed to $23 million, the Discipline Income Protection Plan is back in the black, the strike fund has grown by 45 percent, and necessary funds will be available for the 11th quadrennial convention in 2011.

Futhey reported that more than 300 pilots and flight attendants employed by Great Lakes Airlines have voted to be represented by the UTU; that more than 80 percent of some 110 pilots with Lynx Aviation have signed authorization cards seeking UTU representation; and the UTU is working to organize an even larger airline.

Increased organizing among bus-industry employees is further improving the UTU’s image — especially within the AFL-CIO — as a transportation union “moving forward,” Futhey said.

The UTU especially has gained stature among other transportation unions as a result of President Obama nominating two UTU officials for senior federal agency leadership roles, Futhey said.

Former UTU Illinois State Legislative Director Joe Szabo was confirmed by the Senate as the nation’s federal railroad administrator, and UTU Associate General Counsel Dan Elliott was nominated by President Obama July 7 to be chairman of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.


The UTU, Futhey said, also worked jointly with other transportation unions on behalf of successful Senate confirmation of former Association of Flight Attendants President Linda Puchala to be a member of the National Mediation Board, and former Air Line Pilots Association President Randy Babbitt to be federal aviation administrator.

The UTU PAC is essential to gaining labor- and UTU-friendly legislation, Futhey said, pointing to efforts underway to achieve new bus- and airline-safety legislation, and passage last year of the most comprehensive rail safety bill in more than a generation.

“The [rail safety] bill goes farther than we wanted [in some respects] and we may need further legislation to fix what wasn’t contemplated,” he said. And, once again, the UTU PAC will play a crucial role in that effort, Futhey said.


Futhey also had a message for carriers seeking unilaterally to change labor contracts using elements of the safety bill as an excuse, rather than negotiate changes as contemplated by the legislation. “We will defend our contracts,” Futhey said.

He also said the UTU would “not tolerate” carrier intimidation and harassment of members, and is moving on multiple fronts — in collaboration with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen — to ensure a minimum of two crew members on all trains, including switching operations in conventional and, especially, remote control modes.


Futhey said that in advance of Railway Labor Act Section 6 notices being served in November — to begin a new round of national rail negotiations on wages, benefits and working conditions — UTU members will soon be asked for contract-change suggestions, and that a draft of Section 6 demands will be prepared for final determination in October by the autonomous UTU Association of General Chairpersons.

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

In spite of a federal court ruling Dec. 27 that UTU members were provided insufficient — and even misleading — information regarding the proposed merger with the Sheet Metal Workers’ union, seven current members of the UTU Board of Directors demanded in a letter to me Jan. 3 that I nonetheless support the merger and instruct the UTU Law Department to seek to overturn the court’s ruling.

In fact, the court’s ruling was supported by declarations from a majority of the previous board of directors who had voted to put the merger to a membership vote.

Now, seven current board members support the shotgun wedding of the UTU with the SMWIA that was boxed in secrecy and wrapped in a deception that would disenfranchise the craft and general-committee autonomy so cherished by our members.

The members of the Board of Directors who signed this demand are: John Babler, Vic Baffoni, Roy Boling, James Brunkenhoefer, J.R. Cumby, John Fitzgerald and Tony Iannone.

I was elected to protect our union’s cherished craft autonomy and this administration will not retreat from its obligations to the membership.

Assistant President Arty Martin, General Secretary and Treasurer Kim Thompson and I support providing the membership with full disclosure before asking them to vote on something so crucial to the future of this union, their careers and their families.

We ask Brothers Babler, Baffoni, Boling, Brunkenhoefer, Cumby, Fitzgerald and Iannone to explain why they don’t want to provide the membership with full and honest disclosure before seeking a vote on a merger with another organization.

Each of them committed in recent weeks that they were putting politics behind them and would work with this administration for the benefit of the entire union.

What, other than politics, would cause them to take the position they have taken? Indeed, in the face of indisputable evidence — validated by a federal court — that the membership did not have sufficient and factual information on which to vote, these seven brothers want that vote to stand.

Rumors are being circulated that unless we merge now — and under the recently disclosed and previously hidden terms that would disenfranchise our craft autonomy — the union is in danger of financial collapse. That is not true.

Former International President Paul Thompson said emphatically at our regional meetings in Kansas City and Pittsburgh, and our convention in Hollywood, Fla., that the union is “debt free.”

In fact, convention cost controls left us with a $1-million surplus from the convention. Moreover, the reduction of International vice president positions will save an additional $1 million annually, the $2 dues increase initiated by Paul Thompson will add another $1.5 million annually, and other cost controls being instituted will further improve our financial strength. Contrary to misinformation, this union is solvent and does not require a shotgun wedding to survive.

Meanwhile, the federal district court in Akron, Ohio, has extended until Feb. 8 the temporary restraining order halting implementation of the merger with the SMWIA creating SMART.

The 30-day extension was agreed to by parties so that we might explore all possibilities of resolution consistent with the interests of our members. I intend to use this period to clear up the lack of information and misinformation that previously was provided our membership.

Following is the form letter that was submitted to me separately by each of the seven brothers: John Babler, Vic Baffoni, Roy Boling, James Brunkenhoefer, J.R. Cumby, John Fitzgerald and Tony Iannone:

January 3, 2008

Mr. M. B. Futhey, United Transportation Union

14600 Detroit Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44107

Reference: UTU/SMWIA Merger

Dear Sir and Brother,

I understand that the UTU Board of Directors unanimously endorsed the merger of United Transportation Union (UTU) and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA). I also understand that on January 4, 2008, UTU will be represented in court in Akron, OH regarding a restraining order to permanently prevent the merger of the aforementioned Unions as outlined in the Merger Agreement between the parties.

As a member of the current UTU Board of Directors, I request that UTU’s legal position at the hearing support the merger of UTU and SMWIA as mandated by the Board of Directors and membership via their recent ratification vote. Furthermore, I request that any change(s), internal, legal or otherwise, regarding the merger of the UTU with SMWIA must have the concurrence of the UTU Board of Directors as set forth in the UTU Constitution. As a member of the UTU Board of Directors I so hold.