The union has operated an airplane since 1978. To demonstrate why the plane is needed, Buffenbarger detailed his activities last weekend. Between Saturday morning and Sunday night, Buffenbarger said, he attended a union rally in Fort Rucker, Ala.; a Wichita, Kansas meeting with union negotiators preparing to bargain on a merger agreement with Beechcraft, and a meeting with the union's Missouri State council in Jefferson City, Mo., before returning home to Maryland late Sunday night.
The Learjet 60 holds six passengers and is used by various union officials, solely for union business.
Cronk announced on Nov. 18, 2013, that he would run for union president. A week later, he was fired from his post as the union's transportation coordinator. Cronk maintains he was fired because he was running for president, but his career as a union executive was already deteriorating, Buffenbarger indicated.
Buffenbarger said Cronk's job involved transportation organizing, but Cronk "never won a campaign in four or five years there." Rather, organizing campaigns at Northwest and Delta (DAL) failed and flight attendants at United (UAL) left the IAM for the Association of Flight Attendants. Since Cronk was demoted, the IAM had regular successes including fighting off a Teamster effort to unionize US Airways mechanics, Buffenbarger said.
Cronk, however, said his principal job as transportation coordinator was simply to implement a superior's directions. During his tenure, Cronk added, IAM successfully won representation elections for about 15,000 United fleet service workers and agents. "The fact is I was fired because I believe in a novel idea: democratic elections within the IAM," he said.
The IAM election is being overseen by the Department of Labor because Karen Asuncion, a veteran United employee and a candidate for one of eight IAM general vice president slots, complained in January that some individual members were not properly informed that nominations were open. Subsequently, the union mailed election notices to each of its 577,000 members, including 332,000 active members, saying voting will take place at the first local lodge meeting in April.
The IAM has more than 1,000 local lodges. Voting at Boeing Local 751 in Everett begins today.