Machinists Cap Convention With Commitment to Changes

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By Tyrone Richardson

Sept. 9 — The International Association of Machinists’ weeklong convention in Chicago ended Sept. 9 with a pledge to “organize in new and innovative ways” so the labor union’s membership can grow.

“Our livelihood, brothers and sisters, depends on it,” IAM President Bob Martinez told hundreds of union delegates at the 39th IAM Grand Lodge Convention.

“We are committed to educating our members at a more passionate pace, because with the changes in the world, we can’t afford not to,” he said. “And we are committed to move more resources into the hands of our membership and our locals in the field, because our success starts and ends with their ability to make the necessary changes that we need to make.”

Martinez’s closing speech came days after unveiling a plan to rewrite the IAM’s organizing playbook, allowing for quicker and more customized efforts to unionize workplaces. That means removing some methods adopted roughly 30 years ago, he added.

The effort seeks to adapt to a faster National Labor Relations Board election process and to counter employer-hired consultants seeking to thwart organizing campaigns, IAM Organizing Director Don Barker told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 5.

Grow Membership Amid Resistance

The IAM is among many labor unions seeking ways to grow membership, fighting against anti-union actions such as right-to-work laws and employer efforts to quell organizing drives. That, in part, has decreased union membership.

For example, the membership of the 56 member unions of the AFL-CIO in 2015 averaged 9,257,728 members overall, a net loss of 66,262 members compared with 2014 averages, the federation reported in February. The IAM is a member of the AFL-CIO.

The IAM’s new organizing is aided by some changes within the IAM, including cutting expenses at the union’s headquarters, allowing more resources for district and local offices, Martinez said Sept. 4.

Shifting Resources to Locals, Members

Martinez also announced Sept. 4 that he has helped shed more than $2.25 million in expenses since he took the helm after R. Thomas Buffenbarger retired Jan. 1.

In addition to changing organizing and belt-tightening finances, the IAM convention included discussions about the importance of global partnerships with other unions to grow organized labor in the U.S. and adopting to and finding the union’s place within 3D printing technology.

The convention also focused on political actions, such as reaffirming its support of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and challenging the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

Martinez told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 5 that he remains committed to organizing in the South, particularly within the region’s burgeoning aerospace market. That includes the IAM’s campaign to organize workers at the Boeing Co. airplane production campus in North Charleston, S.C., and competitor Airbus production facility in Mobile, Ala.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at

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