This is normally a time when our union assembles for marches and community activities to recognize and celebrate the life and beliefs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., social justice and labor rights champion. These times, however, are far from normal.
While our country is unable to gather to show our gratitude and respect for Dr. King, we are still able to honor his legacy by practicing what he preached. King knew that any inequality and injustice were dangers to our democracy. He dedicated his life to fighting for economic and social justice, no matter your race, gender, religion, or ethnicity.
The recent political violence and hateful rhetoric show that our country still has a lot to learn from his teachings. Our union and the labor movement will always stand for the union principles of democracy, unity, and peaceful dialogue. Hatred and violence have no place in civil society.
The Machinists Union is proud to carry on Dr. King’s fight for those who are vulnerable and need a collective voice. Together, we will make Dr. King’s dream for equality on the job and respect for all working people a reality.
Handcrafted artwork from two IAM members appeared in a 2021 SUNY Empire State College calendar. The pieces were part of an annual calendar distributed by the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School of Labor Studies in New York, an associates, bachelors and master’s degree program that includes prominent IAM alumni.
“Everyone who has received a copy of the calendar loves it – not only because it celebrates the incredible creativity of our students but because it also offers a snapshot of labor history at your fingertips,” says university spokesperson Solomon Syed. “Too many people are not familiar with labor’s rich history and how it has benefitted all working people.”
A photo of an album cover for a re-mixed version of the popular labor song “Solidarity Forever” represents the month of January and was created by IAM Organizing Grand Lodge Representative Gabrielle Rogano. The original image is a collage composed of union literature, images of women workers and colorful font.
“It took me a full day of crafting. The center piece is made from a canvas which is glued onto a piece of cardboard,” said Rogano. “It feels phenomenal to have my artwork featured.”
IAM District 141 member Victor Acosta’s artwork appeared on the back of the calendar. The painting entitled “Helping Hand” shows a greyish white background with two brown arms extending and shaking hands. Acosta says it represents the relationship between union members and the district’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), an employee benefit program that assists workers with personal problems such as mental and emotional well-being.
“The artwork is an oleo or oil as it is known and took three hours to complete. The canvas size is 18×24 inches,” said Acosta, District 141 EAP Department Regional Coordinator. “I’ve been an artist since early childhood. Early in my youth I learned how to produce acrylic, watercolors, pastel and oil art.”
The first calendar was released by SUNY Empire State College in 2020 and the university plans to create another edition in 2022. Invitations to submit artwork are offered to students who are enrolled in the Labor Studies program. Since 2014, the IAM has partnered with SUNY Empire State College to offer degrees in labor studies through the Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. Center for Labor Studies.
COVID-19 changed the world indefinitely. For the Machinists, one such change was the rescheduling of the IAM 2020 Convention and the union’s ability to celebrate, on a grand stage, the winners of the IAM Newsletter, Website and Social Media Contest for 2019.
Today, we remedy that as we congratulate our IAM brothers and sisters who created some outstanding work online and in-print. Their words and images are invaluable tools to keep the membership in tune with what’s happening both locally and union wide.
Every February, the Super Bowl declares one team world champion, etching their names in history – this year, you can make history too. By purchasing a square in the Guide Dogs of America Super-Puppy Bowl Squares Pool, you will be among the first to sponsor GDA’s brand new kennels.
If you are unfamiliar with how a squares pool works, it is simple. You will be assigned random numbers 0-9 for each team, and if your numbers match the score at the end of each quarter, you win.
Each square will cost $100 and participants can reserve as many as they wish – the pool is limited to 100 total entries. GDA will hold a “live drawing” to assign numbers to squares on Friday, February 5, 2021, at 10 a.m. PST.
Every square purchased will directly benefit a veteran, a person who is blind/visually impaired, or a child with autism – providing them a life changing service dog.
Guide Dogs of America is the IAM’s favorite charity. In 2020, GDA completed a merger with Tender Loving Canines, and now provides hardworking service dogs for people who are blind/visually impaired, veterans, children with autism and facilities to become trusted companions that bring confidence, independence and mobility. Their services are provided free of charge to residents in the U.S. and Canada.
IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. and IAM Organizing Director Vinny Addeo recognized members last week for their continued efforts to grow the strength of the IAM and working families with a virtual presentation of the second annual International President’s Excellence in Organizing Awards.
“I am so proud of the efforts our organizers and leaders have put in to growing our great union and bringing power back to the working people in the U.S. and Canada,” said Martinez. “Organizing can be an extremely difficult, yet rewarding job and these members do it with tenacity, passion and drive. I want to thank Organizing Director Vinny Addeo, the Organizing Department and all the organizers in every Territory for their dedication to working families and to growing the IAM.”
“Recognizing our Brothers’ and Sisters’ successes in organizing is so paramount to the task itself,” said Addeo. “Organizing is the most difficult challenge in the labor movement and that’s why it is so important for our Union to show our appreciation to them, which reinforces the significance of their accomplishments.”
Awards for 2019 were given for the top District or Local from each respective territory, top individual organizer from each respective territory, top organizing territory and top individual organizer.
Top Organizing Territory: Western Territory
Organizer of the Year: Justin Mauldin, District 725 Director of Organizing
Top District/Local: District 725
Individual: Justin Mauldin, District 725 Organizing Director
Top District/Local: District 141
Individual: Mike Klemm, District 141 President and Directing General Chair
Top District/Local: District 1
Individual: Brent Coleman, District 1 Organizer
Top District/Local: District 776
Individual: Valerie Rodriguez, Grand Lodge Representative
Top District/Local: District 11
Individual: Nektarios (Nik) Sifakis, District 140 Organizer
Top District/Local: Local 701
Individual: Scott Brown, Local 778 Business Representative
Individual: Dennis Mendenhall, Grand Lodge Special Representative
For nearly two years, the Baltimore County library staff have been trying to organize.
And then, COVID-19 hit and the need became even more crucial. Citing better transparency and communication from management, alongside health care benefits for nearly half the staff, the employees of the Baltimore County library want the IAM in their corner.
But since local library systems are state agencies, state legislation has to be passed for this to happen. Bills, filed by Maryland House Del. Cathi F. Forbes (D-District 42a) and Maryland State Sen. Shelly Hettleman (D-District 11) would allow the nearly 600 employees to bargain and form a union.
Lead organizer Grand Lodge Representative Bridget Fitzgerald says the onset of the pandemic has brought to the surface the underlying issues of these employees. Especially since so many of the staff do not have health care benefits.
“This group of workers love what they do and just want to make sure it’s safe to come to work,” explains Fitzgerald. “They want to know that management has their best interests at heart when making decisions that will affect them, especially with the cases of COVID-19 on the rise again.”
A statement put out by the library and its board of directors says they “support the right of employees to pursue collect bargaining.” Hearings on the bill are scheduled for February, and the Machinists Union is working with the library staff to assist in any way possible, believing a union contract is the best way to make sure these workers are heard and protected during a time that’s rewriting the history books they shelve.
“Collective bargaining rights should be the basic principles afforded to every worker in our country,” says IAM’s Director of Organizing Vinny Addeo. “Unfortunately, because of the intricate county laws that apply to the State of Maryland’s Baltimore County Library staff, they currently do not have these basic rights. I am confident that with the combined professional teamwork of IAM GLR Bridget Fitzgerald, Assistant Political and Legislative Director Monica Lee Silbas and Associate General Counsel Laura Ewan, we will get the job done and bring justice to these workers.”
“These hardworking men and women are the keepers of history in the community. They provide an essential service for families in and around Baltimore. They deserve to have a voice and a vote on the job,” says Fitzgerald.
Negotiating committee members from IAM Local 2439, along with District 98 Directing Business Representative Bob Miller, completed an online negotiating prep program prior to entering contract talks with TCC Pennwest Homes LLC. The week-long class included training in drafting contract language, presenting proposals, analyzing the company’s strength and weaknesses and identifying a broad array of potential tactics.
“In these ever-evolving times we all need to be prepared for different and creative forms of collective bargaining,” said District 98 DBR Bob Miller. “We were all impressed with how smoothly the online training was conducted, and we did not have any problems accessing the training during the week. I would like to thank International President Robert Martinez Jr. and the IAM Executive Council for their continued support of this program and also the staff, instructors and technical staff at W-3 for putting together this virtual training.”
“In these crazy times it was great to be able to take this class online,” said negotiating committee member Chris Bradybaugh. “Taking this program was almost like being at the Winpisinger Center.”
Since July of last year, the IAM’s negotiations preparation programs have been conducted online. Since the pandemic started, the need for education is greater than ever before, so IAM staff at the Winpisinger Center have adapted the way they are providing education to membership by moving programming online.
The IAM is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of retired IAM General Secretary-Treasurer Don Wharton. Brother Wharton was a 65-year lifetime member who joined the Machinists Union at the age of 17. A true unionist to his core, Wharton served the IAM in nearly every capacity, even after his retirement in 2003.
Wharton was an integral part of the IAM for decades and helped guide the union through very difficult times. He was the General Secretary-Treasurer during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack and helped navigate the devastating economic collapse that followed. Regardless of the task at hand, Wharton always tackled it with grace, knowledge and razor sharp wit.
“The IAM has lost a great union brother, friend, leader and trade unionist,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “Don was a giant in the labor movement who dedicated his entire life to fighting for working families, even in his retirement. On behalf of the Executive Council and the entire Machinists Union, I send our condolences to his wife, Gay, their children and the rest of the Wharton family.”
Wharton initiated into Local 1405 and held virtually every local IAM union office from shop steward to local lodge president. By 1962, his leadership was obvious and he was elected Business Representative for IAM District 59 in Marion, OH. He was hired as a Grand Lodge Special Representative in 1968 and served in many capacities including: Administrative Assistant, Organizing Control Room Director, Director of Placid Harbor, Executive Assistant, General Vice President and General Secretary-Treasurer.
The hard work of IAM members from the Southern Territory, Transportation Department and Grand Lodge, who volunteered their time over the past months, has paid off with historic wins for pro-worker candidates, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, in the Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs. The victories will shift the balance of power in the Senate.
“I would like to thank all Machinists Union members who sacrificed their time by mobilizing for months to ensure the futures of all working people,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “The results in Georgia make the passing of the PRO Act, pension reform and real COVID relief that all families desperately need and deserve more attainable. The hard work to deliver on these promises to heal our country begins now.”
IAM members contacted thousands of Georgia Machinists via member-to- member phone calls, robocalls, local mailers, door hangers, text messages and emails. TCU/IAM and NFFE-IAM Federal District 1 members also volunteered.
to watch how IAM members in Georgia and from across the country voluntarily campaigned for two pro-labor candidates in Georgia.
The two Senate races went to a runoff because no candidate won more than 50% of the vote on Nov. 3. Their wins will shift the balance of power in the Senate and will facilitate how President-elect Joe Biden can enact his legislation priorities.
During their campaigns, Ossoff and Warnock emphasized affordable health care, workplace safety, labor rights, infrastructure investment, paid family leave and more.