Aerospace Workers to Take Global Solidarity to New Level

IAM  delegates to the IndustriALL Global Union Aerospace Conference in Berlin. From left, General Vice President Diane Babineaux, Grand Lodge Representative Gerald Tremblay, Communications Representative Jonathan Battaglia, Chief of Staff and Director of Trade and Globalization Owen Herrnstadt, District 725 President and Directing Business Representative Larry Olinger, Local 709 President and Directing Business Representative Perry Gulledge, International President Tom Buffenbarger, Midwest Territory General Vice President Phil Gruber, District 837 President and Directing Business Representative Steve McDerman, Canadian General Vice President Dave Ritchie, Canadian Chief of Staff Stan Pickthall, and Aerospace Coordinator Mark Johnson.

Aerospace workers from around the world need to join together like never before.

That was the resounding message from the world’s most powerful aerospace unions at the IndustriALL Global Union’s Aerospace Conference, held July 1-2 in Berlin. IAM delegates joined unions representing aerospace workers in 16 countries to lay the foundation for a worldwide aerospace worker movement to confront a global aerospace industry.

IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger addresses more than 100 delegates from 16 countries at the 2015 IndustriALL Global Union Aerospace Conference in Berlin.

“The day when we organize together, bargain together, strike together, and yes – enjoy the same collective bargaining agreements, is the day when we bring justice and dignity to all of the world’s aerospace workers through union strength,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger in the conference’s keynote address.

Aerospace workers haven’t prospered along with the aerospace industry’s record profits. In the U.S. and Canada alone, more than 600,000 aerospace jobs – nearly 50 percent of the entire aerospace workforce – have disappeared in the past 20 years. The jobs that remain have seen increasing downward pressure on wages and benefits as aerospace companies move work to low-wage countries with scant workers’ rights.

Government austerity, anti-union and anti-worker extremism, continued outsourcing and unfair competition from countries like China which manipulate currency are negatively affecting aerospace workers around the globe. Massive free trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are also squeezing workers.

“Unions are the last frontier for protecting workers,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Phil Gruber, who spoke on a panel concerning attacks on workers’ rights. “We need to make sure that bad political exports from the United States, like so-called ‘right-to-work laws’ don’t start spreading around the world.”

The delegates unanimously adopted an action plan with steps to confront global capital, defend workers’ rights, fight precarious work, and ensure sustainable industrial employment. Unions also agreed to work together to forge global framework agreements at aerospace companies who operate around the globe.

“We still have many countries – including the U.S. and Canada – who refuse to sign International Labor Organization agreements that enforce basic workers’ rights, “ said IAM Canadian General Vice President Dave Ritchie. “We need to put pressure on these governments to protect their own citizens.”

The conference re-elected Buffenbarger as Chair of IndustriALL’s aerospace sector and reappointed Owen Herrnstadt, the IAM’s Chief of Staff and Director of Trade and Globalization, to a group that will work to implement the action plan.

“We’re in an era when workers have no choice but to band together to confront a global economy,” said Herrnstadt. “The IAM stands ready to work with our aerospace brothers and sisters from around the world to sustain the industry as a viable and prosperous career.”

Click here for pictures from the 2015 IndustriALL Global Union Aerospace Conference.

The IndustriALL Global Union represents 50 million workers in 143 countries in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors and is a force in global solidarity taking up the fight for better working conditions and trade union rights around the world. For more information, visit www.industriall-union.org.