D-Day Veteran Joe Reilly Still on Labor’s Frontline

World War II veteran and 58-year IAM member Joe Reilly, left, chats with Retirees Department Administrative Secretary Kim Hill and IAM Retiree Daniel Gray at IAM Headquarters in Upper Marlboro, MD.

Joe Reilly turns 93 in just a few weeks, but the World War II veteran and 58-year IAM member has no plans to slow down. In his 28th year of retirement, Reilly is as active in his union and politics as anyone.

He speaks quickly and with authority, like he has somewhere to go – which he usually does.

Reilly enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 at the age of 21. He would parachute into some of the greatest battles of the 20th Century.

Reilly, along with others who were taking the Retirees Education and Strategy class at the William W. Winpisinger Center, recently stopped by IAM Headquarters for a tour. Then Reilly, a 101st Airborne paratrooper on D-Day and a veteran of the Siege of Bastogne, headed to the World War II memorial in Washington, DC. The next day, he’d go to New York City for an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams.

Reilly takes his message of equality and workers’ rights everywhere he goes. Right now, he’s beating the drum on raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

“These companies can well afford it,” says Reilly. “They’re dragging their feet on it as they do on every other issue. If it’s help for the poor people, if it’s the SNAP program – no matter what it is for working-class people, we don’t have any money for it.”
Reilly says him and his congressman, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), “disagree on everything,” but that doesn’t stop him from contacting his office.

“Most people know in the labor movement, no matter how hard you work on negotiations and contracts, the politicians can destroy the whole thing,” said Reilly. “A sad commentary on our government, but that’s just the way it is.”

There needs to be more people in the labor movement involved in politics, says Reilly. Two recent Supreme Court decisions that make it easier for right-wing business moguls like the Koch Brothers to influence elections, “have really put us in a bind.”

“But hey, we were outnumbered 5-to-1 at Bastogne too,” he says, “but we made it.”

If you’re a retiree and would like to become involved with the Machinists Union, contact the IAM Retirees Department at 301-967-3433.

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