Farnborough: Global Industry meets Global Union

The Farnborough Air Show is one of the largest gatherings of aerospace manufacturers and suppliers in the world, such as U.S.-based Pratt & Whitney. The IAM and other aerospace members of the global union IndustriALL attended the show to ensure highly-skilled aerospace workers’ interests were represented.

Nowhere on earth is there a greater concentration of IAM-made products than at the international air shows held alternately each year in Farnborough, UK and Paris, France. Lined up, wing tip to wing tip are the latest commercial and military offerings from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Bombardier, General Electric, Pratt Whitney, Spirit AeroSystems and others. Also lined up is an extraordinary traffic jam of Bentley’s, Rolls Royce’s and BMW’s used to transport well-heeled buyers from around the world.

In addition to the gleaming displays of new aircraft are stadium-sized exhibition halls filled with hundreds of vendors and suppliers to the world’s aerospace industry. It is here where buyers and sellers of everything from the smallest metal castings to the largest avionics systems will haggle, deal, and ultimately provide the industry with billions in revenue.

A relatively new addition to this bazaar-like atmosphere is the gaggle of governmental representatives from Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and Africa. Ostensibly there to promote their own relatively new aerospace industries, they also seek to persuade existing aerospace companies to relocate manufacturing from near and far with promises of tax incentives, start-up assistance and invariably, inexpensive labor costs.

IAM President Tom Buffenbarger, who also serves as a vice president of the new global union IndustriALL, addresses an international gathering of aerospace trade unionists meeting in conjunction with the Farnborough Air Show.

Not to be outdone, individual U.S. states have joined the fray, with South Carolina aggressively promoting its status as a right-to-work state where workers’ rights are fewer and workers’ wages are lower.

IAM representatives from the union’s aerospace sector are also at Farnborough, to monitor this dubious marketplace of manpower and material, to meet with employers and to make sure buyers and sellers know that without the highly-skilled contributions of aerospace workers around the world, there would be no aerospace industry.

“It’s time to give proper credit to the men and women at aerospace companies and vendors who consistently produce the world’s most technically advanced products with a degree of skill that is unmatched anywhere in the world,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger, who met with representatives from vendors and suppliers as well as primary manufacturers at the exhibition.

Adding to the union presence at this year’s exhibition are leaders of IndustriALL, the newly-formed global industrial trade union representing 50 million workers in 350 unions around the world. The delegates, representing the world’s largest aerospace companies, pledged to coordinate their organizing and bargaining activities to a greater degree than ever before.

“We can no longer allow a global corporation to move work from one state to another, or from one country to another and then pit its workers against one another,” declared Buffenbarger, who also serves as one of three IndustriALL vice presidents. “We are union brothers and sisters, no matter where we live and we will not allow our family to be harmed in that way.”