Hundreds of IAM members and activists gathered in Washington, DC, this week for the 2012 Legislative Conference.
The annual conference – which involves four days of legislative planning and grassroots lobbying on Capitol Hill – focused on an array of topics including countering Republican and corporate attacks on unions, collective bargaining rights, immigration and voter suppression laws.
The bottom line to winning the war on working and middle-class families, says IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger, is politics. “We can’t organize healthcare workers without having laws that make that possible,” said Buffenbarger during his opening day keynote address. “We can’t do anything for our members in the airline industry unless we have the laws to make it possible. We can’t represent workers in any industry we want to organize if we don’t have the laws to work in our favor. That’s why we bring everybody in this time of year to go to work on Capitol Hill.”
Speakers included Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH); Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN); Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH); Rep. George Miller (D-CA); House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Hilda Solis, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor; Charles Cook, Editor and Publisher of the Cook Political Report and Timothy Keating, Senior Vice President of Government Operations for Boeing, among others.
“I’ve never seen in my 38 years here, a more comprehensive and better-funded campaign against organized labor,” said Miller in his remarks regarding recent House Republican attempts to defund the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). “The Republican party has been overtaken by a radical, anti-government, anti-worker ideology. These ideologues do not believe that economic freedom for working families lies in the freedom to organize. They don’t believe in the social foundations that have made this country strong and powerful.”
President Buffenbarger also spoke about the significance of immigration reform. “Maybe you don’t know what to think about it. Maybe you think stricter immigration laws are the way this country ought to go,” said Buffenbarger. “But immigration reform is now simply voter suppression. And that isn’t suppressing the vote of some immigrant who found their way into this country, legally or illegally. They’re coming after you. So this union has been very active in opposing these voter suppression efforts.”
In addition to planning and lobbying, this year’s activities also included the 25th Annual Good Scout Government, Labor and Management Awards ceremony and the 2012 IAM Congressional Reception.