IAM Communicators Attend 2014 IAM Communications Conference

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IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger delivers his keynote address to more than 100 attendees who produce local and district lodge newsletters, websites and social media sites that keep IAM members informed.

IAM Communicators from across the U.S. and Canada gathered in New Orleans this week for the 2014 IAM Communications Conference.

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District Lodge 4 Organizer Joel Pitcher, third from left, won the George J. Kourpias Award for his organizing work with the IAM Maine Lobstering Union Local 207. From left, Eastern Territory GVP Lynn D. Tucker, Jr., General Secretary-Treasurer Robert Roach, Jr., Pitcher, and International President Tom Buffenbarger.
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District 70 Communicator Larry Wilson, second from right, won the Robert J. Kalaski Award for his dedicated service as a communicator at both the local and district levels. From left, Southern Territory GVP Mark Blondin, General Secretary-Treasurer Robert Roach, Jr., International President Tom Buffenbarger, Wilson, and Southern Territory Communications Representative Bob Wood.

“The importance of the role you play as communicators can never be understated. You’re the front lines, the voice, the eyes and the ears of this union,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “And your role is not just that of a communicator, it’s that of a member. This is your union. Be proud of it. Defend it because there are those who want to take it away. There’s a lot of power in the pen, keyboard and stylus you wield.”

President Buffenbarger asked communicators to focus their efforts on key issues such as sequestration, the Affordable Care Act, the ongoing attacks on workers’ and retirees’ pensions, equal voting rights and organizing.

Delegates enjoyed other inspiring speeches from IAM General Vice President Diane Babineaux, General Secretary-Treasurer Robert Roach, Jr., Southern Territory General Vice President Mark Blondin and Canadian General Vice President Dave Ritchie.

Special guests included Louisiana State AFL-CIO President Louis Reine and Traci Drummond of the Georgia State University Southern Labor Archives. Author Ian Haney López spoke about the “coded speech” being used by the Republican Party as a political strategy to incite racism, spur socio-economic divisiveness and destroy the middle class, as discussed in his book “Dog Whistle Politics.” Delegates were each provided a free book and signing.

The three-day conference included a trip to NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, MS, in which delegates went on a guided bus tour of the 125,000-acre facility – home to NASA’s primary state-of-the-art rocket propulsion testing ground and more than 100 IAM members.

The event culminated with the 2014 IAM Newsletter and Website Awards banquet in which delegates were honored for their hard work and dedication in sharing the IAM message not only with IAM members, but also to the general public, through strategic and effective newsletters, websites and use of social media.

IAM District 70 Communicator/Local 733 Secretary-Treasurer Larry Wilson received the 2014 Robert J. Kalaski Special Performance Award for his “distinguished and effective communication efforts promoting the mission of the labor movement.” IAM District 4 Organizer Joel Pitcher was honored with the 2014 George J. Kourpias Award for Excellence in Labor Journalism for his work and effective communications efforts in organizing Lobstermen off the coast of Maine.

Click here to view a complete list of the IAM Newsletter and Website Contest winners.

“Congratulations to each of the winners tonight and thank you for everything you do,” said General Vice President Babineaux at the conclusion of the awards ceremony. “I ask that you continue to work at improving communication with our members. Let’s continue to make this union stronger and better for our members today – and members to come.”

Click here to view photos from the entire conference on the Machinists Union’s Facebook page.