May 16, 2006 – The 2006 IAM Legislative Conference kicked off in Washington, D.C, this week with opening speeches by IP Tom Buffenbarger, GVP Bob Thayer, and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney who expressed dissatisfaction with the current crop of national lawmakers and openly questioned their expertise and dedication. Each of the speakers echoed the conference theme, “Have you had enough yet?”
Thayer succinctly outlined the reasons voters are fed up: “Pension theft, congressional corruption and the price of gas should be enough for people to get out and vote for change.”
Buffenbarger unloaded on both political parties: “Politicians will say this is ‘our year,’ but what good is it to elect Democrats who will do the same things as Republicans do? We need to make a change.”
Citing the loss of critical machining capacity and the worker expertise needed to develop weaponry, Buffenbarger called Republicans and Democrats “clueless” about the defense of the country. “They gave away the ability of this country to defend itself.”
Buffenbarger was skeptical about using troops to patrol the border and blamed the immigration problem on bad U.S. trade policies like NAFTA. “The immigrants are just trying to feed their families. Don’t blame them for a situation we caused.”
In a poignant moment, Buffenbarger recounted a speech President John Kennedy had delivered to the Legislative Conference in May 1963 in which the young president had challenged IAM members to get involved.
“Things haven’t changed so much since then,” said Buffenbarger.
Sweeney urged the members to get involved in this year’s elections. “We must begin to regain political power for working people,” said Sweeney.
“We’ve got to stop big business and government from cutting and running away from the needs of working people.”