IAM Members, Labor Coming Together to Promote Racial, Economic Justice

IAM members attend a meeting on racial and economic justice in St. Louis. Front row, from left: Mike Ringo, District 9; Mike Lloyd, District 837; General Vice President Diane Babineaux; Carline Lang-Smith, District 837; and AFL-CIO Executive Board member Lori Pelletier. Back row: District 837 members Mike Edwards, Rodger Smith, Leon Smith, Stephen McDerman, Mark Conner, Pam Sanders and Rodney Bufford.

IAM members and union workers around the country are joining with their communities to engage in a series of discussions aimed at tackling racial and economic disparities among U.S. workers. The meetings are put on by the AFL-CIO’s Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice, a panel of union leaders tasked with identifying solutions to rising inequality and economic insecurity.

IAM District 837 members and leadership attended a recent Labor Commission meeting in St. Louis. Labor and civil rights advocates, together with the community at large, voiced the need for different movements with similar goals to partner together for increased job and work training opportunities.

St. Louis ranks fifth-highest nationally in racial disparity for poverty among the nation’s 50 most populous regions.

“It comes down to opportunity,” said IAM General Vice President Diane Babineaux, who also attended sessions in Cleveland and Oakland. “As a nation, we simply aren’t providing the amount of affordable education or skills training that young people need to be successful in the 21st century, especially in low-income communities. We have to walk the walk, not just talk.”

Part of the solution lies in promoting legislation that helps, instead of hurts, working people, says Babineaux. The GOP-led Missouri state legislature has in recent years relentlessly pursued a so-called right-to-work law, which would financially hamstring unions and drive down wages for working people.

Babineaux pointed to the IAM’s many apprenticeship programs that prepare young people for jobs in the manufacturing, automotive and aerospace industries. The IAM’s Women’s and Human Rights Department holds trainings that address discrimination and fairness in the workplace. Organizations like the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) work with the IAM to provide scholarships to students interested in transportation careers.

IAM Local 112 Recording Secretary Michael Madden, who also serves as President of the Minnesota State Council of Retirees, attended a recent Labor Commission meeting in Minneapolis. He says the best way for IAM members to promote racial equality is to immediately report any discrimination to their lodge.

“We can’t deliver on wages, hours and conditions if there’s divisions in our ranks,” said Madden. “We are not going to allow any form of discrimination.”

The Labor Commission will continue its tour through U.S. cities and towns to listen to the experiences of union members. The results of the commission will lead to reports and tools to transform how the labor movement thinks about racial justice issues.

Click here to learn more about the Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice.

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