IAM Mourns Congressman Jim Oberstar

Former U.S. Rep Jim Oberstar receives an honorary lifetime membership to the IAM at the 2012 Grand Lodge Convention. From left, TCU/IAM National President Robert Scardelletti, IAM Transportation GVP Sito Pantoja, Oberstar, IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger and IAM General Secretary-Treasurer Robert Roach, Jr.

Former U.S. Representative and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) died in his sleep on Friday, May 2, 2014. He was 79 years old.

Oberstar was respected and honored worldwide for his expertise in transportation issues and advocacy for public infrastructure investment to spur private-sector growth. Oberstar was a champion of “intermodality,” the idea of linking the nation’s air and rail systems with urban buses, subways and bicycle paths.

An internationally-recognized expert in the field of aviation and aviation safety, Oberstar played a lead role in ridding the industry of the reviled Airline Mutual Aid Pact, a program he bluntly referred to as “food stamps for the airlines.”

“Jim Oberstar was a true friend of the IAM and an expert in transportation issues,” said IAM Transportation General Vice President Sito Pantoja. “Mr. Oberstar stood with IAM members, whether fighting for fair contracts in the airlines and railroads, or during our representation battles during airline industry consolidation. He accurately predicted the negative effects of airline consolidation, which continue unabated to this very day. He was a visionary and will be missed.”

Oberstar was presented with an honorary lifetime IAM membership in a ceremony at the 2012 IAM Grand Lodge Convention for his career-long support of IAM members in the ever-turbulent air and rail industries.

“For decades, you have stood with the Machinists Union,” said IAM General Secretary-Treasurer Robert Roach, Jr. “There’s never been an occasion that you didn’t stand with the Machinists Union. You are truly a member of our great union.”

Oberstar was a key ally in the IAM’s fight for FAR-145, legislation requiring equal standards and oversight for aircraft repair stations in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to being a strong voice for airline safety and transportation workers’ collective bargaining rights, Oberstar was quick to cite the importance of experienced and trained airline and rail professionals.

Oberstar was the son of a miner and served for 36 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is survived by his wife, four children and eight grandchildren.